Quilts in Kampen

Hello, and welcome to the last of the outings on my blog this summer! Hope you have the time for a good long read. I have really tried to keep this post from getting too long, but failed miserably.

All of the other outings were close to home. This time we’re travelling a little further afield, to the city of Kampen. And this time it’s not just me, but also my husband you’re traveling with. Kampen is not very far afield (it is only about 28 miles from here), but somehow we rarely visit it and we really felt like tourists ourselves.

With less than 40.000 inhabitants city seems too big a word for Kampen, but that’s what it officially is, I think. One side of the city centre is bordered by a park and several old gate towers.

On the other side, there is the river IJssel, where several tall ships are moored today. The white ship on the left is The Flying Dutchman. When she is not in Kampen, the ship and her crew are sailing around Scotland, navigating the Caledonian canal, visiting the outer Hebrides and treating their passengers to Scottish whisky and music.

Like any other town or city at the moment, Kampen has its share of empty shops. It also has the usual chain stores that can be found everywhere else. But there are also many small and quirky shops, beautiful old buildings, museums etcetera.

This is the main shopping street with on the right an old tower called ‘the new tower’.

Below the carillon and the clock, something is dangling from the balustrade. On closer inspection that something turns out to be a cow. (Fortunately not a real-life one.)

Why? Can it be a farmers’ protest or something?

Branching out from the main shopping street there are many lovely narrow streets and alleys to discover.

My eye is always drawn to old buildings and I feel most at home in the older parts of towns and cities, but the juxtaposition of old and new can also be attractive.

The wooden buildings on the right are the workshops of the Koggewerf, where a shipwrecked kogge (a medieval wooden sailing vessel) found here was carefully reconstructed. Unfortunately, the kogge was out sailing and the buildings were closed, but just peeking in through the windows and looking at another boat and the buildings from the outside was nice too.

What really struck me in Kampen this time, is that it is very much a city of makers. Or maybe every town and city has them and they are just more visible here. Or maybe it was just that I was more open to them this day.

Anyway, as a maker myself I feel a sort of kinship with other makers. I make things with wool and other fibres, words and sometimes fabrics. But I’m also interested in people making things with wood, metal, dough, chocolate, glass, paper or in any other medium. What materials do they use exactly, how do they use them, what do they make and why? It’s the process of making things I’m interested in at least as much as the product. And here, in Kampen, we cannot only see the finished products, but also some makers at work actually making things.

This time we didn’t visit the smithy, the coffee roasting company or the cigar factory, but from a previous visit I can tell you that even for a non-cigar-smoker cigar making is interesting and the smell is overpowering!

We did see the chocolatiers at work, though.

Of course we had to sample some of their products.

I think that for my husband, as a great amateur cook and occasional chocolate maker, that was the highlight of the day. For me, it was SuperGoof Quilts.

Now that was a super lovely surprise. I didn’t know anything about this quilt shop. Turns out it is owned by a blogger who has been blogging about quilting since 2007! With a great sense of self-mockery, she calls herself SuperGoof, or Goof for short.

Of course SuperGoof Quilts is a shop, and of course it sells fabrics, as well as some other things. Just look at these fun stuffed toys with their finely knitted sweaters and hats:

But this is about more than buying and selling. What this is really all about is the love of making things.

The fabrics are lovingly chosen and express Goofs exquisite taste.

The fat quarters and eighths are neatly folded and lovingly displayed by colour. Here are the blues…

… and the reds.

I didn’t ask, but looking at the quilts on display, my guess is that red is Goofs favourite colour. Isn’t her sampler quilt stunning?

Would you believe that she doesn’t own a sewing machine? It is all done by hand! If that isn’t love.

Goof (sorry, I don’t know her real name) told me that as a mother of four teenagers, carer for her parents and maternity nurse, she used to get up before everyone else for a spot of quilting. Amazing that she found the time for it in such a busy life, but at the same time I totally understand how important it was for her. The quilt with the stork and the words ‘home is where the heart is’ reflects her life at that time.

The finished quilts are beautiful, but I also like it that there is quite a bit of work in progress on display.

And then there is this mouse quilt that was a mystery quilt-along project from autumn 2020 to spring 2021. I don’t know if you can zoom in, but there is so much to see on it.

More pictures and information about this quilt can be found here on SuperGoofs website. She doesn’t have a webshop, so you’ll just have to travel to Kampen to visit her some time!

