Knittin’ all over the world

I’ve been knitting for a long time, most of my life, in fact, and have tried a lot of knitterly things over the years. Originally because I didn’t know they were supposed to be “difficult” and because, like recipes, I reckoned I could read and therefore would be able to follow a pattern… mostly it worked out pretty well. Meanwhile, knitting has become something of a sophisticated science in many ways and with the advent of the internet, it’s become a worldwide phenomenon that I much appreciate. I am fascinated by the history of knitting in different places, the traditions, the commonalities and differences, the styles, the fact that (contrary to what most Swiss women will tell you!) there is no right or wrong, just a wide variety of ways of doing the same thing. And the yarns – the wools and silks and all the rest of the wide array of fibre people have knit with all over the world! A treasure trove. img_7767Recent stash enhancement – British wool and Swiss silk/merino…

To my delight, about 10 years ago and shopping for a birthday gift, I discovered a book of short essays, often very funny, by a knitter calling herself the Yarn Harlot and intriguingly, the blurb on the back of the book said she had a blog of the same name. Ever since, I’ve been hooked and laughed and cried with (Canadian) Steph as she has become something of a Queen of the modern knitting community all the while bringing up three daughters and living an increasingly crazy life on the knitting road as she promotes her books, raises money for charity by cycling across Canada and knitting and she is practically the godmother of knitting retreats all over North America. A pattern she chooses to knit is bound for fame and fortune as hundreds of knitters clamour to follow suit. While many other beautiful and entertaining knitting blogs have emerged, many have also died away, so I’m delighted that this one is still going strong. I don’t have a blog roll as such here, but some others I enjoy are

  • Dancing with Wool (Lene Alve in Finland)
  • Knitting Bliss (Julie Crawford in Canada)
  • Yarnsmithery (my friend Elaine Morris in England)   

img_7721Ysolda Teague’s Saudade hat kit in Jamieson & Smith’s 2-ply jumper weight – love it! (courtesy of my friend Helen at Runquiltknitwrite blog – shout out!) 

Let me give an honourable mention to Kate Davies and her blog, a knit designer (with her own line of wool)  I love but whose essays on knitting history are a rich and fascinating mine of information – she’s a northern English girl with an interesting personal story and living in western Scotland, with a focus on Scottish places like Islay or Shetland which are mirrored in her work. Her husband Tom takes really amazing photographs of those landscapes. Stunning. img_8845Zygopetalum orchid in my mother-in-law’s conservatory and in a cachepot she made when my brother-in-law was a child

For a while, I fell into audio podcasts, which was a whole new genre at the time. Many hopped onto this bandwagon – but sadly, many fell off it again or simply quit. There are 100 episodes of Alana Dakos’ Nevernotknitting podcast you can listen to, a Californian who has become a noteworthy designer of botanically inspired knits over the course of her podcasting years but has now stopped recording. I spent many a comfortable hour knitting or in the bath listening to Brenda Dayne’s Cast On, a quirky and knitterly chat each time she popped up, but who again, now rarely if ever records. She’s an American living in South Wales… (I think these episodes can still be found on iTunes) img_7710Travel Cardigan by Nancy Eiseman in the luscious and adorable West Yorkshire Spinners Blue-faced Leicester DK – I wore this for the first time today and the buttons alone gave me pleasure in the sunshine! 

And then just recently, I was made aware of a new kid on the block, knitting podcasts on YouTube. Why these aren’t just called knit vlogs I have no idea, but no, they are known as knitting podcasts. So far I have discovered several (and bingewatched…) and love them all – they are all gentle and chatty, sometimes a little repetitive (just like when you’re talking to a friend and have forgotten that you already mentioned such-and-such last week…) and all have their funny and amusing moments. Most entertaining (much better than telly!) Oh, and so far, they all drink tea – yay!!

