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Copenhagen Dreaming

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I moved to Copenhagen in 1995 to start university. It was a hot July day, but my student hall kitchen had a fire escape from which you could watch the Tivoli Garden fireworks and the Vor Frelsers Kirke spire. I listened a lot to the Danish band Love Shop while I biked around town. I sat in cemeteries/parks reading the massive Victorian novels required for my coursework and met some of the best people I know in small cafes. Copenhagen remained my base as I travelled a lot from Norway, Sweden and Scotland to New Zealand. I always returned home to the fire escape and the best view in town. I graduated and bought a flat on the other side of town. I spent most of my time with friends in the Nørrebro and Vesterbro districts – and occasionally biked across my beloved Langebro (obligatory Love Shop link). I left Copenhagen for Glasgow in 2006, but Copenhagen is still home. DSC00820

On Saturday night one of my oldest and dearest friends ran for his life in Inner Copenhagen. Without going into details, I am so very grateful that he is still alive and well. I have very mixed feelings about how the media narrative surrounding the incidents was set up from the get-go, how things were interpreted on the ground, the extent of the media coverage and what the probable aftermath in Danish politics will be. But, I don’t write about politics on this blog and I have no intention of starting. I just feel very far away from a city I love so much and my friends who are all so very dear to me.

So, I’m (yet again) restarting my project of sharing beautiful things and celebrating all the things in life that matter to me.

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This is my first “selfish” project in a very, very long time. I’m knitting the Hetty cardigan by Andi Satterlund in Cascade 220 (shade “Birch Heather”). I am hoping to complete it in time for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I chose Hetty because I love the silhouette but also because I wanted to learn more about a structured top-down construction. The pattern is fun to knit (though I freely admit rewriting it so it suits my brain) and the construction is interesting. I have four skeins of the yarn and I’ve opted for the L size (though it does look tiny and I should maybe have gone for the size up, but I trust Andi’s sizing comments).

In other news, I released the second instalment of the Old Maiden Aunt/Karie Westermann 2015 Sock Club on Friday. The pattern is called Mad Larks and it is knitted in a gorgeous, rich and layered brown shade. The Byatt KAL is going great over in my group – please do join in! We are having great fun discussing colour options, how to customise Byatt and if anybody would freely admit to being a Hufflepuff!

Finally, I am exceptionally honoured to announce that The Island Wool Company has set up a Designer Collective and that I am one of the six designers involved. We are all very passionate about North Atlantic knitting traditions and we are huge fans of the yarns that the Island Wool Company works so hard to bring to a larger audience. I look forward to reinterpreting and communicating a very strong knitting heritage – one in which I am lucky to have a very small stake.

Beauty exists and I’ll do my very best to keep bringing more beauty into this world.

The Spirit of the Stairs

This is a non-knitting post, so if you are here for the knits & purls, feel free to skip this!

I live in the UK, but I was born in Denmark. This makes me an immigrant – an EU immigrant, to be precise. I settled permanently in the UK because I fell in love with a Scotsman. Luckily, I also fell in love with Scotland and this is my home now. My Bella Caledonia. However, I was racially abused yesterday in a manner that left me shaking and upset.davekarina

Nine years ago Dave & I were talking about wanting to live together and we had to decide where that should be. We decided the UK would be the best option because Denmark has huge problems with racism and xenophobia. The Danish People’s Party is a right-wing anti-immigration party which is considered mainstream in Denmark (it has just polled as the biggest party in Denmark, incidentally) and it sets the media agenda in Denmark. Did we want to live somewhere where Dave’s accent would always set him apart and he’d never really be considered welcome? No. Did we want to live somewhere where his name and lack of Danish language skills would affect his job opportunities severely? No.

I’ve now lived in Glasgow eight years now and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I was worried about racism before I moved across, but it has been manageable so far. I’ve had a few drunks shouting things about foreigners, but that’s easy to shrug off. The drunks also recant as soon as I point out I’m a foreigner: Eh, I didnae mean you, hen! I have one kind individual occasionally forwarding me anti-immigration articles (you know who you are) but I find that somewhat amusing.

