December 10, 2012

Catching My Breath

Happy face in Lille, France. 
I'm about a day and a half behind on my Christmas balls, but I will catch up - probably by Wednesday. I will be honest, I'm asking myself what in the heck am I doing? But the truth is, I am having a lot of fun making these Christmas balls. And, at the end of it all, Jon and I will have a nice set of ornaments to mark our first year of marriage and another year spent in Europe. So there you go. I will press on! knit on!
I will post more about each ball, but I thought I would go ahead and show what I've got so far:

Christmas Ball 7

Christmas Ball 8 - in progress
 More on these later.

Tot zeins for now. 

December 7, 2012

Christmas Ball, Day 7

het rendier
le renne 
Today's Christmas ball is "Rudolph," Christmas Ball 48 from the book 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne & Carlos. It was knit with four different colored yarns, because I love color!

I chose this pattern because what says Christmas more than Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? Also, this tiny reindeer outfit for a cork was a gift from Jon for Sinterklaas. Read about more about Sinterklaas on yesterday's post. I updated it earlier this evening. 

December 6, 2012

Christmas Ball, Day 6

It's so late and I've been staying up well past midnight to write these posts after I knit. I am calling it a night and will post more tomorrow.

Today is feast day of St. Nicholas and is celebrated in Belgium. That's why I chose to create a ball with a red bishop's hat - the hat of St. Nicholas. 
Here I am, wearing the bishop's hat of St. Nicholas. 
Sometime during the evening before December 6th, children receive gifts from "Sinterklaas" who is from Spain, and his helper(s) Zwart Piet. In my opinion, some aspects of the tradition are very bizarre and unnecessary, but it's part of the culture here.
Sinterklaas by Charlotte Dematons, is a beautifully illustrated book that presents some of the folklore and wonder associated with Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten. I will admit, it's a shock to see what is on the pages, for a foreigner like me. They don't even sell this book in the United States.

Small gifts, cookies, chocolate and mandarins are given to children who were good that year. In my French class my teacher brought sweet treats for the class. I guess we have been good "children," though I must study more!

December 5, 2012

Christmas Ball, Day 5

de hamburger
le hambuger
Anyone who knows me, knows that I collect hamburgers for whatever reason. They make me smile, and this past summer my mom dug up some old drawings that I drew as a kid. They were of...
Guess what... ? 
That's right! 

I think I like hamburgers because they are so colorful:
And, because they taste so good and they are all American. Like me!

I designed this pattern myself and it knit up rather quickly, despite using so many colors. 

Speaking of colors,
I used some of the tiny scraps from the pom-poms I made yesterday to stuff today's hamburger ball. Did you happen to see the pom-pom tutorial on Design Sponge today? I think pom-poms are the new bunting flags.

I love hamburgers and wanted to make a special Christmas ball to commemorate this and also to introduce Hammy Hamburger.
Hammy is a plush toy made by Steff Bomb. By the way, I just learned that Steff Bomb was the winner of TLC's Craft Wars. Um. - 1) How cool is that? And 2) why have I not watched this show? 

Hammy was given to my by a good friend from Dallas who recently came to visit, and he's already been a few places with me. 

Here he is in the Grand Place in Brussels:

In front of the Musical Instruments Museum , (I've not yet gone in, but I love the building so much.)

 In the galleries at the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium:

At the Central train station in Brussels:

 In front of Manneken Pis, recently rated as one of "Europe's Most Disappointing Sight"":

Here Hammy enjoys the BEST burger he's had in Belgium thus far at Burgerij in Antwerp.

And most recently, to the Christmas Market in Brussels.
I will write more on the Christmas Market of Brussels in a later post. 

Hammy will be going on European adventures and makes photos more fun, especially since I don't like photos of myself. Whenever he poses for photographs, everyone around him smiles and laughs.  It's great, and we really enjoy it.

