Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Feeling Festive

This will probably be my last post from Germany, because I am moving back to the States in less than a week, the thought of which is weird and scary right now. I want to recap the trip I took before the one to Amsterdam I just microblogged about the other day, because it was kind of the culmination of my time living here.

There were two things I was really looking forward to when I moved to Germany. The first was experiencing how Germans do Christmas. Hint: it involves Ferris wheels.


The other thing I was looking forward to? Visiting the Wollmeise brick and mortar shop. Wollmeise is a yarn that has caused much Sturm und Drang on the internet (see how good my German is getting?). These kerfuffles are inevitable when the demand far outstrips the supply and the expectations get out of control. In any case, I've gotten my hands on a few skeins over the years and I love it. I love the base yarns, I love how they look knit up, and Claudia, the dyer, has the most incredible color sense when it comes to rich, saturated colors and unexpected combinations. Being able to visit the shop was basically the first thing that came to mind at the prospect of moving to Germany, honestly.

A couple of weeks ago, a fellow knitter came to visit me from NYC, and we embarked on a trip of Christmas markets and Wollmeise hunting. We went to markets in the following cities:


All in a week. That's a lot of Christmas! It really did put me in a great spirit. There's something so fun and festive about wandering between the stalls and oohing and aahing at all the beautiful things around you. There was much glühwein, and kartoffelpuffern, and lebkuchen consumed, and shopping. Plus it was snowy, which I just loved. Have a few photos.




But what you really wanted to see is the yarn, yes?

The Wollmeise shop is in Pfaffenhofen, a very small town in Bavaria, less than an hour's train ride from Munich. The shop is thankfully a short walk from the train station, and it wasn't too hard to find. We started with a walk down this wintry path toward the town center.

Then we arrived.


It was pretty breathtaking, I must say.


We actually didn't spend too much time there, lest more yarn fall into our bags. We met someone who'd travelled from Pittsburgh with her family and planned the whole trip around being able to visit the shop. We also met a lovely woman who rode the train with us back to Munich who was visiting her daughter and made this outing hoping to be back in time for lunch. She also told us that before we arrived, an American man had come into the shop, having been sent by a cousin who said to buy yarn but gave no other guidance. It certainly was a fun place. And yes, I made some purchases.


On the train I worked on these socks that are now finished. They are for my husband and made with handspun Rambouillet yarn.


Now, I am done with the traveling. I'm winding down my time here, cleaning and packing and getting ready to move again. Soon I'll be plying the very last fiber I brought to spin.


2012 has been the most incredible year of my life, with all these adventures. 2013 promises to be incredible in a different way, as I retire from this transient lifestyle I've had up til now. I'm incredibly thankful that I've had this opportunity to live abroad and I felt like I've made the most of it. Now I'm ready to discover what home is.

The longest night is very soon upon us, and I hope you and all your loved ones have a fabulous time awaiting the light on the other side.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Quick report from the Netherlands

I'm staying in Utrecht:

But today I went to Amsterdam:

which is a great place to knit on a boat:

I love boats. I don't care how much of a cheesy tourist it makes me. If knitting on a canal tour boat is wrong, I don't want to be right.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Turkish Delight on a Moonlit Night

I'd love to share with you, if you'll indulge me, the experience of buying things, namely fabric and spices, at the markets in Istanbul (not Constantinople), a trip which followed closely on the heels on the previously blogged day trip to France. Sadly this post won't have a lot of photos of the markets themselves, because the experience was surprisingly consuming. I'll toss in some photographs from around the city for good measure, though.


Anyway, Istanbul. It's breathtakingly gorgeous, and ridiculously old, and there is so much fun stuff to do there. As with so many of the places I've been in the past few months, it's been merely a taste of someplace I already miss and want to return to.


