Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Are you sick of cute medieval towns yet?

Because I've got one more for you before I go back to the States. As I mentioned in the previous post (writted somewhat in advance- go me!), we went to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber this weekend. It's a completely adorable town that thrives on its tourist trade. The old town is enclosed in a wall that you can walk along.

The city wall from the outside:

Rothenburg o.d.T.

A wall-walk entrance:

Rothenburg o.d.T.

And the wall from the inside:

Rothenburg o.d.T.

This was certainly the most tourist-geared location we've visited this summer, even more so than Carcassonne. However, I think we picked the right time of week to minimize the crowds. We left by train Sunday morning and stayed until Monday afternoon. We were able to see most of the town, and weren't surrounded by a mob at any time. It seemed that most of the tourists were only daytrippers, so we were able to relax a little more at night and experiment with the digital camera.

Rothenburg o.d.T. by Night

I can't take credit for the night photos; the significant other figured out how to extend the shutter time on the camera. (Actually, his camera batteries died about half an hour after we got off the train, and he got a little grabby with my camera. I forgave him his experiments eventually.)

Fountain by Night

He's good, huh? Well, I might be biased. We also saw a couple of great old churches, St. Jakobskirche and St. Wolfgangskirche. The latter had a small exhibit called The Shepderd's Dance, which had a bit of information about the traditional dress and way of life in the Franconian region surrounding Rothenburg. I liked it, and found some great color inspiration.

Traditional Franconian Dresses


They also had a spinning wheel in their display. I've never seen a treadle quite like this on a spinning wheel. I was itching to test it out and see how stable it feels!

Spinning wheel!

The only thing I would have changed about the visit was the weather. I am totally ready to get away from the thick muggy heat! We were really sweaty all weekend and I felt a bit gross, except in the huge, cool stone sanctuary (ha ha) of the larger of the two churches: St. Jakob's.

St. Jakobskirche

This church has been Lutheran for a really long time, and it was interesting to see a place that looks distinctly Catholic (to my protestant-childhood eyes) where the worshipers probably know the same hymns that I know. Now, get ready for the understatement of the year. They have a pretty big pipe organ here.

St. Jakobskirche

See what I mean? I have other shots of this that are close-ups, but I wanted to show you this one because you get a sense of the utter HUGENESS of this thing. It's amazing. It must be quite a production when it's played.

I didn't get a lot of knitting time in, as it was too hot on the train to do anything except sip listlessly at our vending machine sodas, which were rapidly approaching room temperature. I'm roughly 3/4 finished with the Honeybee stole, and as it can't come with me on the plane and I'm at the beginning of a pattern repeat, I decided to put the stole aside and wind yarn today for my airplane knitting. No photos, as the camera is already packed, but it's going to be Cookie A.'s Pomatomus socks, using my oldest skein of Wollmeise, the Vergißmeinnicht (forget-me-not) colorway. I like to have at least a little bit of knitting hanging off the needles when I go to check in, so it's clear that I intent to knit with my knitting needles when I go through security. I've also decided to take along the needles, yarn, and pattern for my Bronte Mitts in case I get really bored with the socks. I'll be packing up the laptop and camera soon, and I probably won't be posting until next week. I already have plans to meet up with friends, family, and fiber as soon as I can, and I bet there will be some catching-up to do before I post again. Now, I need to refill my iced tea and go get my laundry out of the dryer, so I'll leave you with some local Rothenburg o.d.T. flora and fauna.

Gnome Garden
A Gnome Garden

Bavarian Jackalope
The elusive Traditional Bavarian Jackalope (my own name).

See you all Stateside!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Le Tour de Fleece est Fini!

Well, I'm off to Rothenburg ob der Tauber this morning for my last trip out while in Germany. I finished washing my yak fiber on Friday, and it dried all day yesterday. Here's the finished product:

Yak Headlands Post Washing

If you're looking at the color and thinking, "Hmmm, that's a bit different than what it looked like last time...", you've got good eyes (or you trust your computer monitor more than I do!). The yarn got a soak in lukewarm water with a little bit of shampoo (since I don't have any wool wash here in Germany), then two rinses to make sure the water ran clear. When I got the skein out, I thought it looked a little darker, but figured that was just because it was wet. When it finished drying, however, I was fairly certain that the pale tan areas had significantly changed color, turning a more pinkish color. I got the skinny from Kristine, and she explained that this was probably a confluence of the cochineal dye making friends with new parts of the yak fiber, which is finicky to wash.