Since I discovered her, I’ve been reading SuperGoofs blog. It has lots of lovely pictures and her writing is light and fun. She writes in Dutch, but in the top right-hand corner of her homepage, there is a Google Translate box where you can select your language. I just loved her recent post in which she explains how she reacts when non-quilters visiting her shop comment on how much time quilting must take. Here is a quote:

“And if you love something?
You don’t think about time at all.
At most something like, Goodness is it that late already?”

And that’s just what I’m thinking now. Time to close off. Thanks for your time and hope to see you again next time!

Colourful Socks

Hello!

Cycling for the sake of cycling is often good enough for me. But sometimes it is nice to have a destination. One of my favourite cycling destinations is the village of Vledder. It is the home of the museums of Forged Art and Contemporary Glass Art. The museums’ entrance is at the back of the house with the clock.

But that’s not why we are here. Today I’m taking you along to the local bookshop. It is a small bookshop with a great selection of books, as well as postcards, magazines, gift items and artists’ supplies. The sight of their wall of coloured pencils never fails to lift my spirits.

But I’m not an artist and didn’t come to buy pencils or paints. My aim was to spend some pocket money and buy a foreign magazine.

There is a whole host of German magazines with titles like Landliebe, Liebes Land, LandIdee, LandLeben, LandZauber and so on. They all contain luscious photographs of lovely homes and gardens, recipes and articles about all kinds of things to do with the countryside. They are hard to distinguish from each other.

This time I chose Landlust. There was an article in it about a Felt Studio, with colourful photographs that had the same effect on me as the wall of coloured pencils.

There were also several knitting designs in this issue – three sweaters, a dress and a shrug.

I’m not terribly excited by them, but I discovered that the magazine has an extensive archive of knitting patterns and really enjoyed browsing through it. All patterns are free digital downloads in German. (If you don’t want to subscribe to their newsletter, just click the window away when it pops up).

There are also other crafts ideas sprinkled through the knitting patterns in their archives, including some cute cardboard sheep wrapped in wool that would be great to make with children.

The magazine also has its own line of knitting yarns. I have never tried any of them, but I did squirrel…

… away several balls of their sock yarn a while ago. Reading the magazine reminded me of those and I started a pair of socks straightaway, in cream, a rosy pink and watery blues and greens.

The yarn is called Landlust Die Sockenwolle, has 420 m/459 yds to 100 g and is composed of 75% wool/25% polyamide. It looks and feels like most other, similar sock yarns: smooth (not hairy) and hard-wearing enough to be worn in walking boots. (As you know I’m not sponsored, so this is my own honest impression of this yarn).

Some balls have subtle colours and patterns, others come in bold colourful stripes.

I’ll show you what they look like knit up when I come to them.

Well, that brings us to the end of another post. The way back home leads through a village that was awarded Unesco World Heritage status several weeks ago. It is now overrun with visitors. That would be another nice cycling destination and I’ll keep it in mind for some other time.

Bye for now and have a nice weekend!

Woolly Country Life

There was a small market in the square behind the church in the photo at the top. This market – called Wollig Landleven (Woolly Country Life) – visits a different village in our part of the country every month from spring through autumn. It is a lovely small-scale event.

The Country Life part refers to ‘essentials’ like soaps, sausages, cheese, herb teas, clothes and all kinds of knick-knacks for the home. My favourite of these is the baker with his wood-fired oven.

The smell is heavenly, and their lovingly displayed loaves are delicious as well as a feast for the eyes.

But I mainly came for the Woolly part, of course. There was wool in different forms. There were raw fleeces in plastic bags…

… complete sheep skins…

… and hand-dyed fibres for felting and spinning.

The last time I went to a ‘real’ crafts fair was in February 2020, and no indoors yarn events will be held here in the near future, as far as I know. The organizers of our regional (indoor) crafts fair are now aiming for February 2022. This market only gets permission because it is outdoors and complies with all the regulations, lilke one-way traffic and a limited number of visitors. And we still need to be careful to keep a 1.5 metres distance, disinfect our hands etcetera.

But in spite of all that, the atmosphere is relaxed, and it is wonderful to stroll around looking at the wares and just be among people. It takes some getting used to that again. There was one person who stood out because of her daring and original outfit.

Looking at the shawl now, it occurs to me that it might be a Stephen West design. And yes, a quick Ravelry search tells me that it is Slipstravaganza. He is so creative, and his designs really stand out.

I enjoyed looking at several baskets filled with handspun yarns. To me it is always inspiring to see what choices other people make. What colours did they choose to combine? How many plies? How thick or thin is their yarn? Is it slubby or even?

