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?

Weversmarkt

Today was the yearly Weversmarkt in Hoorn (weavers market).  There were, at last count, 140 vendors selling everything from weaving looms and supplies, to knitting yarn, to felting stuff, buttons, spinning supplies and more.  We were 7 and stayed all day.  Luckily it was sunny and very warm all day!

I bought a few things.

Two skeins of Kauni in blues, purples and greens and a skein of grey to go with it.  I’m going to make a “swing knitting” shawl with that.  I bought 2 skeins of undyed sock yarn for, well, dying.  I bought a pair of felted baby shoes my hair dresser (her baby of course).  And buttons.  Just look at how fabulous these buttons are!

And I bought a hat.  I don’t wear hats, but this hat is just perfect.

Here are some photos from the day….

You can see all my photos from the day here.  I will definitely go again next year. This was the best market I’ve been to in the Netherlands, for what I’m interested in anyway.  I didn’t get to try any spinning on a wheel, but I did get to see a few, which was also pretty interesting.  I’m still thinking about getting a wheel.  Yes, I need a new hobby like a need a hole in my head, but that’s never stopped me before!

Fabric Find

I’m in the L.A. area, working, for 10 days.  I only have 1 day off during this time and what did I do with it?  I went fabric shopping.

Now, I grew up in California, but in CENTRAL California, which for people down south is thought of as NORTHERN California and north of San Francisco doesn’t even exist.  Sigh. Never mind.  I can’t complaint about their ignorance about their own state because I’m just as ignorant about SoCal.  I had no idea there was a garment or fashion district in L.A.  I had been missing a lot!

I heard about these amazing fabric shops from my mom, who learned about them from my aunts.  Block after block of fabric shops. I saw them for myself today.

I actually only shopped at one place.  I read online that they had the widest selection of fabric types so I thought I’d start there.  I went to “Michael Levine” on Maple Ave.  It’s a super busy street with markets on both sides but there’s plenty of parking in the multistory garages.

And no kidding, they have everything!

I first walked around and looked at everything before I pulled out any bolt.  And then I went back to the beginning and pulled out the things that caught my eye not once, but twice.  I got fabric for 3 dresses and 2 tops.

The above are 2 of the dress fabrics.  The bottom one, the black, grey and white paisley, was the most expensive purchase.  It’s printed knit rayon – basically man made silk.  It was $40 for a dress amount.  The fabric above it is some amazing heavy-ish cotton with 3% spandex.  Perfect for a semi-fitted dress.  That was the bargain of the day at 5$ a yard! Yes, $5 a yard. I was even happier.

This colorful fabric is also cotton with some stretch for another dress…

I love the colors! I guess I’ve been feeling in need of the colorful.  Because look at what else I bought, for 2 tops….

Yay! After I found these fabrics I decided I’d better stop.  Knowing my available sewing time, which competes with knitting time and the fact that I have to work for a living, there was no point buying more that would just sit around my house for months.

Now I need to get home and start sewing.  I’ll show you what I make….

Hitchhiker WIP

This is the sum total of an 11 hour flight.  It doesn’t look like much, but I really did work on it a lot during that long flight from AMS to SFO!

And even though it is totally mindless knitting, I’m actually loving the result and the colors keep me motivated to continue on as the rows get longer and longer.  When I decided to take this particular yarn with me on this trip, I really didn’t think about the time of year and the colors of the yarn, but now that it’s knit up a bit, it really looks like Easter! What a coincidence. Or my mind works harder than I think it does.  Anyway it won’t be finished in time to wear for Easter so I’ll just call it Spring colors.

It’s also really good practice for my change to continental style knitting. The combination of fingering weight yarn and 3mm needles is just perfect, no stress knitting.

As I said earlier, this is ONLY a flight/travel project so while I’m not at an airport or in a plane, I will be working on something else.  I might not get this done after all before I get home! We’ll see.  Two more flights to go…

Hitchhiker it is

I asked you to vote and vote you did! Hitchhiker got 37% of the votes and as promised, this is what I will cast on Thursday at Schiphol. I’m busy packing today for my two weeks in California.

Here is the designer’s photo of this quick and easy shawl (but I like to call it a neckerchief – does that make me very old fashioned?)

