Friday, July 24, 2015

When in France


I briefly mentioned in my last post that I went to France for a wee break, so I thought to expand a bit on that. I went on a fairly short notice: my brother had asked me and my boyfriend to come along with him about a month or two before, but it was unsure whether I would be able to come as it fell right in the middle of my resits. Luckily I passed all my exams, so I had a green light to go.

The majority of the trip fell in line with the Tour the France route: we had picked the third, fourth and fifth stages of this multi-day race as interesting stages to visit. The third stage was a hilltop finish in the northern reaches of the Ardennes, the fourth a stage on cobblestones crossing from Southern Belgium into Northern France, and the fifth a relatively flat stage in the Pas de Calais. As I realise that this is not a cycling blog, I have good news for those readers who happen not to be interested in cycling: the stages took me to some of the prettiest places in Northern France and Wallonia.


As said, we started of in northern Wallonia. The town of Huy is famous amongst cycling enthusiasts for its very steep hill, the Mur de Huy - literally: the Wall of Huy -. Although the stage was marred by a large accident of the flat parts of the stage, the finish was impressive, with a final struggle between both general classification favourite Chris Froome and climbing expect Joachim Rodriquez being decided in favour of the latter, and what looked like a platoon of wounded veterans following.

Mural in Huy

 The town itself was impressive as well. The river Meusse flows through Huy, and the town is situated on the steep banks of the river. It was a lively town, but it's history was remarkable. In 1066 it became the first town with a city charter north of the Alps, and it thrived partly on the regional cloth industry. Many buildings in the town still are from Huy's boom period in the 13th to 15th century. The castle however was built in 1818: though there had been an impressive castle previously, the towns own inhabitants, who were frustrated that the castle made the town a target in every war in the region, tore it down themselves.

Cobblestones: the holy ground of spring cycling

The second day we spend on the cobblestone sections between Seraing in Belgium and Cambrai in Northern France. Last year, the cobblestone sections that are common in the spring races were first introduced into the Tour. The stage was notorious for being the one where Chris Froome gave up before even reaching the cobblestones. This year, there was far less rain and mud, making the stage a lot easier for the peloton and simultaneously harder for experts to escape. The atmosphere along the track was amazing: there were French fans cheering on the local hero in the race, there were -as always in cycling- large groups of Basques, and Welshmen cheering for Team Sky. One of the local had brought his chair to a bottleneck on the track as to better inspect the tourist. "Êtes-vous Allemands?" he asked, hearing us speak to each other. "Non, Hollandais." we replied, which made the man smile widely.

This was last year. The weather was a lot better this time.


At the finish line
This jersey (and complimentary umbrella) were the best of the loot in Arras
 Day three we spend at the start and finish zones in Arras and Amiens. This was a short, flat stage. As a child, I had been at these place before, but for my boyfriend the Tour circus was something completely new. The departure zone was a huge zone in the very friendly city of Arras. There were market stands with merchandise, food and regional products. After the start, we relocated to the arrival zone in Amiens, a city roughly 70km to the south in the Picardy region. It keeps amazing me how open the sport of cycling is. After the finish line, the team buses were approachable by the public, and the whole peloton rode through the crowds to get to the bus. For those with patience, those riders that wore classification jerseys came by when the majority of the crowd had gone, and they were very approachable for all the fans. A great experience! We even managed to make small talk with Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour de France.

Waiting for Vincenzo Nibali

My brother with Prudhomme

Peter Sagan!


Amiens Cathedral
Of the places we visited, Amiens was the most beautiful. Unlike the other towns, that were thoroughly regional, Amiens had a very international feeling, owing largely to it's status as a renowned university town. The town had beautiful parks, a quaint canal with restaurants and cafés along it, and a cathedral that is said to be one of the earliest and best examples of the Gothic architecture. Amiens is also the town where one of my favourite writers, Jules Verne, spend most of his life. It was wonderful walking the streets and seeing the many references to this creator of science fiction avant la lettre. Posters of Verne festivals, memorandums of the 100rd jubilee of his death, little references to his books... Even the university in the city was named after him!

