Festive Days

After a Cold and Frosty Night

Festive days are ahead of us. The beginning of a new year is steering our thoughts away from the past into the future. But it is also a good time to reflect and to make plans for the coming twelve months. If we take the spirit of peace on earth and goodwill toward mankind into the days, weeks and months that lie ahead we can have hope, ultimately, that present woes will subside, wars will come to an end, crime rates will abate, and the fate of children around the world will improve. Kindness goes a long way. Making the difference between despair and hope for just one other person has a tremendous impact. Like every year I will join you in trying.

Winter Days in the Lauragais

My mother loved embroidery. Christmas, Easter, birthdays – these were special occasions for her to select new colors of embroidery floss and buy beautiful patterns, which she either bought preprinted on linen like this “Millieu”

Cross Stitch Embroidery

or counted the stitches in like in this embroidered bell pull decoration brought out during the four weeks of Advent.

Bell Pull Advent Decoration

During the time her three children were small she had no outside help at all but she still found time to sit late at night and knit, crochet, embroider or follow other textile crafts she knew. The baby bib below is white work, and I admire especially the way she made the closure, a small mother-of-pearl button and a loop fashioned with buttonhole stitches.

Whitework Bib, ca. 1939
I would like to thank all readers of this blog for visiting and 

leaving comments.I made many wonderful discoveries myself 
by following my favorite blogs and finding new ones.
All best wishes to you for the Holidays and the coming year 2013!

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POP goes the Blanket

Blankets are loved by everybody. Most babies grow up with them. Blankets grow larger, adjusting to the growing child, then the child turns into an adult, needs a beautiful (or masculine!) blanket on the bed, for relaxing on the sofa, huddling under it against the chills of winter or use it summer outings to spread on it and read a book, have a picknick. Giving a blanket to a child one simply cannot go wrong. 
Tropical Pop Circles Blanket

My first gift to my grandson was a log cabin blanket, in two sizes, one for his crib and one to take on travels! The Hope Blanket was followed quickly by a light-weight swaddling blanket in a basket-weave pattern. The POP pattern by tincanknits makes a cheerful and warm comforting blanket, lap sized or just right to cover a sleeping baby.

The yarn: MC from Cascade while the Multicolor yarns are from a large range of Red Heart colors.
Both knit well, the Cascade maybe a bit difficult for impatient knitters. Why Tropical? The colors remind me of tropical flowers, birds and fish! For information on modifications please see my Ravelry page. A lined version of the POP blanket can be seen here.

Over fourty years ago I made a pink blanket for my newborn daughter Anne. At that time, we lived in the Windy City of Chicago at that time so warmth was essential for outings. Both of my girls had so-called Charlie-Brown type Security Blankets, which were called “Mogy” – a name invented and adopted from the children of a wonderful friend in Chicago whose two kids also had “Mogies”. And when these Mogies were worn and washed and torn to shreds, their pieces were faithfully kept in boxes and amidst precious linen and lace. Bits of them were put into match boxes and mailed abroad to those of the children who spent some time abroad.

I also made a Bubble Blanket for Anne. On a wooden frame that I made to measure a bit wider than the buggy and almost just as long, I hammered in nails at regular intervals and closely together to make many small pompons.

 I layered pink yarn up and down and over and across around the nails, completing the criss-cross layering with a few white yarn layers. Then I tied all crossings tightly together with an untieable knot. Once this tedious part was done, I carefully cut with a pair of good scissors precisely 2 thirds of the yarn layers at every crossing right in the middle between two crossing layers, counting the thread layers that were to be left uncut. And POP by POP – the PomPoms were released! The blanket is light-weight and looks very special with a smiling baby under it! Now, the bubble blanket is For Sale.

Wool and cotton vie for their individual importants, but it is the weather and climate that will guide our choice. Blankets carry many names. I like the name comforters best because we associate blankets and covers generally with a comfort feeling. It is the first item that people in need will yearn for, a cup of hot tea and a blanket to get protected against the weather. Charity blankets carry love and caring all by themselves.
A blanket is a universal concept for a welcome gift, given with the understanding that one cares and wishes to help and learn about caring. A blanket can be made of rags and yet be welcome. Each step of making it is filled with thoughts of the recipient. Each step, stitch, module or circle is not just a part of the whole but an infinite shell holding loving thoughts of the kown or unknown recipient.