If I had merely been browsing, perhaps I would have had a different experience in the makets, but I wanted to buy some ikat fabric and some spices for glühwein. Ever since Jenny Jo and I took a dyeing/weaving class at California College for the Arts, I've had a fascination with ikat fabrics. My hilarious attempt at making a vaguely circular shape in that class:


Nailed it! Anyway, ikat fabrics are not typical in Turkey, but they are in other parts of Central Asia, and that stuff makes its way to market along with the carpets and the saffron and whatnot.


Some things about shopping at the markets, namely the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar:

* It's like the biggest 600 year old mall ever. My biggest advice to anyone visiting Istanbul is WATCH YOUR STEP. The city is super hilly so there are stairs everywhere, and said stairs along with floors, sidewalks, doorways, streets, etc are old and uneven and not so friendly to the clumsier among us. But watching your step isn't the worst thing, because the floors can be fascinating, too.


* Shopping takes takes some time. The shopkeepers wanted to sit me down, yell at some guy out the door to fetch me tea, and show me EVERYTHING.


The husband and I got trapped in a carpet store for quite a while after pausing to look at a map of Turkey with corresponding carpet patterns outside the shop. We made it patently clear we would not be buying a carpet and he didn't seem to care much; he just wanted to show us the goods and challenge me to untie a knot from his superbly made carpets. It was pretty hilarious, and I suspect he offered us a really great price on a truly beautiful carpet we were sadly just not in the market for?

* If I said I was "just looking," I was often met with a snide comment. People wanted to know what I wanted, and once I said ikat, I was quickly whisked through the market by one guy to his buddy's shop. Buddies. When the guy at the hotel called his buddy to take us to the airport, he walked us outside, took some bottles of water from his other buddy at the convenience store without paying or even saying anything, and handed them to us. So many buddies!

* I'm glad I didn't buy anything at the first shop I went to. I actually really enjoy haggling but I wasn't meshing with the first guy and I later came to find out his prices were indeed quite outgrageous. I did the slow walk out the door and he made no appeal to me, so that was that.

* I enjoyed the next shop I found much more. The salesman was friendly and fun to talk to, the husband and I had some delicious tea, and then I did some damage. I didn't have to work too hard to get the guy down to a price I thought was reasonable for the absolutely stunning and gorgeous fabrics I came away with. These are all from Samarkand in Uzbekistan, and now I have to figure out what exactly to do with them.


* It is so much fun to taste everything that looks good, both inside the spice market, which also sells nuts, dried fruits, and sweets, and outside where there are people selling amazing fresh cheese.


In general, there is so much amazing food and drink to be had all over the city. Fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, where you been all my life?


* The husband, who is not a haggler by nature in the slightest, talked a street vendor down on a bottle of water on our last day there. This tickles me to no end.

I hope you're enjoying traveling with me. I've got less than a month left here in Germany, but hopefully more adventures to share before I go all Midwestern on you. A few more photos:





p.s. I must not be the only one who read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as a child and wondered what Turkish delight was?

p.p.s. One of the photos is a dead giveaway, but this blog post is also a Where's Waldo for the evil eye amulet.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fiber to France to Finished Object

At the end of 2011, I had set up a Self-Imposed spinning club for myself to help me work through the fiber stash and also actually use the spindles I've collected over the years. At the time I didn't know I'd be paring down my belongings to one duffel bag and a backpack for the latter half of 2012. Whoops. Still worked through a lot of stash, I gotta day! Originally I had intended to spin this green Tunis from Gnomespun with this particular spindle, A Forrester.


The Forrester didn't fit in the whisky bottle cardboard holder tube thingy that is my spindle case, so it was a no-go. Instead I spun it on my kick spindle, with great joy.


Tunis, being a downs wool, is great for socks because it's hard wearing and doesn't felt easily. It also poofs up like WHOA when you put it in a bath.


I should have taken a photo of this skein next to another of the same weight. Easily twice the volume. So squishy. It was about 300 yds, and beefier than I had originally thought, but still doable for socks, albeit with fewer stitches around (ended up being 48).