Amiens Cathedral
  While I was in France I had the perfect knitting project in tow, for those waiting moments next to the track, and brief moments at our lodging. It did result in some odd looks here and there from surrounding spectators and local French kids (what, aren't they used to knitters in the cycling world?). The days were extremely hot, it was during that tropical heat wave we had going on in Europe, so in the days before we went I was hunting for the perfect warm weather project to take along. Luckily I found the perfect project, which I shall tell you more about later!

Park in Amiens
 Hope you have a great weekend! I'll be back with crafty content in a couple of days!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sibella Cardigan



It took me a bit longer to get back to the blog than I anticipated. The main reason is that I went to France for a wee road trip, which I just got back from. France was the holiday destination of my childhood, but this was the first time that I visited as an adult. I've seen new places, went to enormous cathedrals, saw many pro-cycling road races from close distance and ate my first crème brûlée. I might do a blog post about this trip later, but first, let me show a finished project.



At the beginning of this year, I set myself the goal to knit at least one sweater without colourwork. I know, that shouldn't be so hard. Looking at my projects on Ravelry however tells me that the last time I managed to do that was in the summer of 2013! That's two years ago! Sadly, it even was a cardigan that I didn't like upon finishing and have never worn since. Even thought sweater knitting is the thing I do most, apparently it is hard for me to step back from colourwork patterns. For the most part I am okay with this. Stranded knitting is my favourite technique and I wear my colourwork sweaters all the time, but I figured that mixing things up a bit (before I start my next stranded project) with something different is a good idea.Well, what better project to make a restart at this with than the Sibella cardigan?


The Sibella Cardigan is a pattern by Carrie Bostick Hog. It was first published a couple of years ago as a pullover, to which I immediately took a liking. Over the years it went in and out of my queue a couple of times. In July last year, both the cardigan and the pullover were published as part of the Madder Anthology Book One. I picked the cardigan because I liked it slightly better than the pullover, and I think my wardrobe is more in need of a cardigan rather than a pullover at the moment.


I used yarn that has been sitting in my stash for a long time, but it is definitely an (old) favourite of mine: Drops Alpaca. When I just started knitting I used this yarn quite a lot. Affordability and the enormous range if colours play no small part in it's popularity. I choose a denim(ish) blue, with flecks of red and white spun in. Blue is one of my most worn colours, so I am sure this one will get into regular rotation come autumn. 

This is my second blue, lace-yoked cardigan, the first one made from pattern 88-17 by DROPS design, in another colourway of Drops Alpaca. Though I wear most of my knitted garments regularly,  I do not think I've worn any of them as much as my first blue cardigan. The trouble is that it's starting to show some wear, especially around the elbows. That's why I am happy to have a new one in a slightly different pattern, which I hope to wear just as often.

See? This one doesn't have elbows that are worn thin!
Knitting and finishing the cardigan took me less time than I anticipated. I knitted it while I was emerged in uni work, and had little time for knitting. The combination of a clear well written pattern, straight forward knitting, a well loved yarn and the prospect of a new versatile cardigan did wonders for my knitting speed. The only modification I made was to knit the sleeves in the round instead of flat. I'm really happy with the fit of the pattern, the result is exactly how I pictured it when I started it.

Wishing all of you a great weekend!

xxx
Nisse




Monday, June 29, 2015

Summer update


Hi there,

It took a bit longer than usual to get back to the blog after my last post. As many of you probably assumed, my final exam and thesis got intense in the past month and I didn't even have time to give you an update of what was going on... Oops, sorry!

To top off the stress, I had to deal with computer that was tumbling down, a replacement that wasn't working properly and an external HDD that decided this was the perfect time to die as well. I was naively thinking that these kind of situations were only reserved for cartoons and sitcoms. The lesson to be taken from this it that you cannot back up your documents enough. Luckily, I backed up most of my uni-related documents, and today I managed to find a SD-disk with my holiday pictures!

Nimue helped with re-cataloguing my yarn-stash.

 Earlier this week I handed in my last paper for uni. If all goes well, I'll have some spare time ahead, but you never know. I am now slowly emerging out of my carefully crafted study cave, feeling like the first amphibian slowly taking its first steps on solid ground. I want to thank all of you for the good luck messages and comments I got here and on other platforms! They did the trick when I was bogged down with work and stress.

Nimue did, however, insist on taking regular breaks to enjoy the 30 °C sun through the window.


