Life

From Japan with love: Hanami

Hanami is the second pattern in the “From Japan With Love” pattern bundle. Additional patterns in this bundle will be released throughout the year.

The design:

I've you've been following me for a while, you probably know that I have a special fondness for swingy garments for little girls. While the yoke and sleeves are designed to be relatively fitted, the skirt portion of Hanami flares out rather dramatically for a good dose of whimsy. Let's just say that this particular dress is sure to be a hit with twirly dress enthusiasts ;) As always, it's also a practical, comfortable garment that looks really special with its neat finishing touches.

The stitch pattern featured in the front yoke produces a rich and visually striking texture that is reminiscent of blossoms or snowflakes (I actually think Hanami would make a fantastic winter dress! It would be stunning in white, red or speckled yarn). The wide skirt is intended to have a gauzy feel and float about in the breeze.

The inspiration:

As I explained in the blog post I wrote about Sagano, another Japan-inspired design, my recent trip to Japan brought back so many memories and emotions.

One of the most special experiences that I had there as a teenager was to take part in Hanami, a traditional Japanese custom that involves sitting under cherry-blossom-covered trees in the Spring, and watching the exquisite, fragile blossoms fluttering away. There's something bittersweet, almost poignant about it, and it's in my view very reminiscent of those beautiful, fleeting moments of childhood. I tried to capture this mixture of excitement and nostalgia with this design, imagining little girls twirling about in the sun, in an exuberant explosion of joy and life.

  This wonderful photograph was captured by one of my test-knitters,  Raveler Flerpy . She knit the "top" version and I think it's just delightful. (photo used with permission)

This wonderful photograph was captured by one of my test-knitters, Raveler Flerpy. She knit the "top" version and I think it's just delightful. (photo used with permission)

About the yarn:

I used Leizu fingering by Julie Asselin for the sample, which is a merino blend containing a small amount of silk, creating a lovely stitch definition and subtle sheen. The soft pink colorway is called Romance and I find it perfectly evocative of delicate cherry blossoms. 

While this design calls for a fingering weight yarn (by the way, a "sock yarn" should work great and be durable, too!), I would steer clear of "light fingerings," which might produce a fabric that is a bit too loose. Actually, the gauge would allow you to get away with using a slightly thicker yarn, such as a sport, but in that case, the garment wouldn't be as breezy/floaty, it would end up being a bit "denser", so, warmer and more structured. Just a matter of personal preference ;)

6 years lived the German way

Today is January 15th. That means that it's now been 6 years [6 YEARS!!!] since we arrived in Germany.

 This stroller got me so many looks... Apparently babies this age need to be horizontal (preferably asleep) in an old-fashioned pram with a million blankets on top of them at ALL TIMES.

This stroller got me so many looks... Apparently babies this age need to be horizontal (preferably asleep) in an old-fashioned pram with a million blankets on top of them at ALL TIMES.

Coming from the US with a 6 month-old in tow, we were a bit bewildered at first to find ourselves in such a seemingly remote and... dark part of the country. We live in the North-Eastern part of Germany, in the former DDR, on the Baltic Sea (just across Denmark). So the dead of winter took a bit of getting used to. But even in the winter, there are still good times and incredible surprises to be had, like that one time the ocean had frozen over:

 The Ostsee, frozen over.

The Ostsee, frozen over.

Then, a few months later, we discovered the joy of Scandinavian summertime near the sea. A 20-minute bike ride along a wonderfully pretty canal takes you to the beach, where the still and shallow waters mean that you can (almost) leave the kids splashing around unattended. We've had so many beach picnics followed by lazy, slow afternoons.

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And this small town just happens to have kid-friendly everything: great playgrounds, ice cream at every corner, playing area in many restaurants and coffee shops, lots of daycares (relatively speaking, compared to many places in Germany where they are scarce), the most wonderful little zoo, old sailboats along the canal...

So we've settled into a very wholesome, family-centric, relaxed way of life. Pool or bikes rides to the forest on Sunday mornings, or walking to the coffee shop for some fresh pretzels and cappuccinos. Racing bikes down slopes, scaring many a duck and passerby... In the summer, barbecuing or gardening on our deck, perfecting cookie and key lime pie recipes... Ingesting a good amount of Sekt and pistachios. Finding bugs and snails, collecting dead leaves. Dreaming of unearthing dinosaur bones.

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Of course it hasn't been all puppies and rainbows. Learning to navigate things when there were (at the time) so few expats around to guide us (thank you to the few who did!!) and without the benefit of a proficient German speaker in the family (oh, how my high school German felt inadequate!) has at times been painful and peinlich... Building a successful business with such a language barrier for all things administrative wasn't easy. Figuring out what's done and not done, said and not said was an everyday learning experience -- but that's what all expats and immigrants (should) do.

Another hard thing: juggling three languages every day. And the myth of the multilingual kids who absorbs all languages equally, rapidly and with sponge-like passivity (propagated mostly by non-trilingual-kid-having people)... This myth led to much anxiety during the first few years of language struggles for our eldest, which came with a side of behavioral issues, due to language-related frustration and insecurity. We were almost going to throw the towel in and leave, feeling that we had failed him by hampering his communication and learning skills with all these difficult languages to be learned AT THE SAME TIME.