I still love the yarn, because now it has a completely different dimension. The new colors remind me of red clay earth. The label has gone missing, but comparing to other AVFKW colorways, I'm fairly certain this is the "Headlands" colorway. Either way, it definitely reminds me of the Marin Headlands. I drive over the Golden Gate Bridge every other day to go to work, and most days I get a nice view of the headlands.

Anyway, back to the spinning! I got about 210 yards (195 meters) out of 2 ounces, so this is a fingering to light fingering yarn, just right for the mitts! I'm really glad I decided to not do the Navajo ply, because I wouldn't have gotten enough yardage for the intended project. Now that the yarn is dry, I think I have my airplane project figured out! It'll be on bamboo DPNs, so I should be fine with the security folks. Or I might start another sock. I haven't decided. But I'm ready for le maillot jeune!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tour de Fleece Update

I realize I've gotten a bit mopey on the blog lately, but in all truth, I will miss the freedom I've experienced here this summer. I don't really have any commitments or constraints here, other than not spending too much money (easy to do if you forget that the Euro is closer in value to the British Pound than the US dollar!). The most difficult decision I have to make is what I should eat for lunch and the only deadlines are self-imposed knitting or spinning ones.

Originally we weren't going to go anywhere special this weekend, as it's the significant other's birthday and we'll be celebrating with a good old American bbq in the park on Saturday. It's my last weekend in Germany, though, so we're throwing a train trip together for Sunday night, which means that I have to finish my Tour de Fleece spinning a little earlier than I anticipated. Luckily, when you're not procrastinating in the first place, it's easy to pick up the slack! I got the yak singles finished yesterday morning while listening to back episodes of the CraftLit podcast (I'm working my way through A Tale of Two Cities).

Yak Singles

The first time I ended a color repeat and saw the dark blue against the light cream, I got a little panicked because I didn't immediately love it. But seeing the colors blend a little more as I wound the singles onto the TP cores put me a little more at ease. It looks a little better to my eye now, and they've been resting overnight. As soon as I finish posting this, it's plying time! I'll let the plied yarn sit overnight again, wash it tomorrow, and hopefully have time to photograph the finished skein and post before we leave on Sunday.

I'm also still plugging away at the Honeybee stole. I finished the first half, and spent a good hour doing battle with the provisional cast on. I think my cast-on row got slightly felted, and it was hard to find the one dropped stitch because the yarn was so fuzzy! I'm reasonably happy with the joining row, but I've lost some momentum on this project. I want to cast on something new, with German yarn, before I go home. Maybe. I really ought to find a project that's airplane friendly, since the Honeybee stole isn't. I keep seeing the PERFECT project for my new Wollmeise, and it's hard to make up my mind. I just scored a win with the German postal system, because I got a skein of Hello Yarn sock yarn from Mrs. B while she was destashing. It's amazingly colorful, and I love it. Reminds me of old quilts, fruit salad, and insanely bright swimsuits my sister and I used to have as children. I'll have to think a bit about what pattern will make me happy with this yarn. Here's a close-up (color turned out not so great on the full skein shot).

Hello Yarn Sock

I'd like to digress into a little meta-blogging now, and I have no more yarn or Germany news for today, so you can unplug if you'd like. I feel like I could get to a point where I get stuck with blogging again, although I'm in a rhythm that I really like right now. During this trip, I've been blogging about twice a week: one travel post, and one fiber post, typically. There are a few stories about our trip that I'm sitting on for various reasons, even though they are perfect blog post material. One thing I've learned so far is that I don't think I'll ever be a post-a-day blogger. It's too easy for me to be a hermit while I'm blogging, and not just because it takes a lot of time. But I don't want to be a hermit. Blogging is great, and I'm not going to stop, but it doesn't exactly help me get exercise or fresh air or relax my eyes. While I'm blogging, I can't read, knit, spin, pay any serious attention to podcasts, or get any other work done. It's interesting, because I consider myself a queen of multitasking, but right now the most I can do is have background music on while I work on a post. Blogging is a multitasking activity in and of itself. There's the photo-taking, the editing and uploading of photos, the composition, the editing of writing, wrestling with html, and fickleness of the internet all in that one little verb. I fall into a little blogging Alice hole, and I hate to leave a post half-way finished. The best times to blog are after dinner (especially if I don't have to clean up the dinner dishes), or on weekend mornings. Basically, whenever I have nothing else to do for the next few hours.

