lovely tree

Today I went into Haarlem city center to do a little shopping.  It’s raining cats and dogs lately and I need some new winter boots.  I was really tired from a busy week and not enough sleep, but this was my one chance this week to shop.  I also needed some groceries for the weekend.

The skies cleared, the rain stopped, so off I went.  Lots of people had the same idea.  The city center was buzzing and busy.  I must have gone into every shoe shop in Haarlem.  The only shoes I liked were not available in my size.  When you have smaller than average Dutch feet, you either get in early and buy those shoes, or you just loose out.  There’s not going to be another shipment of small shoes this season.  Shopping here is such a frustrating experience for me.

I was just feeling so fed up with all the busy busy people.  I had a week of dealing with busy busy stressful people, mostly men, and just had enough.

I was walking down the Grote Houtstraat when I saw a large round doorway and the door was open.  It was like looking into Alice in Wonderland’s dream.  Here, hidden behind the building walls was this tranquil garden with small doorways all around it.  It was a Hofje that I had not noticed before.

Hofje in Haarlem

I walked in and just stood there for a little while, breathing in the calm.  Then I strolled around the square.  Every single dwelling had a small garden of flowers in front of it.  And I think every single dwelling owned at least one cat!  They were everywhere and I took the time to scratch one behind his ears and made him purr.

kitty kitty

How is it that just when I sorely needed some rest in my head and some peace in my life that I happened to come upon this place?  I stayed as long as seemed polite.  Then walked back out the magic door into the busy city street.

Report from LowLands 2010

This last weekend was LowLands.  Everything came together to make it a great weekend – the weather, the music, the atmosphere.

We arrived Friday morning and set up our tent.  The times I’ve gone before we staying at Camping 5.  This time we were a little late and went instead to Camping 7.  5 was better.  Ah well.

camping 7

You can tell this photo was taken early since you can still see open grass.  We came back at the end of the night and we were packed in like sardines.  Ah well.  It’s not really camping after all.

This year the organizers limited the tickets to 55,000 which is 5,000 fewer than last year.  It was crowded, but not unbearably so.  I only had to wait in line for a toilet once, and the toilets were REAL ones and were pretty clean.  We never waited in line for food or drinks longer than about a minute.

street scene

There’s a lot going on at LowLands besides just music.  There are lectures, movies, activities and street theater.  Even a sauna.

LL Lake

These funny guys Cie Ecart – “Les Homs Fums” played music from their funny car and did a little dance.  Then they grabbed 3 women from the crowd to dance with them.  Guess who?
Cie Ecart - "Les Homs Fums"


DB took a movie of the whole thing so maybe it will end up on YouTube.  We’ll see just how embarrassing it is first.

Then there was the man carving pieces of a chocolate Mary and laying it on your tongue if you held your mouth just right.
have a piece of Chocolate Mary

There was an area where you could jump rope in a group.  It was an elimination competition.  The last person still jumping wins.
jump rope elimination

And there was the inflatable mattress sumo contest.
preparing for mattress sumo

mattress sumo

There was a lot of street theater that I didn’t manage to get photo of, or missed seeing altogether.  There’s just so much to see!  This is what I love about LowLands vs. other festivals.  There’s more than just music going on.

And speaking of music, we saw….

OK Go.  Really fun band that I made sure to see.  I love their videos and now there’s even a TED Talk about the making of their last video.  How many bands will take the time to walk into the crowd (without barriers) and to also do a song only with bells?

Damian Kulash

We spent a lot of time at XRAY, which is a very small venue with mostly electronic music.  There we saw Walls

And Boom Boom du Terre
Boom Boom du Terre

Boom Boom du Terre

This guy was just so cute I wanted to pinch his cheeks (in a motherly way you understand).  He was giggly and smiling and nervous and he played really great music.

We saw Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, 2 guys from England selling rap with attitude, including a letter from God to Man.
Scroobius Pip

We saw several bands in India too (like OK Go).  I didn’t get any photos of Balthazar (who I liked enough to buy their CD) or Flying Lotus (who I didn’t like at all) or Tim Knol (nice Sunday morning music) or Blaudzun (Dutch band that reminded me of Star Sailor).  I did get photos of Delphic.


James Cook

Great band!  I’ll go see them again for sure.

Oh yeah, I forgot about the Alpenhorns…
Alphorn Virtuos "Bergische Schweizer"

What else can I tell you about LowLands?  We ate so well that I gained 2 kilos.  V&D does a lot of the food so it’s a higher standard than most festival food.  I don’t know what it is about festivals, but once I’m through the gates I have this terrible urge to try all the food on offer.  I’m not hungry but I wonder what those pancakes are like.  It’s probably a good thing that Ben & Jerry’s wasn’t there this year.

