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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Maurits in Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 8

Photo © Copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood
Maurits is a new cowl design that's part of Brooklyn Tweed's latest collection, Wool People 8. It's worked in Loft, a yarn I know well and completely adore. Another recent color work pattern, Dutch, also employs this stunning stuff, and looking at both patterns together, I can really see that I was designing and knitting them at around the same time. 

Photo © Copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood
The Brooklyn Tweed team encouraged me to work the cowl up in two lengths with two very different color combinations. The longer version shown in green and white (Button Jar and Fossil) is beautifully high-contrast, showing off the color work in crisp, clear stitches. This look is bold and makes a statement with color, which is right up my alley - I want to show off my impressive knits!

I'm so glad they asked me to work up another version in more subtle autumn hues, though. The shorter cowl in Pumpernickel and Homemade Jam reminds me of Turkish rugs. The effect is a softer feel that invites a closer look. 


Photo © Copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood
Both cowls are made up of three equal sections, separated by clean stripes. I'd love to see a project that maintains a background color while working a gradation of contrast colors, a different one for each of the three sections. 


Photo © Copyright Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood
Because the cowl is worked entirely in the round (no wrong side!) and the stitch pattern is made up of fairly small repeats, this could be a good choice for knitters just dipping their toes into the color work world. Aside from color work, the only other special skills you'll need are working a provisional cast on and grafting using Kitchener stitch. Instructions for both are included in the pattern. 

You can get the pattern on the Brooklyn Tweed website and on Ravlery. Check out the Look Book to see the rest of the designs in Wool People 8!


Pattern Specs:

MATERIALS 
Fingering weight wool yarn in the following approximate amounts: 
545 (655) yards of Color 1 (C1) 
440 (575) yards of Color 2 (C2)

Brooklyn Tweed Loft (100% American Targhee-Columbia wool; 275 yards/50g): 
2 (3) skeins each of C1 & C2

Version I: 
Photographed in colors Homemade Jam (C1) & Pumpernickel (C2)

Version II: 
Photographed in colors Fossil (C1) & Button Jar (C2)

GAUGE 
23 stitches & 36 rounds = 4” in stockinette stitch with Size A needle, after blocking 
23 stitches & 26 rounds = 4” in charted colorwork pattern with Size B needle, after blocking

NEEDLES 
Size A (for Striped Sections): 
One 16” circular needle in size needed to obtain gauge listed 
Suggested Size: US 3¾ mm (US 5)

Size B (for Charted Colorwork Sections): 
One 16” circular needle two sizes larger than Size A needle 
Suggested Size: 4½ mm (US 7)

FINISHED DIMENSIONS 
17½” wide; Version I: 45¼” long, Version II: 59” long

Measurements taken from relaxed fabric after blocking

SKILL LEVEL 

3 of 5

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Knit Fit! & Stash Roundup


Photos Copyright Kathy Cadigan, 2014

As you can see from the pictures above, Knit Fit! 2014 was full of woolly goodness and knitterly education. I presented a new class this year, The Fine Art of Yarn Substitution, and it was a really fun class to teach. I got to talk about yarn and fibre for hours! And there was math! Yes, I was in dorky knitter's heaven.  Thanks so much to all of you who signed up for my classes. I'm already looking forward to next year! Props to the organizers at Knit Fit! for making this year's event better than ever.

(And special thanks to photographer Kathy Cadigan for taking the Yarn class and capturing it in these great photos!)



I also got to hang out in the Hazel Knits booth on Sunday morning and, as always, I adored their saturated colors and beautiful presentation, not to mention some exciting and unusual things like giant wheels of DK Lively!



Heading south to Portland, I got to attend the third annual TRIFECTA small business retreat with freelance writer Jessie Kwak (also, my copy editor and product copy writer) and artist Nalisha Rangel. It seems like every year the retreat is more productive and I always get filled up with creativity and motivation. (If you're curious about TRIFECTA, you can read more about it here.) This year we rode our bikes around Portland, I learned to sew, and Nalisha re-branded her company! 


To finish up a fantastic trip, I traveled to Stash Local in Corvallis for a trunk show and a lace class using Flow, a crescent-shaped shawl with a lace edging. It was my first time in the shop and I loved their selection and bright aesthetic. The trunk show will be in the shop for several more weeks, so if you missed my visit, you can still go pet and try on the samples.




Fall is such a great time to be a knitter and I hope you're all enjoying it wherever you are!

