November 15, 2005


As I mentioned earlier, we decided to honeymoon in Spain because of our fascination with Andalucía. Granada and Seville were the major attractions, with a stop or two on the beach and in the country to help us relax. And while we would have been content to have stayed in Andalucía for the duration of our trip, airline schedules and budget considerations made it clear that Madrid was the logical place from which to leave. So we ended our Spanish adventure with 36 hours in Madrid, which isn't enough time to properly "do" the city but plenty of time to do last-minute souveneir shopping and relaxing before heading home. (Darn, guess we've got to go back!)

Seeing as how we weren't going to do the tourist-y stuff in Madrid, I dropped Betty (blogs in Spanish but speaks English; feel free to comment!) -- the only Spanish knitblogger I knew of at the time -- a note to ask her about Madrid's yarn store offerings once we checked in to our hotel. As soon as I finished sending the e-mail to Betty, Jason and I headed out to get the lay of the land. We ended up on the Plaza Mayor when it happened again: we found a yarn store! El Gato Negro (The Black Cat) was large, bustling, and stocked from floor to ceiling with colorful unlabeled hanks.

It took a bit of time and observation for me to figure out that to buy some of this yarn, you had to have a salesperson fetch and weigh it to see how much it would be. Though attractive and -- did I mention? -- large, El Gato Negro presented La Gringa with two challenges. First, like most of the yarn stores in Spain much of the yarn was behind the counters and not immediately touchable. Since I like to see and touch pretty much every yarn in a store before making a purchase, this would have resulted in hours of "Puedo ver eso? De que es hecho? Cuanto vale?" ("Can I see that one? What's it made of? How much is it?"). I've worked in retail, I just can't do that to a salesperson. Second, even if I knew the price it would have been in the form of Euros per gram of yarn... which, as an American, would have been about as helpful as knowing the price of eggs in China. So despite my appreciation for its size and my affection for a certain gato negro of my own, I settled for a picture of myself by their pretty window.

El Gato Negro

That evening at the hotel, I checked my e-mail and saw that Betty (who was traveling at the time) had forwarded my message to the Madrileña knitblogger Urraca (blogs in French, maintains the Madrid knitters' meet-up blog in Spanish, and based on her link list also speaks English. Holy polyglot, Batman!), who had already written back! Are these ladies fast, or what? The gist of Urraca's e-mail was that for those with little time in Madrid, she recommended two centrally-located yarn store: Lanas Sixto and De Puntillas. (She said she wasn't crazy about El Gato Negro because so much of their yarn was acrylic. Good to know!) She also said she wished she had known that I was going to be passing through Madrid since she would have organized something with the other knitters. Isn't that sweet? Now I really have to go back sometime! [Note: I've translated Urraca's descriptions and directions for the yarn stores in central Madrid and put it in the extended entry section for any other gringas tejedores who might end up here via Google!] Rather than rely on my occasionally spotty translation skils, I recommend that you read Urraca's review of Madrid yarn stores on the Madrid Knitting Meet-Up blog. It begins here, and Urraca herself has assured me there is more to come!]

On our last full day in Spain, we hit both of Urraca's recommended yarn stores. I found Lanas Sixto to be just as she had described it: warm, friendly, and well-stocked with Spanish (and some Italian) yarns. Best part: a fair amount of yarn was not. behind. the. counter! I bought two balls of Lana d'Irlanda for Alison -- in blue, of course. It was the perfect Euro-yarn: made in Italy, named for Ireland, and purchased in Spain!

Lanas Sixto
Lanas Sixto

De Puntillas was more of a mixed bag. It did have the best selection of international brands, and I fixated on the Gedifra Byzanz. I've been needing a new scarf, and this combination of colors and sparkle seemed like just the thing. The woman at the store was friendly, and kindly showed me a drop-stitch pattern that looked good with the yarn. My only quibbles are that I somehow I managed to end up with mixed dye lots (mostly my fault, I know) and when I got back to the hotel I realized that the yarn reeked of cigarette smoke. I suppose that's the peril of shopping in smoke-friendly Europe!

My yarn haul from Madrid -- blue worsted for Alison and colorful sparkly for me!
Click the picture to see a bigger version that includes the view out our hotel
room window. The statue in the background is Cervantes.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and winged our way back to Boston and real life. Now that I've told you about my yarn adventures in Spain, now I can start telling you about what I knit while I was there!