There was a place set up just outside the entrance where you could get your mobile phone charged up.  You left if there for an hour, paid your 1 muntje, and came back to pick up a charged up phone.  (In theory.  DB’s phone on Sunday wasn’t fully charged).  It was a cool set up they had there.  There were 10 of these walls of chargers. It’s amazing how we are all so addicted to our phones for photos, tweets, blogging and oh yeah, phoning.

phone charging

It’s now Monday afternoon and I’m just beat.  We got home last night around 10:30pm and watched some of the last acts on TV.  The only big name band that we saw was Snow Patrol, who’s music I really like, but seeing them live was a real disappointment.  We saw one song from Queen’s of the Stone Age and Placebo on TV.  We’ve seen them both many times live and didn’t need to stay late Sunday night to see them again.  We go to LowLands for the small bands, like Snow Patrol was at one time.

Next year I think we’ll be staying in a vacation house near the LL grounds.  I’m too old for this “sleeping” packed in with thousands of loud party goers.  Get your LL 2011 tickets early!

Not Only Music

There’s not only music, food and theater happening at LowLands. There’s also knitting!

This morning I was sitting in the opening of our tent, knitting a sock, when a guy walked by and said “now there’s something I’ve never seen at lowlands before!” I said “always something new!”

KIP at LowLands

Greetings From LowLands

This weekend is LowLands and we are here! the weather is warm and sunny and the place is packed with 55,000 of your best friends.

Yes we are camping, tent peg to tent peg with the rest.

I’m blogging this with my iPhone. I’m taking real photos with a real camera. I will have a full report Monday when we get back home.

UK Knit Camp, Part III

tree and lake

The University of Stirling is a stunning campus.  Everywhere you look there are trees and rolling hills and mountains in the background.  It kind of reminds me of the university I went to, back about a hundred years ago, Humboldt State Univ. in northern California.  That campus is also full of hills and stairs, concrete buildings with mountains and trees surrounding you.

The first thing you see when you find your way from the classrooms to the dorms is the bridge over the small lake.  The views from there are lovely.

university lake

Here’s another view of the lake, at sunrise.  I woke up dreadfully early every morning.  Two mornings I went for a run around the lake.  This photo was taken at 6:45am.  That’s the Wallace Monument in the background.

sunrise at U. of Stirling

There were a lot of swans living on the lake.  There were a lot of grey young swans.

young swans

On Friday afternoon Cassandra and I went for a walk around the back side of the campus, around the grounds, past two cemeteries, and then up to the Wallace Monument.  Here are some photos of the walk, and also of the monument itself, and from the top of the monument.  Yes, we walked up the teeny tiny stairs to the top.  It was a fantastic view!



manner house

view from the top

Wallace Monument

Wallace Monument

Wallace Sword

photography at the top

monument top

I took a lot of photos of trees.  I just loved all the trees!
redwood in Scotland

Copper Birch

Copper Birch bark

flowering tree

maple tree

I think my two favorite photos of the week are the one above of the lake at sunrise (the clouds and reflection are nice) and also a photo I posted the other day already.  It’s so nice I’ll post it again here.  It was taken from the top of the Wallace Monument.  The sun was just right and I love the red tractor below, busy harvesting row after row, completely unaware of the people above watching him.

hills near Stirling, Scotland

And that’s it!  Great trip in spite of all the chaos, great people, and a gorgeous location.  And knitting all day every day with hundreds of knitters all around you.  What could be better?  (I did miss my DB though.)  Now to start planning a trip to Scotland…. maybe a whiskey tour!

UK Knit Camp, Part II

University of Stirling
bridge from classes to dorms

One of the main reasons for going to Knit Camp is to take classes and learn more about knitting, or fiber crafts in general.  For this event we were asked to sign up 9 months in advance and then to sign up for classes 7 months in advance!  There was of list of teachers and classes that boggled the mind.  I think the original list had 40 teachers teaching 4-8 classes each.  Of course that never came about.

Around February things started going pear shaped (as they say in the UK).  Teachers were changed.  Classes were canceled.  Sometimes students were informed of these changes, sometimes they weren’t.  Actually MOST of the time no one knew what was going on.  As the event came closer in time, the communication became worse, or ceased to exist at all.  All of this culminated in American teachers arriving without work visas, one being deported at customs at the airport, and a last minute effort was made to get those visas in hand before the entire event collapsed.  In the end, most of the Tuesday classes were either canceled or moved to later in the week.  If they were moved, that threw off the schedule for the rest of the week for that teacher and students.

I arrived Wednesday morning when most people had already sorted out their NEW class schedule.  You have to understand that those of us arriving late had no idea what had really happened Tuesday and if our classes were affected.  Communication to Ravelry or even to their own UK Knit Camp web site was non-existant.  I walked into the office early Wednesday morning to be met by people who had absolutely no clue what was going on!  I can’t imagine what they were doing in the office if they couldn’t help.  Luckily my friends were already there and Nancy came to rescue me.  The people in the office couldn’t even tell me how to get to my dorm room to drop off my luggage!

With Nancy’s help I found my way to the dorm, dropped my stuff and hurried back to the find the dining hall.  I then announced to everyone that I was off to my first class, “Nordic Color Work” with Nancy Bush.  They only laughed at me.  “You THINK that’s what you are doing, but it isn’t”, they said.  I went back to the office where I found someone who had the latest class schedule.  Sure enough, my class had moved to Thursday, on top of another class I had signed up for.  Why didn’t they tell me that the first time I was there?

