Let’s talk: Is Ravelry a photography competition?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m slightly obsessed with the rankings (as in: number of hearts) of my projects on Ravelry. I like to see where my project stands in relation to other projects made for the same pattern (don’t you love the advanced project search option?), as well as where my projects stand in relation to each other (my projects page is set to order projects according to number of favourites).

Little Sister – 52 hearts

Obviously, there’s a bit of a competitive streak in that, and I won’t deny it makes me proud to see a project of mine, say, among the top 25 of more than a thousand projects from the same pattern (I think that’s happened once so far, and I’m still over the moon). And we all like to get confirmation from others that we’ve done a good job and that we’ve made something other people like.

Honey – 41 hearts

But here’s what I’ve been noticing. Looking at my projects page, my four most popular projects by far are not necessarily my best, or most complex, or prettiest, or whatever else projects. They are the projects with the best photos. (Notably, I had semi-professionals do the photography for the four I am talking about.) Which made me think – is it knitterly skill, talent for combining colours, inovativeness in modifying designs… or good photography that we reward when choosing our favourites on Ravelry?

Swan – 35 hearts

Obviously, sometimes it’s hard to tell if the project involved skill, talent and inovativeness if the photograph itself isn’t good enough to show it off. It’s hard to get around that fact that photographs are the best medium we have available to us at the moment to share our knitterly (I do like to use my invented words a lot, don’t I?) accomplishments. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve favourited a good amount of projects because they had good photos, even if the project itself was, while not “bad”, not particularly different or “better” than others.

Veyla mittens – 27 hearts

So, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. I’m not sure if it’s a good (encourages us to be better photographers) or bad (moves away from the actual point of sharing projects) thing, and I don’t even think it needs to be decided in favour of either of those. But, I’d like us to talk about it. :)

Sunday in Brussels

Yesterday was the perfectest spring Sunday you could imagine. And the perfect opportunity to do THE Sunday thing in Brussels – going to the flea market. So I pulled on one of my hats (my preferred method of ‘styling my hair’ on Sundays ;), grabbed my camera, and off I went! Care to join me?

The flea market is held every day on this square just outside the centre of the city, but Sundays are the liveliest.

Oh yes, and of course it comes with a soundtrack too. :)

Ok, are you ready to jump in and wade through the sea of the randomest stuff?

If only I could read French…

Even anatomy students may not walk away disappointed…

I also spotted a few things that crafters could find useful.

This yarn-related thing intrigued me particularly. Do you have any idea what it might be? My best guess is an old swift. If that’s what it is, it’s pretty impressive!

The sellers themselves are quite colourful too.

But despite their grim looks, they’re always ready for a deal.

I suck at haggling, but I enjoyed observing it… The stall where I was really tempted to buy was at the very beginning. I would love to have one of these hanging somewhere in my imaginary perfect flat…

But my favourite thing about this flea market is imagining the stories behind the items. It’s not rare that you find an old family album in the heaps of stuff offered for sale. It always makes me wonder – where are these people? Is there no one left behind who’d like to cherish these photos? Or is there someone who’s sad that his or her grandparents’ photos have been lost and would be moved if they were returned to him or her? Sometimes I think I should buy the albums and try to track the people down… I also wonder about girls who used to play with these dolls…

And the hands that spent hours making these… Would they be terribly sad to see them so unloved now?

Such philosophical issues, however, are best discussed over a cool glass of beer in the sun. So grab your finds, do a few more rounds until you spot a free table, and then rest your tired feet and imagine away…

Thanks for coming along…

WIP Thursday

I always seem to remember about FO Fridays on Saturdays and about WIP Wednesdays on Thursdays. Which is one of the reasons I don’t participate in them. But today I’ve decided to forget about rules and so you’re getting a WIP Thursday. Who cares it doesn’t rhyme.

My knitting mojo has been so-so since coming to Brussels… There’s something about not being in my own space that always results in me reaching for my knitting very rarely. But I’m going to be here for a while, and I’m not willing to go without knitting for so long. So I’ve been slowly nourishing the mojo with what always works best at Fridica house. Hats.

The Autumn Vines Beret is now in possession of a brim.

Ever since I first saw this pattern I haven’t been able to shake off the impression that it is extremely similar to Rose Red. I am looking forward to seeing how it differs as I knit, though. One major difference already has been that it’s knit from the brim to the top (Rose Red starts off at the top of the hat and expands from there). So far, there’s been quite a bit more cables than I like to do, but they also help push me along, because when I see a cable round coming up I think to myself – ok, let’s just get it over with… And then knit that round. And then maybe the next one. And the next…

The Autumn Vines definitely isn’t your TV knitting though. It requires constant consultation with the chart and constant attentiveness. Luckily, I do have another hat going that is the embodiment of TV knitting. I had bought the pattern for Jane a long while ago, when Jane was having a pattern sale on her website. I’ve been waiting for a good yarn to come up for it, and when I weighed out the amount left over from Honey, I knew I had the winner. I can imagine no yarn more perfect for this project than Osprey.

