Fall weekend at De Uelenspieghel



With fall coming to a windy end, I thought I should share these pictures with you now or forever hold my peace. I always have so many things I want to post here but somehow too rarely get around to it. My current obsession being textile dyeing, most of my free time is spent doing witchy things with pots and pans, plants and flowers. And knitting, painting (still planning to post those photos, too), writing letters (more photos I owe you), and so on and so forth.

The pictures above show the last borage flowers fallen from the plant, which caught my eye last Ocrober when we spent a weekend volunteering at the beautiful Uelenpieghel. The old farm was converted to a cultural and spiritual centre and welcomes visitors throughout the year. In summer I spent an elfish art weekend there with the children and we had the most wonderful time. This weekend in October, however, was spent collecting apples…



And more apples…


After which we had the privilege of sipping freshly made apple and elderberry juice, still warm, tasting like a divine gift from the earth.

We also went mushroom gathering in the beautiful woods surrounding the farm’s grounds. My girls call it the fairy forest, with the pines rising from mossy soil, so soft and springy you wish you could lie down and have a nap. All of it studded with jewel-like mushrooms in so many colours, a light shroud of mist, and such peaceful quiet… 



Although the picture is not sharp, unfortunately, I still wanted to show you these ‘dead man’s fingers’ looking like bits of charred bone sticking out of the forest floor. Pretty creepy, aren’t they?


A beautiful little fairy circle or, as the Dutch call it, heksenkring (witches’ circle).

In front of our house there is a small field of grass, a fairly steep slope that runs up towards the road. It is lined with beautiful big trees that have lulled me to sleep with their swishing wind dance many a night. Every fall and sometimes in spring, too, a wonderful witches’ circle arises magically from the grass. As if this earth already knew what took me so many years to figure out and issued a standing invitation…



This pretty little thing occupied a mossy old tree stump all on its own, while those below seem to cluster together in a fairy village…



Catching the light and drawing attention in her beautiful autumn frock…


These, apparently, make a wonderful dye bath for textiles. I wish I’d known earlier although I’m not sure I could have torn them from their perch on this lovely silvery tree trunk… 

Below is a pretty yellow stagshorn (Calocera viscosa), which the Dutch call ‘sticky coral mushroom’. Doesn’t it make you smile just looking at it?


In the evening the girls were exhausted from their day outside and fell asleep within minutes, giving me leave to join the tango workshop downstairs. I took some lessons years ago and amazingly much of it was dredged up from my body’s memory banks very quickly. It was lovely to dance, I’d forgotten how much I love it. Even better to hear the teacher say I should to take up dance again because I have a dancer’s body (underneath those childbearing pounds I never managed to shift, at least…). It was one of the loveliest compliments I’ve received these many years.


The place is permanent residence to a changing group of sculptors, healers, seekers and finders, all gathered here by the lovely Annette whose parents believed in self sufficiency and walking lightly upon this beautiful earth, raising their children here. Annette lives in the original farm and has turned it into a welcoming sanctuary for the weary of heart and soul as well as a gathering and replenishing well for those who have already found their natural place in this world.


This beautiful apple tree looks like it would up and walk away if it ever got bored in its current sunny spot.


It was a magical weekend. There are places like this that make your heart peaceful and your head quiet, that heal your aching heart with every moment you spend there. The Uelenspieghel is such a sacred place to me and I already know that I will return there again and again…




Roses & Steam part I


After visiting India Flint’s wonderful blog Prophet of Bloom (I love the subtitle ‘Not all those who wander are lost’)  for the umpteenth time and gazing in admiration at the wonderful stuff she makes, I decided it was time to throw some roses & steam together for myself and see what would happen:


That was try number one. Oh, the folly of thinking I could keep up with India Flint! I obviously used too few petals but it did give me a good idea of what to expect. The red roses came from my garden. The rambler has been there for 14 years, I think, and offers up red splashes of huge blooms all through summer. The last ones were in bloom just now and I’m worrying my favourite rose will not last through winter (don’t ask me why – I hope I didn’t just jinx it to death) so I figured, at least I will have a tangible reminder.

The little bag is something I found lying around while I was looking for white natural fabric. The kerchief, however, I inherited from my grandmother and is much loved (although I never use it – does that ever happen to you? I just like to look at it every once in a while). So anyway, take two:


So… what happens is you suspend the bundle over a pot of steaming water for an hour or two. The steam leaches the colour from the petals and leaves, which then imprints upon the fabric. India gets the most beautiful prints of entire leaves and branches and colours, a glorious representation of summer and fall. Obviously she has turned it into an art. If you live in America or Australia, you should definitely try to attend one of her workshops if you get a chance. Look here for more: India Flint’s Workroom.

