Saturday, March 29

Home from Hamburg

We got back to New York just about a week ago. A long week ago. I knew that I should blog about my time there before I was swept away in my life here, but alas, that didn't happen. So here is a breakdown of highlights of our (my) trip (most of these photos are unrelated to the highlights, but that's the way it is):

-My friend and I took a long walk one day from one Hamburg suburb to another, all on walking paths through the woods. We brought along her 2-year old, who immediately fell asleep in his stroller. About a quarter of the way along, it began to rain. Hard. We found shelter at a bus stop (where we could have taken a bus back to the train station), but then, for some strange reason, we decided to continue on. Little did we realize that there was no turning back once we left the bus shelter. We trudged up and down hills, stairs and across streets, longing for some hot tea and a hearty snack (we had a little food, but didn't want to eat it in case the 2-year old woke up and was hungry). Overall it wasn't so bad, but I think my friend would have been much happier without having to push a stroller.
-One one of the last nights we were there, I went with my friend to meet a few Hamburg knitters. I had found them via Ravelry, and they had enthusiastically suggested that we have a knit night. We met at a Scottish pub not far from my friend's apartment, where we had ale and cottage pie and admired each other's knitting. It was a really wonderful experience, something I wish I'd done earlier in my trip so we could have been able to meet a second time. They were definitely what you might call kindred spirits, and my friend (who knits a little now and then) vowed to join their group. I hope to live vicariously through her relationship to them, though of course we're all now friends on Ravelry so they're not too far away!-Christopher and I walked around Hamburg quite a bit. We went to a show of art based on the trials of St Anthony (which was rather fun, actually) and also to the opera. We saw Tales of Hoffman, which was in French with German supertitles. Many years ago I actually did this opera as a design project, but clearly I am getting old, as I couldn't remember much of the plot past the second act. Added to our confusion is the fact that the opera's plot is rather fantastical and each of the 4 main singers plays 4 parts, so by the end it was like watching someone's beautiful dream set to amazing music. I have no idea what it was about, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Now it's over... I'm back designing like mad and Christopher is busy revising a play of his for a reading scheduled for mid-April. It's busy here!

Thursday, March 20

Finally Finished Forecast (well, almost)

Last fall I fell in love with a sweater. It was one of those things where you see a photo and have to cast on immediately. And so I ran out, bought the yarn (the last 4 skeins of Cascade 200 in that dye lot) and began knitting. Today I sewed on the last button and tried it on. I love it. So much that I don't want to take it off. But... yes, of course there's a's too small. I really should learn from these mistakes... I might have gotten gauge, but I've been suspicious about the size since I cast on. It's actually rather comfortable (if not roomy). The main problem is that the sleeves are too short, as is the bottom of the sweater. I have a little yarn left, and I've decided that I'm going to use it to lengthen the bottom of the sweater. (Luckily it's knit from the top down, so pulling out the bottom edge won't be too tricky).

My hostess has suggested that I give it to someone smaller than me. I'm not sure she realizes how rarely I knit myself a sweater, and that it has taken me 5 months to make myself finish it. (The knitting itself was rather quick, I just got really distracted along the way.)
But for all intents and purposes, I think it's done. And I'm proud of it.

Pattern: Forecast, by Stephanie Japel, published in Knitty.
Modifications: I just did ribbing on the wrist and bottom edges, and I started the ribbing earlier in each case. Bobbles were 3 stitch bobbles instead of 5 stich ones.
Yarn: Cascade 220, 4 skeins. Bought from Downtown Yarns, NYC
Buttons: from a store in Hamburg, Germany (looks like I might need to get a few extra before I return to the States)

Started: October 2007
Completed (not counting my future extension of the bottom): March 2008

Wednesday, March 19


I have mentioned being in Denmark last week, but I didn't say much about what it was like there.

First of all, I have a friend who lives in Hamburg. We've been good friends since we were at summer camp together when we were 14. Though we have never lived in the same city (or state) our families both spent parts of their summers in Maine, so we saw quite a bit of each other each year, even outside of camp. After college, my friend moved to Germany to be with her German boyfriend. A few years later they married, and now they have two little boys, aged 5 and 2.

