Non-Superwash

Hello!

From the 1970s I remember something new appearing on the yarn market: Superwash Wool! It was considered a blessing. Garments knit from superwash wool were so much easier to care for – they didn’t felt, they didn’t shrink and all in all they were more durable.

For the blanket I knit for our grandson, I deliberately chose a superwash merino wool to make life easier for his parents. And now, recently, I read ‘…I have stopped purchasing superwash wools…’ in this book:

Why? I thought.

And then I came across a yarn explicitly marketed as non-superwash. Again I thought, Why? (Uh-huh, I have deep thoughts from time to time.)

Intrigued, I bought a few hand-dyed non-superwash skeins. They are now an almost finished Thús 2, that I’ll finish as soon as the weather gets cooler:

‘But’, I asked the indie dyer selling this yarn, ‘does that mean that your other yarns are superwash, even though the labels don’t say so?’ ‘Not all of them, but some of them are,’ she said. I was flabbergasted.

Apparently I’d been using superwash yarns all along without being aware of it! I’d always thought that all yarns were non-superwash, unless specifically labelled as superwash. And what’s wrong with superwash yarns anyway?

Always happy with an excuse to do some research, I dived into an online sea of opinions and information about superwash versus non-superwash wool, almost drowning in it. Here is a summary of what I found out:

Why would wool need superwash treatment at all?
Wool fibres have tiny open scales that interlock when friction is applied or when they come into contact with quickly changing water temperatures, leading to felting and shrinking. Superwash treatment can prevent that.

A controversial superwash treatment
The most commonly used method for shrink/felt-proofing wool by far is the chlorine-Hercosett process. After washing, but before spinning, the wool goes into a bath of diluted chlorine to dull the scales. And after that the scales are coated with a synthetic (polymer) resin to make them even smoother and prevent the wool from felting/shrinking. There is a lot of debate about this method:

  • On the one hand: The chlorine-Hercosett method requires large quantities of water and produces an environmentally hazardous effluent. In some parts of the world this may lead to water pollution.
  • On the other hand: Because of the strict waste water legislation in the EU and some other countries the effluent is treated to such an extent that only very clean water leaves the factory.
  • Positive: This treatment prolongs the lifespan of items made from the wool.
  • Question mark: Does the resin coating release micro pollutants when the wool is washed? Some producers say that the resin used is biodegradable and does not, but somehow I do not feel completely assured.

More environmentally friendly alternatives

  • EXP, which stands for EX-Pollution, was developed by Schoeller. This method avoids pollutants altogether, but still uses extra water.
  • Naturetexx Plasma, a treatment not using any water at all, but just air and electricity. The drawback is that it uses lots of electricity and there are questions about the durability of the wool treated in this way.

So, what is an environmentally conscious knitter to do?
It’s complicated – sigh! The labels don’t tell us much. They sometimes tell us that a yarn has been superwash treated, but not always. And they don’t tell us which treatment process was used. What we can do is this:

  • Visit yarn manufacturers’ websites. Some of them give useful information about their production process.
  • Look for yarns with the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) label. Chlorine cannot be used in any stage of the production of these yarns.
  • Remember that any superwash treatment makes knitted garments last longer, which is also sustainable, and may be necessary for items that need to be washed often, like baby things.
  • Choose non-superwash yarns for items that do not need frequent washing. Some people say that non-superwash yarns have less saturated colours than superwash ones, but I find that hard to believe looking at these yarns from my nearest indie dyer.

Cherry Blossom and Magnolia

Hello!

Thinking about a simple, portable knitting project I could start straightaway, I remembered a bag of mini-skeins stashed away for just such a thing. Lovely 25-gram skeins in a gradient of pinks, from a deep rose to the palest of petal pinks.

It’s too early in the year to find the darker shades of pink in gardens and parks. This is the season of the paler pinks. Most trees are still bare around here, but many ornamental cherries around our village are in full bloom. Very romantic with their frothy cloud of blossoms.

From close up the flowers look almost white, while the buds are a lovely shade of pink.

And then there are the magnolias. Oh, so utterly beautiful. There are all kinds of fancy varieties around, including pure white ones, but for me the most beautiful magnolias of all, are the ‘ordinary’ ones with the pink-and-white flowers. From a distance the general impression is pale pink.

