Colourwork Hats in the Snow

Hello!

This week we’re having a wintry spell with sunshine, blue skies and even a sprinkling of snow. Such a relief after all the rain we’ve had. On the whole I’m fine with rainy days, but three months of them is a bit much even for me.

On a glorious frosty morning, before we set off for a walk, I popped the four colourwork hats I’d just finished into my backpack for a photo shoot. Before going into the actual hats, this is the yarn I used:

Four skeins of Rowan’s Felted Tweed in the shades Rage, Clay, Cinnamon and Black (from left to right). I like it when manufacturers give their shades names instead of just numbers. The pattern I used is the Colorwork Cap (here on Ravelry). Four skeins make four of these hats when a different shade is used as the main colour for each of them – very economical.

Three of the hats were knit as per pattern. For someone with a smaller head who likes her hats to be closer fitting I made the fourth one (with red as the main colour) shorter. Here they all are in a row in the snow.

The difference will become clearer when you see me wearing them. The original hat is fairly tall. It has a wide colourwork section and a crown with decreases in four places.

The smaller hat has the same ribbing and colourwork band, but decreases in six places and consequently fewer decrease rows.

Here are the two versions side by side – the black hat with decreases in four places and the red one with decreases in six (click on images to enlarge and take a closer look at the decreases). The red hat would have fitted more smoothly over the head if I’d left off part of the colourwork and spaced the decreases out over more rows, but I didn’t want to do that and am happy with the way it turned out.

The photographs were taken in an area with shifting sands that is officially called Aekingerzand, but we call de Kale Duinen (the Bare Dunes). As children this is where we went on our annual school outing, to play ball games and sunbathe on our beach towels. It was like a day on the coast minus the sea. Here is an impression of what it looks like on a winter’s day.

I hope you are keeping well and warm (or cool, for those of you in the Southern Hemisphere) and have had a good start to the new year. The four hats will soon be on their way to their new owners. One more project to finish and then it’s time for something new. I’m bursting with ideas and am looking forward to sharing them with you again this year.

A Foggy Walk

Hello! Today, I’m taking you for a walk in De Wieden, a wetland area south-west of our home. We’ve had a lot of rain lately and also a smattering of snow, but on the day of our walk it’s foggy. The fog muffles all sound and blocks out most of the view. It’s dark, wet and grey.

How different this exact same spot looked on a sunny day in June.

De Wieden is part of the Wieden-Weerribben National Park, the largest lowland bog in north-west Europe. In spring and summer it’s so very beautiful here, with many different kinds of butterflies, damselflies and dragonflies, romantic waterlilies and cheerful orchids.

Now, the orchids have gone underground and only the leaves of the waterlilies are visible.

No damselflies are resting on reed stalks, no dragonflies are flitting across the water.

At this time of year, it’s beautiful here in a more subtle way. It’s a symphony of greens and browns.

There are some small pops of other colours – an orange fungus, a single red clover and the last of the marsh marigolds (click on images to enlarge).

But greens and browns predominate, with pale yellow-green marsh ferns among the greenest-of-green rushes.

Most of the reeds have already gone from green to sandy brown. Behind them, the blurry silhouette of a great white egret.

At the foot of the reeds, there’s a tunnel. Who made it? It’s far too wide for a mouse. Maybe the otters did. They hunt at the night and sleep in their hiding places on the reed banks during the day. Maybe there is one snoring away here right now.

In front of the reeds, there is the orangey, pinkish and blackish brown of the alder branches and their dripping wet male and female catkins.

It’s incredibly wet here today and I’m so glad I’m wearing wellies. It’s a good thing that it’s wet, though, because De Wieden has suffered from the recent hot and dry summers. Now the soil and the plants can drink their fill. Towards the end of our walk, the egret takes off.

It’s time for me to be off, too. Bye!

Oh, before I go, here is a clue to what I’ll be writing about next week if I can find the time. I wasn’t just here to take photographs, but also to be photographed… (Hint: Can you see what I’m wearing around my neck?)