That is why I am here, and for so long. We hadn't seen each other since they came to Philadelphia for Christopher's and my wedding in October 2006. We were both feeling the separation, so I got a fairly inexpensive ticket to see them. They had already planned to go to the western Danish coast for a week in March, so I followed them there. And now we're all back in Hamburg, where they live. Christopher joined me here last Friday.

It's really nice be here. I feel very much away from my life in New York now, maybe too distant, since I have been getting emails from friends and people I'm working with and I need to keep connected. (Unfortunately, the work stuff is important, and I can't just ignore it.) But no one has called me here, and my cell phone has been turned off for almost 2 weeks now. It's great.
Anyway, back to Denmark. My friend and her family rent a house in a town called Henne Strand every year. It's on the western coast of Denmark in a beach town, the type of place you'd find on the Jersey Shore, fairly new and overpriced, touristy. Stores are geared towards the vacationers and everyone speaks German, since most of the visitors are from Germany. Things to do include walking to (and along) the beach and relaxing your rented cottage. The little cottage they'd rented had a fireplace and cozy living room, which was perfect for reading and knitting in. This is the house we stayed in.

It is March, not exactly the time of year to lay out in the sun on the beach. In fact, it was rather rainy for much of the time we were there. And windy, but apparently that is very normal for Denmark. The coast might just be super windy all year round. Check out these stones. I think they might actually be like that because of the wind. The land was also interesting because for about 1km in from the coast there were terrific dunes. Tall, tall dunes. I wondered a little if some of them (like the ones betweeen the houses) weren't manmade, but others were clearly natural.
Here's a question: does beach vegetation look similar around the world? I couldn't help being reminded of New Jersey, but that is the sandy beach I'm most familiar with.

Monday, March 17

first felting

As you might imagine, I immediately cast on a project with my new Danish wool. Two of my purchases were skeins of something called Preyarn, or Unspun. I have been wanting a pair of felted slippers, and this stuff is made just for felting. It's not twisted at all, and it's pretty much a worsted or sport weight, which means that it breaks like crazy. The woman who sold it to me said that she'd used about 200 grams for a pair of slippers she had made, so I bought two skeins of it. The pattern I chose calls for a Turkish cast on and knitting the slipper up from the toe using Magic Loop. I don't think the pattern considered that I would be using very weak yarn, and there was a lot of strain on the toe, which caused breakage and general holes in the knitting.

I finished the first slipper that night, and decided to felt it before I knit another, since I'd never felted before and had no idea how it would work. The pattern gauge is 4 sts to 1" pre-felting, and I was getting something closer to 3 stitches to an inch. It was huge, and I thought it might be bigger than it was supposed to be. When we got back to Hamburg (and my friend's apartment) we made a night of felting my single slipper. I looked for how-to online and found a mixture of advice, mostly involving violent agitation, soap and hot water. I settled on a spaghetti pot and ladle as felting tools, and changed the water a few times to make sure it was hot. (It also smelled very sheepy.)A very helpful article on Knitty told me what to expect: my knitted object would actually seem to expand and stretch before suddenly felting. I'm glad I knew to expect this, as this is precisely what happened. After about 30 minutes of stirring my slipper, I pulled it out and it had started to shrink. I could see the fibers beginning to felt, to such an extent actually that it was felting to itself inside the slipper. I got some scissors and used the blade to cut the it apart.

And voila! Suddenly my slipper was about the right size. The last thing I did (before setting it out to dry) was soap it up and more or less massage it onto my foot, so it shrunk to my foot's shape and size. I then rinsed it in cold water and set it on a windowsill to dry. Perfect!Of course, I used just a smidgen of a skein for my one slipper, so I will be left with a ton of purple felting yarn. I am interested in using it, but I can only imagine so many purple felted things in my life... maybe I should make myself a bag.

Pattern: Keep Away Felted Slippers, from Knit Front and Back
Yarn: Preyarn from OldMill

Saturday, March 15

the search for yarn

There is so much to write!

Last week I was in Denmark with my friend and her husband and children. There wasn't much of a plan while we were there except to relax and take walks on the (very windy) beach. I had told them before I came that I wanted to visit a yarn store or two, and through the marvelous wonders of the internet I'd received recommendations to stores in northern Germany and western Denmark.