But then... things sort of clicked (with a LOT of effort and family involvement). The trilingual thing is no longer a source of worry. We had a second child here (who had none of her brother's language difficulties), bought a place, got a car (after years of riding bikes everywhere!). And just like that, we're home. For now ;) 

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Looking back at 2017: consolidation

Before I set some goals for the new year I wanted to take stock and look back at 2017, see what I accomplished and what I could have done better. Overall I think the word that defines this year is "consolidation:"

 Isn't this mug really cute? Too bad this is a stock photo, I have no idea where to find it!

Isn't this mug really cute? Too bad this is a stock photo, I have no idea where to find it!

-PATTERN RELEASES: I've released 10 patterns in 2017, still going slow and steady and trying to be very intentional about each design that I release. Half of the patterns I published in 2017 were based on my best-selling pattern Entrechat: two extra versions of the designs, written for DK and for fingering weights, and three matching accessories: the Entrechat bonnet, available for three different yarn weights: worsted, dk and fingering. The rest of the releases were: Em Dash (the grown-up version of my Hyphen cardigan), two gender-neutral cardigans (Merci and Miel) and two dresses (Honey Pie and Aubade).

While I felt a bit frustrated that consolidating my porfolio (the different weight versions for Entrechat and the matching bonnets) meant less time spent exploring new designs, I think spending time giving my customers what they asked for was the right thing to do :)

-STYLE: 2017 is the year that I have consciously looked within to find and express into words the source of my inspiration. I feel that I have solidified my own style and my designs reflect the sweet spot where my creativity and my customers' expectations intersect.  

-SOCIAL: in 2017 I ran the first-ever Entrechat Knitalong and while I spent a lot of time planning it and gathering sponsors and prizes, it was a real thrill to see so many people participate and have fun with the design. Earlier in the year I also ran an Easter/Spring dress KAL, which was also great. I think I still have to do better and fight my introvert tendencies in order to connect with my lovely community even more. Overall, though, I feel like I'm on the right path in consolidating these ties. I've been posting regularly on Instagram and although my Newsletter is currently mostly about pattern releases and discounts, the number of subscribers is growing rapidly and I am planning on sprucing up the content this year.

-IN-PERSON EVENTS: This is an area that definitely could use some improvements: I had intended to attend both Berlin Knits and Rhinebeck in 2017, but a trip to Japan (which was so much fun and so inspiring! I'll post about it soon) conflicted with those dates, so I ended up missing out on both events. I really want to meet more knitters in person, and it's a bit frustrating to live far away from big cities and always feel like I'm in a bubble. 

-WORK/LIFE BALANCE: This year was one of steady business growth. My revenue grew 25% in 2017, which I'm very happy with. I've spent more effort where it matters and hired help here and there so I wouldn't get bogged down by easily-outsourced tasks.  I also tried to aim for a good work/life balance: I tried to be focused and disciplined during work hours and avoided working when my family was home and on weekends. I also prioritized sleep -- the kids now sleep beautifully and so do I! I also took advantage of our kids growing more independent to take longer trips with my husband (thanks to the help of dedicated grandparents!). I even basically took December off, knitting other designers' patterns, which was so enjoyable:

 Christmas Stockings by Ukeeknits:  link to Ravelry pattern

Christmas Stockings by Ukeeknits: link to Ravelry pattern

 Berlin Soft Cardigan by Meiju Knits:  link to Ravelry pattern

Berlin Soft Cardigan by Meiju Knits: link to Ravelry pattern

-PERSONAL: A big chunk of my year was taken up by the need to pass my driver's license again. I live in Germany, and my New Jersey (expired!) license isn't valid here. So I had to go through the very lengthy and expensive process of taking hours and hours or theory and driving lessons -- all in German! (Not to mention a first-aid certification, eye test etc... prior to even getting started.) Long story short, I passed the test in September and can now finally USE OUR CAR!! That's been a relief because as much as I enjoy riding my bike, the kids are starting to be in that tricky phase where they're too young to ride their own bikes to school and almost too old to be in the bike seat and trailer. Plus when it rains or snows it's nice to have a more comfortable option ;)

The focus on this has taken away from spending time trying to improve my German and I fear that my skills have taken a nose-dive. Same with running/exercising. I did ok early in the year but then the driving lessons in the early morning interfered with my efforts. One good thing I did thanks to the break I took in December was to finally set up my sewing machine and start sewing again as a hobby! For now it's baby steps, just sewing some dolly clothes, but it's a good start to getting my sewing skills to an acceptable level ;)

 Tiny doll clothes for my girl!

Tiny doll clothes for my girl!

-FAMILY: The kids made tremendous strides in 2017: I now consider them fully trilingual: their French skills have really blossomed because of time spent with my side of the family and they are now starting to express themselves relatively well. It's great to finally be able to have conversations with them in French.

They have become very chatty and social and say the funniest thing. They are joined at the hip, love being read to and they draw a lot. A. also learned to swim this year! When I think about how nervous he used to be in the pool, it's a real wonder. They also both have started attending a music class and they love it. Finally, A. has just recently passed the German Schuluntersuchung, the test all school-aged kids have to take before they can start school. I have to say, this was a lot more involved than what I was expecting: one hour of medical and cognitive testing... So that means he'll start "real school" this summer! Hard to believe...

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We also added two member to our family in 2017: two kitties, Jacko and Stella! They are a bit naughty, making messes wherever they go, but they are incredibly snuggly. Sharing our flat with them is still an adjustment sometimes, but the kids are so happy about these two furry friends!

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What about you? How did 2017 treat you? I wish all of you a fantastic 2018!

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