PS. You may have seen my new design out in Brooklyn Tweed Wool People 8 today! More on that soon, but for now you can get it and the rest of the collection on the Brooklyn Tweed website and on Ravelry.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Traveling South


It's becoming a tradition for me to go south to Seattle every November for Knit Fit! I'm really looking forward to it and I hope to see you there! (PS. If you come to the event by bicycle, come find me and I'll give you a coupon for a free pattern download because #bikelove!)

This year is extra special though, because I'll also be heading even further south to Portland and Corvallis. First I get to attend my annual Trifecta Business Retreat and then I'll be bringing my current trunk show to Stash Local in Corvallis and teaching a lace class using my very popular shawl, Flow. Spots for the class are limited, so be sure to sign up soon!

Happy fall and happy knitting, everyone!


Friday, October 24, 2014

Dutch Cardigan


If you were following this blog over the summer, you may have already seen this sweater.  I wore it daily while biking around the Netherlands and it was just the thing.


It's got all sorts of details that make it one of those sweaters that I know I'll wear for years.  It's got an oversized fit for the body, making it extremely comfortable, but waist and shoulder shaping, slender sleeves, and a wide scooped neckline create a flattering look.  After the front steek is reinforced and cut open, a turned hem encases the steek edges for a neat and durable band.  Using snaps instead of buttons leaves the front of the band clean and neat.  (I also love that I can pull the snaps open with one hand while riding!)  The sleeves are extra long, so you can turn up the cuffs to get them out of your way, or turn them down for extra warmth or for wrist coverage when you reach for your handlebars.



A few recommendations for knitting up your own -

Be sure to make it with the recommended positive ease.  The sleeves and shoulders are designed to fit based on the idea that you'll make your cardigan with 12-14" of positive ease.  If you make it smaller, your sleeves are likely to be too small and too short. Mine has about 13" of positive ease.


Swatch both plain stockinette and color work to see if you need to use a larger needle for the color work sections.  I usually go up three sizes for color work!  (I used sizes US #2 and US #5 for my sample.)


Use a smooth yarn in a similar color and lighter weight than your main yarn to reinforce your steek before cutting.  Using a lighter yarn helps prevent rippling along the cut edge.  If you're new to steeking, you can get some great practice by reinforcing and cutting your swatch before going for the real thing.


If you choose Brooklyn Tweed Loft like I did, you may want to seam the sleeves in using a smoother, stronger yarn.  Loft is a very special yarn and makes a tough, long-lasting fabric, but it can break easily until it's knit up, which can lead to seaming frustration.
You can find the pattern on Ravelry and on my website

Here are the Specs:

FINISHED MEASUREMENTS 
Bust Circumference, including Facing: 43 (47.75, 51.75, 56.5, 60.5, 65, 69, 73.75) in/109 (121.5, 131.5, 143.5, 153.5, 165, 175.5, 187.5) cm

Intended to be worn with +12-14 in/30.5-35.5 cm of ease at bust for oversized fit; shown in size 43 in/109 cm with +13 in/33 cm of ease on model.

YARN 
Fingering weight yarn in three colors (yarn amounts are approximate): 
Color A (Main Color): 949 (1054, 1142, 1247, 1335, 1434, 1522, 1627) yd/868 (964, 1044, 1140, 1221, 1311, 1392, 1488) m 
Color B: 702 (780, 845, 923, 988, 1061, 1126, 1204) yd/642, 713, 773, 844, 903, 970, 1030, 1101) m 
Color C: 204 (248, 269, 294, 315, 338, 359, 384) yd/187 (227, 246, 269, 288, 309, 328, 351) m

Shown in Brooklyn Tweed Loft (100% Targhee-Columbia Wool; 275 yd/251 m per 50 g skein)

Color A: 03 Old World; 4 (4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6) skeins 
Color B: 27 Woodsmoke; 3 (3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5) skeins 
Color C: 17 Embers 1 (1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) skeins

GAUGE 
Gauge measurement should be taken after blocking. 
24 sts/30 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Stockinette stitch using Gauge Needle (Needle A)

NEEDLES & NOTIONS
Needle Sizes are recommendations only. Always use needle size necessary to obtain gauge.

