swap received: pincushion squirrel!

pincushion squirrel knittedpincushion squirrel knittedpincushion squirrel knitted
Wonderfully crafted. All knit!

I’m meant to prop up his tail and then sew him into his green cushion. That’s where the pins go, because the maker knew I didn’t want to stick pins in an animal or human figure.
So thoughtful and absolutely lovely ūüôā

Made by a lovely woman, who got married just last week! Where did she find the time and the calmness to craft so delicately? She’s a superwoman indeed.

It’s Jannetta from StitchFiddle.com, the free online program to make knit- and embroidery charts.


Charting snowdrops for the mushroom dyed vest (spencer)

I want to have my stranded spencer on the way for the wool fair on 19 and 20 May in Nieuwport. I’d love to show the tutor then some results of his dyeing workshop.

I’ve determined I need to cast on about 250 stitches, on needles 2,5 mm, aiming for a gauge of 30 st/10 cm. I need to redo the math before I cast on but it’s good enough to start charting in Stitchfiddle.

My inspiration for the bottom of the spencer is one of the mitten kits from Riihivilla, mushroom dyer expert in Finland. The pattern is Snowdrop Mittens by Jouni Riihelä and Leena Riihelä, only available with the kit.
 pic by Riihivilla

I’m also looking at the free¬†Snowdrop chart by Sandra J√§ger which was nicely modified by Tribpot in her Snowdrop Square.

But both are not the snowdrops that are my favourites. These designs have their snowdrops open and well in bloom:

The ones on the cuff of the mittens even look to be a double hybrid:

This is how I love my snowdrops:
Untitled pic by me

A closed, white drop, like a little bell, with a little green hat and blueish slender leafs. I should be able to chart these. Even though I don’t have a dark green in my palette of mushroom dyed yarns.

I’ve set some other parameters for the spencer: Jugendstil feel instead of Fair Isle. (Fair Isle has small ribbons of repetitive patterns). No diamond shapes but rather flowing lines. But not too large/high.

Eeek, I’m still nervous to start serious charting so I wasted some precious time making this collage to get in the mood:
snow drop collage art nouveau

Not sorry I wasted time. It has beautiful pictures and lines!
And, after all, humans are eye-loving animals. (That’s crooked language, it sounds like we love to have them for dinner. Should it be “visual creature”? “Sight addicts”? Don’t know. We love patterns and colours and seeing things.)(In that vein: I love how cats learn to tolerate our adoring gazes. To them, staring is rude and threatening. But nearly all pets learn that their humans are eye-addicts and they allow us to stare at them and adore them. I love when life serendips like that.)(What? Should totally be a word.)

The collage has some embroidered snowdrops and those translate well onto knitting charting paper. As long as you modify them a bit because a knitted stitch is not square.

Eventually I did get to work. Here’s my work in progress:

Each row only has two colours. Where there are 3 colours on the chart, that one stitch will be slipped from the previous row, thusly stretching it a bit up to the current row. It’s not an extra stitch or third colour in that row.

Sooo. Wasted some more hours writing this post. Did you notice my detours or was I stealthily enough to still claim efficiency?

Yeah, I thought so too.

Alright, I’ll do some more charting now. Those leafs don’t look very “Art Nouveau” to me and I need something “curly” on the top to make the transition to the next thing above. Which will be….ermm….??

doing the free style colourwork in de Petal Lace cardi

This is the pattern I made, freehand, for my Lace Petals Cardigan:

made with free charting program Stitchfiddle.com

Now I’m knitting stranded. Working with DK goes fast and there are only 107 stitches. Still it’s not as easy as I thought. Because the pattern has no repeat I have to look at the screen all the time and count count count. And I’m working to and fro instead of in the round. Doing stranded knitting on the WS (Wrong Side) is somehow more difficult than doing it from the RS.

The yellow accents I will embroider upon the knitting. Just like Tilly Trout showed me. Right now I’m seriously doubting if the grey has enough contrast from the green. But there’s always doubt when I knit so I’m knitting on.

