Berlin with Bowie

Last weekend DB and I and 2 friends took the train to Berlin, mainly to see the David Bowie exhibition. P. is a maniac Bowie fan and this was his birthday present from K.  DB and I just went along for gezelligheid.

We left Amsterdam at 7am Friday morning and rode the train for 6 hours.  We talked, ate snacks, and I knit my travel project.  We checked in to rooms in a really nice small hotel in the North-Center of the city. Already Friday afternoon DB had bought an album (on vinyl), I had bought chocolate and we drank beer.

Saturday morning we were up early because we had tickets for a particular time slot at the museum.  Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos of the Bowie exhibition.  On the one hand that made me a little sad, but on the other hand it freed me from thinking about taking photos and to enjoy the event instead, and also freed me from annoying people putting their cameras/phones in the way.

The exhibition was mainly about his costumes, but was a full emersion experience with headphones with music and voiceover, videos, and pictures and artifacts from Bowie’s life.

The costumes were just amazing. They were all exquisitely made down to every detail.  Here is a photo from the V&A web page.  I just loved this exhibit.  It made me feel nostalgic, and in awe of this creative genius.  The exhibit will be in the Netherlands, in Groningen, at the end of 2015.  We’ll be going back!

We also saw, on another floor in the museum, an exhibit by WeiWei, the Chinese dissident artist. After seeing Bowie, this was so different and kind of a let down.  I understand that the topic was to demonstrate the way that he has been dealt with by the Chinese government, but both DB and I asked ourselves, if he wasn’t treated in this way, would he still be a famous artist?

I really like Berlin. This was the 3rd time I’ve been there.  If I had to live in a city, this is one I could live in.  We spent most of our time in the old East Berlin.  There are so many great shops and cafes!  And markets.  We were there last time in January and it was ice cold and snowy.  What a difference the weather makes!  There were no people out and about in January.  In July the city is humming with people, outside at cafes, beer gardens, shopping. It has a nice buzz going.

I didn’t take a lot of photos during the weekend (compared to my usual clicking habit) but here are some of the best.

The above photo was taken at a flea market Sunday morning.  They are boxes full of old black and white photos.  I couldn’t stop myself from looking through them, wondering, who are these people? are they still alive? what were their lives like? why are their photos here in this box?

Dyeing Success!

Yesterday I went to the first day of the Mixed Media & Surface Design course at DIY Textile School.  We did lots of different resist dye techniques on cotton fabrics.  We brought home all our little fabrics in zip lock bags, which we were to open and rinse out the next day, which was today.

I am so excited about the results that I had to take a couple of quick photos and share.  They still need to dry and be ironed, and then I’ll do a better photo shoot.

How did we make all these beautiful fabrics?  Ha! You’ll have to take the course to find out!  Next week we’re doing screen printing and stamping to create our own fabrics.  Can’t wait!


Kaffe Fasset in Amsterdam

Last night Kaffee Fassett had a book signing and a gave a short talk in Amsterdam.  It was sponsored by the American Book Center (ABC).  The book signing took place on the ground floor of the ABC shop and the talk was just a short walk away at the ABC Treehouse.

That’s Kaffe, seated, signing books and laughing with customers/admirers.  Brandon Mably stands nearby.  Kaffe is so animated and is always moving, making it a challenge to get a good photo of him!

He has just published his memoirs, titled “Dreaming in Color – an autobiography”, which is the reason behind the book tour.  I have yet to read it, but given the amazing life this man has lead, I’m sure it’s going to be a page turner!

During the talk at the Treehouse he showed us some of his work.  It was just a tease.  But still nice to see some of his things in person.  I first saw both Kaffe and Brandon on the Vogue Knitting Tour to Alaska in 1999.  They tried to teach us how to use color in free and organic ways.  I think I failed.  At that time I just couldn’t get my mind wrapped around knitting without a chart to tell me what to do.  I think today I would be a much better student.

Here are some photos from last night.

