A Surprise Weekend Treat

The Husbeast was unexpectedly offered free last-minute tickets to see the Redskins game on Sunday, and being the awesome husband that he is he took me along. While I am not as big a football fan as hockey or soccer, I do enjoy football and I was definitely down for a chance to sit in a fancy-pants suite and watch it live.

ticket

So I stuffed a nice half-finished sleeve in my little purse (in case the Skins lost as badly as they usually do), we left the house rather impressively early, and made the long trek into Maryland and through the game-day crowds. I got lots of knitting done on the long train ride in, but definitely never thought to take a picture of it.  We fought our way (okay, maybe drifted is a better term for it) through the crowds to the stadium entrance only to be told that the “no large purses” rule was really more of a “no purses” rule, at which point they made me throw my purse away and a mad scramble ensued to stuff all its contents into a Ziploc. Luckily it really was a small purse and most of my things fit – there was just a bit of concern about the dpns poking through the plastic. Plus of course the concern that I was throwing away a perfectly good souvenir from my trip to the Alps. It was all worth it though when we got to our seats.

suite

I’ve never seen a game from a suite before, and I have to say it was quite an experience. You can see from the photo above a that there was certainly more space than typical (!) and a nice spread of pregame munchies. What you can not see in that photo is the sheer volume of beer and soda in that mini-fridge, or the hot bar set up to the right with heavy duty “football food” for during the game. Towards the end of the game an amazing dessert bar also magically appeared. There were about a dozen of us in the suite and we all went home embarrassingly stuffed, I’ll bet. What you also can’t see in this photo is the view of the game.

view

Pretty excellent. We got there in plenty of time to watch the warm up, and also had a prime view for a rather decisive win!

warm up

I actually did wind up knitting quite a bit during the game, since there’s an awful lot of stopping and waiting in the NFL today. Knitting in public of course sparked plenty of conversation and an awesome mimed ode to the amazingness of my sleeve from a woman in the next suite. I wish I could have recorded it; she was adorable. By the 4th quarter I was working on the sleeve cap and people were going home because the winner of the game had clearly been decided, but the team wasn’t done scoring.

4th quarter

Clearly my presence in the suite was a good luck charm, and I should be invited back for every game. Right?

A Sweater for My Man

I promised last week that I’d share the whole sweater-picking process Hubby and I went through, and I am absolutely a woman of my word. First we talked about the sweater he’d seen on vacation and I tried to figure out what it was he liked about it. Eventually we came up with a gist – he wanted a light weight sweater with “not too much” texture, especially on the lower half, and a “thing” near the neckline that could have been a shawl collar or modified shawl collar or even a henley neckline. He also definitely wanted a pullover and not a cardigan.

With that in mind we went to the miracle that is Ravelry’s advanced pattern search. I keyed in fingering weight, since that seemed to be about the heaviest of any of the things in our closet he thought would be acceptable, and I’d really rather not knit a man’s sweater in anything lighter than that! Then I checked “pullover”, “male”, “adult”, and “has photo”.

options

While 105 options is significantly fewer than the same parameters would’ve given me for a women’s pattern, it’s still a rather overwhelming number. Luckily Hubby was feeling brave and plenty patient, not to mention totally unembarrassed to eliminate most of them out of hand (honestly I’d have done the same). We eventually discovered that he has a taste for Brooklyn Tweed patterns, which helped narrow down the choices significantly.

brooklyn tweed

There are 7 men’s tops currently published by Brooklyn Tweed, but the Husbeast has Strong Opinions about appropriate sweater weight and the acceptability of things like ribbing on sweaters, so none of them was quite right. We decided we would use a few of his favorite features from the sweaters for inspirations and I would design the perfect husband sweater just for him. Then I dragged him out to multiple yarn shops and craft stores to fondle yarn. I swear I had no ulterior motives. ;-)

It is frequently difficult to find sweater quantities of a yarn in an LYS, especially man-sizes, but I wanted him to at least see colors and touch fabrics in person before we ordered the necessary amounts. He was still surprisingly hard to impress, as everything was too bright or too fuzzy or too “They want you to pay what for that tiny little ball?” for our purposes, especially in sock weights. Much to my surprise, in spite of his initial “Ew, acrylic” comment we wound up with a synthetic yarn. It turns out Woolike is much softer and nicer than his original conception of acrylic. The fact that he won’t have to worry about hand-washing or accidentally destroying it was appealing too.

woolike

It helps that it also comes in a nice, deep navy that we both liked. It’s almost unnervingly inexpensive as well. Good thing, because it turns out you really need a truly stunning amount of yardage to make a fingering weight sweater in a men’s large! I spent most of my (very limited, sadly) free time this past week doing up the math for the pattern, and may actually be able to get to knitting in the next few days if I find some time between yarn shipments for my actual paid knitting (and of course, the day job). More details to come!

