I love mail

Look what came in the mail today!

Mom sent all the goodies I ordered but couldn’t have sent to Holland directly. (When will the world wide web be truly world wide?)  Three back issues of Vogue Knitting, my order of Knitpicks knitting needles, and 2 skeins of hand dyed yarn from pigeon roof studios.  Isn’t is all beautiful?  As luck would have it, DB is out tonight at a work event/dinner so I have the whole evening to play with my new toys.  It’s like Christmas again.  Thanks Mom!

Brave Knitting, or, Coming Out

Two weeks ago I went to my first Stitch ‘n Bitch gathering in Amsterdam.  I met some very nice people and wrote a post about it.  I really enjoyed myself and decided to go back regularly.  Last Monday night it was horrible rainy and windy weather so I flaked out and stayed home.  Tonight I decided to stay late at work and go to de Jaren directly from there.

I showed up at about 6:45 and went up stairs for something to eat.  I devoured my lasagna and also my home decorating magazine, looking for ideas for our new house bathroom remodel.  At 7:35 I headed downstairs to see who had arrived.

de Jaren was pretty full tonight.  The table that the Bitches sat at two weeks ago was full.  The tables next to it were reserved.  I saw no obvious knitters anywhere.  The waitress knew just who I was looking for and said she’d keep an eye out for me.  I sat down at a small table across from the bar, near the front door, and waited for a familiar face.  Or someone with a big knitting bag.  Or a really cool hand knit hat.

I waited.  I looked at my knitting bag.  And I looked around.  And back at my knitting bag.  I held my own hands.  And waited for my tea and looked at my knitting bag.  Damn!  I thought.  No one will recognize me unless I’m knitting.  I’m new and no one knows me.  I’d better get the knitting out.  So I did.

I felt brave.  I felt conspicuous.  But I soon realized that no one cared, and if they did, I didn’t care that they did.  I was knitting in public!  Some of you might find this strange – like, why not knit in public?  But after thinking about it for a while I realized that two weeks ago was the first time I’ve knit in front of strangers.  Really.  Can you believe it?  And I’ve been doing this for 30 years.

Hi, My name is Alex and I’m a closet knitter.

My friends and family know that I knit.  I think maybe 2 of my colleagues know I knit.  No one else.  I don’t take knitting with me everywhere to pull out in quiet moments.  I don’t take the train so I don’t knit there.  I don’t brag about it.  I don’t talk about it.  I don’t even mention it.  Hardly.  Ever.

MANY years ago I knew a guy who I thought was pretty special.  I hoped that one day he might be interested in me as more than just a friend and colleague.  Then I told him that I knit.  He was appalled.  He said “you’d better not tell anyone at work about this because no one will take you seriously any more”.  He certainly didn’t!  I learned to live with my little secret.  Even my brother-in-law this last Christmas called me “oma” as I sat in the living room  finishing Mom’s socks.  I couldn’t tell if he was kidding or not.  Probably not.  I told him that knitting is hip and happening but he didn’t buy it.  Maybe he’ll think differently when I give his kids alligator scarves next Christmas.  Probably not.

My point is, dear readers, is that knitting is not yet hip and happening.  We need more knitters to come out of the closet and be brave enough to show who they really are.  We are chicks with sticks and we should be proud!

Anyway, by 8:10 no one had shown up.  I was feeling strong and contented in my solo knitting when a man sat next to me and lit up a cigarette.  Ah well, time to go home.  I’ve made my point.

WIP update

Even though there’s a lot going on these days, I still manage to find a little time to knit.  As posted earlier, the Nitzer Ebb sweater will need lengthening, once the sleeves are done and I see how much yarn I have left.  Here’s an update:

And here’s my Monday night SnB project.  It’s the Daisy sweater from Knitty, but I’ve changed the colors and stitch (of course) to make it something a little different.  Before I added the blue stripe it was looking like I was knitting the Irish flag, but no, it’s for a Dutch baby after all. 🙂

Ch ch ch ch changes

You all know the expression “There’s nothing so constant as change” or something like that.  Too true.  Now, in this part of Europe, I’d be happy if the seasons really did change.  What happened to winter?  We’re skipping it this year.  My camellia tells the truth:

This photo was taken yesterday, as the sun was coming up.  You’d think it was April.  But noooooo, it’s January and it’s too warm and who can stop a camellia that wants to bloom?

We were walking in the city center yesterday.  It was a perfect spring day (except that it wasn’t) and lots of people were out and about, shopping, eating, moving house….

