Pyrus Blanket

Hello!

Do you do it too – Google anything and everything? Although I was tremendously looking forward to the birth of our first grandchild, I also felt slightly uncertain about my new role as a grandmother, having grown up without grandparents. So I Googled on ‘How to be a grandmother.’

Terribly silly, I know. Still, I found quite a few helpful tips. But also this one: ‘Whatever you do, DO NOT KNIT!’ That really had me in stitches. I’ve been knitting since I was five years old, and now I should stop?! Well, you can imagine that I disregarded that piece of ‘wisdom’.

For most of the things I knit to welcome our grandson I used existing patterns, but I also wanted to design something myself. And after much pondering, sketching and swatching, I came up with the blanket you’ve already seen at the top. Here is another photo of it folded:

And here it is spread out on the floor:

Our daughter’s becoming a mum inevitably made me think back to the time she was a baby herself. From the time she was just a few months old until the age of seven, another mum in our street with a daughter about the same age looked after her when I was working. She had a wonderful time with that family.

When we moved away to where we live now, I made them a patchwork cushion for a farewell present, embroidered with a tree and the words: ‘A family’s love shelters like a tree.’ Obviously I can’t show you the actual cushion, but here is a (slightly grainy) photo from the pattern magazine (Ariadne, June 1991).

I am well aware that not all families provide loving shelter, and also that some have only very few branches. But still, I love the sentiment, and it was what I was thinking of when I knit our grandson’s blanket. I called it Pyrus Blanket for the big old pear tree in our garden – a truly sheltering presence. (Pyrus is Latin for pear.)

The Pyrus Blanket is covered in the pear tree’s oval, sharp-tipped leaves. The branches of our pear tree spread out like a many-armed candelabra – nothing like the straight lace ladders in the blanket.

Those were inspired by an espaliered pear tree with vertical branches in De Fruithof.

De Fruithof is an orchard about 30 minutes cycling from our home with some 800 different historical fruit trees. It also has a 750 metre long espalier pear tree avenue.

I should, perhaps, have knit the blanket in pure white, to represent the pear tree’s blossoms.

But I’ve taken the artistic license to knit it in creamy, undyed wool, because that was what our grandson’s parents preferred.

The yarn I’ve chosen is Drops ‘Merino Extra Fine’ – a 100% wool DK-weight yarn that won’t break the bank, is machine-washable, super soft and shows up the stitch pattern beautifully. It also has the Oeko-Tex 100 Class 1 classification, a very strict standard that guarantees that the yarn is free of harmful substances and safe for babies and infants.

The Pyrus Blanket measures 75 x 100 cm (approx. 30 x 40”). All patterning is done in the right side rows, with relaxing purl rows on the wrong side. The garter stitch borders have a special edge stitch that I learnt from a girl in the hospital where we were both staying as young teenagers. Among the less pleasant memories, I have very happy ones of us knitting long colourful garter stitch scarves.

(For anyone who doesn’t know this edge stitch yet, I’m explaining it in the pattern.)

I don’t know if I would enjoy being called a tree hugger, but as a family, we do have a thing for trees. Our daughter has also painted a tree on the wall of her little son’s bedroom. When it’s not in use, his Pyrus Blanket often hangs on the back of the chair under that sheltering tree (not always so neatly folded, of course).

Well, that’s the story of my Pyrus Blanket. I have written up the pattern in both English and Dutch, and it can be found

here on Ravelry.

As always, thank you for reading. And should you decide to knit a Pyrus Blanket for a new arrival in your life, or as a gift to someone else: happy knitting!

Gift Leaves

Hello!

Do you remember my plan to knit all kinds of things from small bits of leftover sock yarn? My plans often take a long time to grow into something tangible, but after the Soothing Sachets here is the second project: Gift Leaves.

I’m calling them Gift Leaves for several reasons:

  • Because I’ve given myself the gift of time to play around with something not exactly useful.
  • Because I’ve written up the pattern as a gift to you.
  • Because the leaves themselves can be given away as gifts.

I’ve made them in three sizes: Small, Medium and Large:

With a length of approximately 6.5 cm/2.6” (excluding the stalk) the large leaves are still fairly small, but quite a bit larger than the small ones of only 4 cm/1.6”.

