Friday, June 27, 2008


I guess nothing lights a fire under my butt like having a knitting deadline! Also, what Wendy always says is very true. If you are monogamous with your knitting projects, they get done fast. The knitting on the Leaf Kimono is finished:

Leaf Kimono Sleeves Blocking

That's both sleeves blocking. Please excuse the photos, the color is way off there (for some reason they look too orange?) because I took them at night. I did pin everything together and tried the top on before blocking to make sure I had enough length on the sleeves, and everything looked peachy. The magic numbers for me turned out to be 16 chart repeats, and casting on 57 stitches. I essentially made the sleeves for the next size up, and will just ease the extra inch or so in when I'm sewing the sleeves on to the front of the body. In retrospect, I probably could have just made the 40-inch size and been just fine. I got a little nervous about how it would look, so I did a quick mock-up before the sleeves finished drying. No pins, just laying out the pieces to make sure everything would fit.

Leaf Kimono Testing

Here you can see the difference between the color of the wet sleeves and the dry body. It looks like a top! Hooray! Unfortunately, I'm going to have to leave this behind for the weekend. We set up things to go visit Berlin this weekend, and our college friend managed to get her flight extended to Monday so she could come with us. It will be another jam-packed weekend like our trip to Munich, and definitely not the right conditions for fiddly finishing work. The seaming will take careful attention, which will have to wait until Tuesday. So it's back to the sock for me, except that I'm past the heel turn and almost finished with the gusset decreases, so I'm nervous. If I finish the sock, I won't have anything to knit. Can't have that happening, so last night I wound some of this yarn into a ball. It's the "polar morn" colorway, which isn't on that page. We'll see if I end up needing it.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A Weekend on the Water

Oh man, this weekend was nutso-crazy-busy. We are having an old college friend to stay with us this week (her vacation) with us in Stuttgart, and I'm trying to cram a lot of different activities into our itinerary while she's here. We picked her up from the airport on Saturday morning, and since we were already fairly far north in Frankfurt, we decided to go to the Rhine Valley for the day. We parked the car in Bingen am Rhine, and took a boat trip up to St. Goar. It was inexpressively lovely.

Ehrenfels and Proto-Wine

Originally, I was a little skeptical that the boat cruises up and down the river would be worth it, but it was easily the best way to see all the sights if you don't have time to drive slowly up the river (which you could easily do for about 3 straight days!).

Rhine Valley

Every time the boat went around a corner, another charming town or imposing castle would come into view. I want to revisit this one, Bacharach:


After disembarking in St. Goar, we walked around the town for a little bit, got some ice cream, and headed back to Bingen via the train, a very pleasant 25-minute trip back along the river. Then we drove back to Stuttgart, and managed to not immediately crash before having some dinner. The only regret I have is not being able to spend more time in the valley, because it was stupid hot this weekend and being near the river helped tremendously. I would also like to try and go back for some wine tasting, but we'll see how things go.

On Sunday we took the train into Tübingen, a little college town south of Stuttgart. The air conditioning on our train was broken, so we were a little sticky by the time we got into town. It reminded me strongly of Berkeley, with its earnest college students striding purposefully down the streets, aging hippies drinking and hanging out in the parks, and imposing buildings (of both the old and really old varieties) sprinkled throughout the town.


We walked up and down the river and rented a canoe. I tried to micromanage the canoe steering, which was a problem because I was sitting in the middle of the canoe. Eventually I was delegated to camera duty.

Houses on the Neckar

90% of my photos of Tübingen are either of the Neckar river or views from our canoe while we were on the river. We had a leisurely train ride back into Stuttgart (air conditioning was working, thank goodness). I got to put in a lot of good solid knitting time on the sleeves for my leaf lace kimono. The sleeves really do go much faster than the body pieces, so now I'm more hopeful that I will actually complete this before Italy & France. Next time, more adventures around Stuttgart!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Altering the Leaf Kimono: Part II (Pins & Measuring Tape)

Yay! I finished knitting the body of the Leaf Kimono yesterday. I'd been kind of ignoring this project recently because it's not necessarily the best travel knitting ever. It's more of a movie-watching project. But we now have plans to drive around Northern Italy & Southern France in two weeks, and I would love to have this finished to wear while we're there. The weather has been fickle (to say the least) around here. At least yesterday was nice and sunny. Holy Crap. Two weeks. I just realized that I will probably not finish this in time... but oh well. I put the pedal to the metal this week, finished the front and back, and seamed them together.

