Thursday, October 1, 2015

Blue Flora Dress

My boyfriend graduated earlier this summer (yay!). His official graduation was on Wednesday two weeks ago , which felt a bit odd to both of us as he has been working at a new job pretty much since he passed his final exam. Nonetheless graduating is a preeeettty big thing and it deserves to be celebrated a such. I have to say though, this celebrating can be quite a challenge for an introvert whose equivalent of a "wild night out" is either sitting at home with her knitting, a good cup of tea and an audio book or behind her sewing machine singing along to Queen songs. So I decided to make it easier and more fun for me, by taking some of "my kind of party" along. No, I did not sit through the ceremony with my knitting... I thought that was taking it a bit to far (though in hindsight!), instead I sewed myself a brand new dress for the occasion.

The pattern is the Flora Dress from By Hand London. When I first got properly interested in sewing clothes this was an upcoming indie sewing company, and I didn't really see them much anywhere. By now they're one of the best known brands in the indie pattern sewing community. I made the tank bodice of the Flora Dress, in the straight circle skirt variation, to make her more wearable during colder weather. I'd like to try the dipped hem circle skirt at some point as well, perhaps next summer.

The dress, as written, has a bodice lining, which I decided to turn into a full lining. Inserting lining was a first for me. I simply wasn't convinced about the advantages of a lining in relation to the trouble/extra time/extra fabric needed for inserting one (unless your outer fabric was see-through). What a fool I was! I'm totally converted to Camp Lining now! I love how clean it makes the inside of the dress look, I love what it does for the neckline and I love how much better the dress sits, and it gives the dress some extra warmth. As a bonus: no more dresses that stick to my tights for me any more! I'm super happy with the lining (and probably a tad more smug about it than I should be).

Another feature of the dress that went unexpectedly well was the invisible zipper. My last try at an invisible zipper was a DIS-AS-TER, and it totally ruined the dress beyond salvage. I'm still not completely over it. (How do you mean, "you never blogged about that"? OF COURSE I never blogged about it! It was a disaster!) But a sewing hiatus and a new invisible zipper foot later and I was ready to give it a new shot. Although installing the zipper took me longer than it probably should take (I wasn't taking any chances) I'm happy with the outcome.

This was my first shot at a By Hand London pattern. I was keen to try the pattern, and it definitely did not disappoint. The pattern directions are really clear and extensive, and to top it of most of their patterns have a detailed sew-along dedicated to them on the website. Apart from the clarity of the patterns, which I do admit is the most important aspect, I like the tone of the writing in the patterns as well. It's informal, it's cheerful, and yet it's informative; in short, I like it very much.
Finally, each pattern is dedicated to a female Muse, a woman whom the team knows in real life and admires. This just makes my feminist heart sing. Due to business difficulties, the company had to stop producing paper patterns, and now only sells pdf- patterns. Personally I much prefer paper patterns though, and luckily I was able to still find some of the patterns that I really would like to make in paper versions. Though, one of the new patterns that never even appeared in paper form and which I want to make, is only available in pdf, so I'll have to make the jump at some point. That'll be my first sewing project from a pdf, so at least I'll be able to say that I'll definitely learn something new.

The Flora really is a summer dress, so from now on I really should adjust my sewing to the colder weather ahead. Luckily I have a wardrobe bursting with handknits to layer her with, so I can keep on wearing her for now. I didn't bother with making bra straps for now, as I will mostly be wearing it with sweaters anyway. I can see the advantage of them during warmer weather, so I might make them then, if I can be bothered enough. 

The dress is not perfect. There are probably a bunch of things that I could do to make it better. Fit wise, I might do a full bust adjustment next time, to improve the fit of the bodice. For now though, I'm just really happy to have ended up with a nice new dress, but even more to have gotten back into sewing, pretty smoothly, thanks to this pattern. 

Towards the end of the summer holiday (oh the irony) the sewing bug really hit me. Past year has been rough on the craft front. University soaked up so much of my time, knitting suffered and got done only on few and in-between times, and sewing came to a complete stop all together. I needed most of my summer holiday to recover from the past year, without being able to really pick up my crafts where I left them, but once things got a bit normal again inspiration finally struck, to the point where I even dreamt about the long to-make-lists that I'd made during the day. I'm hoping I can manage to juggle responsibilities enough to make a tiny dent in that long list of awesome dresses, knitting projects, and sewing patterns I want to make reality.

