Book review: “Knitting Hats and Mittens from Around the World”

Sometimes, skimming through a book is like travelling the world, picking up new experiences every time you turn a page. Seriously, when getting my hands on a copy of (the German version of) Knitting Hats & Mittens from around the World (Voyageur Press) the photos made me long for the faraway.

Knitting Hats and Mittens from Around the World Haekelmonster.com

by Kari Cornell (Editor), Janine Kosel (Photographer), Sue Flanders (Photographer)

The books 34 patterns cover an awesome variety of traditional knitting techniques from lace to braiding, from Scandinavia to Central Europe, Asia, South America, New Zealand … including knitting customs and history. You’ll find a French beret as well as a Peruvian Ch’ullo, the Greek fishermen’s hat next to a Finnish hat named after their sun goddess Päivätär, a Japanese Sashiko and an American Fenceline hat, just to mention a few. I particularly like the twisted rope cables, a pattern based on Maori tribal creation myths and pretty much all of the two-color designs. Most of the hats come with matching mittens or gloves.

Mützen und Handschuhe von Welt haekelmonster.comEach pattern covers several pages with written instructions, charts, and extra notes that seem to be elaborate and according to custom.

However, when surfing the net I happened to read a rather critical review that should not be overread. So I gave the book a closer look. Unfortunately, most complaints are true for the translated (German) patterns as well: not all of them are correct, charts are missing, and mitten seizes are weird. However, there is an (English) errata list on the publisher’s homepage for the Min Ulla hat, the Greek Fisherman’s hat, and the Aran Islands hat. (Thank you!).

Nevertheless, some of the patterns look highly complicated to me, long-winded and awkward. To find out whether this is actually true I decided to knit the French lacy fingerless gloves (“Französische fingerlose Handschuhe” p.69). I had to start over once after rereading the pattern, but that is me: I tend to be confused if a pattern exceeds two pages. However, so far I am doing good with my 2nd attempt and I am perfectly happy with the outcome. The lacy part is an easy 6-row-repeat that looks spectacular und the medium size instructions work very well for me.

IMG_0766Summing up, I would still recommend the book, if only to experienced knitters or as a source of inspiration for any armchair tourist.

A little bit about my choice of yarn: “Wannsee by schoenstricken” is a beautiful, luxuriously soft, 100% cashmere yarn, very nice to work with, while perfectly showing off the lacy pattern. Its color fuchsia isn’t even for sale (yet) – Jessica gave it to me for testing purposes. So far, I have used one ball (25gr., 115m) wth both fingerless gloves being done, except for the thumbs. Definitly a must buy :).

The book was not sent to me for review. I didn’t receive any financial compensation for what I wrote. Opinions stated are my own.

A week in Poland

IMG_3071

We went to Poland for a week and only got back tonight. I am way too tired to write a blog post but fortunately, my pictures speak for themselves. Look at those seagulls – can you tell they’re slightly irritated? No wonder with J performing upfront 🙂

IMG_3263

Most of the time it was windy and grey, at times even rainy but – suprisingly enough – no one would care. We would still spend most of our time at the seaside. Maybe I should add that we love going to this place in either spring or fall. Always the same house, almost like coming home. So we knew what to expect.

IMG_3260

As every year, I have extended my collection of stones, beautiful palm stones, so pleasant to the touch. M spent hours walking up and down the beach, thinking about life in general and in particular. And J? Well, J would run and jump. And jump and run. Until his rubber boots were full to the brim with sand and water. Fortunately, we had a wood stove in the cottage …

And as every year, we would buy honey along the street: acacia, erica, buckweed, and canola. One glass of each.

IMG_3370

Whenever they could, whenever the weather would allow for it, J and his friend (we had taken the friend and his mother along) would fly the kite together and M would detangle the strands at night (no one is as patient as he is. No one. Period).

IMG_3330

And in between I would knit wrist warmers, basically using one ball of Opal sock yarn, its colors ranging from pale blue to olive green and hence imitating the colors of the sea – combined with little bits of green, dark blue, and off white. Only when knitting the fourth pair, the ball would finally come to an end. Whoever dropped that ball at the YarnCamp’s “yarn swap” – THANK YOU! I love those colors!

IMG_3367

And I love fall! At least when we’re at the seaside. Coming home was sort of sad with most of the leaves being gone. Only last week they were bright and red, covering our house and reflecting the sun. None of that is left and apparently it has been pouring rain those last days. I really need to go to bed now – hoping to see some sun tomorrow!