Here it is blocking:

Body of Leaf Kimono (blocking)

Before blocking the piece, I wanted to sort of try it on. So I put on a thin tank top and pinned the body about where I'd want it to sit. It was hard to judge where I really wanted it to sit, and even more difficult to get the back piece to stay exactly where I wanted it to. Basically, I wanted to be able to measure how long the sleeve rectangles need to be so that the bust seam falls below my bust. On tops with similar construction, I find that the bust seam will often cut straight across the fullest part of my bust, and I want to emphasize the thinnest part of my ribcage.

After reading some of the very helpful commentary from other knitters and the designer on Ravelry regarding this pattern, I have decided to make two alterations to the sleeves. A) I will add one inch in width to the sleeves and ease them in to the front a bit more. Hopefully this will help compensate for the fact that my chest is not very flat at all, and will allow the top to still have some looseness to it while it's on my body. B) I will knit the sleeves about two inches longer than stated, to lower the bust seam. Another knitter had her sleeve pieces grow in length by 4 inches (!) after blocking, and had to rip back three of those inches so it wouldn't sag too much. I'm thinking I'll take my first sleeve up to 18 inches, put the live stitches on a piece of scrap yarn, and pin the sleeve to the body to check the fit. Then I will be able to actually see the drape of the body better, since it will be hanging from the top of the sleeve the way it's meant to.

When I wrote the first post on this project, I had some strange ideas about making the sleeves wider in front than in back, but I've decided now to just stick with a straight rectangle. I have some stockinette patches on the sides of the body from making the waist shaping, and while they are neat, I think they do detract a bit from the lace pattern. Hopefully when it's on they won't be too obvious. Anyway, if I wanted to make the sleeves non-rectangular, I would end up with those same stockinette areas on the edges of the sleeves, which would look very weird. One edge of the sleeve is actually the neckline, so they'd be extremely obvious, too.

Ok! Wish me luck. Maybe I should try to go on a break with the jaywalker sock (which is hard, because I just turned the heel) so I can have an actual chance of finishing this top before leaving for France. We'll see. I also promised you pictures of my buttons and yarn from Munich. Here's the whole haul:

Schafwolle from Ludwig-Beck in Munich

Three colors in what was only described as "Schafwolle, 100g" which translates in America-speak to Sheep's wool, 3.5 ounces. I think these will be good for two-color mittens (maybe another Adrian Bizilia design). I am particularly smitten with the heathered tan color. It kinda reminds me of Cascade 220, but it's much plumper, not quite as smooth, and only a two-ply. I don't know the yardage precisely, but I bet it's less than the 220. I was able to haltingly ask the lady at the counter if she knew the yardage, but she didn't know, and guessed between 100 and 150 meters (or at least I think that's what she said). If I get really really bored I'll untwist one of the hanks, break out my tape measure, and try to figure it out.

Horn Buttons: BacksideHorn Buttons

The buttons are a bit chunky, too, and I tried to get a set that were very similar in color and thickness. They're all 3/4" (2 cm) in diameter. The fronts are all pretty well matched, not so much with the backs. I have no idea what I will do with these, but hopefully they will go on a nice thick sweater next fall. Maybe I'll finally get up the nerve (and paycheck) to do a real traditional fair isle sweater...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Munich and WWKIP Day

Munich was so crazy, I needed an entire day just to recover and upload all the frickin' photos! It was a fantastic whirlwind trip, I actually came out of my shell a little bit for the first time since I've arrived here, I showed off my knitting, and got to see some really cool old stuff.

While planning, we decided on a three-day, two-night stint in the capital of Bavaria, knowing that we wouldn't be able to see absolutely everything. That's the way it is, though. The fact that you won't see everything, but can still get a sampling of life in a foreign city is what makes travel exciting and worthwhile. So we drove into town on Saturday morning, checked into our hotel room, and set out into the center of the city. In the main square, Marienplatz, we were welcomed to Munich with the chiming of the Glockenspiel in the tower of the Rathaus, stalls selling beer and several different varieties of würst, and some epic crowds.

