A weekend in Amsterdam

Avertissement préalable : vous voyez le genre de personne vissée à son appareil photo, en particulier en vacances, qui immortalise chaque moment, jusqu’à prendre un cliché des toilettes des restaus ?

Warning: there are people who spend holidays literally behind their cameras, taking pictures at every second including toilets in a restaurant.

Well I am not exactly like that and given I do not have a smartphone I can’t really make up for my photo laziness. So my apologies this is not classic traveling post fraught with dozens of amazing pics.

 

 

A weekend in Amsterdam… Our accomodation option was a room at a family’s place via Airbnb. That is partly because budget hotels (well, around 80 euros per night for a double room with private bathroom) have rather annoying booking policies, either demanding that you should book at least three nights or Saturday AND Sunday nights.

 

We therefore spent two nights at a lovely family’s in iJburg, a large residential, family-friendly neighbourhood located on an artifical island with amazing modern architecture and parks, truly a nice and interesting urbanistic space – the weather was so great we even went to the iJburg beach!

 

iJburg island is ten minute away from the Centraal station via tram.

 

For another striking architectural experience, the Entrepotdok (Eastern neighborourhood) is the place to go – it consists in former warehouses turned into accomodation and offices by a lovely canal.

More generally speaking, walking about the Eastern part of Amsterdam is a good way to escape the crowded streets of the city centre. You can relax in the Oosterpark and/or drink a craft beer in the brewery by the De Gooyer Mill.

 

Of course we also went to the Red Light District and the Historic city centre. The former, although it is definitely a must-see, can become slightly tiresome due to the massive groups of noisy, intoxicated tourists, not to mention the aggressive cycling that makes the helpless pedestrian fear for their lives. In short, it is funny but slightly oppressive.

Still for the must-see visits/sights, we wanted to go to Rijksmuseum which attracts millions of tourists thanks to Rembrandt’s canvas (the Night Watch is like a Dutch Mona Lisa) and Vermeer’s, but the museum is full of surprises with a cool V&A musem twist (jewelry, doll houses (!)) and a XIXth century gallery where I discovered Isaac Israels’s paintings.

And of course, the Jordaan district complete with picturesque canals, lovely cafés and trendy shops is very agreeable walk in the city.

 

 

Couple of tips if you plan to visit

– Museums are expensive, even for permanent galleries, about 15 euros. There is an Iamsterdam pass which costs 40 euros which can be an option if you want to do several museums (which we did not because the weather was so nice).

– I was disappointed by the food offer: you should know that most restaurants are simply closed for lunch (when it’s cheaper to enjoy fine restaurants). People just go for eetcafés, but they can be pricey for random food quality.

Amsterdam has a Chinatown just by the Red Light District which is a decent option: during the weekend, we had dinner in a small Indonesien restaurant (THE exotic food in Holland), Bunga Mawar which has small selection of dishes, home-cooked food and cheap prices.

By the way, you don’t order tapwater in a Dutch restaurant, you pay for every drink.

 

 

 

So, Areyoumsterdam ?

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Knitting in Amsterdam!

 

Hiya – or should I say Hallo, since I am about to tell you a few things about the weekend I have just spent in Amsterdam with my boyfriend.

I will write on our visits and experiences in a separate note, today I just wanted to give some helpful information for knitters going to Amsterdam.

 

 

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There are two main yarn/knitting supplies shops in Amsterdam, but I have only been to Penelope Craft, which is in a very nice, quiet street (Kerstraat 117), a stone’s throw from the Rijksmuseum – the ideal shopping place after having broadened one’s mind.

 

 

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The shop offers a wide range of gorgeous yarns, from local skeins (I will come back on this in a minute) to superstar yarns (Cascade, Madelintosh). The decoration of the place is very characteristic of indie yarn shops, with a Scandinavian touch and lovely knitted throws and amigurumis.

I particulary liked the “Unattented partners will get a beer and free WiFi” sign – only my boyfriend did not dare enter this place of knitting decadence and waited outside while I was doing my shopping.

 

In the end, I bought:

– Two skeins of hand-dyed yarn by Loret Karman – local Dutch stuff! Unfortunately, the shop was out of her Dutch Palettes, a collection of hand-dyed skeins made after Dutch paintings.

I picked unisex colours intending to knit a scarf for both my boyfriend and I to remind us of the weekend!

 

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– And a now traditional impulse buy, namely a skein of Danish tweed silk (BC Garn).

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The shop also has a weekly knitting group on Thursdays.

The other knitting shop is De Afstap, I have not been there but I read it had an impressive range of Rowan yarns beside Loret Karman hand-dyed skeins. It is very close from the lovely Jordaan district.

 

…Now who said that yarn was not exactly what I should have brought back from Amsterdam?

Knitting takes balls / Knitting celebs

As a tribute to the awareness campaign for male cancers during April, I wanted to write a proper post on male knitters in popular culture.

Are you ready for this?

The hairiest

images

Gromit

 The malest

Russell Crowe

The hottest (obviously)

Paul Rudd

 The most awkward

Chris Parnell (right), in the amazing Five-Year Engagement

The most eccentric

Gene Simmons (Kiss) ? Actually no, it is just a fun ad for hi-fi!

