Monday, April 25, 2005

Knitting Report

The Edo Scarf, 98% complete
Originally uploaded by panopticon.

I know perfectly well what most gay men go to Amsterdam to do.

However, the most exciting thing I got from a handsome Dutchman in a dark bar was the address of a good yarn store.

At the end of the street in the Southern Canal Belt where my guest house sits was a tiny little place called De Spijker. I stopped in on my first visit, and found the crowd so friendly I never bothered to explore any of the more exotic flesh palaces.

I spent a lot of time chatting with a fellow named Edo, with whom I share common interests in British comedy, graphic design, and - wonder of wonders - knitting.

A Visit to de Afstap

Edo insisted I pay a visit to his favorite yarn store, de Afstap. It's located at Oude Leliestraat 12 in Amsterdam, not too far from the Anne Frank House.

I wasn't disappointed. The charming old storefront would be easy to miss if you weren't looking for it, but the shop behind it is ample and airy, with plenty of natural light for checking colors.

The two ladies at the counter during my visit spoke excellent English (as does just about everybody in Amsterdam over the age of six). Moreover, they didn't blink an eye at the arrival of a man in the shop.

If you like Rowan, the selection will give you palpitations. It seems to be their specialty, and the prices were a good bit lower than I'm used to seeing in the shops in Chicago.

They also have stacks of Rowan pattern books in English. I asked about the availability of Rebecca, but they don't carry it in either the German or English editions.

Aside from the Rowan, about anything you might need for a project is in evidence - wools in all weights, cottons, notions, and a small but ample stock of needles.

Upstairs, for sale, are finished needlework pieces. I confess, I didn't spend much time up there as I wasn't looking to buy a sweater - but what I saw looked fairly gorgeous.

They also have abundant supplies and kits for embroidery. I had to fight the impulse to go nuts and snag one of their tapestry kits, a wonderful European design in the the Baroque style (think Watteau) instead of the country kitschen garbage I keep running across in the United States.

I probably should have splurged and bought it. Next time.

Instead, I bought four balls of Rowan felted tweed worsted: two in gray (with blue flecks) and two in purple (with orange flecks).

The Edo Scarf
The Edo Scarf, detail

As my conversations with Edo and my stop at de Afstap were highlights of the trip, I decided to name the scarf I made from the yarn after him.

I didn't want to do anything too complicated. Alumni tours are hard work - I knew I wouldn't be able to count on long periods of concentration without interruption.

On the other hand, I didn't want to knit another goddamned rectangle, even with stripes.

So here's what I puzzled out. The pattern yields a very long, thin parallelogram with stripes that appear to run on a diagonal. It curls slightly at the sides, but doesn't roll up.

Actually, this is so simple I don't think I should even call it pattern, and I can't imagine it's original, but here goes.

- Cast on 34 stitches with color 1
- Row 1 - knit across
- Row 2 - join color 2, purl across
** Row 3 - pick up color 1, knit across
- Row 4 - with color 1, purl into front and back of 1st stitch; purl across row; purl last 2 stitches together
- Row 5 - with color 2, knit across
- Row 6 - with color 2, purl into front and back of 1st stitch; purl across row; purl last 2 stitches together **

** This bit makes the pattern. Repeat until the scarf's the length you want. Bind off.

The knitting of this scarf became quite an event on the trip.

The old ladies on the cruise were a little startled at first to see me clicking away like Madame DeFarge's nephew during our lectures and bus rides.

After the shock wore off, they got very chatty and entertained me with stories about their own knitting and more than a few laments about how their daughters and granddaughters refused to learn.

But when I told them that at 34, I'm one of the older knitters in my very large knitting group, they seemed comforted.

"You just hate to see the old ways die out," said one of the women from Tulane.

Amen, sister.


Rebekah Ravenscroft-Scott said...

i'm casting on for this scarf tonight! thanks so much for a great idea :)

and here's a funny fer ya! i spent most of last year knitting through boring union meetings, bargaining sessions, and strike committee planning (still no contract!) and earned the nickname "Madame LeFarge" which I mistakenly understood, for most of the year, as "Madame DeBarge." I kept wondering what the hell knitting had to do with pop music and/or why they were making such obvious comments about my ass :)

Franklin said...

Tricky...Gay men in Amsterdam tell their boyfriends they're going to the Rijksmuseum, and then go to the "darkroom" at Cockring or Cuckoo's Nest.

I went to the Rijksmuseum. It's mostly closed up for heavy renovations, but they have one "greatest hits" gallery open that was pretty breathtaking.

Sir Edwin, I am so flattered. Please let me know if you like the scarf, and also if 1) I got anything wrong in writing down the pattern and 2) you improve it in any way. I'll incorporate your improvements next time I make it.

Madame DeBarge...there's a comedy sketch in there somewhere...

birdfarm said...

Yes, sir edwin pegasus (aka "reba", aka "wifey") came home one day and demanded--in tone that was distinctly suspicious and quite ready to become indignant at any moment--"WHO is 'Madame LaFarge'?"

Since my father read "A Tale of Two Cities" to me in fifth grade (I hardly understood a word, but the whole Madame DeFarge thing was concrete enough for my eleven-year-old self) I was able to answer this question.

Since the pre-strike milieu was heavy with plotting and scheming, it was actually very appropriate and quite funny. Reba thought so too, once she figured out what all this was supposed to mean.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your journal and the Edo Scarf is wonderful. Take care Franklin.

Anonymous said...

i'll be in amsterdam next third time there but first time looking for yarn! i know this post is a bit old, but it's a great help! my dutch friend just picked up knitting and isn't really sure where to shop, so thanks for the tip!

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