Marienplatz, Munich turns 850

Our guidebooks had described the Glockenspiel, and I expected the display to be kitschy and cutesy, but not really exciting. You know, sort of how you'd expect the It's a Small World ride at Disneyland to appear to a grown-up. I was wrong: it was more fascinating and intricate than I expected, and I was struck by how impressive this must have seemed to the first people to view it, to whom it might have seemed a miracle of craftsmanship and engineering. We were all stuffed like sardines in the platz, craning our necks to see the display. This year, the city of Munich turns 850 years old, and a large chunk of the celebrations were going on while we were there. Although this did detract from the general amount of personal space we were alloted on Saturday, it made the sightseeing much more exciting. Around every corner, there was a makeshift stage or people in the traditional dirndl and lederhosen outfits providing entertainment.

Munich's 850th birthday

After we spent about an hour trying to get our bearings in the city while navigating the crowds, we finally procured our first sausage-based meal of the weekend (keep track, there'll be a quiz at the end). We basically spent the rest of the afternoon looking at churches, and Munich has some spectacular ones. The exterior of St. Michael's appeared to be under some heavy renovation, and all the photos I tried to take of it looked like a bunch of scaffolding surrounded by even more crowds. We did, however, go see the crypt below the church containing lots of dead royals. I thought it odd that the most ornate coffin was not King Ludwig II's, but that of a field general (whose name I have neglected to write down).

We stopped for a drink and a rest, and I took the opportunity to take out my knitting while we planned the rest of the day. There were four ladies sitting at a table together next to us, who ordered some fantastic-looking desserts. I was going along on my sock while reading over the significant other's shoulder, and being a little bossy about turning the page now that I was finally properly caffeinated. One minute the ladies were chatting away, their conversation part of the charming background noise, and the next their conversation abruptly faded into silence. I looked up and realized they were staring at me knitting. They pointed and (probably) asked what I was making. We were able to tell than that we spoke hardly any German, they apparently spoke only a tiny bit of English, but I showed them my first sock (so handy at explaining what you're doing!) and it all became more clear. They oohed and aahed over the colors, said it was "Super!", and I said dankeschön many times. One lady pantomimed knitting while gawking all around at everything besides her hands, and I realized what had probably struck them speechless was seeing me knit without looking at my knitting. If I knew more German, I would have asked them to hold the sock for a picture, but I didn't know how to ask permission to post their picture on the internet. In spite of this setback and the language barrier, I felt I'd done my duty in spreading the love of handknits.

Refreshed and flush with knitterly pride, we took on St. Peter's church and the climb to the top of the spire. It was quite crowded at the top, which made it a little scary, but we got some amazing views of the city.

View of Marienplatz from St. Peter's, Munich

View from St. Peter's, Munich

After more sausage (this time the white veal sausage) for dinner from the stalls in the square, we strolled around a bit more, gawking at the folks in traditional costume and basically enjoying the festival atmosphere like everyone else. After dinner, we had dessert in a small cafe at the top floor of a building across the platz from the Rathaus. We had just placed our order when an oompah-band trickled in and sat down at the table next to us. Instruments appeared: a clarinet, an accordion, a trumpet-like horn, a tuba, a drum, plus a few other friends, probably backup signers. They were all dressed in a combination of dirndls/lederhosen and street clothes, so we guessed that they'd probably been playing all day and were gathered for a post-work drink. After their first round, they sang and played three or four songs, which we thoroughly enjoyed. I knit the whole time, tapped my feet, and wished I could sign along.

That was just Saturday. On Sunday we did a marathon of museums, starting with the Deutsches Museum, which is basically a shrine to anything remotely connected to science or technology. They had a Model I Zeiss planetarium projector, a recreation of Lavoisier's chemistry lab, boats, model airplanes, a sundial garden on the roof, and a textiles wing:

Spinning wheel in the Deutsches Museum

It was enormous, and we could have spent the entire weekend there. But I wanted fine art, so we skipped about a quarter of the museum, ate a quick lunch (schnitzel and sausage), and headed over to the Pinakotheks: Altes, Neues, and der Moderne. The Altes Pinakothek had more Rubens than I've ever been exposed to in one location, and I was only familiar with the most famous 20% of the artists on display there. I remarked on this to the significant other, and he agreed that much of the work in this museum was "outside our canon." I guess my canon is more fully based on British, American, and Italian art than I'd realized. We did see one Hieronymus Bosch painting (awesomely weird and creepy, probably inspired Terry Gilliam a bit), a da Vinci Madonna (with the chubbiest Christ Child I've ever seen), and a really cool hallway. The Neues had one of Monet's water lilies paintings, one of Van Gogh's Sunflowers series, a William Turner, and a pair of really good Klimts. By the time we got to the Pinakothek der Moderne, we were nearly beat, but we bravely held out for the Mackintosh furniture, Matisse, Klee, Picasso, and Warhol. I know this sounds like a laundry list, but I love seeing art and it was a really spectacular afternoon. After it was over (we got out of the Moderne about 15 minutes before closing time), we were also pretty proud of (and just a little appalled at) ourselves for seeing 4 museums in one day.

While we were analyzing what sort of art is in "our canon" in the Altes, we also tried to pin down why we like looking at art. Not in any grand or deep sense, just trying to explain why we were willing to tire ourselves out and immerse ourselves so deeply just to look at some pictures (or objects, in the case of the Moderne). I think that fundamentally, I enjoy looking at art in museums because it allows me to combine knowledge from many different subject areas (or at least I try to) all at once. I can think about mythology, symbolism, writing, history, politics, religion, belief, technology, and everyday life all while glancing at a single image. I particularly enjoy thinking about art in the context of its moment in history, both for the artist personally and on a larger scale. The significant other waxed poetic on perspective and the evolution of the "purpose" of art, and spent a bit of time trying to get the perfect perspective shot in the Altes. I think he did a pretty good job:

Altes Pinakothek in Munich

I'm going to stop here; I know I've only gone up to Sunday afternoon, but Monday was basically more gawking at Munich and eating sausage (grand total: 4 out of 7 possible meals were basically sausage). We were very tired after the drive back on Monday afternoon, but not too tired to go watch the Germany-Austria game (0-1, Deutschland!) with friends. As soon as it gets sunny, I'll take pictures of my newly acquired stash.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

*Gasp!* Two posts in one day

I don't deserve to be called a knitblogger. I nearly forgot to share my plans for Saturday.

This Saturday, two events near and dear to the hearts of most knitbloggers everywhere will coincide. They are World Wide Knit in Public day and the birthday of that patron saintess of all knitbloggers, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. There will be much rejoicing, and sharing of the crafty projects with befuddled non-crafters. It is the day we reveal to the world how numerous our ranks have grown, and share the joys of knitting on the train, while waiting for an appointment, or just outside in the (let's hope) sunshine.

It's kinda like this:

Biergarten Knitting

In case you aren't in Europe or keeping track of what's hot in Europe right now, the Euro Cup is currently underway. We're still in the initial stages, so there are two games on every night. EVERY NIGHT. Last night, we found a lovely restaurant with outdoor seating and a large digital TV. We drank good beer (or in my case Radler), ate good food (I had an ENORMOUS baked potato with grilled mushrooms and a truly ridiculous amount of sour cream), and watched the game. I got through 1/3 of the leg of my second Covelite jaywalker sock. That is knitting in public.

This weekend we will be visiting München (Munich, you don't want to know how dumb I felt at how long it took me to figure that one out), which gives me the perfect opportunity to stalk these spinners and knitters. I remember downloading the first two episodes of their podcast after hearing the promo on Lime & Violet. I was on the bus when I listened to the first one. I nearly peed my pants, I was laughing so hard. People were looking at me, trying to figure out if I was crazy (I didn't blame them, we have our fair share of crazy people who ride the bus in San Francisco). I've been a fan ever since.

So if you're a knitter, go ply your craft out where people can see you this Saturday! If you're in Munich and you see a slightly nervous-looking person knitting a sock, staring at restaurant menus while trying to look as though she isn't staring at restaurant menus because she can only understand one word out of every ten, come say hello. I'd love to meet some more knitters.

