Saturday, 2 September 2017

Finished Object: Omniscient Octopus

Pattern: Omniscient Octopus by Joane Rowe
Yarn: Madelinetosh Sock 
Colour: Mandala
Needles: 3.25mm Round Needles
Start of project: August 13th, 2017
End of project: August 26th, 2017

On Ravelry

My brother is a diver and he loves octopuses, he even has a big tatoo of an octopus all over his arm. So it came as no surprise when he wanted me to knit a toy version of his favourite animal. It took me a while to find a pattern that didn't look all childish and boring, but then I found the Omniscient Octopus. I could tell it was going to be a challenging knit, but I had no idea how much so.

This was probably the most difficult thing I ever knit and also the one I kind of regretted starting most. To knit this octopus you have to survive lots and lots of suckers, I think there are about 300 of them, which are done by casting on stitches and then casting them off again right away and then you catch the suckers on the next two rows, before you start the next one. The whole time I was knitting I had to be really focused on what I was doing and I was never really sure if what I did was the way it was supposed to be. After a while I'd gone to far to stop so I pushed on but I was really close to giving up many times.

The thing that really kept me going was that it looked very realistic and also very cool. At the end you add chenille sticks to the arms before you close them and then the octopus can me formed it every shape you want it to. I added these really intense red eyes which are slightly creepy but I love the way they look.

Yesterday I met my brother for dinner and gave him his new toy. He was really happy about it and we even took it out to a bar for a drink afterwards (people were looking at us in a funny way for sure). He named it Hänk and I could tell he likes it a lot which makes it one of the best things I've ever knit (but there is no way I'd ever consider doing another one ;-)

Friday, 11 August 2017

Finished Object: SPO

Pattern: SPO by Sabrina Schuhmacher
Yarn: Madelinetosh Sock and Fröhlich Wolle Blauband
Colour: Electric Rainbow and offwhite
Needles: 4mm Round Needles
Start of project: July 2nd, 2017
End of project: July 12th, 2017

On Ravelry

Before we left for Germany and the North Sea I knit this shawl as a test knit. It's been my second time as a test knitter. I enjoy knitting a new pattern, even though I never know whether I do enough "testing", basically I just knit and hope for the best. This test knit was for Sabrina aka donnarossa on ravelry.

I got to know her last year at my first stitching retreat, she is the organiser and she's one of the friendliest knitter I know. I often see her on Tuesday evenings during our Knit'n'Sip at Piccolo Giardino or if the weather is really hot at the lake for a swim and then some knitting.

Somehow I found it really hard to start this pattern, mostly because it uses an iCord-cast on,  a technique I'd never done before and because the terms right and left can sometimes confuse me quite a bit, I guess I have a bit of a brain challenge there. I kind of managed after a few tries and after that it was just lovely to knit. All these starter problems were of my own making, if I'd read correctly what was written or if my brain had managed to process it, it would have worked out far quicker. In the meantime Sabrina posted a tutorial on her blog with pictures which helps a lot.

I used one of the skeins I bought in Pacifica this spring. I had no idea when I would ever use something as colourful as that yarn, I just knew I liked the way it looked. For this project it seemed perfect. I combined it with a really simple off white sock yarn which works great together.

At first I imagined finishing this shawl at the place it was named for (that was quite a coincidence that we were going to the town next to SPO for our holidays) but then it was knit so fast that I had time to block it at home and so I just put it in my suitcase and took it to the beach with me.

Yannick took lots of pictures and I think it looks stunning in the place it was supposed to be worn ;-)

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Finished Object: Maeve

Pattern: Maeve by Carrie Bostick Hoge
Yarn: Malabrigo Rios
Colour: Cereza
Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm Round Needles
Start of project: July 15th, 2017
End of project: August 4th, 2017

On Ravelry

I love garments that can be put on and taken off without problems. Often I have to change what I wear quite frequently. One moment I am sitting quietly at my desk not moving much and the next I am walking around in my classroom and explaining stuff. So shrugs or open cardigans are perfect for me. When I saw Maeve I knew I wanted something like that, but a bit more fitted without feeling tight. I also knew I wanted colour, because most of the time I wear jeans and a plain shirt (very often a black one). When I ordered the yarn it looked like a deep intense pink, a colour I rarely wear but I decided to be brave and go for it. When the yarn arrive, I had to smile because the colour was quite different but probably much better suited because I love deep intense reds.