November 2013 166In recent years the UK has seen the rise of anti-immigration rhetoric. From British Jobs For British People slogans to blaming foreigners for a National Health System struggling to cope with budget cuts. Britain even has its own anti-immigration party now which enjoys disproportional media coverage. I have a strong feeling of deja-vu as sentiments I recognise from Denmark have spread to the UK.  Encouraged by certain corners of UK media, it has become more and more acceptable to say things that are overtly racist. Being one of those pesky EU immigrants blamed for everything from how sandwiches are made to pot holes in the roads, it is rather disconcerting.

 

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Yesterday I was travelling from Glasgow to Edinburgh when I found myself next to a nice 50-something lady with nice hair, sensible shoes, a jolly yellow rain jacket and a posh accent. Without any prompting she began to inform everyone around us that Polish drivers were to blame for British road accidents, that Europeans had a different driving culture (“if you can call it culture“), that she once went to Germany and was shocked by how drivers did not stop for her when she crossed the street, and how foreigners coming to Britain needed to sit a driving exam before being allowed to drive on good British roads filled with decent Britons (although when challenged, she allowed that tourists may have a fortnightly exemption if they pledged to be law-abiding). This was the start of an hour-long monologue directed at different people around her. EU immigrants were welfare benefit cheats, killing people on the streets, stealing jobs from honest Britons, invading Britain under the cover of EU laws, intent on destroying Britain &c. The solution was clear, according to the nice lady. All foreigners should be thrown out of Britain! “What we need is a revolution!

At the beginning I was tempted to interject. I wanted to challenge her on what she was saying but I didn’t. Instead I started shaking. She noticed – oh, she noticed – as did a nice gentleman across from me who started talking to me about the sock I was knitting. Eventually I began laughing every time she said something particularly outrageous. It was a choice between laughter and tears – and I did not want to show her any tears. My laughter shut her up, finally, and she spent the rest of the journey reading a certain right-wing newspaper.

Today I have made plenty of speeches in my head. I’ve worked out all the things I could have said to her – “I am one of those EU immigrants you fear so much. Look at me. I hold two university degrees. I’ve never claimed any benefits. I run my own business. In my own country, people are saying all those things about my Scottish partner. What do you want us to do?” – but that is the spirit of the stairs talking. I have had racial abuse hurled at me before but it has always been by people I could dismiss as either drunk or incredibly stupid* – it is less easy to dismiss a a nice 50-something lady with a posh accent. It is scary because she is the type of woman who is recognisably, reassuringly an upstanding member of society.

Dolores Umbridge. Picture via Warner Brothers.

Picture via Warner Brothers.

(* a nod to the guy who shouted “go back to your pervert country, you terrorist” at me on the day after 7/7. I was biking through Copenhagen wearing a tank-top and shorts – both items of clothing not usually associated with Islamist terrorists, but I guess my dark hair & my light tan confused him.)

Seasonal Greetings

Copenhagen

2013 was an odd year for me. It started out in spectacular fashion with the Edinburgh Yarn Fest and the year never slowed down for me. In years to come I think I’ll look back upon 2013 with much more clarity than I am able to muster right now.

I took some time off recently. I went to London for work purposes and ended up at the Pom Pom Magazine’s Pop-Up Xmas Party. It was an appropriate book-end to my year – sipping festive G&Ts with knitting friends and us trying to make sense of it all. I am not sure that we managed to do so but the cheese board was excellent. Onwards to Denmark where I visited family before spending five days in lovely Copenhagen (where I took the photo of the florists on Kultorvet). I spent time with close friends and relaxed for the first time in almost a year.

And now I am back in Glasgow and it is Christmas. 2013 is almost at an end. What an odd year. So brilliant in so many ways and so spectacularly different from everything I had imagined.

Seasonal greetings to you – no matter who you are, where you are, and how/if you choose to celebrate the next few days.

Denmark 2012: A Bit of History & A Lot of Knitting (part 3)

Photo Shoot Feb 2012Denmark was not just us larking about Viking settlements or eating six types of pork for lunch (true fact!). Denmark was also about knitting.

I had a photo shoot! I am about to release a new pattern – Elsinore – and we had the photo shoot in the middle of the Kastellet fortifications in northern Copenhagen.

It was an incredible cold day, so whenever there was a break in the shoot, I rushed forth to wrap a warm cardigan around the brave model. The photos turned out amazing. Stay tuned!

