Another Year Older

A Neil Young lyric just popped into my head – “Here we are in the years…”

Just about a year ago, on March 6, 2020, I flew back to the Netherlands. Our California adventure was over and our lives in NL were starting again. Except that it hasn’t really started, has it? People ask me “what’s it like to live in Den Helder?” and I tell them that I don’t know. I’ve spent the year in our house (but the first 2 months in my in-laws house), knitting, sewing, cooking, raising a puppy, and that’s about it. We ate out at restaurants a total of 4 times in all of 2020, and that was all during the summer when the pandemic was at an ebb. We used to go to the movies a LOT in California. Now we watch Netflix and Disney+ and Apple TV+ and HBO. I can’t remember the last live concert I went to.

Blah blah blah. It’s the same story for you too, I know.

I’ve been especially down the past few days. Maybe because this anniversary has come up and things are not better. Festivals for 2021 are being canceled. Events I look forward to are postponed to 2022. The vaccine rollout in NL is incredibly slow and haphazard and unpredictable. I think the unpredictability of the world is what has me depressed.

I am a planner. I cruise the internet looking for camping vacations for September. I browse shops that have tents on sale and I’m tempted to buy one even if I won’t use it for a year just because the act of buying it will give me hope and allow me to plan ahead for something fun. My planning instincts have been slammed flat all year long and it makes me feel things I’ve never felt before. Like futureless. Rudderless. Adrift.

During all of my working years I dreamed of being able to stay at home, not work, and do whatever I want. I’m KIND OF in that situation now. I don’t HAVE to work. I can knit all day long if I want. Or sew. So why do I have no enthusiasm anymore for any of that? I thought I would write a book. Or learn a new skill. And here I sit, feeling sad and bad and listless. ”What a waste of a year!” I think. But no, of course not. I have a puppy (almost a dog) and a home and a husband. We have a life in progress. I know how lucky we are.

I think starting up this blog again will help me to focus and give me a place to put down what I feel – to get it out there into the world and out of my body. DB thinks I should start running again. Maybe. I think I’ll start with writing again. Stay tuned.

The photo above was taken last Sunday on the morning dog walk, at Willemsoord wharf, just minutes from our house. With full moon and fog. The fog horns were going. I can’t upload a video to the free WordPress site here, but if you follow me on Instagram you can see videos and hear birds and the foghorn. If that’s your thing.

Hat Heads

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Here they are, the 8 hats I knit in December that tomorrow (the 31st of December) will be mailed off to Heartstrings yarn store in Chico, CA.  There are 2 kid sized hats, 3 medium sized, 2 large and 1 XL-ish sized hat.  I enjoyed knitting every single one.

If you’d like to see individual modeled photos, go to my Ravelry projects and see the lovely DB wearing each one except the bright pink, which is too small to get on his head (or mine).

Four of the hats are made with yarn that has 20% wool in the yarn, but they are all machine washable and dry-able, which is typically a requirement for hats to give away.  I tried to pick the most wool-like acrylic I could find at Jo-Ann’s.  At least none of them have that acrylic “crunchy” feeling, which is truly awful.  Remember when that was the only yarn you could get?  It’s a wonder anyone knit anything in those days. Ugh that was truly terrible yarn.  Acrylic has come a long way.

In the process of knocking out these things, and finishing a sweater, all in December, I have injured my shoulder.  I was trying to knit Continental as much as possible, but these hats are mostly cables and ribbing which is not conducive to practicing a new way of knitting.  So I was “throwing” most of the time and my right shoulder is a mess.  I went for a massage 2 weeks ago, and again today, which is helping, but now I just need to rest. How long can I go without picking up needles?  And spinning isn’t any better – almost the same motions for a shoulder.

In a day or so (because I’m sure I won’t wait longer) I will cast on a new project. It will be this – Ninilchik Swoncho by Caitlin Hunter.