I started my shrug on my first days of the summer holidays and I loved to see how it grew. The garter stitch at the cuffs looks so soft and I also liked the stockinette of the sleeves. Then we left for Hamburg and Büsum and I had quite a bit of time to knit, I even took it to the beach at Sankt-Peter Ording. I managed to finish the back and the second sleeve while we were there, so I got to see if it would fit.

Back at home I started the band, following two modifications that I found in somebody else's project notes on Ravelry. I used two skeins for the garter stitch so I only had to knit without purling at all. That was such an amazing advantage, it would have taken far longer and it might have ended much more lopsided because I really don't like to purl for hundreds of stitches. I also tried adding short rows at the sides. I actually finished my shrug, but when I tried it on, I didn't like what I had done. There was too much fabric at the side and at the back it was all wavey in an unflattering way.

I was in no hurry for this to be done, I'd much rather have a top that I'd actually love and wear. I tried to come up with a new plan. I frogged back a lot and then I started short rows around the bottom and added stitches earlier.

I had no idea if this would work out. I love to experiment but it doesn't always end the way I imagine it, but this time it did. It only took a few days and then I was done again but with a different shape. I ended with and iCord because that's my favourite bind off.

Today we went to take some final photos and even though it was totally too hot to wear it I know that this will be worn a lot, maybe there will even be another Maeve in a different colour soon.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Büsum and the Wadden Sea

After our first day in Hamburg, we left for the North Sea and drove for about 125 kilometers to Büsum where we stayed in the newly opened Küstenperle Beachhotel and Spa for the next 6 days. The hotel is right next to the dyke and from our room you could even see the sea (if it was there, because when it was low tide, there is only a lot of sand but no water).

One of the best things of this part of the North Sea (in my opinion) are the beach chairs. You can rent them for the day or even for the week and they just look so inviting. On our first evening there was heavy thunderstorm with lots of flashes right outside our hotel and we were able to capture a few of them by using the beach chairs as a tripod.

Because the land is very flat and there is always wind next to the sea there are many wind generators everywhere. It was fun to drive close by, they look quite impressive and I think they look almost as if they belong there.

On Friday we drove further north to Sankt-Peter Ording where we found quite a different landscape.  There is a very wide beach even at low tide and there are beautiful dunes and again beach chairs ;-). I don't really know what I prefered, the quietness of Büsum or the wide emptiness of Sankt-Peter Ording - probably both of them and together they were perfect...

It was so relaxing to just hang out, play a bit of volleyball, explore in the receding water and knit a bit on my Maeve shurg. We also took lots of photos for my SPO shawl but these will only be online once the pattern is published (which should be very soon ;-).

Walking home from the center of Büsum back to our hotel through the Wadden Sea was definitely a favourite part of these days for me. It's so lovely to just take off the shoes and walk where there was water everywhere just a few hours ago.

We also did a bike tour along the dyke and got really wet when it started to rain heavily. Fortunately we were close to a restaurant and got to take a break inside. Thanks to the intense wind on the way back we were almost dry again by the time we were in Büsum again. We met a lot of sheep along the way and they didn't seem bothered by the weather or by us at all.

In the evening the sun was out again and I managed to convince Yannick to take a few photos of the two of us. I am really happy that we did...

The next day we wanted to do a Kite Buggy trial lesson but because of the heavy rain the beach was inundated and they had to cancel our lesson. Instead we drove to Husum and had a walk and coffee and cake along the harbour before we headed back to Sankt-Peter Ording for another bit of beach time. We could see how wet the sand still was, too bad it hadn't dried earlier because I think this would have been a lot of fun.

On our last day we did a boat tour along the coast. It wasn't terribly exciting, but really really relaxing and we had a lot of time to talk and just enjoy the sea breeze. Kind of like the whole week, a really good week to reconnect and spend a lot of time together.

Thursday, 27 July 2017


It's holiday time again and so I have something to tell...

We did our annual single kid week. Last year it was Bergen with Antonia, the year before I went to London and Brighton with Yannick and before that I didn't have a blog yet (but it was Paris with Antonia and Kopenhagen with Yannick).