I also met up with Signest, aka Signe Simonsen who has been published in Knitty, Twist Collective and Petite Purls among other places. She is one of my favourite designers for innovative, colourful and bold childrenswear (check ouWrapped In Wordst the Nova dress and the Viola hat!) but Signe has several, several strings to her bow as you are sure to find out in months to come. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at a design she is currently working on for Danish yarn company Filcolana.

And Signe’s also the genius behind my current favourite attire, the I YARN CPH tee. Sorry about the photo – it is not the most flattering one of me but it is the only one I have of me wearing the tee.

Yes, I rather liked Peter Greenaway’s The Pillow Book. Why do you ask?

Oh, and there was yarn. Nothing really, really fascinating because I only had a few hours to spare so I could not explore new yarns, but I did buy a vast amount of yarn: mainly laceweight – which shocks no one – and mainly of the North Atlantic variety – which should shock absolutely no one either.

My usual Snældan yarn pusher had shut down since my last visit to Copenhagen, so I ‘settled’ for some more Navia Uno from Jorun Garn in Frederiksberg. They have similar fiber content (though the Navia introduces some merino into the blend) but the construction is slightly different. The Snældan is a slightly overspun  single ply whereas Navia Uno is plied with a tightly spun ‘thread’ around a soft wool core. Navia Uno works up slightly softer than Snældan but has a smidgen less stitch definition. In other words, I should not be writing about ‘settling’ for anything as the two yarns are so similar and so beautiful. I am just concerned about minutiae.

Alt Om HåndarbejdeAnd then I visited a charity shop where I uncovered a pile of Alt om Håndarbejde (eng: All About Crafts) magazines from the 1970s.

Alt om was really instrumental in kickstarting my lifelong love of all things crafty and I remember trying out loads of their easy kids’ projects when I was a kid. I even think the first garment I ever made for myself (a pair of shorts!) was from an Alt om pattern.

Some of the projects are just outlandish seen with today’s eyes but others transcend their time period with aplomb. I only took some of the magazines with me (the rest are staying with my mum until further notice) but I picked a few with fantastic sewing patterns for dresses and skirts. I don’t think I shall ever outgrow my 1970s dress sense..Alt Om Håndarbejde

There are also quite a few big knitting projects that I can admire knowing I will never ever knit them. Just look at that coat. It is absolutely stunning. I have instructed my grandmother to snap up any old Alt Om that she might come across as the tutorials are worth their weight in gold.

I tried finding Alt Om‘s modern incarnation – the rather splendid Symagasinet which is all about sewing – but the local shops let me down. Earlier this year I also contacted the publisher about a possible subscription but the shipping costs were ridiculous, so I dropped that idea. Oh, Scandinavia, why do you taunt me so?

Anyway. To come: a brand-new pattern release, news about other patterns, some FOs and so forth. My life’s really busy right now!

Home Again

Tissø, Denmark

Came back from a week in Denmark today. Minor case of culture shock.

Kaffeslabbaras

Ah, everything Danish is super-hip in Britain right now thanks to The Killing/Forbrydelsen and mid-century modern design yadda yadda yadda. Did you know that I am Danish? I don’t consider myself super-hip, though, and I had my reasons for leaving Denmark.

But it is lovely to see Denmark + fashion + knitting. It makes me feel proud (and very homesick) to see this video:

KAFFESLABBERAS // MADS AND ERNA (SUBTITLED) from Kaffeslabberas on Vimeo.

‘Kaffeslabberas’ is a knitting club in the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Amager. Its members are female pensioners, whose rich history and zest for life overshadows their advanced age. This project partners up these ladies with Danish artists and designers, with the intent of creating a connection across generations, through the strengths of craftmanship, diversity and experience.

I wish the subtitles were grammatically correct and the spelling was better, but we can’t have everything.

Thank you to Angela for pointing out the article and video.

The Week That Was

Last weekend I took part in a crochet workshop taught by designer and author Carol Meldrum. Carol was running a class called “Love Wool? Love Crochet!” to celebrate Wool Week 2011 and to promote her new book, Love Crochet. I wasn’t able to stay for the entire workshop, but I have been bitten by the crochet bug ever since.