But from close up – Oh la la, what a beautiful magnolia!

Well, back to the yarn of the mini-skeins. That’s what started all this talk about shades of pink, after all. It is John Arbon’s Knit By Numbers yarn, organically farmed 4-ply Merino. Each of the colours of this yarn is available in 6 shades, from dark to light, and there are over 100 shades in total.

The interesting thing about this yarn is that it is not dyed in these shades, but blended. Coloured top is blended with increasing percentages of white wool to make lighter and lighter shades.

Taking the palest of my mini-skeins as an example, it is just as with looking at the blossoming trees. The general impression is pale pink, but looking more closely you can see the marled effect: there is pink, white and even some grey in it.

John Arbon Textiles is a small-scale spinning mill using refurbished old machinery, located close to Exmoor in North Devon. Apart from yarns, they also produce tops for spinning. And once a year, they publish their informative and funny Annual.

It is filled with information about their yarns and tops, patterns, stories, cartoons and puzzles.

I always feel slightly uncomfortable talking about yarn brands, shops etc. It’s as if I’ve been hired to promote them, which I’m not. I just want to share information that may be of interest to other knitters and spinners. Several years ago, we spent a summer holiday in Devon and camped close to John Arbon Textiles without knowing they were there! I wish someone had shared the information with me so I could have visited them.

Fortunately there is always the internet. I’ll give you a link to their website at the end of this post. But before you zap away from my blog, I’ll quickly show you what I’m going to knit from the pink mini-skeins. A pink version of Morbihan, a shawl I first designed for a different yarn in a gradient of blues. This is the original.

The pattern can be found here on Ravelry. I’ll show you what it looks like in pink when I’ve made some progress. Finally, as promised, here is the link to the John Arbon Textiles website.

Enjoy your weekend!

Grou Yarn Shop

Hello!

Another little outing, today. This time, I’m taking you along to the Frisian village of Grou (rhymes with ‘now’), where I grew up. It is situated on a lake. In summer you won’t be able to see the lake for the boats, but now it’s deserted.

A cormorant sits hunched moodily on a mooring post, its feet clamped around the top. I know how you feel mate. I have days like that too, only not today.

Today, I’m happy to be in these familiar surroundings. Today, I have some time to stroll around and visit a yarn shop!

The village has changed a lot since I was a child here, but the old centre has remained largely the same, with everything built closely together.

The 12th Century church and the surrounding narrow streets and alleys with not-quite-as-old houses form the most picturesque part of the village. (I grew up in a considerably less picturesque part.)

The houses here are small, some even tiny, but very attractive.

Long ago there was a yarn shop in one of the houses around the church, the one with the red roof tiles and red brick front on the left in the photo below.

Later there was a yarn shop here, on the central square, where there is now a men’s hair salon (left of the striped barber pole).

When the owner retired, she asked my mum if she’d like to take over. Unfortunately, my dad vetoed it. I think mum would have loved it, and I would have loved helping around the shop.

After years without one, Grou got a new yarn shop in October 2020. Not an easy time to start, with a lockdown soon after the opening and another one recently. But Van Draad, as it is called, survived the ups and downs of the past two years and here we are:

It is a fairly small shop, but there is room for a cosy table where knitting circles and workshops will be held in the future, I expect. (The shops are open again, but under the current restrictions it isn’t possible for groups to gather in such small spaces.)

There is a wall of colourful yarns that is a joy to look at.

Here is a close-up of some pinks and purples.

There are swatches tucked in among the yarns here and there.

And on top of the wall of yarn is a sweater with a beautiful cable down the centre, knit from 4 very thin threads of alpaca held together (Lang ‘Alpaca Super Light’)

In a corner by the window there is a tempting display of laceweight mohair yarn (Katia Concept ’50 shades of mohair’). It’s like a knitter’s box of crayons.

No fancy hand-dyed yarns here, but a great selection of good quality, affordable yarns from Lang, Katia and Scheepjes, as well as books, magazines, needles, tools and accessories. I feel very much at home in this shop, I have to say, all thanks to Sytske, the very friendly and welcoming owner.

Q: Are all yarn shops in the Netherlands so lovely and their owners friendly? It looks like that from your blog. Or are you making things up?
A: No, not all yarn shops here are wonderful places. I just don’t write about the ones I don’t like. I’m not sponsored to say nice things either, so what you see and read here is honestly how I experienced it.

