Small steps

It’s been six years since we had to leave our Berlin apartment. At the same time, I was offered a job in Illinois. One might call this fate – we did not.

Instead, we discussed, considered and dreamed for weeks, because we had looked at a house nearby that was for sale. A difficult decision, each of our options had advantages and disadvantages and the only way out was to have the boy (then 7) decide: what do you want? Shall we move closer to the best basketball league in the world or in a small house in Southern Berlin with a basketball hoop in the driveway?

He chose the latter.

basketball hoop häkelmonsterHence, we bought a small, old house not far from where we used to live. We had no idea what it meant to own a house. In short: there is always something that needs to be done (and paid for). Of course, we wanted to stick to our promise, pave the driveway and assemble a portable hoop, but every time we had enough money, something else came along. And that something else was always absolutely essential. After a storm, we had to cut down enormous fir trees before they fell over, we had to redo the roof …

For six years, the boy has been waiting for his hoop. And it will take even longer. At least, that is what I thought.

Last Friday, my friend Pia was in Berlin. We sat in the sun, knitted, talked and then at some point she said – albeit in a completely different context – small steps, we have to take small steps. And that most of the time everyone thinks way too big, way too complex.

basketball hoop häkelmonsterOnly later in the car, after I had taken her to the airport, it finally clicked: Small steps!

Yes, right now something else is again more essential than a basketball hoop: we have to seal a dampwall in the basement from the outside. To be able to do this, we have to take down the stairs to the front door. Seal the wall, build new stairs, paving stones in the driveway, a new garden fence, a gate. A 5-figure sum in total. We’re putting money aside. Probably we’ll have enough by the end of summer.

However, a hoop is a hoop! No more, no less. Scoring is possible, even when the basement wall is damp and the driveway is unpaved. Small steps.

That same night we looked online and in the store for portable basketball hoops; the next morning we decided, bought and assembled it. Now it is there, as if it has always been there. Until dusk the son would throw the ball, dribble and play his game. Early the next morning he was back outside – to make sure the hoop was still there.

basketball hoop häkelmonsterYes, we still need to do the basement. And the driveway. Eventually, we will do both. One at a time.

We have a hoop. We have a very happy boy. We couldn’t ask for more 💙.

 

Pink

Two weeks a year our garden is pink. The huge Japanese cherry blooms so incredibly lush and beautiful that even in the house everything (due to the reflection) seems to be pink. Just a few days ago, I wondered why we never do a garden party, invite friends and neighbors under that pink canopy of our cherry.

Now I am tempted to say it was wise we never had anyone over lately …

Japanese Cherry HäkelmonsterFor last week, all that pink became too heavy and the beautiful tree broke apart. Just like that. At least one third could no longer hold up its flowers.

I keep telling myself that from now on there will be more light in our garden and eventually something like a lawn under what is left of the tree. (And that the wood – once cut, dried, split – will be firewood; plenty of it and great quality).

However, I am sad.

This is why the Japanese cherry has had an influence on my color choice for today’s hexagon.

Japanese Cherry Hexagone HäkelmonsterFour months of hexagons, one third of 2018, 120 days – packed in bags. January. February. March. April. One per day – that’s the plan. More and more, this project gets slow as molasses … I keep making those hexagons nonetheless. Ideally, one is done even before breakfast. I love to sit outside on the porch, now that it is getting warmer, overlooking the garden. Knitting when everyone else is still asleep. However, it doesn’t always work that way. At times, it rains. At times, I might not be in the mood.

If it didn’t have that smack of “capitulating”, maybe I would have stopped long ago.

Tomorrow, I will knit the next one. One for the cherry, one for spring, one for …

Travel knit

I have been travelling quite a bit lately. Short trips here and there. To Czech Republic over Easter, to France for family affairs. Enriching and exhausting at the same time.

Ostrava was beautiful. Basketball (what else?) made us go there and I am happy we went. Very impressive architecture, whether old, socialist or modern. Not necessarily beautiful but making a strong visual impact (at least on me).

And – of course – great games. The boys played against teams from Lithuania, Hungary, the Ukraine and the host country. In the end they won gold (well deserved. Yes, I am proud!).

Paris was unexpected. As unexpected – however foreseeable – as the death of my dear friend of 35 years. The church service affectionate and light-colored (if that makes sense), outside the first day of spring, the sky so very blue.