Knitting and Walking

Driving home through the dark from yet another get-together, with the windscreen wipers working furiously and strong gusts of wind buffeting the car, I suddenly thought, Enough! The past couple of weeks have been such fun, but now I need some rest and time alone. For me, knitting and walking are the best ways to rest and recharge. Sleeping helps too, obviously, but sleep can be elusive.

So, I’ve been knitting…

…knitting until a long scarf in a fine yarn was finished. Now it only needs blocking…

…casting on and making good progress on a pair of socks for a friend…

…and knitting on a simple stocking stitch poncho until it’s the size of a nice and warm lap blanket. It’s almost ready to be seamed and then I can knit on the cowl.

I’ve also been out for a walk every day. Taking my usual walks through our village, walks with our grandson, a walk in a foggy wetland, and a walk around the nearby village of Havelte. The real reason for my visit to Havelte was a tiny Advent market. There were only six stalls, but really nice ones with good quality toys…

…handmade purses and bags, hand carved wooden spoons, watercolour greeting cards, sustainable clothes for children and adults, and semiprecious stones and fossils.

I found several lovely gifts for our December celebrations and then went for a walk. Tourist websites call Havelte ‘The Pearl’ of our part of the country. To me, it’s an ordinary village for the most part, but it does have some lovely spots and beautiful old houses.

According to the weather forecast it was going to be dry and sunny. Only they forgot to mention the sudden downpours in between the dry and sunny spells. Oh my, such beautiful golden light against the threatening skies! I didn’t do anything to enhance this photo – this is exactly the way it was:

And here is a photograph that’s almost embarrassing. A windmill with a rainbow – can it get any cheesier? But again, this is exactly the way it was:

There were hardly any people about, but I did have eye contact with two four-legged villagers. A group of Drenthe Heath sheep crowding around a feeding rack had their backs turned to me.

But two sheep had finished eating and one of them was looking straight at me. Hello there, lovely creature.

And towards the end of my walk, a cat briefly looked up to see if I was to be trusted and then, apparently satisfied that I was, continued lapping up water from a puddle.

I’ll tell you more about the patterns, techniques and yarns used for the above knitting projects soon, when they are finished. I also have some more gift knitting planned, as well as a new pattern (or two) of my own. All in all, I hope to keep you provided with inspiration for the rest of the year and beyond, and also with a place to rest and recharge. Kalm an, hè?

The Story of the Drowned Village

Hello! Today, I’m going to tell you a story. A story about a lake that wasn’t always a lake, a path that leads nowhere, and a drowned village.

‘Show, don’t tell,’ isn’t that what aspiring writers are always taught? Well, I’ll do better than that – I’ll show AND tell. Look, this is where we start – a narrow brick path, with old reed-roofed cottages on one side…

… and a flower garden and more tiny cottages on the other.

One of the cottages is now a tearoom. Maybe we can have a cuppa there later.

This used to be the path to the village of Beulake, but now it leads nowhere. Well, not quite nowhere – it ends at the water’s edge and brings us to the boat I’ve rented especially for us today. Please hop in. To get to the lake we need to negotiate a narrow canal first.

And here we are, on the Beulakerwijde – the lake that wasn’t always a lake. We’re not the only ones enjoying a lovely day out on the water.

It’s hot and sunny today, with a gentle breeze. Very different from that fateful day in November 1776, when rain and wind lashed the countryside.

Extensive peat extraction had made the area around Beulake vulnerable and a year earlier a heavy storm had broken the sea dykes in several places, flooded the land and driven away most of the inhabitants of the village. This time the storm was even worse. Fearing for their lives, the remaining 50 villagers fled to the church. They experienced the worst 36 hours of their lives, but survived to tell the tale. The village was drowned, however, and the entire area became a lake – the lake we’re on today.