Let me count the ways…

  • Firstly, I found The Gentle Knitter, Nicole from Canada. A keen nature-lover who works in a museum, she has a soft and pleasant manner when chatting enthusiastically about her knitting and yarns – I love that she can pronounce the French names properly!
  • Then Melody at Mandarine’s popped up on my screen. Melody is French and living in Latvia after a stint in China – she has grown from a beginner knitter to experienced and working as a knitwear designer in a very short time and has a lovely aesthetic that has evolved slightly in the course of her work but which has always had a distinctive style, also very connected to nature and ecology. As I’m interested in the Baltic tradition and have a connection with France, these videos claim my attention every time. So relaxing.
  • Last but not at all least, I then discovered Eli at Skeindeer knits. This charming and bubbly Norwegian doing a PhD in London is a pleasure to follow. I love how she sometimes rambles and rants but find I generally agree with her! Her speciality is colourwork, in which she shines, and it’s to her credit that she has begun publishing her patterns – hurray. As a huge Scandi fan, I have always admired the traditional designs and have tried my hand at one or two. With Eli’s encouragement, I will be doing more – in fact, I’ve just finished a Fair Isle hat knitted in Shetland wool that I thoroughly enjoyed knitting and my Norwegian wools (a souvenir from my trip last year) are just waiting for a Norway-inspired moment which will not be too long coming! I also love her Schnauzer dogs back in Norway and the episodes she made while she was there…

IMG_5674

Drops dog sweater made in Drops Baby Merino – looks impressive, wasn’t that hard! 

All of these lovely ladies have Instagram accounts you can follow (and probably Twitter, too, but I don’t do that!) so I’d encourage any knitters out there to give them all a try, just as good (if not better) than a boxed set next time you settle down for a cosy hour with the needles (or hook, crocheters…!). No links because WordPress just kills me sometimes and you all know how to google :).  Bonny's jumper 2And just because I enjoyed the first one, I made a different one for my friend’s pup, again a Drops pattern and mostly Drops Baby Merino… suitable for Valentine’s week!

 

The Four Seasons

Not the band – though they were good, too! “Jersey Boys” is something I’d love to see sometime… four-seasonsAnd Vivaldi, that’s beautiful and evocative. But we’re going somewhere else, here!

As I mentioned in my last post, even as a child I enjoyed browsing through activity books and if they followed the course of the year, so much the better. I know one was a lovely nature book, just a small paperback, but it had so many interesting observations, drawings and ideas for things to do as the months go by that I particularly liked it. I’ve even tried to find it again secondhand, as my copy somehow disappeared, but as I can’t remember the exact title circa 1975 I’ve not had any luck – I’d need to flip through to see if the content rang bells, so online shopping isn’t very helpful, despite good resources for secondhand books. The publishers of Waldorf books, Verlag Freies Geistesleben, brought out a beautiful book called Das Jahreszeitenbuch (the book of seasons) about 30 years ago when I was a young mum and I bought it for myself as much as for my daughter as a treat – it’s still on my bookshelf. That aspect of the Waldorf philosophy appealed to me, adapting and flowing with the seasons and traditional holidays and this book has a very nature-inspired approach for young children, including some special songs for different times of year, baking, crafting and so on. It’s still available, too.das-jahreszeitenbuch

So perhaps it was no surprise that I inadvertently ordered this selection of yarn recently! img_7608

It was only when they were lined up like this that I realised they represent the four seasons – a cool early spring with the purple of irises and crocuses in among the light grey and  a few specks of sunshine (Llluvas), a bright and cheerful summer palette (Aniversario), an autumnal riot of rich, warm oranges with some remaining leafy green (Piedras) and finally, a wintry and stormy blue-purply-grey (Unicorn) – and all Malabrigo Mechita, Uruguayan single-ply merino in a fingering weight. I made a “Boxy” jumper by Joji Locatelli last summer in the Pearl colourway of this yarn and it’s a pleasure to knit. In fact, I then made a simple cowl to match from the leftovers.

I had chosen them purely for their colour merits and appeal to my tastes (I’m obviously a rainbow!) and with no particular project in mind, but now that they’re here and resting next to me on the table, I have decided to make them into a 2017 project and knit one each season. Inspiration can be from the colour, the colour name, the season or just because a project is particularly typical – or particularly unusual – for me!2017-calendar(this is a free downloadable and printable calendar from Calendarpedia.com that I have used in past years!)

How fitting to be starting the year with a yearlong project! That was unplanned lol. So much in our lives is not planned so let’s go with the flow.

I’ll be starting with winter (there’s still snow on the ground and bound to be more, yet),  Unicorn… hm, now what does that inspire? I’m thinking perhaps Rosewater by Janina Kallio Design, a crescent or rounded shawlette/scarf that picks up on the fact that I go by Swissrose online ;). Well, we’ll see.