Needle A (Gauge Needle): US #3/3.25 mm 40 in/100 cm circular needle 
Needle B: US #5/3.75 mm 40 in/100 cm circular needle 
Needle C: US #3/3.25 mm needle; use preferred small-circumference circular knitting method (set double pointed needles, long circular for magic loop method, or two circular needles) 
Needle D: US #5/3.75 mm needle; use preferred small-circumference circular knitting method (set double pointed needles, long circular for magic loop method, or two circular needles)

size 1.75 mm crochet hook 
stitch markers 
tapestry needle 
stitch holders or waste yarn 
contrasting color waste yarn 
strong, light fingering weight yarn for reinforcing steek 
nine .5 in/1 cm snaps 
needle and thread

SKILLS 
color work in the round, shaping, steeking, seaming

Technical Editing: Heather Zoppetti 
Copy Editing: Jessie Kwak

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Knitter's Pride Needle Review


Knitter's Pride Nova Cubics Interchangeable Set

I’ve owned a whole lot of knitting needles over the years, and I’ve definitely had an evolution in my needle preferences.  From my initial love of straight wooden needles, I’ve progressed so that now I almost exclusively use metal needles, and most of the time those are from one of my interchangeable needles sets.  I’ve used Addi Clicks, both the standard and the short lace tips, as well as Knit Picks and Hiya Hiya’s.  I’m always interested to try new tools, so I was excited for the opportunity to knit with and review a variety of metal Knitter’s Pride Nova needles.  Full disclosure - the needles in this review were sent to me free of charge.  Since I really only use circular needles, I’ll be reviewing a 16” circular fixed needle with square tips, an interchangeable set with square tips, and a few interchangeable needles with standard round tips.  I made swatches or small projects with each of these needles, though I’ve only had them for a couple of months, so my experience is based on an initial reaction rather than long-term use.

There’s a lot to like about all of these needles.  First are the needle points.  They have a wonderful taper and are sharper than my Addi Clicks, but not quite as sharp as Addi Lace or Hiya Hiya tips, making them great for most projects.  I always love pointy tips, so if you like wooden needles or other blunter tips, these might be pointier than you like.  I also appreciated the smooth finish.  My stitches glided along without me really noticing, which tells me that the finish isn’t too slippery or too sticky.  Adding to that smoothness was the catch-free join between the needles and the tips.  



My only real complaint has to do with the joining mechanism for the interchangeables.  They connect using a long screw and are tightened with a small tool - you may have seen this method on Knit Picks needles too.  Even after using the tightening tool quite aggressively, both the square and round-tipped interchangeables always seemed to come un-screwed.  The thread is quite long, so they didn’t seem in any danger of actually coming apart, but it was irritating to constantly be trying to screw the needles back together.  I noticed the problem a lot more using the round tips than the square ones.

UPDATE: I got a response from Knitter's Pride that the needles should not come unscrewed and that I may have gotten some defective tips.  I tried a few other tips, and sure enough, with most of the tips, both the round and square ones stayed in place with magic loop, back-and-forth knitting, and standard circular knitting.  While it was a bummer that several of the ones I tried were problematic, it's nice to know they have a good replacement policy: If you happen to get tips that won't stay in, Knitter's Pride will replace them free.


Overall, these needles are a great addition to a knitter’s tool chest.  I think I’d recommend the square rather than the round tips for simply because they seem to stay together a bit better, and I recommend the fixed circulars without reservation.

Here are my notes for each needle type:


16” FIXED CIRCULAR SQUARE TIPS, Size US #2/2.75 mm


Pros
Lovely, sharp tips
Smooth, comfortable finish
Smooth join between needle and cord

Cons 
None

Notes
I think I’ll get a lot of use out of these for hats and cowls.  I didn’t particularly notice the square tips feeling different than what I’m used to, but I also didn’t notice any hand cramping, which I often get when using the shorter tips that are necessary for 16” needles.

Bottom Line
I would recommend these to any knitter.


ROUND INTERCHANGEABLE NEEDLES


For the review I used the US #4/3.5 mm tip with a 32” cord and tried both my favorite small-circumference knitting method - magic loop -  and regular circular knitting.

Pros
Lovely, sharp tips
Smooth, comfortable finish
Smooth join between needle and cord
While it seemed a little stiff to me before I started working, the cord actually worked perfectly well for magic loop.  

Cons
Even after tightening with the included tool, the tips seemed to come slightly unscrewed every round.  It didn’t mess up my work, but it did slow me down.

Notes
The unscrewing issue won’t stop me from using these, but it may have me reaching for the square tips first.