Photo & pattern – Marina Behm

No, it’s not a vacation.  Well, ok, 4 days of it is a nice long weekend with my mom, but otherwise I’ll be working.  I have a lot of work travel coming up in the next 2 months.  I think between now and the 1st of June I’ll be home a total of 10 days.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

I’ll be posting photos of the Hitchhiker project so you can see that I really am making what you decided I should make.  And if I finish it quickly I’ll have to cast on another travel project.  Don’t worry – I’ll have lots of yarn in my suitcase to choose from.

Finland!

I’ve wanted to go to Finland for a long time.  It’s that lure of forests and snow and northern lights that gets to me every winter.  I haven’t managed to convince DB yet to leave our warm home for even colder climates in the dark days of December.

But I have booked my trip to Finland for a different but equally really good reason.  Knitting!

I’m going to the Nordic Knitting Symposium in Vörå, Finland, from 29 June – 5 July. The program looks amazing and now that I have my schedule, and everything is booked, I’m getting very excited about going.

Vörå is not the easiest place to get to from outside of Scandinavia.  I’m flying from Amsterdam to Helsinki, staying the night, then the next day flying from Helsinki to Vaasa.  We meet up there and go by bus to Vörå.  Here’s where it is:

Vörå

 

Every day of the conference is jam packed with workshops, lectures and museum visits. On the last day there’s a craft market to visit.  The organizers have arranged for lodging, meals, transportation and everything you will need in a strange far away out in the woods place.  The price for the week is not at all expensive when you consider all that you get in the package.  The only expensive part is getting there and back!

When I saw the schedule I got so excited I signed up right away without waiting to see if anyone else I know would be going.  So far, I’m the lone traveler from NL, at least that I know of.  It will be strange to be there for a week, not knowing anyone.  But, knowing knitters, I’ll have made many friends by the time I come home.

If you are interested in visiting Finland, and enjoy a week of knitting and fiber related tourism, check out the site.  It’s not sold out yet!

 

Of Windmills and Color

Yesterday G. and I rode our bikes to the Zaanse Schans to buy dyes for dyeing yarn and fabric.  It was a glorious day!

I suggested going to the windmill De Kat to buy these dyes because I knew the weather would be nice.  G. suggested going by bike, which made me gulp and exclaim “bike!?”.  I’d never biked that far in my life and was a little nervous about it.  Silly me.  It was great.

We met part way there because she lives in Amsterdam and me in Haarlem.  We met at bike route point #11, which is where one of the many ferries takes cars and bikes across the North Sea Canal.  She had mapped the whole thing out using “Fiets!” app, which also has a web site where you can see your routes and upload and download them.  Luckily, here in NL, the country is crisscrossed by numbered and marked bike routes.  My route yesterday was this:

We biked through small towns and past fields of sheep and ponds with ducks and geese.  We got a little bit lost in Zaandam because there wasn’t a sign where we should have made a left turn.  It’s times like that that I’m happy to have GPS on my phone!  We were soon back on course.  We biked past not one, but TWO chocolate factories which smelled so strong it was almost (but not quite) sickening.  We can smell the chocolate in Amsterdam and Haarlem when the wind is right.

G. couldn’t believe I’d never been to Zaanse Schans before.  I live with a Dutchman.  Why would he want to relive his school trips with me?  I feel bad that I didn’t go there with my mom when she was here.  I just didn’t know how nice it was.  And how close to home.

We only went to the one windmill, De Kat, because we were on a mission to buy dyeing stuff, and because we didn’t want to get home too late in the afternoon.  There were tourists, but it wasn’t super crowded.  We climbed up the stairs to the middle layer of the mill, where the works are inside and the walkway is outside.

There’s a small gift shop and we asked where we would buy the dyes.  The woman said “oh you have to get Piet to take you to the back room”.  Piet was dressed in traditional clothes, including wooden shoes, and carried his bone pipe with him.   He took us through the door marked “Private”, into a fantastic room filled with magic powders.

Nearly all of the products they sell are for making your own paints.  Only a very small part of it, just one “bookcase” was for fabric and wool dyes.  That’s ok.  It’s enough for us to play with!  Isn’t this a fantastic place?

