Let’s Talk Wool

Hello All

A quick update on progress of the shawl-scarf-thingy. I thought I might hit a problem in Prenzlau and the Thingy end at Berlin Senf. But I need not have worried K-D came to the rescue with an armful of gifted wools. Which to pick?

Just to be awkward I decided to pull back the part knitted jumper and go with the black and white combo. However it remains to be crocheted in as I was too busy galavanting and then chatting to people on the trains. Never fear Thingy WILL be finished and I have continued to buy a ball of wool in each place I stop.

After the Prenzlau black and white came Lubeck orange.

Today in Bremen I found this crafty emporium Idee.

All sorts of craft goodies filled this basement store. Paper crafts, fabrics and of course wool. I loved the knitting wall paper and the sample squares. Dotted around were tables to sit and knit or crochet which was very handy for me to gather all my goodies together.

So what is the Bremen wool? Bremen the purple-mix is yours.

As to the Thingy…let’s just say it has a way to go.

But that ferry journey is V-E-R-Y long. That’s the woolly roundup.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Winding Up

Hello All

Feeling a little touristed out I promised myself a woolly time today. Afterall I needed my Berlin ball of wool for the scarf-shawl-thingy didn’t I? The thingy is growing and the Leipzig mixed twist is rather splendid:

(Good grief hope Mr T isn’t ordering room service….) but I think it is ready for a calming influence. Where to go? A shufty on the Internet produced several candidates but from the pictures and website Wollen Berlin called to me. I was right to follow my instincts as near Ostkreuz S-Bahn at Gartnerstrasse 32, 10245 Berlin I found a haven of wooliness set in a lovely part of the city.

The assistant (who on checking the shop website was Caro) could not have been more helpful. She guided me to some German wool by ‘Hey Mama Wolf’. Looking at the Leipzig mixed twist we were both drawn to the same colour, not the most striking hue but spot on to stop the thingy being overwhelmed by a craziness of mixed yarns … the less is more.

Now while Hey Mama Wolf may call this Meadowsweet I have it in my mind as Berlin Senf (ignore my misspelling on the label, I couldn’t spell check while drinking tea at Hackescher Markt) as it reminds me of the colour of delicious German mustard.

Berlin Senf is created from German Merino sheep – not as soft as the Australian Merino but wonderful in it’s own Germanic way – and hand dyed. Like the Amsterdam yellow it is a bit finer than double knit so I asked if the 100g skein could be wound into two 50g balls so I could double up the strands. This was no problem and Caro was soon putting the yarn on the winder ready to make two neat balls of wool. While she set up I got busy snapping photos of the drool-worthy shelves of yarns. Note all the knitted and crocheted examples for customers to see how the worked wools look.

Skeins can be like life sometimes they get in a bit of a tangle and are then trickier to unravel. While I had been taking photos my skein had begun to misbehave.

Strange though this may be I like sorting out knots and tangles so I happily offered to hand wind my wool. What a pleasure to sit untangling the yarn and talk wool and sheep. Don’t you love woolly folk? It doesn’t take much to keep us happy. I managed to become happier still, not only did I finish my winding for the Thingy but I also got ….

Icelandic wool…I can barely contain myself ….. warm mittens…..ooooh yes…..you know you want some ….

With a halo that was now beyond wonky it was time for a church. Negotiating the S-Bahn (overground) I made may way to the biggest church available, Berlin Dom (Cathedral).

It’s interior was stunning

However I was distracted from my usual interest in the organ by the contents of the crypt. Berliner Dom crypt contains a macabre collection of sarcophagi containing the earthly remains of the Prussian royal family some dating back to the 1660s. I found it all a bit peculiar. Even though morbid curiosity overtook me – turns out my halo completely slipped – I couldn’t help but wonder if these aristocrats realised they were to become exhibits. It didn’t strike me as resting in peace. Bizarre.

Outside with a little sigh of relief I was on the island of museums. You can rest assured Berlin’s sizo-meter did not fail.

