Zwolle 2010

Above is a photo of my stash enhancement from the trip to Zwolle yesterday.  What’s in Zwolle you ask and why would anyone want to travel by bus and train with a gimpy knee and crutches to get there?  If you are an American living near any major city you will just laugh at all the effort we go to just to make it to the Handwerkbeurs once or twice a year.  The yarn choices are not great compared to any nice U.S. yarn shop, but hey, you enjoy what you have, right?

The Handwerkbeurs is held twice a year, once in the north of the country and once in the south, and is simply a weekend where all the crafty vendors around come and set up booths and sell their wares.  The vast majority of stuff for sale has to do with quilting, which is HUGE  in the Netherlands.  There are also booths selling other needlework crafty items like cross stitch and felting.  There’s also a big book seller there.  This is the third year I’ve gone to Zwolle and I’m happy to report that the yarn and knitting booths get bigger and there are move of them every year.  This is great news!  The even better news is that you can now buy more than just sock yarn at the Handwerkbeurs and there is more variety and quality to be found.

My stash enhancement has only to do with baby sweater knitting.  The above yarns will all be used for babies.  I had to search hard to find suitable yarn for this purpose.

I also bought a lace blocking kit from those lovely and friendly people at Wolhemel.  I also bought a book.  It’s called Twisted-Stitch Knitting by Maria Erlbacher.  It’s a stitch dictionary of traditional Austrian twisted stitch traveling patterns used in sweaters and knee-high socks worn with lederhosen or dirdl dresses.  Beautiful stuff!  It was originally a series of three books only in German but last year it was released in English and all together in one book.

Did I go alone?  Of course not!  If it wasn’t for my knitting buddies I wouldn’t have gone at all with this stupid knee.  There were 10 of us in total.  I only took a few photos.  It was hard enough just to handle my backpack and my crutch and make my way through the crowds.

I was really tired when I got home.  The knee did very well, but today, Sunday, I’m pretty tired still.  Tomorrow I have to go back to work.  We’ll see how that goes!

P.S.  Malia asked someone there to take this photo of us and then she managed to “get” all of us in it.

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Also An Olympian

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I too have participated, and medaled, in these 2010 Olympics.  OK, it’s the RAVELympics, but still.  I finished my mittens and now have my medal banner image for…

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and I am indeed a…

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Here are the last photos of the mittens I made.  The left mitten to be exact…

Phew!  I’m glad they are finished.  Even after this little bit of color knitting I was glad to be finished.  I just got tired of working with such twisty yarn and then twisting them further by working in 2 colors.  I meant to take photos of the inside you can see what that looks like, but frankly the weather was SO BAD today that the sun was barely a thought in the sky and I just couldn’t muster the enthusiasm for photos.  The wind is howling outside and it’s rained off and on.  I thought I was tired of snow, but I’d rather have snow than this windy cold rain.  I shouldn’t complain though.  I’ve hardly been outside at all in the past 2 weeks!

So, what’s next for the knitting?  Well, finish my KawKawEsque socks, which are coming along just great.  I really love this pattern.

And then?  Baby sweaters!  I know of 3, yes THREE, people having babies in May and June so I’ve got to get busy and make baby stuff.  At least baby stuff knits up quickly so you get some serious instant gratification going.

I’m also working on a test knit for Nancy – some brioche lace.  I worked on that today and hope to have some photos to show very soon.  It’s the most challenging knitting I’ve ever done, so I’m pretty excited to show it!

Stay tuned!

The Queen of Brioche

Yesterday at the ABC Treehouse in Amsterdam was Nancy’s book launch event.  In case you don’t know, Nancy is the “Queen of Brioche” and in case you don’t know what that is, check her web site.  Her book, Knitting Brioche: The Essential Guide to the Brioche Stitch, has been available for a couple of months now and has received rave reviews from the knitting world.  It’s an amazing book with just about everything you need to know about this unique knitting technique.

I’m happy to say that Nancy is also my friend.  The room yesterday was full of her friends, some new, some old.  Since I’m a pretty new friend, she told us things about her creative life that I didn’t know – like how she almost wrote a book about knitted edgings; like all the work she has done with color theory; like the amazing beautiful Japanese tie-dye work she did for her Master’s thesis.  Nancy is a modest person who doesn’t find it easy to blow her own horn.  We need to blow it for her more often.  Toot toot.

She gave a slide show with photos of the work she has done throughout her life.  And then she brought out many of the actual articles, from the early 70’s to today.