Bottom Line
I wouldn’t recommend these since the square ones seem to stay attached better.
UPDATE: I can go ahead and recommend these since they have a good policy on replacing problematic needles.


SQUARE INTERCHANGEABLE NEEDLES


For the review I used US #8/5 mm tip with a 32” cord.  I tried both magic loop and regular circular knitting with this cord.

Pros
Lovely, sharp tips
Smooth, comfortable finish
Smooth join between needle and cord
Cord was flexible enough for magic loop method
The square tips seemed to come unscrewed much less frequently.

Cons
Every now and again, I did notice the tips starting to come undone.

Notes
I was curious how the larger square tips would feel, and while it’s definitely more noticeable than with the US #2/2.75 mm one, it didn’t seem like a vastly different knitting experience.  They felt slightly more substantial and easier to grip than my usual round tips.

Bottom Line
I would recommend these with the caveat that the tips did occasionally start to come unscrewed.



Have you ever used Knitter's Pride needles?  What are your favorite needle brands and styles?



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Kust


This is Kust, the latest in my collection inspired by my summer bike tour in the Netherlands.  It's got all sorts of special details that make it a high-quality wardrobe staple.  Particular attention is paid to the shaping - traditionally snug at the hips, but with a relaxed fit and delicate waist shaping - and the edgings.  The cast-on edge is a ribbed, cable cast on, a technique that looks like a tubular cast-on, but doesn't require waste yarn or extra steps, and the neckline and armhole edgings are finished with tubular bind-offs.  The round neckline is flattering and functional, since it can be opened up for a little extra air or buttoned up for warmth.

I made mine using Hazel Knits Artisan Sock, a go-to yarn for me.  The color, Henna, is a beautiful burnt brick orange/red that I found to be really inspiring.  Like many Hazel Knits colors, the depth and complexity make it a bit difficult to describe, but worked in simple Stockinette stitch, it really shines.  


It was hard to part with, but this sample, along with 15 others, will be in a traveling trunk show this fall and winter.  Check out the shops signed up to participate so far:

September, 2014: Fibre Space, Alexandria, VA
October, 2014: Fancy Tiger Craft, Denver, CO
November, 2014: Stash Local, Corvallis, OR
December, 2014: The Knitting Boutique, Glen Burnie, MD
January, 2015: Beehive Wool Shop, Victoria, BC

Speaking of fun events, I'll be teaching at Knit Fit in Seattle this November!  I'm excited to offer classes on beginning lace, finishing, and yarn substitution.  There are a lot of other great classes and activities going on that weekend, so I encourage you to check out the website.  The marketplace is sure to be even better this year too - Hazel Knits will have a booth!

You can read about upcoming trunk shows, classes, and clubs in the Events section on my website.

Back to the new vest pattern - it's now available on Ravelry and on my website.

PATTERN SPECS
Finished Measurements

33.25 (37.5, 41.5, 45.75, 50, 54, 58.25, 62.5) in/84.5, 95.5, 105.5, 116, 127, 137, 148, 159) cm

Intended to be worn with +2-4 in/5-10 cm of ease at bust for casual fit; shown in size 33.25 with +3.25 in/8 cm of ease on model.

Gauge
25 sts/30 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Stockinette stitch using Gauge Needle (Needle C) 

Materials
YARN
735 (830, 970, 1125, 1175, 1245, 1360, 1475) yd/675 (760, 890, 1030, 1055, 1135, 1245, 1345) m Fingering weight yarn

Shown in Hazel Knits Artisan Sock (90% Merino, 10% Nylon; 400 yd/366 m per 120 g skein) 
Color: Henna; 2 (3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4) skeins

NEEDLES
*Needle sizes are recommendations only; always use needle size necessary to achieve given gauge.
Needle A: US #2/2.75 mm 24 in/60 cm circular needle
Needle B: US #3/3.25 mm 24 in/60 cm circular needle
Needle C (Gauge Needle): US #4/3.5 mm 24 in/60 cm circular needle
Needle D: US #3/3.25 mm 16 in/40 cm circular needle
Needle E: US #2/2.75 mm 16 in/40 cm circular needle

NOTIONS
stitch markers
tapestry needle
three .5 in/1 cm buttons

Technical Editor: Tana Pageler
Copy Editor: Jessie Kwak




Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Fietser Cowl & Mitts


This week I've published two new patterns, Fietser Cowl and Mitts.  The designs are ones I created for my trip to the Netherlands and I'm happy that they're ready to share!  (Fietser is Dutch for cyclist!)