And coincidentally, if there are any Gilmore Girls fans out there (oh so many parallels to my life in there, oooh…!!) you will have been watching the recent release of four new “seasons” of their lives like I have (and then bingewatching the 150 old episodes :o). Were you knitting, too?! gg-year-in-the-life

Off to a good start

Well now, hello blogland! My mind just boggled at the many events that have happened on  the 9th January over history https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_9 – really quite something. Not the most important, but Steve Jobs introduced the iphone 10 years ago today and that HAS had a direct impact on my life and my photography (I just uploaded all my most recent photographs and we’ve recently had varying degrees of struggle to set three different iphones up…). Anyway, this is the photo that inspired today’s post: img_1622This little pile has accumulated on my coffee table so as I can say something about each one, I thought I’d take advantage!

  1. The Idea of North by Peter Davidson – I haven’t delved into this one, yet, but was attracted by the title and the introduction blurb on the back. Among other things Nordic, from “hygge” to knitting patterns, I’ve recently read The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life by Anu Partanen (which I highly recommend, incidentally – a comparison between life in Finland/Scandinavia and the USA in so many areas including birth, education, health…) and have long had a hankering for Scandinavia/Northern Europe/the North generally; it seems like it’s going to be a good choice and promises “cultural history at its best”…
  2. Peacock & Vine by A.S. Byatt – This is a beautifully written essay comparing man-of-all-trades William Morris with the Spanish fashion designer Mariano Fortuny, who spent much of his life in Venice. Very much a “compare and contrast” work, A.S. Byatt explains where these two men had similar inspirations and in which respects they were very different. It’s a small book, a fascinating read and I read the original recommendation on Cornflower Books’ blog at http://www.cornflowerbooks.co.uk/2016/01/looking-forward-to-reading-.html.
  3. Mit Kindern durch das ganze Jahr by Peter Gogen – Apparently something of a classic children’s book in the 1970s, there are dozens of copies for sale second-hand (I probably picked it up at a Brockenhaus years ago) but I can’t find anything about the author. It’s one of those books with an activity for every day of the year, relatively few illustrations and where the tone expects that children between around 8-12 (my personal estimate) are independent and curious readers and are getting a thorough education – I’m afraid it is that which dates it most, as I imagine that age group these days has most often been dumbed down and is used to everything in digital multicolour comic style. Sad. I still think it has loads of interesting information and lots of ideas of things to do, make, experiment with and so on, and I like to look at it now and again. Occasionally I filter something from it to use with my grandchildren. I’ve always loved this kind of book myself, an only child who spent hours of the 1970s poring over something similar in English. I’m old-fashioned like that!
  4. SPQR by Mary Beard – Obviously, this is going to be about the Romans. Mary Beard is well known as a specialist in this field and I’ve enjoyed several TV series of her enthusiastic explanations of all things Roman. My mother and daughter have already got through this tome and now it’s my turn – I hear it’s very “engaging”! Quite apart from the subject matter, I sympathise with Mary Beard, who is criticised by the media for believing that appearances aren’t everything and lets her long grey hair blow around (as I do)!
  5. The Vikings by Jonathan Clements – Ah now, this one I have already listened to as an audiobook several times. Alone, with my daughter and son-in-law while they painted the house in Brittany, with my husband, daughter again, alone again – and again and again. There is so much in it and I can’t seem to remember it from one listen to the next so I got hold of a paper copy to give my daughter and now I get to borrow it and hope that reading a real book might make the stories sink in better (I have a very visual memory, especially for names – this is why I actually read The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan while I listen to it and knit, which freaks my husband out a bit but it’s the best way for me to retain even a fraction of the myriad stuff going on! If only the two texts were identical…). In my view, history books are enormous value for money! This one is well-written and entertaining and in the audiobook version, so well read you don’t doze off (my opinion of the reader of the Silk Roads is less charitable, since he doesn’t seem to recognise punctuation :o).