Thought of the day: There are pilgrimages like the Path of Saint Jacob. Or the Zen pilgrim path in Europe, developed by Dirk Beemster. I keep on pondering about the difference between the two paths. The goals intimated by the Saint Jacob’s pilgrimage appear to be the path itself and getting absolution of sins upon reaching Santiago de Compostela. The Zen pilgrim path has no goal. It is a path for the here and now. It makes me smile to make a blanket for a baby, right here and now, it will eventually find its own recipient, somewhere…

A Season of Magic Colors

November is a month full of magic and color. Tumbling leaves first grace the air and then cover the ground, glistening in the rain and in the soft rays of sun. Cobwebs bridge wide distances, creating a lace work so fine one stands in awe and admiration.

Magic of the Moment – Precious Natural Jewellery

Fog and humidity in the air leave their imprint in the most precious ways, generously decorating even the finest blades of grass, the dark steaming clods of earth and the spider webs with drops of water that turn into liquid silver with the sun. Just being able to see these wonders must make one feel content and happy, as it is said so beautifully by Zhuangzi: Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.

Sky and Clouds at Sunset

 The months of October and November were busy because of travel and keeping the garden in shape, mainly picking up branches and hundreds of dry twigs that the trees had shed during a mighty 2 1/2 day storm with peak speeds exceeding 90 miles/hour. I kept completing my projects, resisting starting yet another new one.

Early Sun on Valley Fog
Oak Tree Branches – Silhouette against the Evening Sky

The POP Blanket is almost finished, a very nice, easy and highly addictive pattern by tincanknits. The modules are perfect for TV-Watching or as a Waiting-Room-Project. I am trying out various options for joining the modules, hand-stitching or crochet, borner or not…

Ordered the CC yarn at Jimmy Beans (USA): Red Heart Boutique Treasure in the colors 1) Abstract / 2) Watercolors / 3) Horizon . The MC is from Cascade Yarns, Ecological Wool, in Natural. Purchased from Laine et Tricot (France).  Out of curiosity I ordered square dp needles from Jimmy Beans. Pattern starts with circular Emily Ocker CO : the square birchwood needles feel good, nice points, not at all cumbersome.
1) Emily Ocker CO
2) Increased stitch count by picking up the right leg of the stitch in the row BELOW the one you have on your left needle (not with kf&b and not by knitting into the bar between two stitches) to make a truly invisible increase, leaving no hole and no nub. Here is the best tutorial I could find for this technique, from TECHknitting
3) Knitting the corners: I knit the individual corners by knitting forwards (knitting) and backwards (tinking), starting with the short-rows. The corners are very uniform this way plus I did not have to turn the work at all. Here is an excellent tutorial for this technique. After a couple of corners this really speeds up the corner-rows with every module, plus for me it improved the uniformity of stitch tension in those short rows. In my next project involving short rows, I will use the ingenious Japanese short-row method by Susanna i.e. in the blog of Purlwise.
4) Binding off: Used a crochet hook the size of the needles and made a sc-bind-off.
5) Blocking: I use a plywood board and nails outlining a square, hook in the stacked modules, about 8 at a time per square. I cover the stack with a wet towel wrung dry. After 12 hours the modules are perfectly blocked and dry, keeping their blocked shape.
6) Joining modules to make a blanket / finished blanket pictures to follow in upcoming post.                        

POP Modules for the POP Blanket

The other project still to finish was the truly beautiful No. 42 Motif Wrap by Kathy Merrick.All I need now is a model to present this lacy shawl, which will be followed by another one with different colors and materials, called “Profusion des Fleurs“.