I took loads more pictures, but think this will have to do for now. If you’re ever in the neighbourhood, do pay Sytske a visit. Her website – with address, opening hours and webshop – can be found here.

Oh, and did I buy anything? Yes, I did – small quantities of 4-ply cotton and merino wool for baby things.

Oant sjen! (Frisian for See you!)

Sustainable Swatches

Hello!

Today’s post isn’t about UFOs, FOs, WIPs*, or even about starting a new knitting project, but about the stage before that. It’s about exploring and studying yarns.

The yarns I’m trying out at the moment are all organic or otherwise sustainable. Over the past few years, I’ve picked up a ball here, a skein there in yarn shops and at crafts fairs. Now I’ve finally taken the time to knit swatches with some of them. Here is a first impression.

I label all my swatches.

On the front I write information about the manufacturer, yarn name, fibres, weight, and meterage/yardage. On the back I add info about the needles used and gauge.

Below, the yarns I’ve tried out so far (from left to right).

To start with, Rosy Green Wool ‘Big Merino Hug’, ‘Lovely Merino Treat’ and ‘Cheeky Merino Joy’:

Knitting for Olive ‘Merino’ + ‘Soft Silk Mohair’ (held together), Hjertegarn ‘Organic Trio’ and Lamana ‘Milano’:

BC Garn ‘Semilla’, CaMaRose ‘Økologisk Hverdagsuld’ and Rosários4 ‘Belmonte’:

CaMaRose ‘Snefnug’ on 3 different needle sizes:

These are some of the questions I’m asking myself about my Sustainable Swatches:

  • Do I like this yarn?
  • How do I like this yarn on this needle size?
  • Which yarns will be most suitable for colour work, cabling, knit-purl stitch patterns, lace?
  • Does the yarn feel stable, elastic, drapey?
  • Which of these would I choose for a shawl, sweater, mittens?
  • Are any of these yarns suitable for baby things?

And also:

  • How do I go on from here?

I’d love to hear from you if you have experience with any of these yarns, or suggestions for other sustainable yarns to try. Or if you have a question, or just feel like saying hello.

xxx

* UFO = UnFinished (knitting) Object; FO = Finished Object; WIP = Work In Progress

Harlingen Yarn Shop

Hello!

Thinking about knitting projects for the winter months and rummaging through my yarn boxes, I came across some yarn that I bought in Harlingen a while ago. I was going to write about it at the time, but then all kinds of other things cropped up and I never got round to it. Time to rectify that.

After dropping our charges off at the Harlingen ferry terminal on a glorious day in early autumn, we had the rest of the day to ourselves. As it was still early, we first went for a stroll on the dyke, saying hello to the two-headed stiennen man (stone man).

Harlingen (or Harns in Frisian) is the main port of Friesland, situated on the Wadden Sea coast. It was great to look out over the sea for a while.

And also to feel it under our feet, stepping onto the floating pontoon that’s there for bathers.

The wide open sky, the fresh air, the great expanse of water – so calming and uplifting. Why don’t we come here more often?

We took our time walking to the city centre via the harbour. I was keen to have a look at the replica of Willem Barentsz’ expedition ship. It set sail in 1596 to discover a new passage to China via the northeast. It is surprisingly small.

The woodcarving on the prow tells us the ship’s name: de Witte Swaen (the White Swan).

There were cannons on board for protection.

But they could not protect the crew from the greatest danger, the extreme cold. De Witte Swaen got stuck in the ice in the Arctic Ocean. Barentsz and his men were forced to spend the winter on the island of Novaya Zemlya. They built a lodge from driftwood and the wood of their colourful ship.

When they ran out of supplies, the crew decided to try and return in two small open boats. In the end only 12 of them returned. Barentsz himself did not survive. Yeah, it’s quite a story.

Well, let’s get back to the present day and continue on to the city centre.

There are many interesting buildings, a museum, a tile factory and lots of lovely shops here, including a wonderful bookshop, but I’m only taking you to one of them – a yarn shop called Atelier Swoop. It is run by mother-in-law/daughter-in-law team Geertje and Beau Ann.

Officially it is a ‘Scandinavian Concept Store’, selling Scandi style gifts and things for the home as well as knitting yarns, antiques and delicious home-made cakes.

