Vacation Part 1: Travel

Hubby and I are back from vacation and there is way too much to tell you about to fit into one post! So today I’m just going to talk about getting there (and you can assume getting back was pretty similar). I’ll cover the rest in a subsequent post or two.

Travel was actually a bit complicated and multi-faceted this time. To begin with, we flew to Heathrow. Flying is never fun, but it did give me an excuse to cast on a new project. My current projects were both on pointy metal dpns, and I didn’t want to risk any security complaints, so I practically had to start a new sweater, right? For those nice, safe plastic needles.Totally legit. We took a red-eye, so I was unfortunately not with it enough to take any pictures except for this really awful cell phone photo of the little plane we took to our layover.


Yeah, sorry about the quality of that. After we got in to Heathrow we hopped on a bus and took a pretty little drive through the English countryside to the port of Southampton.



That wound up taking longer than planned because the M3 is apparently taking traffic lessons from the Beltway. At least it was a fairly pretty drive! Once we got there we boarded a big ol’ boat and wound our way through the English Channel out to the North Sea.

pilot boat


Because we had a not-insignificant chunk of the North Sea to travel before reaching Norway, we had plenty of time to sample the ship’s amenities, knit in the lounges (okay maybe that was just me) and sample some new-to-us whiskies with our new (mostly British) friends.


Next post, Norway!

Knitting and Culture: Norway

If the post scheduler is working correctly, I am currently on vacation and absolutely nowhere near a computer. Since I plan to spend a good bit of my vacation in Norway, I thought I’d share with you a bit of info on the history and culture of knitting in Norway.


Map courtesy of Google

Did you know that Norway was actually one of the last European countries to adopt knitting? For as much as we overseas think “Scandinavia” every time we think “knitting”, the earliest known pieces of Norwegian knitting are from the 1600s. I guess it makes sense when you consider how far that knowledge had to travel just to get to Scandinavia at all.

Knitting didn’t really become common nationwide until the mid-1800s,when it became part of a growing movement toward nationalism. This is also when the first of what we tend to think of as the “traditional” two-color patterns began to appear. In particular, dot of darker color on a lighter background (unfortunately nicknamed “lice”) and borders of eight-petal flowers are now considered distinctly Norwegian.


Pattern: Norwegian Stockings to Knit by Terri Shea

After the Norwegian division from Sweden in 1905, there was a serious push to develop a national identity, and this included national styles of dress and handicraft. At that time people began to closely examine and make an effort to preserve the best regional and rural traditions from Norway, but they also began to borrow or modify ideas and designs that spoke to them from other cultures. For example, the Nordlandskofta style of sweater frequently includes borders inspired by Greek culture, but is a distinctly southwestern Norway creation from the 1940s.


In 1956 Dale of Norway created the now-iconic sweater for the Norwegian winter Olympics teams, which really cemented the idea of “Norwegian knitting” in the international world. It also transformed knitting in Norway from a rural tradition to a nationwide fashion statement. It had a wholesome, productive, and thoroughly feminine connotation that no doubt appealed to the “housewife culture” so common in the mid-century Western world. Knitting was not only a way to show national pride, but to show you loved your family and were skilled.

dale olympics 1956


Then in the 1970s there was an interesting phenomenon called “Hønsestrikk”, (“Chicken Knitting” or  “Hen Knitting”), which was actually a feminist movement. Take that, grandma stereotype. Danish writer Kirsten Hofstätter objected to tendency toward traditional knitting, much as other feminists of the time objected to traditional family structures. She felt it limited creativity and encouraged elitism. Hofstätter wrote a series of books encouraging use of bright colors, non-traditional designs, and saving money (and adding color!) by using scrap yarn whenever possible. Basically, she encouraged individuality. In fact it was not unusual to see hen knitters work their own names or personal stories and symbols into patterns. The trend became massively popular in Norway, where knitters not only began to buy patterns separately from yarn, but grew less inclined to use patterns at all.