December 4, 2012

Christmas Ball, Day 4

The Red Ball
de rode bal
la boule rouge

It was a disappointing day for reasons I won't get into. Also, I went to my French class and to the grocery store with a big red raspberry smudge on the bridge of my nose. No one even bothered to tell me. At least the smoothie that caused the big red dot on my face was delicious. Next time I will not brush my teeth in the dark. (By the way, Christmas Ball 3 is finished and posted.)

I cast on three times today, but the stitches didn't happen. So, I made pom poms instead. 
I made six different colored pom poms without using a fancy pom-pom maker that costs €10. Instead, I used a simple tutorial from a recent post on Design Mom.

It was extremely therapeutic.
I could have knit a plain red ball, but I need to fill my little tree with something other than Christmas
balls, and I thought colorful pom poms would make a nice addition. Of course I will show the tree at some point, but the lighting in my studio is terrible most times of the day, and space is limited. But, that's working with what you've got, right?

My red pom pom reminds me of a special event in Leuven that took place earlier this year - Kurt Perschke's RedBall Project. For seven days in September, a 4.5 meter [15 ft] tall big red rubber ball was installed in various places around the city. I missed the first day's installation but was able to catch the rest. 

Finally, almost three months later, I will share my pictures.
September 21, 2012 - in front of the new city hall.
September 22, 2012 - on the Mechelsestraat
September 23, 2012 - I am not sure of the street, but it's off Naamsestraat. 
September 24, 2012 - First day of classes at KU Leuven.  
September 25, 2012 - Universiteitsbibliotheek KU Leuven.
September 26, 2012 - City Park entrance. 
This project makes me so happy! 
Learn more about  RedBall Project here, and check out this interview with the artist. 

December 3, 2012

Christmas Ball, Day 3

de sneeuw
la neige
I chose the snowflake because it snowed today! 
Only for two hours, but still!

Today's ornament is in progress, but I am not sure I will be able to post in time. Mondays are generally pretty crazy days. Usually I spend the day preparing for conversational English classes that I facilitate in the evenings. It's a small group and I teach two levels - beginning and advanced. Our classes are almost over and I have really enjoyed getting to know the participants.  I hesitate to call them students, because it's a really informal setting and I don't give them grades or anything. So, I will call them what I call all of my students - friends.  But, more on that later, back to my Christmas ball.

Christmas ball 3 is the first pattern from the book 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne & Carlos. It's actually the first ball I made a few weeks back.
My very first Christmas ball. Made Thanksgiving day, 2012.
I used a red and white color scheme just like the example in the book. The yarns I used were a wool blend and I knit the ornament with size 3.0 needles. This ornament is pretty big compared to what I am knitting these days. My stitches got tighter, I switched yarns and downsized to 2.5 needles.

I am using an inexpensive acrylic yarn in gray and white and adding a silver metallic yarn to knit with the white to give it some sparkle. I've never knit with the novelty yarn, so wish me luck!
It's been snowing off and on for a few days, but I actually saw the big white flakes fall today. It's not cold enough for the snow to stick, but in my Texas opinion it's cold enough.

I just wanted to note that I am adjusting to the Celsius temperature scale to join the rest of the world. Only four countries use the Farenheit system. I found this simple video on YouTube that helps me with the conversion. It's not the official formula but it's a simple way to make the conversion, and for the most part it's spot on. 

Be sure to check back for my update with the finished product - either today or tomorrow.

Tot zeins!

UPDATE: My ball was completed a little after midnight. I love it, and Jon said it's his favorite!

December 2, 2012

Christmas Ball, Day 2

het hart
le cœur
This heart's for you.
This is Christmas Ball 30, "Heart," from 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne and Carlos.

I chose a heart because 4 years ago today I met my sweetheart, and now we are married.

Originally, I was hoping to knit a special pattern for Jon, but I knew I wouldn't really have time today. I had a super distraction, I went to the Christmas Market in Brussels. I promise to write more about today's visit later this week and hopefully have a related Christmas ball to blog about as well.
Controversial Christmas tree in the Grand Place, Brussels.
Christmas ball 2 in progress on the train to Brussels.
I hope to create and knit that special pattern for Jon within the next 25 - 27 days. It will be a bit more involved, but I think it will make a wonderful ornament and story. I hope I can work it out, patterns are so much fun to create.

