Planes, trains and automobiles, plus a lot of other stuff!

School is out for the summer! Yipppeee!! A plus of life in Sweden is finishing school mid-June, instead of the late-July as I was used to in the UK.  It has been hectic lately – work, life, study – and my knitting and this blog has suffered.  At last, time for an update! I have to study Swedish as a second language to level B/level 2, roughly equivalent to A-Level standard in English terms.  I need to pass this course to convert my teaching qualifications from the UK and to be fully accepted as a teacher within the Swedish education system.  Long story short: it is not easy.

Now that the school hols are here I have at least some time to devote to my creative side, thoug, as ever, the Swedish grammar, reading, essays, etc are piled high to one side, demanding much time and attention.

As soon as I was able I took a short trip northwards to see my folks in Jämtland and my dear Swede joined me (some days after) so we could celebrate midsummer together, a big day in the Swedish calander.  It was this wettest and coldest for midsummer festival for 51 years!  Brrrrr!  Still it gave us the perfect excuse to snuggle up and have a cosy time with my cats (who live with my folks.)  It was also perfect knitting weather and I was greeted by my parents with a lovely present: a denim bag filled to the brim with cotton yarn and a hand-carved wooden owl they bought on their recent holiday in England.

We flew back home yesterday. I took great comfort in the woven seats in the departure lounge at Åre/Östersund airport as I nervously awaited our flight. I am a nervous at the best of times, but getting inside the small, claustrophobic, shaking, noisy propeller plane was not easy.   It takes around 50 mins to fly from Jämtland to Stockholm but close to 6 hours by train.  However, the latter option was a lot less scary and a lot more wooly as I knitted the whole way up!

Today marks the first day of a two-week intensive weaving course – I signed up after my very lovely Swede bought me a book on the subject for my birthday (in Swedish of course.)  He suggested that I should try to learn this craft as it was something I had talked about wanting to try… Well, today was the first step in learning this craft and so far there has been a surprising amount of theory.  Again all my learning is in Swedish so I have the benefit of improving my language skills while feeling slightly less guilty about not spending so much time tied to my study books…

So I am on holiday, but not on holiday 100%.  My assignments and final exams will be over by 1st August and hopefully I will get that all important vital bit of paper with a pass.  In the meanwhile, I am looking forward to learning to weave and to getting in some quality yarn time over the summer.

Happy holidays and happy crafting!



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World Wide Knit in Public UK 2014


Wherever you are in the world, get knitting!
Happy crafting from Sweden.

Originally posted on :

For those who don’t know me, I happily state that I knit everywhere. Public transport mostly but also in conference calls, waiting rooms, school events, conferences, in fact any time where I have a few minutes to spare or need my hands to be busy so that I don’t fidget inappropriately.

So I am happy to say that I fully support the World Wide Knit in Public week which is 14th to 22nd June in the UK. And this is what it’s about…



Astrid Salling 2© Lena Paaske

World Wide Knit in Public Day was started in 2005 by Danielle Landes. It began as a way for knitters to come together and enjoy each other’s company. Knitting is such a solitary act that it’s easy to knit alone somewhere and sink into your work without thinking about all the other knitters out there. Neighbors could spend all…

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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized


BBC News – Bristol transformed into Briswool by knitters


Click the link to read the story:

This is what is happening in my hometown, Bristol – or should I say Bris-wool! Wonderful wool!

Meanwhile, in Stockholm I am still on my way home from work and have a thousand words to write in Swedish, deadline fast approaching…. The subject of the essay is – ironically – on the health benefits of knitting. Sigh.

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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in knitting



A birthday in April/Edvina the elephant…

The 27th April marked by 38th year and I had a lovely, sunny, spring weekend.  On the Saturday I played clarinet in my orchestra, the very fine “Postorkestern”, and we played a selection of music from computer games.  It was a surprising mix of exciting, virtuosic music alternating with romantic, lyrical passages.  Who knew playing such games could be so musically fulfilling? Certainly an experience to play these pieces. :)  We played two performances after an afternoon rehearsal, so my musician friends were very happy that I baked and brought along two early birthday Tosca cakes for the interval.  It gave us all a well-needed sugar kick in the break and it is a Swedish classic sponge cake topped with crunchy, sweet almonds.

The Sunday was a birthday where my Swede treated me to a cup of real English breakfast tea in bed, brought in on a tray with a card, a lovely fresh rose and his dolcet tones singing me a “Happy Birthday”, except in Swedish, of course.  He also knows his girl very well and bought two large books on both knitting and weaving in Swedish.  Weaving is something I have long talked about wanting to learn so, with the inspiration from receiving the book, I decided to search online for a course.  I found an intensive two week course during the school summer holidays.  Perfect!  I am waiting to hear back as to whether I am on the course, places are limited to only 8.