Posted by shannon at 10:20 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: Nuptial Knitting

November 13, 2005


(Note: I know it's taking me a long time to get through these honeymoon entries, but after this one there should only be one left. Then I'll get back to normal [i.e., non-honeymoon-related] knitting content!)

The day before we left for Seville, we spent a few hours reading our guide books and figuring out what we wanted to do when we got there. At one point, Jason handed me the Rough Guide open to a page in the Seville section and said, "you're going to like this." It said:

On every manhole cover, bus and public building in Sevilla you will see the curious cipher NO 8 DO. What looks like a figure 8 is actually the symbol of a twisted skein of wool (madeja in Spanish). During the eleventh-centry reconquista [reconquest, when the Catholics took southern Spain back from the Moors], Alfonso the Wise, King of Castile, tired of the endless war, made a truce with the Moors. This so angered his excitable son Sancho, that he rebelled against his father and launched a civil war. When the people of Sevilla stayed loyal to Alfonso, the king lauded them with the royal testimonial "No me han dejado" ("You have not deserted me"). In medieval Spanish this came out as "no ma dejado" from which the sevillanos -- long aficionados of word riddles -- came up with NO MADEJA DO, soon encrypted as NO 8 DO and swiftly adopted as the city's crest.

After reading the paragraph, I looked up at him and said: "We gotta get pictures of that for my blog!" As we wandered around Seville taking pictures a few days later, it was so cool to see skeins of yarn embossed, engraved, and sculpted all around!

No 8 Do
Outside the tourist office

No Me Han Dejado
Click here to see a close-up of the crest

Finally, I took Saleknitter's advice -- when I posted about the Honeymoon Cami that Alison made me, she left a comment saying that I should wear the Cami when we went to watch flamenco in Seville. So on our last night in Seville, I donned the cami and we headed out to La Carboneria. We really enjoyed the flamenco (and some sangria, of course), and I felt very saucy in my orange top. Jason snapped a few shots when we came back late that night, this one is the clearest. (Excuse the bad hair, on the way to the bar we were caught in a furious rain storm. After 20 minutes huddled in a doorway [which gave me the opportunity to teach Jason the word escampar] it tapered off from a Biblical flood to just a normal everyday downpour and we made a run for it. We were soaked by the time we made it to the bar!)

Thank you, Alison!

Posted by shannon at 2:18 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts: Nuptial Knitting

November 5, 2005


The Alhambra, at sunset

When you get right down to it, the fortified palace behind Jason in the picture above is the reason we ended up honeymooning in Spain. Chosing a destination had turned out to be harder than we had anticipated -- there were just so many places we wanted to go! One day, when surfing around looking for inspiration, I found this itinerary. It was a trip designed for people who "want a balanced mix of beach-oriented relaxation and cultural exploration. Those who enjoy historical sites, architecture, good food and wine, and outdoor activities." Hello, you just described us!

When I was first learning Spanish at Middlebury, I had a wonderful teacher who described the city of Granada so poetically and so intensely that the images of the Alhambra that she painted in my head have stayed with me for years. So when I read the Moonrings* itinerary, and saw that it included a stay within the Alhambra's walls, I was sold. Jason and I share a fascination with forts in general, so he was quickly on board. Andalucia it would be.

All of this is to say that our expectations were very high when we arrived in Granada after three days by the beach. Unfortunately, our first few hours were inauspicious. Has anybody else ever heard of the HALT rule? HALT stands for hungry, alone, lost, or tired, and the rule is that if you are more than one of those things while traveling, you are to stop and rectify the situation before continuing on. Since we were on our honeymoon neither of us were alone, but as we set out that first evening we quickly hit the trifecta: hungry, lost, and tired. We had not yet mastered the timing of meals in Spain, so we'd missed lunch and we were out looking for food when most of the restaurants had not yet re-opened for dinner. We'd had a long travel day, and the labyrnthine streets and alleys in Granada -- utterly charming under normal circumstances -- frustrated us to no end. Oh, and you could also add freezing to my list, since Granada was experiencing some kind of weird cold snap and I had only a jean jacket.