Fastening the beginning of the stalk to the base of the leaf to form a loop, the leaves can be used as gift tags.

Perhaps knit from the same yarn as the gift inside.

They can be fastened onto a zipper.

Or used to decorate jam jars with tealights inside for a quick, simple, inexpensive little gift.

And a medium-sized leaf with a looooong stalk can become a bookmark. Extra special given together with a book, with the leaf colours matching the book cover.

(The book is A Wood of One’s Own by Ruth Pavey, by the way. A gift I received from a friend.)

Solid colours look good. Self-striping yarn works, too, if the stripes are not too wide and the yarn sections used are chosen well. And I think especially some of those ‘busy’ hand-painted yarns are fun for Gift Leaves.

A free download of the pattern with plenty of colourful photos (in English en ook in het Nederlands) can be found

here on Ravelry

Together with a special skein of yarn, a print-out of the pattern might make a nice gift for a knitting friend, too.

Have fun! Xxx

Hydrangea Story

Hello!

Why do we knit? Or rather, why do I knit? (I can only ever speak for myself.) Sometimes it is because I want something to wear that I can’t find in the shops. Other times it is because I want to give someone else a knitted embrace, toasty feet or warm hands. Often it is because I need something to occupy my hands and soothe my mind. Or I see a pattern and think: That is so beautiful – I’d love to make something like that!

This time it was the yarn that did it. The yarn in the photo above. It is a new Rowan yarn called ‘Felted Tweed Colour’ – a sibling to their all-time favourite ‘Felted Tweed’, but now in a slow gradient of colours. The palette was developed by the famous designer Kaffe Fassett. As soon as I saw it, I thought: Wow, those colours!

I chose the colourway called ‘Frost’. It doesn’t remind me of frost, snow or ice at all, however. It reminds me of hydrangeas. Maybe you remember my blog post about cycling to Giethoorn this summer, when I took this picture:

A few days ago, I popped over to Giethoorn again. This is the same spot at this time of the year:

Here the hydrangeas have lost all their colour. In other places there are only lacy skeletons left:

But some hydrangeas have retained their colour and just become more muted than in summer:

It’s these that the ‘Frost’ yarn reminded me of.

And what did I do with the hydrangea yarn? I combined it with some Kidsilk Haze to knit another Story Lines shawl. At first I thought of using some pale pink from my stash:

But then I decided that the contrast was too strong and chose a purple shade called Dewberry instead.

I took the finished shawl along to Giethoorn and asked Albert Mol if he was okay with being my model. Listening carefully I thought I could hear him say: ‘Of course darling. Fabulous idea!’ (Albert was a very gay person in every sense of the word.)

In hindsight I think a little more contrast would have been a good thing. In some places the Felted Tweed is exactly the same shade as the Kidsilk Haze. The stripes are visible, but don’t stand out very much.

The back view below shows how the Felted Tweed Colour yarn moves gradually from one colour to the next, forming wide stripes.

I’ve given this shawl a wider garter stitch band at the end. Neither the Romantic Ruffle nor the Dainty Droplets I used for the other two Story Lines shawls (shown in this blog post) seemed right for this yarn. I used the Basic Bind-off also described in the pattern instead.

Some of you may remember Albert Mol. For those of you who have never heard of him, he was a Dutch dancer, writer, actor and comedian. Giethoorn has honoured him with a statue because of his role in the 1958 comedy film Fanfare that was shot in the village. As there are many people in Giethoorn going by the name of Mol, I suppose he must have family roots here as well.

Part of the action takes place in Café Fanfare, which hasn’t changed much since then:

Fanfare is about two rivalling local brass bands that both want to win a competition and are prepared to do anything to prevent the other band from winning. It is in black and white and obviously rather old-fashioned, but still great fun.

Just like Café Fanfare, the rest of Giethoorn (called Lagerwiede in the film) is still very much like it was back in 1958, too.

If you feel like watching some fun slow tv on a dreary December day, Fanfare can be viewed here on YouTube, with English subtitles. (Albert Mol plays the role of one of the conductors, much younger than his bronze statue and without beard.)

