Sock Gift Labels

Hello!

Do you remember our visit to a PYO flower garden about a month ago? And that I started knitting a pair of socks for a friend’s Birthday in early October? Well, I finished them in time.

While I was knitting them, I studied the ball band for information about the composition of the yarn and noticed a circle with the text: ‘Geschenkverpackung auf der Rückseite!’ (It was a German yarn). Gift wrap on back – what could that be? Ah, the inside of the ball band was a gift label!

What a lovely idea! If we’d been speakers of German I would have used it straightaway. But we aren’t, and I’d rather have one in Dutch. So I decided to borrow the idea and make a personalized gift label for my cat-loving friend.

I gift-wrapped the socks, added a Birthday card and mailed them. I think socks are a perfect gift, especially now. What’s nicer than to give someone the gift of warm feet? Choosing the recipient’s favourite colours makes it even better. They fit into a letter box, are fairly lightweight and won’t break during transport.

I enjoyed this simple spot of crafting so much, that one dark and rainy afternoon I got my crafts supplies out again and made more. (If some photos look rather yellowish, it’s because of the lamp light.)

If you’d like to make some sock gift labels too, here’s what you’ll need:

Sock Gift Labels – List of Supplies

  • A pot of tea, mug of coffee or other comforting beverage
  • Calming and/or uplifting music, or blissful silence
  • Thick paper (1 A4-sheet will make 4 labels)
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Clear tape
  • Scissors
  • A flat surface/something to protect your table
  • Any other crafts supplies you have, like: stamps, inkpads, washi tape, markers, felt tips, coloured crayons/pencils, stickers…
  • And one or more pairs of handknit socks, of course!

Start by marking off one or several 25cm (10”) x 5cm (2”) strips, using your pencil and ruler. Cut them out.

Now let your creativity flow! Here is some inspiration.

I started with some very simple ones, using just some washi tape.

Then stamps and a marker in monochrome.

After that, I added in a little colour using washi tape and a coloured ink pad, matching the colours to the sock yarn.

Several days later, I got out my brand new box of coloured pencils to add colour to a few more.

(A while ago, our local supermarket gave out coupons with which we could save up for lovely boxes of coloured pencils and sketchbooks. A nice change from the usual storage boxes and towels. It even has metallics like silver, gold and bronze!)

Adding colour to the stamped motifs was so much fun! On this one, I matched the colours to the sock yarn again.

Sometimes I knit socks with a specific ‘victim’ in mind, and sometimes I just knit socks because I feel like it and will see who they’ll go to later. Adding washing instructions to the label is always a good idea. And in the latter case adding the size is useful, too.

Here are 3 more pairs of socks in shades of blue and green, with labels decorated with stamps and washi tape.

I’ve really enjoyed playing around with my crafts supplies – I hadn’t used them for ages. They made me forget the time and all the woes of the world for a few hours. If you now feel inspired to make your own sock gift labels, I hope it’ll work like that for you, too. Have fun!

Bye for now and lots of love.

Embroidery Sampler

Hello!

Here is the embroidery sampler I promised to show you. Like the knitting sampler I wrote about two weeks ago, this sampler isn’t spectacular or particularly beautiful. But unlike the knitting sampler, whose maker is unknown to me, I know with 100% certainty who made this embroidery sampler. It was my Mum.

Not only did she show it to me, she also embroidered her name and the date on it.

My Mum made the sampler at school in 1941, when she was 8 or 9. It was the beginning of World War II and the family lived in Leeuwarden, the capital of Friesland. She didn’t talk about it very much, but I have heard stories of bombings and scarcity.

One story that has stayed with me, is that they sometimes had ‘guests’ staying at their house. At those times, she and her sisters shared one bed to free up their own beds. During a razzia, the children were woken up in the middle of the night. The visitors were hidden in a secret space, and the girls had to run around the house, so that the Germans couldn’t see who had been sleeping where. A strange and scary time to grow up in.

To some girls, making an embroidery sampler may have been a welcome distraction. I don’t think it was to my Mum.

I’ve seen similar samplers, and compared to those, hers has only a few decorative borders. The alphabet is incomplete and the letters are jumbled up.

To the left of the actual letters, there are 3 aborted attempts (photo below, bottom left). Or were those the place where she started, meant for practicing cross stitches?

