Wednesday, December 29, 2010

So, what's been up then?

Well, a lot, if I have to believe the invoices I've been sending out. I've been working flat-out during November, and then sort of took December 'off'. Well, as 'off' as I can ever be... ;) It basically meant I still did my business translations, but there was no book for a month. And that was quite nice! It gave me some time to prepare for the SinterRAK, make decorations for the Xmas tree and to hand out to neighbours, family and friends in lieu of Xmas cards, decorate the house, clean the house for our Xmas dinner and just enjoy being home and with the kids. Which also explains the lack of blog updates ;)
We've been around each other a lot, and it was great. Although we can look like a chaotic bunch, we are a lovely chaotic bunch, and we love doing things together, which, with two parents trying to work fulltime and two kids going to school, isn't always easy.
There was some progress on the crafting front, apart from all those lovely decorations, though! I thought and thought and thought, and then decided to redo the sleeves on my Spoke. However lovely it was, they were just too short. Here's a comparison of new sleeve - old sleeve. See the difference?
Yup, that IS a difference! They are much more comfortable and at least now go all the way down to my wrists, which is much nicer! I have been wearing it as well, and as it is relatively short, it is making me aware of the fact that I still have some pounds to shift (plus the ones that I gained after my last attempt, oh, sigh... don't start)...
And here's a first picture of the box of hats. I've received about the same again in the meantime, but the box is in the attic, and it's dark, so I'll write a separate update on that next week, when I've knitted a few more myself! The colours are all amazing, such a bright box!
And I finally finished my Autumn Hat-Heels, just in time for Winter :D They are the bestest socks I've ever knitted! The fit is just amazing! And I realize now that 56 stitches is enough for my feet, whereas my calves actually like 60 better. With these socks, that's easily fixed. Next time, I have to try and pick up a bit more loosely and cast off more loosely as well. But otherwise, love love love them. The colours are amazing too. The yarn is Schoppelwolle Admiral Batik, a yarn I will definitely use again! I have to find a different supplier though, because I got them from Wolhemel, and they have sadly stopped trading.
Pattern: Hat Heel by Kathleen Sperling
Source: Knitty
Needles: 2.5 mm
Yarn: Schoppelwolle Admiral Batik
Alterations: 60 st for leg. Hat part extended slightly to fit around my ankles better.

The Hat-Heels were also on my feet when I did this:
We have ice, people! And it was/is great ice. In Friesland, as opposed to everywhere else in Europe (well, give or take a few regions), we have hardly had any snow, and it shows. The ice is as smooth as a baby's bottom, and if I had had more time and less knee trouble, I'd definitely been out there skating around trying to catch Sven Kramer in the act. However, I've had to make do with an hour on the Wielen, a lake just ouside Leeuwarden. We had all gone out for a skate, but first Big S's skates turned out to be unfit for use, then Batman's 'houtjes' just fell off his boots (still to big) and then Mermaid complained of sore ankles and cold. They must have more Irish blood running through their veins than Frisian, haha... As it is still freezing here, there might be a chance of me going out again tomorrow for a quick skate. There are a few great websites up to tell you where skating is safe, so apart from time and laundry nothing is going to stop me now! (Well, the dodgy knee might... yes, I know, it's that loose weight thing again).

Have a great New Year's, y'all! See you on the other side in 2011!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Update to follow soon...

Yes, I know it's been 2 weeks. Enough has happened in the meantime to blog about, like lots of baby hats, a nearly finished pair of socks for hubby, the difficulties of trying to design an Estonian scarf after drinking a glass of Chianti, the start of a mini Annis for my Mermaid... but right now, I have VAT returns to do. End of year and all that. Pictures of yarn, ice, snowless streets and a lovely Xmas are to come soon! We had a blast, still have a tummy ache from all the yummy goodies, and can't wait until Friday, when we are going to Rotterdam for New Year's weekend. We love spending that weekend away, high up in a hotel room with great views over a great city :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

The other Santa

I totally forgot to show you what I got for Sinterklaas from my Ravelry Dutch RAK group, bad girl!
We had a ball teasing each other, asking silly questions on the forum and then preparing a package which consisted of something bought, something made and a poem. I made some Merletto mitts for my 'victim', but first, here is what I got!
The chocolate letter was devoured within minutes after opening... the little yarnies are in my sock blanket basket and the sock yarn will be turned into socks for hubby soon! He was a bit dubious about the colour, but as you can see, they are called 'Men Stretch', so, even though it's a long 'stretch', they are for 'men'. ;)
The scrap letters are great! They will be used up during the holiday period, when I will (hopefully) have some time to update my photo scrapbook. And then the self-made bag, it's brilliant! It's got loads of pockets and is handy for a larger project to bring along when I'm out and about! A big thank-you to my 'Sinterklaas' Sylletje!
And this is what I made to send to Yvonne, my 'victim'...
These Merletto Mitts are one of my fave patterns e-ver, e-ver! Really, I can almost knit them in my sleep now, haha... I knit these from homespun merino with some white silky threads through them. Also self-made are the little stitch markers you see in the background. Added to this some doggie cards, doggie biscuit recipes/cutter and soap, and I had a box full of presents! Such fun to do. Can't wait until next year!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