And in case you’d like to make a similar Story Lines shawl, it takes 2 skeins of Felted Tweed Colour and 2 skeins of Kidsilk Haze. The Story Lines pattern can be found here on Ravelry, and my notes about the hydrangea version here.

I wish you an enjoyable weekend, with something fun to do, watch and/or knit!

Story Lines

Hello!

It won’t come as a surprise that I love knitting. To me (and I know to some of you, too), seeing a knitting project grow stitch by stitch and row by row is immensely satisfying. Although I haven’t written much about books until last week, I love reading a good story just as much.

Now I’ve combined the two and knit a story in the shape of a shawl! Or rather two shawls, knit along the same lines but telling different stories.

The watery blue version of Story Lines, as I’ve named the design, tells the saga of a drowned village.

It is a slightly asymmetrical triangle that starts off on a light and airy note – transparent stocking stitch stripes with widely spaced out garter stitch lines. Later on, the plot thickens and the lines are knit closer together.

A village really did drown in the lake where these pictures were taken.

It was the village of Beulake. Extensive peat extraction had already made the area vulnerable. And when the dykes broke during a storm in 1776, Beulake disappeared beneath the waves. Only the church, where the villagers had fled to, was spared.

Fortunately no lives were lost, but the people who lost their homes must have shed a few tears. A row of Dainty Droplets seemed a fitting ending for this shawl.

Although the basic pattern is the same, the other shawl I knit has a different tale to tell. In fiery reds, it tells a love story from a time long gone by.

This story is set against the backdrop of a castle ruin, not far from the lake of the drowned village.

It is Toutenburg, the remains of a medieval castle in the town of Vollenhove. An utterly romantic spot. There is a moat around it, with a lovely fountain.

This version of Story Lines needed a different ending – a Romantic Ruffle. I’m not really a ruffle-y type, so I’ve kept it modest.

Story Lines is a very easy knit. The only reason I wouldn’t recommend it to an absolute beginner is that the thinner of the yarns used takes a little experience to handle.

The design combines two types of yarn: a lace-weight mohair/silk blend and a fingering-weight single-ply merino yarn – 1 skein (50 g) of the former and 1 skein (100 g) of the latter.

The yarns I used for both shawls come from an indie dyer in my little corner of the world. She creates many gorgeous colours. Below you can see the mohair/silk blend I used on the left, the 1-ply merino on the right:

‘My’ indie dyer is happy to ship world-wide,  but those of you not living in the Netherlands could also look for yarn closer to home. Here is a list of very similar yarns from indie dyers all over the world:

  • Canada: Lichen and Lace (Marsh Mohair/1-Ply Superwash Merino Fingering-Weight)
  • France: La Bien Aimée (Mohair Silk/Merino Singles)
  • Germany: Walk Collection (Kid Mohair Lace/Cottage Merino)
  • Ireland: Hedgehog Fibres (Kidsilk Lace/Skinny Singles)
  • Norway: Norne (Kid Silk/Singles)
  • Sweden: Fru Valborg (Fuzzy Mohair/Merino Singles)
  • UK: Qing (Kid Mohair Silk/Merino Singles)
  • US, New York: The Wandering Flock (Laceweight Mohair Silk/Fingering Weight Singles)
  • US, Oregon: Ritual Dyes (Fae/Crone)

Some people find a triangle a difficult shape to wear and I understand. Worn in a traditional way it can look old-fashioned. But it can be worn in so many ways, as already shown in some of the pictures above. Here are some more ideas.

Worn nonchalantly with the two long ends on one side:

Rolled up with the point at the back of the neck inside, worn much like a rectangular scarf:

With the ends knotted loosely:

Or scrunched up cosily:

The shawl has a versatile shape and can tell many different stories, depending on the colours chosen. Choose icy shades for an arctic adventure, greys for a ghost story, greens for a jungle book, or………………… The possibilities are endless.

If you’d like to knit your own Story Lines,

you can find the pattern HERE ON RAVELRY

In addition to the Dainty Droplets and Romantic Ruffle shown here, the pattern also includes instructions for a Basic Bind-off that ties everything up neatly. And there is a Dutch as well as an English-language version.