My Adventures on Karlshöhe

So on Monday I set out to find the Lapidarium in Stuttgart (a little collection of old Roman ruins and statuary), which is located near the park on Karlshöhe. I didn't have the strongest sense of direction yet, so I took what I now understand is a rather circuitous route to the park. I knew you had to climb a set of stairs (Stäffel) to get to the park, but I didn't know which ones precisely. And besides, the idea was to use up the day and look around, so I didn't stress too much about getting to the Lapidarium right away. Once inside the park, I spent a long time wandering around. It's quite lovely, with fabulous views of Stuttgart, lots of trees, and benches everywhere to relax on.

Karlshöhe Park

Bridge in Karlshöhe Park

Karlshöhe Park

I have a hard time getting over how GREEN everything is here! In California, the landscape is green in the winter and brown in the summer, when everything dries up. And in San Francisco, the landscape is just perpetual fog. But there was lush grass, blooming wildflowers, and lots of busy bugs everywhere I looked here. I passed other people strolling, and found a little Biergarten near the top of the hill. There were quite a few folks walking around in business attire on their lunch breaks. But no Lapidarium. I passed another woman, who greeted me in German, and after I stammered out that I don't speak much German, she easily switched to English. Turns out she was looking for the Lapidarium, too! I told her I hadn't been able to find it either, so we laughed, shrugged our shoulders, and went on our separate ways. I walked around a bit more, then decided to take a break, as it was pretty muggy. I found a nice bench and read a little of my book. The sky started to look threatening after about half an hour of reading, and I didn't have my umbrella so I decided I should try and find my way back to the apartment. As I walked down these steps (picture taken earlier in the morning)

Willy-Reichert Stäffel from the top

I passed a high wall on my left. I peeked over, and found the Lapidarium. Dang! While deciphering the signs at the gate, I started to feel the first drops. By the time I got out to the street, it was really pouring: fat, wet drops of rain threatened to ruin my book and camera. I tucked my bag under my arm as much as possible. I found the entrance to a small alleyway that happened to be covered by some thick vines growing overhead, and managed to stay mostly dry while I got my bearings. Looking to my right down the street, I was immediately greeted with this sight:

Rain, View towards Marienplatz

At the end of the street stood Marienplatz, one of the few locations in Stuttgart I know quite well, as we can see it from the living room window. If you look at the sidewalk in that photo, you can get a sense of how much rain came down during the few minutes I spent in the alley. Once the rain let up a bit, I made a dash for the platz and got home, quite worn out for the day. On my way down the street, I passed the set of stairs I'd originally used to get to Karlshöhe. If I'd gone about 50 meters up the street, I would have seen the Lapidarium first thing.

Turns out it wasn't open on Mondays anyway, so I'll have to go back. Next time I'll bring an umbrella.

Monday, June 9, 2008

I miss my lightbox

Before I even started blogging I had a light box. It's basically a plastic bin lined with white paper, to diffuse light when I'm taking pictures of my knitting, yarn, and fiber. It really helps me get pictures that are mostly color-accurate to begin with, and with the macro feature on my digital camera (nothing fancy, just a point-and-shoot), I have a routine for taking pictures that involves a minimum of fussing. So I imagine that these people, sitting outside a restaurant near the Schlossplatz in Stuttgart:

Lions and Terrace Cafe

were probably a bit confused as I spent ten minutes trying to get the perfect shot in less-that-ideal light:

Lion & Sock

This was one of the two knitting projects I took with me on the plane. (Yeah, I know it's small in the photo. The lion statue was larger than I expected, but by the time you've been seen by 50 outdoor diners on a Sunday afternoon acting a little weird, you can't just change your mind. Now they're expecting a show. Mustn't disappoint.) The first project is my pink leaf kimono, which is more of a watch-a-movie-at-home type of project, so I haven't made much progress on it. The other, which I knit on primarily during my flight, is pictured with das Löwen (the lion); a pair of socks.