It was a lovely surprise to meet two new indie dyers. The first was Wat Wollie (which is a pun in the local dialect and could be translated as What WOOLd you like). Petra dyes her yarns in beautiful saturated colours.

Apart from at these markets, she also sells her yarns through Etsy, and her website can be found here. Petra has only been knitting for a few years, but has quickly become an accomplished knitter, as her sweater shows. I forgot to ask which pattern she used, but I think it is Goldwing by Jennifer Steingass.

The stall next to hers was that of Badcattoo Yarn. It’s fun to see how every dyer has her own style. Badcattoo’s yarns are generally lighter and often have parts left undyed. She also has a website.

For a long time now, my policy has been only to buy yarns with a specific project in mind. But for once I’ve deviated from that rule and bought a skein from both dyers with no idea what I’m going to do with them yet. I had some pocket money to spend on frivolous things, after all.

Both are fingering-weight yarns with a percentage of nylon in them. Top right is Badcattoo’s yarn in lovely pale sky blues with black, white and brown tweedy neps. And bottom left Wat Wollie’s skein in deeper hues of blue and purple, with a few brown speckles here and there.

It felt so good to be hanging out with my ‘tribe’ again for a while.

For anyone living in or near Drenthe, an overview of upcoming Wollig Landleven markets can be found here.

Incubation

On weekdays, when I come downstairs my husband is already at the table having breakfast and reading the morning paper. But one morning a few days ago, he wasn’t there. I found him on the veranda with his camera and binoculars. ‘Shhh,’ he said, ‘the blue tits are fledging.’

I grabbed my small camera, too, and together we sat watching the blue tits leave the nest box just outside our living room window (some of the pictures in this post are his). First one stuck its head out. And when it got a little bolder, its feet came out as well, grabbing the edge of the opening.

Then it decided ‘no, I’m not ready yet’ and popped back inside. They took their time fledging. While the young were plucking up courage, the parents kept plucking caterpillars from trees and bushes.

They kept feeding their young all the time.

And then, one by one, the young birds decided that the time was right. With a wriggle and a wrench they flew out.

When we had counted 7, we thought that the nest box was empty. But after a while, another little blue tit came out. The others all immediately flew up into a tree or onto the fence, but this one seemed weaker. It flew down to the rubber mat in front of the French windows.

And while it was sitting there, looking around at the big wide world, a great tit flew onto the threshold. It took one look around and then disappeared into our living room. I wonder what it thought when it came flying out a few minutes later. ‘Goodness, so much space! And what do they want with all that stuff inside their nests? Aren’t humans weird creatures?!’

After a while, the last little blue tit scurried away to find cover.

That evening we cleaned out the nest box. Unlike us, the blue tits didn’t have much stuff inside their nest – just a thick layer of moss and some feathers.

We heard that it’s a difficult year for blue tits. Because of the cold and wet spring there were not enough caterpillars when they needed them. With 8 healthy chicks, ours were lucky. Maybe the peanuts from our feeder also helped a little.

The parents will keep feeding their young until they can fend for themselves.

Now we’re waiting for the great tits. They have nests in two other nest boxes in our garden. And also for the second nest of the blackbirds in the beech hedge.

Meanwhile I am incubating a clutch of knitting ideas. It’s not a straightforward as with the blue tits’ eggs. I don’t know how long the incubation will take and exactly what I need to feed them when they hatch. What kind of TLC do they need if I want them to fledge? I can only go by what my intuition tells me.

One thing my intuition told me was, ‘Buy yarn’. I wondered at the wisdom of this advice at this early stage, but I let myself be led by it anyway and bought some yarn in blue tit blue.

And some more yarn, also in beautiful hues of blue.

Time will tell whether this was a wise thing to do. At least browsing around Wolverhalen was a very enjoyable thing to do. (You may have read about it in a previous post.)  Leafing through some pattern books and magazines…

… immersing myself in colour…

… and swooning over skeins lovingly hand dyed by Catharina.

I don’t know yet what shape my ideas will take. I’ll do what I can to make them fledge successfully and hope to show you more if and when they’re ready to fly out into the big wide world.

Until then, I’ll try to keep feeding you/myself/us all kinds of other tasty morsels. Bye for now and take care!

Time Slot

Fun, aren’t they, these colourful knitted chickens? They live in the shop window of ‘t Ryahuis, one of the oldest (or the oldest?) yarn shops in the country. It was founded in 1963 by current owner Liane’s Mum and named for a Swedish craft form called rya that was popular back then. I think it is some sort of rug hooking, but correct me if I’m wrong.