This special Vogue Crochet issue is already out of print (although still available for the I-pad!)  I am glad I made an on-the-spot decision to buy it – mainly because of the No. 42 Motif Wrap. The softness of the fine Rowan Kidsilk Haze and the lacy pattern create an absolutely beautiful wrap, light and warm at the same time. I blocked each motif individually and then hand-stitched it together according to the motif color pattern. Then I crocheted the final edge row. 
Please note: I ran out of blue kidsilk haze, which is used for the final edging, so the edging of last five medallions was made with green Kidsilk Haze. Check your second to final colors of the medallions to find out which other color/s might be best for the final edging. Otherwise you might want to order 2 skeins of blue. Or maybe I am just a crocheter on the loose…
The wrap is completely reversible, of course! With its generous length, I can see it being used as a dazzling and luxurious Summer Sweeper Coat!
Please note: Here is a link to Vogue’s errata for this pattern.

Profusion of Fall Colors

Sunlit caleidoscope of colors – but even in the grey of drawn, there is poetry and magic – silvery spider lace webs gllistening in the morning dew.

Early Morning Dew on Cobwebs

First time I saw the ocean…

In Japanese there is a wonderful expression: aaware. It refers to the special beauty of the volatile, transient: the cherry flower, the first snow, a shooting star passing across a nightly sky.
But as fleeting as it might be, its impression often stays on in our memory for a very long time.

Jorge Centofanti The Golden Way

I was ten years old and stayed with my god-mother who lived close to the Dutch border. She was expecting her first child and I was thrilled that I could feel the yet unborn baby kicking inside the belly, and it was as if I had created a touching bond with the invisible child. My vacation with my aunt Luise was pure bliss and this blog entry is written in rememberance to her. She loved to laugh and tell funny stories, her southern Swabian dialect as strong as ever as if she had never left home. But instead of adapting to the local lingo and northern vocabulary, she introduced her own familiar dialect and expressions to the villagers, and the butcher, the baker and the lady at the garden shop, everybody smilingly added her vernacular to their own command of the language.

On a sunny day we went to Scheveningen. At that time it was an exciting excursion, involving hours of driving in a car and going “abroad” to the Netherlands at that, passports had to be presented and stamped at the border, a small suitcase was packed. And then, finally, the overwhelming first view of the ocean! It was more mighty and endless than I could ever have imagined. Nothing framed the horizon but the sea and sky. It was a windy day, the waves thundered in and the wide sand beach was glistening with the froth whipped in by the wind. The air had a taste new to me and when I had the first waves whirl around my bare feet it seemed like a miracle from heaven, so cool, so fresh and so much alive.

What astounded and fascinated me most about the sea were the many colors. I had vaguely assumed a blue like the sky on a summer day. But the variety and innumerable shades of blue amazed me and I still find it fascinating to stand at a beach and look out to the ocean and marvel at the ever-changing spectrum of shapes and colors.

 Looking out to the Boulevard Beach was the Kurhaus Hotel, maybe then as popular as it is today (see the present-day Kurhaus), and to my surprise and delight my uncle and aunt decided to have an afternoon treat at the Kurhaus, coffee and cake, and for me an incredibly tasty, thick hot chocolate drink. I felt like a million and as happy as a child can only be.
 The chocolate / cocoa brand was Droste, of course, the chocolate maker Droste famous for the visual effect on its boxes of cocoa, the socalled “Droste Effect” as shown here. Can you detect the many images each in a yet smaller scale? The site will take you further and lead you to the most interesting work of M.C. Escher and the Droste effect, and anybody interested in patchwork designs will find this a challenge to replicate.

When driving through the dainty Dutch villages I noticed that the windows were often dressed up with short lace curtains. There were even patchwork lace curtains, stitched together unevenly but still looking absolutely beautiful in my eyes.  (Picture from Pinterest)

I took home with me an experience and the memory of a wonderful day I haven’t forgotten in more than 60 years, witness to the poem that True Happiness is the Absence of the Striving for Happiness (Zhuangzi). The day was simply magic.

I still love the color of blue with all its shades and in all its uses. Its history is fascinating, such as The War of the Blue – Indigo Versus Woad, and items dyed with woad into a lovely pastel blue are still made today in an area in France called Le Pastel (Lauragais) amongst other places. Blue is “azul” in Spanish and I named my shrug (see below) Azul, the lovely pattern Ovate is by Toni Gurbisz. The shrug Ovate is for Sale – contact me.