An FO, a WIP, and a Plan

I finished the green purse socks after a day of visiting up in Maryland:

green stripes

 

Thanks to a delay in yarn support for an upcoming design I’ve also had some time to work more on the Flaming June I started on vacation. I’ve got the body done now and am hoping to finish the collar before yarn arrives. Sleeves and dye will no doubt have to wait.

flaming june body

 

Hubby and I have also come up with a plan for a sweater he’ll actually wear. More on that in a future post, but here’s a tantalizing (read: boring, stockinette) swatch of the yarn he chose!

yarn

Vacation Part 3: London

This has been the most fun part of the series to write, not because London was so much more fun than Norway, but because I’ve been back at school for over a week now and all the positive effects of vacation had worn off until I started writing and remembering. Sadly London was also the end of my vacation.

Because we had some time between when the boat got in and when we had to be home, and we didn’t know when we’d be able to afford to come to that side of the world again, we decided to take a whirlwind tour of London before we went home. And I do mean whirlwind. When we got in we dropped our suitcases at the hotel and immediately hopped on the Tube. We set out for Picadilly Circus first.

picadilly circus

 

It really was reminiscent of Times Square with more interesting architecture. After that we fought our way through the crowds to get a peek at Buckingham Palace. It was really pretty absurd trying to get any decent pictures of any part of it, because there are always 700 other people trying to get the same exact picture, and they’re usually closer. Then of course there’s the fact that to get the whole palace in a photo, you have to be far enough back to also get the crowds and the traffic lights and street lamps in the photo! I was actually a little surprised not to see a huge green in front of it like you get with old plantation houses(the closest thing to a castle we have here in Virginia)!

buckingham beefeater

 

Since we were there, we decided to hang out in St. James Park for a while afterward and try and regain a little peace, so to speak. We quite enjoyed the famous pelicans and the fuzzy adolescent swans. And yes, that is September Storms in the photo. London was chilly!

st. james park fuzzy swans

 

Our next big visit on the list was Westminster Palace/Abbey and Big Ben. Getting there was just as crowded as Buckingham, but thankfully the area around it wasn’t quite such a zoo. We were also excited to discover Parliament just down the street. I’d never realized just how centralized a lot of the Big Stuff is in the “City of Westminster”, which was another term I’d never heard used before.

big ben westminster

 

We were unfortunately unable to visit the Royal Mews (people who know me in real life will know what a horse nut I am and how disappointed that was) because there was a rather large horse show going on, and the line to get in was so long we couldn’t even ask about ticket prices or we may have gone to the show instead. Instead we took some photos of the iconic London Eye across the Thames (I was too chicken to go up in something that high) and then went to the Portrait Gallery.

london eye portrait museum

Imagine pretty much every picture of a historical figure you’ve seen on Wikipedia in one building. That’s London’s Portrait Gallery. It really puts D.C.’s to shame. I was particularly in awe of the Tudor wing.

We also hung out in Seven Dials (how’s that for a neighborhood name?) for a while enjoying their poetry and art festival, and then did some more nothing in Trafalgar Square, because how can you not?

seven dials 383

Later that afternoon we wandered into the Theatre District, but sadly did not have time to actually see a play. Instead we enjoyed seeing what was playing where, and then had the most stereotypically British dinner we could manage in one of the nearby pubs. It was pretty crowded, so we wound up sharing our booth with an awesome pair from Scotland who’d come down for a girls’ weekend/ play marathon. That’s Speckled Hen we’re drinking, if you’re interested.

national theatre pub dinner

 

You want to know the really amazing part of our stay in London though? Hubby asked for a sweater. Not a store-bought sweater, thank goodness, but for me to make him a sweater. Hubby never wears sweaters, and barely wears hand-knits. But he saw a sweater he actually liked in a store window, looked at it and literally said, “Ew, it’s made of acrylic. You could probably make something like this, right?” Then he asked if we could go yarn shopping for it soon. I about fell over dead. So excited!