Our first try was a failure. We drove north last Saturday and hoped to stop in a town near the Danish border called Flensburg. I had heard great things about a yarn store there, and some of the folks from Ravelry had actually wanted to meet me there. Unfortunately, we arrived right after it closed at 1pm. It was very sad. On Tuesday we decided to try a store in a town close to our rented house in Denmark. This store, though open, was pretty much a disappointment: mostly acrylics and very scratchy plain old yarn mixed in with nicknacks and children's toys. We thought we'd head down to a town called Ho the next day, but after checking the store's site we learned that it was closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. And so on Wednesday afternoon I drove with my friend to a town called Tarm.

When we neared the outskirts of the town, we saw a sign with the yarn store's name and an arrow. We turned onto a very narrow rural road and drove a little ways, past farms and cows. It turned out that the store was in one of these farms.The store was in the farm up there.

Next to the parking area was a pasture of cows, which we later heard were a breed from Scotland. When we went to get a closer look at them, they all ran over to the fence. Apparently they thought we were going to feed them. The woman who ran the yarn store told us that they are very friendly and not at all dangerous, that she can go in and lean on the bulls and they won't do anything. Anyway, we met a wonderful woman in the shop. Almost as soon as we arrived she asked how we'd heard of her shop. I told her that it had been recommended to me by Danish knitters group on Ravelry, to which she replied, "oh, it's you!" She is also a Raveler, and had been part of the discussion on what shops I should visit and yarns I should find in Denmark. We talked about Kauni yarn, and the wonderful sweater designs of Ruth Sørensen. She showed us the Danish yarns, which we oohed over. We also were very clumsy Americans and kept knocking over cones of yarn or displays, but our hostess seemed to take it all in stride.

In the end, I went home with this: It's really too much yarn, and thanks to my bad skills at translating kroners to dollars, I spent much more than I realized. I have decided not to feel too guilty about it though, as none of these yarns are easy to find in the US (and definitely not in New York) and I just need to keep my yarn purchases to a minimum in the coming months.

Thursday, March 6

going on a trip

In about 3 hours, I'll be sitting on a big plane. I am, once again (if you can believe it) going on a two week vacation. I'll be visiting my friend and her family in Germany, and we're all going to spend a week on the Danish coast before heading back to Germany where Christopher will join us. I'm pretty psyched.

I have been packing for the past few hours, which more or less means that I have been wandering around the apartment, spotting something random and collecting it. Here is the beginning of my collection. Notice that just about everything is cooking or knitting related.Clearly I have plans for this next week! Knitting wise, I'm hoping to finish a bunch of projects, including both the Forecast sweater for me (just lacking a sleeve) and Christopher's Jarrett (which just needs me to cast off the sleeve, block it and sew both sleeves to the body). It will be such a relief to have those projects done.

Through the wonders of Ravelry and modern technology, I also have scouted out the best yarn store in the area I'll be in, and have tips as to which local yarns to buy. I'm really excited and have already planning to make myself a pair of Keep Away felted slippers which one of the very cool felting yarns that they sell there. I've never felted before, but what else is a week on the rainy Danish coast good for?

Monday, March 3

getting political about my food

I don't usually talk about my politics. It's just not what I want this blog to be about. But I am very into food, and I love the way that our country is finally excited about local and organic foods. It's just good for everyone.

And so it made me angry when I just read this Op-Ed in the New York Times about a mid-western farmer who had to pay $8,000+ in fines when he used a field to grow organic watermelons, because the field had been slated for corn. I find it so horrible that big agriculture dictates what we eat and what is available in our markets, and controls what we pay for our food as a result. Don't get me started. Just read the article.

Sunday, March 2

a photo for the weekend

I barely seem to have time to sit down these days, and I haven't been to the gym in at least 2 weeks. I don't want to neglect the blog, but I also have a ton of things to do in the next hour or two before I head to Hartford for a few days.

So. I leave you with Dinah, who finds many ways to enjoy the sunlight. We are fortunate that most of our windows face south, and the sun shines in basically all day. (In the summer we're a little less excited by this as it really heats up the apartment.)