Covelite Jaywalkers

This the the Jaywalker sock pattern (original top-down version), on size 1 US needles, in BMFA Socks that Rock Lightweight, the Covelite colorway. This yarn has been sitting in my stash for almost a year, and I had grown a little disenchanted with it. I was even considering putting it up for trade on Ravelry. Then, I got a new pair of shoes for my trip, and the color demanded to be knit up immediately. Here, see what I mean:

Danskos and Jaywalkers

So I had a few rows already on the needles when I got to the airport, but I got most of the leg done on the flight. This pattern really is the perfect balance between mindless knitting and distraction due to pattern stitches. See where the fifth DPN is threaded through the sock in the close-up? That's about how far I'd knit when I got off the plane. The leg is a little tight, but it will stretch out over time. One reason I love this pattern is that the leg doesn't really slouch, even after wearing the socks all day long. I've knit it twice before, once in the toe-up and once in the top-down variety, and it really is a wonderful pairing for handpainted sock yarns. I love the zig-zags!

Speaking of handpainted yarns, the significant other outdid himself for this year's birthday present. I had cajoled pleaded asked nicely if he wouldn't mind going to a handcrafts market that was happening before I could fly out, and snag me some coveted Wollmeise. He agreed, as long as it wasn't too far away. Turns out it was about 20 minutes' drive, so my plan to acquire more Wollmeise yarn worked beautifully. Behold, my birthday present:

Birthday Present!

I was hoping he'd get me one skein, so three is a real treat! That's one skein of the 100% Superwash base in the Rhabarber colorway, one of the 80/20 Twin base in Kräuterbeet, and another 80/20 Twin in Poison Nr. 5. I first saw this last colorway on The Loopy Ewe, and I had begun to accept that I was not fated to ever possess this color. I spent about an hour just trying to capture the color of these skeins. I think I did a fairly good job with the Rhabarber, but what looks bright blue in the Kräuterbeet is actually more of a royal purple. My limited photography skills just weren't up to the challenge of the Poison Nr. 5, the pink is too pink and the black is too flat in this picture. The Wollmeise is doing another market (this one in Haslach, Austria) next month, where I hope to find some of her lovely laceweight yarn.

And one last thing before I go: I forgot to mention in my last post that we saw a yarn shop (sadly closed) while we were in Freiburg. I took a picture of some Opal sock yarn in its natural habitat:

Opal Yarn in the wild!

That's it for now, as always there are more pictures of the Stuttgart area and Freiburg are up on my Flickr page.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Jet-lag and Freiburg

So I had the best of intentions to walk around Stuttgart on my first day in Germany so I would have something to post, even if it was just a few photos. No such luck. It took me two full days to get over the worst of the jet-lag, then Friday was my birthday (apparently no blogging allowed on my birthday - only sleeping and eating!), and on Saturday we spent the day in Freiburg.

The jet-lag was pretty icky, and mostly involved two stages of suck: first, I would wake up between 3 and 5 in the morning, my body somehow convinced that it needed to be awake. Then I would fall asleep until 10 or 11 in the morning, have a half-hearted breakfast, and not really wake up properly until about 3 or 4 in the afternoon. So it was a strange few days when I first arrived, but fortunately the significant other was at work while I was getting over the jet-lag, so at least I could be grumpy and not bother anyone else. We went to London last year, a trip which involves a similar time change, and our jet-lag then wasn't nearly as bad. I think the key was that we forced ourselves to wake up at a fairly normal time every morning, so we could shower and dress before the B&B owners served the breakfast (full English breakfast... yum!) included in the price of our room. When you have to make your own tea, toast, eggs, and tinned tomatoes, it's much easier to just stay in bed until lunchtime.

So Friday night was the first night that I slept all the way through, and we drove out to Freiburg after coffee (Ein kaffe mit milch, bitte!). Freiburg is a little college town in the south-west corner of Germany, quite close to the French border. We actually picked up a lot of French radio stations on the drive down. You have to go around the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) to get to Freiburg, and it was a good 2 hours' drive. The town is absolutely charming. All over the city you see these gutters (bächle) next to the sidewalk:

Bälche in Freiburg

They aren't used for sewage, more like an easy way to cool off the city and its residents. We saw a man walking a dog, and rather than leaning over, the dog hopped right in to have a drink! The two-legged residents clearly have other uses for these drains besides just transporting water:

Toy boat in Freiburg

After finding a place to park, we stumbled in a little cemetery. I figured out later (with the help of the Intarwebs) that this was the "Alter Friedhof" or Old Cemetery, next to St. Micheal's Chapel north of the main part of town.