This week Edvina the elephant came to life from small knitted bits and bobs sewn together with fabric applique to finish.  My first attempt to make a toy and to try a bit of sewing.  She isn’t perfect, but it is a noble first effort and I have learned a lot along the way.  I found cotton to be a strong, soft material but it is hard to knit as tightly as required to keep the stuffing from showing underneath.  Also I have to probably use more stuffing in general and keep things tighter overall.  I will keep practising my sewing skills, but I was pleased that I cut the fabric to fit, by eye, rather than with a template and overall Edvina is a rather cute elephant!

The designer and creator of many inspirational patterns is Laura Long.  I happened to come across her book in the local library, “Knitted Toy Tales”, which is a collection of hand-made toys presented beautifully with the patterns, guidelines on techniques and some lovely poems and illustrations:

I went to a fabric shop near the Skanstull underground I was passing and found that the lady there was very helpful and gave me lots of advice as a novice at sewing.  Also she had some remnants for sale very cheaply, perfect for the small pieces needed for making toys.  And, when I wanted some fabric on one of the larger rolls, she was happy to cut a very small amount and charge me the minimal amount.  I invested in some rather expensive scissors but it was worth it as they made for sharp, accurate cutting on the small scale required in this project.  I will definitely be popping by again to this shop:

A very nice parcel arrived in the post: an amazing present from my talented friend, Anna!  Anna, who still lives in my hometown of Bristol is a talented artist and we have known each other since we started in the class at school aged five.  Plus both of our mothers are Swedish and are equally good friends.  Anna has captured the characters and colours of my two cats, Tiger and Mina, beautifully in this watercolour.  My cats live up north in Jämtland with my parents so it is great to have a reminder of them here in Stockholm – though of course I miss them terribly!  The other cat pictured is actually a “piggy bank” that I spotted when I happened to pop by a church spring fayre yesterday and of course I had to take her home!

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Posted by on May 4, 2014 in knitting, Uncategorized


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Crochet Creations in Norway



Last summer, my friend Julie was a beautiful model for my newly-made hats that I had designed in cotton based on traditional Granny Squares:

Julie and I first met at Birka Folkhögskola ( where she was studying classical singing whilst I was trying to master folk music on the clarinet.  Now, Julie is at a prestigious music conservatory in her native Norway and recently won a chamber music competition.  Having had the pleasure of hearing Julie sing live, I have no doubt she will be successful in her musical career.  We shared the same hall of residence at Birka and I have happy memories of folk music inspired jam sessions in the evenings, a cappela singing in the kitchen, and many a cups of tea in one of our rooms drooling over Mr Darcy on DVD…

Anyway, Julie has spread the Garnharmoni love across the border from here in Sweden to Norway.  One of her Norwegian friends, Åshild, liked Julie’s crocheted hat in toffee-brown mix with red so much that she ordered a hat too – in red but with free reign to add any other colours I liked. That is a spec I like – lots of creative freedom! I made the hat some time ago so was very happy to have these pictures sent to me this week from another happy customer enjoying her light cotton hat, perfect in the spring season.

Here’s to more spring sunshine and crochet creations!


Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Cosy Crochet Creations, crochet


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The tie’s the limit: super quick knit!

Swede sings bass in a choir and he spent much of yesterday, Sunday, rehearsing a piece of fairly epic proportion by J.S. Bach.  He came back home for a quick lunch break and said he didn’t realise that for the concert at 6pm the men were supposed to wear a lilac-coloured tie. This is a man who hates ties and owns maybe one, but not one in this particular hue.

In a throwaway statement he asked if I could knit one.

Well, of course I could.  I just happened to have the very colour in Drops Paris cotton.  You see – it is good to have this yarn stash taking up space in the apartment!  As usual Ravelry came to the rescue.  With a quick pattern search I found this:  (Note: on Ravelry my username is Clarinutty.)

I started the project in the afternoon at around 1.30 and was done by around 4.30.  There was almost smoke coming out of my size 4mm wooden needles!

Quick dash to the church, tie handover and good luck kiss.  Then the dedication really began: this turned out to be a two-hour show on rock hard pews.  I did bring a cushion but, after a painful while, I was forced to stand at the back.  In fact, my tricky back is still twinging in protest from sitting there as long as I did.  Still, I was proud of my Swede’s singing efforts and it was a very nice acoustic to hear a full choir with orchestra.  There was quite a lot of recetative – the kind of story-telling with lots of words in an operatic style that is half speaking, half singing.  No surprise this was in German, it being by Bach and all, but my tired brain was not doing well at following the Swedish translation in the rather hefty programme of small text…

As a musician myself – I studied music at degree level and was a music teacher in England – I am always keen to hear and support live music, and to support my other half, of course.  I have a concert coming up soon so I have practised clarinet today.  I have also been dilligent in my Swedish studies and some other chores in between bed rest.  Today has been a tough day energy and illness-wise so I fear there won’t be much time for knitting today.  Lets hope I have more quality crafting and time during the Easter break and that I can get over today’s setback to go onwards and upwards in recovery.