I'm generally captivated by intricate surface design and interesting shapes, and so I tend to create patterns with lots of texture and color. But over the past year or two, I've become enamored of certain designers who do "simple" so incredibly well.  I know I've talked before about my admiration for Purl Soho, Julie Hoover, Dianna Walla, and Churchmouse, and inspiration from that clean, brilliant aesthetic has definitely begun to seep into my work.  While I still enjoy employing lots of knitterly details and textures, I've been challenging myself to seek that balance that my favorite designers seem to achieve between simplicity and clever design.  


With this set - a cowl and fingerless mitts - I started with one of the most humble ideas in knitting - a Stockintte stitch tube.  We all know that, with the right yarn, Stockinette has the ability to glow with luxury and relaxation.  Since I started with Anzula Cloud, a loosely-spun two-ply Merino/Cashmere/Nylon blend, I knew that I could step back from my usual urge to decorate the surface and let the yarn shine with the most basic of stitch patterns.  The welting added with narrow Garter stitch stripes creates just enough interest to keep the knitter excited, and even though the yarn is fingering weight, this is one of those projects that gives the knitter a sweet feeling of instant gratification.


The cowl is designed to scrunch up pleasantly - the top end is narrower than the bottom, so the piece will relax gently along your collar bones while still snuggling the back of your neck.


And the welting along the mitts allows for an easy slouched look if that's more your style.


I've often been asked for easy beginner projects, and most folks assume that a scarf is the ideal way to go.  But unless a new knitter is really excited to knit a scarf, I like to steer them away.  I tend to find easy scarves incredibly long and boring.  In order to be really wearable, I want my scarves to be at least five inches wide and five feet long.  It doesn't matter your gauge - that's a whole lot of knitting.  One of the joys of knitting, and one that I think encourages newbies to continue, is that of finishing a project! So I recommend cowls to new knitters.  They don't have to worry about going back and forth in rows and the project can be finished relatively quickly.  It can also be worked on a sixteen-inch circular needle, so there's no need to learn magic loop or double points right away.  (For this reason, I think the cowl is more of a beginner project than the mitts.)  This cowl also includes the chance to practice some important basic skills - purling and Make One increasing.  If you or a friend are just learning, this might be just the thing to get you going.  Start with the cowl and move on to the mitts for a little skills challenge.

Of course, as experience knitters, we also sometimes just need a little bit of tasty sock yarn candy.  Have a special skein languishing away in your stash?  (Or a few, perhaps?)  Both mitts and cowl can be made with just one skein of Anzula Cloud, though you may need a second skein to make both if your yardage is less than Cloud.  (Most sock yarns come in skeins of about 400 yards/366 meters, while Cloud has 575 yards/526 meters. The cowl takes about 315 yards/288 meters, and the mitts require 165-190 yards/151-174 meters.)  The set would also be a lovely and special gift.

You can find the patterns on Ravelry and on my website.  They're sold as a pair for just $6. Buy either pattern to get the download file for both.  As is true of all my independently-published designs, these patterns have been tested and reviewed by both a technical editor and a copy editor.  Check out the beautiful projects that my testers worked up over on Ravelry!

PATTERN SPECS

Finished Measurements

COWL
13.75 in/35 cm long; 14.25 in/36 cm circumference at smallest point; 17.75 in/45 cm circumference at largest point


FINGERLESS MITTS
6.5 (7, 7.5) in/16.5 (18, 19) cm hand circumference 


Gauge

28 sts/40 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Stockinette Stitch pattern after blocking

Materials
YARN
Cowl: 315 yd/290 m fingering weight yarn
Fingerless Mitts: 165 (175, 190) yd/150 (160, 175) m fingering weight yarn

Shown in Anzula Cloud (80% Merino, 10% Cashmere, 10% Nylon; 575 yd/526 m per 114 g skein) Color Temperence; 1 skein is enough to make both Cowl and Mitts

NEEDLES
*Needle sizes are recommendations only; always use needle size necessary to achieve given gauge.
Needle A (Cowl): US #3/3.52 mm 16 in/40 cm needle
Needle B (Mitts): US #3/3.25 mm double pointed needles, 32 in/80 cm or longer circular needle for magic loop method or 2 circular needles; use your preferred small-circumference circular knitting method.