I think this might be something I need and/or want to get past, the idea that I must sit down to blog and must not arise until I have a completed post. As I said before, I currently have three or four post topics rattling around in my head (they are mainly travel-related), but I'm finding it difficult to know where to insert them or how to phrase things since they aren't up-to-the-minute current anymore. The other half of the problem is that I might drop down to one post a week again once I get back to work, which is not necessarily what I want. I remember finding it difficult to post more than once a week last semester, and perhaps training myself to blog more in bits and pieces will help me stay at two posts a week. Anyway, I'm babbling a bit, but this is helping me sort out my ideas, which is part of the reason I started blogging in the first place. :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Friday in Ulm

So on Friday I went on my first (and most likely last) true solo day trip. I got to the train around 10, and it took about an hour to get to Ulm. I had intended to work on the Honeybee Stole, but I'm reading The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber and I got absorbed in it. It's really good. So good, I didn't actually knit AT ALL on the train! I'd recommend it for anyone who likes literature, New York, adventures happening to ordinary (or not-so-ordinary) people, making fun of the ivory tower, and/or cheesy suspense writing. I got into Ulm, which is pretty easy to navigate even without a map, because the town is dominated by the enormously tall Münster. I arrived around 12, missing a lunchtime organ music concert by minutes, and decided to explore the rest of the town before doing the Münster.

I bought some yarn from a fabulous local yarn shop called Heike Redlinghaus. The proprietress was exceedingly kind, and I found a very interesting yarn and some woven-ribbon labels. Ulm was pretty busy, it being a rather fine Friday afternoon.

Ulm Yarn Shop

So, one of the lessons the significant other and I have learned (or are still learning...) about travel is remembering to eat on time. We have a hard time choosing where to eat when we're out together (do all couples do this? or just us?), and by the time we've settled on a place, both of us have typically been famished for about an hour already and we're ready to cut someone. It was pretty funny, because I started getting hungry-cranky while in Ulm, but there was nobody to get cranky at except myself... it was a little weird. But I did finally eat lunch.

After lunch was the Alter Freidhof, or old cemetery. This was really more like a park with a few old gravestones than a cemetery. But it was fabulous, quiet, and very restful compared with the busy-feeling center of town.

Alter Freidhof Ulm

I saw maybe ten other people in the park (which was pretty big), and all were either walking or riding their bike swiftly on their way somewhere else. I stopped there for a few minutes after wandering around and just rested my feet.

Alter Freidhof Ulm

Another of the locations on my itinerary was the Rathaus, which was very colorful compared to the green-on-green of the cemetery park and the stone-on-stone of the Münster.

Ulm Rathaus

From the Rathaus, I found the Danube. I did not know that the Danube starts in Germany! There are little bits of split-off river that run through the town, creating some truly charming views with bridges as you get into a more shops-and-restaurants area.

Bridge over the Klein Danube in Ulm


By now it was about 3, and my train back was at 5, so I had nothing left but the church. It's pretty impressive. In fact, it's so impressive, I was apparently unable to capture the entire thing in one photo.

Ulm Münster

The steeple is supposed to be the tallest one in Europe, and I indeed shelled out 4.50 euros to climb to the top. But that's a story for a second post!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Albino Bees and Twisted Yak

In case the title doesn't give it away, this is going to be a fiber-focused post. First, let's get to the Tour de Fleece update. Here's where I am as of yesterday afternoon (Wednesday):

Tour de Fleece Progress

I've been trying to test the thickness of my singles periodically as I spin, and it looks like my singles will only give me a fingering weight if they are done up as a two-ply rather than three-ply. It's been much easier to remember to check since I'm spinning a little every day instead of spinning a ton all in one or two afternoons. This poses a bit of a color problem, as I had originally planned on slow-color change, navajo-plied yarn. Both mitts would start with the beautiful light sand color and end up with the dusky dark blue, and be nearly identical twins. But that won't work now that I've started and must have a two-ply fingering weight, unless I want the mitts to be extremely fraternal twins instead of just slightly fraternal (like one would have all the blue or something similarly strange).