I hope you all have a positive, crafty year as well. Do you have any sewing plans for autumn? 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dutch Traditional Ganseys 2 or Visserstruien 2

At the the end of August, Visserstruien 2 (Dutch Traditional Ganseys 2) by Stella Ruhe was published. The first volume was published in September 2013 and got quite some attention, both in the Netherlands and abroad. One of Stella Ruhe's findings in volume 1 is that many people in Dutch fisher communities had forgotten that the people there even used to wear ganseys at all. Partly because knitting, at the time, was a field dominated by women, and therefore deemed not important and partly because ganseys were work clothing, so again beneath attention of historians or conservation. Due to Stella Ruhe's first book, many more people started to do research in their personal family archives; this more sweaters were uncovered and the findings are presented in this new book.As in book 1; it combines old photos of fishermen sweaters with photos of re-knitted sweaters.

Volume 2 follows the same concept as its predecessor: a part of the book consist of historical background and a look into the lives of fishermen and their families, followed by a chapter on knitting, and finally chapters about the actual sweaters, divided by region. There are differences between volumes one and two though; the first book offers some broader information about Dutch fishermen, their women, and the sweaters themselves, in general keeping the focus steadily on the Netherlands. In contrast, volume 2 does offer a brief recap of the findings in volume 1, but then shifts focus to two different aspects of fishermen sweaters: first the foreign connections that influenced the fishermen and their ganseys, and in addition a detailed description of the day-to-day life of a fisherman at sea.

The first part of the book focusses on the connections the fishermen made in abroad, particularly in England, Scotland and Ireland, but also Scandinavia, Iceland and even Greenland. The English and Scottish sweaters had a great influence on the Dutch sweaters. This influence can be glanced from the many similar motives in British and Dutch sweaters. A reason for this similarity is that fishermen's wives all over Europe found inspiration from the same source: the sea and everything involved with fishing. Ruhe points out the similarities as well as differences between sweaters from the various countries involved. What I found particularly interesting in this chapter is the discussion of the importance and influence of the herring girls in Britain and Ruhe's theory of what are probably the oldest Dutch sweaters she found during her research, which stem from two communities known for their whaling voyages. The men went on voyages around Iceland and Greenland quite early in the Dutch fisher history, and Ruhe theorizes that this is why they were among the first in need of guernseys.

While I enjoyed reading this chapter, it could have delved a bit deeper in certain aspects discussed. I already own books discussing, for example, English and Scottish fishermen sweaters. There was little in this chapter that was completely new. I would have liked to see more about the influence of Scandinavian sweaters. Indeed,  Ruhe herself says in the book that this is a field that needs more research before anything more can be said about it. I saw allusions to more research on various places, so perhaps there are plans (or maybe merely hopes) for a third volume.

The second part of the historical background chapters describes the life of the fishermen when on the boats, especially on the herring fleet, which was the most important catch for the Dutch fishing industry. This interesting chapter discusses the different roles the men could have on board, the men's luggage, their diets and many other practical aspects to living on a fishing ship. I was particularly intrigued to read about the importance of religion and superstition on the ship, as that is something I know little about: it certainly makes for interesting anecdotes.

The patterns are separated into different Dutch coastal areas of origin. The same coastal areas as in the first volume return: De Noordzee kust or North Sea Coast, de Zuiderzee-coast now IJselmeer. (due to poldering the Zuiderzee is no longer a sea but a lake) and de Waddenkust or Frisian Islands. A new area is added: de Grote Rivieren or the River Areas, focussing on the commercial fishing on Dutch rivers. 

A British fisherman (left) and a Dutch gansey (right) sporting the same pattern

The patterns are written in the same way as in book 1. This means very general instructions are given as to how to knit a (fisherman) sweater in the front of the book, while the specific patterns are given in the form of charts, and a sketch with measurements. This leaves a lot left to figure out for the knitter. Sweater sizing and chart placement are to be calculated according to your own knitted swatch. In an age of Ravelry, indy designers and pdf patterns, this is not something knitters are used to; it just gives you the bare bones, from which you have to construct the pattern yourself. While I do recommend the book to everyone who is interested in this tradition, if you want to make one of the patterns I'd say that it is not suitable for beginners, and more suited to knitters with more experience. 

As of yet the book is only published in Dutch. Last year it took a a few weeks for it to be translated in English. I haven't heard of any concrete plans for book 2 to be translated. However I do believe that the English translation of the first book sold well and received quite some attention, so I'd be surprised if there were no plans for a translation this time around. So those are my thoughts about the new book. I hope you enjoyed it.