NOTIONS
stitch markers tapestry needle 

Technical Editor: Tana Pageler
Copy Editor: Jessie Kwak


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Richting

It’s been a month since we rolled back onto BC soil, and while I’ve definitely been thinking fondly of long morning rides, canals, and sheep, I’ve also been loving the work I’ve been able to get done here at home.  I’ve already made a significant dent in my book designs, and I’ve had a great time working with my testers on the patterns I created for the bike tour.  Today’s news is that the first pattern of that collection is now ready for all of you knitters!



Richting is a lightweight hat worked with just a touch of contrasting color, and a rich, but subtle textured stitch pattern.  The pattern is charted and written, so however you like your stitch pattern instructions, I’ve got you covered.  




I knit mine up in Brooklyn Tweed Loft.  The light, woolenspun yarn gives a wonderful fabric that just gets more cohesive and beautiful with time and wear.  Some of my testers chose to work their hats in crisper yarns like Quince and Co. Finch, which creates a fabric with higher relief and clearer texture.


Richting fits just right under my bike helmet, but I think it's perfect for any time you need a little barrier against a chill.  I don't often think of wool hats as being necessary for summer, but if you love to get outside early or sit around the campfire at night, a cozy beanie can be just the thing.

Get the pattern now and stay tuned for the rest of the collection!

See it on Ravlery here.

Pattern Specs:
Finished Measurements 
Sizes S (L); shown in size S 
19 (22.75) in/48.5 (58) cm brim circumference

Yarn 
Main Color: 130 (160) yd/120 (145) m fingering weight yarn

Shown in Brooklyn Tweed Loft (100% Wool; 275 yd/251 m per 50g skein) 
Color Woodsmoke; 1 skein

Contrast Color: 15 (20) yd/14 (18) m fingering weight yarn

Shown in Brooklyn Tweed Loft (100% Wool; 275 yd/251 m per 50g skein) 
Color Sap; 1 skein

Blocked Gauge 
Gauge measurement should be taken after blocking. 
21 sts/44 rows = 4 in/10 cm in Textured Stitch pattern

Needles & Notions 
Needle Sizes are recommendations only. Always use needle size necessary to obtain gauge.

Needle A: US #4/3.50 mm 16 in/40 cm needle 
Needle B: US #4/3.50 mm double pointed needles, 32 in/80 cm or longer circular needle for magic loop method or 2 circular needles; use your preferred small-circumference circular knitting method.

Notions: stitch markers, tapestry needle

Skills 

Switch from one color to another, work a textured stitch pattern using charted and/or written instructions, work shaping in pattern


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 10

We’re back in Canada!  After a full month camping and riding, I’m happy to be home. 




I’m really glad we chose to go to the Netherlands.  We wanted a trip that would be relaxing and enjoyable rather than hard work, and it was perfect for that.  The whole country is flat and the cycling infrastructure is better than anything I’ve seen.  Campsites are abundant, so we were never worried that it would be too far to the next one if we wanted to ride just a bit farther.  Some really windy days and unpredictable weather made it a little more adventurous, but the only things that really brought us down (like my strange allergic reaction and kids going through our stuff) could have happened anywhere.  

Bottom line, if you like to ride your bike, or if you think you might like riding a bike, you should make a pilgrimage to the Netherlands.

Here’s what we did:

The Tour
- Distance pedaled: Just over 1000 km (about 620 miles)
- Days on the road: 31
- Kinds of transportation: bike, plane, ferry, bus, train. (The buses and trains just got us between the Vancouver airport and the Vancouver Island ferry.)
- Places we visited: Amsterdam, Texel, Leeuwarden, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Delft, Den Haag, and a whole lot of countryside in between 
- Places we loved: Amsterdam, Texel, Utrecht, and Delft
- Places we’d skip next time: Rotterdam and Den Haag
- Amount of gear we took: two rear Ortlieb panniers each, holding a total of 80 litres (for all 4 bags), plus our sleeping bags, which we kept in dry bags on top of our racks.  (We didn’t carry anything on the front of our bikes.)
- Flat tires: two (one for each of us)
- Trips to the emergency room: one (related to my allergic reaction, not anything to do with cycling)
- Number of collisions: one
- Traveler’s insurance? Yes, and I’m glad we had it.
- Number of knitting projects completed: five (socks, mitts, and three hats)

Most Valuable Gear
- Garmin Etrex 30 GPS
- Inflatable pillows from MEC
- Ranger bands (a common bush crafting supply that come in handy for a variety of different uses.  They’re just car tire inner tubes cut in strips and they end up being big rubber bands that can be used as bungees, clotheslines, and whatever else you can think of.)
- Soap in a tin
- Mini camp towels



Most Disappointing Gear
- Mountain Hard Wear Direkt 2 Tent - it leaked and had a horrible condensation problem
- REI inflatable sleep mat - the valve cracked so that it wouldn’t seal and all the air leaked out.  I’ve had this mat for several years, so maybe it had lived its life and was just old.