The most genuine knitter


David Arquette

The knitting Dodger

Ryan Gosling is a gorgeous man who no longer needs introduction and who repeatedly claimed that knitting was one of his hobbies (probably a token of his Mormon education). Problem: no visual evidence of Ryan Gosling’s knitting can be found on the Net. This did not prevent Internet users from creating a solid Internet meme on the subject:

Drop a comment if you think of other male knitters I could add to this list!

Knitting for Male Cancer Awareness

Today, I feel like talking of penises, wees, cocks etc. April is the month of Male Cancer Awareness. One of Oxford’s most active knitting groups, the Drunken Knit Wits  has decided to take part in a vast awareness campaign for research against Male Cancer:

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A few key facts

Around 2,300 men in the UK were diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2010.

Testicular cancer is rare before puberty but is the most common cancer of men aged 15-49 in the UK.

Incidence of testicular cancer has more than doubled in Britain since the mid-1970s.

Testicular cancer incidence is rising, particularly in white men.

 

Activities organized for the Knitting Takes Balls challenge include  (amazing pun) to teach willing men to knit and to make items to win during a big fundraising quiz event in a pub. Cherry  on the cake, we are also making a blanket made of amazing penis squares.

 

 

How can you be part of it:

  • You can donate at the following link to support the ODK campaign (no minimum amount – size does not matter in such questions)
  • You can share the info (I am sure you are very thrilled about having knitted penises on your social media and/or blog)
  • You can knit, of course! Here is our penis square chart (made by Janey) to be knitted with 4mm needles. Then we can arrange something for shipping or collecting if you live in the UK.

Further reading

Knitting Takes Balls FB page

Male Cancer Awareness Campaign Website

 

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The campaign is on during all April 😉 Many thanks to those who will help the project in one way or another !

DIY: Upgrading a birthday gift on a bus

Let me explain: on Saturday, I went to a birthday party.

The girl celebrating her birthday had recently taken up Portuguese so that the safest gift I could think of was Nobel Prize winner José Saramago. And if the novel was about an elephant on a journey, all the better.

Only the big library in Oxford would surprisingly not do gift wrapping and I was to hop on the bus to London straightaway. I still found that giving a plain book was a bit of a shame. So I made the most of a few minutes on the bus to give my gift a slight makeover.

Photo on 15-03-2014 at 14.54

Photo credits: a very nice girl on the bus

Fortunately, I always have some yarn leftovers and a crochet in my bag. I chained stitches for a while to make a fancy ribbon and I improvised a crochet bookmark, with 3dc rows and a tiny pom pom.

Well obviously the novel matters most but I was still happy to upgrade the gift with a minimum of supplies.

DIY Housewarming gift

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For housewarming parties I usually give mugs (nothing that sucks with lame taglines or nakedness, I promise). But I made an exception for the last one, and I am actually glad I did  because mugs were not exactly a missing item there, you almost felt that the poor chap with a terrible hangover who was about to open any cupboard for a coffee would instantly die in a mug avalanche.

Mill-knitted hang(ov)ers are both quite classical but fun at the same time. And it is a really quick knit, even if you add pom poms. All you need is a spool knitting or a knitting mill, simple wire hangers and pliers to untwist the top of your hanger. Then you just knit a looong tube, slightly longer than the total hanger length (just to be sure and it is easy to undo), untwist the wire and slip the tube on the wire. A mill-knitted tube does not slip very smoothly, but beginning with the hook makes it way easier (you can tug and thread your yarn tube at the same time).

For a fancy touch, I just added a couple of pom poms which doubtlessly adds a manly detail to this housewarming gift.

I used to do my pom pomps by coiling yarn around two fingers or around my hand, but I must say that these babies:

definitely make it easier for super (well-defined) balls ! It is the ideal option between the makeshift pom pom (hand/fork) and the cardboard disc thing that most people did when they were kid (here I must confess that pom pom making is sadly not part of my childhood memories).

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Craft shopping

After my post on my London WE which strayed from knitting matters, I thought I had to go back to basics. During this WE, the Woolen Republic GDP went through dramatic cuts, for the greater good.

From the most knitting-related purchase to craft-related home decoration, here is what I bought:

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Well, yarn, yarn and more yarn, straight from Loop shelves! From left to right, top to bottom:

a)Bright blue baby alpaca chunky (a fave of mine) from Misti Alpaca, a brand I had never heard of. How was I supposed to resist this huge, supersoft skein?

 

b)Two Blue Sky Alpaca Gold Dust Metallico skeins (I also have a thing for golden yarn, but I will be coming back on this pretty soon), half alpaca half silk, that is top quality yarn, with which I plan to make a shoulderette.

 

c)Tosh Sock yarn from Madelinetosh, a brand I had never heard of either. Sounds like someone is making a first foray into sock knitting really soon!

And there, some books:

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To be honest, I hardly buy any craft book – I think the Internet has an amazing range of patterns, and it also allowed some avid knitters to launch their own patterns, so I usually pick up my patterns on the Web.