My solution? Fractal stripes. I learned about this technique from the fabulous Jen at the Color Fiber Festival. The basic idea follows, assuming you're starting with a multi-colored roving and want a two-ply yarn. Let's say your color change is green-blue-purple.

1. Spin one bobbin (half the fiber) so that it goes through only one cycle of the color change, that is, the color goes green-blue-purple.

2. Take the other half of the fiber and split it lengthwise into three (or four or five or however many you feel like and how long you want your stripes), and spin the bobbin so that it goes through that number of cycles of color change. For example, this bobbin will go green-blue-purple-green-blue-purple-green-blue-purple.

3. Ply! You will get interesting color changes, some barber pole looking sections and some sections where the yarn goes solid.

This will work great for me, because I can use my spinning so far as the one-slow-color-change part. So in the photo above, you can see how I've managed to divide up the locks into three piles that each contain enough yak fiber to make one smaller color change. Hopefully the two plies will have about the same length, but I'm not too optimistic about this.

I've managed to keep spinning a little every day, although yesterday I almost forgot to spin! I was brushing my teeth before bed, and suddenly remembered that while I'd meant to spin all afternoon, I'd never actually gotten around to it. Mostly because I was too busy with the Honeybee Stole.

Honeybee Progress

I decided that since the pattern calls for 1400 yards of yarn and I have 1410 yards between my three skeins of Malabrigo lace, I should do maybe one less pattern repeat in the first section (Beehive section). So I did 9 instead of 10, as insurance. Also, I realized when I read the dimensions of the project, I mistook the unblocked measurements for the blocked measurements... and there's no way I need a 7-foot-tall stole. I'm 5'6" on a good day. 7 feet minus two pattern repeats will still be plenty big.

The photo shows my progress (again as of yesterday morning), and this pattern has an uncanny ability to hold my attention for hours. HOURS! I kid you not. I've done a fair bit of lace knitting, mostly stuff that has minimal patterning on the wrong side rows, which is significantly easier. The Beehive section was no sweat, the only issue was making sure I'd cast on the correct number of stitches initially. I kept myself busy in the car with the Beehive section while we were driving around Italy and France. The Bee Swarm section (first four pattern repeats visible on the right side of the photo) upped the ante: extensive patterning on the wrong side of the knitted fabric. I don't think I've ever had to do the reverse-side decreases and yarnovers before in a project. The shawls I've done were all either "purl back all even-numbered rows" or circular, so you never worked on the wrong side. This morning before writing the post I got excited and decided I was going to brave through the first Bee and Honeycomb section pattern repeat. There's dropping three yarnovers, casting on extra stitches in the middle of a row, tons and tons of purl-two-togethers on the wrong side, and it is intense. But I adore the little knitted bee outlines, so it's easy to push myself onward.

The crazy part is that I sat down with a calculator and figured out that I'm more than a third finished with this project! I kind of want to start another pair of socks, for bus and insurance knitting (in case something goes horribly wrong with the stole... knock on wood!). I'm fairly certain that the airlines will not allow my lovely Addi Turbo Lace needles on the plane, with the long-enough-to-choke-a-guy cord and extra-pointy, gold-plated needle tips... so the question is whether I can finish this before I leave in two weeks. I kinda doubt it, and the kicker is that I would LUUURRVE to take this project on the plane! It's perfect plane knitting, except for the sad fact of the Addi Lace needles. I try to stick to bamboo double-pointed needles for the plane, because at least I can argue that they're about as harmful as a pencil. So I might have to stop this project while mostly finished, stuff it into my checked bags, and start something else for my plane ride home.

Lastly, I bought yarn while in France. Most of the yarn shops I've visited in Germany (with the exception of the place that was closed in Freiburg) haven't really had any yarn I couldn't find at home or couldn't live without. The yarn I got in Munich has no tags, so I kinda wonder if it was processed locally (like really locally). In Lyon, we passed a hat shop (Florimode near la quartier de la Croix-Rousse), and I noticed they had yarn so I popped in. Luckily they had something that I probably won't be able to get in the States:

French Yarn

I picked out colors that I think would make good Endpaper Mitts, although not necessarily for me. Alright folks, it's time for lunch so I'm gonna let you go here. Hopefully I'll have some more exciting weekend adventures to share on Monday!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Halfway Home (really long post)