Well, that brings us to the end of today’s story. Thank you so much, dear photographer, for your patience and for capturing everything so well. And thank you, dear friends near and far, for reading and for your always kind support!

Soothing Sachets

Hello! Well, everything went more or less according to plan this week, so here are the lavender sachets I promised you last week. I call them Soothing Sachets, because lavender is not just known for its moth repellent qualities, but also for its soothing scent.

The ones in the basket above are still scenting our home. But they won’t be doing so for much longer, because they are meant for gifts. Let me show them one by one.

This is the first one I made, after several discarded attempts. It is very simple, from self-striping sock yarn.

It closes with a button. Because of the way the sachet is constructed, the stripes are twice as wide compared to a sock.

It was fun rummaging through my button box for just the right button.

All of the sachets use the same basic pattern. The next one is also very simple – colour blocks with a thin asymmetrically placed contrasting stripe.

The stripe is repeated in the button band.

Together with a box of calming herb tea, it’ll make a nice gift for a friend going through a stressful time. It is made from a combination of beautiful plant-dyed mini skeins.

The one below was made from some ordinary mottled sock yarn. A few stripes and garter ridges make it perfect for tucking under a sporty person’s pillow.

In this way even the smallest yarn scraps can be used.

For the next one, I again used colour blocks – this time embellished with a few tiny buttons…

… to match the mother-of-pearl button on the back.

Just the thing for someone’s lingerie drawer, I think. I made it from some of the tiny balls of yarn left over from my first ever published pattern – Tellina.

The Tellina cowl itself would also be a great project for using up some yarn remnants or mini skeins. It can be found here on Ravelry.

The Soothing Sachets have a fabric lining, sewn from small pieces of cotton fabric. No need to buy anything specially – any thin cotton will do, as long as it’s a colour that doesn’t show through the knitting. I used bits of an old pillowcase.

Making a lining sachet may be a bit of a pain for some, I thought, so I tried leaving it out and stuffing a knitted sachet with unspun wool with some lavender in the middle.

It is an option, but I don’t like the result as much as the lined version – its shape is less crisp and its scent is too faint to my liking.

So, why not knit a few first and then spend a cosy afternoon with the sewing machine on the dining table, and all other tools and notions needed at hand, to finish them all in one go?

Finally, here is my Pièce de Résistance 😉. Again made from self-striping sock yarn, but this time with a duplicate stitch heart on the front…

… and corrugated ribbing for the buttonhole band.

Won’t that make a nice gift for a beloved child? (Caution: Sew the button on very securely, or for small children leave it off and close the entire opening.)

Some of you reading this will be receiving one of these small scented gifts in the near future. My gift to the rest of you is the pattern (in English and Dutch). It contains instructions for knitting (including the corrugated ribbing) and finishing the sachet as well as a heart chart.

Click here for the free Ravelry download.

These Soothing Sachets are simple things, but with a bit of creativity they can become great little gifts. Have fun!

PS. Remember to make a few for yourself, too – to tuck under your pillow and keep the moths away from your knitting and spinning baskets.

Gazelle Mitts

Hello!

Thank you so much for all your kind and supportive words after last week’s post, here and through other channels. While I’m writing this, we’re waiting for the plaster on our walls to dry with as many doors and windows open as possible. I’m using this quiet interlude before the next stage (ceiling repairs) for some focused work, and I’ve finally finished my pattern for a pair of fingerless mitts. Or rather, two pairs.

Meet the Gazelle Mitts!

I’ll explain why I photographed them on a cycling map and with a thermos flask further on. First a little about the design.

Taking the inherited knitting sampler I’ve written about before as a starting point, I began visualizing, drawing, thinking, calculating and swatching. After lots of swatches and prototypes I was ready to knit the final mitts in a single-coloured and a two-coloured version. I already had the yarn, but kept changing my mind about which colours to use for which version.

Red and cream together and blue on its own? Or blue and cream together and red on its own? In the end I asked your advice, and you were unanimous: Blue and cream for the two-colour version and red on its own.

So that is how I knit them.

The red single-colour mitts combine three knit-and-purl stitch patterns from the sampler. For the palm of the hand, I used the sampler’s diagonals.