But one may sometimes make exceptions:

 

My Crochet Doll by Isabelle Kessedjan is an amazing book to make lovely amigurumi dolls.

(Ok, I might have been influenced by the supersweet pictures)

Creative Cabling from Debbie Bliss has gorgeous patterns:

This great jumper will hopefully be mine in the next couples of weeks.

 

 

Lastly, I quite enjoy buying vaguely craft-related vintage stuff, and Camden Passage was the right place to shop.

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The picture caption says “Porter! Stop the train! I left my wool in it” (1915). 4£

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(Rabone ruler,  Moore&Wright callipers – only the vintage bobbins are from Portobello Market). 25£ for everything!

London Knitting (& other nice places)

(NB Very sadly I forgot to take my camera for my  weekend in London, so this post will only have Internet pics, with references and links provided of course).

(And I will post what I bought in the next article)

Last Friday, Mr Republic and I went to the vibrant English capital for a little weekend – I thought I should go to Angel station and have a look at the Loop Knitting Shop.

And I am  glad I did! First because the shop is right in Camden Passage (not related to the overcrowded and not-so alternative Camden Market) which has a very cool antique market on Saturdays (and  going there on Saturday is way nicer than going to the overcrowded and not- so-alternative Portobello market which still has some good stuff but where tourist crap definitely took the upper hand.).

(Source : Yelp)

But back to the knitting point. Loop is the place to go for any knitter visiting London as it is the candy shop equivalent for yarn! The shop has a huge range of different yarns, with many brands that are  not sold in France (even if you still find Malabrigo and other classical yarns). The decor is very sweet, with handmade pillows and cute knitted toys everywhere.

In a word, the place is worth visiting even if you do not want to buy anything! It is just too sweet to miss!

Source : Kitty Couture

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And while I am sharing my Londonian fave places, I’ll just stray from knitting-related topics for a minute:

RESTAURANT

Harwood Arms

The Harwood Arms is the first (and only?) pub to have one Michelin star – it is an ideal place to enjoy top quality British pub food. Locally sourced products, a cosy wooden decor – using hunting lodge elements but with some good taste- and a friendly staff have made the Harwood Arms a successful restaurant for a few years now.

Source : noreservation

The restaurant is a few minutes’ walk from Fulham Broadway.

Ordering from the menu will cost you about £40 per person but we had a weekday lunch and the three-course specials are 25 £ (20£ for two courses). We had a cauliflower soup with some almonds and savoury English muffin, slow-cooked lamb neck with artichokes and rosemary custard and a fresh mint tart with chocolate biscuit. I would not have spontaneously went for such products but it was all beautifully cooked.

HOTEL

Our ho(s)tel was not outstanding but we managed to get a double room with private bathroom for just 100£ a night. It was at the St James Backpackers, by Earls Court station. The price/quality ratio was good with full continental breakfast.

MUSEUM

Now I would not call  the Tate Britain a hidden gem but it’s still the museum I would advise someone to visit for a weekend, especially in the morning when there is almost nobody. Turner and Blake galleries are a must-see, but paintings by Bacon, Constable, Sickert, and many, many others from early XVIth century to present days will make it a valuable experience too.

Bienvenue!

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If you have made it to this blog, it means you are on the English version of a French knitting blog (congrats).

My name is Pauline and I will be living in Oxford this year, which is why I first decided to translate my posts into English (being now bilingual-knitwise). Some of them are not yet on this blog but are already translated, you can find them by clicking on the icon on your right.

(I want to thank the lovely French blogger Camille – who now lives in the States – for her advice. You can find her great knitting&sewing bilingual blog here).

 

Films and books are often my everyday life inspirations when it comes to knitting new projects, which is why the next post will be a knitted parody of a very famous film! Meanwhile, I am going to enjoy what seems to be a very sunny Sunday).

Stitches for Bitches# Charity knitting in Oxford

Today I feel like sharing a charity event that took place last Saturday at the Big Society Pub, Oxford. It was a knit-in to collect money for the Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary. While some little things, like accessories (for dogs and for the owners) and snacks were sold during the day, a party of merry knitters knitted away to make 6″ squares and  sewed them together into cosy blankets for the animals of the sanctuary.

Now you might think that knitting motley blankets for puppies sounds a litttle like  grannies knitting booties for their poodles (because I would not knit a blanket for my dog). But you should remember that the animals from  refuges usually arrived there in a pitiful state. They  often suffer from stress, fear, hypothermia, sometimes mange or physical injuries, so comfy bedding is a minimum – when there is no blanket, dogs sleep on old newspapers, that is why the sanctuary people actually asked that the Drunken Knit Wits would make blankets for them.

 

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I guess I should show you my two masterpieces for the cause: a terrific beige  garter stitch square a stockinette stitch one with two different yarns. Nine blankets were made this day, only short of a few squares from a tenth one and 80£ were raised.

 

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I am sharing this kind of event here because I tend to think that these spontaneous charity projects are way more common in the UK (or in the USA, in Canda…) than in France, while they would be quite easy to organise in my country too-all it takes is a nice café/bar, a money-box and a crew of nice knitters. So who knows, it might inspire other people, although I realize that these events are slowly developing in France too.