(We had to sample these, of course, to make sure they really were delicious – I can now safely vouch that they are.) But to me it is first and foremost a yarn shop. So let’s take a look around at everything that may interest a knitter. The yarns in the shop all come from Denmark.

Here is a wall of Isager yarns. If the picture looks fuzzy on the left that’s the fuzziness of the ‘Silk Mohair’ yarn. On the right, Isager’s lace-weight ‘Alpaca 1’.

Here is a close-up of the top of the cabinet, with and adorable little knitted cardi, the ubiquitous dried hydrangeas and some antiques.

Small displays of yarn are dotted around the shop. This is some Isager ‘Spinni’:

And this is a thicker yarn that may be Isager’s ‘Jensen’ yarn, but I’m not entirely sure.

This cosy corner houses a CaMaRose yarn that really lives up to its name: ‘Snefnug’ (snowflake). It is very, very soft and airy, only much warmer than a snowflake.

There is also a small but interesting selection of knitting books and magazines, all with a northerly slant.

This attractive book is filled with warm outdoorsy colourwork sweaters in Norwegian and Icelandic yarns:

It is by Linka Neumann, and its title is Vilmarks gensere in Norwegian, Noorse truien breien in Dutch, Einfach nordisch stricken in German and Wilderness Knits in English.

Ah, that was lovely, tasting some delicious cake, browsing around, and chatting with Beau Ann and Geertje. And what did I leave the shop with? Three skeins of Isager Alpaca 1 (left) for a scarf for a friend. And a big bag of Isager Eco Soft (right) for a cardi for our daughter.

More about those in the New Year, I think. First I’d like to finish a few WIPs* and some gifts.

If you’re ever in the area, Harlingen is absolutely worth a visit. Please check out Atelier Swoop’s website (no web shop, brick-and-mortar only) for their opening hours. (In these uncertain times it may be best to contact them first to be on the safe side.) And there is a great website with loads of information about Harlingen here.**

Thanks for visiting Harlingen with me. Hope to see you again soon!

* WIP = Work In Progress
** As you’ll probably know by now, I’m not sponsored in any way. I only write about the things I write about because I think they are worth writing about.

Cycling to Giethoorn

Hello! Before I get back to more ‘serious’ posts about knitting, spinning etc. I’d like to take you along on two more outings this week.

In a roundabout way, this bicycle track leads to the charming village of Giethoorn. The track is bordered by a beautiful flowering verge. To my delight I see a group of common yellow swallowtails fluttering around the red clover. There are at least ten of them!

With a wingspan of about 7.5 cm/3”, this is one of our largest native butterflies. Contrary to what the name suggests, it is not common. At least not in this part of the country. I saw the first one ever in our garden only last year. It seems they are gradually moving north with the rising temperatures. And now a whole group of them! I know that a group of geese is called a gaggle, but what is the word for a group of butterflies? A flock? A flight? A flutter?

Among the plants in the verge are wild herbs like watermint, soothing for stomach and mind.

There is valerian, too, also flowering at this time of the year, another calming plant.

Picking them for a herbal brew is not allowed here, in this nature reserve, but just drinking in their scent and their colour is soothing enough in itself.

A little further on, a white stork is gorging on frogs. There are plenty of those in this wetland environment.

A cow is dozing in the sun with two starlings on its back. It is all so peaceful – an oasis of peace in a crazy world.

And then the smell of pancakes tells me that I’m in Giethoorn. It is not as quiet as last year, but still not as busy with tourists as it normally is.

Giethoorn is lovely all year round, but especially now, when the hydrangeas are in flower.

There are hydrangeas in almost every garden, and they come in many varieties and colours. The deep pink mophead ones are the most common.

But there are also hydrangeas with flat or pointy flowerheads, in many shades of blue, pink and purple, as well as white ones.

In some places it is almost too much.

I’ve taken a zillion pictures and am having a hard time limiting the number here. Before I stop, I just have to include this one, with the house with the blue shutters mirrored in the water.

It is getting late, so I cycle home without stopping. Only back in our own, slightly less charming, village do I squeeze my brakes to take a few more pictures, because the sheep are back!

A flock of sheep visits us several times a year. Instead of the heavy machinery that used to do it, they now mow the grass in green spaces around the area. And here they are ‘at work’ in the local business park.

