Monday, December 28, 2009

In Memory

Sorry, this is going to be a rather somber post with very little knitting in it. I'll stick the finished knitted item at the end (it's only one), so, if you're not interested in me lament, just scroll down until you see the picture.

Okay (I'm taking a deep breath here)

This year in October a good friend of me passed away. I learned about it only a few weeks later, as his wife had trouble tracking me down (all the contact information was on his computer and she couldn't get into it). His death was very suddenly, caused by blood clots in his lungs and there was no real warning (his wife should know - she's a doctor). I had no warning, though I thought it was a bit strange that he hadn't answered my last two e-mails. Usually he was very prompt about it, but I figured he was away traveling without any internet access (it happened before, but usually he sent me a warning he would be out of touch for a bit).
I came back from my trip from Florida in November when there was a message on my answering machine from Ann with the bad news. It took me another three days to get hold of her in return. So, now the plan is for my to go to Alaska next May for a memorial service and to scatter his ashes over Denali National Park as to his wishes. Bill loved Alaska and I think it is the right thing to do.
I've met Bill August 1993. I was a student at this time and took part in a work and travel program which allowed me to work for two months in the US. It was my very first time in America and, thinking back, I believe I was a bit naive. I knew about Bill before the trip - he was at that time maybe the biggest distributor of fanzines in the US and I had bought stuff from him before. I remember I contacted him and asked him if he would mind for me to come by his house and meet him. Obviously he didn't mind and he picked me up a the train station In East Lansing, Michigan. He told me he would be easy to spot as he was almost seven feet tall. He also brought two of his border collies and Skylass and I were love at first side. Afterwards, Bill always said, Sky was my dog, even if she was in the US and I was in Europe.
Originally, I had planned to stay only a few days (I didn't want to be a bother), but Bill and Ann insisted that I stayed two weeks. He introduced my to some new series I hadn't known before and Ann's cooking was to die for.
After that we never really lost contact, though sometimes there was a month or two we didn't write. We went on vacations together as Ann, as a doctor, didn't have the time for it. London, Scotland, Germany, several trips to the US, and, of course, New Zealand. Very good memories there and tons of pictures.

After Michigan, Bill and Ann moved to Ohio, but Bill's dream always had been to live in Alaska. Finally, Ann found a job there and they moved maybe four or five years ago to Kechikan. Eventually, they ended up in Kenai, south of Anchorage, and where in the process of buying a house there, when it happened.
Bill was a very generous soul and very sharing. He had a wicked sense of humor. He loved music and movies. He was a very willing recipient half a dozen of my stitching projects and I have a few more I had planned for him. In Alaska Bill had taken up fotographie and had taken some fantastic pictures.

Since I've learned of his passing, there was never a day I didn't think of him for some reason, was it because I saw something that reminded me of him and because of something I thought he would be interested in.
I miss him!

So, okay, some much for the morbid part. I needed to get that off my chest.
Christmas has come and gone. There were not many presents - we have the deal among the adults not to make any and I very fine with that as it cuts down on the pre-Christmas craziness.

I did a bit of knitting and made an hat for my youngest nephew (who's going to be nine in February) from the left over yarn from the pullover I've made for him.
I designed it myself and have no clue if he'll ever going to wear it. I just think it's a funny little hat.

Happy New Year to everyone.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Day Knitting Saved My Life ... Well, At Least My Mind

... and that's without even picking up a knitting needle.

This week a bit earlier than usual and without any pics.

Thanks to my job, I'm doing a lot of traveling. Almost every week I drive about 480 km from my home to Dresden and, at the end of the week, back home. I don't really mind driving. I listen to the radio, some audio book or, lately, to podcasts, and let my mind wander, thinking about my next project or what I'm going to cook on the weekend.
The normal driving time is 4 1/5 to 5 hours, incl. a half hour break in the middle.
Yesterday, however, it took me 9 hours.
Nine hours!!!
And they haven't been fun at all.
End of the week, the temperatures decided to take a plunge to below freezing and it has been between -12 and -14°C all day yesterday. Add a bit of snowing to the mix, and you have the recipe for disaster. A bit after the halfway point I got stuck in a traffic jam for two hours because some trucks had trouble getting up a couple of hills, which did nothing at all to improve my mood.

What saved me, though, were the knitting podcasts I'd downloaded last weekend. I really enjoy the 'Electric Sheep' and am still looking for more good podcasts. I picked a selection and am still working my way through them.
So, here a list of what I've got so far.

