Monday, October 15, 2018

I’m Going Home...

Parnu, Estonia was the last city we visited on our trip to Europe. One beautiful day, Cathy took me to a nearby park for a photo shoot! She took so many pictures and posed me in so many ways that I felt like a super model! It was kind of like our goodbye to each other. 

When Cathy dreamed me up back in her yurt in Hawaii in the spring of 2017, she says that she had no idea I would be such a hit and such a special part of her trip to Europe.

We were supposed to only be gone from the United States for six or eight months, but we have been traveling companions for 14 months! And look at the stats:
  • Over 200 contributors
  • 6 meters long!
  • 8 Countries
  • 35 Blog posts
  • Youngest knitter: 13 years old
  • Oldest knitter: 94 years old
  • Over 25,300 kilometers/15,700 miles traveled
  • We stayed in over 35 different places 
  • And, most importantly: we made many, many new friends!

Cathy kept track of every contributor in special little journals (which she had to have reprinted and bound twice during the trip!). And quite an assortment of knitters they were—from one non-knitter (Jude) who insisted on contributing in an interesting way, to the old masters of lace knitting in the Shetland Islands and Estonia. We knitted in front of the Scottish Parliament on Women’s Day, helped out at the Roscommon Ireland Lamb Festival, attended a Sheep Dog Trial, and made a knitter’s pilgrimage to the Knitted Lace Center in Haapsalu, Estonia. 

We saw the summer solstice in Iceland and knitted cozily in a tiny pub on Inish Mor, Ireland while a 90-mile-an-hour January storm raged outside. We met knitters in the Outer Hebrides, funky hostels in Ireland, on English trains, and on ferries to remote islands. Some knitters added their own handspun yarn. We even occasionally allowed some crocheters to contribute—including a blind lady with her guide dog in Belfast.

Cathy is continuing around the world, but she is sending me back to Vashon Island in the United States to the welcoming hands of our dear friend Emily MacRae for safekeeping. Cathy has some kind of plan to take us on a road trip around the U.S. next year. For now, I will wait patiently with Emily for her to return to me.

Cathy, it has been an extraordinary and astounding sojourn. Thank you for inviting me along!

A special note from Cathy:

Hamish's Birthday

Estonia Part 4: My Last days in Europe…

With a tear, we left Conny near the bus station in Tallinn so she could catch a tram to the airport. Cathy and I returned to Parnu for 12 more days. It is a quiet and beautiful town with many parks and a nice beach. Cathy would be able to make plans for visiting Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia, catch up a little bit on blog posts, and relax a bit. These would be the last days Cathy and I would have together for a long time. 

Over those days, a few knitters shared the hostel room with Cathy and I got a few more inches added to me. 

Karmen showed up in the dormitory first. She is a physician in Tallinn but was in Parnu to take part in a Flamenco workshop over the weekend. She was dancing every day, but she took out time to make a special addition to me—a traditional eight-pointed star pattern.  

In my journal, Karmen wrote, “This pattern has been used in Estonia at least 1000
years, especially on gloves, pullovers, and vests. It was meant for protection
especially from diseases.”

Astrit, a beautiful young Estonian woman who Cathy had met on the Camino de Santiago in October, came over to Parnu to spend the night with us before she started a hiking trip. It was a delightful time and she added some rows of white Aran yarn in a garter stitch while sitting on the dorm bed. 

On one weekend, three women were in the dorm room. They had come to Parnu to take part in the International Lace Festival. This was a bobbin lace conference and exposition with master bobbin-lace workshops. 

Cathy wandered over one day to check out the exposition. There were some truly extraordinary examples of lace on display. We were invited in to watch part of a masterclass where the women were making lace from metallic thread! Some of them worked so fast you could barely see their hands move! It reminded me of our visit to the Shetland Islands where the women could knit so fast.   

Look at all the great loot Cathy gathered up in Continental Europe! She got all this and carried it around since she left Ireland in May. Well, most of it she bought or received as gifts in Estonia.

And h
ere are the contributions that were made to me while we visited Estonia…Wow!

Up next....“Going Home” last post from Europe.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Estonia Part 3: Meeting more Estonian Lace Designers

The next morning, July 11, Conny, Cathy, and I boarded the bus to Parnu where we met up with Cassie Rosse again—this time in her studio where she showed us a few of her many shawls. 