All of it unreal. Little more than 12 hours between arrival and departure. The evening with her family, her husband, daughter, grandchildren; a restless night; seeing her for the last time in the morning. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

Because of the strike I had to go home by train: 10 hours to let my mind wander while knitting the time away.

Bright above me HäkelmonsterEven though winter is (finally!) over, I have another yoke sweater on my needles. Not that I needed another, but when Dutte called out for test knitters I could not resist. A beautiful pattern, somehow reflecting my spirit: Is there anything Bright Above Me – sometimes I wish it was. If only to welcome my friend.

Pictures of finished sweater to follow. Hopefully soon.

According to the designer, the pattern will be out any day from now.

Grey

They used to have dinner together: mother, children, father. The father was always the last to come home. But once he was there, they would cook dinner and eat. Together.

Then one day, one of the children – a teenager – decided to become vegetarian. It would not affect their daily routine. Just like before, they would prepare dinner together and eat. Together and at the dining table. However, not everyone would eat everything that was there.

Her decision to become vegan was a bigger step. They would still have dinner together but it wasn’t as easy any more as it had been before. At first, the parents still tried to cook so that everyone was satisfied, new recipes were added, but at some point, the girl asked for her own shelf in the kitchen, with her own food, and started to cook for herself.

It was only a matter of time that the girl started eating the food she had prepared by herself whenever she felt like eating and no longer when everyone else had dinner. Hence, more and more often her chair at the dining table remained empty.

häkelmonsterShe was always skinny. Now she is too skinny. Sometimes, she does not get up for days. She stays in bed, staring at the wall. Then again, if only for a moment, things will be like before. Afterwards it is worse. For everyone. A roller coaster.

I stand (idly) by. I have known them for a long time and can tell how miserable they are. The parents, the siblings, the girl. Over and again, I keep asking myself what could have been done to prevent things from turning out the way they did. What would be a solution? What is between being ignorant and being importunate? Is it enough to just be there?

IMG_8139I thought of this when knitting – stitch by stitch, one braid after another – a wrap for the girl. She wants me to knit for her. However, she never said that. A wrap in grey, the color she likes best.

Fallen Cloud. Soft and warm like a hug.

Not vegan.

 

#project2018

January is in a bag, February too. March is in a box. Every day, well, almost every day, I knit another little Hexagon pillow and – at least when thinking about this project – I would not mind if 2018 would be over soon.

Lately, I may have been ranting and raving about it. Occasionally …

Hence, the son (just in case you forgot: competitive athlete, born 2004) suggested yet another challenge: no more hexagons but push-ups. One more every day.

hexagone häkelmonsterWe’ve been doing push-ups for almost two weeks now and all of a sudden, knitting hexagons isn’t all that bad any more. Definitely better than push-ups 😬.

When did I take the picture? Correct: March 4. In the meantime, I have knitted another nine hexagons.

I am hanging in there, however something is telling me that I may stick to only one challenge until the end of the year. One, instead of two. Now, you may guess which one it will be …

Evil Eye Gloves

“They told us: ‘Hands up. Drop anything in your hands.’” Will Gilroy (15), freshman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, wrote online (see CNN for whole article).

From now on their life will be separated in everything that happened before February 14 and after, wrote his mother in the same article. (Worth reading! Both!)

IMG_784717 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day 2018.

14 of them were between 14 and 18 years old.

Another 15 had to be treated in hospitals.

A 19-years old, expelled from that very high school over disciplinary problems, had gunned them down.

The shooter legally purchased a AR-15, the firearm used in the shooting, at a gun store in Coral Springs, Florida.

These are the facts. All else is pain, and suffering, and rage.

Now, thousands of teenagers who used social media to document the horror, aren’t waiting for adults to make changes to prevent the next school shooting. They’re taking matters into their own hands, advocating for stricter gun-control laws and more mental health resources for treating troubled peers with the March for our Lives.

On March 24, 2018, students will rally in Washington D.C and in local communities across the country to demand action. They are fighting for an America that is free from gun violence.

sea-of-eyesAccording to the New York Times, since 2014, 438 people were shot in school shootings, 138 of whom were killed.

438 people in less than 5 years.

In schools.