Wrapping the bundles is wonderful because it makes me feel like a bit of a witch, quite frankly. But unwrapping is the best of the whole process because the outcome is such a wonderful surprise!


I love how the bright red of the roses turned into this vibrant purple! It’s as if I gathered summer grapes or berries in a kerchief and accidentally crushed them and the juices stained the fabric. Definitely something I’ll do again and recommended for all ages and abilities if you are not too demanding. I’m sure the children would love doing this, too!

A description I found online says to iron the fabric to set the colour and it should be (hand-)washable after that.

Boijmans van Beuningen Museum: Hand Made exhibition and competition


Have you missed me? I know I have not posted much lately. I wonder if many people neglect their blogs when they have many things clamouring for their attention, or is it just me?

Things in my life suddenly seem to move in a different direction, or rather an additional direction. And since my days were already overflowing with work, children, housekeeping and knitting, this additional activity is nibbling away at the time I spend on other things. This once, however, it is a good thing that I am not getting enough sleep. Or rather, there is a really good and positive reason.


When I took up knitting I soon started experimenting with knitted hair ornaments and ornamental knitting. I like small projects with quick results. Admittedly, I get easily bored with long projects, one of the reasons why I hesitate to start on a big cardigan or shawl. On top of that, knitting bracelets and hair bands is an excellent way to explore and practise new techniques. Then came crochet and I was off.

I used to think that crochet was rather… well… old-fashioned and stuffy but have definitely changed my mind. Yes, some of it is really old-fashioned and stuffy, although I have also come to realise how much work there is in even the most grandmotherly blanket or table runner.

There are many talented artists and crochet lovers out there who create the most wonderful things, from the nearly microscopic crochet stitches in an embroidery thread crochet necklace to huge actual playgrounds in Japan. People crochet with metal wire, plastic bags and hair – pretty much anything that can be used as yarn. I have taken up crochet jewellery.


This is my Sun and Snake necklace made from bourette silk, cotton and a futuristic metallic yarn. It is based on the Chinese year of the Snake and the yellow sun, with yellow representing good luck in China and the sun my astrological sign Leo.

Image This Turquoise Protection necklace is based on the protective power of turquoise stone and my fascination with the legendary though contested crystal skulls.

Coincidentally (or is it one of those instances of synchronicity?) the prestigious and wonderful Boijmans van Beuningen museum in Rotterdam organised Hand Made, an exhibition on traditional crafts, this spring. Craft workshops are held at the museum in collaboration with Etsy each weekend.

I attended a symposium on the future of the crafts there and although there was little time left, enjoyed an hour or so at the beautiful exhibition that features work from around the world, representing the crafts through the ages. Definitely a must-see if you are in Rotterdam!

The Etsy Boijmans van Beuningen partnership also resulted in a competition called Onverwacht Ambacht or ‘Unexpected Crafts’, which called for entries applying old crafts in new and unexpected ways. I originally conceived of a quite ambitious entry that I unfortunately did not have time to complete (or, to my chagrin, even get started on). While that work will get done somewhere this year, I somewhat impulsively decided to submit some of my necklaces the night before the competition closed.

In addition to the prize awarded by Etsy and the museum, a public prize will be awarded to the entry that receives the greatest number of votes from the public visiting the museum. Voting is also open on Facebook so do have a look at the other entries and vote by liking your favourite work here: Facebook voting page. I wouldn’t mind if you happened to like mine, of course! Please feel free to share the page because I think it shows a number of amazing modern crafts from very talented people.

There are many amazing entries so while I clearly don’t expect to win, I am rather proud that I actually entered the competition. In the past, I would have dithered and doubted until the end. Then I would have been angry with myself for not doing something I longed for again, simply because I was insecure or afraid. The fact that I don’t care what anyone says or thinks but just do what I believe in, what is right for me, shows me how much I have changed. And it is good to be reminded of that fact, which tends to get lost and forgotten all too quickly in the rush of daily life.


2013-02-22 Friday Fictioneers

‘I have nothing,’ she complained. ‘I’m sitting here, staring at this screen…‘


Disegno, Leo, sorry. Of an old, abandoned house… And I can’t think of anything.’ She sighed. It was Friday Fictioneers week three and she’d been happy with her first efforts. But now…  

‘I don’t know why you keep calling me Leo,’ he said peevishly. She turned towards the ancient mirror and said, ‘Sorry, Leonardo. I wasn’t thinking.’

The old inventor turned away. ‘Well, can’t help you. Must finish that Giocondo portrait. Her smile gives me nightmares, you know… Buona notte.’

‘So you said, Leonardo. Sogni d’oro…’


And once again, it was time for the Friday Fictioneers. To be honest, the image did nothing for me. I wrote a story. Discarded it. Could not think of a thing. So that’s where I started…

I am already quite looking forward to Wednesdays, when the excellent Rochelle Wisoff-Fields posts her chosen image for the week and challenges our nimble minds to write a one hundred-word story. (Yes, mine is 100 words exactly. Including title. And yes, I’m gloating. I’ll probably be punished for that next week.)