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Part sweater, part poncho, I think it will be perfect for a SoCal winter. I’m going to use yarn I bought in New Zealand 11 years ago! You know the story – the yarn that is too precious to use and so it sits in your stash, taunting you to use it.  So this is the year, 2019, when I will put it to good use.  I have white as the main color, with shades of grey and brown to add to it.  If I have enough white I think I’ll dye 1 skein red just to have some color, and work it in somewhere as a pop of color interest. The yarn is Naturally Harmony 8-ply (DK weight).

More about my 2019 knitting, spinning and dyeing goals in the next blog post.  I hope everyone is having a nice holiday time!

Gradient in Lace

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I’ve made good progress on my Evenstar shawl in the past week.  I had a lot of hanging around time last weekend and also a lot of sitting in the car while DB drove knitting time (yes, you read that correctly, DB is driving!) If you’ve been following along on Ravelry or FB you might be thinking “Hey, you were going to make Briarcrest with that hand dyed, gradient blended, hand spun yarn! What gives?” And you would be right.

I haven’t even finished spinning all the yarn for this project.  I still have the solid light blue to finish up.  I’ve got one bobbin done and I’m half way through the second bobbin of singles and I’m trying with all my might to keep up the enthusiasm to finish it off.  I’m just so ready to be finished with this spinning project!  And at the same time I’m super excited about knitting the shawl, so you know where I’m spending my time.

I ended up with 104g and 636 meters in skein 1, and 95g and 595 meters in skein 2. That’s already going to make a huge shawl.  When I thought about wearing a huge triangular shawl, I just didn’t see it making me happy.  If I have that much gradient yarn to use up I’d much rather put it to good use in a square or circular shawl.  And Evenstar has been on my radar for AGES.  It was time to cast on.

You can see more photos of the yarn on my Briarcrest hand spun Ravelry project page.

I WILL make Briarcrest, which is really a perfect shawl for hand spun yarn.  But I will make it with some Shetland gradient that I spun as a fractal.

I’m such a nerd that I’ve made a spreadsheet to track progress of the shawl to see how I’m doing against a KAL deadline. Yes, another deadline project.  I swore I wouldn’t do these anymore for a while, but this one is fun and with fun people and it’s very relaxed with a long 3 months to get it done.  This is the Yarniacs Colors of Fall KAL (all info here). You cast on the first day of Summer and must be finished by the first day of Fall.  That’s in order to be in the drawing for prizes. But I’m really going with the attitude that I will do my best against the deadline and that’s all the pressure I’m putting on myself.  So far I’m ahead of schedule according to the spreadsheet calculations!

I’ve calculated the total number of stitches in the shawl, how many stitches I’ve done so far and what % that is, compared to the number of days in the KAL and the number of days into it we are now.  And the % of yarn I’ve used up.  This is almost as much fun as the knitting itself.

In other news, two weeks ago I painted my little Electric Eel Wheel Mini.  I used chalk board paint and then found some chalk markers to write on it.  I really love the idea of writing on the bobbins what I’m spinning. Not that I would forget.  Probably.

The bright green makes me happy.  What makes you happy?

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Holiday

Today was the first full day having J & T staying with us. We planned to go to the beach even though it wasn’t very warm there. Silly me, forgetting how late teenagers get moving in the morning! After a late breakfast we left the house at 11:30.

It was busy in HB, as you can imagine on Memorial Day, but we’re used to lots of people around so it was fine and a nice afternoon out.

Now, at 5:30pm, J & T are laying on their bed, looking at their phones and giggling. (It’s a lovely sound to have in the house.) DB is inside behind his laptop, listening to music. And I’m outside knitting. So, a nice holiday end with everyone doing their favorite thing.

Open!

As of RIGHT NOW, the new web shop is open.  I’ve also redirected my domain name so that if you type in underdutchskies.com you will land on the shop, no longer here.  I don’t know if I’ll be posting much on this blog in the near future.  There will be shop updates on the FaceBook page and on the shop itself.

