Friday, December 27, 2013

Year's End

Our trip through Germany continues, with a bit more knitting, some knitted gift giving, and some yarny serendipity in a small town where my father's family lived 60 years ago.

First, my brother seems to really like the Grettir Sweater that I made for him last summer and gave him for Christmas. Jeff took a great picture of us together at the Gutenburg Museum in Mainz with Michael wearing it. It couldn't fit better, and it really looks good on him. He says, "Es ist die beste." I haven't gotten a picture yet, but my sister-in-law Suzanne also likes her shawl. She wore it the other day during a 5-mile walk we took from Nordenstadt through Igstadt and Erbenheim and back and reported that it was perfectly warm. I think maybe I could get into this Christmas knitting thing after all!

This evening, after getting back from a day trip (see below), I finally finished up the 3x1 ribbed socks I started way back in July -- nearly six months after starting them. I started them to have socks on the needle and to burn through some stash, but I never would have guessed they would have taken so long. This yarn fought me the entire way. It was splitty and z-twisted (as I learned from Janelle), and so I had to constantly wrestle with it. But the resulting socks are thick, warm, and quite possibly bullet-proof. I think I'll wear them tomorrow when we head down to W├╝rzburg. Lord knows the chilly days in which I can wear these will be few and far between in Texas. Maybe these will make good winter around-the-house socks.

And today, Michael drove Jeff and me over to Idar-Oberstein to walk around the town where my grandfather was posted in the US Army during the early 1950s. He was able to bring my grandmother and their only child, my father, to Germany to live with him for a few years. I grew up hearing stories about their life here. We climbed up to a church built into a cliff, and further up the cliff to walk around a schloss and a burg. We were rather nostalgic thinking about our father and grandparents climbing up these same paths and enjoying these views.

As we were walking down the main street of the town, I noticed some yarn for sale outside a shop in little baskets. A yarn shop! I'd been looking for one in either Wiesbaden or Mainz, but hadn't been able to figure anything out. And here one was! I was kind of on my own language-wise, but I managed to get across that I was a knitter. I looked around a bit; it was one of those shops where most of the yarns were from just a few companies. I didn't recognize the larger-gauge yarn company, but for the knees on down, this was a Regia shop. So I bought some gray (!) yarn for a pair that I hope to make in a pattern that in some way ties in with this town. I'll have to think about it.

I hope everyone is enjoying the end of the year holidays and has great plans of all sorts for the next year. Einen guten Rutsch!

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...


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Over There

Such a busy holiday season. Not much time to knit or crochet -- much lest post anything about it. But my semester is over, and a big trip is coming up, so it's time to sit back, recap, and reassess where I am right now.

First up, check out this Faux-Sno Globe I made with my knitting bunch on Saturday morning. It's kind of fun that we took a break from our crafting to do yet more crafting! Meg had gathered together supplies to make little fluid-less snow globes using jars, Epsom salts, and a myriad of figurines. My little Victorian Christmas carolers put a smile on my face, especially the Lady in Red. She looks like the holidays may have gotten the best of her. Thanks to everyone, and Meg especially for a great morning of munching and hanging out.

I've been working on the Squared Away Throw somewhat steadily. It's slow going, with little mistakes here and there. Crochet seems more forgiving than knitting -- or maybe I'm just less uptight about it. A square on the previous row has 10 rows rather than 11? Eh -- no one will notice. But when I do have to rip back, it's so comforting to know there's only one live stitch at any time to be fretting over. Luxury!

The throw is getting too big to wag around, so I'm leaving it at home when we head out to The Netherlands and Germany in just two days to see sights and visit family. I'm going to just take knitting for socks. First up, I plan to finish the 3x1 ribbed socks that have been languishing for a while. I'm at the heel flap for the second sock, so I should have the pair finished by the time we land Wednesday morning. Then, I hope to work on a pair using the Paper Moon pattern by AnneLena Mattison from the Deep Fall 2011 issue of Knitty using some dark green (of course!) yarn I got for my birthday. If that gets done -- well, I'll just have to buy more, won't I?

I've scoped out a couple of yarn shops to possibly visit while in Amsterdam -- De Afstap and Penelope Craft. If any readers know of others, let me know. I'll be posting images from time to time at my usual social media haunts, but if you want to follow via Instagram, my handle is sevenlefts. I'll try to do a post or two on the road, but if not, I'll recap my adventures when I get back.

Happy Holidays!