Of course there were the projects from her book.

Nancy and Mathilde, her daughter, were modeling projects from the book.  Theresa is wearing another Nancy designed garment.

Of course there was knitting going on, but mostly talking about knitting, which we never get enough of.

And we wore our best projects, like Wendel who wore her scarf that she first spun the yarn for, then knit up.

Nancy received a flower bouquet from Carla and Hilly, and if you look closely, you can see the brioche stitch “flowers” they made and put into the bouquet.  Stunning.

It was a really nice event and I’m so happy for Nancy.  She’s worked very very hard and deserves all the praise and accolades she gets for this amazing book.  I’m looking forward to the next one (hint: think lace).

p.s. How did I manage to get there with my knee?  Slowly, very slowly.  I did fine yesterday but today I’m paying the price.  My knee is very tired and stiff and sore.  I’m spending Sunday on the couch, watching the Olympics, with knitting of course!

One Mitten

As you can see above, one mitten is finished!  I’m very happy with it and very proud of it too.  It wasn’t really hard, except for the top of the hand and the thumb itself.  It was difficult to manage those few stitches and changing colors and keep everything neat and organized.  I’m happy to say that they fit really well too!

The underside of the thumb matches the palm pattern.

I’ve started working on the second mitten.  Now that I have the pattern well in my head, it should go faster than the first one.

As for the knee….. I went to the physical therapist yesterday afternoon.  He had a look, read the report from the surgeon, and spent time explaining what we are going to do.  He helped me learn how best to walk with crutches – actually with one crutch as that’s the best thing to do.  My job over the next days is to work on slowing getting my knee to bend at a 90 degree angle so I can sit normally.  He was impressed that I could already put weight on my knee and limp around as well as I could.  I go back and see him again tomorrow.  I guess I’ll be seeing a lot of him in the next months.

Knee Op, Knitting Op

A knee operations leads to knitting opportunities.  What else can you do when you are completely immobile?  Read and knit.

Yesterday morning was my knee operation.  It was a “kijkoperatie” (“looking operation” in Dutch).  It’s a funny thing – I find that the Dutch have made up ordinary words for medical terms and procedures while in the U.S. we tend to use the medical terms themselves.  This was an arthroscopic surgery.  You can see the two holes where the camera and the tools went in.

I had a little tear in the meniscus, which he cut away.  There was also some other stuff that he cut away and cleaned up.  Yes, I was awake and watched the whole thing on a monitor above my head.  It was very cool.  I enjoyed the whole operation actually, watching who does what and how everything works.  I should have gone into medicine.  Ah well.  The only part that didn’t go well was after the operation was over and they took the big strap off my leg to let the blood flow again.  My blood pressure suddenly dropped and it made me VERY nauseous.  I nearly barfed the emptiness that was my stomach, but they quickly gave me something in the IV to raise my blood pressure and get rid of the sick feeling.  I was ok again after about 3 minutes.

The strangest thing ever is not feeling the entire lower half of your body and knowing that people are moving you all around.  At the end of the operation, just after wrapping up the wounds with a big roll of gauze and stretchy fabric, and just before I felt nauseous, I was watching someone off to my left doing something.  Someone at the end of the bed said “look” and I looked down towards my feet, but my feet weren’t there!  They were holding my right leg straight up into the air!  Hey!  My leg was supposed to be down on the bed!  It turned my stomach just for a second – that mismatch between what your head thinks is happening and what your eyes see is really happening.  It was very weird.  But still I laughed out loud.  Then they put my leg down and my pressure dropped….

Anyway, all is fine and I’m busy sitting on the couch.  Last night I couldn’t put any weight at all on my leg and hobbled around on crutches.  This morning I’m able to put a little weight on it and hobble around without the crutches.  I’ve been told to take it easy for 2 weeks and just listen to my body and do what doesn’t hurt.  I’m going to a physical therapist tomorrow to start working on mobility and building up the muscles around my knee.  In theory, I should be all good as new and will be able to run again.  I have to see how it goes though and hope that there’s no more pain.  The good news is that he didn’t find anything terrible or anything that would keep me from doing sports in the future.  Ah!  What good news!