I like to save my plain stockinette socks for travel, and I knit these ones almost entirely on a totally crazy day trip with my brother to Pont-a-Mousson, France, where my grandfather was wounded in 1944. He had, ill-advisedly, stuck his hand out of a foxhole to get a photo of where he was trying to get, which was to the top of the hill across the Moselle river from where he was positioned. He never made it up there. He traveled back to France sometime in the 1970s with his vet buddies to see what the place looked like then, and he got another photo. He gave copies of these to my brother so we could find the place ourselves.

The very definition of a wild goose chase ensued. The train travel was bizarre and involved 9 trains in one day and layovers in Luxembourg. It was so incredibly foggy it was hard to see more than maybe 50-100 ft ahead of you. Most of the businesses in the town were inexplicably closed that day. But we found the hill. It's barely visible in this photo, behind this cemetery (which itself received much damage in the battle).


We will show him all the misty, ghostly photos I took in the town when we visit him on Christmas. I think he will be very touched that we paid him the tribute of finding this place. He will no doubt regale us with more stories of what happened to him and his fellow soliders here as he loves to do. What else can I say, he's my Grandpa and I'd do just about anything to make him feel as loved as he's made me feel in my life.

The socks, though. These ones are for me. He's got giganto feet and there wouldn't have been enough yardage!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Neverending Story

I bought some cotton at Michaels mumbledy years ago with the thought of making my mom a set of dishcloths as a gift.


I brought this yarn with me to Germany because I knew at some point with such reduced stash, I'd knit it. Fruit cloths!


I hope you can tell that's a pineapple. I made a whole bunch!


(The two red ones were actually knit by my friend who visited and neglected to bring her own knitting.) If you haven't knit dishcloths, let me tell you, cute patterned ones like this are so fun. Faster than just about anything, and as the pattern emerges, it's just so delightful to watch it take shape. Simple pleasures, greatest treasures.

There was some yarn left over after these ten cloths were knit. I was expecting this, because the pattern said you'd get 2.5 cloths to a ball of kitchen cotton. I went on a pattern searching spree and got really excited by the Linoleum discloth. Voilà.


This pattern might be even more fun that the fruit cloths, especially because you stop needing the chart quickly and can just groove on it. I will say, though, that I probably spent almost as much time weaving in ends as knitting the thing, but I adore the finished product. It's so nubbly and squishy, I'm thinking of making bigger versions for bathmats or hand towels or something. I'm also thinking about doing this in different colors of natural cotton in handspun, because apparently I'm a person who will consider knitting a dishcloth out of handspun yarn.

There was still yarn left. My fancy turned to crochet. I'd had the linked-ring tawashi in my queue practically since I started using Ravelry in 2007. It was time. Turns out I had yarn enough for not one, but four more tawashis.


I totally messed up the linking on the one on the lower right. I didn't realize it until I had crocheted the second one correctly. Pretty sure it'll still work. These are also incredibly fun and fast, though next time, I might use acrylic instead if I really want them to be scrubbier. Also, they certainly appealed to the husband for their mathiness, but I think he would have been more impressed if they were Borromean. Pretty sure I could do that next time, for funsies, right?

Guess what?

There's still yarn left.



I haven't thrown these out; I can't bear to. I also can't bear to keep working with this yarn right now. I've been trying to get creative. I made a clothesline out of some of the orange for hanging drying socks from the posters of the lofted bed. We even used a little bit when my roommate from the San Francisco years visited and we did a blind taste testing with some of the delicious Belgian beers we've collected.


I'm out of ideas. Help?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gettin' cozy

I have a ton to tell you all about all sorts of things, but I'm behind on some photography, so I've got a quickie post for you today instead.

In a number of the cities I've visited so far during my time in Europe, people lock padlocks to bridges as declarations of love. So far, I've seen these here in Bonn, in Prague, Paris, and perhaps most impressively, in Cologne (Köln). I'm talking about a lot of locks.


