getting in the mood: Advent Calendars!

Yesterday’s calendar shows that I’m getting in the mood for Advent Calendars. This year I’ve bought TWO handdyed yarn surprise boxes!


Wolop offers one with glitter yarn and one with hand dyed yarns. I bought the plant dyed one! Both will give about 10 grams each day in a soft fingering yarn with nylon. Wolop ships internationally!
Last year I had one with a different colour theme and made this stranded cowl with it:

So this year I bought the plant dyed one. Those colours will combine and harmonize with each other in an amazing way! I’m thinking stranded socks and wristwarmers or mittens. Or ànd socks ànd mitts ànd mittens. Or perhaps weaving…

The other box I bought is from Het Wolbeest, you know, the wool studio in the ceramic village in the South with the ice parlour attached.
   
Het Wolbeest also has two advent calendars, one Over The Top with glitter and nepps and dyed with speckles and multies. And one Soft and Mellow, with (semi)solids. Both contain 10 grams of soft sock yarn each day and this one has some little gifts in it. She’s been teasing us with sneak previews in all greytones!
I bought the Soft and Mellow one. For stranded knitting. Perhaps socks. And mitts. And mittens! Or weaving?

So much choice and opportunities!
If you too are looking for ideas what to do with 24 x 10 grams of handdyed yarn, I have a bundle with ideas on Ravelry:
adventkalender ideeen

Not that listing options makes choosing between them any easier.
Yes, the first of December is going to be very festive and chaotic and colourful woolly in my house.

To heighten the anticipation I have my wooden calendar with the stitch markers.
And this:

It’s an advent tea box from Sonnetor, bought at the market stall from knitter and spinning friend Meta from Thee-en-Kruid.
At the bottom of the tree there’s a little door and one bag of tea slides out every day during Advent. As December approaches I will put more and more things on display to mark the change of season.

Thusly I try and structure the months to come. It is a conscious effort because I am submerged in a few things that need some counter-stress-measures and I also dread the shortening of the days.

These are things that give me stress:
By the end of this month, October, I have to submit a paper to the court against the manure plant they’re still planning right next to the cabin. Over the years I have regained my abilities to concentrate, as I healed from my illness, and this is reflected in how I was able to address the court. First drafts were terrible. This year I’m finally in full swing and I’m playing with the big dogs, who now also take me seriously and sling some serious judicial mud my way. I am working at my maximum capacity and it gives a bit of dread, knowing this is it, that this is all I’ve got to give.

Of course there’s the added stress that his case involves my personal living conditions at the cabin. The cabin is under threat and things will be different there, not for the best. My adversaries are merely seated behind their work desks and pushing numbers and stamps around. They get to go home at the end of the day, to a manure free, risk free living space.
Beware _ Manure happensDanger! Manure!
Changing my frame of mind and looking at this strategically instead of personally/emotionally takes a lot of effort each time. Each time I do succeed and then I enjoy the strategic game, played within the boundaries of the law.

But then I return to the cabin and am overwhelmed again with losing the peace, the nature and the memories from the last ten years that I lived there, in harmony, healing. I find it difficult to go with the times, to accept time flowing forwards and growing populations.

That’s one court case. By the end of the year there’s a hearing in the second court case pending, about the same plant, and this one involves about 15 families in the neighbourhood of the cabin. For which I am the spokesperson and the one writing and submitting the papers. (Mind you, I have no training in this field. I’m just an urban engineer.) This case involves a lot of contact with my neighbours which I haven’t even met all personally, yet. We communicate through email and they are very nice, even though they do not understand the judicial games. I also shield them from the mud that is thrown our way. Because that judicial game… it’s not a pretty one.

In this social thing too I am coming into my own this year, having been a hermit for years, hidden in the cabin. This process however goes more abruptly, with me being bold and sociable one day and crying in my pillow fort the next. Introverts, ha! Such a fun bunch.