And this lovely day doesn’t end here. Back home a surprise awaits me – a parcel from Devon, UK.

Finally, the yarn I’d ordered for something I was going to knit during my summer break. I’d left it a bit late and then it got held up at customs.

It is a heathered organic wool in a gradient of pinks, from palest watermint pink to deep hydrangea pink. No, wait, I don’t think hydrangeas come in this particular shade of pink. It is more like foxglove.

Instead of a summer project, it is now something to look forward to for autumn. You’ll probably see it cropping up in blog posts later this year. Well, that’s all for today. Hope to see you again for another outing in a few days’ time!

PS: Last summer I wrote a blog post about crochet curtains in Giethoorn. For anyone who missed it, it can be found here.

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.

Nøstepinne

Hello!

I have no idea how many people own and use a nøstepinne. Maybe you have owned and used one for years and what I’m writing today is nothing new. It’s for those of you who do not have one and maybe have never even heard of it that I’m writing about the What, Why and How of using and choosing a nøstepinne.

What is a nøstepinne?

Nøstepinne is a Scandinavian word that can also be spelled as nöstepinne, nystepinne or nøstepinde, depending on whether you are in Norway, Sweden or Denmark. It is often translated as ‘nest stick’, but that is just silly. As far as I know, nöste or nøste means ball of yarn. And my Swedish-English dictionary tells me that ‘nysta’ means ‘to wind’, or ‘make up into balls or a ball’. Pinne means pin or stick. So nystepinne (or however it’s spelled) simply means ‘ball winding stick’. And that is what it is, a stick for winding yarn balls on.

I am the proud owner of two nøstepinner:

The darker coloured one is a souvenir from Shetland that I’ve had for almost a decade. I think it was hand-made by a Shetland woodworker, but it didn’t come with any information about the name of the maker or the type of wood used. The lighter coloured one is from ChiaoGoo and is a recent acquisition.

KnitPro also has nøstepinner and there are many lovely handmade ones to be found on Etsy.

Why use a nøstepinne?

Before answering that question, here is a picture of 3 balls of yarn wound in different ways viewed from above:

From left to right: an ordinary hand-wound ball, a yarn ‘cake’ wound on a cranked ball winder, and a ball wound on a nøstepinne. Each method has it’s pros and cons. So why use a nøstepinne?

  • It makes centre-pull balls. This can be useful for various reasons; to name a few:
    • The ball doesn’t roll away if you use the thread from the inside.
    • It is possible to knit with two threads held together, one from the inside and one from the outside of the ball
    • In spinning, a 2-ply yarn can be made by plying the thread from the inside with the thread from the outside.
      A cranked yarn winder also makes centre-pull balls, winding yarn by hand without a nøstepinne does not.
  • It is slow. Much, much slower that using a cranked yarn winder and also slower than winding a ball in the ordinary way. Is that an advantage? If you ask me, absolutely! Winding yarn into a ball with a nøstepinne is a meditative, peaceful thing to do. It is good for the soul.
  • It is easy to take along and can be used anywhere.
  • It makes wonderfully aesthetically pleasing balls of yarn. Again, good for the soul. Just look at the before and after pictures of some sock yarn remnants below and I think you know what I mean.
Before
After

How to use a nøstepinne

First wrap the yarn several times around the thin notch at the top of the nøstepinne. (If it doesn’t have a notch, make a loop at the top, or hold the yarn in place with your thumb near the other end of the nøstepinne.)

Then wrap the yarn around the shaft of the nøstepinne as shown below. Wrap 4 or 5 layers of yarn around a width of about 2.5 cm (1 inch).

Now start winding the yarn around this beginning diagonally, from bottom right to top left. Keep winding in the same direction all the time, while slowly turning the nøstepinne towards you.

A brief video by Ann Kingstone showing the process very clearly can be viewed here. Her method is slightly different from mine. That’s fine – everybody develops their own technique over time.

Watch your little ball grow…

… and grow.

Especially with self-striping yarn it is very satisfying to see layer upon layer of yarn build up on your nøstepinne.

Finally, when you’re almost at the end of your yarn, wrap the yarn around horizontally several times, tuck the end in under the horizontal strands, and remove the ball from the nøstepinne.