For the back of the hand, I took the zigzags and mirrored them to make diamonds.

And a two-by-two knit-and-purl rib with purl ridges was perfect for the cuffs and thumbs. Only I changed it into a three-by-two rib to link it up with the diagonals and diamonds.

Although they look very different, the two-colour mitts are basically the same. They have the same diagonals and diamonds, and the same ribbing on cuffs and thumbs. Only this time instead of knit and purl stitches on the palm and back of the hands the patterns are knit entirely (no purling) and picked out in different colours.

Diagonals on the palms…

… and diamonds on the backs of the hands.

With bicycle rides on chilly days in mind, I named the mitts for my trusty Gazelle bicycle, my friend for over 15 years.

It gives me a sense of freedom and keeps me fit. I’m very much attached to it and not yet ready to trade it in for an e-bike like many people do nowadays.

We (well, mainly my husband – thank you!) took most of the pictures for this post along one of my favourite stretches of bicycle track. It meanders through the wood just outside our village.

For the picture below, I’ve pulled up my coat sleeve to show you the nice and snug cuff.

And here is a picture of my bicycle bell. It not only shows you the construction of the mitt’s thumb, but also tells you what my favourite beverage is. If I place my thumb on the teapot spout and release it, it gives off a sharp PING!

On longer bicycle rides, I often bring a thermos flask of tea. (Just for me – my husband prefers coffee.) Coffee-and-tea-to-go places have sprung up during the past year even around here, but they are still few and far between. And anyway I prefer my own.

The Gazelle Mitts can be knit on a set of double-pointed needles or on long circulars using the Magic Loop method. Personally, I prefer double-pointed needles for the cuffs and thumbs…

… and the Magic Loop method for the hands.

The yarn I’ve used is Brooklyn Tweed ‘Peerie’. One 50-gram skein for the single-colour mitts. And two 50-gram skeins in different colours for the two-colour version, with enough yarn left for a second pair with the colours reversed.

The Gazelle mitts can, of course, be knit in different yarns – I think that for instance many sock yarns are suitable. But should you decide to knit them, make sure your yarn is the same weight (fingering), and is smooth with a good stitch definition. And always check your gauge.

For those of you who’d like to make a pair,

The pattern for the Gazelle Mitts can be found here on Ravelry
(available in English and Dutch, also to non-Ravelry members)

There is more information there on needles & notions, finished measurements etcetera. I’ve done my utmost to make the pattern as clear as possible. Apart from detailed instructions, photographs of the mitts, and charts for the diagonals and diamonds, I’ve also included a photo tutorial for the ‘afterthought’ thumb.

Well, that’s all about my Gazelle Mitts for now. If you have any questions, please leave a comment here or contact me through Ravelry (my Ravelry name is MerulaDesigns). As always, thank you for reading!

Monogrammed Guest Towel

Hello!

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may remember that I’ve inherited two samplers – an embroidery sampler and a knitting sampler. The embroidery sampler was made by my Mum, aged 8, in 1941. I don’t know anything about the date or the maker of the knitting sampler.

The samplers spent decades in my parents’ attic, and after that, over twenty years in a deep dark cupboard in my home. High time to give them the attention they deserve. I’ve been studying them closely and thinking about the people who made them, and I’d love to find out more about the knitting sampler. But first and foremost, my hands were itching to DO something with them.

The word ‘sampler’ is related to ‘example’, and that is exactly what samplers like these were meant for. To provide the girls who made them with examples to be used later in life, for useful and beautiful textiles for their families and homes.

For my first sampler-based project, I’ve stayed close to that idea. Combining and adapting elements from both samplers, I’ve designed and knit a monogrammed guest towel, using the yarn left over from the monogram for a small face cloth.

For the first version that I made, I also stayed close to the original colours.

From the knitting sampler, I borrowed the second stitch pattern from the bottom – mini-blocks. That was simple.

Translating the embroidered letters into knitted ones was less straightforward, because a cross stitch is square while a knit stitch is a flat rectangle. You know what it’s like when your tv screen has the wrong picture format and people’s faces get squashed? That’s what would happen if the letters were simply copied from the embroidered examples in knitting.