The church disappeared in another storm, fifty years later, and… But wait, what’s that there in the distance?

It looks like, no, it can’t be, yes it is a… church tower???

A church tower complete with a bell and clockwork!

Well, actually it’s an artwork approximately in the spot where the original church of Beulake was. The small, uninhabited island behind it is called Kerkhof (church yard). It’s not hard to guess why.

The story of the drowned village of Beulake is the story behind one of the two versions of my Story Lines shawl.

The photographs were taken here, and I’ve been wanting to tell you the story behind it for a long time, but somehow never got round to it.

There is also a red version with ruffles along the edge, but the watery blue version ends with a row of droplets.

Well, it’s time to head back, along the reedbeds and water lilies.

We’re lucky – the tearoom is still open. Do you have time to stay a little longer? What would you like? Coffee, fresh mint tea, an alcohol-free beer? And carrot cake, a brownie or a slice of Dutch apple pie to go with it?

The Story Lines pattern can be found here on Ravelry and the blog post about both versions of the shawl here.

Our boat trip started from Natuurmonumenten visitor centre De Wieden. (Natuurmonumenten is the nature conservation organisation that protects and manages the beautiful and vulnerable wetland area of today’s story.)

A Monkey in the Forest

Hello! Last week, besides needing some quiet time to myself, I was too busy finishing a monkey to write a blog post. Before he was to move in with our grandson, I took him to the forest at the end of our street for a photo shoot. First we walked through the part with the big old beeches, where we got a good shot of the way his tail peeks out from his dungarees.

But on the whole it was too dark under the trees, so we walked on to a sunnier spot. It’s one of my favourite places in the whole wide world – a tiny, perfectly round pool.

It’s probably an ancient cattle watering-hole and it is surrounded by a small patch of heathland.

The heather is in bloom at the moment. It’s mainly ling, but there is also some bell heather.

So, here he is, the monkey I knit for our grandson:

He was knit entirely in one piece, starting from the top of his head. It isn’t an easy knit, but the pattern is very clear and has photo tutorials for literally every detail. The only part that gave me some problems was the ‘frown’ – the vertical line between his eyes that needed exactly the right increases to get a neat result. It’s a very clever construction and I particularly like the shaping of the monkey’s back and bum that allow him to sit up straight on every surface.

I knit the monkey a pair of dungarees with buttons on the back, that you’ve already seen from behind. This is the front:

And a jacket that also leaves the tail free.

Even though it’s the middle of the Summer Holiday Season and there are many, many tourists in the region, nobody comes up to me here, asking what on earth I am doing. It’s quiet. Dragon flies are flitting across the pond, too fast for me to capture. A viviparous lizard is also faster than my camera. Fortunately the carnivorous sundew stays in place, allowing me all the time I need to photograph its treacherous sticky droplets.

We enjoyed a lovely couple of hours in the forest, the monkey and I. He has now moved in with our grandson and they are getting along very well. The monkey has already been dressed and undressed countless times, and also been thrown about quite a bit, but he keeps smiling and doesn’t seem to mind.

For the knitters among you, here are a few details:

  • Yarn: Sandness ‘Tynn Merinoull’ (monkey, 20 MC, 8 g CC); Dalegarn ‘Baby Ull’ (jacket and dungarees 17 g each, mouth small remnant); I used a fingering-weight yarn, but the monkey can be knit in any yarn weight
  • Height of monkey: 18 cm/7” from top of head to bum; 27 cm/10½” including legs
  • Knitting needles: 2,25 mm/US 1 for monkey; 3,0 mm/US 2½ for clothes
  • The designer’s website (in Dutch) with patterns and supplies for this monkey and other softies can be found here

The Dutch paper pattern booklet includes the jacket. There is a separate booklet for the dungarees and some more clothes. Designer Anita mostly uses colourful yarns like Schoppel Zauberball for her creations.

The digital pattern for the monkey in Dutch, English, German and French can be found here on Ravelry; the dungarees in Dutch and English here; and a dress here.