DIY Xmas

So, any ideas what to put in your Xmas tree this year? Had enough of those shiny new glass baubles which cost you a fortune (and always break)? Then go DIY! We are having great fun this year making our own Xmas decorations; not only am I crocheting and stapling, but we've also made salt dough figures and are in the midst of turning these into great Xmas decorations (most of which will be handed out as gifts - actually our 'Xmas cards' - as we only have a 5 ft tree). It is great fun - and you can get the kids to help too! ;)
First, you have to make your dough. Remember, the drying out takes a while, so be sure to make this in advance! We made a double batch, which gives you over 3 trays full of decorations, but for a 'normal' batch, you need the following:

  • 250g of salt
  • 500g of flour (white, 'patentbloem', not wholegrain, use that for your bread, please...)
  • 300ml water
  • 2tbsp oil

Mix this all up into firm dough and start rolling. Make them around half a cm thick and then cut out with cookie cutters. I was in NI a few weeks ago and got these great ones, which add structure as well as shape (note the cup ;) ). But any Xmassy cookie cutters will do! Make sure you put a hole in the top for your ribbon. A hole that is BIG ENOUGH (I cannot stress this enough, I'm afraid, I learnt that from experience, I'm afraid - luckily we have superglue...)
After cutting out your 'cookies', put them on baking paper in the oven (you can put in several trays at the time) and then start drying them out. 2 hours at 80 and then several more hours at 100. It takes a looooong time. I did put a batch in the microwave, on the lower settings, but they turned brown and started bubbling at the back. I didn't like that at all, so I prefer the slow, slow, slow method in the oven. And then just leave them out to dry completely.
When you're left with this...
... call in the troops to put on the base coat! Hubby helped with the cutting out as well, and he thought it was super duper fun getting stuck in the painting.

When these are dry, go crazy! Use paints, glitter, stick-on stars and anything festive you have to decorate these little wonders!


Our messy table...

If you're feeling adventurous, you can do this too: make little snowmen or gifts from the dough. They can topple over, so put a little stick in it to keep things upright. These 3D decorations are mighty heavy though! (Although they are super duper cute...)
If you're less of a baker, get out your crochet needles! The Garnstudio Advent Calendar already had two lovely figures to crochet, of which I've made this:
There are loads more cool ornaments out there, both on yarn company websites, like Lion Brand, where I found this one, and Ravelry:
If you like snowflakes, go the Snowcatcher's blog. She publishes the most amazing snowflakes! I made some last year, but they're in the box of ornaments I haven't been able to find (missing the angel as well, of course), with our nativity set. 
To make sure we did have some angelic ornaments hanging about the house and in preparation of putting the proper set in our window, we made this! Our little angel is loving it up in our wee real Xmas tree!
All you need is some corrugated card, tinsel, cotton wool and decoration. Oh, and a stapler, and a kindergartner to help you ;)

Have a great Xmas, and don't forget: it's not about Santa, it's not about presents, it's about the gift and preciousness of life and love!
(peace out)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tree idea?

Why not just decorate a tree with sweaters? As seen in Coleraine...
We loved Coleraine! We've found a few nice areas where we would love to go and live, so, providing our house here gets sold soon, we could be there this Summer and hopefully next year our Xmas tree will be put up in a new house!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some lace and a Spoke

It's already been a week ago, but only now have I got some time to blog about the Estonian lace workshop I took last weekend. In the meantime we've been working hard at removing wallpaper... and then sticking new wallpaper on the walls. It does look a lot better now, and we hope it will make the house a bit more sellable!
Back to the workshop! On invitation of Wereldwol, the two Dutch Knitters came to Leeuwarden to tell and teach us all there is to know about Estonian lace knitting (in a day!). The morning started off with a cup of coffee and Madeira cake, while Hilly and Carla told us more about the history of the shawls and showed us some beautiful examples they knit themselves or bought in Estonia.
The tools, the explanation and the business card... Ready, set, go!
Hilly and Carla, our teachers, who (I suspect) know more about Estonian lace than the Estonians themselves...
Our knitting table, in the lovely airy and light upstairs room of Pitch 'n Putt in Zuiderburen (Leeuwarden).  A keeper for workshops, according to Marieke (Wereldwol, bottomright)

We got to work knitting several stitches which are often used in Estonian laces, including nupps of different kinds. After a sumptuous lunch we had a look at the spreadsheet with formulas to calculate sizes, stitches and borders (yes, some IT comes in handy!) and then started knitting the lace border. When the light started to fade outside, we finally got to the point where that border was sewn on to the shawl. The result was only a small sample, but it did teach us the basic technique.
More piccies of the day (with me in them too ;) on Breimiek's blog.