So, to begin with, I stretched the letters out. As a result some of the ‘legs’ looked wrong, and I had to alter those. When I tried knitting them, I found out that the letters still didn’t look quite right, and I tweaked a few other details until I was happy with them.

The second problem I ran up against, was that my Mum’s sampler didn’t have a complete alphabet – it had only 19 letters. It did have an M and a D (for Merula Designs), but it lacked several other essential letters. Looking at similar samplers, I finally pieced together a complete knittable alphabet. Phew, problems solved.

Or so I thought. Because when I started knitting more swatches, I soon realized that the back of the monogram wasn’t going to look very attractive. Uh-oh.

In the end, I solved that by adding a nice little surprise to the back.

I tried out several loops and decided on a bit of I-cord. Then I knit another towel, and another one – each with a matching face cloth. Here is a close-up of the loops…

… and one of the monograms.

Each towel & face cloth set was knit in a different yarn.

I’d like to go greener in my knitting, but that isn’t always easy. First, because there are some old yarn friends that I’m strongly attached to. Second, because the choice in organic yarns is still very limited. And third, because organic yarns can be rather expensive. In the end I came up with 3 options:

  1. An old friend: Rowan ‘Handknit cotton’ (linen/red version)
  2. An affordable organic yarn: Lana Grossa ‘Linea Pura Organico’ (cream/taupe version)
  3. An inexpensive sustainable yarn: Drops ‘Paris Recycled Denim’ (blue version)

If I’m honest, the organic version is my favourite. It is very soft and supple.

But the other ones are really nice, too.

I’ve written out the pattern for anyone who would like to make a monogrammed guest towel of their own. Personalized with the recipient’s monogram, I think a guest towel & face cloth set would make a lovely Christmas, Birthday or Wedding Anniversary gift.

The pattern includes:

  • Clear knitting instructions and charts for towel & face cloth
  • A complete knittable alphabet
  • Instructions and an empty grid for designing your own monogram
  • Tips for knitting the monogram and the I-cord loop

The Monogrammed Guest Towel pattern can be found here on Ravelry
(available in English & Dutch, also to non-Ravelry members)

Now, what else could I make based on my inherited samplers? Hmmmm……

As always, thank you for reading and take care! Xxx

Thús 2

Hello!

How are things going in your part of the world? I really hope that you are safe and well, and have enough to do to keep your hands occupied and your mind free from too many worries.

Here, in the Netherlands, we are still spending an inordinate amount of time at home, or thús, as the Frisians say. And what better thing to do at home than knit? It’s utterly comforting and relaxing. Plus you end up with something nice for yourself or someone else.

So, high time for a new version of Thús, a pattern I published earlier this year. Here it is – Thús 2!

The original version of Thús was a one-skein project, with an all-over stitch pattern of rows of interconnected houses.

Thús 2 is covered in the same tiny houses, but is wider and longer. And it is a scarf instead of a loop – a bigger symbolic hug for yourself, a friend or a relative.

I hate having my pictures taken, but my beloved photographer was patient, I called upon my inner Doutzen Kroes (who also grew up in Friesland, by the way), and we actually ended up with a few in which my eyes aren’t closed.

Thús 2 is long enough to be worn wrapped around the neck.

Or folded in half with the ends pulled through the loop.

Thús 2 may look like a lot of knitting, but it isn’t really. It takes four 50-gram balls of fingering-weight yarn. That is the same quantity as two pairs of socks. I won’t say it is done in a jiffy, but on 3.5 mm (US 4) needles it is a fairly quick knit. And an enjoyable one, too, I think/hope.

The yarn I used is Pascuali ‘Balayage’, a blend of 20% organic merino wool and 80% baby alpaca. The wool is certified organic. The alpaca isn’t certified, but is produced sustainably. Both fibres are produced in Peru, where the yarn is also spun and dyed.

This was a delicious yarn to knit with! (I’m not sponsored to say this – it is my own honest opinion.) It is very, very soft and smooth. To my mind, the yarn has the best of both worlds. It has the drape and smoothness of alpaca, but thanks to the wool content it isn’t as ‘limp’ as 100% alpaca can be. I think it is ideal for lace and will also show up other stitch patterns very well. I don’t agree with the yarn producer that it is suitable for Fair Isle knitting, though. Imho it is too slippery and not stretchy enough for that.

