My beautiful yarn souvenirs

We went on a Baltic cruise in October, and while we loved every single thing about the amazing cities we visited, as a knitter, I was truly in wooly heaven. At most ports our itineraries were fairly busy and we didn't have time to seek out knit shops, but at three stops we did have time to visit a knit store, sometimes two. Yarn souvenirs are about the only souvenirs I take home these days and is why my stash never seems under control!

In Helsinki we had an extra hour, thank heavens, because I really wanted to do some wool shopping there. I found two knitting shops downtown, both within walking distance of each other. Snurre was my favorite with a lovely selection of yarn; even my hubbie was impressed with this large and airy shop. In Helsinki I was looking for one specific yarn: Tukuwool. I don't think a knitter can visit Finland without coming home with Tukuwool, Finland's most famous yarn brand. I purchased a sweater's worth of an earthy fingering weight wool; a blend of Finnish bred Finnsheep and Finnsheep/Texel crossbreed. The yarn is also spun and dyed in Finland making it a truly 100% Finnish souvenir.  I can't wait to get my needles on it! 


Airy as an art gallery!


A bed of Hedgehog!

If you have time to visit a second shop in Helsinki, I would visit FiinaNeule. It was only a 5-10 minute walk from Snurre. It's a tinier shop, but very charming and the salesgirl was a sweetie. I purchased some Norwegian fingering weight machine washable wool for a Christmas sweater for Carter. It's a Rowan flagship store and I thought their prices were comparable to what we expect to pay in the states.





We spent three days in Copenhagen so shopping for yarn was no problem. We visited two yarn shops and both were within walking distance from our hotel, and about a ten minute walk from each other.  They both were charming and lovely for different reasons and am so glad I had time to visit both! The first was Uld Stedet, tiny and busy, with lots of interesting choices. I happily settled on a sweater's worth of sport weight wool from a Danish company. Hjelholts Merinogarn is merino sourced from the Falkland Islands and feels lovely. 





The next little shop in Copenhagen was throughly charming; Sommerfuglen had a lovely selection of yarn, including a lot of Isager, and while I love Isager, I can purchase that here. Instead I like to look for yarn I cannot find at home. I bought a little package of nine tiny 25 gr. skeins of soft pastels of organic cotton--enough for a sweater for Carter.  Sommerfuglen had some great knitted sweater samples to admire including two beautiful examples of Pengueno by Stephen West. I could have spent hours here but I'm traveling with my patient husband and so I was quick, but thorough. BTW, my husband loved the Penguenos and wants me to make one.



Penguono!




In Tallin, Estonia, I was certain I'd find many examples of lace and that I would ramble into at least a few knitting shops, but I really did not. Many shops carry wool, but much of it was unlabeled. Estonia is also known for their felted wool. It's very thick and sturdy and comes in natural colors only. With it they make the most gorgeous slippers, hats, mittens and even Christmas ornaments. I purchased a roll of gorgeous, thick, off-white felt to make trivets to replace my own very tattered trivets. I think I will just cut it up into squares and maybe do a little buttonhole embroidery on the edges.  I feel so lucky to have this yummy roll as a souvenir from such a pretty little city.

We're leaving soon for a trip to New Orleans. I read that they have a knit store there 😉.



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Poppy Fade














The picture above was taken at the Children's Discovery Museum in San Jose where they have a retired fire truck the children can play in. Carter was in heaven! While walking around the museum, several mothers asked me where I got his sweater. When I told them I made it they asked if I did commissions! I do not! Well, it is a very handsome sweater and really does stand out, so I can see why they would want one. Lucky for you and me, we knit, so you can make one too. Here's how:

The pattern is the free Flax Light from Tin Can Knits. It comes in sizes from newborn to XLL adult. I made this with oddments of sock yarns and Madeline Tosh Unicorn Tails left over from an abandoned scarf project. 

Here's how I did the fade: Start by gathering colors and placing them in an order that is pleasing, allowing that you may have to abandon and/or add colors as the knitting progresses. Originally I had quite a few pale and medium pinks in the mix but I had to leave them out because the bolder colors were looking best. With your first color, knit until you are approximately two-thirds finished with it, or until you want to change colors. Then at the BOR, add color #2 alternating every other row with color #1 until color #1 is done. Knit with color #2 until it is two-thirds finished and then introduce color #3. Continue adding colors in this way. I did the sleeves last: take the remaining yarns and weigh each and divide them in half. In this way you'll be able to have matching sleeves. The two pictures below show the colors best. There are hot pinks, purples, reds, wines, burgundys, browns and grays. When I ran out of those I added gold at the sleeve cuffs. I think I used at least 18 colors with some having only a few yards. Lots of ends to weave in but I don't mind that.