Cassie discusses her design techniques with Conny.

When Cassie modeled this beautiful yellow and orange shawl  over her pink dress, the results were so striking that Cathy insisted she go outside so we could get some photographs. 

After quick overnight in Parnu, we were off to the small town of Marjamaa, home of another lace designer, Liina Langi.  This was a delightful stop. Liina took time out of her busy schedule teaching, designing, running a yarn shop, and raising a family to visit with us for several hours. 

Conny peruses Liina’s pattern notebook while Liina adds her lovely lace to me.

Liina added a traditional Haapsalu pattern to me called “Silvia.” She was knitting so fast and was so comfortable working lace that she could carry on a conversation and knit a pattern with lots of nuups without hesitation.

In Liina’s shop, Cathy purchased a number of items, including a very fine gray 3-ply laceweight yarn made in Japan. There are 800 meters of yarn in each of these balls! 

Liina had a colorful collection of 10-meter lengths of wool embroidery yarn that she hand dyes with natural materials. Cathy likes to have a collection of colors of laceweight yarn like this so she can make little lacy bookmarks to give away. In the photo above you can see a green bookmark she has already started.  She could not resist the needle guage in the shape of a sheep. Liina also presented us with pamphlets which contained two of her own patterns. She even autographed them for us. 

The next morning, we boarded an early bus back to Tallinn so we could return, yet again, to Wool and Woolen. Now Conny would have the opportunity to meet Eve, the shop owner. Of course, she was happy to see us. And I also finally got to meet Eve. Even though Cathy had been here twice she did not bring me the first time, and the second time, Eve was not here. 

While Conny and Eve visited, Cathy met three yarn shoppers from Finland. Pia, Nelli, and Aino each contributed a row or two using Bridget’s handspun Irish wool from Roscommon, Ireland. 

Pia, Nelli, and Aino from Finland

Ganpi Surabu yarn
Then Eve got to make an intriguing addition to me using paper yarn made by the Japanese company Eisaku Noro. The yarn has tiny tags of paper that make an interesting texture when knitted up. Eve’s contribution included a very colorful variegated Ganpi Surabu followed by solid black Ganpi Bukure.

Eve gifted Conny and Cathy each a ball of the variegated Ganpi yarn. Cathy is going to try using it to add some interest to the top part of some black wool socks. From Eve’s addition to me (above) the black and colors really work well together. 

The day seemed very short because before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Conny. She had to board a plane back to the Netherlands. It was one of the most memorable weeks in my travels and Cathy and I were so glad to have Conny share it with us. Cathy wrote in her journal: 
A great thing about having Conny with me was that we could share and bask in the wonder of being here in Estonia together—each appreciating this passion about lace and understanding how each other feels. Also, Conny and I can sit quietly and knit together—we don’t always have to be chatting. That reflects how comfortable our relationship is even though we have not known each other for very long. 
We are so glad you joined us, Conny! Cathy should joke with you more often!

And thank you Facebook Lace Knitting Group for helping us meet each other!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Estonia Part 2: Pilgrimage to Haapsalu

(Warning: this post has LOTS of photographs!)

One of Conny's shawls©ConnyWolthuis
Guess who met us at the Tallinn bus station on Monday, July 9? Conny Wolthuis from Raalte, Netherlands!!! Many of Conny’s shawls are knitted using Estonian lace techniques, but she had never been here. When visiting her in June, Cathy had joked, “You should come to Estonia with me!” Conny didn’t laugh—she looked serious. She looked at her husband. She was considering it! Gerard, her sweet husband, said, “I think you should go.” Cathy smiled encouragingly. Long story-short…we had traveling companion for the next 5 days!

Wool and Woolen, the yarn shop in Tallinn which I mentioned in my last blog post, is only one block from the bus station, so you know that was our first stop. Eve was not in, but her assistant, Erika enthusiastically gave me a few rows of a lace border stitch.

And then, we boarded a bus to Haapsalu. This was a pilgrimage of sorts. Haapsalu is famous for its special style of knitted shawls. In the 1800s, Russian aristocrats came to Estonia’s resorts to take a summer holiday and enjoy the curative powers of the Baltic sea mud. This was a great opportunity for the local women to sell their handcrafted items. In Haapsalu, the Russian women particularly liked the fine lace shawls which became a favorite souvenir.