As for my personal musings and crafty updates? I think for now they will be done on FB.  There are just so many channels to update, and so little time.  So for the moment, this good old blog, that’s been going in fits and starts since 2007, will take a hiatus.

Thanks for reading and see you on the flip side!

Events!

Today is the Spin Day at Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam. Everyone is welcome to come spin! It’s like Knit Night only this time we are spinning gorgeous fiber into our own yarn.

Other events coming up for Under Dutch Skies….

Preparation

Today I’m scouring some cotton fabric in preparation for my natural dyeing workshop.  Scouring is the first step in dyeing cotton fabrics no matter what type of dyes you’re planning to use. The purpose is to remove all the chemicals that the industrial textile process has left in them. 

Here is a photo of the pot just after adding the white fabric. Looks pretty white and clean, right? The rinse water was tan colored.

Next step – mordant! Stay tuned. 

 

Skein 5 – Pink Party!

Remember this ball of merino/nylon I bought back in September?  It’s from Fondant Fibre in the UK.

I started spinning it in September and then it got set aside while I worked on some other spinning and knitting projects.  I picked it up again 2 weeks ago and finished it off.

Here are the 2 bobbins of singles.

I had started spinning this back before I was making lace weight singles.  Coming back to it after 2 months meant that I had learned better technique in that time and wished that I had actually started this thinner.  It was not easy to match the same thickness of the single after so long and forgetting what I was doing in the first place.  This is something I need to remember for future projects, at least while I’m learning and EVERY spinning project is something completely new and different.  Finish what you start in pretty quick order or you will forget what you were doing and how the spinning felt in your hands!

Anyway, I pretty quickly finished the second half of the 120g ball.  The fiber is super soft and was prepared very well.  It really flowed through my hands like water. I wanted to keep it fairly thin so that I could maximize the yardage so I 2-plied it.  It came out like this:

Now, notice that there is no white in this skein while there was white in the fiber? Well, when I dropped the skein into hot soapy water to soak, so much dark pink dye came out that the water turned that color immediately.  I left it alone to soak until the water cooled off and then hung it to dry.  The dye colored the white fiber a light pink.  I don’t mind.  It’s still really nice and there’s less of a barber pole effect now.  But this is something I’ll keep in mind next time and I’ll also let the seller know what happened.

The resulting yarn is about a sport weight – 300 meters to 100g.  I have 116 grams (from a 120g ball of fiber).  I think I’ll make a really simple scarf out of it.  It’s so very soft and bouncy and will feel really nice next to the skin.  I have to hold myself back from casting on right NOW!  But first I have to finish some other knitting….

Progress

Even with the chaos in the house right now, I still managed to find space to block this.

Only the neck band and weaving in ends left to do. I WILL be finished in time to take it with me to Finland Saturday!

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What Should I Make? Vote!

In 10 days I will be on a business trip that includes 2 x11 hour flights and 2 shorter flights but just as much hanging around an airport knitting time. I am looking for a perfect plane project (PPP).

I have 1 skein of Tosh Sock in Mansfield Garden Party (see above) that I want to use for a travel project. It will only be knit while in a plane or airport so I will probably finish something in this amount of time.  I can’t add extra yarn to make something bigger.  I can’t make something that has super complex lace.

BUT WHAT TO MAKE? I am spinning with the possibilities. So please, you decide for me. Whatever is voted the highest is what I will make.  You never knew you had so much power.

My criteria in coming up with the list was:
* The perfect combination of easy but not boring.
* In the case of a shawl, it must be reversible and preferably not strictly triangular.
* In the case of socks, it must make good use of highly variegated yarn.

I’ve narrowed it down to these patterns. Please vote!
I couldn’t link to the patterns directly in the Poll (thanks WP) so I’ve linked to them separately so you can look at them first and then vote:

1. Palessie shawl
2. Sheridan shawl
3. Goddess shawlette
4. Hitchhiker shawlette
5. My Hope shawl
6. Show-off Stranded Socks

Polls are open until Sunday, 13 April at 18.00 CET (9:00am PST)