Thursday, May 28, 2009


I thought that by now I would have posted more about my trip to Iceland. We had wonderful drives to Þingvellir and a night on Vestmannaeyjar. Alas, I must go to work each day and try to keep up life in general. I have not given up yet though so dont be surprised if another travel post appears here.

I'm grateful that we are finally getting a bit of rain in Rochester. The weather has been dry and quite cool. In fact, it has been so cool that we've had to pile on the knitting while lounging on the back porch:

I've held off planting my tomatoes for another week, following the sage advice of the gardeners at last week's plant sale at Warner Castle. That's just the name - there is no castle. This is one plant sale I like to go to every year. I didn't buy much - some marigolds and a Lady's Mantle for a friend - but I enjoyed looking around and chatting with people.

In Knitting
Toward the end of last week the endless repetition of the small tree motifs on the Mystery Einband became excruciating. The temptation to start yet another project was not helped by the arrival of two books - Knitted Lace of Estonia and Stahman's Shawls and Scarves. The only thing that kept me from straying too far was a request from a co-worker to knit a square for her baby son. She's trying to wean him from his pacifier and apparently at his day care they are given knitted squares to snuggle with at nap time. Problem is they have to leave them at the day care. Anyway, the project was small enough to give me some relief from the Einband, but not big enough to distract me permanently. Here it is - she can make it into a cushion cover if he doesn't take to it.

And here it is finished

As for the Einband, I'm back at it. Since the last photos, I've gotten far enough along to change stitches for the centre of the stole. I transitioned with a few rows of knit stitch and a row of holes. I'm doing the centre in Trinity Stitch from Martha Waterman's book on lace shawls. Needless to say, this stitch will soon be driving me mad too. I wish I had the patience to plan my projects out rather than just picking up the needles and yarn and having at it. Then I could work more variety into the pattern.

I was also very lucky to win 3 skeins of very soft Misti Alpaca in a contest over on Yarnerina's blog. Nadia, I'll be making you a surprise with it.

Come to think of it, that's something I can do as a break from my two shawl projects (Einband and Pine Tree Palatine). I'm dying to start a project from the Estonian book and wouldn't it be great to knit a shawl with shoulder shaping (Stahman's)? Prime Time Knitter has a good picture of one of hers in this post. Fate and a sense of ecnomy intervened and prevented me from ordering the English trnslation of the Icelandic Þríhyrnur og Langsjöl (Three Cornered and Long Shawls) over at School House Press.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Road to Vik

Getting back to the subject of our travels in Iceland this Spring, here are some of the things we saw and did on the way to Vik, a town on the southern coast of Iceland which, as it turns out, is a centre for hand knitting.

We had hardly started out when we decided that we had to stop to take this photo in Selfoss. The water was almost this turquoise colour. Yes it was.

A little past Selfoss is the fibre paradise known as Þingborg. I'm not sure how to describe this place. They have a shop, but it seems there is another part to it, further down the road, where there are almost certainly fibre related activities going on. Their website is all in Icelandic, but you can tell it's not just a shop. The woman in the shop spoke English. I was too reserved to ask many questions. Now I'm sorry that I didn't. She asked me if I spun and I said that I used to, for my mother and she gave me a look look that said, "I know your type." Oh, and there was an extremely cute dog named Netta in the shop.

So, my sense is that at Þingborg they sell yarn spun and hand dyed by local people, as well as rovings, garments and so on. It is a beautiful, well lit and spacious shop. They have Plötulopi in natural colours. You could feel the lanolin in some of it. It was wonderful. I bought 940 grams (about 2 pounds) of grey/black which should be enough for a sweater. I will make the body in grey and knit the yoke pattern with the colourful plötulopi that I bought elsewhere. I also bought 3 batts of fleece here which I will use for felting later this summer. If you go to Iceland, knitters, do not miss Þingborg. Even the parking lot is interesting:

Highway 1 goes all the way to Vik. Back on the road, there was so much to see...