One technique that is indicative of a Haapsalu shawl is the use of “nuups,” a special type of bobble, that provide more texture and interest to the shawls and scarves. Nuup means “bud” in Estonian. As you can see from these examples, they are used in unlimited creative patterns. It is not unusual for a shawl to have well over 1000 nuups.

The shawl knitters were paid by the weight of the shawls and they discovered that the nuups made the shawls heavier. About the middle of the 20th century, machine knitting came into play and factories were cranking out Haapsalu shawls that they could sell much cheaper. This would have doomed the handmade shawls, except for the fact that the machines could never duplicate the tell-tale nuups! The craft was saved. Buyers could be guaranteed of a handcrafted shawl when the nuups were present. Now, virtually all Haapsalu shawls, scarves, and dresses contain a nice collection of nuups. Isn’t that a great happy ending? 

We settled ourselves in the Old Town Hostel, which was really a small inn, and quite comfortable. The next day was Tuesday and we had to wait until 11:00 when the Lace Center opened, so Conny and Cathy sat in the park across the street and knit!

Finally…11:00 came and we walked the short way over to the Lace Center were we received a very warm welcome! 

Conny was excited because just a few days before we arrived, King Willem from the Netherlands was in Estonia and received this lace shawl for his wife, Queen Maxima

It was designed especially for her and is named the “Dutch Queen Maxima Shawl.” Helin Pōldve is the designer and she developed a special kind of 3-petaled nuup for it to symbolize Dutch tulips. Conny told the receptionist that she would like to meet the designer and before we could blink twice, Helin had been called and she showed up at the Center to visit with us! 

Helin discusses her design process with Conny.

Helin demonstrated how to make the special tulip nuups when she added some Estonian lace to me!!! Can you believe THAT! I will be famous!

Helin points out the tulip nuups at the top of her lace band.
Helin, Cathy, and Conny talking about lace and designing.

Helin had given up her lunch hour to come over and visit with us. When Cathy and Conny found that out, they apologized for taking up her time on a work day. She dismissed that, saying, “I’m not spending my knitting time eating!” 

I instantly fell in love with her!

In the shop and museum, Cathy got lots of photos of the most exquisite lace you have ever seen.

It was Tuesday, which is the day when local women come in to knit together. We had not planned our trip that way, but we sure were lucky! 

Tuesday Knitting Group at the Haapsalu Lace Center

Linda Elgas
One of the “grand dames” of Haapsalu lace knitting, Linda Elgas was at the Center and when she saw me across the room, she hurried over, grabbed me, and started knitting. At over 90 years old, Linda is my oldest contributor. (My youngest was 13-year-old Florence in the Outer Hebrides.)

She quickly and skillfully knitted up a quick stitch called mustika muster in Estonian, which means 
blueberry stitch.” Before she left for the day, Linda purchased a KILO of lace-weight yarn! A KILO! Do you know how many shawls that will make—probably 10 or 12! It is an honor to have been held in her skilled hands. 

I was then passed around to so many talented knitters that life became a blur. Ulle and her daughter Kristel often drive down from Tallinn just to enjoy the Tuesday knitting group. They were followed by Katrin who created a multi-colored vits (twig) stitch, and Mirjam.

Left to right: Ulle Kristel, Katrin, and Mirjam

Conny and Cathy just had to do a little shopping. Conny purchased some yarn and patterns and this wonderful shawl: 

Cathy purchased some fine laceweight merino—enough to make a shawl. The shop also had collections of cards, each with a photo of a traditional Haapsalu motif on it along with the charted pattern on the back.

Showing the women photos of her work on her phone, Conny discusses her shawl designs: 

Cathy was trading information with Kristel and was oblivious of the women behind her who were admiring her lace poncho!

It was a full, full day!

We spent seven hours at the Haapsalu Lace Center and walked out as they closed for the day. Conny and Cathy were exhausted but so excited. For them, it was like spending the day with famous celebrities. And indeed, these talented women are certainly celebrities in the knitting world. 

The next day, we were featured in this post on the Haapsalu Lace Center Facebook page.