Freiburg Cemetery

There are gravestones embedded in the wall on the right side of the picture above, and along all the walls. We passed only a few other people (including one nun) as we were walking around, and on our third pass she said hello to us. It was very quiet, probably due to its location outside the main ring of streets surrounding the inner part of the city.

Statue in Freiburg cemetery

It was a nice way to start our tour of the city, and a bit more peaceful than the rest of the town. The map we had of Freiburg was completely inadequate, and we had no idea which direction we were going when we first exited the parking garage, so it was quite lucky of us to have found the cemetery at all. After walking in the wrong direction for about 15 minutes, we found a better map at a bus stop and re-oriented ourselves towards the city center, and all the sights.

Back end of Freiburg Münster

The main attraction was definitely the Münster (Minster) in the center of town. It's a huge Catholic cathedral, with a gorgeous interior. The city is in the process of renovating the stone latticework spire, the cathedral's unique feature among those in Europe.

The altar and ceiling

Unlike the churches we saw in England, visitors are allowed to get quite close to the main altar. In the picture above, you can see where a few tourists are checking out the triptych and dazzling gold & silver altar plate. We arrived a bit late in the day, so I wasn't able to climb the tower, but we were able to hear the church bells later in the afternoon. After thoroughly exploring the interior of the Münster and purchasing a candle, we spent a few hours walking around the inner city.

A smaller street view

Once our feet got too tired to walk anymore, we grabbed a bratwurst sandwich and ate it in the shadow of the Münster, and headed back to Stuttgart before it got dark. Freiburg was a lovely side trip even though we could probably have spent more than half a day there, the perfect way to start touring around Europe. Hopefully it will get sunny enough this week for me to take some good photos of Stuttgart proper. My light box is sadly at home, so my yarn pictures might not be up to snuff for awhile, or at least until I get a nice sunny day. The weather has been off-and-on rain, with some thunderstorms. If you've ever been to the American Midwest in the middle of summer, you can see why German immigrants settled there; the landscape and weather conditions are very similar. Next time I'll try to do a more yarn & knitting related post, so I can share my birthday presents and airplane project!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Buttons & Biscuits

So I wasn't intending to have time to blog again before my departure, but then I realized I'd never given a final report on the Tangled Yoke cardigan. I also came across one of the most awesome food products ever. But first the knitting.

Finished Tangled Yoke!
The cardigan FINALLY has buttons (it took me a week to get around to sewing them on!) and I've worn it a couple times since then. I love the buttons, especially because they are not the same color as the sweater. They are stark white, with some very small scrollwork cut into their faces. I think it goes well with the cable pattern. I have a close-up of one of the buttons over on Flickr, if you're interested. I adore this pattern, but if I were to knit this again I'd make a few changes. First, the sleeve width. I have rather thin wrists, and my wrists are swimming in the cuffs of these sleeves. You can sorta tell from the photo that there is very little tapering in the sleeve from the elbow to the cuff. Second, I would try to find a slightly less scratchy yarn. I think this sweater will soften up with time and more washings, but right now there's still bits of VM in the there and they are a bit poky. It's definitely warm, but it works best over a long-sleeved shirt rather than a short-sleeved shirt. Considering this was a choose-a-size-and-pray project, the fit is quite good, and I have very little gapping when I button it up over my chest.

Now for the awesome food. I have been trying to clear out our refrigerator of anything that will spoil while I'm away, so this afternoon I found myself with nothing really appropriate for lunch. So, I decided to grab some deli food from the grocery store while I did laundry across the street. After nabbing some fruit and a California roll, I started getting the idea of looking for snack food for the flight, and came across this in the snacks & sweets aisle:

Owl & Pussycat Cookies
These are "Two by Two artisan biscuits", clearly a product of The Motherland Great Britain. I am a pretty serious anglophile, and I love tea, so these had to be mine, but the kicker was the characters on the box. Have you guessed it yet? No? Oh c'mon! There's even a freaking five-pound note in the picture!

After a quick poke around the internet at home, I found out that these cookies biscuits come in three different shapes: Lion/Mouse, Tortoise/Hare, and yes, Owl/Pussycat.