Lessons Learned 
- Take an independent way to charge electronics on tour.  Outlets were hard to find and babysitting the phone while it was plugged into a public outlet was boring and inconvenient.  I don’t know what the solution is, but next time I’ll make a different plan.
- Bike maintenance is vital.  My bike is accustomed to being stored indoors, so in order to avoid chain squeak and rust, we had to oil it more frequently than usual.  Also, paying attention to my tires meant we noticed that one of them was worn out and needed to be replaced before it blew out.
- Chocolate is a fantastic tool for staying happy, energized, and motivated, especially when it contains toffee.  I recommend regular chocolate breaks to anyone on tour.


So now that I’ve finished my bike adventure, what’s next?  My big announcement is that I’m working on a book!  I’m partnering with Interweave and it’s scheduled to be published in the fall of 2016.  I’ve set up my studio in our new apartment and this is where I’ll be parked, focusing on knitting and designing a whole lot of secret projects.  Here’s my inspirational yarn wall, created with two shoe racks and S hooks made out of wire.


I'll also be testing the designs I made for our bike tour over in my Ravelry group.  Right now, I'm accepting testers for my vest pattern, so if you'd like to knit with us, please check out the call for testers.



Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 9

Our focus on this trip has definitely been on enjoying bicycling and the beautiful scenery of the Netherlands, but when you're in Europe, I think there's some kind of requirement that you appreciate the old and impressive architecture at least a little bit. Last week we were in Utrecht and got the chance to visit this lovely church, Domkerk.

It's been Protestant since 1580, but was originally Catholic. (Yep, it's been there since long before 1580, at least parts of it.) There are impressive stained glass windows, and this organ. I pretty much can't believe how enormous and elegant church organs are. (Am I the only one who sees ribbing and lace in those columns of tubes and their embellishments?)

Many of the villages and cities we've visited have multiple churches whose bells chime out the hours. In Delft, where we've spent most of this week, there's a town square that's got churches and old buildings on every side. We spent most of a morning there people and bike watching, listening to the bells from several differnent churches every 15 minutes!

For more photos of architecture, scenery, other things from this trip, be sure to visit my Instagram feed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 8 (Ups & Downs)

We're now three weeks into our Netherlands bike tour, and it's been mostly incredible. My favorite parts have been riding in the morning sunshine, full of energy, and relaxing and knitting at beautiful campsites. Happily, the trip has been mostly ups. But, like every adventure, this one has had it's share of downs too. We've had some rain in combination with a leaking tent, some kids stole our food and dumped out our stove fuel, we've crashed our bikes together, and we've been to the emergency room, among other minor disasters.

The worst thing by far was a mysterious allergic reaction I had shortly after we left Amsterdam. I got a rash on the backs of my hands that eventually started to blister. I went to the doctor and received some antihistamines, but decided to bike to a big city emergency room the next day when the pain got considerably worse. The much stronger medications they gave me cleared it all up in just a few days, but it meant we stayed put for four nights while it healed. I've never had anything like that happen before, and the doctors weren't sure what caused it. We suspect I may have developed a nut allergy, so I'm avoiding nuts until I can get home and get an allergy test. It's a bummer not to be able to eat nuts while traveling, though. They're such a great, lightweight source of protein! Overall, I'm very grateful to the Dutch healthcare system and happy to be rid of whatever it was.

Nothing else has been as serious. Trying to avoid a passing car, we misjudged how wide our bikes were (those panniers make a very large backside!) and collided. All we got were a few scrapes and some bent hardware that was easily muscled back into place. My trusty Doc Marten boot took the worst of it. That was a rough day, but it could have been worse.

 
 

We've tried to be security conscious - always locking our bikes, taking our valuables with us everywhere - but last week, someone got into our stuff anyway. After setting up camp, we headed into the city for some sight-seeing, and when we got back, our stuff had been opened and our food containers were open and empty, strewn around the campsite. Our fuel bottle (we have a simple alcohol stove) was empty too, which worried us - hopefully no one drank it or poured it on anything flammable. Nothing but food was stolen, and it seemed more like vandalism than anything, but it definitely made us feel uncomfortable and vulnerable. We left that campsite the next day.