Our next stop on Wednesday would be Parnu, so Conny could meet lace designer Cassie Rosse.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Estonia—Part 1

When Cathy was planning her trip to Europe, Estonia was the second country she decided to visit. She loves the Haapsalu style of knitted lace. (Haapsalu is an old seaside resort town in Estonia.) Even though she knew nothing else about the country, that was reason enough to add it to the itinerary. So even though it was her second choice of countries, it is the last country in Europe we would visit. 

On Monday, June 25 we boarded a train to the outskirts of Stockholm, then a bus into the city, then a tram out to the ferry dock, and finally an overnight ferry for Tallinn, Estonia. The crossing of the Baltic Sea was smooth and full of light. We were very close to the solstice and very far north. Even though we were not inside the Arctic circle, the sky never got completely dark. 

Our Tallink ferry from Stockholm to Tallinn

We had a nice little private cabin with a wee porthole. Cathy, stick-in-the-mud she is, spent much of the crossing in the cabin. 

Visiting the upper decks is like walking through a mini-mall, complete with several bars, a couple night clubs, and children'
s play areas. This does not appeal to Cathy, so she decided to take advantage of the time to catch up on planning our trip to Estonia. I kinda’ wanted to go to the disco upstairs—we could hear the party in our cabin and I wondered how the revelers would have liked dancing with me! I bet it would have been fun—oh well… 

Arriving in Tallinn

After a good night’s sleep, we arrived at the port of Tallinn, Estonia. Cathy reports:
Upon arriving in Tallinn, Estonia, I again experienced one of my  pinch-myself moments.” Sometimes I get overwhelmed with emotion and a few tears when I realize what I am doing, where I am, and where I have been in the past year. (Yes, it was a year ago on June 22nd that Hamish and I left the United States.) I thought we would be finished with this journey last December, and yet here we are, still wandering around...

Gifts from Cassie
After a few days in Tallinn, we made our way to Parnu where we met Cassie Rosse, a young designer who designs shawls in the Haapsalu style. She publishes a new shawl design every week—can you believe that? We met her for coffee on Sunday morning and ended up visiting for FIVE hours! 

When they met, Cassie gifted Cathy with a bag of special items: two of her shawl patterns, Butterflies on Flowers and Butterflies of Spring; two balls of her own merino yarn (1500 meters each!) and a bar of chocolate! 

Cassie loved Cathy’s 
Autumn poncho and 
made a lovely model for it.
Cassie also gave Cathy a lesson in how to make the best kind of nuups, so they stand out clearly on the fabric. I will write more about nuups in my next blog post.  

Cassie was my first contributor in Estonia and what an introduction to Estonia! She used the fine merino lace yarn that Cathy had purchased at Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh to make this lovely motif full of nuups.

"Nuups" are a special technique for making the bobbles that are the earmark of Haapsalu style lace.

While in Parnu, we discovered, right next door to the hostel where we were staying, the Magdalena Guild, a cooperative of craftspeople with shops and studios and even a little café. Cathy entered, hoping to find some spinners, but she found knitters, instead! That was good news for me: the knitters there just loved me! They just kept arranging and re-arranging me on the floor and taking lots of photos!

Mare (right) looks at my first few rows, while Ene
finishes up a section that includes an Estonian
flag and her name! (below)

We returned to Tallinn on Friday, July 6 to be there to meet Conny Wolthuis on the following Monday. Yes! Conny would be accompanying us to Haapsalu! Can you believe it?! (More about that in my next post.)

This paper yarn is called Gampi Surabu
and is made in Japan. 34% “gampi” paper
and 66% rayon.
Cassie had recommended that we visit the Wool and Woolen yarn shop near the bus station when we returned to Tallinn. One day, Cathy was out walking without me and she decided to go look for the shop. So she was the first to meet Eve, the owner—and delightful new friend! Eve also owns a knitwear design company and says that Wool and Woolen is her “hobby business.” Hobby or not, it is a very well-organized shop with some unusual yarns, including some made with paper!

Wool and Woolen Yarn Shop in Tallinn

Cathy would return with me to Wool and Woolen three more times before we left Estonia!

While at Wool and Woolen the first time, Cathy met Pia and Felicia, a mother and her daughter from Sweden. They had taken the ferry over from Stockholm the night before to shop—especially to stock up on wool for knitting through the winter. She told the Swedish pair about me and Felicia’s eyes got really wide. So, she agreed to meet them in a park near our hostel the next day so I could get a chance to meet them. Here we are on a nice sunny Estonian summer day.