The pattern is quite simple, except for one part – it includes folding the brim in half and sewing it together. I made sure to do this while I was still at home and had my knitting manuals on hand (though I ended up making up my own method to sew it together). Now I’m onto the main body of the hat, which consists of eyelet ribbing – a simple four round repeat that is unbelieavably easy to memorise and fun to do. I’m guessing this one won’t be in the WIP section for much longer. Perhaps it might qualify for an FO Saturday soon… ;)

Art et Fil

You don’t know this yet, but throughout April I have been blogging not from Zagreb, but from a bit further West – Brussels. I am here on a month-long stay in a nice sunny apartment, going about my business as usual (one good thing about being a translator – as long as you have a laptop and an Internet connection you can do your job anywhere), and enjoying the company of people very dear to me.

Now, before I set off I tried to plan out my projects for the month and packed a copious amount of yarn. However, whimsical in my project-starting as ever, within a few days I found myself in the need of something I didn’t have. I decided to participate in the Autumn Vines Beret knitalong and needed some nice sportweight yarn to go with it. No worries – a great opportunity to explore the yarn shops of Brussels! I’ve been to a few now and the plan so far is to do a separate post on each. Today I present the one where I actually found my yarn (after several unsuccessful attempts):  Art et Fil.

While located in quite a trendy area of Brussels, you wouldn’t think much of this shop if you passed it on the street. Actually, you might not even notice it was there. It is tiny. I’m bad at estimating size, but this shop is 15 square meters at most. If you do manage to spot it and make your way inside, you realize that the owner does not allow herself to be hindered by the lack of space in stocking the shop. It is chock full of yarn from all over the world, including the big names such as Debbie Bliss and Rowan, the ethical producers such as Araucania, as well as many different local and regional brands.

Neatness is not primary here. One can see that there was some idea in the direction of organisation in the beginning, there are nice shelves along the walls and the yarn in them is even somewhat vaguely organised according to weight and content, but whatever doesn’t fit in the shelves is just stacked in bags and cardboard boxes all over the floor.

To be honest, it looks less like a shop and more like a stasher’s lair gone mad. Not to mention the cheap stockings and men’s socks that make appearances in between the yarn (see photo above). However, in all this mess there is a lot of value. Yes, there are random stockings on the wall there, but there is also a swift and a ball winder. The selection of yarn goes from cheap to luxurious. There is a good amount of Clover accessories (I almost bought another pom-pom maker). And the shop owner is very friendly. While I was there and trying to take these few candid shots (I did not muster the courage to ask, thus the poor quality), I noticed that most of the customers who come in the shop just head straight to the counter (where there is almost constantly a queue) and wait patiently to consult her. She recommends stuff, she goes in the back of the shop to find an odd skein that might still be lying around somewhere, she helps out with crochet conundrums… And she doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable if you’re just lingering around petting the yarn. :)

I had my eye on these (blurry, sorry) Araucania wonders in particular.

I need to find out more about this company, as both the yarn and the story behind it seem very interesting. I spent a long time deciding, but in the end left it for another occasion, and got some lovely 100% alpaca instead (I’m an alpaca sucker, what can I say).

All in all, though, Art et Fil is for now the absolute winner for me among yarn shops in Brussels. It may not be your typical Western-style LYS with a comfy couch and lots of space, but it is welcoming, lively and extremely well stocked. Luckily, it’s also about a 10-minute walk from where I am staying. Ouch, I can see my wallet hiding under the table already! ;)

good things come to those who wait

I often find myself hoping that my friends believe in that proverb. Well, actually, they often have to believe in it whether they want to or not. Caroline had asked me to knit her a pair of mittens some time in the winter. She pointed me to a pattern she had seen on the blog and liked, told me how she wanted me to tweak it, chose a colour,  sent me her hand measurements promptly. And then, waited.

I did start them quite quickly, my Ravelry page says January 30. But after a while, I hit a block. I find it very hard to explain, though a friend of mine whose both job and hobby include creativity seemed to understand when I tried to express it. It wasn’t that I was scared of the pattern – I had knitted it once before very successfully, and actually in the same exact yarn, so there were no unknowns. The modifications were to be minor. It wasn’t boredom either. This is a very interesting pattern, it’s constantly evolving and you see it become more beautiful with every row.

It was just – a block. I hesitate to use the phrase “creative block” because I’m not sure it’s appropriate to say you are doing something strictly creative (in the sense of inventing something out of thin air – which is my idea of creativity) when you are following a pattern. But that’s what it felt closest to. I just couldn’t pick up the needles. It needed to brew inside me, things needed to click, and I couldn’t do anything about it before that happened. And so Caroline waited.

Unfortunately, this happens to me quite often when it comes to knitting something someone specifically ordered. I am trying to get over it. If knitting were ever to become a profit-making activity for me, I realize this would be the biggest hurdle to get over. In the meantime, my friends wait. And I try not to be too hard on myself, because, in the end, even if I say so myself, good things do come to them.

I was happy to deliver, in the end, a pair of mittens I am extremely pleased with. I made my first Veyla, without any modifications, almost exactly a year ago. I love them dearly (actually I’m wearing them as I type this) and they are one of my most popular knits among Ravelers and friends alike. Making this pair now, out of the very same yarn, it was interesting to see all the things that can happen in a year.