After this, she never did any counted cross stitch again. She did like embroidery, but of a different kind. She has made many, many colourful table cloths embroidering over pre-printed patterns.

Still, although Mum didn’t enjoy doing cross stitch, the sampler must have been special to her. After WWII, in the early 1950s, the family (minus one daughter who was already married) emigrated to Australia, hoping for a better life.

My Mum’s fiancé (later my Dad) came with them, but couldn’t acclimatize. And several years later my Mum and Dad came back to the Netherlands, with just one suitcase each holding all of their earthly possessions. The embroidery sampler must have been in her suitcase, travelling all the way to Australia and back again. An extraordinary story about an ordinary sampler.

I have an old magazine packed with pictures and patterns of embroidery samplers.

There are many much more elaborate samplers in it, but also several school samplers. Here is Mum’s sampler next to one in the magazine. Same kind of letters, same kind of decorative borders.

And here are three similar ones framed on a wall. They are almost always embroidered just in red thread, with a few exceptions using blue as well as red.

I’m thinking of having Mum’s cleaned and framed now, too.

Years ago, I knit a series of beaded wrist warmers…

…including a pair inspired by the embroidery sampler. One of them with my initials, and the other with the year I made them on it.

They are nice accessories that keep the wind from blowing up my sleeves when I’m riding my bicycle.

I’m now working on a project incorporating elements from both the knitting sampler and the embroidery sampler. More about that in a few weeks’ time, I hope.

For those of you who’d like to know more, this is THE book on Frisian embroidery samplers:

Letter voor Letter was written by Gieneke Arnolli, the now-retired Fashion and Textiles curator of the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden, and Rosalie Sloof. It contains loads of information, many beautiful photographs, an English summary, and a complete fold-out pattern for a sampler. It is out of print, unfortunately, but there are some second-hand copies around, and it can still be borrowed from Dutch libraries.

The Fries Museum has a collection of over 600 samplers from the 17th to the 20th Century. A large part of the collection can be viewed on the website friesemerklappen.nl. A wonderful source of information and inspiration. Most examples of red school samplers like my Mum’s can be found on pages 6 and 7 of the website.

Click on the button ‘Alle merklappen’ for an overview. Zoom in on the samplers by holding the Ctrl key and scrolling simultaneously, or by holding the Ctrl key and using the + to zoom in and – to zoom out. Be amazed and have fun!

Funnel Beaker

Hello again, and thank you for your ideas, both on and offline, about last week’s grey yarn. More about that project soon, but today’s blog post is about something completely different.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, it won’t come as a surprise that making things is an important part of my life. It’s usually something to do with yarn or wool, but I also enjoy excursions into other mediums now and then. Recently I spent a Saturday morning at a nearby visitor centre (above) making something with clay.

The visitor centre is in the same area where I once had an interesting chat with a shepherd. It is, in fact, next to the sheep fold, so I arrived a little early to say hello to the sheep. Good morning!

The sheep didn’t answer, but quietly kept munching grass and hay before starting their daily walk on the heath.

Walking on, I ran into this big guy (or gal). Whoa!

Fortunately it was just a print on a big banner on the outside wall of the sheep fold.

I’m not just including this photo here for fun, but also because this morning was about going back in time. Not quite as far back in time as this mammoth, but almost. Wikipedia tells me that the mammoth died out around 4,000 years ago. On this Saturday morning, we were going back to the funnel beaker culture, which started here around 3,400 years ago.

The morning began with a short talk about the people who became known for their funnel-neck pots, but also made pottery in other shapes. They were not the first inhabitants of this area, but they were the first farmers, and thousands of shards of their pots have been found around here. They are also the people who built the dolmens and tumuli that are still visible in our landscape today.

Well, I can’t tell you everything I’ve learnt, but I can tell you that it was fascinating.

Then it was time to roll up our sleeves and make a funnel beaker ourselves. The artist who gave the workshop had made two examples. This is one of them:

Unlike the original funnel beaker makers, we didn’t have to travel a long way to find the right kind of river clay for our pots. We were given a slab of a similar clay…

… and started by rolling it out.

Originally the base would have been shaped by hand, and that’s what some of the more experienced participants also did. For those of us with little or no experience (like me) there were moulds to use.

My neighbour at the table was more experienced and had shaped her beaker in no time.