The YarnCamp 2013

Last weekend I almost ended up not participating in the YarnCamp 2013. Work had been lunatic. I was tired, stressed, and in no travelling mood (to say the least). But isn’t it true that the less you feel about doing something the better it usually turns out to be? Already the 5-hour-train ride to Frankfurt was fabulous. I sat next to the window and spent my time day dreaming or knitting or both. So when getting into Frankfurt I was perfectly relaxed and ready for the adventure awaiting me.

And – against all odds – the YarnCamp was wonderful!

Do you ever knit or crochet in public?To be honest: I don’t. Somehow it seems to embarrass me. Now try to imagine how I felt to be in a room with about 80 people – female (90%) and male (10%) – with almost everyone click-clacking away with their knitting needles (I love that sound :)) or crocheting along, while listening, discussing, or chatting with one another. Some would change rooms while knitting, others would display their beautiful work carried along in suitcases. Trust me, it took me a while to become an active part of the greater whole – but I finally managed to work on a pair of wrist warmers while there.

Do you have a smartphone? Well, I don’t (I am a dinosaur – I know …) and I guess that made me the only one among all YarnCamp participants. The use of smartphones was almost as excessive as everyone’s handling with yarn. They would twitter and take pictures, check ravelry or network with one another, comment on facebook or read each other’s blog posts. Those who weren’t knitting were online and vice versa.

Right from the start, we were encouraged to present a session or otherwise contribute to the event. And when in no time 18 sessions were defined and written down to structure the day, I was deeply impressed by the responsibility and passion of participants turned into lecturers. After all, most of us had never taken part in a BarCamp before and were (more or less) used to passive ex-cathedra teaching rather than active discussions.

In the course of the day, I would learn about Kaffe Fassett’s knitting (blog post to come), and about how to become an author (eventually). I would finally understand how to use twitter and got the chance to participate in a lively debate on how to write the perfect pattern.

In between sessions we would not only admire each other’s work but exchange patterns and pieces of advice. I very much enjoyed getting to know Mienchen, Claudia, and Pia (watch out for her homepage Akizu that is soon to be out :)), just to mention a few. Seeing Frau Elise in person after reading her blog for quite a while was a pleasant surprise and participating in David‘s session made me want to write a blog post about him and his work (see above). The ladies at dye for yarn do an incredible job not only in dying yarn but turning it into the most beautiful lace shawls and the ocean colored patchwork blanket I saw will hopefully inspire me to actually work with my stash.

Generous sponsors, showering us with yarn, knitting needles, magazines, and even books spoiled us endlessly. A splendid buffet, excellent coffee, and delicious smoothies added to our comfort. Like I mentioned before: the YarnCamp was AMAZING and beyond all (my) expectations.

Last but not least, the yarn camp organizers, Rebekka, Sara, Romy and Lutz, did a tremendous job in taking care of everything, from concept to event, before, during, and after the YarnCamp. Thanks a MILLION! I sure hope to see you again in 2014!

not mine - I took the train

not mine – I took the train

dye for yarn

dye for yarn

ocean colored patchwork blanket

ocean colored patchwork blanket

Mienchen's bag

Mienchen’s bag

dye for yarn

dye for yarn

the wrist warmers I made while there, blue & silver (doesn't show)

the wrist warmers I made while there, blue & silver (doesn’t show)

Where’s my Sleigh?

This year’s wrist warmers have Christmas colors – red, green, light grey. And it’s definitely cold enough to wear them … I have packed them all this morning and will go to the post office now to mail them. Lots of snow in Berlin, it actually “feels” Christmas, if only I had a sleigh or a white beard.

wristwarmers häkelmonster.com

But there are others too:

wrist warmer blau grün

And the very warm ones:

wrist warmer grau braun

However, I start thinking about New Year’s resolutions: I really want to learn how to knit Fair Isle. It would be so much nicer not to have loops or snares at the inside of a wrist wamer. Any suggestions (whether it’d be a book or a video) anyone?

Some more Wrist Warmers

The whole weekend it has been nasty outside: foggy and cold. J didn’t care as long as there was enough light to play basketball, and M would do computer stuff. We had a friend staying with us for 2 nights. Her and I hadn’t seen each other in years. She brought her knitting along and the two of us would talk and laugh and knit, and talk and laugh and knit … It turns out that nasty weather isn’t too bad after all 🙂