I'm still plugging away on my Tour de Fleece spinning, but I have so much to catch up on that fibery things will have to wait for another post. We arrived back from France last night around 6PM, and I was really really happy at the prospect of spending more than two days in one place. It feels like I just crammed an entire European tour into nine days! Here's what our itinerary looked like:

Day 1 (Saturday): Leave Stuttgart around 6AM, drive to Genoa, Italy.
Day 2: Leave Genoa, eat lunch in Camogli, and drive to Nîmes, France.
Days 3, 4, and 5: Explore Nîmes and the surrounding area: Collioure, Carcassonne, Aigues-Mortes, and spend one day at the beach.
Day 6: Drive from Nîmes to Lyon, stopping at Pont du Gard along the way.
Day 7: Drive from Lyon to Dijon, stopping at Pérouges along the way.
Day 8: Explore Dijon.
Day 9: Drive from Dijon to Stuttgart, stopping in Strasbourg for lunch.

The driving was exciting on the first day, and I watched the countryside go by while knitting away on my honeybee stole. We had some interesting adventures involving the toll roads in Italy and France. The 30-euro highway pass we had to buy in Switzerland seemed a steep price at first, but I think it was much less stressful than trying to remember where one left the last ticket, trying to navigate to the correct booth where one can pay with cash or cards, or attempting to explain in the worst Italian ever that you have lost the ticket. Sheesh.

On out first night, in Genoa, we had THE BEST PESTO EVER. I swear. It was amazing. One of our traveling companions picked out a really fabulous restaurant. We had helpful waiters and waitresses who spoke very good English, explained the different pasta shapes, and recommended a very interesting and good bottle of local wine. Very delicious. We wandered around Genoa the following morning.

Genoa, Italy

Genoa, Italy

Italian Cat

We stopped in an amazingly charming town called Camogli for lunch. I use lunch in the loosest sense of the word, because although this was our second meal of the day, it included beer and dessert (Il Pinguino!) and ended around 5PM.

Camogli, Italy

Camogli, Italy

Il Pinguino!

We stayed with a pair of wonderful people in Nîmes, who kindly opened up their home and internets to us for four days and three nights. We wandered around Nîmes one day, swam in the Mediterranean (and got sunburned as described) the next day, and were treated to delicious French sausages with very spicy mustard and the herbes de provence (ubiquitous in grocery stores and gift shops of the region) for dinner that evening. On our last day we saw one of the highlights of the trip so far for me: Carcassonne. The old part of the town, called La Cité, is a huge (and I really mean HUGE) old French castle. People live inside the walls (!!!!) and you can walk around inside the castle walls, buying some slightly tacky touristy souvenirs, taking in the view of the surrounding countryside, or wandering the perimeter of the castle. I read that they filmed Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves here, and although we saw more tour groups here than just about anywhere else, I loved it all the same.



We actually saw Carcassonne in the late afternoon to avoid the crowds, and saw a little town called Collioure in the morning which was unbelievably amazing, and right on the ocean. The sea was the most incredible color, and at certain scenic viewpoints the town has a little frame-on-a-stand to help you get that postcard-perfect view.


On our last day in Nîmes, we slept in a bit before hitting the road for Lyon, and stopped at the Pont du Gard, one of the largest and best-preserved Roman aqueducts.

Pont du Gard

It was a ridiculously hot day, so we didn't linger too long there, but instead went back to the air-conditioned refuge of the car. We arrived in Lyon in the early evening, and ventured out in search of dinner, armed with a few recommendations from out hosts in Nîmes. We ended up at Café des Fédérations, which is the sort of restaurant where they have a set menu, and allow you to pick your main course and beverages. Our waitress (again, so helpful) brought out our soup, and I knew I had to make a detailed record of our meal. I whipped out the camera and my notebook, asked the waitress to write down the name of our soup, and took notes for the rest of the evening. It was a fabulous meal, partly because I didn't have to make a decision any more complicated than whether I wanted poulet or beouf, and red wine or white. After dinner, we strolled along the river (La Saône).

Lyon by night

We did another morning in Lyon, taking in the city by way of art museums, coffee, and croissants. I made a special visit to the Maison des Canuts, a weaver's museum, where we had a very interesting tour and demonstration on an old Jaquard loom.