Have a nice weekend!

Friday, September 18, 2015

My Warm Weather Project

At the start of September, as if on cue, the temperatures dropped, and now it feels as if autumn is here to stay. The perfect time to take a look at one of the things I have been working on throughout the summer holiday in preparation of colder weather.

In previous years I didn't really adapt my knitting to the summer weather. I've been know to keep on knitting with aran weight wool all through the warmer weather. This summer my habits were put to the test because we had an unusually extreme heat wave, part of which I spend in France, where we spend large periods of time outside on the road. I had to rethink my strategy a bit. Just in time for the heat I remembered that I had the perfect yarn in my stash for the perfect project: A hap for Harriet by Kate Davies, in lace weight wool.

I used the recommended Old Maiden Aunt Shetland 2 ply for my Hap, which is a heavy laceweight. The yarn feel soft, but also quite sturdy. It results in a light but warm shawl. Perfect for the beginning of Autumn. It was the first time I used this yarn but I'm really happy with the result and I think that, for now, it has taken over the favourites spot from OMA Merino Superwash 4ply, which I used for Follow Your Arrow II.

The pattern is quite simple, one of those mindless projects, which came in really handy whilst travelling in the summer. On top of that Kate has provided instructions for knitting from charts and written instructions. Really, the pattern couldn't be more clear. I mostly used the written instructions. The pattern recommends weighing your ball of yarn in between working on it, to make the most of your skein. I know that some knitters regularly use their kitchen scales to weigh their knitting, but I never did so before. Now that I've used it for this project though, I'm going to do it more often. I even upgraded to a better, more accurate kitchen scale to do the job. 

I loved watching the magic of blocking on this one. Like all lace knits, the shawl was quite frumpy while working on it, and I spend quite some time explaining to bystanders how the end result would look all big and bloomy, instead of what I had in my hand. Which more often than not resulted in a hazy look directed at me, but, well what can a poor knitter do to against such disbelief? The shawl grew enormously after a good blocking session, and took in a lot of space on the floor (to my cats' pleasure).

I'm very happy with the end result, both the pattern and the yarn were a huge success. I know that I will wear this a lot throughout autumn, winter and spring. My first hap was definitely a success, and I'm sure I'll make a more in the future, perhaps a more traditional hap?

The pattern for this hap was made by the fabulous Kate Davies. For those who, like me, are avid fans of Kate's work, today brought a joyful occasion to keep a hand over the F5 button while having Kate's website opened. At noon exactly, Kate officially launched her own yarn brand, Buchaille. It's a sports-weight made of Scottish wool, and I'm looking forward to see it in person. I will keep you posted once the yarn and the goodies when they arrive.

So, how was your summer knitting?
I hope September has been treating you all well,



Monday, August 24, 2015

Græn Sokkar

 Things have been quiet over here this summer haven't they? I have been very busy trying to fit as much knitting, sewing, reading and writing into my summer. I've even taken some baby-steps in new crafts for which I am excited (because I totally need more new hobbies, and more stored stuff to make other stuff from!)

This year there will be some drastic changes at the Treehouse, and all in all I've been trying to cram as much fun and crafty stuff in before the inevitable craziness will start again in September. But over to the stuff that you're actually here for: crafty makes! As August is coming to an end, and autumn rapidly approaching (yay!) I'll start with a suitably autumnal make.  

After the success of my firsts socks, I was keen to start my next pair. These are essentially the same socks, but with some slight alterations to improve the fit. They were also a test run to see whether this colour combination works for a sweater I have in mind. That actually was a poor excuse I made to myself to justify making these socks, because of course I was going to like this colour combo, and this was only a way to ensure that I have more things in these colours.

They were finished quite a while ago, when I was in the middle of thesis and exams shenanigans, so I couldn't blog about them right away and they were stuffed in my closet...almost to be forgotten forever (or, less dramatic, at least until November). Luckily I stumbled upon them earlier this week, and they were spared the shame of being a project-without-blogpost.

They are, once again, made with Icelandic lopi wool. I used Alafoss lopi for the main part of the sock, and two strands of lett lopi held together for the stripes. I'm especially taken by this colour combination and I look forward to use it on something more substantial. After this pair of socks I was done for a bit with the sock making, however I've gotten some considerable wear out of them when we had a cold spell last week and I was down with a fever. Nothing like that to give me a taste for more handknit socks.

Until later!

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!


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.