In the mean time I’m waiting for the new pattern for the Sock Madness to drop. I also have two other socks on the go, one which I’m going to frog and start over in new, happier¬†colours.

And I’m knitting on my sport weight cardigans, both Pumpkin Ale and Old Towns cardi. These finer yarns make my muscles ache so it’s good to work with thicker yarn at the moment. This is DK, handdyed by Wolop. Can’t wait to add the yellow accents.

Free style colourwork

Ahh, Spring is in the air! I have knitted my Petal Lace Cardigan towards the hem where a band of colour work will be:

Now it’s time to ¬†decide on the colourwork and for this I’ve been playing with Stitchfiddle, the free website that lets you create knitting charts.

I’ve set out a canvas on Stitchfiddle as wide as the whole border of the cardigan and I’ve drawn vertical lines from the lace petals to the bottom. I want each line to have a petal in colourwork. Quick sketch:
Now it’s time to design the petals. Which shape? Which colour where?¬†How to distribute the contrast? They should have little yellow accents because Lieneke has shown me they really liven up the colours:

And I need to be a bit careful with the teal because it’s also used for the button band. (Oh, the ball of teal is not in the picture). And what colour will the hem be?
Also: sleeves will have a colour band too. Use up all the remains!

So I’ve been playing around. Crudely drawing to get a feel for shapes and sizes and colour contrasts. And then I watched the new podcast by Tilly Trout (lovely podcaster, go watch here).

In it she shows a lovely bit of fair isle she’s working on. A swatch in Uradale¬†yarn, inspired by the book Shetlandic Knitting by Marja de Haan, from Trollenwol yarnshop.
pic by Marja de Haan

Tilly Trout has added some light, mustard coloured accents.
Which are cross stitched. On knitted fabric. Because a cross stitch, in wool, gives a different “pop” than a duplicate stitch:
 still from Tilly Trout episode 33
Very interesting!

Storing this idea in my head for if I want solo yellow accents on my cardigan.

Later on Tilly talks about how embroidery nowadays is different from a few decades ago. Back then things had to be neat and tidy. Cross stitch. Count threads.

Nowadays it’s more free. Freehand. Freestyle. Go by eye, not by thread count. I feel¬†there’s a cross pollination with the recent trend with handlettering:
¬†pic by Breimonster, who’s into embroidery, handlettering, sewing, knitting and the general crafty life.¬†She’s also a Physics teacher by profession. And she’s the first Dutch person to finish the qualification sock for the Madness, she’s now in the fastest team with all the Finns and winners from previous Madnesses. She’s¬†marvelous!!

Free style colour work? Interesting! (2)

Why should I try to make my colourwork all neat and in a 14 st repeat pattern? Stitchfiddle has already given me a chart for the whole band, should I desire so. I could knit the whole band, without a repeat, just like I sketched it!

You know, this may be just the thing I’ll do. Freehand colourwork, no rules, no symmetry! It’s what I’m staring at and thinking about on this lovely Springday, while I knit my new Dropped Madness socks very precisely to the rules.

Ah. I found my teal ball.

Spring is in the air, Spring is in the knitting:

Wolop Adventshawl pictures and charts

chart 1: https://www.stitchfiddle.com/c/sj4l72-8ly3pm/quickview
chart 2: https://www.stitchfiddle.com/c/sj4itg-6t4lyt/quickview

All charts made in free online tool StitchFiddle. A friendly site for intuitive chart making for knitting and crochet and cross-stitch. Both colour charts and symbol charts. You can also upload a picture and it’s automatically converted to a chart for stranded knitting. I played with that a year ago, for the Elementary My Dear Swap:

Screen Shot 2015-11-10 at 16.50.52

This year was all about patterns in small strips with the colour I was given that day of the Wolop Advent Box. Here’s my shawl this morning, after a month of wearing:

I’m not that relaxed when posing for pictures:

Then Robert says: “Smile for the cat!” and things get better:

I’m wearing my Peabody pullover in Soft Donegal, a 100% Merino in a ply with nubbs. I don’t wear it often. I knitted the pullover in 2013/2014 and knitted it too short, I’m always pulling it down. The yarn pills a lot (I’m a loose knitter and it’s merino) and the pattern is not high enough in the back of my neck causing me a chill.