I used too much water to ‘glue’ the next layer onto the base and had to place the beginnings of my pot on a bench outside to dry a little before I could continue, next to those of two other beginners. Mine is on the right.

Several hours later we had all made something that looked more or less like a funnel beaker. Some of the pots were fairly small, like the ones that would originally have been used to store seeds. Others were a lot bigger, like the ones used to hold water or as cooking pots.

The pottery shards of the funnel beaker culture found around here are often richly decorated. In the past, people used feathers, pieces of wood or bone and their fingernails to make the decorations. I used a spatula for the lines and a stick for the dots on my pot.

It was while I was carefully pressing my stick into the soft clay to make dots, that I suddenly felt transported back a few thousand years. In my mind, I was sitting outside, in front of a wattle and daub dwelling, decorating my pot. There was a piercing wind, but dressed in animal skins, I didn’t feel the cold. I could hear sheep bleating and pigs grunting, and I could smell the sweet smell of the cows grazing nearby. I was looking forward to our meal of lentils and foraged greens. Life was hard and uncertain, but it also had its good moments.

Fast forward to the present, I finished my pot by adding a few details in white. Originally a substance made from ground bones and some kind of binder would have been used, but we used a modern paint of which I’ve forgotten the name.

Now my funnel beaker is drying in the artist’s studio, waiting to be fired in her kiln. It should be a soft rosy colour when it comes out. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it’s turned out.

Links:

  • The talk about the funnel beaker culture was held by someone from the Oermuseum, a small but interesting museum with archaeological finds and information about how people lived and worked in the north of the Netherlands from the last ice age to the iron age.
  • The artist who kindly and expertly taught us how to make a funnel beaker was Elisa van den Berg.

Basket Weaving

A knitter can’t live without baskets. At least, that’s what I think. There are baskets dotted all around our house, filled with knitting projects, yarn, unspun wool, more yarn and more knitting projects. Some of these baskets were made by Jannie, a basket weaver I often run into at fairs, markets and sheep shearing festivals. This summer I discovered that she doesn’t only make baskets, but also teaches others how to make them, and I entered my name for a workshop.

I asked a friend (who also knits and spins) if she’d like to join me. She said, ‘I’d love to!’, and together we set off early last Saturday.

As soon as we arrived, we were surrounded by baskets. Baskets hanging under the stairs.

And baskets stacked high on shelves.

There were small, fairly simple looking baskets.

And bigger, very complicated looking baskets. (The picture at the top of this post is a close-up of the basket below).

Something like this would be way too difficult for a first effort, of course. What we were going to make, was a round, medium-sized basket with handles. And this is the material we were going to use:

Willow shoots, or osiers. These were sorted by thickness and length and pre-soaked for about 10 days.

We started by slitting three thick pieces of osier in the middle and threading three others through them. With a thinner shoot we started weaving the base.

We continued weaving, while separating the spokes, until it was a reasonable size.

Then we cut off the starter shoots, stuck 24 new long shoots into the base, and added a few rows in a different ‘stitch’ as I would call it as a knitter. I have no idea of basket weaving terminology, but I looked it up, and I think the last few rows in the photo below are called a ‘randing’. They make for a firm base.

Now it was time to bend the shoots upwards. They were tied together near the top, to keep them out of the way and pointing in the right direction. The 3 shoots you can see sticking out on the floor, are the ones we were going to continue weaving with.

We were sat on low wooden benches, with a sloping wooden work surface attached to them. At this stage, a heavy weight was placed inside the basket in progress, to keep it from sliding down the work surface.

Phew, basket weaving is hard work! In need of a short break, I stepped outside. It was a lovely, sunny morning, and the garden around the basket weaving shed was idyllic.

Even outside there were basket-like decorations and structures everywhere, overgrown with plants.

The chickens (and a guinea fowl) were making soft, clucking noises. There were literally heaps of courgettes and tomatoes on the patio, and there were some gorgeous dahlias in bloom.

The same week I went basket weaving, I won a knitting pattern on Ravelry. Although ‘won’ isn’t the right word for it, perhaps. All I did was chat with other knitters about the things we were making and post some pictures. But still, my name was drawn and I received a digital pattern for a big, cosy wrap in a basketweave pattern.

Wasn’t that a nice coincidence? I’m really tempted to cast on straightaway, but I already have so many other plans for the coming months. I think I’ll keep it till later.