In my turn I made a sizeable decision. I would not visit them as I knew I would find it frustrating to rush around for a few hours and not completely enjoy the pleasure of taking time to view the artefacts. Oh well … I will just have to come back and spend a week in the Altes Museum alone!

Time to hop on a bus (love that German bus stops have digital updates of the arrival times of the buses and they are FREQUENT!!!!) and wend my way along my favourite route back to the hotel. Blimey they are breeding like ….

He was certainly not there last night.

Tomorrow I am off to Prenzlau. So for a while I must bid you adieu as I am having a little time out to meet family …. and I am likely to be without Wifi.

Auf Wiedersehen Berlin city of a big heart and mind blowing architecture.

Until next we meet

Moke xxx

We are the people

Hello All

On the face of it Leipzig is one more big city with lots of shops but there is much more to it. Take last night for instance. I went out to find the nearest veggie cafe and walked straight into a demonstration. I hasten to add it was VERY PEACEFUL I mean one of the placards even said ‘I am just here to say Hello’. Nonetheless it reminded me that Leipzig has a strong history of challenging wrongs and played a significant role in the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

I was curious about this demo and discovered it formed part of the history of the Monday Demonstrations. The initial demonstrations began in Autumn 1989 in Leipzig after the weekly prayer for peace in St. Nicholas Church and demanded the right to travel and to elect a democratic government. Yesterday’s demo was to mark the anniversary of the most famous Monday Demonstration held on 9 October 1989 when the protesters swelled in numbers to more than 70,000 all united in peaceful opposition to the regime.

I am glad a little piece of serendipity let me see this peaceful gathering and remember that “Wir Sind das Volk!’ (We are the people) who together can accomplish amazing things. To see where all this started I went today to see St Nicholas Church.

To understand how brave this movement was I also went to visit the Stasi Museum (Museum in der Runden Ecke),

Housed in the old Leipzig Stasi headquarters the museum is an uncomfortable and unsettling example of the few short steps it takes for a state to move from having a legitimate police force to having a Stasi. Not only was there the terrifying prospect of ‘vanishing’ but the Stasi also employed much more insidious psychological methods to destroy lives and careers. Only now by accessing the records held by the secret police can people understand how their lives were undermined by subtle Stasi tactics. State bullying of people for the merest form of dissent was commonplace.

You were allowed to take photographs in the museum however (unusually) nobody was and it felt wrong to do so. I took this shot of the entrance lobby.

And stopped when I passed through the door that you could enter but not exit. Free entry to the museum was I suspect to ensure that no one profits from suffering.

I needed an antidote to the evil manipulation of people and sought solace in music at the Bach Museum.

Located in the house of the Bose family who were friends and neighbours of the Bachs this fresh and modern museum celebrates the 200 years that this musical powerhouse of a family (oh for those genes) dominated the German music scene.

Special to me – cos I seem to have developed a love for organ music – was this beautiful instrument:

And the journey it has been on.

Other highlights were the tubular bells

Gently swing them around and hey presto! You are playing Bach. Get me the musical genius.

Mustn’t forget Bach’s orchestra, the original artworks and manuscripts and OH YES all the opportunities listen to beautiful music composed by various members of the Bach dynasty…particularly Johann Sebastian. I could have sat there all day just to hear the music.

But my musical sojourn had not ended. I trotted across the road from the museum and to St Thomas’ Church famous for its choir and choir school.

I walked in and was taking this snap when ….

…. the organ started playing. WOW! It was mind-blowing it’s phenomality (don’t think that is even a word) no doubt augmented by the surprise. It was a lesson for a young organist (don’t play in Constantine’s Basilica, save yourself!) and wonderful to hear.

Now to matters domestic. Himself has made a nest in my crochet.

He believes I may have been defeated in my wool challenge. I confess it was looking bleak in Leipzig. No dedicated wool shop (well not in walking distance) where to turn…?

The local shopping centre! And this beauty had something for every crafter under the sun, including stones for those interested in rock carving. My bag is heavy enough I stuck to buying a ball of wool.