Vacation Part 2: Norway

It is really difficult to condense all the amazing things I saw and did in Norway into one post. Here’s my best go though. We saw 4 different cities up and down the southwest coast of Norway while we were gone; I recount the highlights of each.

Stavanger

With a population about the size of Flint, MI or Fayetteville, NC, Stavanger is the 4th largest city in Norway.

stavanger

On approach it was a very cute, seaside town complete with the same sort of steep-roofed white houses you find all over New England. The city is still pretty clearly an oil city- I had no idea how much oil is apparently in the North Sea until this trip. We mostly stayed in Old Stavanger because it was so pretty, with its old fashioned homes and beautiful park.

gamle stavanger

sheep

Sheep!

art

I have no explanation for this piece of art.

We also made sure to check out the Stavanger Cathedral, as it’s apparently the oldest in Norway, and the Maritime Museum.

cathedral museum

 

Skjolden

After Stavanger we went to the teensy new port of Skjolden. Their best estimate was a year-round population of about 300, plus some extra hikers and fishermen in the summer.

skjolden

This is literally the entire port.

This was actually my favorite port of the whole trip. We spent many hours cruising through the massive Sognefjord to this little town at its very end, which was by far the prettiest place we went in my opinion.

sognefjord skjolden

When we got there we hiked as long as we dared (there was a storm looming) and got back just in time to dash into the only pub to have a pint of Ringnes and wait out the storm.

hiking 137

This is also where I found the Holy Grail of this trip – locally raised and spun Merino.

norwegian merino

 

It seems to be about fingering weight, and is apparently from Merino meat sheep, which wasn’t something I knew existed. It’s definitely not as soft as what I would generally expect from Merino, but it is quite knitable, Now to come up with a pattern.

Alesund

With a population about the size of Salt Lake City, UT or Perth, Scotland, Alesund is between the sizes of the first two places we visited. I’m told it is also the northernmost year-round port in Norway. That’s saying something when you realize how much more “north” is left on the map of Norway after Alesund. The main draw for tourists in Alesund is the Art Deco architecture, which was largely funded by Kaiser Wilhelm II (yes, of Germany) after most of the city burned in the early 1900s. Apparently the area was a favorite vacation spot of the Kaiser.

alesund

 

That nifty shot of the town was made possible by our climb up the 418 steps to the top of Mt. Aksla, which also produced the views below.

view from Aksla view from Aksla

 

After coming back down from the mountain, we tried to figure out the bus system to get to their little aquarium or medieval-style farm, but eventually gave up and walked the supposedly 3k to the aquarium. Naturally it rained, and was largely an uphill climb. Not our favorite part of the trip!

Bergen

Last but definitely not least was Bergen. Bergen is the second largest city in Norway and the only one I really wish we’d had more time. Population-wise, it is about the size of Lincoln, NE or Saskatoon, SK. When you consider that the entire population of Norway is less than New York City, this is quite large. The first thing we did was set out for the Bergenhus, an old castle/fort/ruins right on the water. It was stunning and I particularly loved the 13th century ruins, but it took a bit longer to get out there than planned because I may possibly have gotten distracted by the Dale of Norway window display on the way.

dale sweater bergenhus ruins

 

After that we did some shopping in the old warehouse district Bryggen, mostly to play funhouse in the old warehouses that got seriously shaken by an exploding Dutch ship a few decades back. None of the following pictures are taken at a weird angle, and my military husband is standing straight and tall in one doorway to really give you an idea of how crooked these buildings are.

bryggen 303 304

 

Then we wandered on down to the awesome fish market, where we feasted on painfully expensive fjord shrimp which were still the cheapest meal we found in Norway, as well as cloudberry jam on fresh bread. It was all absolutely amazingly delicious.

fishmarket fjord shrimp cloudberry jam

Sadly by that time it was about time to head out. I could definitely go back to Bergen. I’ve tried to condense this post as much as possible and share only the biggest, best-photographed highlights, but it’s still massive and I still feel like I’ve left out a lot of good stuff. It makes me kinda sad. The next post will be easier because it was a seriously whirlwind tour. Next post, London!

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.

plane

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.

countryside

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

island

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.

talisker

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.

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.

selbu

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.

nordlandskofta

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.

honnestrikk

 

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!

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