Cast On - An American living in Britain
Here's to Ewe - Knitting in Vegas
KIPing it Real - Knitting in Public
Knit Misadventures
Knitmore Girls - A mother and daughter team
Knitting History
Never Not Knitting
The Sassy Sheep

I didn't got around to the last two yet (there's always tomorrows trip for that ...)
So far, I rather liked the Knitmore Girls, though I'm not in love with the voices, the others were so-so.
Well, at least they kept my sane.

I don't really have anything to show this week - I didn't do much knitting, really. The new Zelda game keeps me happily busy. I'm maybe 2/3 through by now and am enjoying every minute of it. I hope to be done by Christmas. I expect my nephew will want some pointers...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Snow Day

When I woke up this morning, we had snow. Yeah, winter has arrived. My guess is, it's gone by christmas....

All three projects I've had in the works two weeks ago have been completed.

The Schokobaktus made with Schoppelwolle Zauberball in the color 'Schokocreme'
I was a bit too careful on the halfway point, and now have a good 20g of the yarn left, even after using some of it to make two tassels.

The flower trim bag also went pretty well.
The pattern didn't make any mention of lining the bag, but I decided to do so anyway and found the absolutely friggin' perfect fabric for it.

The sewing took at least as long as the knitting (at least it felt like it), but it was very much worth it.

Third project was the hat heel socks. I finished them, and they fit perfectly, but I don't know if I really would ever make a second pair. They are nice enough, but the method is a bit too fiddly for my taste.

Off course I've already have something new on the needle. This here is the start for the mitred stripes tote. The first scare ended up at a solid 40 by 40 cm, though it will shrink a bit once I throw it into the washing machine for the felting.

I don't know, though, if I get a lot of knitting time in next week - the new Zelda game came out last week, so there's a bit of the distraction.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Christmas Cookies - 2009 Edition

As every year in the Christmas Season, I throw caution and calories to the wind and make a batch of Christmas cookies.

As every year I have a few classics (in the sense I'm practically make them every year) and a few newcomers.

My favorite recipe is probably the one for Cinnamon Stars.

Sweet, chewy and wonderfully nutty. This year I've made them a bit smaller then before, which I think works well. You can eat more of them without feeling too guilty, right?

A repeater from last year (on special request by my mom) are the Ginger-Fruit Sticks

Made with candied Ginger, dried apricots and almonds, plus some honey and other lovely things there are wonderfully nice and fruity.
I took a couple of those to friends last night and already got one request to pass on the recipe.

Another great hit from last night were the Linzer Cookies, which are a new addition to the list, but have a good chance of coming back next year.

I've made those having my dad in mind, as he rather likes cookies with jam. The cookies are base on a famous Austrian cake. They are a tad on the soggy side, but the taste is quite lovely.

The next cookie recipe is sort of a half cookie / half praline thing, which is in princible not a bad thing, but didn't quite work out the way I wanted.

They are very brittle and I already have quite a few broken bits in my cookie tin, which I really can't offer to anybody else.

Last, but not least, I've made a patch of my favorite short bread with ginger, which was in the oven when I made the pics, but to be honest they are a bit on the boring side of photography. Just imagine a round, light brown cookie. There, that wasn't to hard, was it.
The taste though .... mmmmmmhhhh.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Listening to Knitting

Last year in July I bought an ipod. I used to have a different mp3 player before and was okay with it, but eventually I decided to upgrade and enter the world domination of Apple. Not that I don't like my ipod, I do and I love that I actually can play little movies, but what had put me off for the longest time was that for using an ipod, you also have to use itunes, which I was rather opposed before.
But what makes it all worth (at least to me) is that opportunity to download podcasts, and though I started rather late actually doing so, I'm now hooked.
(and, yes, I know, you don't really need itunes and an ipod to listening to podcasts ...)
It all started when I knew I had to spend 8 to 10 hours sitting in a plane on my flight to the US. There was a discussion on Ravelry at this time about the best knitting podcasts, and two which had been recommended were 'Electric Sheep' by Hoxton Handmade and 'Cast On'. 'Electric Sheep' is currently on episode 30 and 'Cast On' has a whooping 88 parts already. This is a lot. Though I listened to and enjoyed only two episodes of 'Cast On' so far, I'm now on episode 21 of 'Electric Sheep' and my plan is to keep on listing until I get them all.
Interesting enough, 'Electric Sheep' isn't so much about knitting. Hoxton Handmade usually starts out with an essay on whatever topic that comes to mind (something having something to do with knitting, but sometimes not) and then goes on things that caught her attention, may it be knit wise or not. She does have a lovely English accent, which is something I really enjoy listening to. She talks alot about what's currently going in and around London, and though I have no chance to go to all the places she recomments, I still enjoy hearing about it. There are clearly worse ways to spend have an hour knitting each week.