G. wanted a photo with Piet to send to her mom.  Here it is.  Very sweet.

I bought more stuff than I was planning on buying.  I couldn’t resist.  I bought cochineal which is very expensive.  I’ve never dyed with it before so I’m looking forward to playing with that.  Logwood, which I have used before.  Fustic and woad, which are new to me.  I also bought some chemicals for mordants and modifiers – alum and iron and potash.  I was looking for copper for a modifier, but they didn’t have it and I suspect you can’t buy it anymore because it is dangerous to use.  Just as well I couldn’t get it.  I also bought a sweet little book of recipes which included bits of yarn as samples.

We had a quick sandwich in the area and hopped back on our bikes to head home.  G. left me at Zaandam to head to Amsterdam and I pedaled back the way I had come.  I have to say, by the time I reached the ferry I was pooped!  Still 8km to go.  When I was on the ferry you could see in the distance a big cruise ship coming up the canal heading for Amsterdam.  I stopped on the other side and took a few photos of it.  I wanted to include the boat watchers.  I found it really funny that people would drive to this point, get out their chairs and picnic stuff and hang out watching boats come and go on the canal.  Plane spotters and train spotters and now boat spotters.  Takes all kinds.

I biked 40km (24 miles) in total yesterday.  When I got home at around 3pm I put my head under the kitchen faucet and ran cold water.  The farthest I’d ever biked before was 20km to the beach and back.  This was twice as far.  I felt really tired but really good.  Today my legs feel tired, but not sore and not nearly as bad as I was expecting.  I even went to knit night last night in Amsterdam and BIKED to the train station!

I complain a lot lately about getting older and how my body is changing.  I don’t like it.  Not at all.  Getting old sucks.  Pains popping up where there weren’t any last week.  Swollen fingers and sleepless nights.  And then I go for a bike ride like this and I count my blessing over and over again.  I’m so happy I can do this.  Getting old sucks, but getting old in style is pretty ok.

p.s. If you want to know how to change the direction that a windmill is facing, you can find out HERE.

Estonia

It seems like ages ago that I was in Estonia, but it was actually just a month ago.  I don’t know where the time goes.  I do realize that I’m a terrible travel writer if a whole month has gone by and I still haven’t written about this trip.  I have uploaded 488 photos to flickr but haven’t put names or labels to them, nor have I edited any of them.  It is such a daunting task! Maybe you will enjoy them in their raw uploadedness.  I had a hard time deciding what the header image for this post should be, but finally decided that this one captures the trip for me – knitting, wool, outdoors, rustic and natural, friendly and fun.  This photo was taken at the yearly Heimtali Fair.

I went to Estonia to participate in the International Conference: Traditional Knitted Sweaters around the Baltic Sea.  When I say “participate” I really mean be there and watch and listen and learn.  It was not a big event.  I’m guessing only about 200 – 250 people attended.  Those who gave presentations were from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and the Shetland Islands.  There were people in the audience, like our little group, from the Netherlands, German, Denmark, and I think Latvia.  I felt privileged to be there among these dedicated, serious scholars and artists.  There were of course those who came who weren’t so serious, and just enjoyed being at the event.

I have so many photos of lovely Estonia, but I will leave you to look through them on flickr (see link above) and will just show you one or two photos of each part of the trip.  Keep it short and sweet.

J. and I traveled together and arrived in Tallinn Wednesday before the event.  The weather was cool but sunny and we walked around the Old Town.  It’s beautiful and extremely well maintained, in a sort of Disney-ish way, but still it is a working city center.  There are foreign consulates here, and museums, and offices in these old buildings.  They do cater to the tourist (huge cruise ships dock each day, spewing out tourists with cameras around their necks), but in the evenings when the tourists have gone back to their cruise ship, the locals come out to party in the pubs.

Dutch Embassy

On Thursday all the travelers who needed a ride from Tallinn to the event in Viljandi met up to get on the tour bus organized for us.  There were the other Dutchies, plus some others from Sweden, Norway and Finland.  We drove through the lovely countryside for two hours and then were dropped off at our accommodation.  Everything was so well organized!  Buses were always waiting for us at the right time to get us to the right place, all during the 3 day event.  It was flawless and took all the stress out of travel in a foreign country.

J & I stayed in the place farthest away from the town, in little houses in the woods.  It was charming and perfect.