Really, I should chuck this sweater out, it takes up too much space for the one time a year I wear it. But it was soooo much effort to knit it. Two years it took. With many brainfogged struggles.

But I think I’ll wear it another day today. It looks great with the Advent Shawl.

finished: Wolop Advent Shawl!

It’s blocking and drying:

Here are some of the final motives:

Cats with Paw Peerie by Sandra J√§ger and also hedgehogs from her. I didn’t have enough brown/mauve for the final row but they still look like hedgehogs to me.

My golden embroidery scissors.

The purple shirts I never sew.

A ribbon of flowing water; hedgehogs; mushrooms; something that may or may not be square eggs or daisies in the only multicolour I put in the shawl.

Cat paw prints; “Advent 2016”; new stars to replace the ones from December first and December nineteenth ; some geometric design in which I ran out of dark purple and finally: some fish (using different shades of the pastel greys. The purple one, the blue one and the lilac I dyed myself. Ran out of that one at the final fish and inserted some white.)

Kitchener stitched everything together, with the fish right underneath the polar bears:

The geometric design is a prelude to next year’s project. I want to do another one of these Adventsboxes!

Next time I’d love an overall design flowing through the whole cowl, with only the colours changing, following the wisdom of Fair Isle knitting when it comes to colours, colour families and contrast.

For the pattern I’m leaning towards Art Nouveau. Leaves. Curls. Smoke rings. A pattern which I’ll probably design myself, using StitchFiddle, the free online charting tool.

Advent shawl 2016 was made entirely on Stitchfiddle. It took two charts of 200 rows high each. I’ll clean them up and share them publicly. In a post with pictures of me wearing the cowl. Right now it’s still wet.

22 dec: gnomes in StitchFiddle and rebellious hotdogs in nativity play.

Today’s Wolop Advent colour for me is some sort of coral:

I’m going to knit it into gnome’s faces:

knitting chart gnome

These three I sketched in Stitchfiddle. I really like this program. By now I’ve added all the particular colours of my box to the palet:

stitchfiddle.com¬†It works really neat. If I change the shade of one colour in this palet, for example because I didn’t value it well enough next to a new colour I receive, than the colour in the chart changes with it.

The program is filled with all these neat things. I read about some of them in the Ravelry group¬†but most of them I discovered myself, StitchFiddle’s desingers are really big on intuitive usage of the site.
If I ever do have a question the programmer, Sander, is very fast to answer in the Rav group.

I’m ready for some gnomes now:

I put in some abstract version of “herring”, as I didn’t¬†manage to design a nice fish. I like the blue and white, it talks to me of Holland and Delft and of Delft pottery. I studied architecture in Delft and did some ceramics there ūüôā

On top of it is a band of what was supposed to be mistletoe but as I changed the back ground colour from grey to this purple, nearly Wollmeise Fliederbusch purple, it now reminds me of the Elderberry and of Frau Holle.

A knitter friend of mine, Tineke from Atelier Het Groene Schaep, is also thinking of Frau Holle today. She’s performing as a hot dog in a x-mas play as we speak.

The play is a¬†Frau Holle story for children and I think Tineke is a hot dog that doesn’t want to leave the oven because the girl is not doing her best. Although I’m not sure if these kind of moral messages are still advocated to children nowadays. Tineke might just be a rebel hotdog in its own right. She’s a rebel in real life, a proper wool rebel.

 Fritz Kunz

I’m gearing up for Frau Holle too. Soon I’ll be spinning.

14 dec: Succesfull living at 60%

Today I’m up to date with the revealing of my Wolop Advent colours again ūüôā For the next few days the little bags go into my owl suitcase and will travel with me to Midwinterwol, the wool fair in the north of the Netherlands.

I’ll be assisting Lieneke from Wolop in her booth. Surely there’ll be some time to knit?

I can¬†knit on it again because the white yarn is here! Send with a lovely x-mas card and the new issue of Ashford’s magazine the Wheel. Thank you, Textielwerk Wol En Zo!