No doubt the emergence of Ravelry in this generation has changed the face of knitting once again in Norway, as it is in so many other nations. I look forward to seeing what people will say about the next trend in another decade or two! I know some of my readers come from Norway or from Norwegian backgrounds; if you have more to add we’d love to hear it!

Late, but Accomplished

Okay okay okay. I know this is a day later than I’ve been posting. I hate to have left you hanging, but I’ve done SO many things in the last 48 hours, and I knew I’d have a better post for you if I waited. First, I finished the secret project I still can’t show you. What a ridiculous sprinting marathon that was. I wasn’t sure it was actually possible, so I’m feeling dang proud of myself at the moment. Luckily the other projects I have lined up for that published aren’t nearly as rushed. Sadly I won’t be able to show you those either.


I can show you that picture above though! That is where we went after I finished the unpublished project yesterday. My baseball-loving friend assures me it was a very big and hyped-up game (even though we lost horribly) and was beside herself with excitement when hubby managed to get some tickets through work. Apparently they’d sold out weeks ago. We had no idea.


I know “stitch and pitch” is a Thing, but last night it was very definitely August. It may have been evening and sub-90 out, but I felt a bit like I was the carrot(top) in a pot of soup, and couldn’t seem to find a rhythm for any serious  knitting. I may also have been a bit burned out from the new design. It was nice and cool on the trains though, and I had looooooots of time on them for knitting. Between it being prime tourist season in DC, the game being during rush hour on a weeknight, and last night being the baseball game that everyone in the world except our household apparently knew was the game to attend, it was an even longer trip than usual. I managed to knit the foot and turn the heel of the second green sock.

mohair sweater

Last but not least, look what I finished today!!!!!!!!! Yes, the lace weight mohair beast is DONE!!!! I kind of want to go put it in my suitcase for vacation now, even though it’ll be the only thing in there for a good bit yet. Donedonedonedonedone!!!

Is Handmade Truly Superior?

Isn’t that always the million dollar question among crafters? The discussion can get really ugly in some forums – there’s a lot of emotion involved in the thought. Anything you spend enough time on begins to reflect some of your own self-worth, and denying its value can be almost physically painful. But what about to people who were not involved in an artifact’s creation? From a broad, objective standpoint, is handmade truly superior? I won’t be posting much knitting here over the next couple weeks as I work on unpublished designs, to let’s have a nice discussion instead. Here’s what I’ve gleaned over the years of talking about it to countless crafters and non-crafters alike.

1. If there is something unusual about your body, handmade is the way to go.

Are your socks always too loose? The fingers of your gloves too long? Do you frequently have to choose between clothes that fit your waist or clothes that fit your hips (that’d be me)? Then loving, or being, a handcrafter is a beautiful, beautiful thing. No longer do you have to resign yourself to ill-fitting clothes. No more having to get all your professional clothing tailored either – at least some of it can surely be handmade! Since the truth is almost none of us are shaped like the mythical beings that mass-produced clothing is designed to fit, this is probably where the most undeniable value of handmade is.


Ain’t no other way to get a fit like this.

2. If you value having something unique, handmade will give you that.

You won’t find the average crafting pattern on a department store shelf. Even if you use one of the most popular patterns from one of the most popular sources for your craft, you probably won’t choose exactly the same media and exactly the same colors as many other people. Add in individualized shape and size for your extra special body, or some tweaks and technique changes for your own personal preferences, and there’s nothing else like your masterpiece in the whole entire world. If you want unique, you’ve got it.

3. For some people, the hours of sweat, headaches, and aching wrists they know went into a sweater really do make it more valuable. These people are not the majority.

Just like your baby is always the cutest, and the smartest, your handmade piece is always superior to store-bought. To you. Others who do your craft or similar crafts will probably also appreciate just how long it took you to make your piece, and just how difficult it was (or was not). They’re also the most likely to be aware of just how much that cashmere-silk blend actually cost, although ironically that’s the part non-crafters might be more likely to care about. Every now and then you’ll find a non-crafter who does truly appreciate the love that goes into every handmade object. Typically, these people have some other frequently undervalued skill, or love someone who does. However, these people who truly “get” how much of you goes into each handmade item? They are every bit as rare and precious as the item itself. Don’t assume your new friend is one of them.