We made another fibre related stop at Hvolsvöllur, where we accidentally discovered
Gallerý Prjónles . Here, I bought several soaps encased in felted wool and some buttons. They had beautiful glass buttons from the Czech Republic. I think the photo at this link gives an idea of how the soaps are enclosed in felt. Like most of the other yarn shops that I visited in Iceland, it felt like a craftsperson's workshop, rather than a locus for consumer indulgence.

There were waterfalls at every turn. Iceland is full of scenic attractions which are almost entirely unspoiled by guard rails. Here is Skogafoss:

Eventually, we did make it to Vik, a small village by the sea. We ate lunch and walked on the black sand beach. The view reminded me of the Percé Rock in the Gaspé in Quebec.

The basalt columns facing the beach on the other side of the promontory at Halsanefs Hellir are amazing.

But here's the most important place in Vik, Víkurprjón:

It's a combination souvenir shop and knitting factory which sells a wide variety of hand knitted sweaters alongside machine knitted sweaters. Each hand knitted sweater bears the name of the knitter. You could see the knitting machines and plates of Plötulopi behind the scene.

Here's the Google map showing the route from Selfoss southeast to Vik. In general, we stayed in the south of Iceland. We would like to go back and rent a more serious vehicle and drive north next time. For us, however, the south was spectacular and we were glad to have two weeks to explore it. HarpaJ has a wonderful set of photos of Vik on Flickr here.

View Larger Map

Friday, May 15, 2009


Thanks for your consoling remarks. I really should have swatched before I started this. I was ready to press on and finish until I read Halla's comment about the needle size that her friends use with Einband - 4.5 or 5 mm which is considerably larger than the 2.5 mm needle I am using. I ran my knitting upstairs, plunged it into a sink of water and Eucalan and left it there to soak for 20 minutes, needles and all. Then I remembered that I am not knitting with the regular Einband that is sold by Alafoss, which is probably what Halla's friends are using, but with a the much finer mystery Einband from the Handkntters Association sale bin. Remember that I was getting 50 wpi with it. Compare that with 37 wpi from the Alafoss Einband. Maybe the green yarn isn't Einband at all. Anyway, the 2.5 mm seems to be just fine. I blocked it and while it isn't wide enough for a curtain, check it, eh?

Did you click to embiggen? At any rate, I am now in love with this yarn. The resulting fabric is very thin and the yarn defines and holds the stitches so well.  I think that this will have to be a stole rather than a curtain.

A post on Vik is coming up, but for now, the wisteria and lilac are in full bloom.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lace, or Loofah?

Whilst in Iceland, I did a fair amount of yarn shopping. I've been anxious to start working with it.  I showed you the Plötulopi a few posts back - that's the unspun, very delicate yarn that is wound into cakes (or plates or whatever). This week however, I started knitting with a different yarn - Einband.

Einband is an Icelandic single. In German, I think this word means book cover. Anyway, it's the absolute opposite of the Plötulopi. It's thin, compact and practically unbreakable. When I first tried it out, it felt as though I was knitting with string. I have two kinds - Loðband (above) and green mystery (below). I bought the Loðband at the Alafoss outlet and I bought the mystery Einband in a sale bin at the Handknitting Association of Iceland in Rejkyavik. It was wrapped in blank paper bands, noting the weight on each. 

This yarn sticks to itself like a spider web, or like vetch. I wasn't going to post about it until I had a blocked piece to show, but frankly, I'm feeling in need of a bit of encouragement to go on with it. On one hand, if I had swatched, I'm not sure I would have actually started a project and the yarn would have languished. On the other hand, looking at it now, I have no idea whether it will be a success or not. It looks and feels like a loofah. Notice that I am saying loofah, and not scouring pad.

That's a piece of Lily of the Valley lying on it. I'm using 2.5 mm (2 US) needles and I get about 50 wraps per inch (wpi). I love the colour, and I haven't given up on the yarn yet. It could be quite lovely. I'm knitting Sharon Miller's Doris edging knitted on the Russian way, as you go. I think this means that one side of the edging will be inside out, strictly speaking, but I'm sure that won't matter since I'm knitting on the return row, rather than purling. For the center, I'm using an all over pattern, also from Sharon Miller's Heirloom Knitting. It's the Alternating Small Trees Lace Pattern on page 94.  You can see what it's supposed to look like on the link. The first 7 rows appear again (unnumbered) on the chart above the first ten (which are numbered). I'm not quite sure what to do with that so I keep repeating the first ten. Here's how it looks now:

Quite dense, isn't it? I wonder how it will block out? How many unsecured ssk's will burst open into nasty holes? I will use it as a curtain for a small window, perhaps for the window in the front door if it's nice.