Nice, no?

How to choose a nøstepinne

You don’t really need a ‘real’ nøstepinne to begin with. To try out whether you like making yarn balls in this way, other things that can be found in any home can be used, like the inner tube from a roll of cling film or aluminium foil, or a thick marker:

A real wooden nøstepinne is much nicer to the touch, of course. So if you like winding balls in this way and decide to go looking for a wooden one, here are some things to consider:

  • The smoothness of the wood
  • The colour – do you prefer lighter or darker wood?
  • The style – simple or more elaborately turned
  • The size – in my experience a thicker nøstepinne is easier for a beginner; when starting a ball, it is harder to make the yarn catch behind the horizontal beginning on a thin nøstepinne
  • The ball shape – the thicker the nøstepinne, the rounder the ball, and the thinner the nøstepinne the more egg-shaped the ball tends to become:

Well, that’s all I can tell you about nøstepinner. If you’d like to try making yarn balls in this way, too, please take your time. It is really simple, but it takes a little practice for it to become a natural, flowing movement. I hope you’ll enjoy making these neat balls of yarn as much as I do.

Scraps and Mini Skeins

Hello!

Here (above) is my entire collection of scraps and mini skeins of sock yarn. I’m fairly sure most of you will have some stored away somewhere, too. I keep mine in a plastic carrier bag. Not just any old plastic carrier bag, but one from that wonderful Norwegian institution Husfliden. Besides the yarn, it holds happy memories.

In it are two bags filled with sock yarn remnants, more or less sorted by colour.

Because I am allergic to dust mite, I store all my yarn in plastic. Not very attractive, but I just can’t go around wheezing and sneezing all the time, especially now.

Emptying them out, there is a heap of mainly pinks and purples, and another heap of mainly blues and greens.

On my bookshelves there is a book called Color in Spinning.

It contains a lot of information about and inspiration for choosing and combining colours for blending, spinning and plying your own yarns. It works with the colour wheel.

Although I usually choose colours intuitively, it is interesting to look at them within the framework of the colour wheel for a change. Arranging my sock yarn remnants in this way, it looks like this:

A hugely unbalanced colour wheel. Many, many blues. Some bluey greens, pinks and purples. Just one ball of bright yellow (whatever did I use that for?). And hardly any brighter greens, oranges or reds.

My collection of neutrals is tiny, too.

But there is more in my carrier bag. A selection of naturally dyed mini skeins that once entered my house through a subscription. The Natural Dye Studio (which no longer exists) sent me several small skeins in different fibres and colours once every week or so for a while. Here they are, also laid out in a sort of colour wheel.

A very different range of colours from my sock yarn remnants – much more balanced. But here, too, there is a gap in the wheel. Why? Where are the pinks and purples? After some digging, I found the missing section in a different bag.

Although I loved looking at and petting the hand dyed mini skeins, I have never actually done anything with them. I didn’t know what to do with such small quantities (10-20 g each) and some of them were really not ‘my’ colours.

Apparently I did have a plan for the pink and purple section of the colour wheel. They are wound into small balls and numbered. And I even made a colour card. There are no further notes with it, though, and I can’t for the life of me remember what I was going to do with them. Well, never mind. I’ll mix them in with the rest of my collection.

I have very clear preferences, easily summed up as blues…

…and pinks.

But the world would be a dull place without yellows…

…oranges…

And reds.

In many respects, I think the world would be a poorer place without the entire rainbow. But when it comes to knitting, I don’t know.

Although I feel dubious about some of the colours, in a sense I feel like Smaug, with my hoard of yarnie gold.

But unlike Smaug, I’m more than happy to share my treasure with others. In the past, I have given my yarn scraps away to sock yarn blanket and dolls’ clothes knitters. Now I’d like to knit some gifts with them.

I think it’s going to be a real challenge to make something beautiful with these small quantities of yarn. Well, maybe ‘beautiful’ is raising the bar too high. Let’s say something really nice. Gifts that won’t force the recipients to lie about how much they love them.

Will I be able to do that? And will I be able to step outside my colour comfort zone and use those bright green, orange, red and yellow mini skeins? I’m not sure, but I’ll give it a try.

I took the picture below, of a roundabout just outside our village, several days ago. Not my colours in knitting, but on a roundabout? Wow!

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