Today, hardly anybody knows what rya is anymore, but every knitter around here knows ‘t Ryahuis. This (below) isn’t the best of pictures, and it doesn’t do the lovely window display justice, but it gives an impression of the outside of the shop.

All non-essential shops have been closed here from mid-December. If I’d been on the committee deciding what an essential shop is things would have been different, but as it was ‘t Ryahuis had to close its doors too. Fortunately, we can now book a time slot at ‘non-essential’ shops. It has to be booked at least 4 hours in advance, there can be no more than 2 customers in a shop at any one time, and the time slot has to be for a minimum of 10 minutes.

When Liane e-mailed me that the yarn I’d ordered had arrived, I immediately booked a time slot. Fortunately it was a lot more generous than those 10 minutes and I had enough time to browse around and take loads of pictures to share with you.

Let’s start with some yarn.

Ahhh, doesn’t it feel good just to look at… well, yarn? (I may be slightly deranged, but for me it feels so good to just look at all the colours and textures.) There’s some tweed there, some mohair, some alpaca and even a few sequins.

Every yarn shop has its own signature. One of the special things about ‘t Ryahuis is that they have many, many knitted shop samples to look at for inspiration or to try on.

There is this rack, and another one like it…

… shawls and scarves hanging or lying around everywhere…

… and there are several torsos and mannequins showing off knitwear.

I don’t know what cardigan this lady is wearing, but the shawl is a Stephen West design. I’m not entirely sure, but I think it is Vertices Unite.

While I was browsing around, a parcel was delivered and I heard Liane exclaim, ‘Yay, it’s from our knitter! That was quick!’ The summer top in it was immediately put on one of the mannequins.

It is knit in a linen yarn and the pattern is from the latest issue of Lang Fatto a Mano.

One other customer had booked a time slot at the same time. She needed some yarn and had a question about casting off a huge shawl (I think it was over 2 metres long) she was knitting for her daughter. While she (right) and Liane (left) were looking at it, I quickly snapped a picture (asking permission, of course).

It is a Rowan design, knit in their Alpaca Classic. And I can tell you, it doesn’t only look gorgeous, it is also unbelievably soft.

Apart from us, customers, and Liane, there was somebody else there as well – shop dog Ollie.

Sadly, Ollie met with an accident several years ago and will have to wear braces on two of his legs for the rest of his life. He is such a gentle and calming presence in the shop.

I don’t want to make this too long, because I want to show you a bit of the village, too, but there are a few more things I just have to show you.

During normal times, the shop hosts lots of knitting workshops and knit-‘n-natter groups. People will be sat around this table now covered in knitting books and yarns.

Even the lamp has a knitted shade, and two mannequins wearing knitted items (what else?) are looking on.

One of them has a Kaffe Fasset scarf around her neck…

… and the other one is wearing a light and fluffy cream sweater with subtle colour details and a lace scarf.

I didn’t ask, but looking at it, I think that the sweater is a Marianne Isager design.

Finally, let’s take a look at what is tucked away on top of this wall of yarn.

Hidden just out of sight in the top left corner is a row of hats.

And next to them a collection of knitted monkeys, bears and mice designed by Anita from Zij Maakt Het. Another one of her monkeys, called Saar, is in the shop window looking out. Do check out Anita’s website. Her stuffed toys are adorable and very cleverly constructed.

Well, time’s up. For more information about ‘t Ryahuis, please visit their website. They don’t sell all of their yarns online, but they do have a webshop for Isager yarns, and another one for knitting kits.

Because it was such mild and sunny weather and I had the entire afternoon to myself, I took a stroll through the village afterwards. The village of Zuidlaren is famous for its annual horse fair.

As you may know, I love looking at beautiful houses, and there are enough of those here. In the traditional farmhouse style…

… as well as many other styles.

I walked to the small harbour at the end of the village…

… because I wanted to take a look at the mill museum.

Like just about everything else, it was closed, but still nice to take a look at from the outside. The mill dates from 1851 and used to grind grain and spices, and press oil from flax seed.

Walking back to the car, I passed a flower shop. Flower shops are the only shops considered ‘semi-essential’. Like most other shops, they are closed to customers inside (apart from time slots now), but they can sell their wares outside.

Those lemons can’t be real, surely?

Well, I think that was a fabulous outing. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. Oh, and here is my ‘loot’.

Rowan Kidsilk Haze and Fine Lace for a cardigan, Isager Bomulin for a summer top, and some Regia sock yarn. That should keep me busy for a while.