We have an excellent imagination between us.  No, I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to refer to myself, so go see for yourself! Click the code below to see the posts of other contributors. The link ain’t pretty (I am unable to reproduce that nifty little Inlinkz button, apparently) but it works when you click it. Sorry about that. I hope I will have it figured out next week. Help, someone?

This week’s picture was made by Janet Webb. No offence, Janet, it is not your picture’s fault I couldn’t come up with anything!

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Art(isan): Eat your vegetables, darling!


I will never look at my veggies the same way again. Aren’t they beautiful?

Now look closer. No, even closer!


Are you starting to see?


These exquisite vegetables were knitted and crocheted by the Japanese textile artist Itoamika Jung Jung. She creates jewellery with them. The level of detail is astonishing and I cannot imagine the amount of miniature fussing that must be involved.


The more I explore the world of textile crafts, the more I am in awe of the artists that create so many extraordinary works. And this, to me, is what makes crafting so attractive. Whether you are a novice or an expert, there is always something new to discover and try, a new skill to master.


Itoami published a book on crocheted plants that I am going to try and get my hands on: Ito Ami Plants. Although I am closer to a novice than to an expert at knitting and a total, absolute initiate (‘Is “idiot” the word you were looking for, darling?’ ‘Yes I think it might be. Thank you, dear’) in crocheting, this is something I want to try…


Find the artist’s site here.

FO: A head-warming victory

This is the last you’ll hear of the Tuke hat (promise!) but I had to let you know I finished it, didn’t I? I solved the ‘few stitches on circular needles’ problem by figuring out how magic loop works (lots more fiddling but I’m pretty sure it beats double-pointed needles). I’m afraid I did not use the official method, since I was unable to get the working yarn on the back needle as the tutorials say. But it worked out anyway. See?

ImageFrom there I was just a few decreasing rows away from the finish. Tuke taught me (the beginnings of) round-knitting and magic loop knitting and is just about the best thing I have ever had on my head. When I picked up my five-year old from school wearing my pioneering feat of home-crafting, she liked it but felt it wasn’t a ‘proper’ hat because it did not have a pom pom. So we decided to add a small one using Eskimimi’s nifty pom pom fork technology. Check it out here.


My new hat is soft and cushy, lovely and warm and I might not want to take it off for the rest of the day. I think my significant other would protest if I attempted to wear it to bed tonight, otherwise I just might have!

Both my daughters have already ‘ordered’ a smaller version of Tuke so I’ll cast on the next one using Opal Hundertwasser sock yarn and see if that scales down the pattern sufficiently to fit my eldest daughter.

Wartende Häuser by Friedensreich Hundertwasser

This extraordinary collection of sock yarn is based on several works by Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser (1928-2000). I knitted a rib stitch scarf for my daughter from the Wartende Häuser colourway (and I’ll never ever do that again, I can tell you, since I thought I was going to be a doddering old biddy before I finished it!).

It is funny how something as ‘grandmotherly’ as knitting can open a window to the rest of the world. I had never heard of Hundertwasser before I bought the sock yarn but now I am going to find out a lot more about him and share it with you in a future post. It turns out he is one of my favourite kind of people: an artist, visionary and eco warrior avant la lettre wholly determined to walk his own path. Wouldn’t you just love to live here?

Hundertwasser’s Waldspirale or ‘Forest Spiral’ in Darmstadt, Germany


In 2007 we buried the ashes of my son’s father at a beautiful old cemetary in Amsterdam.  On All Souls’ Day, we visited the cemetary at night as part of the remembrance celebration. There was a beautiful ritual where people could write their departed loved ones a note and drop it in a mailbox, a winged mailbox that would deliver the messages. It was not a very impressive contraption, if I remember correctly, but such a beautiful thought! My then nine year old son wrote his dad a sweet note telling him he missed him and hoped he was happy up there with Daddy in the Sky, and then took a picture of the mailbox to remember it by.

This picture was taken with my iPhone since I’d forgotten my camera, something which happens all too often. It was pitch dark with a few candles and some fairy lights in the flowers and wings. I didn’t expect the photo to look like much. Until I had the courage to look at it a few months later. Ever since, I have been trying to find the words that would express my wonder.

I guess we did get an answer to my son’s note: When you believe you can spread your wings and fly, the wings will be there when you jump from the cliff and embark on the scariest and most exhilarating journey of all. To discover who you are.

It took me several years to understand this message. And now I am learning how to fly.

I hope… I pray that I will be able to teach my children that learning how to fly is the most important thing of all.