My next pattern will be the x-mas trees! I’ve been looking forward to them since day 2 of this Advent adventure.
knitting chart x-mas tree stitchfiddle.com
This is the chart I eventually made. You can copy it freely, if¬†you like. I think it’s publicly shared over at StitchFiddle.com, with this link.

Not sure when I will get to knitting the trees, I’m travelling to Midwinterwol tomorrow with Wolop and there may not be any time for knitting until late at night. And I’m not good with charts when I’m tired…

I baked myself some cookies for encouragement:
And to play out stories. The little deer is called Bambo. He’s all sweet now and looking for a new friend, preferably a rabbit. But he’ll grow up to be a famous boxer and actor.
The squirrel isn’t buying it.

To make the transition from the soft contrasts of the past week the the distinctive white and x-massy green I inserted a line with “harsh” blue diamonds with white centres:

For this I had to do 3 colour knitting!
There’s also a row like this in the orange crown chart, which you can see better now.

3 colour knitting goes like this:
1. have a cat insist on sitting in the way
2. have one colour on the left and knit it continental. Have one colour on the right and knit it English style (flicking). Have one colour on the right and knit it Dutch style (throwing).
3. have a cookie.

Then I finished two things today!
The stranded owls have indeed become a kidneywarmer:

The bottom border flips…. there’s nothing I can do about that. I’ll see how much it annoys me when using this. Besides it still needs blocking, that might bring some good no?
At the top I did 5 rows of 2×2 ribbing and cast off with JSSBO, Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off.

And the handspun Blue Texel/ Shetland thing is finished!

Ooh, how I wanted this shawl/ blanket to be stylish. To be city like. Sophisticated. To go with my fancy clothes and fancy jewellery and fancy bag.
But all this time I was very worried I wouldn’t have enough yarn for a nice border. And I had no idea how to ration the uptake of stitches to the diagonal knitting. You know that when you’re picking up stitches on a right angle, the ratio is 3 stitches for every 4 rows. But what is it for diagonals? That and the not-enough-yarn was enough hindrance to stop me in my tracks. For months. And that’s a pity. Such a pity.

This week I once again reminded myself that at 60% life is easy. Or maybe not easy but certainly life at 60% is doable. Living life at 60% makes you not sweat the small stuff. And even though you may not be proud of the things you do, you can do a lot in a day when you perform at 60%.

In terms of result, 60% is all right too. 60% results is not bad, not bad at all. You can work with 60% results. It’s better than 50% and way better than zero.

So I took my Blue Texel Shetland yesterday and I just crocheted a border around it. Any border. Just double crochets on hook 5 mm and that’s it.
Job done, shawl usable (it already was in use, just not outside of the house) and now not looking too shabby.

Alright, it does look shabby… with the loose ends dangling and the borders flipping and I probably could have crocheted a better number of stitches and also in another size hook and a wider border because I have pleeeeeenty yarn left. A knitted border would use even less yarn and with some kind of ribbing I could counteract the flipping.
Aaaaaaand… that’s thinking at 85% and that will ruin my day.

I’m glad it’s finished. I get to use it officially now! Once again I’ve felt how utterly comfortable this piece is, it really is a joy to touch. Way more sympathetic than my acrylic blanket, I must say.

Lillepoes certainly knows it. She knows when living at 60% is a gateway to 100% satisfaction:
cat under knittingcat under knittingcat under knittingcat under knitting

cat under knittingcat under knitting

11 dec: the need for order & control

So today’s Advent colour is actually tomorrow’s colour. And the colour of two days later. The missing white is really making me stressed and I solved it by peeking at the days to come and finding two very light colours I can use to bring some light contrast into the shawl.

Yes, it’s cheating.
No, I don’t mind one bit.

This Advent Shawl is a game of pleasure and I want to enjoy my knitting.
I really like knitting stranded every day for a bit, thinking up patterns, trying them out in StitchFiddle, enjoying the flow of the quality yarn through my fingers.