Coming in it’s own colourful bag welcome Leipzig mixed twist wool. Move over Mr T there’s a new wool on the block…I mean in the bag.

That was my flying visit to Leipzig. A city where old and ultra new come together:

So ultra modern is Leipzig that I still haven’t figured out how to switch on the loo light and as to the lift I spent about 20 minutes trying to get it to stop at my floor. Mind you I made a lot of friends as I travelled up and down.

Auf Wiedersehen Leipzig exciting city of contrasts and old ladies trapped in lifts. Tomorrow I am off to Berlin.

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

Val-deri, Val-dera … my knapsack on my back

Hello All

Interrailing has begun. I started my train travels today on the International train ICE123 from Amsterdam to Trier via Cologne (Koln).

I stumbled a bit at the first hurdle as couldn’t find my reserved seat! However I was sitting on the right train, in the right carriage in what I thought was an unreserved seat so I was congratulating myself on being correct on two out of three until there was a tap on my shoulder and a gentleman pointed out that I was in his seat! Colour me beetroot red.

Apparently ‘freigeben’ doesn’t mean the seat is free rather it means that you should give up your seat if asked…. oh the shame….. To be fair the numbering of the seats was very odd. I had reserved seat number 12 but when I walked up the carriage I realised that there were not enough seats to go down to number 12 however once evicted from my seat (did I mention the shame?!) closer inspection revealed that the numbers jumped from the 20’s to 12 with nothing in between and nothing after. I obviously get my number dyslexia from my father’s side!

Still it was rather funny and pushed me stumbling through my basic German to the amusement of the other passengers (‘What did that woman say? “The cats eat the beetles?!”‘). Baptism of fire? Yes. But it was the best way to get going with a new language. Now anyone that cares to listen is getting blasts of Moke-German. Poor souls. My sympathy goes out particularly to the taxi driver who had my full range of conversation about the weather and the lack of rain.

Back in my comfort zone I have finished the Newcastle wool and while on the train to Trier I got started with the Amsterdam yellow. Doubled up to match the weight of the Newcastle yarn it is vibrant and crocheting beautiful. It’s like sunshine on a blue-sky day.

The journey from Koln to Trier was beautiful. It does I suppose fall in the Rhineland renowned for its wonderfulness. As it got further from Koln the little regional train – no reservation nightmares here (can’t get past the shame) as no reservations! – wound its way along rivers and through pretty towns and villages. Woodlands clothed the hills that rose on either side. The colours of Autumn embellished and amber-blazed the trees. Oh it was soooo restful. Infact soooo restful I struggled to keep my peepers open as I gazed at the passing countryside.

Soporific isn’t it? Appears I was not alone.

Now I am in Trier and excited about visiting the many Roman and Medieval sites/sights tomorrow. Will also need to look out for a good wool shop. Any ideas about shops in Trier or what colour to get next?

Before I sign off. I love this idea … wonder what I will get in my goody bag?

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

The Great Escape and an Ode to Tea

Hello All

Bags are again packed and I am off on a small adventure:

I am going Interrailing to visit (find!) my father’s home village in Germany, Klein Sperrenwalde. Thank you to my friends who waved me off both physically and virtually.

But this is me and I like to begin with baby steps. Clever little bods them babies. So I have started with a couple of days in Newcastle. Dodging a swarm of beer swilling blokes who appeared confused navigating the ticket barriers I walked through the big and beautiful concourse to see Newcastle Upon Tyne for the first time. And I was a woman on a mission.

My goal was to find a wool shop in which to purchase the first ball of wool for my European trip. I was looking for Woolly Minded and bingo found it really easily. I am used to cosy little wool shops with quaint and often quirky signage Woolly Minded is a large shop with a very modern frontage impossible to miss.

Despite the helpful assistants I sadly couldn’t find anything really local but instead I settled for King Cole DK. They are based in Skipton and that’s the North!

In case you are wondering my plan is to crochet a shawl or scarf using a ball of wool from each town or city I stay in. This seemed like a good idea when I was cooking it up in my head as it means I will not have to carry all the wool for the project but only a ball each time I stop, hopefully having already worked the previous yarn into an ever growing shawl-scarf-thingy. As the weather is turning chilly I also hope that I will have something warm and snuggly to use when I return. Let the crocheting commence!