Since 2014, there have been at least 239 school shootings nationwide.

So far, there were 18 school shootings in 2018.

Enough is enough! Those teenagers from Parkland and everywhere else in the country are determined to pressure members of Congress to pass stronger gun-control legislation. This is why they are going to Washington.

The artist Krista Suh took up the idea of the raised hands. She wants her vision of many raised hands wearing wristwarmers or fingerless mitts with embroidered eyes become a reality at the March for our Lives.

All eyes on congress! Evil Eyes, with the power to avert evil!

If you like to knit or crochet fingerless mitts, to wear them yourself or to pass them on to others, the (free) pattern (and all other information) is here.

 

blue & orange

I used to read horoscopes. Those three-liners in newspapers or magazines. Occasionally I would catch a few sentences on the radio. Sometimes, I would hope for the words to become true, sometimes I would pretend I had never heard them. And if ever there was anything written about the Capricorn I would wonder if it was true for me.

I’m done with horoscopes. At least, since I have met my man.

I tell you why: Last week was his birthday. Same day as my sister. Here a fish, there a fish and one might think … no. Listing everything they have in common is done in no time: both are a part of my life. That’s it. They differ in everything else. Blame it on the ascendant or forget about horoscopes. I decided for the latter.

How about you? Do you believe in stars affecting your life? Supposedly, every third woman and every sixth man in Germany does.

shawl häkelmonsterBe it as it may, how do I get back to the shawl I meant to write about in the first place? The stars – the sky – the color blue? That might work. After all, it started with the most beautiful skein of blue yarn you can imagine: 650 yards of 70% baby alpaca, 20% silk, 10% cashmere.

It took me a while (and several attempts) to figure out what to do with it. Soon it will be a wide and soft and stretchy shawl, knitted in brioche. Light enough for summer, cozy around my neck in winter.

Knitted with big needles (size 5 EU, instead of the suggested 2-3) and 70 stitches it is about 14 inches wide – but can easily be stretched to 24 inches.

And all of a sudden 650 yards weren’t all that long any more … I am tempted to say that my shawl was meant to have an orange end; that Purl Soho’s Color Tipped Scarf inspired me. But that’s not true.

Orange is the new blue. Orange is my plan B.

Simply because Filace Quito in the colorway Terra was the only matching yarn (in terms of quality and feel) I had. I’ll add another 10 to 15 inches with it. Maybe some more. I’ll see.

Do I like those colors together? I don’t know (yet). The contrast is intense. Maybe because lately I have seen too much of a wintry grey outside.

Now it’s time for blue skies and orange crocuses!

Yes, it will be nice.

 

Birkin. Again

Here comes another blogpost about a sweater I really want to have. However, things are complicated (see it’s beginnings here). It’s a process and I wonder if you are up to reading it. Who knows. Maybe some day someone will knit the Birkin sweater and then my writings might be helpful. At least, that is what I am hoping for.

Plus, this time I am actually convinced that things will work out. Finally!

So, what’s new?

I started over with a provisional cast-on below the neckband, casting on stitches for an L-size sweater. Then, I modified the increases between flowers and second green twine according to the instructions for an M-size sweater. Finally, I skipped the last row of increases altogether.

Häkelmonster Birkin SweaterAbove all, yellow is back in the game. Believe it or not – those cheerful yellow dots make me happy! ☀️

In the meantime, I started knitting the neckband to check its width and correct fit. I still need to decide whether I want it to be a folded neckband (grey on the outside, green on the inside). Karen Templer wrote a great “how to” on her blog that really inspires me.

Birkin HäkelmonsterLast night was the first try-on and – at least for now – everything is just the way I wanted it to be. The yoke may be slightly too powerful, slightly too many rows, which may give me too much room below the armpits but maybe it’s fine for a loose fit sweater. Once, I have knit some more of the body, I will know.

It’s getting there! Yay!

#project2018

The son has a sleep-over at his best friend’s house, the man is not in Berlin, and instead of taking advantage of a free evening, I have (again) spent an hour wasting lifetime on Instagram. Happens over and again, annoys me but there is no way to change that I guess. At least not as long as there are so many and amazingly beautiful projects out there …

This is how #project2018 started as well. I had been flirting with the idea for a long time. However, every January I told myself to stay away from it. Until now. Until my blogger friend Sabine got trapped.