Because I wanted the monkey to be washable, I’ve filled it with synthetic filling. For weighting the hands, feet and bum I used plastic pellets encased in cotton tubular bandage.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this visit to ‘our’ forest with the monkey and me. Thank you for joining us! xxx

Mini-Springwatch

Hello!

One of the projects on my needles at the moment is a cable cardigan for our grandson. In the evenings while I’m watching BBC’s Springwatch and my mind is far away in the British countryside, my hands stay at home knitting. It doesn’t look like much yet, but my swatch tells me that it should be all right after blocking.

For anyone who doesn’t know it – Springwatch is a programme about the natural world in the UK that is broadcast for 3 weeks every spring. With a crew of about 100 and some 50 wildlife cameras, it’s a huge thing.

As I’m enjoying the programme so much, and there is not a lot to talk about on the knitting front, I thought it might be fun to do a Dutch Springwatch episode today. First let me introduce you to some of the crew members.

Just kidding! This is an unknown passer-by carrying an impressive camera on a tripod. The entire crew is just me, with my simple little point-and-shoot camera. My husband is here, too, but he only brought his binoculars.

So, a Dutch mini-Springwatch, but where are we? Well, we’re in the Lauwersmeer National Park in the far north of the country, about 200 kilometers north-east from Amsterdam. It is a former bay that was closed off from the sea by a dam in 1969 to protect the surrounding area from floods.

The former seabed we’re walking on is extremely flat. It’s quiet and peaceful here in this beautiful open landscape that is so important for birds and biodiversity. We’re following narrow tracks and wider grassy paths.

Here and there they lead us along the water’s edge.

The extensive reed beds are still covered in last year’s yellow-grey dead reed stalks. They’ll be green with fresh reeds a little later in the year. Although we can’t see them, we can hear the reed and sedge warblers warbling away.

The hawthorn, called meidoorn (Maythorn) here, is in full bloom and buzzing with insects.

Under one hawthorn tree, there is a bench – the perfect spot for lunch. We’re looking out over a small harbour, with cow parsley in front and a few black-and-white cows in the distance.

While we’re munching our sandwiches, there’s a sudden blue flash – a kingfisher. And while a hen harrier is harrying a goose with goslings, a bittern comes flying by. This truly is a birder’s paradise, but you’ll have to take my word for it. My camera and I weren’t up to capturing any of the birds on photo. At least these mooring posts stayed put long enough for me to take a picture.

On the way back, we meet a herd of Konik horses. Without their grazing, the open areas would turn into woodland in just a few years’ time.

Shhh, they have foals and mustn’t be disturbed…

Bye for now, and I hope to see you again next week. xxx

Wood Anemone Walk

There is a place, not far from here, where it is as if time has stood still. It is particularly lovely in spring, when the wood anemones are flowering. With two families quibbling over ownership of the estate for a long time in the Middle Ages, and a beautiful house with stepped gables that was later demolished, it has an interesting history, too.

But let’s not talk about that or anything else today. Let’s just go for a walk and enjoy the beauty of this special place and the peace that now reigns here.

Thank you for walking along with me. I hope to be back next week with a more chatty post. See you then!

The Beauty of Green Things

Hello!

‘On some day of late January, when the honey-coloured west is full of soft grey cloud, when one lone minstrel thrush is chanting to the dying light, what is the thrill that shakes us?’ This is how Mary Webb starts The Spring of Joy (first published in 1917), a lovely collection of essays about the healing power of nature. This ‘thrill that shakes us’, she writes, is a sense of ‘oneness with all beauty, seen and unseen’.

It is early February now, and unlike the south of the country we haven’t had any snow so far. Over the past month the sky has often been ‘full of soft grey cloud’. Or a uniform dull grey. Or pouring with rain. How can we experience a sense of oneness with all beauty on days like that?