On walking a wee bit further into the centre of Newcastle and reaching The Monument a tall …. erm … monument to Earl Grey – local politician and possibly the father to my favourite tipple Earl Grey tea – I took a brave ‘pill’. That being a metaphorical pill you understand no pharmaceuticals nor mind-altering substances were taken. Suffice to say I embraced the Newcastle Metro system.

My hotel the Best Western New Kent in Jesmond was only a few stops down the line and I was thankful to reach its welcoming reception staff.

While someone quickly made himself comfortable. Cheeky! I was just glad to put down my rucksack. Backpacks seemed lighter when I was 18….

But after a good night’s sleep- refreshed and fuelled by a veggie English Breakfast – I was ready this morning to visit Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields. A short hop – well 16 stops but by now I am such an old hand I am not even counting – on the wonderful Newcastle Metro service.

It was easy to see when I was getting near to Arbeia.

When I arrived I really hit it lucky as today is the last day of the season at the Fort and I managed to earwig a fascinating impromptu tour which included a description of the famous Regina tombstone (its the one on the right as you look at the photograph):

It was commissioned in the 2nd century by the late lamented Regina’s husband. Fascinatingly Regina was from a southern British tribe the Catuvellauni and had been sold as a slave to Palmyrian (Syrian) trader Barates who freed her and then married her. What I love is that she is clutching her distaff and spindle rather like any of us would hold our knitting of an evening at home in a comfy chair while poignantly at her feet is her stash of wool ready for projects she never got to finish.

Sniffle! Pulling myself together I took a turn about the site and was thrilled to have the reconstructed gatehouse all to myself;

From the top I got a good view of the majority of the archaeological remains together with the reconstructed barracks and Commanding Officer’s house:

Let’s look through the keyhole (no doors let alone keyholes but bear with me). Who lives in a house/barrack like this?

A Centurian! Rather bijou.

Being the last day of the season there were also re-enactors from the Cohors Quinto Gallorum – an auxiliary unit garrisoned to the fort in the 3rd Century – showing visitors ceremonies, food and the equipment of infantry soldiers. These are brave men. I mean it. Some of those children turned quite vicious when hurling spears at them!

A short walk around the herb garden,

And I was ready for a stroll back towards the Metro.

One of the nice things about tootling and having no particular timetable is that you come upon unexpected pleasures. Today mine was the Victorian Pantry at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery on Ocean Road.

I had a lovely light lunch (I managed to resist a High Tea…goodness knows how!) served by waitresses complete with white pinnies.

The poem by an unknown author on the front of the menu sums up life for me:

When the world is all at odds,

And the mind is all at sea,

Then cease the useless tedium,

And brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in its taste,

The laden moments vanish

Somewhere into space.

And the world becomes a lovely thing!

There’s beauty as you see.

All because you briefly stopped

To have a cup of tea.

About time I was brewing up!

Until next we meet,

Moke xxx

P.S. Those of you playing spot the Meerkat (Terence to his friends), it will get harder!

P.P.S. Apologies to anyone who caught a quick glimpse of an earlier post announcing the start of my travels. It was a draft which I prematurely published! Sorry for any confusion caused. Mx

Latest Addition

Hello All

Now I am back in the blogosphere I think I had better introduce to you the newest member of the It’ll Be Reet clan.

On Thursday 17 December 2015 Number 1 daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. She and her partner were over-the-moon as were new uncles and aunties and two very proud grandmothers (Nanna A and me, Omi).

Birthday 17.12.2015 few hours - Peanut 1

Being new to this Omi lark I am not sure how much baby cooing and gurgling I should subject you my dear readers to. But if you will forgive me I may run wild with gooey-ness in just this one blog.

As you can see yarns have been important from day one. Little Peanut was a wee bit on the small size and needed a prem-baby-bonnet to keep warm. But I can’t claim to have knitted the one above – good grief what sort of Omi am I?! – it was knitted by the kind knitters of Leeds especially for the maternity unit. Thank you lovely ladies and gents.