Hexagone häkelmonster chair-padsRight after seeing those hexagons on her Instagram account, I asked her whether it is really so much fun to make them. One word led to another, a quick shoptalk on casting on and binding off, basking and reveling in creativity and sock yarn designs and – BANG! – I was caught in the same trap. A few hours later, my first hexagon was done (at the gym. Perfectly matching the ground, don’t you think?).

Hexagone häkelmonster chair-padsSince then, I knit one per day. Tiny balls of yarn, a circular knitting needle and filling (bits and pieces of leftover yarn) are my everyday companion and every time I have to wait (at the gym, the doctor, the underground, anywhere) I knit a few rows. Yarn and color according to my mood.

It may not become a blanket (as I don’t like the idea), but chair pads (if that is the correct term). I haven’t really thought a lot about joining them, but there is still plenty of time to do that (suggestions anyone?). Haxagons divided in halves are on my list. They might come in handy. Today’s hexagon is not yet made. I might give my first half hexagon a try.

They really are addictive to make. The daily pleasure of a finished object, the different colors, the squishy-ness – I love it.

How about you? Any year-long projects on your side? Or maybe a monthly challenge? Anything?

My Birkin Sweater

The Birkin sweater and me – that’s a tough one … I knew that pretty much from the start. So much went wrong, since I began knitting that sweater – I might as well show pictures and every knitter will know: lots of frogging, lots of time …

My blogging friend Kathi started it all, when yarn-hunting in Berlin for her Birkin. She wanted that sweater so badly. Somehow, her enthusiasm rubbed off on me. Not much after that, I found the perfect yarn in Sweden: Ullgarn in light grey, red, and oliv-green. Adding a small skein in the most beautiful shades of blue and another skein in golden yellow (both of them from stash) was easy. Both seemed to be perfect to brighten my sweater, plus, both of them deserve a special project. The blue hank was given to me in 2014 by Caitlin (the story is here); the yellow one was the first skein I ever bought.

Five beautiful skeins – I was ready to cast on.

Birkin Sweater HäkelmonsterSuch a fun knit. All was well. At least that is what I thought. Until Kathi (justifiably so) remarked that the stitch definition of the yellow yarn was awkward. Until Sophia (justifiably so) remarked that different yarns might react differently when washed and blocked. Until Pia remarked that maybe the yellow was too bright to be with the other colors.

Hence, I frogged and started over. Without the yellow.

Birkin Sweater HäkelmonsterSomehow distracted, I managed to make a mistake, and all of a sudden my stitch count was not according to pattern any more. I did not even bother to take a picture. Instead, I frogged again. Annoying, but no drama. All good things come in threes.

On the positive side: With the Birkin, I have finally learned how to knit with more colors than just two. Main color in left hand, all others to the right. Continental knitting as usual, but English knitting as well, throwing the yarn around the needle with every stitch. It’s addictive to knit colorwork that way. Very addictive.

Sunday night, I finished the yoke.

Birkin Sweater HäkelmonsterThe circumference at the bottom was fine (positive ease just like I had wanted it), however, the sweater was way too tight around my shoulders. I would have to be drop-shaped or without shoulders at all (or the size of my son) to be able to actually wear it.

Reading helpful remarks on ravelry taught me, that others experienced the very same thing. They ended up knitting the yoke in L (or bigger) but the body in M (or smaller) so it would fit. It happened mostly to people who did not use the recommended yarn (just like me).

Probably because 60% of all increases are done before and after the first green twine. That is to say, by then one must have the desired shoulder circumference, as all remaining increases will only be done before and after the second green twine. However, by the time I reach the second twine, I have long passed the widest part of my upper body. Hence, no necessity for further increases. Sigh …

Be it as it may, the son put it on so I could take a picture. We realized that the yoke was wide enough for him, but way too long – that way hindering him to lift his arms properly if I were to finish the Birkin for him (despite the fact that he is not too fond of having to wear a flowery sweater).

In short: the Birkin I had started was neither for him nor for me.

Birkin Sweater HäkelmonsterSo I frogged it again. This is how you learn … Then I went to bed. The last picture is where I am at right now. But I won’t give up. I am already counting and pondering how to make this pattern work for my yarn and my body.

Tomorrow, I will give it another try.