Of course I wore my Tumbling Blocks Kaffee Fassett sweater.  I made it in 1990 as far as I remember.  I definitely remember cursing at all the ends I had to weave in in the back!  That sweater is over 20 years old but it’s still going strong.  I don’t wear it very often anymore because the style is rather out of date (remember big 80’s sweaters?).  But for this occasion I had to wear it.  When Kaffe was signing my book I showed him the sweater, then I showed him my copy of his first book that has that sweater pattern in it.  He signed that book too and seemed really happy to see someone carrying it around.

I just wish that he would have talked longer.  Much longer.  The talk seemed really short and constrained by the ABC’s timing issues.  I would have loved to hear about his amazing life.  I’ll just have to read about it instead.


TodaysArt Festival

This past weekend we went to the TodaysArt festival in den Haag.  It’s a festival full of music, sculpture, video, film, dance and more I’m sure.  We only saw a small fraction of it.

Friday late afternoon we showed up and wandered into the City Hall Atrium.  We watched a team of people put finishing touches on the Landscape:

And watched Wolfgang prepare for his show later that evening as Mohn.


Unfortunately Mohn would be playing very late Friday night, past our bedtime, so I was really happy to get to hear a little of their music while they set up.

After we had some dinner we headed to the Lucent Danstheater and listened to “Music for Solaris”.

The music was played by the two composers, Ben Frost and Daniel Bjarnason and a small orchestra from Poland.  In the background a video played, using film from a movie adaptation and other manipulations.  It was often beautiful and surprising, very moody and captivating music.  My only criticism is that it went on just a little too long and in the end didn’t seem to have a connection between video and music.  The video ran out of steam and showed colored screens until the end of the music.  The actual end of the piece was lovely the way they dropped away to silence, but they should have done it 10 minutes earlier.

After that we went back to the City Hall Atrium to see that the lights had been set and everything looked very different.  Also, on the stage  was “Inneract”, another music/video concert, this time with a harp player and two keyboard/electronics players.  Here are some photos of the scene there.

Outside, in the Spuiplein, “The Vortex” was alive with music and lights.  It’s made of garbage that had been gathered from people in den Haag (The Hague in English).

Saturday we went back and watched the film “Outliers Vol. 1: Iceland”.  It was basically part documentary and part art film about 7 artists who went to Iceland to take photos and film and sound and create something from that.  It was so beautiful!  The country is beautiful and the images and sounds and music they made is also beautiful.  I really do have to go there.  Especially when the seasons are changing and there’s a chance of seeing lights in the sky.

We didn’t do much else Saturday at the festival because I was coming down with the flu.  By the time the movie was over I was already feverish.  We ate, then came home on the train.  I felt bad because there was still so much to see.  Oh well.  Next year.

The train home:

(All photos taken with Nikon D5100 and 50mm 1.8 manual focus lens (thanks Mom!), no photoshop done anywhere.)

Bright Dyes

With my bum shoulder I haven’t been able to do much knitting lately.  But I can still dye yarn and that’s just what I did yesterday.  Above are the results (plus some black silk, photos below).

The 4 skeins at the front of the photo are all Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds Chunky Undyed.  I used these colors on this yarn mainly to test out the dye and see how it looks on wool.  And yes, it’s kind of expensive yarn for a dyeing experiment, but undyed yarn is not that easy to find around here and it’s what I had.  (I bought these from Ribbels, in Leiden) Now that I see it, I’m super happy with the results.  You know, bright colors are the in thing, so I’m planning now to make a hat and cowl/scarf with these four colors together.  THAT ought to brighten up a dreary Dutch winter day!

The dye colors are all Dharma Trading acid dyes in colors:  fluorescent lemon, fluorescent safety orange, true turquoise, fluorescent fuchsia.

This green is 50/50 wool acrylic Mille II from Lana Grossa, also a bulky weight.  The dye color is chartreuse.  I’m going to make a new iPhone sock with it.  You know, green apple green.

I also dyed some 100% silk lace weight yarn, 3 skeins 50g each.  One skein had already been dyed black, but it wasn’t a good dye job.  There were some grey and white spots where the dye didn’t get under the skein ties.