My neighbours accept my introvertness though and they are really nice and supportive. They gave me the flowers and the wine last week 🙂

As a third process this Fall I’m sewing my own clothes. A city wardrobe, following my own colour palette. I now have sewing lessons every week and I have that new sewing machine and things are going well. Still takes a lot of time and thinking and concentrating. Luckily no matter how “funny” or “idiosyncratic” I make something, my teacher always shows me ways to fix it. It’s a lot like spinning yarn in that regard, you can always build on top of what you have and fix it that way. (This is not the case with knitting. Knitting you have to frog and build anew).

skirt with pockets and godets, handdyed indigo linen. sewinghand sewn bottle green linen skirt fishtail pockets sewinggreen wriggle dress stretch cotton sewing
I hope to finish all the garments I need this year. Smoothly transferring into next year when I can just grab any thing from my closet and always look smart and coordinated.
If I dress nice I feel nice. If I don’t have to question myself in front of the wardrobe I have a good start of the day. That’s what the palette is for.

When I get all my sewing done this year it will become a hobby next year. For when I have time and inspiration or meet a nice piece of cloth. (Or weave a nice piece of cloth!)
That will leave a slot open next year for something nice. Something creative. Something productive. Something economically visible. Yes I hope, when the days begin to lengthen again, that I will have the calm, the health and the mental capabilities to feel truly alive again.

So I have a lot riding on a friendly unfolding of the last three months of this year. I’ve put some measures into place to achieve this.
I hope and expect the new year to be the start of new, fine thing!
It will also be 10 years, in February, that I became terribly ill from one day to the next. (I have ME/CFS/SEID, Addison’s, DNA faults, mitochondria faults, ridiculous sensitive brain chemistry, EMDR, digestive disorder, lifelong insomnia). But I seem to have fixed this.
I’m still cautious but I’m making plans to celebrate my recovery in 2018.

So now we sit and behave until the good times start:

Wall calendar by illustrator Fiep Westendorp

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10 years of Dutch sock knitters group on Ravelry


10 years ago Ravelry was young and Beta. Moonwise, a Dutch knitter started a Dutch speaking group for sock knitters.

Nowadays Ravelry is a force to be reckoned with, world wide, and the Dutch Sock Knitters Group has over 1200 members and hosts KALs every month.

To celebrate the founder Moonwise, who is a real good sock pattern designer, designed a sock pattern that’s free:

“Wish” by Janneke Maat. It’s in Dutch, well written and features a lot of cables. It’s a birthday present for all the members.

For people who cannot or will not knit cables there are other themes to participate in this month such as mock cables and/or using your most precious sock yarn. All to celebrate Soktober Tien Fest.

I can’t knit these many tiny cables but I love mock cables. The group has a bundle with mock cabled sock patterns and they are not all koffieboontje-stitch:

I may put a mock cabled sock on the needles… I love koffieboontje and I love mock cables. You hear me waffle on about Prickly Pear Socks at least once a year!
the Prickly Pear Socks by Thayer Preece:

The group also rewards prices to people who finish their sock within two months. And whaddayaknow, these month’s sponsors are two of my favourite artists: Wolop and FiberRachel!
 Wolop Etsy   FiberRachel Etsy
Wolop will donate a skein of handdyed festive sock yarn and FiberRachel one of her birdhouse WIP bags:

Where was I 10 years ago? I didn’t even knit back then. I wasn’t ill yet. I was in Norway, building a sea kayak out of 2 by 4’s, canvas and beewaxed hemp:

using special sewing stitches to insure water tightness:

Made under guidance from Kayak Specialist in Norway Anders Thygesen.
I’ve never even taken it out to sea… I got ill and couldn’t go outside anymore and inside I got too sad to think of anything Norway related. Then this Summer I found out the canvas is rotting…
Right!
I think it is time to put away the last 10 years. Just shelve it. Ignore bad memories. They are of no use since I cannot learn from them anymore.