Jaquard Loom

Weaving Brocade

We spent another afternoon in the car driving to Dijon, the place where the mustard comes from. My allergies went CRAZY while we were here, and I didn't figure out it was probably from the mustard until Sunday afternoon. Dijon itself was adorable. There were owls all over the city, which I just loved. Dijon uses an owl (la chouette) as a symbol of the town because the cathedral in the center of town has a little owl carved into the side. You're supposed to touch it with your left hand for good luck.

La Chouette, Dijon

I splurged on food while in Dijon. I got some regional-specialty spice bread (pain d'épices), some crème de cassis so we can try to recreate the delicious aperitifs we had with dinner, some herbes de provence, and some little cookies. We pretty much spent all day Sunday driving, because there was some pretty nasty traffic between Strasbourg (right on the French-German border) and Stuttgart. I don't know if traveling by car was my favorite method, and I could have used another day or two in Lyon to explore more of the old city, but it was just about the best use of our week we could have managed, considering how little we planned in advance (as evidence of our lack of planning: our trip around France ended yesterday, and today is Bastille Day). The apartment in Stuttgart feels more like home than it ever did before, but we're both starting to miss San Francisco quite a bit. I never really considered it to be home, and I find myself missing the city, our neighborhood, and our little apartment more specifically than I expected.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tour de Fleece Update II: The Plan, The Burn, and The Language

Hooray! I finally got the Intertron to work in my favor, and was able to force-feed some photos down its wiry gullet. Here's a shot of my Tour de Fleece spinning, at the end of Day 2 (I am still about three days behind on photos).

Tour de Fleece Day 1

The colors are not that great in this photo, because I am working off a foreign laptop and at this point, I'm just happy I have photos at all to show you. Behind the drop spindle I have spread out roughly half of the yak locks, in a vague color order. I'm spinning darkest blue to lightest (grayest) blue, then the dark brown-ish ones, then increasingly light tan. I will either navajo or andean ply, based on whether I can get enough yardage from a 3-ply. My bet is that my singles won't stay as thin as they should, and I will end up doing a two-ply. If I get a two-ply, I'm not sure what I'll do about the color changes. We'll have to wait and see. But the goal is to spin fingering weight.

I've been spinning about two locks per day, mostly in the mornings right after breakfast while our traveling companions finish getting ready for the day, except for yesterday. Yesterday I spun in the evening with a glass of rose wine out on our hosts' tiny but incredibly charming balcony. This has become one of my must-haves for a living space. Right now the list includes easy parking, clothes washer/dryer (or at least hookups), dishwasher, and a balcony. Can you tell I live in a big city? :) Anyway, yesterday I didn't spin in the morning because we decided to go to the beach and wanted to get out there for the hottest part of the day, so the swimming would be nice. The Mediterannean was a gorgeous clear blue-green, and both of us got pretty sunburned. After I cleaned all the sand off and put on some aloe vera, the wine and spinning helped immensely to take my mind off the sunburn.

It's amazing how much French I'm remembering here, considering that it's been 9 years since I took any French classes. One of our hosts is French, and I think he was a bit impressed at how much I understood our waitress at dinner two nights ago. I shudder to think how much more I would have remembered a few years ago. But my understanding is still good enough that I can pick up tiny snippets of other peoples' conversations, like the dad at the beach asking his son what sound a horse makes. My German is nowhere near good enough for this, and I never realized how disconnected one can feel when you don't understand any of the random conversation around you. My trip is about three-fourths over, and while I'm enjoying myself, I'm interested to see what it will feel like when I get back home and hear people speaking American English everywhere. I wouldn't say I'm homesick yet, but it will be nice when communication takes a little less effort.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Very Quick Update from the Road

We are in France. I travelled through four five countries over the past two days (hint: Lichtenstein is indeed very very small) and I'm typing this post on a borrowed computer with what I think is a Swedish keyboard programmed to act like an English keyboard. I don't want to intrude on the very lovely people who are putting us up for the next few days here in Nîmes, and I'm doubtful about my abilities to upload photos from a strange computer, so I'll have to leave off the pictures for a bit. I was indeed able to spin while we were on the road, so I have a little bit of yak singles on the spindle to show you later.

I'm off in search of some breakfast. I hear they have some good food in this neck of the woods.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Altering the Leaf Kimono Part III: All Done!