A favorite blue of mine is Lapislazuli, and I like to use it in combination with some yellow and green as in the Blue Morpho Papillon bolero.
 

Feel free to add your own story of how you saw the ocean for the very first time!

Taking Walks

Taking a walk through Ravelry is like walking through day dreams: Yarns, patterns, techniques, assembled in clearly structured spaces. How did we manage without Ravelry!

August is a month for summer knitting or crochet in lovely bright colors – but also for lots of outdoors activity, working or playing in the garden, taking many smaller and not so small day trips or just enjoying the company of wonderful family and friends.I did finish Forest + Frill from Tiny Owl Knits, my third one, called Yummy Summer Bolero,

Made with some stashed Colinette yarn and my own handspun and dyed wool. I alternated 20mm and 10 mm needles, the frilly edging was done with a 10mm crochet hook. Send me an e-mail if you wish to buy it, it is for sale.

Here are a couple of sites and blogs I chanced upon last week: The amazing “Indiaflint“- taking you to new creative horizons.
Need to get more crochet wisdom? Here are very good tutorials “Stitch-Story.Blogspot.fr” – and if you want to learn the absolutely neatest way to turn a dc crochet chain learn how to by watching this tutorial.
You feel like designing your own stuff? Check out this incredible site of “nervous.com“.
Interested in unusual book blogs? Here’s one: The Inky Fool” – and I am sure you already know Good Reads – if not, it might be a very good idea to visit this page and find lots of new and unusual food for thought.

This summer of 2012 artist Francisco Centofanti of Francisco Centofanti Artworks made a number of paintings in the Midi (France). He captures the very essence of this beautiful landscape and the yet quite uncrowded area. Here is one of his paintings – they were sold the moment they were posted! But look at his other work, too, his paintings have already become sought-after collector items.

Transparent Spaces

 There are incredible textile artists found all over the world. This cloister could not be more beautiful, the airiness of the crocheted web countervailing the massive Roman architecture, and somehow reminiscient of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, especially the skeleton of the church made of strings and hung upside down, to be seen in the museum below the church.
Artist TOSHIKO – HORIU ” Chiesa Romanica con colonne a crochet”

Geometric crochet impressions of a Roman Cloister. Also see: Cathedral Knitting in this blog.

Jorge Centofanti: In the Illumination Series, this is a detail of the Dome Panel / Coupole I. This is all done freehand, a true master plan is visualized and realized to perfection. Inevitably, intricate lace pattern come to mind.

Below the collar for the Timbuctoo project: An I-Cord Collar with three yarns held together: my own handspun and madder-dyed silk from eons ago, ribbon tape and alpaca wool. A larger bead at one end, a button hole worked into the I-cord at the other end. Three rows of crochet, working in a gold and copper colored twisted ribbon.

Promising Gold

The beautiful Guadameci panels (see this previous post) created by Jorge Centofanti set an entire process of research in related fields into motion. In his latest exhibition “Illuminations” in Revel, near Carcassonne (France), one can view these highly impressive panels, some of which address Calligraphy. A truly fascinating subject, Calligraphy has held many artists captive and cast a spell on their creative work. Jorge Centofanti created this panel of the Arabic Letter Alif.


From Jorge Centofanti’s panels I took to wandering a meandering path through literature, rereading my copy of “The Calligrapher’s Secret” by Rafik Schami and very well translated into English by Anthea Bell. This prolific author of many books is a Syrian-German writer and every one of his many books are well worth reading, highly entertaining and enriching. 

From Rafik Schami I took to surfing the net for more information on Arabic writings and cane across the latest book by Tahir Shah, a prolific writer of stories and traveler across many countries and continents. Now living in Casablanca ( Morocco) his fifteen books tell the amazing tales of his travels, and his latest book Timbuctoo will allow the reader to submerge in the incredible account of a young seaman who reached Timbuctoo as the first Christian, was held captive in this fabled city of gold and later reached England, poor and destitute, where he lived to tell his story. The gold of ancient times in fact is the amazing treasure of Sufi history, literature and architecture, the latter two tragically and sadly being destroyed right now. 