We barely had time to drop our bags and grab a bite to eat (above photo) when we were hustled onto the bus, back to town, for the fashion show.  This was a show put on by the Viljandi Culture Academy students.  There were more than 50 students modeling their work, walking the runway to music that was also pretty amazing.  It was live streamed that evening too!  At this Academy students study textiles, woodworking or metalworking.  It was so impressive.

I took loads of photos, but from my angle sitting on the floor, they just don’t do the show justice.  HERE are some of the professional photos taken that night.  Since it was live streamed I was hoping to find a video of it somewhere so you could hear the music and see how they danced down the runway, but alas, I can’t find one anywhere.

After the show we walked to a small museum in the town and had dinner outside.  Just us and the mosquitos.

The next morning we were taken by bus to a building on the main street that had an auditorium – main stage with the room below filled with chairs.  The day was spent watching and listening to experts talk about the history of knitted sweaters in their country.  They were historians and artists, known for their research and writing.  It made me sad that I don’t come from a place with such deep traditions in fiber arts.  Even my adopted country has scant to show for knitting traditions.  We have a few fisherman’s sweaters and hats, which we most likely copied from our neighbors further north.  But the Scandinavians and Baltic cousins!  They are not only rich in history, but they also continue to value these skills and knowledge and support it so it will continue.  In the U.S., if it don’t turn a profit, it ain’t worth saving, and therefore much of value is lost and forgotten.

Friday night we had dinner in what was built as a German Baron’s summer house.  It is now a school building, in yet another school for traditional arts outside of Viljandi.  We were also entertained by traditional Estonian musicians.

The conference has been held in Estonia for the past 3 years.  It will now move to Finland for the next 3 years.  This was officially announced after dinner.  There was also a handing over of a very long knitted piece, the story behind which was kind of explained, but went a little past me.  I think you had to be in the In Crowd to know what that was about.

When we got back to our little cabin in the woods on Friday evening, our neighbors from Norway invited us to sit outside and drink some wine for a while.  What a nice night that was!  It was Norway’s National Day so they were ready to celebrate and sing songs and eat and drink.

The next morning we packed up and loaded up in the bus, heading to Heimtali Fair and Museum.  First we heard a short talk by Anu Raud and saw slides of her work, then there were talks by our presenters about where their inspiration comes from.  I wish I had been able to see Anu Raud’s work in person – her murals look amazing – but they are currently in a museum in another town.

After these talks we were free to wander around the small fair, spend some money, eat some lunch, and watch the walking knitting tag team competition!

There were lots of tables with things for sale made from wood, metal, and lots and lots of wool.  Later on there were dances by little girls in costumes.  As you can see, the sun was shining and it was so hot we searched for shade to sit in.  I did buy some yarn here.  I couldn’t resist.  It was such a bargain!  A sweater’s worth of yarn for less than 15 euros!

The afternoon came all too soon and we piled back onto the bus and headed back north to Tallinn.  J and I spent the night there and visited the Old Town again on Sunday – out last chance to shop and look around.  We visited a shop that we had heard about over the weekend.  We met the mother of the woman who designs all the clothing in this shop.  This photo isn’t the designer (she was sick) but this shop keeper was so friendly and helpful even when we didn’t buy anything.  They also had a bicycle covered in knitting in the big front window.  Who could resist going in?

And that was Estonia in a nutshell!  It was a wonderful trip and I’d really like to go back again.  The people are all very friendly, it’s beautiful, the food was excellent in the restaurants we went to, and the prices are much much cheaper than Amsterdam.  We were lucky with the weather too – while it was cold and awful in Amsterdam, it was warm and sunny here.  That and all the knitting – kind of a little paradise.

California – Part III

While we were in California we went to Santa Cruz for the day.  It was well planned out ahead of time.  Actually months in advance!  Santa Cruz is the home of the Yarniacs, whose podcast I’ve been listening to for some time.  Back in March I contacted them to see if we could possibly meet up in May.  I got a resounding “yes!” answer so we planned a date and time.

I actually can’t remember the last time I had been to Santa Cruz.  When I was a kid we used to make the 2 hour drive there once in a while, probably to escape the heat of the Valley for the cool ocean breezes on the coast.  When I was in high school, the marching band took part in a yearly competition there and we hung out on the beach waiting for the judging results to be announced.  Can you imagine the coastline above crowded with thousands of teenagers?  I can’t either anymore.  It was glorious at the time.