Wishing you a relaxed weekend. Don’t forget to take a snooze now and then! Xxx

Note: My blog isn’t sponsored. I just like writing about yarn and believe in supporting small and local businesses, especially during these difficult times.

Slowing Down and Tidying Up

Hello!

The title of today’s blog post – ‘Slowing Down and Tidying Up’ – may sound terribly Zen and Organised, but that’s not how I’m feeling at all.

The slowing-down part is my left foot speaking. I’ve injured it during a recent walk. Nothing serious, and I hope it will heal soon, but for the time being I need to listen to my foot and walk slowly and mindfully. Because whenever I ignore it, it sends a stab of pain to my brain.

I think my left foot is a rather sadistic Zen master, and I can’t say that I’m grateful to it. But I am grateful that it isn’t my left hand that’s injured. At least I can still knit, and that’s what I’m doing a lot.

There is some gift knitting going on that I can’t show you, but I’m also knitting something for myself that I can show – a cashmere cap and matching cowl in charcoal and red. Pure comfort knitting.

More about that when I’ve finished it. The novel next to my knitting is from the series of Jane Austen mysteries by Stephanie Barron that I’m re-reading. Highly recommended!

While the slowing-down bit from this blogpost’s title is dictated by my left foot, the tidying-up bit is dictated by the state of some parts of our house. You probably know what it’s like if you have many interests: notes, patterns, newspaper clippings, recipes and other papers pile up until there comes a moment when they take up so much space that tidying-up becomes unavoidable.

And for a knitter, there are all the things left after a knitting project is finished: pattern print-outs, notes, swatches, scraps of yarn. After finishing my Monogrammed Guest Towels I am left with all this:

A folder full of notes and charts, left-over yarn, yarn labels, the towels and face cloths themselves, and swatches. Lots of swatches of the monograms – many knit-in versions, one in duplicate stitch, and even one in cross stitch on a knit swatch (not a success).

And there’s also a small bouquet of loops:

Shall I keep them for future reference? I have difficulty tidying up, because I keep thinking that things may come in handy later. But no, they’ll have to go or we’ll get snowed under in stuff. If I’m ever going to make something with loops or monograms again, I’ll knit new swatches. That’s part of the fun anyway.

Speaking of new swatches, I paid a visit to Wolverhalen to get some materials and needles for them. Maybe you remember the shop? I wrote about it before here.

My tactic at a time we need to avoid crowds is to shop as little as possible, and when I really need something, to go at a quiet moment. So last Wednesday I arrived at Wolverhalen when Catharina was just about to open up. While she was placing a last little Christmas tree in the shop window, I looked at the things on display and put on my face mask.

I had taken a good look at her website beforehand and made a shopping list. One of the things on my list was two balls of this squishy yarn.

Something to play/knit swatches/cuddle with during the Christmas holiday.

Also on my list was some of Catharina’s own handpainted yarn for another Thús 2. On my way to Wolverhalen, I dropped the original version off at a friend’s house, and now I’d like to make another one. I chose a deep teal merino singles yarn (2nd from left in photo below).

While I was choosing my yarns, another customer came into the shop. She was wearing a very special sweater, and when I asked her about it, she told me she’d bought it during a month-long stay in the Faroe Islands. Oh my, an entire month in that beautiful place!

I asked her if I might take a picture of her lovely sweater for my blog and she said that was fine, so here it is – Thank you, unknown knitter!

Chance meetings like these are what make visits to a brick-and-mortar yarn shop extra special. I don’t know if I’d recognize her in the street or she me, large parts of our faces being covered in masks, but from her story about the Faroe Islands, the pattern she was choosing yarn for and her remark that’s she’s a bird watcher, I did recognize a kindred spirit.

Well, let’s browse around a little more before leaving for home. Apart from her own gorgeous hand dyed yarns…

… Catharina also stocks a selection of yarns from other companies, like Danish CaMaRose.

And then there are plants in lovely pots everywhere…

… books…

… and magazines.

Ah, it’s been so good to not be at home for a while. And to meet other knitters and yarn lovers, even if it was only briefly, in small numbers, at a safe distance, and partly hidden by masks.

Well, that’s all for today. I’m hurrying back (slowly) to my tidying up. Wherever you are in the world, and whether you are slowing down (of your own free will or not) or are extra busy at work or at home, I hope that you are okay. Thank you for reading and see you again soon!

Farmers’ Market 2020

Hello!