In short, this was the beginning of my experience of Knit Camp chaos, and it only went on and on like this all week.  It became laughable.  Everyone was so determined to have a good time that we rolled with everything that went wrong and made the best of it.  Knitters are just the best.

I had originally signed up to take:  Nordic Color Work, Design your own lace shawl (an all day class), Beginning dyeing, Natural dyeing.

I ended up taking: Photographing your knits, Japanese knitting, Nordic color work, Beginning dyeing, Natural dyeing.
The most fun class was the yarn dyeing class with Debbie Tomkies.  The most useful classes were the Japanese knitting class and the natural dyeing class.  I will definitely use what I learned in those two classes.  The photography class with Mary-Jane Mucklestone was also really useful since I have to start taking better photos of my projects and the yarn in my shop.  I wish that class had be longer!

Only a couple of classes were changed, but it was just chaos getting to those changes.  I asked for refunds, which I got (once from Jo’s purse!).  I did go on the New Lanark Mill tour (not so special) but traded the Loch tour for the Japanese knitting class.  I just couldn’t face another winding road on a bus.

I have so many stories of things that were so badly organized that you would think a committee of monkeys thought it all up.  Seriously.  This whole event was the perfect example of how NOT to organize anything.  We all learned a lot.  And we all learned that despite this mess, we could have a great time!  I don’t know of anyone who could say they had a lousy time.  The classes were very good (for the most part – I have heard about a class where most people were NOT happy, but that’s another story).

The best part about Knit Camp was the people.  I met so many lovely people!  I met LittleLou, my blogging buddy!  The girls from Portugal who taught others to knit with yarn around their necks.  The Aussies.  Renée and the American teachers.  The group that we met up with every night at the pub downstairs.  Everyone was great fun.  It was also so cool to walk around with hundreds of knitters and see what everyone was wearing!  I saw so many lovely knitted shawls!

Will I go to Knit Camp again next year?  Ha!  I doubt there will be one.  And if there is I won’t be going.  I’m hoping there will be a Knit Nation in London again next year and I’ll be heading to that instead.  I heard it was great this year.  In any case, if Jo Watson is “organizing” anything in future – be warned – she’s not very good at it. (Yes, I will name names.  Why not?  She’s put her name out there as the organizer and should certainly be held accountable.)

Below are photos from my time at UK Knit Camp 2010.  I hope you’ve read down this far!  The next post will be all about the beauty of the surrounding area, with photos of countryside and trees and water…..

Mary-Jane Mucklestone
Mary-Jane Mucklestone wearing Nancy's shawl
photographing knitwear
unknown knitter, worn by unknown model, photograph by me
using a light box
using a light box
dye class
dye class - procion dyes
dye class results
dye class results
my dyed skein
my skein
natural dye results
results from natural dyes
happy knitters
happy knitters
sheep to sweater
sheep to sweater
meet up!
me and Louise

UK Knit Camp, Part I

hills near Stirling, Scotland

Where have I been all this time?  In Scotland of course!  Last week I went to UK Knit Camp, held at the U. of Stirling campus.  What a week it was!  The event started last Monday, 9 August, but I didn’t get there until early Wednesday morning.  I didn’t manage to get the whole week off work.  Ah well, that only meant that I missed the most crazy part of the organizational chaos.  More on that LATER.

Over the next few days I’ll write about the classes I took, the beauty of Scotland (with photos!) and the great people I met and had the pleasure of knitting (and dyeing) with.  I got back home Sunday night and had to dive straight back into work Monday morning.  I’m only working three days this week (heading to LowLands at the end of the week) so I’m SUPER busy at work.  You know how it is – you want time off?  then work your butt off before and after your time off because no one is going to pick up the slack for you.

So, for now, I’ll just leave you will the above photo, taken from the top of the Wallace Monument.  I really want to go back to Scotland to walk in the hills and take in the beauty of this place.  We live just a short 1 hour plane ride from paradise.  I have to go back.

I’m going to open that bottle of 14 year old Glenfiddich Rich Oak whiskey and drink to a great week gone by.

Yarns Apart Open House

On July 24th I held an open house for Yarns Apart.  People could come and touch and feel and see the beautiful colors of the yarns in my shop.  What a great day it was!

DB brought all my inventory from the attic into the living room.  I organized and labeled all the bins.  There was a 15% (or more) discount on all inventory for that day.  I was expecting, at most, 12 people.  By the end of the day 18 people had come and gone and lots of my inventory went with them.  Not only did people shop, but they stayed and had home made muffins, drinks, cheese and snacks and hung out in the back garden to knit and talk.

We were very lucky with the weather!

One thing I’m glad we arranged was to have a computer available in the room for people to browse for patterns and ideas for projects.

It was really a fun day and I’m so glad I did it.  Thank you to everyone who came!  I plan to do the same in October.  Look out for dates to be posted here and on Ravelry.  Oh, and one of these days when I have a spare few minutes I’ll get Yarns Apart set up on Facebook so that I can post shop updates and photos there.

(Credit goes to Jacki for the first photo above.)