Mom, DB and I left the house at about 7:30 in the morning to get to the Swift Stitch shop in time for our meet up.  The shop actually doesn’t open til 11 but Sharlene opened early just for us.  Soon Gayle showed up, along with Ien and oops, two others whose  names I’ve forgotten.  It was a fantastic meet up!  We talked yarn and patterns and knitting and design.  We had some show and tell.  My mom went off to shop and DB went for a walk to the beach.  Even so, 2 hours just flew by and I thought I’d best leave before my traveling partners got too restless and bored.  Here are some photos from the meet up.

Notice the lovely brioche shawl hanging there?  I smiled to see one of Nancy’s designs on display.  Did I buy anything?  What a silly question.  Of course I bought something.  How could I not in such a shop?  I bought 6 skeins of Madelinetosh and 1 skein of Zitron which DB picked out himself for socks.  I think I was rather restrained to only get that much!  It’s a great shop and I really recommend it if you are anywhere near the area.  And of course go listen to the Yarniacs!

We left there and drove to the pier.  I didn’t remember being able to drive all the way out to the end of the pier, but you can and we did.  We had lunch and watched the sea lions sunning themselves at the base of the pier.

They make such a racket too!

Then we headed over to the Boardwalk.  Mom and I especially wanted to see the Merry-Go-Round or Carousel.  It was built in 1911 and is now a National Historical Landmark.  It’s still beautiful and kids still like to ride it and reach for the ring.  I did the same when I was a kid.

And then I ran down to the water to put my toes into the Pacific.  I had to.  No photos of that though.  Trust me.  It was cold.

That was our trip to Santa Cruz!  I like Santa Cruz.  DB likes it a lot.  He actually said he could live there, which he’s never said about any other American town or city.  All we need to do now is win the lottery and we’ll be there.

California, Part I

Ah, to be enjoying the California sun again!  We spent 2 weeks in California and the weather was glorious.  These 2 California Sea Lions were hanging out in the Pacific, just off the Santa Cruz pier.  There was a large herd of them, lounging on the side of the pier on landings kept just for them.  They barked and yammered, jostling for the best positions.  More on Santa Cruz later in the story….

We stayed with my mom most of the time we were there, taking some side trips out and about.  We had only spent two nights at her house when we headed north to Chico, to spend 3 days with my niece and her husband.  He works at Sierra Nevada Brewery and we got a special family tour around the place.

in the hop room

We hung out at M&J’s house, went out to eat, and had our own version of “Bargain Hunt” at one of the many antique shops in Chico.

I really like Chico.  It’s a college town, big enough to be interesting and small enough to be cozy and charming.  It’s even easy to walk and bike around town, which is unusual in the U.S.  We left there already missing M&J.

Only a few days later, M drove down to meet us and we headed up to the Sierra Nevada, to Yosemite National Park, to have Sunday Brunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  What a treat!  It’s a big spread with fresh oysters and other shell fish, several kinds of salmon,  prime rib, egg dishes, chicken dishes, pancakes, cheese blintzes, and then there’s the dessert table.

DB took our photo at our table.

The Ahwahnee itself is an amazingly beautiful building, build in the 1920’s of stone and wood.  When I win the lottery I’m going to stay there for a couple of weeks.

We played tourists, rode around in the free shuttle bus, taking photos here and there.

Yosemite Falls
Selfy at Curry Village parking lot, Half Dome in the distance

We did a little walking around the Visitor’s Center and went into the Indian Museum where I saw some amazing woven baskets.  I wish I had taken photos of them but it was a bit dark for that.

It was a quick trip to Yosemite Valley and then back home to Atwater.  Last year, in June, we did a full day of hiking, which I really loved and I’m sure we’ll do again next year.  It had been at least 25 years since the first and only other time I had a meal at the Ahwahnee and I’m really glad we made the trip this year.

Well, I think that’s it for this blog post.  I’m only half way through the California trip, and still have lots to tell you about Estonia, but it’s clear that this story telling is going to take several days and several blog posts. Come back for more photos and travel tales!