On scarves, chairs & favourite books

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Yes, I finally finished that scarf! It was actually (almost) completed some time ago but I procrastinated endlessly on weaving in the yarn ends. But it got done and sent off by mail to my lovely friend Zurn. She confirmed receipt this week so I can show off the results, looking rather excellent on my beautiful daughter Isabeau if I say so myself.

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The book by Sibella Court is one of my favourites, not to mention it coloured nicely with my scarf. It is a great source of inspiration and a wonderful way to while away an afternoon lounging in your favourite chair with a cup of tea. Definitely recommended for adventurers and nomads who want to use the stuff they bring home from their journeys in their home. See Sibella’s website for more information and a good look at her style…

The children’s chair is one of my most beloved pieces of furniture. It was given to me by my mother, who bought it for her dolls (which are quite hideous and scare all the grandchildren but she was given one of them on the ship that took her and her family from the Dutch East Indies to the Netherlands after WWII and I’ve promised to give it a good home in the future). I was allowed to take the chair home with me for my daughters. It is old but incredibly sturdy and I am totally in love with it…

If you like, you can go to this page on Ravelry (a.k.a. Knitters’ Heaven) for more information on the scarf and pattern.

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Disaster strikes

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I have been knitting and knitting and knitting this really big linen shawl. A design of my own in wonderful earthy tones, which I can’t wait to wash and wear. With my beautiful Knitpro needles, which make such a lovely sound when I knit, are perfectly smooth and yet have ideal grip on the yarn. I love these needles with all my heart.

Until today, when disaster struck. My knitting bag was on the backrest of the couch. My daughters and ten year old stepson had a couch battle. And jumped on my knitting bag.

You can imagine my fury when I discovered the damage. I am pretty sure I had steam coming from my ears. Now I have to pick up all these stitches, which is not my favourite occupation. Darn.

Has something like this ever happened to you?

And I have been knitting, of course

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This pretty little thing is currently on my needles. I love the combination of slinky soft bamboo with wild tussah silk, which has an extremely dry hand feel. It makes for a sensuous contrast, which is reinforced by the colours my son helped me pick: a vintage rose for the bamboo set off by the rich Merlot grape of the silk. Both came from Weldraad, an eco yarn shop in Amsterdam.

The bamboo is from Fonty, a French yarn brand. It is extremely soft and has lovely stitch definition. The label suggests 3-3.5mm needles but I went with 5mm and would knit this with even larger needles to create a lovely open-textured fabric. It has wonderful drape, too.

The Tussah Tweed, what can I say? I am in love with the Tussah Tweed. BC Garn is a Danish manufacturer of natural and ecologically sound yarns. They created a wonderfully matt, very light, tweedy yarn, almost linen-like in its apparent simplicity. At around 250 meters in each 50-gram skein, I would say this is a fingering weight yarn. Because the bamboo is a heavier (sport) weight, I decided to knit the silk holding a double strand but I think this would knit up beautifully for a light summer cardigan or top on smaller needles, for instance. The earthy colour palette makes for an almost Medieval feeling. I would definitely absolutely recommend this if you are allergic to wool (oh, such a terrible affliction) or are looking for a light summer yarn. Like I said, I am in love.

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Boijmans van Beuningen Museum: Hand Made exhibition and competition

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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.

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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.

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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.

I’ve done and gone hooking

The Buddha and hyperbolic space

The Buddha and hyperbolic space

Now that does sound rather awful, doesn’t it? Rest assured, it isn’t as weird as it sounds. I have not been around my blog much lately because I have been busy with work, my children (14-year-old requiring serious homework drilling, girls ill on and off), knitting, and so on and so forth.

I went to a symposium associated with the new Hand Made exhibition in collaboration with Etsy at Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam last Friday. It was interesting to be reminded how the crafts are seen by people generally involved in ‘high art’ (whatever that may be – not as much as it is made out to be by the ‘experts’ in my not-so-humble opinion). I’ll tell you more about the symposium and exhibition in another post.

And yes, I took up crochet. Initially for a project that has now been sidelined because I could not bring myself to get started on it (but I will!) and then… well… I got hooked. Seriously. Fortunately my daughters are crazy about the crochet flowers I am churning out because I’m not sure I would wear them myself. Just a tad too granny for my taste, but who knows, that might change because I am discovering that things look quite differently when you make them yourself! As in, less ‘For God’s sake, I would never ever be caught dead in that!’ and more ‘Hmmm… if I changed this, and added that, and picked a really chic yarn… I might actually get to like it!’