It's done. I had all the pieces knit and blocked before we went to Berlin, but I left them at home so I wouldn't be tempted to try sewing everything together in such distracting conditions. Boy, what a good decision that was! Yesterday I spent about three hours sewing, pinning, and trying on the top in various stages. First the two front edges, then the back edges, then sleeve seams, and finally tacking on the ribbon. Here it is all put together:

Finished Leaf Kimono

And here it is on me:

Leaf Kimono Front

Now, when I first tried it on, it felt a little floppy in the back. You can kind of see it in this photo:

Leaf Kimono Back
Several other folks who've knit this and discussed the design on Ravelry had the same problem, and they mostly ended up re-knitting the back triangle with more frequent decreases. Then I remembered that I'd basically wet-blocked all the pieces separately before sewing them together, and that I should probably wash the entire thing once more before doing anything as drastic as ripping out two seams and four inches of knitting. So I soaked it in lukewarm water and tossed it in the dryer, and it came out perfect! The waist and arm seams snugged up just enough, some of the drastic blocking came out of the back triangle, and the sleeves sit better. The lace pattern isn't quite as well-defined as it was before, but it's still a identifiable as a regular pattern. Remember what I said about this top when I first blogged about it? I wore the top to dinner, and it was fabulous. Exactly what I imagined.

Incidentally, it took me for-freakin'-ever to get those photos of me in the top using the timer on the digital camera. For some reason, every other shot or so would be tremendously out of focus and/or overexposed. I couldn't figure out why, but I had to take about 20 photos to get three that I was pleased with.

In other news, now that I've finished both projects, it's time for some new stuff! I got caught up with all the goings-on at Ravelry, and discovered Le Tour de Fleece, and decided to join up. The idea is to set yourself a personal spinning challenge while following the Tour de France. You only spin on the days of the tour, rest on the days they rest, and if you meet your self-proclaimed challenge, you get a coveted Maillot Jaune. In the interests of keeping myself honest, I'm here to announce my intentions. My goals for the Tour de Fleece are to:

1. Spin a fiber I've never spun before. I will spin up my 2 ounces of Yak fiber from A Verb for Keeping Warm:

A Verb for Keeping Warm Yak

It is warm and squishy and I love to pet it, and after taking the exotic fiber tasting class at the Color Fiber Festival, I feel more confident spinning something like this.

2. Spin stashed fiber. I have been a bit of an instant-gratification-fiber-whore before I left for this trip, buying new stuff and spinning it right away while ignoring stuff I already have. I have lots of fiber in my stash, and I shouldn't get into the habit of buying stuff I won't spin. So this yak fiber is from December of last year, purchased about 6 months ago. I don't think I have any older fiber in my stash, except for some alpaca purchased at the same time as the yak.

3. Spin yarn for a specific pattern. I will be making Bronte's mitts, which require a fingering-weight yarn. It's been difficult for me to reproduce a fingering weight on my wheel, so perhaps going back to a drop spindle will help a bit. I'd like to become a more versatile spinner. Instead of just spinning the same yarn over and over and getting basically the same results, I'd like to be able to plan a project from fiber to garment, and this is a step in that direction. Gotta practice in order to get good, right?

Again, in the interests of full disclosure, these were all goals I had for this spinning project before I found out about the Tour de Fleece. But I think the fact that I will be journeying through France for the first 8 days of the Tour de France is a little too serendipitous for me to pass up this chance. Besides, I was so sad I missed the Knitting Olympics last time.

Oh yeah! And the new project. Here's a little taste:

Honeybee Progress

Behold, the first four and a half repeats of Chart 1 of the Honeybee Stole. I've been drooling over this project for a long time, and I was a little astonished to see that the yarn had been marinating in my stash since November! I will say one thing about planning my knitting for this trip: I'm a bit stuck with what I have, but I haven't felt constrained. It's kinda nice.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


I think Berlin was my favorite city so far. When you live in a big city and spend a lot of time there, you can forget how exciting it really is to live there. Staying in and around Stuttgart has kind of toned things down for me, so when we emerged from our hotel on Saturday morning, fed and caffeinated, I got a bit of a rush.