If you look hard at the above image you can see that the skein on the far right is the one that had already been dyed black.  It’s just a bit blacker.  They aren’t quite dry yet but I don’t expect the colors to change much.  Silk is tricky to dye.  It takes stronger dye to get the same strength of color as you would with wool, and you have to watch the temperature carefully.  If you cook silk at too high a temperature it will loose its shine.  For this dye session I used quite a lot of black dye powder (double strength) and it soaked up every bit of the dye without any rinsing out.  I think I will just call it good and consider them 2 different dye lots.  At least there are no light spots or streaks of color.

All of this dyeing was done with the immersion method on my stovetop.  First I made up dye solutions.  I could have made the solution right in the pot I would use for dyeing, which I did for the green and the black (the first and last to cook), but I used the time while the green was cooking to make up these other colors ahead of time.  I made up 2% solution which is double the strength I needed.  I just wanted to be ready in case I wasn’t happy with the ‘normal’ strength and wanted to boost the color.  For each dye cook I poured in half the jar of dye solution, 1/4 cup of vinegar and 2 liters or so of water – for 100g of wool.  It was only with the yellow that I ended up dumping in the second half of the dye solution.  I wanted a super yellow and seemed to need the extra dye to get there.

Each dye pot was cooked, at just below boiling, for 50 minutes.  I then drained the water out and dumped the wet yarn onto my rack outside to cool off completely before I rinsed them.  The only variation was the silk, which was cooked at a little lower temp for an hour.  I also let the silk sit in the pan with the fire off for a couple of hours to cool, but that was mainly because I was eating dinner and didn’t want to bother with them.

What’s next?  I have a lot of other colors I want to try out, and lots of fingering weight yarn to try it out on.  The Ravelympics Ravellenic Games are coming up (beginning 27 July) and I will dye yarn then for my event.  I want to do some multi-colored skeins using paintbrushes and spray bottles.  Those skeins will then be either steamed or heated in the microwave to set.  I can’t wait to try it out!

I end up dyeing yarn like I do most things – I expect, and want, my experiments to be good enough end products to be usable in projects or wearable designs.  I don’t make time or resources available for true experimentation.  Is that because I tend to be a Type A personality? Or because I just never seem to have as much time/resources as I think I need to experiment?  Or do I think deep down that experimenting is a waste of time?  Am I so practical and so non-artistic?  When I have some more time I’ll have to think further about that….

Walk on Water

Last night we went to see Orfeo ed Euridice (official poster above) at the Palace at Soestdijk.  This was (still is?) a royal palace, but it was/is a museum and special event place now.  The opera takes place on and in the water outside of the palace.

We were not supposed to take photos but I took a few before the performance began and sneaked a couple during the performance.  I wish I could have taken more. It was just stunning!  There was fire and water and music and singing.  The did amazing things with light and water.  Even the royal family got in on the act (you’ll have to go see it yourself if you want to know what I mean).

We got “cast and crew” discount tickets because a friend of mine plays the trombone in the orchestra.  Not only were they at a terrific discount, but they were great seats!  We were in the second row, left of center.  We thought that the performance started at 9:30 but that’s when the gates open, normally.  They vary the start time depending on the time of year and when it will be dark.  Last night the performance started just after 10pm as that’s when it was dusk.

Some photos:

I didn’t know the story in detail and was surprised that there was a happy ending.  After all the wailing and gnashing of teeth (figuratively of course) the story was saved by Queen Juliana.

I highly recommend going to see this wonderful opera production.  Even if you aren’t an opera fan, and I’m not, you will enjoy the spectacle and the surprises here and there.  You can get tickets here.  Be quick! August 8th is the last performance!

Den Haag and TodaysArt

Friday night and Saturday afternoon/night we went to Den Haag.  DB won free tickets (thanks KINK!) to TodaysArt.  As they state on their web site, “TodaysArt is a festival concept that revolves around the presentation and development of adventurous contemporary visual and performing arts”.

Friday night we saw two dance programs, the first MCDance and the second Hiroaki Umeda from Japan with Holistic Strata.  I enjoyed them both so much!  The performances were very different, but the same in that they relied heavily on video and music.  Actually, video, music and dance combined to create really unique experiences for the audience.  I felt so much a part of the room and everything in it because more of your senses were engaged.  The dancers in MCDance were absolutely amazing.  They (1 man, 1 woman) also choreographed the dance.  Hiroaki Umeda did not put as much into the dance as he did into the video and music, but still amazing to watch and participate in.