Next time, I'll write about our trip to Vik and the yarn shop at Þingborg.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

And on and on...

Re the comments

Mary Lou, I keep hearing about the article in Piecework. Must have a look. 

Anonymous points out thatTKGA will be in Buffalo this August, and Galina will be there? Well, we are lucky then. There's something about the show here.

Jasmin - Yes, I really do think that interviews of this kind are definitely worth preserving. The Internet Archive can be hit and miss, but more and more, libraries are subscribing to software like Archiv-it that help them collect and preserve web sites. There's some knitting content there, but I wonder if there is a library that has decided to collect knitting sites in particular. What's that British library with the big knitting/fibre collection? Anyway, Jasmin, thanks again for the podcasts!

More Iceland

On Tuesday we had a super 6 km hike in the hills behind the H. golf course. There were warm springs and pools and there was supposed to be somewhere you could bathe, but frankly it was too cold so I satisfied myself with taking off my shoes and socks and wading in the warm water.

The following day, we hopped in the car and drove the south coast roads west to Seltun, Grindavik and on to the Blue Lagoon. It was slow going because we didn't have a 4 wheel drive, but we were careful and the car was OKAY. Going slow meant that I got a good look at the lava formations along the way. Black lava, green moss. Mmmm.

In Grindavik there was a lovely white cat behind a window, and a little black dog that accompanied us around the town. No yarn until Thursday.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Galina, Galina...

Listened to this long but interesting interview with Galina Khmeleva of Skaska Designs who I seem to go on about from time to time. It's on a podcast called The Knitmore Girls, which I had never heard of. A few days later they did an interview with Cheryle Oberle, designer of the North Sea Shawl among other things. I haven't listened to that one yet, but I think that these interviews will be important documents in knitting history and I hope they will somehow be preserved. It does not seem to be covered by the Internet Archive, alas.

I hope that we can lure Galina to Western New York and knit with her again one of these days.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

In the End

When I returned from vacation last week, Iceland was still very present in my mind. I was convinced that each evening I would write a post detailing one day of travel. Ha ha. A week later, overcome by the day to day, I've begun to loose the thread. And, of course, there are new things to report. 

So, I've decided to abandon the chronological approach and just see where things go. Of course, I will start with knitting.

My airplane knitting project was a a birthday present and I can't show it yet. Before finishing it, when I came to the nupps section (hint for knitters), my bamboo needle broke. A search for a replacement led to my first visit to an Icelandic yarn shop, in Hveragerði. It's in their mall, right when you come into town off the main highway, on the right. The shop is quite similar to our yarn shops (and so are their grocery stores) except that they have plenty of Icelandic yarn. 

In addition to finding needles, I was anxious to try out Plötulopi, an unspun, 1 ply yarn which is sold in wheels or plates. I had been cautioned to avoid it because of its fragility. Of course, this caution made it the first yarn I looked for. I bought a plate of dark blue and swatched a mitten shape that evening. I had no problem knitting it. It broke a few times, not when knitting, but when I carelessly pulled on it when walking by. It was easy to reattach by rolling the two broken bits together in my fingers. Here's what the plates look like. I frogged it without breaking the yarn at all. One plate cost the equivalent of $2.50 US.

Here's a photo of some carefully cultivated birches in Hveragerði.

On the second day of our visit, after visits to Gullfoss and Geysir under cloudy skies, we experienced our first Icelandic sunset. Here's a photo from Geysir, where there were masses of tourists:

And one from Gullfoss:

The sunsets are gorgeous and go on for hours. We quickly learned to modify our travel plans and follow the sun. This was taken in a churchyard between Selfoss and Hveragerði.