And although¬†I do like working within a pre-set frame of rules -it invites you to be creative- I’m not going to let one of the rules hamper my knitting pleasure.

Besides, I’m pretty stressed these days, feeling overwhelmed and incompetent with all the things on the to-do list that I’m not getting done. I don’t need the extra aggrevation of colour contrast troubles.

As an illustration of my need for order & control today I knitted little pink squares:

The next part are reindeer. Today’s the Swedish Julemarket in Groningen, a 3 hour train ride from here. I would have loved to have gone so much! But really I can’t.
So reindeer ūüôā

Hopefully tuesday the white skein comes. I was contacted by the webshop owner late last night that she had read my mail and she would send the skein monday asap!
Until then she’s at the Swedish Julemarket, lucky her.

For the rest of my stress I’m telling myself: “Calm down already!”
Which is a useless phrase to throw at someone who’s stressed.

Useless, unless they’ve been handed the tools to calm down. Which I have. So here I go, calming down:

1. I’m safe, warm and nurtured. If I connect to my body and ask if we have any reason to be stressed it will respond: “noooo?”.
If I connect to my body I can enjoy some time with it and experience how happy it is, being safe, warm and nurtured. This will lower my stress levels fast.

This is what Mindfullness or a hot bath or Reverse Therapy or sitting in the garden with a cup of tea all do. Very important life skills to have.

If you do them a couple of times a day, let’s say two times a day, the calming down becomes a habit and you can enter that state with just one breath, anytime. No more “Fight or Flight”.

I myself was amused to discover there’s a whole other way time can pass. Not in seconds. Different.
I suspect this is what cats and cows experience when they’re peacefully resting.
just relax pic by Christian Pichler

2. Soooo….all stress I perceive today is mental stress, every subject brought on by myself, chosen to deem important.
That means I can pick and choose from this list. Ban some of them to the back of my mind, or even just ignore them. My husband proposes the need for making and sending x-mas cards as the first item to scrap. I’m not there yet, I want to create things.
Another one is not subjecting myself to the way news is reported. It’s all so manipulative and fear mongering and enticing. This one has been pushed out long ago. I follow investigative journalism and documentaries instead.
Subjecting yourself to the emotional format a Disney film follows is another one. I don’t need an orchestrated cry 45 minutes into a movie.

Other to-do items I can lump together and allow a time slot: “Tomorrow morning, 20 minutes, to do some of those administrative things that have been looming.”

3. Thirdly I chose two things each day to put on top of my to-do list. A useful, grown up thing such as reviewing the painters’ offers or health assurance reassessment. And a thing that makes me happy, such as sewing or taking a bath. There’s not much time for anything else really, with the time it takes to maintain my body and my household. So if (any of) these two things get done I’m glad and accomplished for the day.

And that’s how I handle stress.
In theory.
In reality I don’t do the “sit still for five minutes and notice how your body is safe and happy”, not even once a day. But I will today. Sit still. Except for hands, let them move, holding yarn.

Yeah, that’s what I’m doing today. Sit in my living room and knit for a bit, enjoy the advent things on display, the tree, the moose, the snoring cats. Have a cup of tea. Five minutes of not having to do anything in particular. Just breathing and noticing my body is safe, warm and nurtured.

internet meme from comic Gunshow by artist K.C. Green

9 december: x-mas balls

This is my tree:
x-mas tree baubles kerstballen 2016x-mas tree baubles kerstballen 2016
It stands next to my knitting chair and it’s a real tree. It’s decorated all silver and red, with my favourite glass x-mas baubles.

This is our other tree, it’s in the front room, visible from the street and it’s the plastic one:
x-mas tree baubles kerstballen 2016x-mas tree baubles kerstballen 2016
It wouldn’t hold the new piek I bought so it now has the light weight felted cat angle. I got it in one of my very first swaps on Ravelry, all the way from Finland.

(Who designs a fake tree that won’t hold the weight of a glass piek on top? That’s #2 requirement for a fake x-mas tree, I’d think.)