I am also fascinated by the fact that there are many scientist knitters and crocheters (is that a word?). Just Google ‘knitted geometric shapes’ or ‘crochet hyperbolic space’ and see what turns up. So the other day I started on a crochet pattern for a dahlia, which at one point somehow seemed to turn into something looking a lot like hyperbolic space. See here, for instance. And here, where I found out that crochet actually intersects with my sister’s work as a marine biologist. She’ll just love that, ahem.DSC08195

It does seem curious that a tangible representation of hyperbolic forms seemed impossible until crochet stepped in, doesn’t it? I would expect to be more aware by now of how everything is connected. I am not as easily surprised as I used to be in that respect but this one threw me!

The most wonderful thing about crafts, however professional or amateur your creations, is that one idea engenders another, and another, and another. And every individual person will come up with something different. I think this is amply illustrated by the Friday Fictioneers, each of whom comes up with something entirely different when looking at the images proposed by Rochelle. Of course there are parallels between stories sometimes but they are never the same. And in the same way, I believe that crafts are a celebration of individual expression. In a world increasingly obsessed with mass production and consumption and utter ‘sameness’, more and more people feel the need to remind themselves that they are not the same, that they are unique creatures capable of unique achievements.

This last little fluffy bit is no mathematical mystery, of course. Just a little present for one of the lovely people I will be meeting at the Breidag in Nieuwegein tomorrow. And yes, that’s my face reflected in the background. I did done and seen it but didn’t feel like taking a new picture. I’ll just be the lady in the mirror, isn’t that lovely and mysterious?DSC08188DSC08222

Beppe’s leafy neck warmer

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A couple of weeks ago I mentioned working on a little project for my grandmother-in-law (is that even a word?), D’s beloved grandmother. Or properly speaking in Friesian, his Beppe. She is ill and recently celebrated what may be her last birthday, so I wanted it to be a special birthday gift. And of course in many cases making a gift with your own hands is probably much nicer than something store-bought, especially if you want to express your love for and appreciation of the recipient.

I wanted this one to be a little frivolous (because life is serious enough as it is), something sweet and lovely to look at.

My daughters picked a skein of Malabrigo silky merino from my stash. I have no idea what colourway – could it be Arco Iris? I spent an enjoyable hour trolling Ravelry for a suitable pattern and finally picked Grace Mcewen’s Leafy Cabled Neck Warmer as suitably frivolous. It is one pattern from the Tangled Leaves e-book, which contains 10 patterns inspired by nature. You can also find Grace’s patterns in her KnitChicGrace shop Etsy here.

The leafy neck warmer is a quick yet challenging knit (the leaves in particular require a bit of undistracted attention), especially for a beginner like me. It is knit in two halves, which are then grafted together.

Since I blocked the first half I had to do the other one as well, but I think I preferred the unblocked version. It had more body and the leaves really stood out in relief. Unfortunately I cannot show you any pictures of my own (because I forgot to make some) but I think Grace’s pattern on Ravelry shows an unblocked version.

Also I could not figure out how it was supposed to be worn. None of the yarnovers created holes big enough to pass the other end through, so in the end I crocheted a little loop that does the job perfectly. To be honest I’m not sure how wearable it really is as a scarf or how warm it is as a neck warmer but it certainly looks pretty. Especially in this beautiful yarn.

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All in all I was pretty happy with the result. I would knit this pattern again and experiment with yarns and gauges, as well as blocking intensity (the Malabrigo silky merino did a ‘whoosh’ relaxation act when blocked, it flattened out rather a lot).

The girls decorated a bag and were very excited to present our gift to Beppe, who is their great-grandmother of course. It must be such a privilege to live long enough to see your children’s children’s children…

Now it’s a bloody Möbius

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I swear, if I didn’t know better I’d think this thing does NOT want to be knitted by me. Under any circumstance. Ever.

Remember I showed you the Honey Cowl when I had just cast on? Well… about midway through I realised I had ‘misread’ the pattern and it looked all wrong. (You know how that happens. You are so eager to get started, you just don’t pay any real attention. We have this saying in Holland: ‘An ass never hits the same stone twice’. I bet you can guess what that makes me.)