Speaking of knitting. I'm currently working on several things.
A) is a very popular scarf on Ravelry called 'Baktus'. The idea is to knit in plain garter stitch (every row is knitted), increasing on one side every fourth row. By the time you have knitted half your yarn (determined by weight) you start to decrease every fourth row, making sure that you pretty much use up all your yarn and have none, or rather little, of it left once you done. I think this is a brilliant idea as my stash of left over yarn is occupying a rather large box in my work room with no idea what to make with it.

I'm using a Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball for this pattern, which I split in two smaller ball in order to make stripes. It doesn't quite work out as strippy as I'd hoped, as the dark colors and the light colors seem to like to group together, but after ripping the whole thing to that point once already, I decided not to care. I've just hit the half way point at 80 stitches and am now on the decreasing.

Project B is the 'Flower Trim Bag' from a little book I've bought in the US, 'Stitch Style Bags'.

(that picture is ...ehr, borrowed from here)
I'm doing it in the recommened yarns and it's breezing along fabulously. Only downside, as this bag is not felted, I will need to line it somehow, and I'll need to find out how.
There are two more pattern in that book I really like.

Last, but not least, is a pair of socks I'm working on. I've knitted socks cuff down (my normal modus operanti), toe up, even sideways, but this is the first time I'm knitting one heel out. The pattern is called 'Hat Heel' and can be found here.

I actually finished the first sock, but then discovered that I misplaced my printout of the pattern, so I had to print it out once again.
It really is a very nice fit, and the bright, strippy yarn makes it look interesting.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I've been away to Florida for about a week.

I saw palms:

I saw pelicans:

I saw alligators:

The space shuttle (Well, technically, I only saw the external tank and the boosters, but they promised me the orbiter is there as well....)
I did plan my vacation so I could see a shuttle launch, but then the launch was pushed out by a couple of days just to the day I was flying home. A well, at least I've tried...

I saw lots and lots of water

I saw surfer dudes

And, of course, I saw a lot more but there's just not enough space for it here.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A few sizes smaller

One of my favorite yarn stores had a sale a couple of weeks back. I've managed to score a bit of yarn, though not enough to make myself a pullover, and not enough to make something fully in one color. The yarn, though, had a nice rustic look to it, and I really wanted to make a pullover for my nephew with it.
I decided to make the body in one color and the arms in another and just add a couple of green stripes to keep it interesting. I've got the measurements from my sister and then I started knitting.

I'm quite happy with the outcome, really. The interesting question now is: will it fit?
I already know the arms are too long (that's after I already did the arm again taking out a good 3 inches in length), but I guess my nephew always can fold the cuffs over.

There's still enough yarn left to make a hat and a scarf.

Next Sunday there's a chance to see if it fits, as my sister and her family make a stop at Frankfurt airport on there way from South Africa to Sweden.

I'll be flying to Florida the same day, so I have to be at the airport only a few hours earlier to meet them. My parents are going to pick me up and give me a lift.

I'll be in Florida for about a week on vacation. I've never been there, so I'm really looking forward to it. I hoped - and planned my fights accordingly - to catch a shuttle launch, but last Friday I've found out they moved the launch window out a couple of days to the same day I'm flying back home, so no luck there. Ah well, at least I've tried.

There will be no blog for the next two Sunday, as I'll be without computer on my trip.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I've always wanted to try and dye my yarn myself. Just to see how it turns out. My original plan was to take some of the cheapy, natural colored yarn I've bought last time Aldi had sock yarn on sale, use the Kool-Aid (natural food coloring) I've picked up for that purpose last time I was in the US and go for it.
The first problem I've soon discovered was that I didn't pick up any Kool Aid last time (of for that matter any time). I did pick up some Dye Rite instead. Well Dye Rite is more for cotton and I wanted to dye wool, but after searching the internet a little I've found that it does seem to work with wool as well, so I decided to give it a shot.

I took the two skeins of yarn, wrapped it into a hank and placed it into a glass dish.

Then I added water

The next steps have no pictures because I forgot to make them. Sorry.
I've had three colors: Teal, dark green and dark blue. I've mixed them up with water and just poured the dye over the wrung out yarn. After everything was saturated I placed the dish into my microwave and nuked it for a good ten minutes.
I've then tried to wash the superflues dye out, which took a long time (like ten times and still dye got out).
After drying it it looks sort of like this:
A bit more green than that really, but I seem to be unable to take a proper colored picture of the finished yarn.
All in all I'm quite happy and am looking forward to see how it knits up.