Live in the here and now, enjoy the sunshine on this beautiful Sunday morning. Bask in what blessings and fun there are here, now.
Such as a sock fest on Ravelry.
And this picture of an ambitious cat:

that I used to make a drawing for another month fest: Inktober 2017. (draw every day, using ink)

Also today I will be sewing on a new dress. It features gnomes in Volkswagen vans!
gnome dress volkswagen van
As it reads on my About Page:
“My name is Anna. I think wool and funny dresses make life better.”

at the cabin

My husband send me to the cabin, with the cat, to try and get me out of Fight or Flight modus.

We’re trying hard, but the trick is to stop trying.

The light is beautiful! The green so intense. My onion dyed socks complement the garden.

Lillepoes helping:

Internalizing the scenery:

Weird Wool Wednesday: friendly pill cosy

This morning: I have a day long workshop and these pills need to be kept cool:
bottle cosy

bottle cosy

These are my favourite wristwarmers and I love the colour, it goes so well with the colour of the salted lemon-water. They will be a friendly encouragement as I go to this workshop where I don’t know anybody and we’ll be eco dyeing all day long and I’ll be weird and self conscious and if I just keep my cool and just relax and enjoy and there will even be dinner which I won’t eat and people will wonder and I will smile and wave my little bottle with the friendly pill cosy around it.

The pills are Florinef, which bolster blood pressure, and I will certainly need one extra today as it will be a hot day today and I won’t bring my day bed to have a little lie down. (I will bring my car and lie down if I have to.)

A better armhole and nice things on the walls.

This is the new armhole:

Much better!

It may still look a bit large but in my experience it shapes up when you pick up stitches (3 for every 4 rows) and start the sleeve. Tubes always feel more narrow.

I kept the increases at the neckline the same because I will attach a shawl collar to it. It feels a bit weird, having fronts that do not close and a neckline that even runs over the apex of the bust. But my Grey Pumpkin Ale has the same neckline and wears very nicely with its shawl collar. (And this yarn is soft enough to wear next to the skin.)

Oooh, what’s that behind me, in the hallway? Is that an embroidered cat?

It is!
cabin cosy decoration cat window sill cat embroidery
This is a vintage embroidery I found at the thrift store many years ago. Somebody put lots of love and effort in this! It came with the frame too.
I often stand before it and have a little pause, appreciating it.

It hangs over my birthday calendar, right between the front door and the hooks where we keep our keys. Under it hangs a small ceramic cat hanger, bought at the x-mas market in Muenster. There used to be some glass x-mas baubles there too, all year round. A happy little hippo and a cat, but they broke in the course of time.

The first few years we had the cabin I’d go to the church thrift store in the village here. This was before thrifting gained a main interest. It was just old farmers bringing their stuff and trying to raise some money for (the roof of) the church. It was an empty building with local ladies volunteering and a table with a coffeepot and a tin with cookies for people to have a sit and chat.

I’d look for old handmades with a friendly vibe to put on the wall of the cabin. My foot treadle sewing machine is from there too. And my kitchen scales. Most of the crockery. Some hand tools.

In later years having friendly decorations became more important as I had fallen ill by then and was staying at the cabin permanently. I’d lie on the couch most of the day, not able to move or think, and it was vital to have friendly things in sight, wherever my gaze fell. This is the wall opposite my couch:
cabin cosy decoration cat window sill cat embroidery
The embroidered cats came from the thrift store, the rest are gifts from Ravelers (=people from Ravelry). All from people who understood I had to be approached softly but not tepidly. Most of them I hadn’t met in real life when they send me things. There are hummingbirds under the lamp 🙂

Over the years family and ravelers send cards and handmades and I stuck them on my walls and they encouraged me when I felt down:
cabin cosy decoration cat window sill cat embroidery
The birdy paperclips were a birthday present.

Above my sewing machine these two hang:
cabin cosy decoration cat window sill cat embroidery
That pincushion is a handmade taking hours of love, also a present from a Raveler 🙂 Someone I’ve met maybe twice in the past 8 years! Talked to her online four times total. You don’t need to be an active presence in my life to contribute significantly to my wellbeing 🙂

The wren I painted myself, sometime in the last century. The frame is all oak, from the church thrift store.