Fades and stripes are a good way to use up wee bits of yarn and combined with the free Flax pattern, you'll end up with a free sweater! Even though this sweater thoroughly busted my Unicorn Tail collection I've still got some blacks and grays and gold fingering weights I'm playing with for my next toddler fade. Dramatic!

I made the size four for my two year old grandson and I feel this sweater runs a bit small. The neck is too wide for my taste and can look sloppy on a little one. I knew this from previous Flax experience and while I thought I made a correction this time by casting on for the next smaller size, it was not enough of a correction and could be smaller. If you do cast on less stitches to get a smaller neck, you will somehow have to get the stitches back. Here's how I added the stitches back: after the ribbing was finished, I knit a row, still with the smaller needles, and in this row I added them by using a M1 at even intervals. It's easy and as long as you don't have to add too many, it is not noticeable at all.  After the fact, if the neck is loose, you can always crochet an edging and that will tighten it up. I may do that with this sweater although it's not really that loose.





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Almond Shortbread



Baking weather is here! My favorite never-fail go-to cookie recipe is the classic shortbread. Today's variation has the addition of almonds: almond flour, almond extract, and sliced almonds. I served it for guests this weekend and everyone raved and asked for the recipe. It's also a good one for baking with children. My two year old grandson had a lot of fun helping me with this batch. He helped me scoop, level off, count and mix.  He was also in charge of patting the shortbread into the pan, pricking it with a fork, and sprinkling the sugar. He also helped me eat them!

These are perfectly crumbly, buttery, and not-too-sweet with a lovely almond flavor. Add this one to your Christmas cookie repertoire, you'll be so glad you did, especially if you are pressed for time because this one is a quickie! It is easily doubled.

Almond Shortbread

10 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar (plus 2 tablespoons)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract 
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal or almond flour
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Prepare an 8-9 inch square or round pan by spraying with cooking spray. If the pan does not have a removable bottom, cut a piece of parchment paper to fit pan and spray with cooking spray.

In a mixer bowl beat butter, 1/3 cup sugar, salt, vanilla and almond extracts until fluffy.  Mix in flours, then sliced almonds.  Press into a buttered and floured 8" round cake tin or 8" sq. pan and sprinkle with additional 2 tablespoons sugar.  Pierce all over with fork tines. Bake at 325 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool on rack for 20 minutes. Remove from pan and while it is still warm,  cut into wedges or squares.  Yields 16 2" squares.





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The Hazelbrook Vest






















The last picture is precious to me. Carter calls this walkway, "the scary place." I see what he means; it's very dark because of the dense ivy walls and the wisteria that grows over the pergola, and it does seem far away from the house, especially if you are two years old. We usually hold hands when we walk under the long pergola, but on this morning, with no warning, he let go of my hand and burst into a run to show me how courageous he was by running through by himself. He waited for me at the end and called for me to follow; "Grammy, it is ok. I will watch you." This little boy...💕.

This is the Hazelbrook Vest by Vera of OGE Knitwear, from Sydney, Australia. Vera makes the most adorable and affordable children's knitting patterns and I am one of her biggest fans. Her patterns are well written and easy to follow. This simple vest uses just a few easy knit stitch variations to create pretty textured stripes. I love the roomy fit, the big buttons, and the fold down collar.

I bought this yarn last year on a trip to Bar Harbor, Maine. At Bee's Knitting Bar I purchased 2 skeins of Mousam Falls, an aran weight 100% superwash wool by JaggerSpun, a Maine based company. I think yarn souvenirs are the best souvenirs, especially if the yarn is made right where I bought it. While this is a superwash, it is not stretchy when wet (like so many superwashes) and is easily patted into shape to dry flat. I know the sweater is white and needs to go in the wash tub after one wearing and I don't care! I never mind washing a sweater--and I offer a free sweater-washing service for my grandchildren anyway. 😇 This yarn is lovely to knit and I cannot wait to use it again. It would make beautiful cables.

Bee's
59 Cottage St., Bar Harbor, Maine

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