So I got Yannick this year and I was rather apprehensive about this before we left. Being the mom of a teenage boy has seen me challenged quite unexpectedly. I assumed that being a secondary school teacher who has dealt with teenagers for the last twenty years would have me well prepared. Alas, I wasn't, I now understand all these poor parents who try and try but just don't get anywhere because their sons are just too spaced out to absorb any piece of wisdom that comes their way ;-)

But this isn't a blog entry about my struggles with Yannick but about our first stop -  Hamburg. We got there in the afternoon, picked up our car which made me laugh sooo hard. They gave us this super fancy jeep which loved to bleep whenever we got to close to another object. Sometimes it lit up like a christmas tree because we were too close on all sides. That's what happens when you drive quite a big car in a teeny tiny underground parking lot.

We stayed in a hotel in St. Pauli, quite close to the Reeperbahn. I remember how scared I was of this part of Hamburg when I was there the last time (at about 17 while doing Interrail...) Now it seems a very cool part to live in, even if there are still quite a few seedy sex shops. We walked to the harbour and found the best spot to enjoy the view, a drink and sweet potato fries: The Beachclub at Dock 3.

And right there I realised that it is possible to have a good time with Yannick. He likes to take it slowly, spends far too much time in front of his screen, often tells the weirdest stories, but he is quite ready to go for a walk or a drink as long as he doesn't have to plan anything.

The next morning we did a harbour tour. It wasn't terribly exciting but it was an excellent way to have a look at the city and to enjoy the time before we left Hamburg to go on to Büsum at the North Sea.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Finished Object: The Oa

Pattern: The Oa by Kate Davies
Yarn: Kate Davies Designs Buachaille
Colour: Ptarmigan, Between Weathers and Macallum
Needles: 3.5, 3.75 and 4mm Round Needles
Start of project: March 11th, 2017
End of project: June 7th, 2017

On Ravelry

This was one of the patterns that had me head over heels at first sight. Right away I knew I had to make this. The combination of the beautiful all over pattern with the contrasting details at the hem, cuff and hood are just perfect. I even decided to use the original wool, which I knew was going to be much more sheepy than what I usually like to wear. I was a bit scared that it might turn out to be super scratchy but right from the start it felt ok. Slightly rough and a bit smelly but not too much so and not itchy at all. After the blocking the fabric is even less stiff and I am sure it will soften more with use.

Knitting this was a real challenge. I had to learn new techniques (now I know how to do a provisional cast on, I had to cut a crochet reinforced steek and there were a few other details). But the really difficult part was to get the size right, even though I did the most elaborate swatch with steek ever.

I don't think it was only my fault that it didn't work out, I read a lot of posts by people who found it as difficult to get the size right. I started with size 3 which is bigger than what I would normally knit / wear. I had finished all of body when I realised that it was too tight, so back I frogged. The second time I had done about 5 inches when I noticed that I had twisted the cast on, no idea why it took me so long to see it, but there was nothing to be done, I had to go back again. The third time - following size 4 - seemed ok and I was ready to start the sleeves.

At first it seemed to work out but I only got to the last increases right before the end of the sleeves and again, it was just too tight. I changed the increase rate on my second try and it seemed to fit better. Most of the sleeves was actually knit while we were in California, it must have looked super weird when I was knitting something so obviously warm while wearing a bikini.

I think that it's always extra cool when something I am wearing has been made far away, I am sure there is still a bit of ocean air and sand trapped in there somewhere.

Back home I was finally able to join everthing together. It was as wobbly as I expected, this is really my least favourite part of bottom up knitting. I had to adapt the pattern again for the increases, but at least I got it right on the first try. And would you believe that it was still really close to being too tight.

I knit the hood and added the trimming and then -  I ran out of yarn. Fortunately it didn't take that long for more of it to arrive from Scotland and I could finally finish the last remaining parts, the cuffs and the hem. I was quite fed up with the whole thing by then because it definitely looked like the biggest waste of time: it looked more like a sausage than anything comfortable and wearable. But I knew that I had to try to block it as hard as possible, because the fabric of the swatch felt really different from the unblocked sweater. I gave it a long bath and then I stretched as wide as possible, especially at the sleeves.

And now it's off the mat and it fits ok. In a perfect world the sleeves would be wider but I think it will be ok and I definitely can't be bothered to frog anything back. This is it and I gave my best ;-) After this I really need a few nice and easy projects...