So, what have I been doing to entertain myself these past 36 hours?  At the hospital I finished reading The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald.  It was recommended by an employee at a Barnes & Noble in San Francisco and I’m sure glad I took his advice.  It’s very well written and keeps you really wondering how the whole thing will turn out.  I didn’t know the ending and didn’t want to see the movie before finishing the book.  Now I want to see the movie and find out how good a job they did sticking to the facts of the story.  Even if you aren’t into crime novels (which I’m not really) I highly recommend this book.

AND I’ve been knitting of course.  I’m working on my Mitten Moguls project, my Selbuvotter Mittens.  Here are a couple of progress photos:

Above is the palm side.  You can just see the thumb gusset pattern on the right.  The thumb will be picked up and finished when the rest of the mitten is done.

Here is the back of the hand.  It’s not the kind of pattern you can memorize.  You have to read every line of the chart.  It keeps me interested.

I would normally knit round items using 2 circular needles.  I found though that my color changes were coming out too uneven that way.  I changed to double pointed needles and found that having the same diameter for all parts of the needles made the stitches more even.  Whatever works, right?  I can’t wait to steam these when they are finished as I think it will look a whole lot better then.  At this rate I should easily finish them before that Olympic flame is out!

(Rav)Olympics Fever

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The official Olympics in Vancouver (or “Svencouver” as the Dutch are saying now) and the official RAVELympics have also started over on Ravelry.  Teams have been created.  Events are set up and running.  Ravelettes are participating.

Me?  I’m team captain of Team Pootje Over and I’m participating in Mitten Mogul by knitting a pair of two color Selbuvotter mittens.  What does this all mean?

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Well, “Pootje Over” in Dutch refers to crossing one foot over the other when you are speed skating around an oval track.  A “poot” is an animal’s paw, or in this case a person’s foot.  Crossing over.  Got it?  Our team members include people from the Amsterdam Stitch ‘n Bitch group, or anyone else who cares to join us.

Mitten Moguls is a Ravelympics event where people have to knit – what else – mittens.  Participation in Ravelympics means that you can only cast one once the torch is lit, and you must finish your project before the flame goes out at the end of the real Olympics.  Man, that’s a challenge!

Last night I got as far as here, on my first mitten:

That’s the cuff.  It was a little small.  A little TOO small.  I decided, at 10:30pm last night, to rip it all out and start again on bigger needles.  Why oh why didn’t I swatch before so that I would have known what size needles would be best?  Because I don’t swatch.  I am allergic to swatching.  I just jump right in and see what happens.  What is happening now is that I’m a day behind!

Today, Sunday, I got this far again.  You can see that I started out a little differently.  I started out with the dark green at the bottom.  I thought it would look better and also that’s the place that will get dirty first so dark green would be better.

The knitting looks a lot looser doesn’t it?  I think it will be fine once I steam it into submission.  And it fits a whole lot better.  I’ll have a lot of time in the next week to work on these since tomorrow, yes tomorrow, I go for knee surgery.  OK, they aren’t slicing into my knee, just a few keyhole holes.  If you are a long time reader of this blog you know that I used to be a runner.  In my heart I still am but I haven’t run since August.  I’ve been suffering knee pain since then and finally something will be done about it.  They are going to have a look-see and fix what they find.  Cross fingers.  I have gained weight and feel like a blob since I haven’t been doing any sports for so long.  I hate this.  I hate the constant pain in my knee.  I hope later this week to report some good news.

Oh yes!  Some other good KNITTING news…. On Feb 1 I cast on some socks, which I blogged about a few days ago.  Here are some progress photos.  I LOVE the pattern and I LOVE the fit of these socks.  I’ve put them down now while I make the mittens, but I can’t wait to continue on and make the second one.  The pattern is KawKawEsque by Yarnissima and the yarn is from Pigeonroof Studios. (Google them yourself!)

Rijksmuseum = Brijksmusem

Last Saturday, the 6th of February, an atelier of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam became the “Brijksmuseum”.

(For the non-Dutch speakers, “Rijk” rhymes with “Brijk” which rhymes with “brei” and “brei” means “knit”.)

The word went out a few weeks earlier (via Ravelry, via knitting groups, via a blog) that a knitting event was organized at the museum, partly to talk about knitted sailors caps that were found in graves dating from the 17th century and partly as a knit-along using a pattern written up based on one of the hats.

The event was over subscribed and if you didn’t reserve your spot you were turned away at the door.  I saw in the news afterwards that there were 140 of us there.  I’ve never seen so many knitters all in one place!  While we were sitting in this canteen (photo above) waiting for the presentation to begin, the organizer gave a little welcome speech.  It was quiet except for the sound of needles clicking.  Too funny!