Well, there are subtler things than stunning sunsets and spectacular snowscapes. Webb writes about the beauty to be found in the movements, sounds and scents of nature. Or in shadow or shape. In the presence of an old oak tree…

… surrounded by sheep and buffeted by an invigorating breeze I know what she means.

In this little gem of a book, there is also an essay about The Beauty of Colour. According to Webb, ‘Of all colours, brown is the most satisfying.’ I don’t know about that, but I do agree with her when she writes: ‘In blue the spirit can wander, but in green it can rest’.

On the whole blue is my favourite colour – my spirit loves to wander. But at the moment I am also strongly drawn to green.

I’ve finished the Norwegian-patterned mittens for our daughter, woven in the ends and washed them. The last thing to do now is knitting in the linings. While the mittens were drying, I made a start on a green cardigan for our grandson knit from the top down:

The lovely fir-tree-like pattern along the raglan increases posed quite a puzzle. It’s taken me several attempts to get the hang of it, but I’m on the right track now.

And looking for something else, I came across a skein of a beautiful green tweed yarn. It’s been in my stash for a long, long time. Now I’d love to knit it up into something special, but what? A pair of mittens? A cowl? A hat?

Speaking of the beauty of green things and the healing power of nature, I’ve just finished reading Landlines by Raynor Winn. A dear friend gave it to me as a birthday gift last year. I didn’t read it straightaway but kept it to have something to look forward to for January. This is the hardcover edition – it is worth having for the beautiful dust jacket alone.

It is also very much worth reading. Landlines is actually the third book in a series. I haven’t read the first two (The Salt Path and The Wild Silence), but that wasn’t a problem – it can be read on its own.

The author’s husband, Moth, has a neurodegenerative disorder (similar to Parkinson and Alzheimer) for which there is no cure. He is told that his condition will only deteriorate. After this devastating diagnosis and subsequently losing their home, they make the unusual decision to walk the 630-mile-long South West Coast Path (described in the first book). This turns out to lead to a miraculous improvement in Moth’s health.

In Landlines, Moth’s health has gone downhill again and the couple set out for another long-distance walk, this time starting in the north of Scotland. It’s a moving personal story with unexpected twists and turns, interesting encounters and insights, and beautiful descriptions of the landscape and wildlife along the way.

Well, I’m going to make a start on the mitten linings now and hope to have them finished by next week. To close off here is a picture of some twists and turns in our most recent non-so-long-distance walk. Take care! xxx

NB: De boeken van Raynor Winn zijn ook in het Nederlands vertaald: Het zoutpad, De wilde stilte en Landlijnen.

Mitten Progress and a Walk

It’s Sunday morning, 4˚C. Rain and hail storms are accompanied by strong gusts of wind. Fancy a walk? If you do, make sure to wear warm wind-and-waterproof clothes. And wellies, too, because the path will be flooded in places.

It can get quite busy here with walkers and cyclists, but today we seem to be the only ones. Why would that be?

No wait, there is someone there in the distance. It’s one of the shepherds with her two dogs and part of the flock. They are out in all weathers.

Walking here, I often think of the people who built these burial monuments.

How did the landscape look in their time? What was it like living here then? And what would they think, seeing us in our colourful synthetic outdoor clothing?

I am wearing a hand-knit woolly hat and cowl. But underneath my bright red polyamide rain jacket I’m wearing a polyester and elastane fleece sweater, and my hands are kept warm by fleece-lined machine-knit gloves. Fie! As a dedicated knitter, I really need to do something about that.

First the Northman mittens for our daughter and a few other things, though. I’ve started them again and have made quite a bit of progress. The first attempt was on the small side.

Going up a needle size, from 3.5 mm (US 4) to 3.75 mm (US 5), makes them slightly wider and longer. They’ll be the right size now, I think.

Writing this, I’m thinking of the book of Winterverhalen / Winter Tales, written by Dawn Casey and illustrated by Zanna Goldhawk. One of the stories is about a grandmother whose needles go clickety-click, clickety click…

… and a very special mitten, welcoming all animals seeking refuge from a storm.