Well, that is 5 for January – let’s see how well I do with them this month, alongside everything else! We do still have snow (and more forecast!), the evenings are still dark, but some of the days have been stunning – I caught this behind the station just as the sun went down last Friday on my way home from an excellent exhibition in Zurich about the Japanese artist Ito Shinsui (http://www.rietberg.ch/itoshinsui_en and https://www.artelino.com/articles/ito_shinsui.asp): img_7574

 

 

A New Year

Our year was wrapped up en famille, which is always good – over several days and in several different combinations, as well as several different places, we got everyone together – img_8509 img_7418 img_7436 img_7485…and toasted the end of a difficult year, but one which does seem to have gone very fast! img_7489So here we are in 2017 – the tree has been taken down img_7568and we have snow! img_7513I love snow – as do the dog and my grandson, who came to stay – img_7547 img_7537 img_7534That was shortly before the snowball met its target – me 😮

Indoors, things were quieter img_7565 img_7570 img_7506 And all the while, the baby seems oblivious in a cloud of pink – aaaaah! img_7566Which rather sums up January, as this illustration from an old German activity book (1976…) shows! img_7502

Nearly there

Advent is almost a whole week longer this year, so ample time to check out the decorations around town – img_7345 img_7347 img_7350 img_7352I definitely like simple and pretty!

Reindeer live here – just behind this frosted tree (it’s not snow, just frozen fog up on the hill!), in a big stable very prettily hung with lights as you approach from below, and the restaurant across the road is about the wildest it gets around here in the way of deco – food and staff are lovely, too. No, we don’t eat these reindeer, they are the owner’s pets! The grandchildren were taken in last year when, just before Christmas, the reindeer weren’t there, off on their world tour…

img_7329 img_7330Our tree is up, with each of these sweet girls representing one of our three daughters 🙂 img_7358A very happy holiday season to everyone out there, enjoy your families and take a moment to prepare for 2017! img_7390

Ho ho ho

Maybe it should be “ha ha ha” because when I said I’d be back in October, I didn’t mean mid-December on a crash course to Christmas. Ah well. The best laid plans…

But hey, look what snowed in for Advent this year – img_7290Meet my newest grandchild, my eldest daughter’s 4th child, a little girl called Joline who joined her big brothers and sister recently! She made them all wait a week for her, which was almost unbearably exciting and now they’re all thrilled, too cute. There are several family birthdays around now and she just waited to get one of her own… As usual and like her siblings, she was home from the hospital within a few hours and the next thing I heard, she was off to the Christmas market to celebrate being a day old lol! Go, Joline! Correct assumption: mother and baby are doing well 🙂

img_7260img_7220I love that Christmas in Switzerland is so tasteful in its decorations. It’s not considered a humourous time of year and lights are rarely coloured, with more emphasis on decorations made of natural materials and traditional colours. This is a local flower shop.

On a grey, rainy Saturday in mid-November, volunteers hung the town’s Christmas lights – these are the ones along our road… img_7211In town, a few streets along, it’s so pretty at the main station

Frauenfeld TG , 06.12.12 / Weihnachtsbeleuchtung in der Stadt Frauenfeld .

Frauenfeld Station

and there are some pretty projections, too, on some of the nicest buildings cxgue3zwwaeieezIt’s all very pretty indeed and worth taking a walk through town after dark or visiting the Christmas market or even just stopping for a mug of Glühwein (mulled wine) and/or some roast chestnuts… and then coming home again! IMG_5556

 

 

Not forgotten

Yes, I am still around – but sooo busy…

img_6757 img_6763A dozen or a score of books or so, and I can particularly recommend:

  • “Weathering” by Lucy Wood, which I think makes an excellent cold-weather or rainy-day read (not actually had any of that, but still!)
  • “Running Blind” and “The Freedom Trap” by Desmond Bagley, as exciting as back in the 80s, so any thriller by him, really!
  • “Headhunter” by Jo Nesbø – a clever plot, if a little primitive at times :o!
  • “Through the Language Glass” by Guy Deutscher (perception of colour in language) followed by
  • “Colour: Travels through the Paint Box” by Victoria Finley – these two go very well together…
  • Any of the Maigret books by Simenon, my duo was the Old Lady and the Dead Girl
  • A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson-Wright, which is just what it says on the package, a great romp through a cuisine that has undeservedly got itself a bad name and is nothing less than fascinating!

A lot of knitting in the sun – when I get back home to Switzerland, there will be plenty to document 🙂

I even found some Breton wool, something I had never seen in the 25 years I’ve been coming here:

img_6887 img_6886On BBC Radio 4 this morning, they were discussing what “rest” means to various people – I can definitely say that for me, sunshine and a breeze through the trees, feet up with a book or some knitting, plenty of water and tea and beautiful surroundings certainly do the job! I really have nothing whatsoever to complain about. My husband joins me this week, too!

Back in October…