Felicia wrote in my journal: “Hope you like my Swedish colors so you remember where the knitter is from.”

What a great start in Estonia...We would be here for three more weeks!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Quick Week in Copenhagen

We only stayed one week in Denmark and that entire time in Copenhagen. Cathy longed to get out to the countryside, but it was not to be. Now that it was high tourist season, accommodations were very difficult to find. We stay in the very modern Copenhagen Danhostel on the 10th, and then a few days later on the 15th floor! Look at the stunning view we had:

Our first contact was Charlotte. She is a friend of Lili’s at Sticks and Cups in Utrecht and Lili had told us to contact Charlotte when we arrived. We are so glad we did because we now have not only Charlotte for a new friend, but her husband as well! Charlotte invited Cathy to join her at Knitworks Knitnight on Wednesday and arrived early to meet us so they could chat awhile before the rest of the group arrived.

We got to the Kulturhus an hour early and Cathy got some coffee and sat down with Charlotte. 

Now, before I tell this story, here is an explanation for our non-knitting friends: Cathy knits socks from the toe up, two at a time on one long cable needle using a method called Magic Loop. Not very many knitters knit socks from the toe up; very few knit socks two-at-a time; and some, but not a lot of knitters use Magic Loop method.
So, when Cathy and Charlotte pulled their knitting projects out of their bags, they were BOTH knitting two-at-a-tie, toe-up socks on Magic Loop needles—and BOTH using the same sock yarn (that Lili’s mother had hand-dyed) that we had purchased from Sticks and Cups in Utrecht!!! 

Two knitters knitting two-at-a-time toe-up socks on Magic Loop!
Coincidence? Cathy and I don’t believe in coincidences. 

Kristina at Knitnight
After a while others joined us and six (SIX!) knitters added to me that night. That is a record for one knitting group, I think. Thank you, Kristina, Lene, Katrine, Annette, Tove, and, of course, Charlotte!
While in Copenhagen, Cathy enjoyed many aspects of the city, including a walking tour of the alternative/ somewhat-anarchist community of Christiania. She recommends a visit there for anyone who comes to this city.

She visited a few of the many yarn shops there and recommends a couple, and they are VERY DIFERENT from each other. 

Therese Garn (located at Vesterbrogade 75) is a mess of a place, with yarn quite literally tumbled out onto the sidewalk! You have to squeeze yourself to get around the tiny shop, but be persistent because you will find some great deals on discontinued yarn in this place. Cathy had been intrigued in some other shops by two yarns: Onion Nettle Sock Yarn (with 30% Nettle bast fiber to add durability to the socks), and Fibra natura Papyrus cotton/silk blend.) They were fairly expensive in other stores, but she paid only €11 for these four skeins! 

Kristina Jensen owns Knitwork. We met Kristina at the knitting night on Wednesday and she told us that she was celebrating her birthday on Saturday at the shop and that we should stop by. I am glad Cathy took her up on the invitation because two incredible knitters, Dorte and Lise, joined forces and added a lovely segment of Fair Isle colorwork with beads to me in teamwork fashion. Dorte did the knitting and Lise added the beads with a tiny crochet hook! 

You can learn more about Lise’s “adventurous woolen knitting universe” here.

At Knitwork, Cathy found this colorful sock yarn and barely got back to the hostel room before she was casting on another pair of two-at-a-time, toe-up socks. 

Later that day, on Charlotte’s recommendation, we dropped by Woolstock (Præstøgade 2A), a yarn shop and café that has only been opened for two weeks. It is more of a café than yarn store and we did not buy any fiber here, but Cathy enjoyed great hospitality and a lovely Salmon Salad meal with this gorgeous view! 

It was a good thing that Charlotte invited us to stay with her for a couple nights over the weekend because in this tourist high season, it was becoming difficult to find reasonably-priced places to eat. Again, we received a warm welcome on Saturday morning by Charlotte and her husband, Kjell in a beautiful, peaceful apartment overlooking the water. Charlotte is a test knitter, meaning that she gets to find mistakes in new patterns—uggh! But she enjoys her work at what she lovingly calls “The Knitting Sweatshop on the Sofa.” It was the perfect place to spend our last two days in Copenhagen.