I have been planning what I hope will be an avalanche of summer crafting projects; mainly knitting and sewing. The length of my summer read-knit-and-sew list is marvellously unrealistic, but for me making the list was already lots of fun and it savours that small window of the summer in which everything still seems possible. I've been reorganising my yarn and (modest) fabric stash as well, as my documentation was all lost in the HDD-crash, and combined what I have with projects I want to make. So many possibilities. Wonderful, not a bad place to stand at at all!

I will be back in a couple of days to show you one of my new makes.

Xx
Nisse


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

My First Socks




I just finished my first socks. My first hand knitted socks, ever. After almost a decade of knitting  (what, really?)  I've taken my needles on a trip to ground level. I know knitted socks are quite popular; There are people who solely knit socks. I never was one of those knitters: I did enjoy seeing knitter's socks and their enthusiasm for different methods, but I've never had the urge to cast on any myself. This changed around a week ago, when I was browsing through my Istex books and a little sock pattern caught my eye. The urge to cast on for one right away hit me hard.What better time to teach myself new things, and knit my first socks than just before my final exams and (gasp) thesis writing... right?



The socks are made using a combination of Alafoss lopi, for the main portion of the socks, and Lett lopi for the contrasting colours. For the stripes, two strands of different colours are held together to create a marbled effect. I just loved the effect that produced. I might try it with Plotulopi for a different project. I almost squeezed this pair out of one ball of Alafoss lopi, but had to break into a second ball for the final two or three rows of the second sock. All in all, good value for a pair of socks. It will be interesting to see how they will hold up to wear and tear. I'm pretty confident that they will hold up well, because it is Icelandic wool, but you never know.



The day the yarn arrived was a happy day. I had anticipated that it would take me quite a while to finish the socks, because there were new techniques to learn and the aforementioned thesis demanded so much of my time. It turns out that Icelandic wool puts my knitting speed into turbo mode. Okay, maybe the relatively thick yarn and needles had something to do with the speed as well. I knit most of my projects on needle sizes 3-4-5, so knitting Alafoss lopi on needle size 6 was something new for me. I didn't even have the right needle size. I was pretty shocked! I sort of assumed that I probably had multiple versions of any size of needle by this time. I was wrong. Some days of looking for the mail man later, and my new wooden dpn's and I were finally on my way.



I know they are not the most elegant socks, but I really like them. They are the kind of socks that I wear a lot during the colder months. Taking sock pictures was something new. I'm used to taking finished project pictures, but sock pictures are a whole different kettle of fish all together. That's one of the fun parts about learning how to knit socks: There is a whole new world of knitting and styling to explore. Second-sock-syndrome has always been some mythical term that I heard of but never experienced for myself (and still haven't!). There are shelves of self striping and patterning yarn that need to be examined. A dazzling amount of different heel methods that so far have gone untried in the Treehouse. There's a whole lot more to sock knitting that I still have to discover.

It will be interesting to see where my sock knitting career will lead me. I don't suspect that it will make a large dent in the sweater, shawls and hats hegemony but you never know. Are you a sock knitter? What are your favourite sock yarns/patterns? Do tell! I've got lots to learn. 

Have a great week! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Something colourful



Something colourful arrived at the Treehouse last week. Due to my considerable enthusiasm and anticipation in the wake of its arrival my boyfriend expected that an unruly amount of yarn was coming the Treehouse's way. But no, this time a very different, and curiously flat package arrived my way. It was packed with a wealth of  cardboard rectangles with colourful pieces of string tied to them: Shade cards!



I only relatively recently discovered how practical these cards are, especially for planning colourwork projects. Ravelry is great for getting an idea of how the colours will look, and I can easily spend days on end musing about different colours from behind a screen, but the cards are perfect for more thorough colour planning. These are shade cards for the different Istex Icelandic yarn ranges. I bought the Lett Lopi card a couple a months ago, At the time I didn't think I would get much use of the other cards, but as of late I've been itching to trying their other yarns.  Plotulopi and Alafoss particularly had been on my radar, so this week I completed the set. 


Do you use shade cards often? Who knows, if these are a success I might go and source cards for other brands I use often. Now however, I'm off to do some serious colour plotting for a lopapeysa wardrobe...


