Saturday, December 21, 2013

Breien Onderweg

Tomorrow, Jeff and I head for Germany and a long-anticipated Christmas visit with my brother's family. But we've had such a great time in Amsterdam, with many fiber-related adventures, and want to recap them here while things are still fresh in my mind. Before I forget -- I worked on my socks on the plane a bit, but didn't finish them as I'd hoped.

On our first day here, we were able to check into our hotel early. We headed out straight away to get our bearings and keep ourselves active and awake in an effort to stave off jet lag. And it just so happened that one of the places we wandered by is de Afstap in the Grachtengordel West neighborhood. They had a wide range of Rowan yarns, and kits for complicated stranded ponchos in bright colors -- a whole room full of them. One of the staff told me that they did a lot of commissioned knitting work, and that they had over 10 people employed making custom knitwear. One of their biggest areas of business was in knitting for local theater costumers. What a great gig -- but it sounds very high-pressure to me.

Yesterday, we visited the Van Gogh Museum, where I had the pleasant surprise of seeing a red lacquered box in which Vincent kept different colors of wool which he would twist together to test color combinations. Much of the museum was dedicated to discussing Van Gogh's interest in color theory; how cool to think that some of the startling colors in his beautiful paintings might have gotten their start with bits of yarn. He, along with some fellow artists, was interested in weavers as subjects -- he made several studies of them, including some "doodles" in a letter.

And this morning at a weekend outdoor market, we came across stalls of second-hand knitwear, much of it obviously done by hand. It was the Northern European equivalent of a pile of t-shirts at Goodwill. Among them were lines of used mittens -- mismatched and a bit grubby, but many of them knit by hand.

But this afternoon was the best! After a sober visit to the Anne Frank House and the municipal Amsterdam Museum, I made my way to the Spiegelkwartier through some cold drizzle to visit Penelope Craft, the other shop I'd identified previously. And although I knew he frequented the shop, I was surprised to see Stephen West, mister Westknits himself, right there! He graciously showed me some local yarns, of which I picked up a couple of brownish skeins, and we chatted about yarn and designs and color. Well, mostly I went on and on, but he was very kind to listen and happy to let me take a picture with him. And while he wasn't wearing his trademark swants, he had just released his Carol of the Swants video!


It was a great way to round out our Amsterdam trip. I got a copy of his book, Words of Wisdom, and I even have an errand I've been tasked with back home. I only got to meet the owner, Malia, for a moment, but then, she's a busy woman.

So it's on to Germany, where breiwerk will become stricken...



  1. It sounds like you had a wonderful visit to Amsterdam. How wonderful to meet Steven West in his natural habitat! I hope the holiday fun continues in Germany.

  2. What a great knitting adventure, Steven!

  3. I know it was probably a pain to blog from afar, but I'm glad you did!

    We had watched the Merry Swantsmas video earlier in the day. That song is a real earworm. I am trying to convince Boy 2 that swants would be perfect for him. So far he's not buying it.

    Have fun on the next leg of your trip. I wonder how many Regia yarn sightings you will have in the mother country (on feet or otherwise)?

  4. I'm jealous of you meeting Steven West! I really want his books though think you can only get them in London, here.
    Sounds like you and Jeff had a great time.
    Interesting little snippet re box of yarns, too. Didn't know that.
    Linda x

  5. Rereading your blog post as we will have a short stay in Rotterdam and Amsterdam on our way to the UK next April. I had Stephen & Penelope's shop on my list but not de Afstap. I never get done half of what I have on my holiday itineraries, but it's fun to make plans anyway.

    Van Gogh's yarn box is fascinating, I'd forgotten about that!