And this is the window sill next to my sewing machine, right over the chair Lillepoes loves to sleep on. It’s also opposite my couch so I’ve seen these cards every day all day long for the last 8 years 🙂
cabin cosy decoration cat window sill cat embroidery
Cards from Ravelers, handmade pincushions, cats and fairytales. These are the four subjects my happiness revolved around for all the time I’ve been ill 🙂 I’d simply enjoy the colours and the sentiments if I was very brainfogged. I’d explore compositions and alternative storylines if I had two braincells to rub together.

I no longer live at the cabin. I’m a city girl now.
Times have changed here too. The thrift store has moved into a real store and is now a professional venue. They still have coffee but it’s a machine now: drink up while you shop.
The old farmers have all gone and their (grand)children have sold all their stuff online, cashing in on “vintage”.

We visit the cabin for short stays now. A weekend here, a midweek there. I slide right back into the old habits of friendliness and peace. But it is not sustaining me anymore if I stay here for longer periods. If I stay here longer than 5 days by myself, I get antsy and sad. I feel society’s progress closing in. There’s always more traffic, more people, more stuff being build around here. Time is running through my fingers.

It’s still a safe haven but it’s edges are defined now.
I wonder where the next decade will see us. Me and the cabin.

By the way, I recognize this antsy-ness, the feeling of being restrained. It’s the sign of one door closing and not yet seeing which window opened. It’s the sign of new opportunities. Ones you can forge yourself, should you desire to.

It’s an uneasiness I know from points in my careers, studies, relationships, internet groups, society as a whole, you name it. So I’m not unsettled by the uneasiness itself. After all, it’s the breeding ground that brings forth the most innovative things.

It’s the possibility to determine and forge a new direction that hinders me. It feels like an obligation. Be smart. Act.

But I’m not ready to bring the cabin to a new era. I’m still very much attached to old ways, old nature and old embroidered cats on the walls.

Or other beasts:
cabin kitchen wall decoration embroidery bird gaai
(that’s the wall above my stove:)
cabin kitchen wall decoration embroidery bird gaai

Weird Wool Wednesday: competing in the brainfog

On the last row of the leg I see I’ve been knitting it wrong:

I did not start the pattern on the back of the leg, after I put in the waste yarn for the afterthought heel.

It’s my first after thought heel and it was all new, not having a clear bend in the sock, an end row after which you do something different. I kept the sock on magic loop and just continued what I’d been doing: stockinette stitch on one needle, pattern on the other. Aiming for the endgoal: the cuff. Because then there’s be dessert: knitting the striped heel!

Only now, after 68 rows, do I discover that my sock is WRONG. Not the sock I meant to knit. Butchering the designer’s intent.

I could cry… not because of the competition, even though I probably lost it now. But because I’ve been working so diligently, catching and correcting every mistake I make in the stitch pattern (and I make mistakes every row because of brain fog). And now I’ve made this big mistake and didn’t catch it for 68 long rows. All that concentration, all that dedication and positiveness. I feel cheated. I hate ME.

UPDATE

It’s now a few hours later and I’ve started a new sock, with new yarns (both Drops Fabel):

Nice in white with greenish contrast colour. I’ll see how far I’ll go. At least the pressure is of the competition now, for me.

Breaking News! Cat on lap.

Poekie is on my lap for the first time ever:
Poekie op schoot, voor t eerst! Lillepoes moest er ook bij natuurlijk. :)

We’ve had her for … oh, seven years now?
It’s only been a year and a half now that I’ve been living in the city more permanent. In that time she slowly allowed me to share my husband with her.

Particularly the last two months she’s becoming more and more friendly towards me. Not allowed to pick her up but am allowed to cuddle her when she stands close.

And there’s the chair. I think it’s my knitting chair. But she feels it’s hers. Today she’s big enough to share it with me, for the first time ever.

Of course Lillepoes had to join too. And she needs to be some distance from The Big Mean Tortie so my chest it was.