I was going for artistic effect here, trying to get the ramp parallel in the photo.  I didn’t quite make it. But, anyway, here’s a photo of how to move in Amsterdam.  Or Haarlem, Utrecht, etc.  This is how we moved into our house.  Big truck, big ramp, big window – everything in!  Actually, when we moved into our house our couch was too big to go through the front window so they put the ramp up to the roof, the ramp carried the couch to the roof and over to the back side of the house where the couch came in through the terrace doors.  Can’t wait to see that in reverse when we move out.

Speaking of which (what a segue I made for myself), we are moving!!!  It’s a little bit sad, but also very exciting.  We’re leaving Amsterdam and moving to Haarlem.  Last Monday we visited a house for sale, made an offer on the same day, and by the end of the week had agreed on a deal with the sellers.  Yippee!

We’d been actively looking since October but the housing market is so tight that it takes a while to 1) find something you like, and 2) be lucky enough to beat out the competition and be the one to bid.   It’s nothing like the U.S. situation over here.  In the Randstad anyway, there aren’t enough houses for sale (in the right price range) for the number of people looking for a house, so prices go up and competition is tough.  It’s the worst in Amsterdam where often there are bidding wars for houses.  That is good news for us when we come to sell our place.

So, it’s off to Haarlem for us!  But not until August.  We have one more summer to enjoy our rooftop view of Dutch skies.


I envy people who have made their hobby their work. I envy people who do what they love. Do I love my job? No, but it satisfies enough to keep me there and plugging away. And the fear of poverty is surely a powerful incentive to get me up and go in the morning.

I’m sitting here on my couch after dinner, with my trusty macbook on my lap, reading knitting blogs. I really would like to update you all on my progress on the Nitzer Ebb sweater and the newly started baby hoodie, but it’s so bloomin’ dark in the evenings that a photo just wouldn’t be any good. And of course I get up in the dark and head to work in the morning in the dark. Any photos this time of year have to be made on the weekends, which is pretty limiting! I envy all those lovely photos of work in progress and finished objects I see on the blogs.

But, to be sure, projects are moving along, despite darkness and cold and limited time. Check back for photos this weekend.

I have to say though that I have a real love/hate relationship with the Nitzer Ebb sweater. I’m not really fond of intarsia knitting. It’s one of my least favorite things to knit. But hey, this is for DB, so I was happy to do it. But I quickly found that I was using up a lot of yarn, more than I thought I would, and got paranoid about having enough. We bought it in New Zealand last year and I doubt I could find more. Now that I’ve sewn the fronts and backs together, and am half way down the first sleeve, I think I might have a little black left over. And you know what? The thing is just too damn short when DB tries it on, so I’m going to have to take the left over yarn and make the sweater longer. How? By taking apart the side seams at the bottom, gently cutting off the ribbing and unraveling it. Then pick up the knit stitches at the bottom and knit the ribbing again, longer this time, until I’m out of yarn. Sheesh. I’ll be glad to see the back of this thing!

And he sure better wear it! 🙂

Sporty Spice

The rain stopped long enough this morning for a jog in the Rembrandtpark.  I’m supposed to be finishing week 2 of the jogging scheme, but in fact I’m only starting week 2.  My lower legs have still been sore and leading to shin splints, so I decided to repeat the last day of week 1 all last week.  I’m trying not to be disappointed about my very slow progress, but trying to look on the bright side – it IS progress, and I’m no spring chicken anymore, so I should be thankful for what I CAN do.

Today I did the day 1 of week 2 schedule.  Man.  My leg muscles are sore.  I have a new theory.  I think I need 2 days of rest between each jogging day.  Like I said, I’m not so young anymore and I think my muscles just need more recovery time.  On Friday my legs felt great and that was after 2 days of rest.  Maybe that’s the key.  I’ll change my plan to accommodate my tired legs and see if I can still continue to progress in this scheme.

One good thing about starting a slow running scheme is that you have walking time where it’s possible to take photos.  Here are the guard dogs sitting on top of the Postjesweg, overlooking Rembrandtpark:

I really like these trees, reaching out over the water.  They remind me of the trees in The Wizard of Oz, or the Ents in Lord of the Rings, or the Enchanted Forest in Harry Potter stories.  We really like to humanize trees, don’t we?  And when we do, they are always creepy or even dangerous.  I’m sure there’s a psychological study in there somewhere.

Spammers beware!

I have been annoyed by spam comments on this blog since starting it.  I had set up the comments function so that every new comment had to be approved first before being shown, unless you were a previously approved commenter and the system recognized you.  I didn’t like this either because if I didn’t get around to checking the comments queue, your comment might not show up for days.