Peanut was obviously a chip off the old block and soon was enjoying the snuggly pleasures of an Omi made blanket..

16.1.2016 Peanut and the blanket that Omi made

… and a Daddy-sized woolly hat.

27.02.2016 Daddy's hat suits me

So there is no better way to wish you a Happy Easter from our latest addition, Peanut, in her own fleecy Easter bonnet.

2016.03.27 - Blue eyed bonnet

Until next we meet, Omi Moke x

Kitchen Table Crafts

Hello All

What a lovely day. A day of conversation and cuppas enjoying woolly crafting. All from the comfort of my kitchen.

When friend AFl suggested coming over I balked slightly at the craft she suggested. But as soon as I started gathering everything we would need I felt the old excitement I got from running workshops and joining in Wool ‘n’ Stuff sessions.

What were we going to do? There’s a (BIG) clue on my kitchen table.

‘Felting’ you say? Felting yes but with a twist. This is Nuno felting (felting onto cloth) and if you want to have a go at this low cost craft – or just want to see what we got up to – read on.

Here’s what we used:

  • surface to work on that you don’t mind getting a bit wet (kitchen table = perfect);
  • bubble wrap;
  • cling-film (needs to be quite robust variety);
  • muslin (remember there will be about a 50% shrinkage so allow for this);
  • fibres (we used dyed merino tops);
  • plastic bag each;
  • cool soapy water (I put a mix of washing-up liquid and cool water in an old plastic spray bottle);
  • clothes washing flakes or liquid; and
  • vinegar.

At this point I should have been able to show you what we did first but fueled with coffee (and a cheeky donut..or two…) I forgot to take any photos!!!! So words will have to suffice. Normal photographic service will soon follow.

Our first steps:

Bubble wrap was laid out bubble side down;

We wet the fabric and spread it out on the bubble wrap;

Remembering that less fibre leads to more shrinkage we pulled our wool tops into small, even and thin pieces;

Then we lay the fibres in all directions (one direction means shrinkage will only be one way);

We gently sprayed COOL soapy water on the fibres and cloth; and

Covered our fibre patterned muslin with cling film (AFl had brought an old industrial sized roll which was perfect cos it wasn’t too thin nor very sticky).

Now we gently pressed all the water down through the wool,

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until it started to go flat at which point we rubbed gently – still through the cling-film – with our scrunched up plastic bags. A bit like rubbing down a wet horse I thought …. or is that just me?!

Off came the cling-film and rolling commenced … oops just noticed the cling-film is not off … remember to remove yours.

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We rolled three hundred times (yes 300!) one way and then having re-rolled the felt in the opposite direction three hundred (YES 300!) more times.

Unbeknowst to us hours passed as we chattered and rolled … and rolled …. and rolled …  Time flew.

Once we could see fibres making their way through the muslin we flipped the bubble wrap over and rubbed the nuno (yes it actually looked like nuno felting, amazing) along the whole length.

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We put the nuno into hot soapy water. As hot as our hands could cope with. Ooooooch. Then came the best bit.

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‘Is that it?’ I hear you cry. OK it doesn’t look very exciting but this is my nuno felt after I had thrown it full force S-P-L-A-T onto the table. This only needed to be done about a dozen times but as I hurled my felting I found it was a great means of working off my angst … “and this is for …. bang! and this is for …. BANG!” Twelve throws was not enough. When you get to this stage you’ll know what I mean.

Not only was it therapeutic but it was also magical. Shrinkage! Houston we have shrinkage!

Finally all our nuno needed was a rinse to get rid of the soap and a last rinse with a splash of vinegar and more water.

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We were very pleased with ourselves. We had actually created nuno felted pieces and had just enough time for a celebratory soup as they dried.

Excellent way to spend a day. Getting together with a friend and having a bash (quite literally) at a kitchen table craft. Thank you AFl for reminding me.

Until we meet next. Moke x