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Cardigan - a journey

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More than 10 years ago I moved back to Blönduós, a rural town in the north of Iceland with under 1000 inhabitants. I stayed for 3 years, forever proving that I'm in no place to judge other people's life decisions. I found ways to occupy my time. I learned how to ride a horse. I started my journey into becoming a nerd. And I created the wool used in this cardigan. I did not set out to make a cardigan from scratch. It all started with a patient with shoulder problems. He was a farmer and his pain was very much due to having spent the last months shearing sheep. I had a cat at this time, so I asked him if he could bring me some wool for her to play with. I don't know if he misunderstood my Icelandic, or was just generous, but at the next appointment he brought a whole garbage bag full of wool, fresh of a sheep. He named the sheep Christina.

The wool smelled. Badly to me, very interesting to my cat, who immediately wanted to crawl into the bag when I brought it home. It was clear to me that I needed to wash the wool before I could do anything with it. Fortunately I had a bath tub in my flat. It took me several rounds of filling and emptying my bathtub, sometimes with shampoo, until the water was not brown anymore. Using my bathtub was a mistake. The sieve above the drain did not stop the very fine and oily fibres and for the next two years I was constantly fighting with a clogged drain. I dried the wool on a bed sheet in my living room, my cat ecstatically rolling around in it for hours.
Meanwhile I did not know how to proceed. I vaguely knew that the wool had to be spun, but how to prepare it for this and how to spin (or where to get a rook from) was beyond me. Fortunately the internet knows everything and one can learn anything on youtube. The next step, google told me was to card the wool. I started asking around, and as luck would have it, one of my other patients had old hand carders from her grandmother. I was using carders you might find in museums in Iceland. I did not have the same luck finding a spindle or rook. In the end I constructed my own spindle. I used a wooden spoon, a small terracotta flowerpot, a wire and elastic. It worked surprisingly well.
For a year I alternated between carding and spinning. Carding was more like a chore, though much faster. It needed a lot more strength and the carders were too big to carry around. I loved spinning. There was a relaxing rhythm to it and I could carry my spindle and some wool in my bag. In the picture you can see me spinning on my Christmas break in Germany.

Skeins of wool were slowly accumulating in my closet, and my mind turned towards the next problem. What to do about the colour. For now the wool was in it's natural white, but it is not a colour I was particular found of. I started experimenting dyeing with plants, but there was the sheer amount of raw material which needed to be considered. Tea and coffee seemed to be my best options. I started collecting old tea bags and after talking to the kitchen in the health care centre I was working, they collected old coffee grounds for me. I dyed each skein separately, drying them wrapped around the back of a chair, using the opportunity to relax the wool I had spun a bit too tight. I forgot the exact method I used, the tea dyed much better than the coffee, so depending on the tea to coffee ratio each skein had a lightly different tone. Both the colour and the texture of the wool turned out really nice. The wool was much softer than the usual Icelandic wool, as I my wool had a much higher percentage of the soft under fleece, the Icelandic Lopi is mainly the tougher outer fibres (which is why it is so scratchy).

Having perfect wool now increased the pressure to knit a perfect cardigan. I started looking up patterns at My first choice was spoke, a pullover pattern, which could easily been changed into a cardigan.I quickly found out that the perl/knit stripes did not really work with my wool of irregular thickness and changed to a lace pattern. It worked really well, I implemented some nice decreasing within the lace pattern techniques, however, the whole cardigan turned out slightly too big, bulky due to the front panels overlapping and I never worked out how to fasten it. I also made a mistake in the arms, with the armhole being uncomfortable small. I did not wear the cardigan a lot. It hung around in my closet for almost five years and then I opened it up again and had the skeins of wool lying around for another 5 years. I decided to plan carefully. The first question was what style of cardigan is the kind I would wear the most? I settled on armande, I liked the vintage look, it would look good on a variety of clothes and as long as I knitted it in the right size, it would not be too bulky. Then I did some tests on which patterns would look good on the wool. I found that cables looked amazing as long as I had at least 3 and 3 stitches in the cable. I also found that a simple moss stitch looked amazing and brought out the texture of the wool. After a lot of research and knitting a lot of swatches, I finally started the cardigan version 2. Only to open it up again after knitting half, because I had miscalculated the size and it was too big. Third try was the charm, after knitting through all three extended editions of Lord of the Rings I finally finished the cardigan I had started 10 years earlier. It is perfect:

Maybe I do another one once I'm retired and bored, but not before.

Bread and Beer based gift society

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My bakery is still going. Maybe not strong, but steadily. I have a few paying customers, but more interestingly a friend of mine has started to make his own beer and we are now giving each other free beer and bread. It is not a trade per se, there is no x amount of beer traded for x amount of bread, but rather we are gifting each other our goods with the understanding of mutual generosity.
He is also giving me his left over barley from the brewing process, which gives both Hänsel and Gretel a nice country bread like taste. We gorged ourselfes on bread, cheese and wine at a meeting yesterday, which reminded me of my very first sourdough adventure in Chile. It also reminded me that I have much less fun baking bread for comercial reasons than for sharing and enjoying. Insert bread braking metaphor here. Bread and wine with friends, Jesus had the right idea there.

It's a chili pepper!

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So a few months ago I threw the seeds from a store bought chili pepper into a flower pot and waited to see what happened. It sprouted leaves, flowers and finally this happened:

There is only one at the moment, but a second is on the way! I doubt the plant will survive the darkness though...

Vegan Burgers!

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Everyday is BBQ weather. After assembling our self made grill, there is no reason for us not to enjoy i to the fullest. In the ongoing adventures of discovering vegan cooking I threw together a vegan burger recipe with things I happened to have in the kitchen. The internet was consulted to avoid disaster, but as I was too lazy to go shopping for things I did not happen to have this recipe was born.

1 cup oat meal
1/2 cup flax seeds
1/2 vegetable bouillon cube

are covered with...

1 cup boiling water

and let stand for 10 min. Then put in a blender or similar and add

1 can chickpeas (drained)
1 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp mustard
2 cloves of garlic
pepper, chili, paprika (according to taste)

blend until a paste. Stir in

1/2 cup of chopped onions

form into patties and cover with breadcrumbs (optional). Fry for 5 to 10 min on each side. Enjoy!

Other vegan adventures of mine:
self-made oatmilk
toast and granary cob
marzipan cake

Being thrifty

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I have been travelling from country to country since I was 19. Therefor I have always been reluctant to buy a lot of things. With time I learned to be creative. I constructed a table out of a chessboard and an old shelf. I upcycled an old sweater to make fingerless gloves to sell. I made a nightstand out of wine bottles and a board. I also used wine bottles as water bottles, rolling pin, vase or a masher. We use old jars as glasses and I constructed self watering flower pots out of old oil bottles. Last weekend we wanted to have a BBQ. We first though of going to one of the BBQ places in some of the public parks, but then we were too lazy and hungry to walk all the way. We also had very little coal, so I constructed this small BBQ out of my waste bin, an old wok (without coating of course) and an oven grid.

My Dutch flatmate and me were very happy with this solution, while her boyfriend and my other flatmate were really scared it will "blow up?". We finally agreed to have a bucket of water next to it and everyone was happy.
Nothing blew up and we decided to clean the wok and keep it for further BBQing.

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