We took immediate action: we ate sandwiches (bocadillos) at a small snack bar rather than wait for the restaurants to open, spent our dinner studying maps to get our bearings, and loaded up on caffeine to temporarily banish the fatigue. Newly envigorated, we set out to wander a bit. We ducked in and out of several great shops, and made our way to the cathedral. In the plaza in front of the cathedral there was some sort of Renaissance Fair going on, including the sale of homemade chocolate (more caffeine!). As we left the plaza, I saw something wonderous, something beautiful, something to help turn our evening around. A yarn store.

We returned the next day for a picture in daylight

I walked in, and encountered for the first time the thing about yarn stores in Spain that I'm not crazy about: the yarn is behind the counter. For somebody like me who prefers to browse on my own, reading labels and fondling yarn, this was a bit of a shock. There was one small bin of sale yarn on the shop floor, so I went there first. And don't you know, it was that very same sale yarn that I ended up buying!

Three balls of red, three balls of gray

The yarn is called Soffio and it's made by Alessandra Filati -- 100% merino superwash, decent yardage, and I got it for 9 Euros. Yep, that's right, six balls of good yarn for just under $11. As if the good sandwiches and serendipitous yarn store wasn't enough, Granada cheered me in other ways as well. The next day we woke up to a still-chilly city, so we decided that we'd head to El Cortes Ingles, the big department store in Spain, and get me a sweater or two to make it through the planned tours of the Alhambra. We had already noticed that everybody in Granada -- men, women, children -- were wearing ribbed, zippered cardigans, so we figured they would be perfect. (They were. In fact, I'm wearing one of them in the picture above!) As I browsed through the racks, I looked up and saw this sign:

Semana de Punto=Knit Week (How did they know I was planning to knit my way through the honeymoon?!)

In the end, we loved Granada as much as we'd hoped we would. It's amazingly beautiful city, as implied by the famous, and oft-quoted line about a blind beggar:

Dale limosna mujer, que no hay pena más grande que ser... ciego en Granada.
Give him a coin woman, for there's no greater sorrow than to be... blind in Granada.

(If you are so inclined, you can see the rest of our Granada pics here!)

*We don't consider ourselves travel agent people, but when we inquired about this itinerary at Moonrings we were so impressed by their approach and willingness to work with us on a plan and budget that we ended up booking our honeymoon through them. Maribel at Moonrings did such a fantastic job that we felt that the fee they charged for planning and booking the trip was, in terms of value for our money, some of the best wedding-related money we spent. I also love that so many of their itineraries are designed for honeymooners who want something between a cookie-cutter resort and an extreme outdoor adventure. I'd recommend them to anybody in a heartbeat!

Posted by shannon at 9:57 AM | Comments (4) | For related posts: Nuptial Knitting

October 28, 2005

Flower Girls

For the last few months, I've had "A bouquet of flowers for some special people" in the Projects in Progress list on the right hand side of this page. The vagueness was intentional, I was knitting the flower washcloths for my bridesmaids -- some of whom read this site on occasion!

Instead of getting the girls one big gift, I spent the last year or so picking up little things here and there for each of them. They did so much for me that I loved doing something little for them, and it turned out to be a tried-and-true stress reliever. (Everybody wins!) An on-call notebook for Lauren, a votive candleholder that Jillay had been coveting, a new pop-up brush for Ñaña, and so on. To each girl's washcloth I also added a matching scented soap. I remember laying them all out in my parents' basement the night before I gave them away, and loving the way the colors looked. Yet, despite the fact that I had been reminding myself to do it for about three months before the wedding, I forgot to take a picture of them. Oh, the humanity.

So you'll just have to take my word for it: they were very pretty all laid out and ready to be given away. And since I can't show you the girls' flowers, I'll show you the flower girl (wearing her capelet!) instead:

Juli was escorted to the beginning of the aisle by her daddy*.
You've never seen a flower girl carry out her duties with such dramatic
flourish and showmanship as did ours. Brava!

*Juli's Daddy is Tony, the recipient of the paisano gloves. As predicted, he was a hero the whole weekend!

Posted by shannon at 4:53 PM | Comments (3) | For related posts: For Juli, Nuptial Knitting

October 16, 2005

Post-wedding Spanish relaxation

I'm enjoying the honeymoon in Spain; the wedding was awesome! Back soon...


Posted by shannon at 9:20 AM | Comments (6) | For related posts: Nuptial Knitting

August 29, 2005

Capelet! Capelet! The word has lost all meaning!*

Since our wedding is outside in early fall, I decided a few months back that I wanted to make a capelet for Juli the Flower Girl . When my mom and I visited the Morehouse Merino store in early July, I found that their natural yarn (undyed) matched Juli's dress perfectly, so I snapped up a few skeins.