Brambleton- Whole Sock

You know you can buy those for like, $5 at Walmart, right?

4. Some items will truly not ever be as good when made at gauges and with materials accessible to handcrafters.

No handmade fabric will ever truly replace denim, leather, or any number of other fabrics. Either, like leather, the material literally can not be made by hand, or like denim, the fiber may exist but human hands simply  can not work at the necessary gauge. You will never knit a pair of pants as practical as a good pair of blue jeans, and you will never crochet a bathing suit that stays put and dries as well as a store-bought swimsuit. You just won’t.

5. You can safely expect surprise gifts to end in tears and resentment. For everyone.

It can be surprisingly difficult to identify those rare people mentioned in #3. Even if they ask you, unsolicited, to make them something that’s no guarantee they really understand what they’re asking for. If they never ask, it may be because they don’t want anything handmade, but it could also be because they do understand how big a gift something handmade can be, and they don’t feel right asking for so much. Add in the fact that art is highly personal, and what one person finds beautiful may be garish or boring to another. How many bizarro, random gifts have you gotten from well-meaning friends or relatives (the proverbial reindeer sweater, anyone?) over the years that made you wonder whether the giver actually knew you at all? Were you then resentful about having to trot the gift out every time you saw the person after? Now imagine you’re on the other side of that exchange, and the beautiful gift you put hours and hours of thought and effort into gets an, “Oh…thank you” in response. More tears and resentment. Even worse if you’re making something where sizing is important, like a sweater – more effort AND more chances to make it unusable. Trust me, it’s much happier if everyone involved knows exactly what’s going on, and everyone opted in.

Selfish knitting is more fun anyway!

Selfish knitting is more fun anyway!

So what do you think? Is handmade superior?

Progress of a Sort

I got about 75% of the edging done on the sweater. Another day or two of serious work on it would probably finish it. However, I’ve put it aside for now because this bundle of sunshine arrived Friday:


I’ve put away the green sweater and all other projects for the time being because this one is on such a nerve-wrackingly tight deadline. Knitting is also my full-time job (and then some) for the next couple weeks, although that’s something I normally try to avoid. Sadly, I’m unable to show you what I’m working on. Instead, here is a picture of a particularly spoiled goat.


We found her at the county fair last night. How entitled!

In Which I Am Weak

I am still plugging away at the sweater – I finished the hem lace and the knitting part of the sleeve lace. But there’s just so. much. left.


To make matters worse, my yarn support was delayed, so I don’t even have the very legitimate excuse of a deadline looming to give me a break from this sweater. I tried working on my purse socks a little extra. A Friday night trip into D.C. even gave me enough time to finish one of the socks.

green sock

But it just wasn’t enough to make me feel excited about the sweater again. And I am weak. So even knowing that (hopefully) by the end of this week I will have to put it down and work on the new design, I cast this on last night:

mitten wip

Think I can finish it by the weekend?

Trudging Along

We had a nice little 3-day weekend here, what with Independence Day falling on a Friday. There was fire and beer and darkness and all sorts of other things that do not go well with knitting, so not much got done.


Not much knitting, anyway.

However, in spite of that I’ve managed to complete (finally) the body and sleeves of the Sweater That Will Not End.


Now all that’s left is the edging. Miles and miles and miles of edging. Since Thursday I have accomplished exactly this much of it:


Originally I had wanted to finish it in time for our summer vacation (we are going somewhere I will most likely want layers) but yarn support should be arriving next week for a pattern that’s on a very tight deadline, so that may not happen. At this point I don’t even care. The thought of something new to work on – even something I’ll never wear – is so ridiculously much more interesting than this slog.


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