Saturday we went back in the afternoon, hoping to see some open air things, but that part was pretty disappointing – not much to see.  So we went shopping.  Well, I did anyway – bought a dress – which needs altering of course (as does everything I buy in this country of giants).  In the end we went back to the same theater to see Murcof.  DB had heard of him but I had not.  He made a collaboration with a Dutch video artist named Simon Geilfus and the two of them created an hour of enthralling sight and sound.  The sound was sometimes very ambiant, sometimes reminded me of bits of Pink Floyd, sometimes like nothing I’d heard before.  They both sat at tables with computers and electronic equipment.  In front of them was a translucent screen where the images were projected, but through which we could still see them sitting.  The images were all very geometric, computer generated, sometimes so 3-D you could touch them.  Sometimes almost seeming alive.

We only saw a bit of the festival, but what we saw I loved and highly recommend.  We had to get to the venue early to get seats as there were only 200 and both nights were sold out.

The photo above was taken as you walk from the Queen’s house,

through the Binnenhof, and out the other end to the Plein.  There are outdoor cafes, buzzing with people, and the Ministry buildings and other high rises behind them.  In person it’s a very interesting image.  My little camera didn’t capture it so well, but maybe you get the idea.  If you’re in town, on a clear night, go check it out.

With Some Success

Last weekend I dyed some yarn, with some success.  I think I was just a little too ambitious.  I only have 1 big canning pot and one smaller “spaghetti” pot and I dyed 6 skeins.  In one afternoon.  With natural dyes.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I started the process on Saturday by mordanting the yarn in alum and cream of tartar.  Man that stuff stinks when it’s cooking!  It kind of upsets my stomach.  I don’t think it is poison or anything, just yucky.  I had the windows and doors open and the stove fan at full force.  Still.  Also on Saturday I made the dye baths.  I had some logwood left over from my first natural dyeing experiment, so I put that in a cut up stocking and boiled it for a few hours, then set it aside to cool.  The dried weld plant I bought at UK Knit Camp Market from The Mulberry Dyer.  Same story.  Put it into a stocking, tie the knot at the end and throw it in the pot to boil for a few hours.

Then the fun began Sunday.  First I dyed the yellow.  I put two skeins into the pot with the dye bath and put on the heat.  After about 20 minutes I could see it was turning a dull dark yellow/brown.  This was not what I was after!  I wanted that big bold bright yellow that I had read about.  So I quickly got out the trusty laptop and Googled “brighten weld dye” and found out that my water is too soft.  If you want bright weld color, your water has to be hard, with chalk in it.  CHALK.  Damn where was I going to get some quickly?  I Googled “chalk” and went to a wikipedia page all about chalk and found out that it is the main ingredient in antacid tablets.  RENNIE!  I know we have some somewhere.  I went upstairs and dug through cupboards and found a pack of 18 tablets.

I took one tablet and threw it into a glass, ground it up, then threw it into the pot.  Nothing.  Then I dipped out some of the pot water into the cup and ground a tablet into that.  I could see the water turning bright yellow!  Ha!  It works, you just need more tablets.  I ended up throwing all 18 into the pot.  And cooked.  Look what I got!

merino dyed with weld

The first and middle skeins were the first 2 in the pot.  The skein at the very top was thrown in after about 45 minutes.  The lightest skein was just an afterthought when the cooking was done and I took everything off the stove.

What DIDN’T go well was that I stirred too much and the darkest skeins are a little bit felted in places.  They are still good and very usable, but I will have to be more careful next time.  I was doing all that stirring trying to get those tablets to dissolve and mix in!  But good colors, yes?

I’m going to keep the first one (at the bottom of the photo) just like it is.  It’s the best one.  The others will be overdyed, with indigo to make green, and the lightest I’m not sure yet what I will do with it.

