July 31, 2007

Summer in Bavaria

Every year in summer there are these little beer festivals you can visit in the villages all over Bavaria. What I find so charming about them is that everything is absolutely genuine; it's not a show set up for tourists but just a way for the local people to show how much they enjoy keeping their traditions alive.

There is music ...

... and dancing ...

... food and beer ...

... and most important (to me anyway!), there is lots of beautiful knitting to see! Traditional garter stitch jackets for old ...

... and young ...

(I am watching with great pleasure that garter stitch jackets are becoming more and more popular with knitters all over the world. I know this is mostly due to the popularity of Elizabeth Zimmermann, but she used to live in Bavaria after all, so I'm sure I know where she got her inspiration from!)

... cabled cardigans ...

... the occasional shawl ...

... and socks!

(I don't think any of these were hand-knitted though, there were just too many that looked exactly the same. Probably most of the garter stitch jackets are store-bought as well, but they are still nice to look at and use as inspiration for your own knitting!)

July 24, 2007

Lessons Learned

Lesson 1: Wash your Trachtenwolle before you knit!

While knitting my swatches I found that I absolutely didn't enjoy working with my yarn -- it was far too coarse and not flexible enough for smooth and even knitting.

So after just a few moments of hesitation I wound all my beautiful balls of yarn back into skeins and threw them into the sink together with some wool detergent. Several rinses later this is what it looked like:

Some spaghetti, anyone?

You don't think I'd ever be able to untangle this mess? To be honest, I wasn't so sure myself... But here are my skeins, all safely laid out to dry:

I was not happy about all the extra work (and rather nervous about the outcome, too!), but I am very glad I took the time to do this. The yarn feels so much softer now and is so much more fun to knit with!

Lesson 2: Do your maths before you cast on!

I am very particular about the ribbing matching the pattern in Aran knitting (or in any kind of knitting, for a matter of fact). I hate it if the ribbing doesn't continue smoothly into all the "vital" parts of the pattern, and I think this is a detail that is absolutely essential for a well-designed piece of knitting.

And I can't understand why most knitting instructions simply tell you to "increase stitches evenly" after the ribbing, either. In my opinion it is very important to put the increases in exactly the right places -- like at the beginning of a tight cable that pulls the stitches together a lot.

Thus, I am usually spending quite some time calculating my stitches before casting on.

You may have noted I said "usually"...

It might have been the heat wave stopping my brain from working properly, or it might just have been my impatience to get started -- but here I was with a finished ribbing and no way to match up the stitches with my cables. How dumb. And no matter how much I was thinking and thinking over and calcualting and re-calculating, in the end the only solution was to rip and start over again. This time with the correct number of stitches and the knit and purl stitches all in the right places. Yay!

July 17, 2007

The Virtual Sweater

Isn't it amazing what you can do with a few swatches, a digital camera and some image editing software?

I have made two major changes to the pattern in my book. First of all, I substituted a simple Seed Stitch for that Trinity Stitch I didn't like. However, that made the pattern look somewhat flat, so I decided to add a little braid on both sides of the diamonds. I think the design looks quite well-balanced now and I won't mess around with it any more than that!

Now all I have to do is actually knit this sweater...

July 06, 2007

Playing Around

I have a new toy!

Schachenmayr Trachtenwolle...

... for this sweater from one of my new second hand books:

Or rather, for a sweater inspired by this pattern. I have knitted some swatches and I don't like the Trinity Stitch that makes out a great part of this pattern. I think it looks very beautiful in the picture, but it doesn't look beautiful in my swatches at all, and I find it very awkward and slow to knit. So I'm off to search my books for an alternative ...

July 02, 2007

Treasure Trove

I just LOVE second hand bookshops. There is something extremely exciting about browsing shelf after shelf full of old books, never knowing what treasure you might find... Some of those books might even give you a hint about their previous owners, like a handwritten name or date. I once bought a book signed "Helen Hamilton Xmas 1886" -- how I would love to know more about that lady and who it was who gave her that book for Christmas! Did she read and treasure the book, or was it an unloved present that ended up in a forgotten corner or a box in the attic? And how did it find its way into the tiny shop in a remote Scottish village where I picked it up and bought it? -- Somehow I always feel the air in second hand bookshops is filled with such personal histories and that's one of the reasons of why I find these shops so appealing.

Of course, another reason is the thrill of the hunt for a good bargain -- who wouldn't be excited to find a great book at a great price?! Lately, however, prices for second hand books in general and second hand craft books in particular have gone up so much, it wasn't much fun looking for old books anymore.

Today I was walking through a part of town where I hadn't been much before and came across a small second hand bookshop -- and of course I couldn't resist looking around for a bit. Right when I came in I saw they had a whole shelf full of craft books, something that is quite unusual for second hand shops around here. Usually, you can count yourself lucky if you find two or three craft books, and if you do you probably already own them. You can imagine my joy when I found that they had quite a few books I hadn't seen before and that the prices for them were extremely reasonable! I compared prices throughout the shop and they were generally much higher for books on other topics, so it seems they just hadn't heard yet about crafting being popular again... -- lucky me! I walked out with a whole bag full of knitting and sewing books for just €12:

Now, most of the patterns in there are rather out-of-date, the kind of seventies and eighties clothes you DON'T want to wear... but there are still a lot of great ideas and stitch patterns to keep me occupied for some time.

Ahem... Did I say I need any more ideas...?