The difference between the newly-completed and the “old” mitts is striking: though the yarn wore really well (there is NO pilling whatsoever despite the frequent wear), the colour has changed slightly, the stitches look somehow “harder” – while they are still perfectly comfortable to wear, there is no trace of fluffiness anymore. I had not noticed any of this until I finished their twins and was struck by the difference.

The progress in my skill was also noticeable. These new stitches are perfectly even (there is something crazy about the amount of pleasure well-executed even-stitched stockinette can afford me), the lace is a bit tidier, the holes around the thumb are noticeably smaller, I knit the body of the mitt using a new approach to magic loop and I exercised a fearless confidence in modifying the pattern – a confidence that is very new to me, and that is making me very proud. (Detailed notes on modifications can be found on my project page.)

And finally, my photos are much nicer than the first time around because now, as is becoming usual, I had generous help with them. I was even joking this time about how professional we must look: one friend was taking photos, looking all serious with her big camera and three different bags dangling around, and another ended up doing “stylist” stuff like giving me advice on how to pose and rolling up my sleeves… :) If we continue this way we’ll soon be walking around town with a lighting technician and heavens know what else… ;) To be serious, it was just the three of us joking around, but we did attract a fair amount of attention from curious passers by and had a good share of giggles. Fun! :) Thank you girls :*

twins

Almost the same knitted gift, almost the same wrapping. Almost the same, yes, but both made to be special and one-of-a-kind, even if only through the details.

Both made with lots of love and care, and both received with the brightest of smiles – that’s all that matters in the end…

And as for my part, I promise to stop teasing you soon – the first FO shots should be landing in your feed readers tomorrow… ;)

Happy Monday! :)

doilies and yarn

They do make such lovely wrapping materials, don’t they?

Lately I’ve been taking extra care to make my knitted deliveries look special when they set out for their new homes. It’s definitely exciting to receive a handknit, but to receive a handknit that has been carefully and lovingly wrapped, well in my book that’s doubly wonderful!

I’ve also been trying my hand at little improvised labels.

Oh my, have you noticed how difficult it is to put care of knitwear into writing? Trying to explain handwashing, squeezing water out with towel, drying on a flat surface to someone who’s never done it before in a few succinct phrases – I definitely don’t have the hang of it yet! I keep running out of space… :)

Happy weekend! ;)

you may call me The Master of Ends

Take the following ingredients, and add them in this order:

– fiddly pattern (not by fault of designer, but simply by being a garment that can’t help but be fiddly),
– realizing you need to make something longer after you’ve already cast off and cut yarn,
– knots in yarn in the most inconvenient of locations,
– buttons.

Stir well, boil for about 10 minutes, and this is what you get.

And what is that, you ask? Lots, and lots, and lots of ends to weave in. You’d think it was a full size jumper rather than a tiny accessory we were talking about here. Nope. Tiny accessory it is.

And the point of this post? Oh nothing, just to give myself a little pat on the back. For being so dilligent and weaving them all in immediately. What is it you’re saying? Oh, you think we should all stop moaning about weaving in ends and admit that it’s much easier and quicker to do than we build it up to be? Yeah, you’re right. I fully agree.

But still. Moan. Pat pat.

making pom-poms

Last weekend, I had my favourite visitors over – my niece (13) and nephew (7). These kids… I can’t even begin to write about how much I love them and love spending time with them. I take special pride in them calling me by my name (rather than ‘auntie’), as well as in the fact that they head straight for my room the moment they arrive to my parents’ house (there are some advantages to living at home, after all). And so it happened that on Friday evening all three of us were sitting on my bed and wondering what we should do, when my eyes wandered over to the Clover pom-pom maker which I had bought a few months ago (at a much lower price than the one currently listed on Amazon, though!). In the spur of the moment, I suggested we make some pom-poms, thinking this might amuse us for a half hour or so.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. My friends, we kept on making pom-poms until it was time to go to sleep. And the next morning, when we decided to have a picnic in the back yard, the activity of choice was again – pom-pom making! The looks of intense concentration on these two kids’ faces hung around all day, and they were constantly trying to get nicer and more colourful pom-poms.

I am still amazed, most of all at my own failure to put two and two together before: kids love doing things with their hands and creating stuff. I do too. Why haven’t we been creating things all this time? Sure, my nephew asks for coloured pens and paper to draw on the moment he walks into my room, but it had never occured to me before that he would also enjoy the fibery creativity that I indulge in so regularly. Lesson learned. Between now and their next visit I’m going to be scouring the Internet for other creative activities for kids.

In the meantime, I’ll try to make some sort of a useful (well, maybe not useful, but pretty) object from all the pom-poms we made, to keep it as a reminder of how much fun we can have with the simplest of tools. I’ll let you know how it goes. One thing’s for sure, though: I won’t be short of materials.

And if you’re wondering where all these different colours and fibers came from – yes, I did let them loose in my stash. That alone should tell you how much I love them… ;)