Following Carol’s pattern (from an old Rowan magazine), I made a necklace from some mercerised cotton and a leather string. It was super-easy and very quick. I think it took me about an hour from the initial idea to the finished object. The leather string’s a bit too skinny, but I’m still quite pleased with the result.

My partner snapped a photo of me wearing the necklace that very evening. I do apologise for lack of make-up/styling and the crap indoors lightning, but you can clearly see how smug I am about my lovely new accessory.

In other crafting news, I have purchased some black corduroy and I am very excited about making another skirt. I have a very, very specific idea for this skirt. I’ll need to try my idea first, though, as it could be a complete disaster. I tried googling my idea but everything I find is twee crap. I am many things, but I am not twee.

This week I have been grabbling with Apple as someone in Canada has set up an account using my email address as her AppleID. Personally I would have thought that Apple have checked that her email was her own, but apparently not. I am currently on my fourth (rather terse) email to Customer Support. I am not impressed. Definitely not impressed.

This week Something Very Good happened. Denmark finally decided that they had had enough of xenophobic party Danish People’s Party being the kingmaker in Danish politics. Cue Denmark’s first female prime minister.  The DPP played a part in me deciding to leave Denmark and when I heard they were not longer the power behind the throne, I shed a small tear. I cannot begin to express my relief – although I think it will take a lot of time to undo their damage (Denmark has some of the strictest immigration laws in Europe and you encounter casual racism everywhere).

The Danish essayist Carsten Jensen wrote an excellent column (google translate + tweaked quickly by me). I do not agree with everything he wrote, but this passage really struck a nerve.

Something went terribly wrong in Denmark during the past decade. We did not just damage the foreigners who found themselves among us, whether they were refugees or immigrants and their descendants. We did not just damage the countries whose domestic problems became ours thanks to reckless wars.We also did moral damage to ourselves, and the marginal, ambiguous election victory of the Left shows a lack of willingness to confront ourselves – something which we must inevitably must do, if we are to forge ahead and not only think about growth, but also morality and humanity. We have toyed with callousness too long, and this has left an unhealthy cynicism within us.

Here is to better times.

Evidence of Knitting

“You know, you never post anything about knitting anymore,” my friend said. When I looked back at recent blog posts, I was startled to find that she was right. I write a lot about potential knitting but I rarely post about Stuff Wot I Have Knitted. Clearly I need to make amends although I have not been knitting super-exciting things.

May 2011 056The Skald shawl. Looks pretty, non?

I chose to knit Spring Trellis by Linda Choo which is a free Ravelry pattern (and well-written too). I ended up running out of yarn and had to omit the nupps on the border. I quite like the contrast between the lace and the solid border, but would have preferred the shawl with nupps.

The yarn was Sirri Tógv 1ply – a Faroese wool which I purchased on my last visit to the mothership Copenhagen. I loved working with it: it was rustic, sheepy, woolly, and beautifully unprocessed. However, it took five rinses to get all the natural lanolin out and instead of the soft, gorgeous fabric I had imagined, Sorri 1ply had bloomed to such a degree that my shawl looks like a cat has slept on it. No, like a cat has slept on it for weeks.  The marriage between pattern and yarn proved to be an unhappy one – the yarn would have worked far better in a simple garterstitch shawl – and lessons have been learned.

I have more Sirri yarn kicking about. I’ll need to think carefully about what to do with it.

May 2011 080I got as far as the yoke on my Fenris jumper when I realised I had to rip it out. I loved that yoke, I tell you. I had combined Nordic motifs that I’ve known and loved my entire life – particular that wheel design which reminds me of the Trundholm Sun Chariot. The Chariot was found very close to where I grew up and the Bronze Age wheel motif is so .. it is part of my psyche, you know?

For the body and sleeves I used a pure wool aran (sold to me as bulky!) which I bought at a very favourable price in my mum’s local supermarket. Denmark’s great for yarn, I swear (although not so great in other ways but that’s for another day). I used remnants of New Lanark aran for the colourwork yoke. A big thank you to Paula and Bronwen who gave me scraps that I’ll incorporate – in that way the jumper won’t just represent Denmark but also Scotland.

June 2011 254A bit of a departure for me: baby knitting! A colleague is expecting a baby and I wanted to make her something she’ll actually use (rather than a fancy baby cardigan that’ll languish in a drawer).