There were professional photographers there and a couple of movie cameras filming us.  Gosh, are we THAT unusual?

Everyone wanted photos of the event….

The presentation was one hour long.  For the first 30 minutes a woman (sorry, I don’t remember her name) talked about paintings from the 16th century and the clothing we see in these paintings.  What are we looking at?  What did these styles represent?  She talked about the influence of Spanish fashion and the big difference between rich and poor dress.   We learned about the different parts of dress and where they came from.  It was very interesting.

Next a man (also who’s name I didn’t catch) talked about the hats we were busy copying in our own knitting, who wore them and where were they found.  The hats were found in Dutch sailor’s graves from the 17th century, on an island in the far north of Norway.  What were they doing up there?  Whaling.  They died of scurvy for the most part.  We heard about the history of whaling in that time period and why the Dutch went up that far north and the troubles they had.  Can you imagine living on a small wooden boat, up near the arctic circle, trying to kill whales and trying to keep yourself alive?

All the sailors were buried with their knitted hats on their heads.  The theory goes that each hat was so individual to the person that no one else would want to have the hats so they were buried with the wearer.  My theory is that they were probably so smelly that no one would want to put them on their own head.

Here is a photo taken by Geerje Jacobs, during the talk, showing the hats that were recovered:

It was a fun day out and I’m glad I went.  It’s always fun to knit with other knitters and this was even better with the history and education thrown in.  The organizer was really amazed that so many people wanted to come.  Maybe with this experience, the museum will organize more events like this.  Obviously there are enough of us who are eager to come together, chat, knit, and listen to experts explain something new to us.  I feel a real surge in knitting interest these days.  It’s in the news.  WE are in the news.  I hope we keep the momentum going.

So, did I knit the hat that we were given the instructions for?  I started it.  It’s about 25% done.  I might finish it.  I might not.  I have other projects I’d rather knit right now.  You can see a few finished hats, along with other photos, here.  It’s a nice pattern though, that you can modify a lot to make it your own.  Just like the sailors.

FO – Fingerless Mitts to the Rescue

Above are fingerless mitts that I finished last week.  I really love them!  Here are the specs:

Pattern:  Merletto Mitts by Javajem.
Yarn: Supreme Possum, 4ply, Red – super warm and super soft, merino wool, possum, silk
Needles:  size 2.5mm / US 1.5
Mods: used 1 size smaller needles (I have small hands); only 3 lace repeats before starting the thumb gusset; made the thumb 2 stitches bigger; made only 4 rows ribbing to end the top and thumb
Mods I wish I’d made:  used a smaller needle for all ribbing; decreased thumb stitches by 2 or 3, 2 rows before starting the ribbing.

I made these specifically because our office has been so cold this winter and no matter what I do, my hands never warm up.  They will be perfect for work!

Bart & Francis

On Saturday the 30th, 9 of us went to Kortrijk Belgium to the Atelier of Bart & Francis.  In the Amsterdam knitting crowd they are known as “The Belgian Boys”.  I first saw them at Zwolle last year and bought the Gimp that I used to make my iPhone case.    Not only do they sell interesting, not your grandmas knitting yarns, but they also develop and make their own yarns.  They make experimental fibers that their clients ask for, like paper yarn, or copper and cotton yarn, or all kinds of silks.

We were hoping to get to see where the magic happens, but as Francis told me, “people steal with their eyes” and they can no longer take the chance of opening up their secret processes to whoever shows up at their door.  So, rather than the day being about seeing cool techniques, it was all about the shopping (and the knitting of course).

We left on the train from Amsterdam at 9am and after a train change in Antwerp, arrived in Kortrijk around 12:00.  The train ride was of course gezellig with everyone knitting and sharing snacks.  The train was PACKED with people, which was kind of surprising to me.  Is there never a quiet time on the trains in this country?  Here we are….

When we got there, we walked the short 10 minutes to their atelier.  It was packed with people too!  Where did all these people come from?  There was one big room with huge boxes full of cones and skeins of yarn, most of which was “mystery yarn” without a label.  Another room consisted of their signature special yarns and threads of silks and camel and kiviut and metals and other types of fibers.  There was also a small section of silk fabrics cut into about 1 meter/1 yard sizes that you could buy by weight.  I bought 2 pieces to make couch pillows out of.