Also coming later this week - my favorite way to eat pears.

December 1, 2012

Christmas Ball, Day 1

de peer
la poire

My first Christmas ball for December 1:
Apparently it's a pear!

I chose a Christmas ball of my own design, which I will do from time to time. 

Pears have a special significance for me. My first painting in my color theory class in college was a picture of a pear. In my first ceramics class both my coil and slab projects were of pears also. There is just something about them that I like. It could be the form, the color, their sweet flavor or perhaps it's just a sweet association - memories. 

I chose a pear because last Monday I went to an apple and pear processing plant

It could have been an orchard, but the trees have been picked since September and I didn't see any that day. I was hoping to see the trees and pick apples, but that didn't happen. It's a little too late in season for that. However, I did see the process for sorting, cleaning and distribution. 
These are 2nd rate apples - too red in color, or yellow or blemished. I think they're gorgeous!
Het is interessant. I learned a lot about apples and pears of Belgium, and tasted pure juice, sweet jams and liquors.
Apple and pear tea, cider, liquor, chocolate, honey and jams.
These products were too sweet for me, but I did come home with some juice, apples and pears. 

Here's a blurry picture of some pears.
Would have been a nice shot...
And if you can't make it to Fruit Vanhellemont during their opening hours, you can always use the automat on the side of the road. They sell a variety of fresh apples and pears, juices, and select specialty products. 
Pear and apple automat.

The Michelin Man graced a few tractors that were in the warehouse. Seeing him made me smile. 

It was a nice day, even if I didn't get to pick any apples. There is always next year...

Tomorrow I hope to share a pear recipe and my 2nd Christmas ball.

Back to Blogging


It's been a while, but I am back and hopefully will develop the knack for blogging regularly again. I've been a busy girl in Belgium for the past two months. I successfully completed my Dutch course and am still plugging away in my French  course. It's going pretty well, and I am excited to use the languages I am learning in my everyday life. How cool is that?

I really had to study hard to pass my Dutch exam, but I bought this book as my reward.

Sorry for the blurry photo.

Have you seen it? It is really popular here in my Belgian town, and also the Netherlands...

Arne and Carlos are fashion and knitwear designers from Norway. They created a collection of ornaments for Comme des Garçons in 2008 which were very popular and that's what inspired them to write this book. In addition to 55 Christmas Balls to Knit, Arne and Carlos have two more books: Knitted Dolls and Easter Knits.

I have watched a few interviews of Arne and Carlos on YouTube, and I have to say that they are super inspiring. The life that they have created for themselves is cozy, so down to earth and totally unique. Quite an accomplishment in addition to their knitwear and sportswear collections that they design.  I would love to visit them in their Norwegian wood oasis.

I find so many people inspiring, but Arne and Carlos have sparked my desire to make something. I have been wanting to get back into blogging, but also wanted a project.  At first I thought I would attempt to make all 55 balls, but I don't have the time and I don't want to continue to knit Christmas balls after Christmas. Instead, I've decided to knit a ball every day, kind of like an Advent calendar. I can definitely knit one ball a day. I've already gotten some practice, and have even designed a few using their basic pattern. We have a little tree in our little studio and it needs ornaments - soft ornaments made of yarn.

I like to write, I love to make things and I like to blog- so this is a great way and attempt to get back in the routine. I have a tendency to become distracted as one can read tell from my many blogging breaks. Living in Belgium for the past four months has made me realize that I have friends and family I would like to connect and keep in touch with, so it's back to blogging for me.

Thanks for reading, and now I will leave you with my favorite Arne and Carlos videos. Pull up a chair, grab some tea and get cozy with Arne and Carlos.

By the way "hooking" is crochet. Just wanted to clear that up right away.