I posted a question on a forum on Ravelry (yes, there’s a WordPress forum on a knitting site – knitters are very technical people you know!) and someone suggested trying Spam Karma plug-in to kill spam before it starts.  This morning I set it up.  The set up was so easy – it took about a minute.  Now, if you are a really nice reader, and want to do me a really big favor, please leave a comment on this post to test this new plug-in.  Thanks!

A is for Amsterdam

Along with 197 other members, I’ve joined the ABC-Along forum on Ravelry. What does this mean? Every 2 weeks I will publish a photo that relates to the letter for that time period. As I’m still under (just) the wire for the letter A, here’s a photo for Amsterdam.

It’s probably not what you’d expect for an Amsterdam photo, nor would you expect it for this time of year. It is definitely a photo from the city as it is was taken on my roof terrace, in de Baarsjes, in Amsterdam. I’ve chosen it because at this time of year I need every reminder I can get that we WILL see the sun again and it WILL one day be warm again. These dark days of January make me grumpy and depressed.

Today we had again pokke weer (pox weather – the Dutch swear using diseases – how cute). It was gray and cold and it rained all day. I really loved pulling out this photo and seeing green and purple and pink and yellow. It really does cheer me up. I think I’ll set this photo as my desktop for a while.


Lately there are just too many things spinning in my head.  We are busy looking for a house to buy in Haarlem.  I am busy working on a big project at work, but also busy thinking about what I will do after this project is finished.  What will be my next job?  How do I decide?  I am busy learning all about the online knitting and hand crafts world online, which is so much bigger and exciting than I ever imagined.  And this last point leads me to be busy in my head designing knitting projects.  I don’t mean figuring out what to make with my stash, or which new techniques I might want to try, but designing things from scratch.  I have on needles in my head: an Escher inspired bag big enough to use as a good carry-on-under-the-seat-on-a-long-haul-flight tote; two-tone brioche scarf using yarn bought in New Zealand combined with some German alpaca yarn; extremely cool reversible socks; Fall leafy sweater using mohair bought in New Zealand; Maori inspired sweater using again some lovely merino bought in New Zealand.  And that’s just the stuff in my head to be designed.  This doesn’t count the stuff planned using patterns already existing!  Good grief.  I don’t have time to actually WORK!

Anyway, all this spinning makes me restless in my head.  Not nice.

I figured it was a good time to attend a Stitch ‘n Bitch Amsterdam night – my first time!  It’s held at De Jaren in the city center on Monday nights.  And tonight I made it there!

There were 6 of us in all, and surprisingly all foreigners!  (Are you still a foreigner when you have a Dutch passport? Good question, being debated all over NL these days.)  It was really nice to meet new people and talk about our mutual obsession.  Two people are also spinners (there’s that word again).  One was knitting computer code (binary, 0 for knit, 1 for purl).  Most were also addicted to Ravelry, just like me.  And I think some will make it to the Handwerkbeurs in Zwolle 1-3 Feb.  I might just make it there myself.

One knitter brought her brand spanking new set of Knitpicks needles.  I have ordered these myself, had them shipped to Mom, who will, bless her, send them on to me.  OH MAN!  Those of you who are not addicted to knitting probably won’t get this, but let me try to explain.  It’s like a writer finding the most perfect pen, or the most perfect computer to use to write the perfect story.  It’s like a guitar player finding the perfect guitar and playing it for the rest of his life no matter what condition it ends up in (a la Willie).  These needles are amazing.  First of all, they are gorgeous to look at.  Secondly, they feel so perfect in your hands.  The weight is just right, the point is pointy enough.  I truly can’t wait to get mine.  They are made of wood and I bought the interchangeable double pointed set.  Heavenly.

Now, before I start looking at Ravelry again, or Etsy, I really have to get myself to bed.  Tomorrow’s another day with plenty of things to spin around in my head.

number 9, number 9, number 9, num

For the last 3 years I’ve been biking back and forth from home to work through the Nine Little Streets (Negenstraatjes) in Amsterdam.  Every year around Christmas time they put up lights, as you see above.  Every year I’ve wanted to take a photo of the lights but for one reason or another I never did.  Until tonight.

I only last week bought a tripod (excuse #1) and so far I’ve either too busy (lame excuse #2) or too lazy (true excuse #3) or the weather has been too rainy (pretty good excuse #4) to bring both tripod and good camera into the city and take a decent photo.  Tonight on my way home I decided to pull over the bike, take out my trusty phone, and snap at least some kind of photo.  As photos go, it’s not great.  As a spontaneous act of real life photography, it’s not too bad.