Then there was the lounge room with free cookies and coffee and even some bottles of booze for those needing a big if help relaxing. 🙂  It was incredibly warm in the atelier and crowded, so walking around and shopping took a lot of effort.  I really didn’t plan on buying much, but ended up spending enough!  I bought several weights of silk yarn (from thread to lace to fingering) in blues and greens.  I also bought 2 small cones of blue thread with copper wire boucle running through it.  I have no idea what I will do with it, but it just looked so cool!  I haven’t taken any photos of all this stuff because the light has been just awful lately (nothing but grey days here).  I haven’t got my photo tent up and running either.

Here are a couple of photos from the shop:

During the day Bart worked the cash register and Francis was wandering the floor answering questions from shoppers.  We all had lots of questions and you can tell he really enjoys talking about his products.

Here’s a funny photo.  We were all sitting in the lounge area, with other knitters, and suddenly one woman asks Nancy if she is the Brioche Lady.  Nancy had to admit it.  Then she wanted a photo of Nancy, and below is the resulting photo of the two of them together.  She was really thrilled to meet Nancy there.  Well, we’re all thrilled to know her too! 🙂

Photo by Wollig_Lane from flickr
Photo by Wollig_Lane from flickr

Nancy’s wearing her latest brioche lace design around her neck.  Lovely stuff!  Actually, Wollig_Lane has better photos of the atelier than I do so check her photos if you are still curious.

And that was pretty much our day out.  We missed the train we wanted to get from Kortrijk to Antwerp because some of us were starving and waited for frietjes to be made, just outside the train station.  We ran for the train and missed it by about 10 seconds.  We had to wait another hour for the next one.  No worries.  We have knitting.

Stockholm, Part II

Wow, I have a lot of catching up to do on the blog!  Where does the time go?  Above is a photo taken in Stockholm, just near the Nordic Museum.  This is where I spent my Sunday.  It was very cold, but I learned from my Swedish colleagues on the Monday that this was lovely and nice for January.  It gets so much colder.

From my hotel there was not easy public transport to the museum.  I had to walk more than half the distance there, and ended up walking the whole way back.  It was only about 30 minutes of walking (back to the hotel) but with my bum knee it was quite long.  That’s one thing about Stockholm, it’s a driving city, unlike Amsterdam which is a biking or public transportation city.  The roads in Stockholm are wide and cleared of all snow and ice and are full of Saabs and Volvos.

Above is the Nordic Museum.  It’s a beautiful imposing building built in the early 1900’s.  It looks huge from the outside, but once you get in you see that most of the space is just open air and the actual display space is not that big.  The “open air” consists of this gorgeous central gallery:

On the ground floor is a small shop and cafe and some displays.  Most of the museum proper is located in rooms around the perimeter of this gallery 1 and 2 floors above.  There are photos of every day Swedish life, dishes and place settings from 1600 to the present, clothing and fabrics and furniture, oh my!

Here are some photos.  They aren’t great photos.  It was rather dim, especially in the clothing sections as light will slowly break down fibers.

I really like this hat.  I wonder if anyone has written up a pattern for it.  Maybe I should write to the museum and ask.

After visiting the museum I walked back to my hotel, which was just north of the city center.  I walked along the water and watched a ferry boat come in, cracking the ice as it came.  That was such a loud sound.  It made me smile.

I took a few more photos of Stockholm while walking back, but they didn’t come out very well.  It was cold and getting dark so fast – I think I didn’t hold still enough.  By 3:30 in the afternoon it’s dusk and cars have their lights on.

I really enjoyed my weekend in Stockholm.  I’d love to go back in the summer when the weather is nice and trees are green.  Stockholm is so different from Amsterdam.  The streets are full of nice shops.  I especially liked the glass shops and next time I will have to splurge on some beautiful Swedish glass.  Even the H&M had the look of class.  Everything is clean in Stockholm.  There are no sleazy tourist shops as you exit the central train station.  There were just beautiful stately buildings, clean and well kept.  Snow and ice were cleared away.  I just had the feeling that everything was nice there.  I’m sure there are enough troubles and problems in a city of this size, but it’s nice to be an oblivious tourist for a while and just enjoy the scenery.  I only wish Amsterdam had the same outlook for tourists coming here.  The Damrak is an embarrassment and the constant construction everywhere must be disappointing to tourists who expect to actually SEE buildings (not to mention the eye-sore that is the North-South line).

Ah well, I count my blessings.  After all, I could be living in Detroit for example….