I love looking at them; there are all sorts of interesting things about them. There are good German names, like Silke who loves Dietmar. There are cool old locks and shiny new ones. There are objects locked to the bridge through the padlocks, like pacifiers and rings. There are bedazzled locks declaring girls BFFs forever. I love imagining into the lives of these people and what inspired them to make these declarations. How many of these relationships survive? Do people come and see their lock? Do people ever take down the locks?

Also, did I mention there are A LOT of locks?


I was checking the ones in Cologne out today, and I saw the best declaration of love out of all of them. Whoever locked their love to the bridge didn't want the lock to get cold, and knit it a cozy.


I would totally lock my love of knitting to a bridge.

Friday, November 2, 2012

More travels plus acutal spinning content!

Have you heard of a béguinage? Don't feel bad if you haven't; I didn't know what one was until I went to the one in Leuven, Belgium the other day.


Quite a place, yes? Some of the most remarkable buildings I've ever seen. So the Béguinage. It's a little hard to capture in photos, but it's an island formed by splitting the river into two canals, and then filling the whole things with a little brick and cobblestone labyrinth of tiny houses and yards.


It's like a little medieval planned community, full of religious ladies. They were all widows or spinsters (hate the negative connotation of that word!). The women wanted a life devoted to faith, but didn't want to take vows or lose their independence, so these totally awesome places were built where they could support themselves with their own labor rather than religious charity (though I believe they accepted that as well). What kinds of skills do these spinsters (hint, hint) have? Spinning, of course!

Belgium was a big center for linen production, and I can only imagine the amazing tools that must have been everywhere in this town back in the day. It would be awesome if it were a living history type place, but instead, it is housing for college students and professors. How many other college kids get to live in a UNESCO World Heritage site?

So then I went to Paris. I could say a lot about that, because, well, it's Paris. Have a few thousand words worth of photos.

Suffice to say it was beautiful and magical and delicious. Perhaps the best thing in Paris is the art. I couldn't take any photos of the art at the Musée d'Orsay, but I did get a few at the Louvre. The painting is a Vermeer, and the girl is making bobbin lace like I saw in Bruges. The textiles are all Coptic.


Despite my traveling, I've had plenty of time to knit and spin. Not having a job will do that to you. So I'll show you some yarns I've finished recently. I don't know why I brought mostly teal/green fiber with me to Germany, but I swear those three are different yarns. They are Merino/silk/stuff, Gotland, Tunis, and merino/angora, going clockwise from the upper left.


Someday soon I'll share my knitting with you, because I've been doing that, too!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Rhinebeck Report

With my two co-bloggers gone from the East Coast, I was finally free to go to Rhinebeck by myself! Freedom! Who wants to shop for yarn with other people anyway, amirite?
Err, okay, so actually I was kind of bummed and wasn't sure if I would go or not, so I didn't make any advance plans for lodging. But my husband, who is a very nice man, agreed to go with me, so we drove the three hours from Princeton to enjoy Rhinebeck as a last-minute day-trip. We were greeted by the beautiful golden trees that line the main entrance. This is how you know you're really there!
One of my favorite things at Rhinebeck is always the skein and garment competition. Unfortunately, this year they had the whole display cordoned off behind ropes, so you couldn't get a close look at anything. Perhaps they've had trouble with too many people touching things? Nonetheless, there were some nice items on display.
I also saw the Sheep-to-Shawl teams hard at work, which was exciting. Somehow I usually miss this, so it was great to see.
Of course, there were also the usual adorable sheeps and handsome camelids.
And, of course, I bought some stuff: Mountain Colors Targhee, Fiber Optic wool/silk top in the most incredible ultramarine blue, 8 oz of Finn wool, and 1 oz of super-luxurious sharlea merino from Stash Enhancement. I also got two ounces of cashgora top and a magnetic pattern-holder thingie. Considering I was only at the fair for about five hours, I think I was pretty efficient.
Going as a day-trip worked surprisingly well, actually. Sort of a condensed experience. It wasn't as much fun as poring over every last skein with my fellow yarnies, but we saw the sights and did the deeds, nonetheless.