First of all, thank you so much for all of your kind comments about my Thús 2 scarf, here and on Ravelry. If you’re going to knit it, I hope knitting it will bring you as much pleasure as it did me.

Today, I’m taking you along for some outdoor shopping. A visit to our nearest Farmers’ Market is one of the highlights of the month for me. Normally, it is held once a month from spring through autumn, with an extra Christmas edition in December. This year, it didn’t start until the summer, and there isn’t going to be a Christmas Market, but I’m glad that we’ve been able to go a few times.

Apart from the late start, several other things were different, too. The singer with her guitar was absent, the stalls were spaced out a little more, and there were red-and-white tape and arrows for managing the ‘crowds’.

It was raining when I took this picture, and there are usually a few more people strolling around, but this market never attracts anything remotely like a crowd. Still, it’s good to be on the safe side.

Other than that, it was the same enjoyable place, with the same friendly people and the same attractive wares.

One of the things we always buy here is cheese. The ones below are made from cow’s milk with chives (left) and fenugreek (right).

Our favourites are Doetie’s goat’s cheeses. She makes different varieties – harder ones that have been left to mature for a while…

… and soft, fresh ones that cannot be kept long (they never are in our house anyway). The heart-shaped ones below on the left are like a mild brie and the grey ones on the right have a layer of ashes on the outside and are sharper.

There was also a new stall this year, selling sheep’s cheese, skins and other sheep products.

From them, I bought 30 grams of unspun Frisian dairy sheep’s wool. I’ll let you know more about that when I’ve spun it.

Another fairly new face here, is soap maker Melanie’s. She didn’t actually want to show her face here (I understand – I’d feel just the same), but I’m happy with a few pictures of her soaps.

Melanie uses only natural ingredients, including flowers, plant extracts and essential oils. In addition to hand and body soaps, she also makes hair soap bars (to be used instead of shampoo).

She also sells a mixture of different ‘tastes’ and shapes in jars.

I first bought one of her handmade natural soap bars last year – cinnamon soap with poppy seeds as a scrub element. I loved it! This year I went back for more, not just to wash with, but also as accessories for photographs of my next knitting design. I’ll tell you more about that next week or the week after.

Our next stop is the tea stall. Liesbet blends all her teas and tisanes herself, using organic ingredients. Her blends have fun names like ‘feet-up-on-the-sofa-tea’, ‘shivery-weather-tea’ and ‘everything’s-gonna-be-fine-tea’.

What makes this market so special to me is its small scale, the relaxed atmosphere, and especially the people, like goat farmer Doetie, tea blender Liesbet, and soap maker Melanie. Their products are totally different, but all made with much love, expertise and their own two hands. (None of them have webshops, or I would link to them here.)

And here is another pair of hands – that of the flower lady (I don’t know her name).

A wreath similar to the one she is working on still graces our dining table.

Well, the clock on the church tower tells us it’s time to head home for some lunch. Have a lovely weekend and I hope to see you here again next week!

Not So Tiny Anymore

Hello!

Every time I start writing a blog post, I close my eyes and sit quietly for a while. To focus on what I want to show and say, but also thinking of you reading it. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words.

Over the past two weeks I’ve been watching BBC’s Autumn Watch. At the start of this year’s series, presenter Chris Packham said that they hoped their nature images and stories would be like a warm and colourful blanket for viewers in these difficult and uncertain times. I don’t remember exactly how he phrased it, but that was the drift.

I hope that in my own modest way, I can do something like that here, too. I can’t offer you spectacular footage of badgers, seal pups or otters. What I can offer is a colourful and comforting story about a yarn shop. Do you remember the tiny yarn shop we visited in July? Well, it has grown. Look!

The yarn shop is housed in part of a former farm building. Until recently, the rest of the space was taken up by a bicycle shop. When that closed Saskia grabbed the opportunity to enlarge her premises. Originally her shop was only 15 m2, now it has almost tripled in size. It still isn’t huge, but it is not so tiny anymore either.

A few days before our Autumn Break, I was on the doorstep early in the morning, just before the shop opened, hoping for a quiet moment without other customers. I was lucky and had the shop to myself for a bit, so that I didn’t have to choose yarn in a hurry and also had the time to take pictures.

Wol zo Eerlijk still specializes in organic, sustainable and fair-trade yarns. The main components of these yarns are wool, cotton, linen or alpaca. But some contain more unusual fibres, such as yak, nettle or hemp. The sock yarn below is a blend of wool, biodegradable nylon (huh?!) and hemp.