Along Ku'damm

We managed to cram a lot of the Berlin sights into two measly days, and then a friend and I spent Monday shopping since the significant other had to go back to work. On our first day we walked down the main shopping drag: Kurfürstendamm, abbreviated by locals as just Ku'damm. We emerged onto a plaza:


According to our guide, a genuine Berlin local, the church next to the Europa Center was extensively bombed during WWII. He told us that the top of the church has been restored in this particular manner, with the panels meeting at jagged angles, "to always remind us." Moving on, we entered Teirgarten and walked down Straße de 17 Juni towards the Brandenburger Tor. They were getting ready for the final game of the European 2008 cup:

Pre-Final Festivities in Teirgarten

Giant tv screens, port-a-poties, and food stands lined the street. We walked up to the Brandenburger Tor and crossed innocuously over the path of the former wall dividing the city in two. As we walked into the portion of the city formerly controlled by the DDR, the weather was appropriately gray and dreary.

Path of the Former Wall

There isn't much left of the wall standing in the original location, most of the remaining bits have been transported to different sites. This makes sense to me. I imagine most of the residents of Berlin don't want to keep such a powerful symbol of division preserved where they have to look at it every day on their way to work. Instead, you must seek the wall out. I thought of the hundreds of thousands of people crossing blithely back and forth across this line as they watched the final game on Sunday evening. I wonder how many of them think about the wall every day. I wondered how many of them would be too young to remember its existence. I wondered how many of them would be old enough to have known people who lived on the opposite side, and how many would be old enough to remember the time before it went up. The people in "my generation" often mark ourselves as the last set of people to remember the fall of the Berlin wall. I was barely aware of how television worked when the wall came down, and although our family's old globe had an East and West Germany, I didn't really understand the implications of German reunification until many many years later. I feel a little guilty identifying with an event that didn't have much impact on my formative years. I can't claim it as my own. I think I'd rather leave that to those who cared desperately about the wall and what it stood for. I am a westerner, and the wall is not really my symbol.

As we walked through former East Berlin, we approached the iconic TV Tower, another landmark immediately identifiable with the DDR, and the Berliner Dom.

Berliner Dom and TV Tower

This was all before lunch on Saturday, so there was lots of walking! In the afternoon we had to take a bit of a siesta and plan out the rest of our weekend. We went to see the Eastside Gallery, which is a bit of the former wall that has been graffitied to bits. Underneath the new art, there are works from East Berlin artists painted on the wall and set up as a public open-air museum. It's not original art from the wall (one would not have been allowed to write on the wall in the East), but the graffiti-on-top-of-more-graffiti aspect is interesting to contemplate.

On Sunday we saw the Gemäldegalerie, which has two fabulous Vermeer paintings, and a TON of Rembrandts. Very highly recommended. I've adored Vermeer since I read Girl with a Pearl Earring. I'll admit it,I'm a huge fangirl when it comes to art-related historical fiction. Perhaps seeing all of Vermeer's paintings should be a life-goal? Not sure. The Gemäldegalerie took more time than we were expecting, so one half of our little party went back to the hotel, and the other went to get seats for the final game. I was part of the boring half, but I felt no shame. We watched the game in an open-air cafe, the way God intended, and listened to the horns and singing. Germans love driving around honking their car horns so much that they kept it up until at least 1 AM, even though they didn't win the Euro cup. Way to keep up the national spirit! We lost one person to a flight home and another to work, so it was just us two girls on Monday. We did what any female would do in the capital of a European nation on a weekday with no sights to see: we shopped. I bought some clothes. We went into five (5) different locations of H&M, had a fabulous lunch, and drove back to Stuttgart.

I finished the Covelite Jaywalkers in the first hour of the return car trip. My driving companions asked if I would finish them before we got home. I had ten rounds left before the toe, and the drive would take about 6 hours, so I told them that I would certainly finish before we got home. I think they were a little shocked that it only took about an hour and a half to complete the sock and weave in all the ends.

Finished Jaywalkers

We also got stuck in a truly epic traffic jam (the car was literally turned off on the Autobahn for about an hour) and we got a bit bored. Our friend, who was driving, asked to see the sock and he actually was impressed. I don't think he had too high an opinion of handknit socks when he saw them the first time, but I gave him one of the finished ones to feel, and you know what his response was? "These are really nice! My birthday is in April." We got so bored, I made a new knitter out of our other traveling companion. Once she got the hang of it, she hopped out of the car and knit while walking on the Autobahn.

Knitting on the Autobahn

I also started my new project on the car trip. I hope Stuttgart doesn't feel too boring after Berlin.