Standing around the laptop, looking with amazement at the spreadsheet (developed by Carla, a former IT expert) 
Nupps and crosses... It's great to learn some new techniques!
The lace middle and border, before sewing them together...
... and after. It's actually a lot more complicated than it looks!
Some of the samples knit during the workshop

And it tastes of more! Several of us ordered the Haapsalu shawl book and I can't wait until it arrives. In the meantime, I will be starting a little pattern from the Nancy Bush book on Estonian lace knitting with the Manos Lace (left over from my Haruni).
As knit by AlliKnit (Ravelry)

Coming home, having all this inspiration and desire to start knitting something new, gave me the final push to finish my Spoke. I finished the sleeves over the weekend and then sewed up the entire sweater on Tuesday and Wednesday, having it finished just in time for SnB night. It's a lovely tight fit, but the sleeves are mighty short. I thought they would be fine, as I have quite short extremities (although a bit wide). But they're more 3/4 sleeves at the moment... I have enough yarn left to actuall make them long enough, so now I'm deciding whether the sleeves are fine like this or whether I will cut the yarn just above the cast-on edge and then just knit them longer until they are as long as I'd really want them. In the meantime, I'll just keep wearing it, so we'll see what my decision will be...
My Spoke, in lovely Drops Alpaca and Drops Delight
A great addition to my wardrobe!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Simply Stockinette

It's been. It's been busy the last year. And it's not really letting off... Work, getting the house ready to be sold; it's busy in my head, in our house, in my diary.
So, small projects are best! Preferably projects in stockinette, which are relaxing and not too demanding. Spoke is slowly but surely getting finished (knitting the sleeves now), while the second hatheel sock is also getting there, but at the moment, I'm knitting these:
Yup, hats. Lots of hats. Very tiny little hats for tiny little babies in India. Save the Children has a great project on at the moment, with a lovely informative website to go with it: Brei voor India. Using the very easy instructions and pattern, we have set to work. Yes, WE! The idea of our SnB group trying to knit enough hats to fill a huge box to send to the organization in time for Sinterklaas was met with a lot of enthusiasm. With me, around 20 other moms and grandmoms are now knitting these tiny hats. I hope to show you the entire collection at the beginning of December, but now it's time to knit a few more...
If you want to knit along, please do!!! If you can't read the pattern, mail me. If you can't knit, donate.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Skew you too!

A while ago, on the Dutch RAK group at Ravelry, one of our members asked for some assistance with some sock knitting. She said she'd love to have homeknit socks, but had never managed to knit a pair herself. So, Aal and I came to the rescue. Within 3 days of sending off the yarn, she had her first pair of socks back from Aal. That woman is so amazingly fast!!! My socks took a bit longer, mainly because I had to rip back a few times.  Knitting late at night, having to calculate while knitting, bad lightling... etc... But, eventually, they did get done!!! I suggested knitting her some Skew socks, as with the self-striping yarn she sent me, I thought the effect would be super cool. And it turned out great, even though I was a bit miffed to see that the colour depth was not the same throughout the ball of yarn. Luckily this only becomes really apparent in the leg part, which most people have under their trousers ;)

A few pictures of the socks still here...

See the difference?
And here are the socks on the happy feet of the recipient, Marianne...
Another happy 'customer'! Enjoy!!!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A sock in progress...

You take some yarn...
Wound into balls by a lovely assistant...
Add some sunshine, a playground and a bench...
Start with a small circle...
Add ear flaps...
Eh.... ear flaps? On socks? Yup, ear flaps! These are called 'Hat Heel Socks' for a reason, you know...
Pick up stitches...
And keep on knitting until you get to the toe...

More to come soon!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Today I saw...

A boy who can draw. He was never interested in drawing. The best we could get out of him was scratches all over a piece of paper. And then all of a sudden, it clicked, and we were treated to this.
Drawing number 1, still a bit tentative, but definitely a Batman with long wings/arms and two ears:
And then the floodgates opened, here is granny, sporting here new post-chemo short cropped hair (which, according to our wee man, should be red, but is now grey):
A turtle:
And then a picture of one of his daycare teachers who is leaving, with himself (I asked him why he only drew one eye, and he explained he drew himself in profile - 'I am drawing myself like this [he turned sideways], that is why there is only one eye') holding her hand. And of course a bright yellow sun:

Our little budding artist... Just in time for school!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bye bye stash....

I have sooo much, and the school was in dire need of more yarn... So, this morning, this left our house. A whole box full of yarn, acrylics, ribbon yarn, wool, all different colours, and lots of needles! Kids, enjoy!!!