My Pussy Hat



I dressed up. It’s a beautiful day. I’m going all by myself to Nijmegen.

Today I’m participating in the National Women’s March.

womens march

It’s the first Saturday after International Women’s Day and in a few days we’re having national elections which, just like in the States, has flooded the country with extreme opinions. Polarisation.
I won’t stand for that. I stand for equality. For inclusiveness. For using some common sense and decency. We’re in this together, we are a society and we should take care of each other, all of us, for all of us.


(Been hitting the gym since September. I always planned to start lifting weight from age 40 and now, at 45 yo, I’ve started. Not bad, as I was still bed ridden only two years ago.)

The hat used to be my Too Tired To Think hat, made in 2011:

Made from gorgeous handspun from a Norwegian batt celebrating a Norwegian fairy tale (King Polarbear) and send to me my Ullsmeden in the Fairy Tale Swap Group. In a time when I was really really sick and I hurt so much over Norway.
The colours are from February snow over a forest, touched by the sun.

Now, here, in Holland, there are some voices that the transgender community feels hurt by the overall pink colour of Pussy hats. “They reference white women with pink genitalia.”
Personally I think that’s not the case. I believe the pink comes from “blue is for boy, pink is for girls” and we’re making fun of it.
Either way I have no answer when someone questions my colours today. Shall I tell about Norway?

The March will be inclusive and supportive. I highly doubt there will be any critizing or critique. If so I may sing my conversation partner a song from when I grew up: “You, to me, are everything. The sweetest thing, I’ve ever seen, oh baby! To you, I guess I’m just a clown, who picks you up when you down, oh baby…”
And I’ll shake the bells that are on the cat ears of my hat.

Or, if my voice feels good: “It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining! I feel good. Nothing’s gonna stop me now. Oh yeah.”

Now I hope someone talks to me. It IS a beautiful day!

Lüneburg in Germany and back to Holland

Lüneburg is filled with characterful houses:
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerkLüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerkLüneburgLüneburgLüneburgLüneburg

This is the street we were staying at:
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk

In that bit of shrubbery on the right a family of sparrows lives. They are chirping all day. To their neighbours, the family of sparrows, that live in the bit of shrubbery on the left. Those chirp back. It was so cheerful 🙂

We had a guided tour of one of the wedding guests of the St Michael’s church in Lüneburg. It’s an amazing place!
It’s old, filled with history and weird bits of information.
Bach was a student there, he studied music with the monks. Because of the salt trade the columns are crooked and the church might actually collapse. There’s a whole second church in the basement, by design.
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk

Yes, there’s a whole second church underneath the large church. The monks built it so they had a proper place of worship while they took their time to build the large church with attention. Rightly so, it took them 40 years to build the big place, back around 1400.
All the while they used the “basement-church” for their daily prayers and sermons:
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerkLüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerkLüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk
The under-church is still in use, in Winter, when it’s cosier and warmer there then in the big church.

There are ceiling-seals meant as resting points for the faithful gaze. They all depict an animal that have a special meaning.

Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerkLüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk

The church upstairs is beautiful too. But less cosy.
It’s large columns are crooked. 60 centimenters from the straight vertical!
There’s a string hanging from the top of the colomn, with a weight. It’s straight but it veers away from the column:
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk
The only thing straight in the upper church is the organ.

Back-up dinner:
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk

We had a stroll along the beautiful landscape surrounding Lüneburg. They made a tower there, just to have a view. And then we found a throne, in the woods.
LüneburgLüneburgLüneburgLüneburgLüneburg

More chocolate! This is a Lüneburger heath bonbon:
LüneburgLüneburg

The Lüneburger salt-sow (in the background there’s a Dutchman holding groceries (a.k.a.chocolate!) in a shopping bag):
Lüneburg
The story of the salt-sow is marvelous! It’s a 1000 years old.

It truely is that old. Once upon a time hunters saw a mythical sow with a white belly. Upon investigation they found where the sow had been sleeping, it was in a large salt pan. The salt had crusted her belly white.