Something that doesn’t show in my dark plummy shade, is that part of the alpaca is grey, which gives the lighter shades a lovely heathered look.

Although I have a shade card (I love shade cards!) it works best for me to choose colours in real life, in the skein or ball. From the rainbow of gorgeous colours at the not-so-tiny-anymore yarn shop I recently wrote about, I chose a shade called ‘Lima’ after the capital of Peru.

What always helps me choose, is seeing colours in relation to each other. Take the gradient of pinks and purples below. Lima is on the darker end of the spectrum. Compared to the burgundy to the right of it and the eggplant to the left, it isn’t really purple or red, but something in between.

I made this Thús 2 for a friend, in lieu of a real hug. She has a cardi in the same kind of red-purple that looks very good on her, and I am fairly confident that she’ll like it.

(That I wrote about the yarn I used in so much detail, is just because I’m a little obsessed with yarn. Please don’t feel that you have to use the exact same yarn if you’d like to make a scarf like mine – 200 grams of another, similar fingering-weight yarn will be fine, too.)

Here is a tip for starting a new ball and weaving in the ends invisibly. (This also applies to the original version, and any other shawl or scarf with garter stitch edgings.) In my experience the best place to do this is on the inside of the narrow bands of garter stitch along the long sides. This is what I mean on the wrong side:

And if that picture isn’t clear enough, this is the place indicated on the right side (the actual weaving-in is done on the wrong side).

Well, I think that is all I can tell you about it for now. After the original Thús, I hope you like Thús 2, too.

Oh, and like the original version, Thús 2 is a free pattern – a small positive gesture in this challenging time. If you’d like to take some positive action in return, please consider making a donation to an organisation supporting refugees, other homeless people, or children/adults in unsafe home situations.

Thús 2 can be downloaded here from Ravelry
(available in English AND Dutch, also to non-Ravelry members)

Thank you and happy knitting!

Thús

Hello!

Well, here is the new (free) pattern that I promised you last time. It’s a loop/cowl called Thús, which is the Frisian word for Home.

As a child growing up in Friesland, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. What I did know, was that I wanted a peaceful, cosy home.

My wish was granted.

But I don’t take it for granted. I’m grateful for my home every single day, now more than ever.

When we were first exhorted to ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’, my initial reaction was, ‘……….??????’ (Read: Stunned – is this really happening?) Soon followed by thoughts like, ‘What can I do, other than just staying home?’ and also, ‘But what about people who don’t have a safe home?’

One of the ideas that popped into my mind for positive things to do was to design a knitting pattern. Something small and not too complicated, but just complicated enough to take a knitter’s mind off their worries for a while. Something that would be comforting to wear and suitable to send as a gift to a friend or relative when it’s impossible to visit them.

After many swatches, sketches and tries, it became this loop. I’ve made two versions. You’ve already seen the pink one at the top of this post, and this is me wearing the blue one.

(I’m so not cut out to be a model. It is way out of my comfort zone to be in the spotlights like this, but someone has to show what it looks like when worn.)

Knitting may seem trivial in a world in crisis. And maybe it is. But for me it’s a way to bring some beauty into the world, and also a way to express my love and concern.

With a little bit of imagination, you can see that the stitch pattern looks like rows of tiny interconnected houses.

It’s my take on John Donne’s ‘No man is an island’*. Even if we are all staying in our own homes, we are still all connected.

Now, here are some technicalities.

Thús takes just one 100-gram skein of fingering-weight or sock yarn. I think most knitters will have something like this in their homes somewhere. I chose blue and pink, because those are the colours I feel most at home with.

The pink version is made from a skein of Merino Singles dyed by Catharina at Wolverhalen (I wrote about her here). For the blue version I used a skein of Tosh Sock that had been marinating in my yarn stash for a while. These two yarns are very similar, and yet knit up differently.