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Spring and a spring in my step…


Spring is really in the air in Stockholm.  When the sunshine comes here in Sweden you will see the natives standing at the edge of any train platform facing sunward, head up, arms outstreched, eyes closed, mouths smiling in gratitude of the warmth and light.  It is also fairly standard for the apartments to have a balcony which has been of great help to me as for some weeks I have been signed off sick from work. Long story short: acute bronchitis complicated by asthma hit me hard as I have the chronic illness CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) so my recovery has been slow and difficult.

But, as the title suggests, there IS a spring in my step.  Without having to stop at every chair, table or tree to knock on lots of wood, I can say that I am definitely on the turn, an improvement and hope of recovery after a rather bleak time not feeling well, sleep deprived not to mention frustrated, bored, isolated, anxious for missing work, missing orchestra, and I was a noisy, coughing, germ-monster for my poor, dear Swede to put up with.  At this point, he deserves a mention for best sambo award (sambo = live-in partner.)  He recently came home from a trip to his beloved Skåne (southern Sweden) with some presents to cheer me up: a cute owl bag – perfect for my knitting bits and pieces – and a decorative Easter bunny.  AND today we went on my first outing in ages and on the way he asked a lady on the train if she knew of any knitting shops in the area (unprompted by me!) Then he set about finding this shop for me and patiently waiting for me to look around and happily took down the yarn I couldn’t reach from the top shelves.  Did I mention he was tall, dark and handsome? :)

The key that unlocked my stuck position in terms of my health was actually getting a painful crick in my neck.  I was so uncomfortable and fed up that I looked online to find a masseuse to fix it.  Luckily I went on last-minute booking site and found a treatment that was highly discounted and, as it turns out, was actually with a magician called Haishan.  Her official job title is more on the lines of “Chinise medicinal masseuse” but magician she is nonetheless and is based here:

I came out of her treatment room feeling alive and with an energy that I can’t remember feeling in ages!  I wondered first if this elation was purely the relief of SURVIVING this intense session.  Pain, oh the pain. But, no it is something more than this and I have already booked the next session…

Haishan located the (many) problem areas in my body through acupressure points which, in my case, were problematic in connection to my lungs and spleen.  The latter has effect on my immune system and the former is no surprise given my recent chest infection and breathing difficulties.  The prolongued period of illness has really taken a toll on my condition and I was ready to get some help and there was an immediate self-confidence from Haishan that she could do a lot to make me feel better.

There was an element of embracing the feeling of being totally powerless, flat on my tummy, eyes squinting through the hole in the headrest.  There was also quite a lot of “lost in translation” moments as my understanding of biology in Swedish is not great and it is even worse when deciphering a Chinese accent whilst in various degrees of agony.   This woman was pressing various unmentionable areas of my body until I could take no more and could only plead for mercy.   She got over this by not accepting this feeble English effort and telling me not to be “ololigt” (“oroligt” in Swedish is worried) whilst firmly holding the acupressure point and giving me a countdown to indicate when the agony would be over: “åtta, sju, sex…” (eight, seven, six…”)  It was relentless as Haishan found then unblocked one trouble spot, to my sigh of relief, only to find something worse somewhere else and to describe what she could see and feel as a “traffic jam.”  She had to unblock this “traffic” jam to release my energy.

Haishan’s Chinese-Swedish struggled to reach my tired brain, pain shooting from one point to the next.

“Det är bala början” (I realise it is “bara början” in Swedish) – “This is just the beginning,” she was telling me.  “Det bli bla” – (“bla?” oh: “bra” she means.) “Everything is going to be ok,” she was reassuring me.

In fairness to Haishan most of my answers to her were neither in English or Swedish but rather a sort of “awwwwwwaahhhhhhhh” or “shhhhhhhiiiiiii…..” – you can guess the rest.

So, I am looking forward to Wednesday for the next session.   Now school is out on Easter break so I am just seeing myself as free from work and trying to break away from the state of being “sjukskriven” (signed off sick) as my recovery improves.  It won’t happen overnight and I do predict some ups and downs but I really think this therapy will help me in a holistic approach, across my whole body.

And, of course, I do have the ultimate therapy on hand: knitting!

Happy Easter!  Glad Påsk!


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