A wonderful image, and a great book for both children and adults.

Well, time to close off. There is just one last thing. Towards the end of our walk the sun peeks through, and LOOK!

Witches’ Butter

Hello, and welcome to an autumnal post filled with fungi (and some yarn). 

Autumn is a magical time in the forest. It’s the time of rustling leaves underfoot. The time of warm reds, oranges, yellows and browns. The time of golden light on some days, and a fog that shrinks the world and muffles all sound on others. It is also the time of mysterious mushrooms and treacherous toadstools.

On our walks we marvel at the masses of fabulous fungi popping up this year, and some of them seem to stare back at us open-mouthed.

Beware of the poisonous panther cap – some say that it can make you fly, but I wouldn’t like to give it a try:

I’m not sure I’d like to try these babies either, although they are edible:

They don’t look too bad when young, but all grown up they look vile, dripping their viscous black ink.

It’s easy to believe in fairy tales, walking through the forest in autumn. I mean, who doesn’t think of gnomes seeing something like this?

And the fungus below certainly has fairy tale-like qualities (of the creepy kind). It can move, sort of like a slug, even leaving a slime trail. In Dutch it is called heksenboter (witches’ butter).

In the picture above it is cream coloured, like real butter, but more often it is bright yellow.

The yellow colour explains its English name – scrambled egg slime. It also goes by another name. (Please skip the next line if you’re squeamish):

Dog vomit slime mold

Well, we certainly aren’t scraping that off the branches to spread on our baguettes! No, I really prefer making my own herby ‘witches’ butter’. There are two things that always go into it: garlic and parsley. For the rest I vary with the herbs I use.

Parsley doesn’t do well in our garden, so that is shop-bought. Until the first night frosts our herb patch provides us with chives. And on the left there’s a herb that I discovered and planted a couple of years ago – salad burnet (kleine pimpernel in het NL). It is an evergreen that gives fresh cucumbery-tasting leaves all year round.

Here is my very simple recipe:

Herby Witches’ Butter

Ingredients:

  • 150 grams unsalted butter
  • 1 clove of garlic, pressed or finely grated
  • Small bunch of parsley
  • Some chives and salad burnet (or other fresh herbs)
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Black pepper

Method:

  • Leave the butter to soften at room temperature for a while
  • Mix in the garlic with a fork
  • Chop up the chives. Strip the leaves of the other herbs from their stalks and chop up as well
  • Combine the herbs with the garlicky butter
  • Season with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt

Delicious with some crusty bread, salad, and a bowl of soup. Pumpkin soup would be great, or my Simple Mushroom Soup (recipe in blogpost Soup and Socks).

The butter jar was photographed on one of the dish cloths I knit a couple of years back and wrote about here. I also wrote a post about the organic yarns I used for them here. So how are these yarns holding up after two years of frequent use?

First of all, I need to tell you that I’ve ignored the yarn manufacturers’ washing instructions, washed the dish cloths at 60˚C/140˚F and put them in the dryer on rainy days. Despite the rough treatment they’ve had, none of the dish cloths show any holes. For the rest, from worst to best, here are the results:

3) Rosários4 ‘Bio Love’: Alas, alas. This was the yarn I loved best, but it is the yarn that has faded most and looks the shabbiest now. I still think it is a great yarn for things that do not need to be washed quite as often, though.

2) Lang Yarns ‘Baby Cotton’: This has kept its colour and looks good when dry, but when wet stretches a lot and feels rather thin. So, not great for dish cloths, but fine for baby or other garments.

1) Surprisingly, the winner is Anna & Clara ‘100% cotton 8/4’. This was the least expensive yarn and has performed the best by far. Actually, these dish cloths still look as good as new.

Well, that’s all for today. Bye for now, and if you go mushrooming – be careful!!!