The patterns are from Erika Knight’s excellent Natural Nursery Knits (probably my favourite baby knitting book) and I used oddments of Patons Washed Haze DK. I really like the booties, actually. They are knitted flat, then seamed quickly up the back. I managed to squeeze out a pair during one knitting group session. Score.
April 2011 154

Finally, a black hat. I still need to do a modelled shot, but the weather has been too good!

I used some workhorse aran (again from my mum’s supermarket) and got the general gist from a Norwegian hat pattern although I didn’t follow the pattern exactly (I lost it, ok?).  I knitted this with winter in mind. Last year I knitted Intuitive and loved it for about two weeks before I lost it on a northbound bus. I am not going to face another winter without a black hat.

I’m currently working on a laceweight version of Karise. There won’t be a separate pattern for the laceweight version – just some extra numbers added to the pattern.

So, yes, I do knit. Look! Evidence!

Home Is Where The Baked Beans Tins Are Stacked

“It’s a really nice day outside, you know,” said my partner when he called. I know and I’m heading outside with my working-from-home bits in just a second, but first I wanted to share a video I came across the other day.

Felice Cohen lives in a 90 sq-foot/8 sq-metre apartment in Manhattan, New York. This is her choice and I respect her for the decision. However, it brought me back to the eight years I spent living in a 16 square-metre/170 square-foot pad in Copenhagen.

I moved into my place when I was 19 and just started university. The first few years I loved my haven: I shared a huge kitchen with other students and we had a great time getting used to living away from home. Then the building was refurbished; my little pad suddenly had a kitchenette where I once had storage; and student life got mixed up with people who lived there because they had split up with their partner or because the authorities thought it a good place for “vulnerable adults” to mix with “normal people”. Things got very claustrophobic. These were the times when I bought an obscene amount of interior design magazines just to fly away on escapist dreams.

Copenhagen is a very expensive city – including real estate – so moving elsewhere was not an option for many years. One of my friends coined the phrase “3D Tetris” which was terribly apt. Finding room for your tin of baked beans became a competitive sport at times. I look at that video of Felice Cohen and I can see several ways she could use her space better. And I’m not a naturally organised person. The space has a high ceiling and I’d utilise that height a lot more.

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I still miss this view

Eventually I got my own flat with a separate kitchen (it felt like such a triumph), but it was a real Copenhagen apartment with no bathroom (the shower was in the bedroom I rented out), a tiny toilet (you’d bang your knees on the door when you sat down), and no laundry facilities.

At the time I thought I was happy there but it was a place where time fell into the cracks between the floor-boards and I was actually terribly unhappy there. I lived there for two or three years. I miss the view from the kitchen but that is all.

What home means is such a difficult thing to pinpoint but I know what it is like not having one (I lived in my suitcase for a year. I cannot recommend this). Home means privacy. I shut the front door and shut out the world. Home means space. I can stretch out my arms and not touch walls. Home means peace. I can relax and be quiet. And home means my partner. This is exceptionally sappy, of course, but it is very difficult to imagine a home without him curled up with a book.

Now I’m off to grab my iPod (loaded with Danish-languaged postcasts on culture, society and language), my work and I’m heading out into my Glasgow version of Ms Cohen’s Central Park. Enjoy your day.

FO: Coloured In

Colourful

Sometimes I tell myself: “I’m way closer to Four-Oh than I am to Two-Oh. I should start dressing my age. Maybe tone things down a bit. Invest in sensible, long-term wardrobe staples. Get a couple of timeless pieces in neutral colours.” Clearly I don’t listen to myself.

Pictured alongside my favourite coat: the very gawjuss Kaffe Goes Bollywood wrap. You can find the specifics at the Ravelry page, of course, so it suffices to say that I am pretty damn happy with it. It is too long, though, as you might be able to tell and so I’m primarily wearing it as a scarf (wrapped around several times) so next time I make one, I’ll cast on fewer stitches and do 130-150 rows total.

Headline of the day comes courtesy of a Danish local newspaper: Knitting Ladies’ Vandalising Rampage Through Broager (equivalent to the UK’s Flitwick or Crewes: tiny and outskirtsy). If you are really keen, you can try Google Translate on the article but, in short, even rural Denmark has discovered yarn-bombing.. Bless.