That’s how the humans found out about the large salt deposits beneath the town of Lüneburg. They started to exploit the salt and it made them very wealthy, all through the Middle Ages. They brought up 20.000 tons per year in the 1400’s! That’s why the houses are so richly decorated. That’s why Lüneburg has been an important Hanze stad. They transported it to the town of Lübeck, which is now known for its Marzipan, and from there it travelled all over Europe. Especially to Bergen, Norway.

Salt has been a valuable commodity for centuries. Roman soldiers were payed their wages in salt.  Another illustration is the saying “The salt of the earth”.

Lüneburg had a blooming salt industry for centuries. They flushed the salt deposit underneaht the city with water, brought up the sludge and cooked to evaporate the water. Until stupidly smart people in the West started drying sea water and getting cheaper salt that way. The German industry dwindled and the factory closed in 1980, after having been in business for a 1000 years. A thousand years!

Now you see sows depicted all over Lüneburg. And all the houses -both old and new- swing and sway because the city now stands on unstable ground. Nobody knows where the caves have all been eroded away by the salt practices. This is why the St Michaelis church is so off kilter.

This morning we packed the car and travelled back, seeing some beautiful German landscapes. With strange phenomenons…the ground seems to reach for the heavens.., what’s this? These “hills”.
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Bit of a quarrel with my phone, I’m knitting while being driven:
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After a few hours we entered safe, flat grounds. Dutch landscape:
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More wrestling with my phone. Unmeant screen shot of my screen saver.
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Oooooh I miss the kitty! Looking so forward to get home and be showered with cuddles!

But when we came back home, my cat was lying on the lap of my brother, all cosy in a woolen blanket. She had been there for hours and was not interested in leaving nor saying hello to us.
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They’ve had a wonderful few days, filled with cuddles and naps and treats, our cats and family.

We kicked my brother out and after a while Lillepoes came to sit on my lap and everyone settled down for some recuperation time.

This is what 5 hours of travel knitting looks like, just two fingers width of collar/button band.

Someone picked up some bad habits 😉
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This is not for you, you never liked butter! It’s way too salty for you anyway.

All the loot from my trip 🙂
Lüneburg church St Michaels underkirche underchurch onderkerk

White wonder time.

winter canal dutch frost

These are the historic canals and harbour around my house 🙂
They illustrate nicely the “white time” that I often experience after Christmas.

white winter dutch netherlands

It’s a time for crisp morning walks, for snow sun and for looking into the skies while gazing internally. It lasts anywhere from two weeks untill the end of February, depending on the weather.

It is a winter mood but not the depressive kind. It’s the one of light and snow sparkle and cold. The time of anise and ginger drinks and light butter waffles, not the time of hot chocolate and gingerbread that go with xmas time.

These pictures I took last Thursday, when I went to get the car. I have to park a kilometre away because in historic Dutch cities there’s not much parking space.

That’s why we ride bikes:
winter canal harbour Holland Dutch Birman
This picture is from yesterday. Why dahlias? It’s winter! I don’t know. I had them last year on New Years Eve too and was just as amused by them.
winter canal harbour Holland Dutch Birmanwinter canal harbour Holland Dutch Birman
To celebrate this white time I took out all the green, red and gold ornaments of the tree. I received a glass bird from a friend and it was the perfect gift for this time of year. Years ago she gave a similar bird and it’s been over our wood stove all this time, all year round. I love glass 🙂

These days I particularly enjoy wearing my light coloured clothes. And my Wolop Advent shawl! It’s perfect for this weather and the colours are cool and light.
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And this time is about spinning, as it is Frau Holle time.
This week I spun that beautiful Tour de Fleece price I received this year: batts called “Birch”:

The ceramic bowl is Raku and holds the threads I use for securing skeins before setting the twist. It was made by Lieneke from Wolop because she commands many skills and she knows I love birches 🙂

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Are you done now? I now a cat that needs feeding.