So, by then it was 4 in the afternoon but I hadn’t even started the logwood yet.  I cleaned my pots and threw in the logwood dye and yarn.  It seemed to me right away that I had too rich a dye.  The color was kind of brown.  Good old Google came to my rescue again.  I read on a few sites that if your logwood color is brown it means too much logwood, not enough water.  I drained off half the dye water (which I didn’t keep because I had nothing to put it in!  Must get more dye pots!) and filled in more water and carried on cooking.  Again, great color.  I’m really happy with these.

merino dyed with logwood

So, now all I have left to do is indigo and I’ll have a rainbow of colors (red and orange from the first session, yellow and purple here, and blue and green with the indigo).

I bought a very small indigo kit, also from The Mulberry Dyer.  I’ve never dyed with indigo and it sounds very very complicated.  I’ll have to sit down and really think about it before starting.  But I can’t wait.  I have 2 skeins of undyed wool left, plus the yellow to over dye.

Now I just need to figure out how to get the purple dye stain off my tiled sink…..

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!

Once a Year

Friday was my birthday.  It was a pretty fine day.

It just happened to be one of my normal Friday’s off work (2 per month) which was handy.  I went for a little jog in the morning, then DB and I headed to Amsterdam for the afternoon.  We went to see Hinke’s showing at the Weterings Gallery.  I’ve give her a little plug here:

“Hinke Schreuders shows a new series of small works on paper. For them, she has selected pages of ladies’ magazines from the fifties and sixties. These pages with their pictures of fashion models have been treated with ink and yarn. Additions and changes have infused the original photographs with a different atmosphere.”

In de groepstentoonstelling Works on paper zijn verder werken te zien van Arie Berkulin, Jonathan Bragdon, Karin van Dam, Chiaki Kamikawa, Hamid El Kanbouhi en Lotte Klaver.
Zie het persbericht van de galerie voor meer informatie.

5 juni t/m 3 juli 2010

Wetering Galerie
Lijnbaansgracht 288

Opening zaterdag 5 juni, 16-18 uur

Galerie geopend woensdag t/m zaterdag 13-18 uur

After that we walked around a bit and headed over to Soap for massages.  If you need a good deep hardcore massage, go there and ask for Rachel.  She’s a goddess with her hands.  And her elbow.  My shoulders get big digs from her elbow.  Ahhhhh!

After that, while trying to come back to the real world, we returned to Haarlem and ate dinner at the just opened Sumo.  What a great find!  This is a Japanese place that just opened up, right behind the church at the Grote Markt.  It’s an all-you-can-eat place, but not what you imagine those restaurants are like.  This is big, spacious, nice, with friendly and efficient service.  Beat THAT anywhere else in NL!  Oh, and the food is really good too.  Here’s how it works… you get an order form with 6 columns.  Each table can order 6 times.  Each time you order, each person is allowed 5 items from the extensive menu.  Do the math – that equals 30 things you can order.  Believe me, that’s a lot of food.  We didn’t come close to ordering that much.  What stopped us?  Well, if you order more than you can eat and they have to take food back to the kitchen, you have to pay extra for that food!  Great concept, no?  I think it’s great and I’m sure it works.  We had sushi, dumplings, salad, edamame, tempura shrimp and more that I can’t remember.  We ended with the ice-cream you see above.  That’s green tea, black sesame and white sesame ice-cream.  Mmmmm yummy.  You can also see the bottom of a sake bottle there in the photo.  We had warm and then cold sake.  Also YUM-MIE.  I recommend Sumo to you.  Go there.  Give it a try.

So that was my birthday.  The rest of the weekend has gone by in a blur.  I got some knitting done.  I’m ALMOST finished with the brioche lace shawl I’m making with lace yarn from Pigeonroof Studios and a new pattern from Nancy.  I’ve also started some top secret socks using a brioche stitch from Nancy’s book.  Why are they top secret?  I might submit them for publishing.  Then again, I might just offer the pattern on Ravelry.  We’ll see how they come out.  Maybe the pattern won’t be worth writing up at all!
We’ve been watching a lot of football this weekend.  The US tied with England 1-1 which was a surprising score to a pretty boring match between 2 pretty poor teams.  Tomorrow the fun begins when the Netherlands plays their first game.  I’ll be wearing my World Cup socks to work!  Photos to come!