Friday, May 15, 2015

Shilasdair Shawlette



When I went to Scotland last year I brought home some great yarn gifts to myself. Some have been knitted up already, others are still waiting in the yarn treasury for their turn. However, I did not only bring yarn back for myself. I brought my mum some wool as well. The choice went to two pretty Shilasdair fingering weight skeins. Shilasdair, hails from the Herbrides, the Isle of Skye. Shilasdair yarns are naturally dyed with locally sourced dye materials. The yarn is a mix  of 10% cashmere, 10% baby camel, 40% angora, and 40% lambswool, an interesting mix of different fibres. I wasn't sure how it would hold up, but my mum says it holds up very well. The colourway of the skeins I picked for her is moss, naturally dyed with meadowsweet, tansy, onion skins and indigo.



 My mum made it into a simple shawlette to show off the colours of the yarn. She used an old pattern from a Dutch magazine. Over here, these types of shawls are called "kippendoekje", or "Chicken cloth". These types of small shawls were worn by Dutch farmer's wives when working around the farm. There was quite some buzz about them in the Dutch knitting community earlier this year when a well known not knitting related Dutch magazine had a special about these shawls. There were a lot of different variations of "kippendoekjes" around, some incorporated a simple lace or texture, or a special border at the edge of the shawl, but first and foremost these were practical items, so they weren't too fussy, except for the ones for Sundays and special occasions. My mum knitted a basic version of this old tradition. She is very happy with the outcome, and is already planning to make a similar shawl in one of the red Shilasdair colourways.


I love wearing shawls, in all shapes and sizes. Small shawls are perfect for this time of the year, when the weather is starting to warm up, but it is not quite there yet.



In other news, my computer is crumbling down. On the one hand, she's an old cat so it was about time to find a replacement, on the other hand the thing was working perfectly fine until last week, so it has come as quite a surprise. Not the best timing, with the thesis writing going on, but I guess these things happen. If I'm around less, you know what to point fingers to!

Xx
Nisse


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mullspice Hat



Ah, the start of Spring. It marks the beginning of a time in which every self respecting knit blogger will present their readers with at least some out-of-season projects. I will kick things off here with a worsted weight cable hat. I started this project because I needed a quick and fun project for in between working on my thesis. As you read in my last post my knit time is fairly limited at the moment, as I juggle regular uni work with thesis writing. A fast, cable project was just what the doctor order to distract me from my 'meh'-feelings about my limited knit time (or time for anything not uni related for that matter).

Pattern: Mullspice
Designer: Alicia Plummer
Yarn: Malabrigo Rios
Colourway: Glitter



I fell for the rustic feel of the pattern. I had one skein of Malabrigo Rios in my stash which,while being a heavier weight, suited the pattern very much. Because Rios is a heavier weigh than asked for, I cast on fewer stitches. I didn’t do the folded brim, again because I’m using a heavier weight yarn and thought a folded brim would be a bit too bulky for my taste. I wanted to give Rios a try after my disappointment with Malabrigo Worsted. I have to say the yarn seems to hold up a lot better. I can only tell for sure when I have been wearing it for a while, but it looks a lot more promising than the worsted.


The pattern is a bit unclear about the decreases, specifically on what to do with the cables as you decrease. You can sort of intuitively figure it out, especially if you’ve knitted cabled projects before. I think most people expect that part in the pattern. I tried to keep the cable as it starts for as long as I could then I decreased the cables evenly from 3/3 to 2/2 cables and finally to 1/1. Other than that I had no issues with the pattern.

This was my first pattern by Alicia Plummer. Though not everything she makes is completely my style, I do like the rustic feel of her designs. I also think she has quite a recognisable aesthetics to her designs, which is admirable. While I liked some of her other designs, I'm not sure if I will start one soon. For one, I can only handle so many non-colourwork projects before I cave in and cast on an avalanche of stranded projects, and I'm not sure if her pattern writing style suits me. Perhaps Mullspice was not the best pattern as a first encounter, or to judge her patterns on. Mullspice was not a badly written pattern, but some information was lacking.


Overall I'm quite happy with the end result. The hat came out a bit bigger after a blocking. I have a small head, and think I could have gone for the smaller size, but it doesn't bother me much.I think I will get a lot of use out of my Mullspice when the cold sets in again.

xxx