Tahir Shah’s book is available as a very affordable E-book and, starting 7 July 2012,  as a beautiful limited edition hardback, with fold-out maps. It is made for book lovers and since the E-book is so affordable I think I will indulge myself and put that precious hardback edition on the very top of my wishlist.

All this talk and public rave about the fabulous Timbuctoo book raised the urge to put the spirit of adventure into a piece of knitting – true to Jane Thornley‘s freerange knitting inspirations. On Ravelry, there are even a few Islamic Motif patterns such as from Chris Laning, who generously provides a lovely pattern pdf and even a chart for a pseudo-arabic calligraphy piece.

True to free-form though, I rather wanted translate the colors of Timbuctoo into a freerange piece. The idea was to use Jane Thornley’s uninhibited and joyful approach to knitting – let your mind, your yarn and your knitting needles tell you the story and it will take you to magical, unexpected places. I am visualising a knit with lace sections, leaving peep-holes to raise curiosity while providing a tempting yet veiled view of what lies beyond…..   Next stage of this project in this blog post.

Masters of Antique Trades

Sometimes, surprises are just around the corner. All of a sudden you become aware that you just encountered something very special, unique, enriching and beautiful. This is how I felt when I learned about the fascinating art of Guadameci (leather art). Now our friend, Jorge Centofanti has his atelier in the beautiful Lauragais country setting in the Midi (France), which is where I saw his panels for the first time.

This ancient art of leather working has become almost extinct as the process is very involved and takes many years to master. A wooden mould must be designed and sculpted, the finest leather treated, draped, mounted and embossed over the mould, and the ensuing decor with the thinnest of golden leaves truly takes the artist to his peak of knowledge and skill. A showing of his recent work, the Illumination Series, is at 31250 Revel (France, not quite an hour from Carcassonne) in the Musée du Bois until the end of August 2012. Another exposition of his Guadameci art will be available for viewing in Paris in the spring of 2013.

The above panel carries the title: Graphene Dunes. A lovely lace grid work, also an inspiration for those who esteem Estonian Lace and appreciate the beautiful drawn structured lines. A gossamer Orenburg lace shawl conveys the same airy lightness and beauty, a hue of a substance, almost beyond haptic reach and for visual pleasure alone. And while the Orenburg lace patterns originated in the wide steppes of the southern Ural mountain range, Guadameci has a Spanish / Moorish background, as you can read on this page on Jorge Centofanti’s site.

Frivolous Frills

Boleros are such nice little garments. Making them is a lot of fun because one can let one’s fantasy run wild. And they are so useful, a wee shrug that is not quite a cardigan but a bit more substantial than a wrap because it needs no fiddling and wrapping and throwing across your shoulder, which in my case invariably ends in a disaster because the wrap will start slipping the moment I move, and nevermind those pins and toggles and buttons! A bolero truly is a quick knit and a very good chance to use up those orphan yarns, a stash buster par excellence. This bolero (based on a pattern by Tiny Owl Knits) is called Swiss Miss – and Susanne knows why…

Bolero – a word with very many meanings
For me it always brings to my mind the incredible performance of the Stuttgart Ballet, Marcia Haydee and Richard Cragun dancing in Maurice Béjart‘s choreography Bolero Part 1 and 2 – it is well worth watching it, listening to the Bolero music written by Maurice Ravel – simply fascinating right to the riveting end!

Taking Wings

My Wingspan is taking flight, splendid in shape and color. Like flamboyant birds of paradise belong to the same family of passeriformes as the not so very colorful sparrows, this wrap is made with just one of the millions of different instructions for wraps and shawls. But this one always turnes out as a quite unique wrap as one can see on Ravelry (1685 finished wraps June 2012) because the clever pattern is so temptingly simple yet creates a stunning effect. Thank you Maylin of  Tri’Coterie Designs. I finished the wrap with a 3-stitch I-cord all around and blocked it very lightly. This Wingspan is For Sale – contact me.

Wingspan