Well, after this short break I’m ready to get back inside. Are you coming?

It’s already starting to look like a real basket.

Our example was placed in the middle of the room for inspiration.

Using champagne corks we made even spaces for the handles.

After braiding a sturdy rim and snipping off all the ends sticking out, our baskets were finished. And here they are – tadaah!

And here’s mine at home, filled with some undyed Shetland roving. I’m so proud of my very first, slightly lopsided willow basket.

My friend and I made our baskets at Vlechterij Vinkenslag. Jannie is a very knowledgeable, friendly and patient teacher. Apart from teaching basket weaving, she sells her beautiful baskets, bird feeders and decorative ornaments at crafts markets and fairs.

Summer Walks Part II – Coast

On a day that was too hot for walking through woods or across heathland, we thought a walk along the coast might be a good idea, with hopefully a refreshing breeze. So we set off for my native Friesland. Our starting-point was the old town of Stavoren (photo above), and our destination was Hindeloopen, another small harbour town. (It was a one-way walk – we took the train back.)

This isn’t the coast as in sea shore, but rather the coastline along the IJsselmeer, a former inland sea that was closed off around 1930 and is now a big freshwater lake. The dykes are still there, and our trail ran right across the top. Well, it wasn’t really a trail, just grass, but you get the idea.

In reality the dyke is much steeper than it looks here. The narrow road on the right is a bicycle track. Nice when you’re cycling, because it’s sheltered from the prevailing wind. But not much fun when you’re walking, because you’d miss the lovely views over the lake.

With a delicious breeze from behind it was an ideal day for this walk. Looking to the left, we saw a choppy lake with some sailing boats.

And looking to the right, we saw agricultural land, with some farms and modern windmills. Completely flat, with endless horizons.

All along the dyke, there were lots of fences with stiles to climb.

The fences are there to confine the Texel sheep to certain sections of the dyke. The sheep are kept company by water birds, like these black and white barnacle geese.

The sheep were not shy at all. They didn’t run away when we came close, like they usually do. We had to step around and over sheep and lambs lazing and grazing on our path. And some of the sheep were downright pushy. When we sat down on the grass to eat our sandwiches, they came begging for a share. They must have been fed by other walkers.

‘Come on, give us some of your bread,’ they seemed to say. And, ‘I really like the smell of that cheese.’ They refused to be shooed away and were so insistent, that in the end we got up and walked on, eating the rest of our lunch along the way.

In the distance we could already see our destination. It wasn’t just a perfect day for walking, but for wind and kite surfing, too.

Against the big blue sky, Hindeloopen looked very small, with its church and the houses with their red roofs huddled behind the dyke. And, in fact, it is small now, with under 900 inhabitants. In the 17th and 18th centuries, when the lake was still a sea, it used to be an important harbour and trade centre, with three times the number of people and a fleet of around a hundred ships.

It’s nice to imagine merchant ships leaving and entering the town via the lock (photo below) that is now used by pleasure boats. On their outward-bound journeys they would be filled with gin and wool. And coming back from Scandinavia and Russia they would be carrying wood.

We slowly strolled through the old town centre and saw some monumental merchant’s houses – a sign of great wealth in earlier times.

There was a museum, too, as well as several shops selling local traditional crafts. Hindeloopen is renowned for its decorative painting style, with garlands and stylized flowers on a red, green, blue or cream background. Here are several trays and a ‘butte’.

A butte is a traditional travelling case used by seamen for their personal belongings. I think it’s a thing of beauty and would like to own one someday. But as it’s all handmade, it has quite a hefty price tag. It’s not that it isn’t worth it, but it isn’t an amount I’d spend on a whim.

I came home with some more modest souvenirs – two pieces of fabric and two postcards.

The fabrics are inspired by some of those used in the colourful traditional costumes of Hindeloopen. I don’t know what I’m going to use them for yet, but I’ll think of something.

One of the cards shows some of the typical decorative painting on a wooden platter. And the other shows a woman in traditional dress. (Unfortunately the postcard doesn’t tell us who the artist is.) In the painting, the fabrics are simplified to solid colours. In reality they would be flowered and checked, in mainly red, blue and white. There’s an picture of a complete costume on the town’s museum website.

And what is the woman doing? Knitting – what else?