The beautiful colours are a feast for the eyes – some really autumnal:

This is an organic wool-and-cotton yarn from Portugal.

There are also many yarns in lovely neutrals. As my own colouring is becoming more and more ‘neutral’, I don’t wear these shades anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like them.

This is a very soft blend of organic cotton and alpaca:

Among the shop samples, there is also a stack of sweaters in off-white and grey.

And next to that is a mannequin wearing a sweater with a very interesting neckline.

While I am browsing around the shop, Saskia is processing online orders. You can see her at work in the background, over the top of this vegan yarn composed of cotton and Lyocell.

On the other side of the display is this rainbow of colours. It’s a new yarn called ‘Balayage’ – a very soft wool-and-alpaca blend and one of the reasons for my visit.

Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s so nice to be able to browse around, see the colours in person and have a chat. It feels surreal and uncomfortable that there is a plastic screen between us at the till and we are both wearing face masks. I don’t go out enough to get used to that, but if we can keep the virus from spreading this way and keep ‘non-essential’ shops like these open, you won’t hear me complaining.

After my visit to the shop, I had a quick stroll through the old part of the village. (Is there such a thing as a quick stroll? It was quick because it was raining and I needed a loo. That can be a bit of a problem with all restaurants and cafés closed.)

Unlike some other villages, Vries still has a good range of shops, with two clothes shops, a supermarket, an antiques seller,

a butcher,  a baker,

and a flower shop with a lovely display of crysanths and pumpkins outside.

And best of all a not-so-tiny-anymore yarn shop!

This is what I came home with:

  • Several balls of purple wool-and-alpaca yarn for a scarf that knits up quickly and is almost finished now.
  • Two 25-gram balls of red wool from Yorkshire for a project that is nothing but an idea yet.
  • Sock blockers in two different sizes that have been on my wish list for quite a while and will be tried out as soon as I finish my current pair of socks.

More about these over the coming weeks or months. All the best, stay safe, and see you again soon! xxx

A Tiny Yarn Shop

Hello! It’s good to see you here again. For this week’s summer outing, I’m taking you to Vries, another small village in our part of the country. Vries isn’t as picturesque as last week’s destination Giethoorn, and I doubt if it sees many tourists, but it does have some attractive spots.

Generally, the church from the middle of the 12th century is considered the village’s main attraction. Granted, it is beautiful. Surrounded by trees, it wasn’t easy to photograph, but here is a view from the side:

The church is dedicated to Saint Boniface and has doors in a particularly attractive shade of red.

But to me, Vries’ biggest attraction is the smallest yarn shop I know. And when I say small, I mean tiny. It is called Wol zo Eerlijk (Wool so Fair) and is so small that it can only welcome one customer at a time with the 1.5 meter distance rule in place. This little gem is tucked away in a small corner between two other buildings.

Wol zo Eerlijk specializes in sustainable and fair-trade yarns, produced in animal-friendly ways and without child labour.

This may conjure up images of drab and scratchy yarns, but nothing is further from the truth. There are some neutrals, too, of course. But all in all, the first impression is a very colourful one. Let’s go inside to take a look.

Although the selection of yarns is fairly limited (it is a tiny shop, after all) there is a good range of materials, from cotton and linen to different kinds of wool and even yak.

To start with, here is Erika Knight’s ‘Studio Linen’ in some of the loveliest shades imaginable.

What makes this yarn sustainable is that 85% of it is recycled linen. Pure new linen makes up the remaining 15%.

The yarn in the photo below is mYak ‘Baby Yak Lace’. This is a heavy lace-weight yarn spun entirely from baby yak hair, also known as yak down, from Tibet. Soooo soft.

In my mind’s eye I saw those poor little baby yaks shivering and bleating after being shorn, but fortunately that isn’t how it works and there is no need to feel sorry for them. They are not shorn – the down is collected by combing. In fineness and softness this yak down is similar to cashmere.

Selling their yak fibres, enables the nomad families of the Tibetan plateau to continue herding their animals as they’ve done for centuries, in a way that keeps the fragile ecosystem intact. A further sustainable aspect is that the yak down is not bleached or decoloured, and that shows in the skeins. The overdyed natural colours give beautiful, slightly heathered shades.

And here is another yarn in some lovely colours – Rosários 4 ‘Belmonte’.

‘Belmonte’ is an organic wool-and-cotton blend in a dk-weight. Spun in Portugal, this yarn is GOTS certified, which means that it meets the toughest international standards for organic textiles.

Wol zo Eerlijk provides swatches of all the yarns in their shop.