My new piek now sits on top of the real tree:
x-mas tree baubles kerstballen 2016
I didn’t have to cut off the top which is good because I’m going to try and plant the tree in the garden once x-mas time is over. I love this tree. I put in the baubles I love most. A bird house and owls and a robin and many pine cones. They’re all glass.

On the cabinet on the left is a paper Advent star I got for Sinterklaas, in it is a string of LED-lights that my husband programmed to change colour. Initially programmed to resemble a cosy fire it now serves as a cosy star.

Besides delicate glass baubles any tree of mine should have chocolate balls:
x-mas tree baubles kerstballen 2016Untitled
These are from the HEMA and have a sweet illustration on it. Very 2016, don’t you think? With the light background and the way the animals are drawn. I’ve got tea tins from S√łsterne Grene that are in the same style:
x-mas tea tin Sosterne Grene
If you go onto Pinterest I’m sure you could make a collection of various illustrators all doing this style.

Anyway, decorated chocolate. No tree is complete without it.

The thing with mass produced chocolate is that I’m allergic to cheap vanilla flavour.
It gives me the strangest of symptoms: thoughts of doom. It’s true! Just 2 or 3 hours after consuming something with cheap vanilla in it, let’s say waffles or the average chocolate brand such as Twix, Mars, Cote d’Or, Milka etc. I get very depressed. Desperate. “I’m worthless, life’s worthless, the world is doomed.” Very unhappy.
Two hours later I’m fine again.
It was one of the stranger sensitivities to figure out. (Another one is: a draft against my ankles = 12 sneezes.)(how about this one? I’m hungry = I’ve got to pee.)
Even though it’s only a couple of hours of misery it’s something that’s really not worth my wile/ time so I avoid cheap vanilla like the plague.
pic by captcreate

The thing the second is: I’m fine with normal vanilla. Vanilla pods, vanilla powder, Bourbon vanilla = all fine, in fact I LOVE it. Vanilla flavour makes really happy.
It’s only the cheap stuff that gets me. Apparently vanilla consists of two substances: vanilla and vanillin. Vanillin is the stronger of the two for taste and smell and can be made cheaply by bacteria. Profit!
Vanillin is the only one I react severely to. Because all the human (brain) cells have receptors for vanilla, or something, and the vanillin part is just too aggressive?
Anyway. I’m fine when I eat expensive bonbons and chocolatier products or use vanilla pods or vanilla powder from the organic shop.
√Ārvore de Natal - Chez BonbonOutra da Chez Bonbon
pics by Bruno Fontes for Chez Bonbon

The third remarkable thing is: cheapy cheap chocolate such as these chocolate balls and the chocolate Sinterklaas and Kerstman (Santaclaus) and Easter Bunny I get from the Aldi, Lidl or Action are all made with real vanilla.
x-mas tree baubles kerstballen 2016
Now I’ve got chocolate (and) x-mas balls on the mind so today I’m knitting balls in my Advent shawl. I’m using a Wolop yarn I purchased earlier this year:

On my screen you see StitchFiddle¬†in action, I’m making the stranded patterns for my shawl as I go along. Today I had thought to do a tree but the blue that came from the Advent box has so much contrast next to the white that it doesn’t fit my shawl.

I think I’ll do a rose with the blue instead, you know, the typical Norwegian rose/snowflake:

Norwegian roses by Birger Berge, a paid for pattern knitted in Rauma Finullgarn.

Here’s a late night photo of my finished Fir Cowl, all its ends woven in:
¬†I’ve been wearing it all day. I think I’d enjoy having a second one, it has the right amount of snugness.

Because I was one of three to knit this cowl so fast the designer gave me a free pattern! I chose this one:

Lady Liberty by Ursa Major Knits

Isn’t that great?!
Minor thing is that I’m pretty stressed for time these days. The end of the year is looming and I still want to do so many things this year. And there are many administrative things to handle before the year ends. And I haven’t sewn any clothes for weeks now and on Monday there’s already a new class of pattern drafting.
I’m really exercising my “relaaaax, it’ll be fine muscle” these days.

OMG I still have to make pannacotta today! And balls aren’t even done yet.