Next step: find a pattern. I looked through my magazines and books, but didn't find anything that matched the picture in my head. I wanted a capelet -- open in the front, not a pullover (that's a poncho); nothing too long (that's a cape). I tried twice to design something, but it did nothing but reinforce my belief that I am knitter and not a designer. When I found this pattern, I cast on with very low expectations. Why? Because this was the picture that accompanied it:



Maybe some of you can see details there, but I sure couldn't. All I knew was that the sizing looked to be right for Juli, and by skimming the pattern I could tell that it had the major characteristics I wanted. (Actually, it only sorta did... that's what you get for skimming the pattern!... but I was able to modify it the rest of the way.)

Who would have thought it would turn out this gorgeous?


I left off the loopy fringe for cleaner lines. I also think it might have been too much with the mock cables. I'm still somewhat stumped about a closure, though the folks at Knitsmiths gave me some good ideas last night. What do you think?

*Every time I say the world "capelet", Jason exclaims "Capelet! Capelet! The word has lost all meaning!" This is apparently an homage to the episode of Friends when Jon Lovitz's character, totally stoned out of his gourd, says "Tartlets! Tartlets! The word has lost all meaning!"

Pattern: Child's Loop Fringe Cape
Yarn: Morehouse Merino 3-Strand
Needles: 8s

Posted by shannon at 10:09 PM | Comments (4) | For related posts: For Juli, Nuptial Knitting

August 19, 2005

Tony's Paisano Gloves

People will do amazing things for you when you are getting married. Over and over again, I have been humbled by friends' and family's generosity with time, energy, and resources. Obviously I try to thank them immediately and personally when people go out of their way for us, but for the times that doesn't seem like enough I turn -- as always -- to the knitting needles.

One of the unsung heros of the wedding weekend will undoubtedly be Tony, husband to my matron of honor and father to our flower girl. When not shuttling them to wedding-related activities, Tony will likely be attending to their other daughter, who by wedding-time will be around 6 weeks old.

Tony's a contractor in Tennessee, so he can't have his fingers bound up when he's working. And since he hails from the sub-tropics, even Tennessee winters chill him. These are (I hope!) a perfect solution to both problems. Speaking of the sub-tropics, they were also the inspiration for the stripe pattern on the mittens. Tony is about the proudest Ecuadorian you'll ever meet, so I worked in the stripes from his bandera.

Que viva Ecuador!

Gracias, cuñado.

Addendum: Woops, forgot the project specs!
Pattern: based loosely on the Men's Hand/Wrist Warmers from Last Minute Knitted Gifts.
Yarn: Cascade 200 Superwash (black) and oddments of Red Heart acrylic in colores ecuatorianos for stripes.

Posted by shannon at 9:55 AM | Comments (1) | For related posts: Nuptial Knitting

August 5, 2005

Two by Two

Been pretty quiet around here, huh? Never fear, I'm knitting like a crazy woman. I've been incredibly productive, so it's not one of those times where I don't post because there's nothing to report. It's weird, I've even had entries queued up, needing only the slightest bit more work to be ready to post... and there they've languished.

Part of the reason is that there's a whole lotta wedding planning goin' on around here these days. (My motto is, "prepare frantically now to avoid being preparing frantically later".) It's time consuming, energy consuming, and deadly boring. Can't have that on the blog, now can we?

Here are two things that I've finished recently: nice, simple 2x2 ribbed scarves. The blue one is for a friend of the family who is hosting a brunch for "the womenfolk" the day before the wedding -- it's made of Cashmerino Superchunky in Misty Blue. The pink one is for the facilities/wedding coordinator at the place we're getting married, who is patient, competent, and responds quickly to e-mail*. It's made from just under two skeins of Rowan Cork in Pleasure, which I received as part of my welcome kit when I joined Rowan. The pattern for both was Alison's orange bliss scarf.

Wedding planning disguised as knitting? Or knitting disguised as wedding planning? You tell me.

*If Jason and I made a movie about working with wedding vendors, the title would be "Must Use E-mail". But we wouldn't make such a movie because we'd be incarcerated for boring people to death.

Posted by shannon at 11:55 AM | Comments (0) | For related posts: Nuptial Knitting