I think this is a wonderful idea. It gives a much better impression of what the knitting will look like than just seeing a yarn in the skein or ball.

And here is one final yarn – ‘Pip Colourwork’, British wool spun and dyed in Yorkshire. Beautiful vibrant as well as more subtle colours in 25 gram balls. Ideal for fair-isle or similar stranded colourwork, but I wouldn’t mind knitting an entire cardigan in duck-egg Bramley Baths, turquoise Lotherton or raspberry Rose window.

I didn’t photograph each and every yarn at Wol zo Eerlijk. Please visit their website (in Dutch and English) for more information and yarns. (As always: I’m not sponsored in any way – I just love looking at, knitting with and talking about yarn. Besides, I think small, lovingly curated shops like this one deserve all the support they can get).

Well, shopping is thirsty work. High time for some refreshments. Take care, and see you next week!

Wool Stories

Now and then, I come across something in my diary I wrote down months ago. For last weekend, my diary said, ‘Knitting & Crochet Days Amsterdam’. Under normal circumstances, I would have taken an early train to the capital and then taken the ferry across the IJ for a day of meeting up with friends, chatting with yarn sellers and dyers, and finding new inspiration. I would also have taken pictures and shared them here with you.

I know that there are worse things in life, and I’m 100% behind the government’s decision to cancel all events until at least September, but I did feel slightly disappointed that I had to cross this event out (I’m only human).

I soon found a good alternative, though – I paid an online visit to a lovely dye studio and yarn shop in my part of the country.

It is called Wolverhalen, or Wool Stories in English. I also revisited the pictures I took during a visit in October 2019 (the ones you’re seeing here), and had a lovely long phone call with the owner, Catharina. She kindly sent me this photo of herself:

Catharina is a woman of many talents. Before she started her shop and dye studio about a year ago, she was an ambulance driver for many years. And before that, she ran her own flower shop.

I can’t say that the ambulance driver part of her career is reflected in her business, except in her friendly and caring presence, but the flower shop part certainly is. In addition to yarn, knitting books and tools, and Swedish woollen blankets, she also offers a great selection of plants and pots.

They give the beautiful light and airy space a relaxed and homey feel. For us, knitters, the most important part is the yarn, of course. Adjacent to the shop, there’s a sparklingly clean, well-organized and well-lit dye studio.

Here Catharina dyes her wool, silk, mohair, yak and suri alpaca yarns. (Don’t these materials just sound like music to your ears?) During my visit last autumn, there were some freshly dyed skeins in very bright shades on her drying rack. They were meant to be wound into sock minis – small skeins to be used as accent colours.

In addition to these bright and cheerful shades, she also produces sophisticated neutrals, refined pastels as well as gorgeous charcoals, deep blues, purples, greens and browns.

When I asked her why she decided to start Wolverhalen, Catharina told me about her life-long love of making things, and that she had been dyeing yarns as a hobby for several years before turning it into a business. Guess what her favourite colour is? Green, of course! I needn’t have asked.

Some of the yarns are dyed with natural dyestuffs and some with acid dyes. Environmentally friendly citric acid is used as fixative for the latter. (Acid dyes are not themselves acidic but require an acid to set them.)

The environment, sustainability and animal welfare are important to Catharina. (That sounds like music to my ears, too!) She avoids the use of plastic as much as possible, chooses recycled or recyclable materials for packaging, and all her wool is mulesing-free.

Well, let’s browse around the shop a little more. Below, on the right, is some økologisk Hverdagsuld and Tynd Lamauld from Danish brand CaMaRose.

(I don’t remember what the yarn on the left was.) I have no experience with these, but I love the range of colours and bought a few balls during last year’s visit to try them out. They’re still waiting patiently in a basket.

And here is some BC Garn Baby Alpaca, also from Denmark.

Not my colours, but oh so soft!

During my recent online visit, I ordered one skein of yarn that definitely IS my colour. It came wrapped in tissue paper with a lovely plant print, accompanied by a handwritten card with a personal message. Such a treat! I have an idea for it, but can’t tell you about it yet for fear of jinxing my creativity.

This blogpost is one of the ways in which I try to help small businesses survive this crisis. The world would lose so much of its colour if they were to disappear, don’t you think? I know it’s just a small drop in the ocean, but many small drops…

I hope your local yarn shop is still open for (online) business, or will be again soon. If not, there’s always Wolverhalen. The website is entirely in Dutch, but Catharina does ship worldwide and I’m sure she’ll be delighted to answer any questions.