So I frogged the whole thing and started over. That time I made a mistake in casting on: too few stitches and I wanted the long version of the cowl, not the medium one. Frogged, again. Cast on 220 stitches (which is a lot of casting on for a single cowl if you realise I had already done 220 at least twice (I always miscount once) and then another 160) and knitted happily along, hoping I could still get some wear out of this lovely yarn before winter really ends (we are set for one last cold bout, apparently).

And now it’s a bloody Möbius. Grrrrr.

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See this twist, where the fabric wraps around the needle? It is NOT supposed to do that! I am going to have to frog the whole thing once again. And I’m seriously wondering if I should just let it be for now and try again next fall. Except the yarn and pattern combination is just so damned pretty. And I want this cowl. NOW! My vintage ochre Balenciaga bag is languishing in my cabinet waiting for this cowl. So what is a girl to do?

I am going to cast on, again, with a lot of moaning and grumbling.

Am I an ass if I ask what else could possibly go wrong with this thing?

FO: Saroyan shawl

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Just a quick note to show you my Saroyan shawl, which I cast off last week. Although I do know that wool garments need to be dried flat, I never really thought about it until I learned about blocking. Saroyan was my first official ‘finished object blocked’ (FOB, not a bad acronym actually) and I am utterly pleased at how the blocked shape remains… well… in shape as I wear it. Wool is truly the most amazing thing.

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I did not block aggressively (partly because I only had a small box of needles inherited from my grandmother) so I concentrated on the leaf pattern. That turned out really nicely although I wish Saroyan had been a bit wider. I loved knitting this pattern and I might cast on again, but I would increase more intensively and use more repeats to create a wider shawl.

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I am very pleased with how it turned out nevertheless and in love with the Madeline Tosh… um… I’m afraid I have to admit I do not remember which MadTosh yarn and colourway I used. The photos are fairly true to colour and there is a lovely glaze to the yarn that makes it look truly luxurious. Definitely a yarn I will use again!

I find that I am drawn to patterns that reflect the natural world. You are doing a beautiful thing when you create such luscious, useful, intricately worked objects with yarn from nature, inspired by nature.

Art(isan): Eat your vegetables, darling!

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

Now look closer. No, even closer!

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Are you starting to see?

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Find the artist’s site here.

Woolly thoughts

Manos Sagittarius

Just now I was thinking. I think I have mentioned that I think a lot and some people think I think too much. Okay. With that out of the way, I can move on to what I was thinking about. [Yes, this is a hanging preposition and you are not supposed to use them but… Let me try to move on here, for God’s sake!].

So I was thinking about a number of knitting projects I have started, and plan to start, and wish I could start… and might start at any time in the near or distant future. So many beautiful things to knit. So much wonderful yarn to knit them with. [Yes, I know. Let’s leave it be this time. Please.]

There is a little leaved decorative scarf for D’s grandmother I want to finish and block before the weekend, when we are going up North to celebrate what might be her last birthday. [D being the (more or less) adult guy around the house, the father of my two youngest children and my love interest of nearly 7 years.]

There is Madeline Tosh’s Honey Cowl that I just cast on in a lovely Manos del Uruguay silk blend. Don’t you just love that name: the Hands of Uruguay? These hands create some of the lushest yarns around. Some hand-spun, all hand-dyed in extraordinarily beautiful colours. I posted some pictures of other knits in Manos yarn here and here.

I have been eyeing that cowl for a while now. I just did not know what yarn I would use but suddenly I remembered this wonderful Manos yarn in the colourway Sagittarius (D and my biological father’s birth sign, coincidentally) that has been languishing in my stash. It will go beautifully with an ochre vintage Balenciaga bag of mine (I’ll post photos later, promise). I just cast on and I already know that making this cowl is going to be knitting heaven.

The little Koigu KPPM bias scarf I cast on a couple of weeks ago is back to a little ball of yarn. See what it was going to look like here. I had one of the yarnovers all wrong and I knew that if I let it be, those stitches would ruin the whole thing for me. I can be a bit neurotic like that but I suspect many crafters will agree with me here. Some imperfections you can live with, some you cannot. I am not sure that I will cast it on again, at least not in the same yarn. To be honest it has already been supplanted by a myriad of other projects.

I have a couple of other projects in the pipeline but as I have to work now, you will probably hear more about those in the future (unless they are supplanted in the mean time, as well). I became a little (or a lot) distracted from what I was going to write about, which is the associative mind, but that will have to wait, too.

I leave you with another photo from planet Manos… Have a lovely day!

Manos Sagittarius