Here's where kismet steps in. When I was in the first grade (or was it kindergarten?) I recited the entire Edward Lear poem for our school's end-of-the-year Talent Show. My mom, in an effort to help me commit the poem to memory, made me a cassette tape of her voice reading the poem out loud a few times in a row, so I could practice along with her. The tape did its job, because as far as I can remember I nailed every line, even though I did not have the foggiest idea of what a five-pound note actually was. Probably a very heavy letter, but to whom? The Pig with a nose piercing? The ecclesiastical Turkey? I had at least a vague grasp that a shilling was some form of currency, since they use it to purchase the Pig's ring (which, upon consideration, is kind of a strange and/or unsanitary). But they had "plenty of money/wrapped up in a five-pound note", so the purpose of the note other than as packaging was unclear. I guess that's why it's a children's poem. The details don't really hold up to logical analysis, and I think poems shouldn't really be held to the same standards of narrative as a Jane Austen novel, the last piece of fiction to cross my brain. Anyway, enough rambling. The tape did its job, and did it so well that, to this day, twenty-odd years later, I can still recite the whole thing. I also love cats and owls (huh, wonder where that got started...) so I had to buy these biscuits.

Owl & Pussycat cookies
I just ate one (an owl). They are delicious, and will go perfectly with my airline tea. God Bless the Queen.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Spinning Update

Whew! I leave for Germany in two days' time, and I am ashamed to say that I've barely touched my German tapes since I discovered the CraftLit podcast. I will make up for it, I promise! After all, I can listen on the plane while I knit, right? (Reminder to self: must take a mindless enough knitting project on the plane so I can concentrate a little bit on the language tapes.)

Anywho, let's get on to the spinning. Since I last talked about spinning, I've finished the Blackberry laceweight:

Blackberry Laceweight

This was spun from Lorna's Laces superwash merino top, roughly 5 ounces in the blackberry colorway. I've got a little more than 900 yards in that skein. Originally, my plan was to spin the whole shebang on my tiny Ethan Jakob drop spindle, but I must confess I got impatient and only did about 1/4 of the top on the spindle, and the other 3/4 was done on my ladybug. I spun this with the wheel in double drive, and it was a mixed experience. In double drive mode, one drive band goes around both the whorl (controlling how much twist goes into the yarn) AND around the bobbin (controlling how fast yarn winds onto the bobbin). Scotch tension, which I normally use, has separate bands for the whorl and the bobbin, so you can adjust the two controls independently of each other. Throughout this whole process I felt as though I couldn't get enough take-up going (this was probably compounded by my attempting to spin very even laceweight singles for the first time as well). On the other hand, I had expected to get frustrated and have to switch back to Scotch tension, so it was gratifying that I could do it all while using double drive. Not gratified enough to not switch immediately back to Scotch tension when I wanted to spin this:

Yarn Wench Apricot Orchid Romney/Merino

This is 3 ounces of Romney/Merino locks dyed by the Yarn Wench in the colorway Apricot Orchid. I took the locks and kind of teased out the fibers with my hands by taking chunks and pulling them apart over and over again, kind of hand carding without cards. The locks were still a teensy bit greasy, but I didn't mind because it kept my hands soft after spinning! I put the whole three ounces on one bobbin, wound the singles into a center-pull ball with my ball winder, and did a two-ply from both ends of the ball. The result is 130 yards of squishy DK weight yarn (man I really need to get myself a wraps per inch tool):

Apricot Orchid 2-ply

Finally, I did my last act of fiber stashing before I leave. I managed to stalk Numma Numma's Etsy shop last Sunday, when she introduced her new spinning fibers. I love drooling over her sock yarn colors, and have some Toasty sock yarn stashed away from the Loopy Ewe, so I was really excited when I saw a preview of her new "ToastyTops" and "BabyTops" on Ravelry. I snagged 3.6 ounces of superwash BFL in the Pumpkin Butter colorway.

Numma Numma Superwash BFL Pumpkin Butter

Now comes the hard part. I have to decide which projects will come with me on my travels. I have a few ideas in mind, but I'm going to reveal them as I start knitting/spinning them. I'm hoping that I will post a little more often while I'm away, since I won't have to work much during the daytime. And then, at the end of the trip, we can take stock of all my newly acquired yarn and the extent of my paranoia regarding not having any knitting projects when I show you all the yarn that I took with me and never even wound into balls. Sheesh!