I've finished a scarf - Kernel using Noro Maiko.

Seriously lovely!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Yeah, this is my 200th post here.

*throwing confetti into the air*

I've started blogging about 3 years ago. My idea was to show of my stitching (which was at that time my primary hobby) and give my family and friends an opportunity to take part on what I'm doing when I don't see them. Due to my job I do travel a lot, so I do see them not quite as often as I would like.
I finished quite a few stitching projects in the mean time; travelled to Japan, Scotland, Iceland and the USA; switched my focus from stitching to knitting; bought a new, really nice, Nikon camera and really enjoyed to sit down once per week and let everybody in to my life.
One positive side effect from this whole blogging business is that when I try to remember when I work on one thing or another, I only need to go to my blog and check out when I wrote about it.

This week I've finished a new pullover, and just in time. I did snow in Dresden on Thursday, something I didn't figure on when I packed on Sunday, so the fact that I had something extra to wear was very, very good

The pattern is Margot, from the last Knitty, the yarn is called Soft-Merino from Wolle Rödel. I love the color of that yarn and am quite happy on how the pullover turned out. I haven't washed it yet, and hope it's not expanding - this would not be good. I've got one ball of yarn left, and right now I'm thinking about making the pullover a little bit longer, but I'll wait for the after washing to decide.

My mom asked for a winter hat, so I quickly made one
This pattern is called Coronet and is also from Knitty. My mom's request was for the yarn to be machine washable, which it is. I quite like the result.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


This is not what you think it is - or maybe it is, but I don't think so.
S.E.X. is nothing dirty and has nothing to do with what two consenting adults might get up to if they find themselves alone. S.E.X. stands for Stash Enhancement eXperience - or, in other words, a shopping trip.

There have been two during the last week. One was in Dresden where I found this really nice yarn store that stocks a lot of the stuff I really, really like, i.e. Rowan yarns, Noro and, best of all in my book, lopi, the Icelandic yarn. I tried to hold myself back, but I did end up with two really nice yarns.

One is a Noro yarn I've haven't heard of before (and even Ravelry couldn't help me with it). It's called Noro Silk Camdeboo and is a mix of 35% silk, 35% lambs wool and 30% kid mohair. When I googled 'Camdeboo' I learned it's a province in South Africa. The area is (I'm sure among other things) famous for their angora goats from which the Mohair is coming from (why it is that mohair comes from the angora goat while angora itself comes from a rabbit, I have no clue)

Anyway, it is a lovely yarn and I bought enough for a nice, luxerious scarf.

The other find was four plates of unspun Icelandic aka Plötulopi.

I've bought some of this on my vacation in Iceland and made a felted bag with it and plan on making another bag from this one. Though it's not really easy to knit, once it's felted its really sturdy and looks really nice.

The other shopping trip brought me to Michelstadt in the Odenwald. Every year there's a needle craft fair going on there and it was our second time we went there. There are a lot of German needlecraft stitch designers there with a lot of really lovely stuff. Not much yarn, though felting was a big topic and also quilting.

I bought three pattern (even though I haven't really stitched anything in a while) and also what I think might be the start to my christmas card production.

I'm not 100% sure yet if I'll try to work with the hand painted fabric or not. Guess I'm going to play around a bit with it first.

Other than that, I've got two pairs of socks to show:

Those went to my sister and she got them and they fit, so all is well. My sister is working a lot with beads, so my though was that a beaded sock would be perfect.
The pattern is from the book 'Socken aus aller Welt' from Stephanie van der Linden.

The second pair is for a friend of mine. Her feet are about 4 sizes bigger than mine and as I couldn't ask her to try them on (we live quite a bit apart) some of my friends closer by got asked several times while I was working on them what shoe size they had and, when they had the correct size, to try them on.

The sock does look a little bit strange in the pic, but only because I pulled in onto a made up sock blocker for the photo and I think I went in the wrong direction with the width versus the length ratio.

Pattern is also from Stephanie van der Linden, but this time from her book 'Der geniale Sockenlehrgang'

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I'm Done!!!

After a good 18 months, I've finally finished my Great American (Aran) Afghan.

I used two booklets from 'Knitter's Magazine', one, The Great American Aran Afghan and, two, The Great American Afghan. The first books has the pattern for 24 squares and the other has 25 squares. In the end I've picked 24 squares total, a wild mix and match from both books.