Specs of the blue yarn: 100% merino wool; total meterage/weight 361 m/395 yds/100 g
Specs of the pink yarn: 100% merino wool; total meterage/weight 366 m/400 yds/100 g

The difference is that the pink yarn is a single, untwined thread, while the blue yarn consists of two plies. As a result, the blue version turned out shorter, cosier and squishier, while the pink version is sleeker, drapier and considerably longer than the blue one – it has five more rows of tiny houses.

The loop starts with a provisional cast-on and is knit flat (back and forth). I’ve heard of knitters who love grafting ends together, but I have never met any of them. I certainly don’t belong to that rare species. So, no grafting here. The ends are joined together using a much more knitter-friendly three-needle bind-off (all explained in the pattern).

Thús can be worn single…

…or wrapped around twice.

Thús is a free pattern – no strings attached. But if you’d like to do something in return, please consider making a donation to an organisation supporting refugees, other homeless people, or children/adults in unsafe home situations.

Thús can be found here on Ravelry
(available in English AND Dutch, also to non-Ravelry members)

Thank you and happy knitting!

* The quote comes from John Donne’s Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation XVII. This is the entire passage:

‘No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.’

Cygnus Cowl – A Swan-inspired Accessory

Hello dear fellow knitters, nature lovers and other readers.

Today’s blogpost is again part of my effort to keep at least this little corner of the world as normal and uplifting as possible. So here is my Cygnus Cowl, the new knitting design I’ve been working on for about four months. I’m not a quick designer. I like to sketch & swatch and test & tweak until every detail is just right.

As I told you last week, it was inspired by one of the inhabitants of the reedlands close to our home – Cygnus olor, better known as the mute swan. Here it is, sailing along regally in a still wintry landscape.

Mute swans can produce a weak trumpeting sound, and hiss when provoked, but are mostly silent. Hence their name. I know that they can be aggressive, but from a safe distance they look like fairy tale creatures.

In Dutch they are called knobbelzwaan, for the black knobbel (knob) at the base of their bill. They are fairly common around here. Do they live in your part of the world too?

I have photographed them in different seasons. In June last year, I spotted a nesting pair through some reeds.

And on a sunny summer’s day, I took this picture:

I asked the swan to please pull up its leg, because it looked silly with its foot sticking out from between its feathers. But it refused to oblige.

Now, a little more about the cowl. You’ve already seen it at the top of this post, and here’s another picture, with the model’s hair tucked inside to show it in its entirety:

And this is what it looks like from the back:

The lovely model is our daughter, and I’ve designed the Cygnus Cowl with her in mind.

The yarn I used is Rowan ‘Brushed Fleece’, a bulky wool and alpaca blend. Two balls of 50 grams each are enough for the cowl and several swatches. It already feels nice on the ball, but after soaking and drying it is as soft as swan’s down.

The cowl consists of two parts. First there is the cowl body, knit in an all-over cable pattern resembling rippling water:

And then there is a long swan’s wing feather, knit separately.

Here the Cygnus Cowl is laid out flat. It has a narrow indentation on one side and the feather is wrapped around it later. White is hard to photograph – I hope you can see the details clearly:

It isn’t a beginner’s knit, but for a slightly more experienced knitter it is totally doable. I’ve explained the cables and several other knitting techniques in the pattern. And the description of how the cowl is finished is accompanied by photos.

The above pictures were taken indoors. It was early March and our plan was to take lots of photos outside, but the weather was uncooperative. It was a cold, blustery, rainy day. Here’s an impression of our outdoor photo shoot.

Raindrops on the lens and icy hands made it hard to take clear pictures. There were puddles everywhere and the ground was muddy. The wind tugged hard at our daughters red cape (a thrift-shop bargain made with cashmere, squeee!)…

… and made her hair fly all over the place.

In the end we found a sheltered spot behind a reed-roofed barn, but by that time my model/daughter was chilled to the bone. And how to get onto firmer ground again without sliding into the mud?

We had to work fast, and fortunately ended up with enough usable pictures. And in spite of the unpleasant circumstances we had a lot of fun.

I realize that white isn’t for everybody. If white doesn’t suit you but you like the design, why not make it in the colour of your own favourite bird – flamingo pink, raven black, dove grey, owl brown or teal blue?

You can find the Cygnus Cowl pattern here on Ravelry.

As always, thank you for reading. Please take care and stay healthy!