Most of our gear has held up really well, but a few things have failed all at once. Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I realized that the valve on my inflatable sleeping pad was cracked, leaving it hissing and deflated. And this morning one of my flip flops fell apart on my way back from the showers. Both of those things were already pretty old when they started the tour, but I think three weeks on the road also takes its toll. For now, we've used duct tape to patch things up, and I'm hoping they hold on just a little longer.

We've got about a week left of travel before we head back to Amsterdam for our flight home. Here's hoping the rest of the trip goes smoothly!

 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 7

After leaving Texel last week, we took a ride over a very long dike - 32 km! It felt like a huge accomplishment as part of a 60 km day, and it was pretty fun to do. Since then we've been riding through Dutch countryside, following our GPS along the "shortest route" south toward Utrecht, and camping a night or two at each spot. Taking the shortest, rather than the fastest route has taken us through winding streets, along dirt paths, and into towns and cities.

I haven't done this kind of travel before, and I've really been appreciating all the variety it's allowed us to experience. At one of our campsites, there was a sweet cafe, and local church bells chimed out the hours and each half hour. It was actually really useful and I find myself missing the bells to tell me what time it is.

Another campsite was set along a canal and we ate out lunch watching leisure boats float by, including a whole house!

We've hardly met any other foreigners. It seems like everyone staying where we've stopped is from some other part of the Netherlands and staying at their usual holiday spot. Maybe that's because we've spent hardly any time in cities aside from our first week in Amsterdam and our day ride through Leeuwarden.

There are a whole lot of very small campsites around called Minicamping. They're often just someone's farm where they've added washrooms, sinks, and showers, and let visitors set up in open fields. Some of them have wifi, allowing me to work on this blog and other social media, but it's a bit hit and miss. The other travelers we've met are mostly in RV's and we've only seen a few other tent campers and a few other cycle tourists, though we have seen a whole lot of farm animals - horses, sheep, and cows especially.

Most people we've met have spoken at least a little English, though, which makes getting around and communicating easier. However, I definitely miss being able to read signs. They look like they must be full of such helpful information and it's all inaccessible to me!

We arrived in Utrecht today, and we expect the rest of our trip to be a little bit more urban. There are campsites within easy riding distance of all the cities, so it should be easy to make camp for a few nights and then explore the surrounding areas.

You may be asking, "But what about the knitting?" I'm definitely getting some knitting done in the evenings after our daily riding is done, but it's all secrets! My yarn is lace and sock weight so that yardage will last more of the trip with less weight. It's been warm enough recently that I haven't needed my knitted accessories very much, but my sweater has been priceless. I love that it's loose fitting so I'm comfortable riding in it unless it's very hot and sunny. The snap closures are easy to open while I'm riding, so if I need to ventilate, I don't need to stop to do it. And the sweater has been shoved under a bungee net for easy carrying, crammed into a pannier, and worn in all kinds of weather, and it looks fantastic. A few pills have emerged, but if anything, I think the wear has made it even more cohesive and beautiful.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bike Travel in the Netherlands: Part 6 (the Riders)

It's endlessly fascinating to watch the variety of people and things that are transported by bike here in the Netherlands. Biking is definitely an ordinary way to get to the office.

And it's also pretty normal to put a kid in a box to get him where he's going.

If you want to take a friend along, just have her hop on the back! Raining? Bring an umbrella.


One of the photos below show a scooter driver giving a cyclist a hand over the bridge, and if you look closely at the bottom left photo, you'll see a girl standing on her mom's rear rack while her sister rides in the front child seat. The right one shows a guy transporting some kind of furniture unit by bike.

These guys made us feel a little more at home.

But this kind of traffic was much more normal.

There are so many bikes that the need enormous parking complexes! This three-level structure is packed with bikes.

We weren't able to get photos of all of the ways that parents travel with kids (and pets!), so here's a little illustration drawn by my husband to show some of the wonderful variety of family transport modes.

One of my favorite Netherlands memories so far has to be watching a kid hop on his mom's rear rack, crouch on the saddle, and then climb into the front basket, sitting there happily with his knees held to his chest. He was completely balanced while doing this and I couldn't help but think he was staring at us the whole time, thinking we were freaks for wearing helmets. As they rode away, his mom leaned forward smiling, and kissed him on the top of the head.

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