For the border I've sort of made up my own thing, though the braid is based in part on one of the existing squares. It was six meters of that border and in the end I really had to force myself to push on to finish it. But the result was so worth it!

The afghan is a wooping 2.05 meters by 1.45 meters large.

I bought in the beginning 37 balls of the yarn I've used and I used every single one of them. I've got maybe half of one ball left, so I couldn't be any happier.

Even though it was a rather long project (though, of course, I didn't work on it continuesly) I really enjoyed it. There was a lot of different styles and ideas to try out and I learned a lot of different techniques. Some squares have been knit from inside out or outside in, diagonally across or in stripes and then joined again on the go. Some have been plain cables, others are more visual (I'm quite fond of the crab or the fish). There was entrelac, ablique, acorns and trees, bobbles and leaves. Some turned out bigger than planed, some had to be blocked within a inch of their lives to fit (more or less)
Each square contains some fond memories for one reason or another and (except for the border) it really never got boring.

I know it's not a perfect afghan and I wouldn't win any prizes with it, but I loved doing it and I love having it.

(and I found out that taking pictures of something mostly just off white is a pain ... sorry for the bad quality)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Fun Of Throwing Things Into The Washing Machine

Step 1: knit a swatch (18 stitches, 25 rows)

Step 2: throw swatch into washing machine
The top part is the original swatches. Left side is some unspun Icelandic wool (held double) I've bought in a super market in Reykjavik, on the right is Cascade 220

Step 3: admire how much the swatches have shrunk

Step 4: knit a bag

The pattern is the French Market Bag from Knitty Winter 2003

Step 5: throw bag into washing machine

Step 6: drink something strong, or pray - whatever works for you

Step 7: admire how lovely the newly felted bag looks

Step 8: put yarn for your next project into bag

Sunday, September 13, 2009

New Socks

I'm not a big fan of stranded (fair-isle) knitting. Whenever two colors come into play I have a problem. But once in a while a pattern comes my way that I like so much I have no choice but to knit it, and my fear of stranded knitting be damned.

One such pattern is this one:

It's called Route 66 and is in the book 'Socken aus aller Welt' (socks from around the world) by Stephanie van der Linden. Stephanie has a lot of really nice sock designs, and her book really got me in to the mood for sock knitting again.

Another sock (singular as in ONE sock) also started out as one of her patterns names 'Metropole der Mode'. This is a sideway constructed sock and as I saw she used some new approaches (well, some I haven't seen so far) I though to give it a shot.
I didn't like it a bit. For once, the sock was way too big (like five sizes too big). The leg part was super long, and due to the nature of the beast, the cuff is so tight it would hang around my ankle most times. Still, I like some of her ideas, and decided to combine her pattern with another pattern from another book, namely the 'Two-yarn resoleable socks' from the 'Favorite Socks' book.

So, I started out knitting sideways, and when I reached the part where the heel starts I left the foot stitches resting and knitted only the leg part. This leads to a slightly deformed 'L' shape in the end. I then closed the leg to form a tube and picked up the stitched for the heel. I did a standard turned heel and then started to knit the sole, joining it with the upper foot as I reached the end of each row. In the end I knitted the normal toe and also knitted the cuff.

I do like the sock - sort of.
The foot fits perfectly and I really like how the colors go with this.
What I hate is the fitting of the leg - the cuff is so tight, it's hard to believe I got it as high in the photo shoot as I got. If I do this again (and I might ...) I do it even shorter, at least another 10 stitches. But for now I leave it at rest and won't knit a second one in this color ... the yarn has already gone on to another project ;)

Yesterday the newest knitty came online and I fell in love with a pullover there: Margot. Simple, classic ... I bought already wool for it.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Art Of Blocking

When you knit lace and you're done with it (or actually, already in the middle of knitting) there always will be a point when you ask yourself what the heck you've knitting and WHY?
Because, when you're done with your knitted piece of lace it usually doesn't look very nice

See here. Just some squnched up piece of fabric (and I know there's not such word as 'squnched', but I sort of like it, so it stays)

Then you drown your work of the last weeks into water and queeze it out very carefully and then you pull out your blocking boards / old couch / bed (or, in my case, some foam puzzle mats) and, using a gazillion pins, you begin to stretch your fabric out and pin it to the board / couch / bed / puzzle mats.

And a few hours later, when you take it off it will have transform as if by magic.

Magic, I tell you.

pattern: Ishbel by Ysolda Teague
yarn: Regia Hand-Dye effect, circa 60g