Week two in Finland

There’s something incredibly freeing about wandering alone through a foreign city. The liberation of the anonymous, I suppose. I’ve lived in small country Australian towns now for the last fifteen years. Anonymity does not exist in such places, even as a rather solitary creature who prefers my own company. I’ve never been able to blend in.
But here I do, a foreign city, surrounded by people speaking a foreign language…I could be anyone. I stand on Aleksanterinkatu, drawn to a corner by a delightful noise, and I am honestly moved to tears by a man playing beautiful music on an elaborate array of glass bottles. 

  
Surrounding me, watching also, are rosy cheeked Finnish faces, rugged up in big coats and beanies and mittens just like me. No one looks twice at me, and I feel like one of them. Except I lack the high, razor-sharp cheek bones. All around me, massive displays of Christmas lights and trees and hanging stars create a true winter wonderland that I had thought could only exist in my imagination or old movies. There are gnomes everywhere! Fairy lights everywhere! The windows of Stockmann’s department store house intricate, animated, musical displays that fascinate children. And a spinning one made of chocolate that fascinates me. 

  
   
   
Small pieces of white fluff start falling from the sky. I look up. Did someone shake a rug out of a top floor window? That’s going to set off my hayfever. I chuckle at myself as I realise it is snowing, and can’t believe I actually thought that. Apparently still very much an Australian. 

   
   
I came here to discover a part of my heritage, a part that had always drawn me despite being only one eighth of my genetics. I’ve thrown myself into the crowds and the energy and the pulse of the city. This trip, like all travel, is changing me. So many little mysteries falling into place, so many things make sense now. I am perpetually surprised that my halting Finnish is understood. Something about me is attracting the attention of tourists, and no less than four times so far I have been asked directions. What is that about? I am guessing the openness of the Australian face versus the more unreadable Finn. Or maybe just because I keep grinning. 😀

  
Around every corner here is a sense of the familiar. Oh, and a yarn store. 🙂

  
Working my way across the city, I have gathered a nice little collection of Finnish yarn and accessories. Also a little Drops. And maybe a Rowan or two. Because I’m three quarters English too. 

  
  
Jetlag has worked wonders on my knitting, and the fiddly Lilli Pilli and the linen crochet shawl charge ahead in the early hours of each morning. I’m also working on a jacket, which hopefully I’ll get finished to wear on the trip home because no way will it fit in my case. 

  
Tempting as it has been to bust open the beautiful new Finnish yarns and have a party, I am keeping them perfect and chaste for now. Something very special will be planned for them…if indeed I can fit them in my suitcase too. In addition to the surreally appealing Muumi merchandise I keep buying, I may be struggling for room. 

  
Come on. It’s a Moomin cookie cutter. How could anyone resist? 🙂
A splash of afternoon sun brings everyone out, turning their faces and bodies toward it. I find myself naturally avoiding it. It is the Europeans who love sunbaking, while ironically most of the Australians nowadays seem to hiss at it and run for the shade…

   
 But then just as quickly it’s back to lovely cold and grey. I walk to the Hakaniemi market, past the gorgeous Kiasma gallery, across the water and through parks dusted with snow.

   
    
    
    
 
I wander also in quieter areas on days when I’m struggling a little. I largely ignore my diagnosis but occasionally it sneaks up and I have to pace myself as my joints crackle like bubble wrap. So I head for the beautiful cemetery by the water, where candles are lit on the graves throughout the dark winter months. The Sibelius monument. The Olympic stadium. This time of year, there are very few tourists. There’s a peace here, a comfortable, relaxed connection to the seasons. A different ebb and flow to the extreme brightness, energy and polarity of Queensland, currently sweltering in the summer heat and humidity.

I am reminded of a ring I used to wear, an intricately carved silver snail. It was a talisman at a traumatic time in my life, a symbol and a protective shell. A reminder that everything I needed was always carried within me. It feels good not to need that symbolic protection anymore, to know I can be at home anywhere. Even so, I miss it. Or rather, I miss M. He has not expressed the slightest word of complaint, despite the fact this trip has been so hard on him. We don’t live the kind of lifestyle one person alone can easily maintain whilst working full time. 
  
I’ll be coming back here regularly. Even without the genetic link, my inexorable adoration of Moomins ensures it. But M will be coming too. 
Next week…finally…the Christmas markets!! 😀

B x

Welcome to Helsinki

I made it! Just. There was, I admit honestly, a point halfway through the long long journey when I considered turning around and coming home. There’s no getting around the fact Australia to Europe is a hard slog. Following a seemingly endless night across the world is unutterably depressing. I need my sunshine.
But here I am. 🙂 The arrivals section of the airport was dark, quiet and almost completely empty. My footsteps literally echoed. Most people from my plane were transferring on, and disappeared. On my way to collect my bag, I passed an empty room full of roll top ‘people pods’. And one room with a grass floor. You can tell a lot about a country from their airport bathrooms. I entered the bathroom to see the starkest, brightest, whitest, most futuristic bathroom ever, coupled with loudly chirruping bird noises coming from the ceiling. I thought maybe I was hallucinating from exhaustion. But no. I looked it up later, it’s intended to be soothing.
I got a few groceries and headed for my apartment. It was 8am Helsinki time, 4 degrees, dark and raining. I needed a coat. I seriously needed a coat! Woohoo!!!! :))) 
Here’s the view from the apartment. That’s the spire of the National Museum.

  

After a twelve hour sleep, I decided it was a good investment on my first day to get a local guide to show me around the city on foot, how to catch public transport etc. She was awesome, a six foot three stunning Russian, 28, doing a Phd in linguistics, fluent in four languages. Way to make a person feel like an underachiever or what. (Although she said my Finnish accent was excellent and I nearly burst with pride :)) We had a great morning, she showed me everything I wanted to see, hopping on and off trams and buses around the city and telling a good bit of history too. This place is incredibly beautiful, and the people are lovely. Is it weird that it feels like home? Genetic memory? Here’s some pics of a few things we saw along the way. (Sorry, I kept them fairly low res for ease of uploading)

Senate Square and cathedral, which we went in to. The black things on the steps were gorillas.
  
Yep. And no, I have no idea.

  
Part of Helsinki University, the Faculty of Arts.

   
 One of the oldest cobblestone streets.

  
Helsinki City Museum. This is what they used to use to melt snow on the streets, I love it.

  
I left my mark on the blackboard too.

  
Uspenski Cathedral on the hill and the waterfront with Kauppatori market square and hall.

   
   
Old Market Hall. 

  
You know you’re in Finland when….

  
(I believe they are snacks made of reindeer, rather than snacks FOR your reindeer.)

Temppeliaukio Church (Rock Church). Very interesting, but I felt the vibe was more touristy than theological.
   
   
Esplanadi. We had a coffee at a gorgeous little cafe along here, and it reminded me so much of Paris.

   
 Kamppi Chapel (Chapel of Silence). This was my favourite place, it is stunning. And, as the name suggests, silent.

   
   
The iconic Helsinki image, at the railway station.

  
Some Christmas delights. I’ve had a small taste of the shopping available, it is amazing. I may be needing a bigger suitcase.

   
 Naturally there has been project time, mainly at night when I’m still on Brisbane time. I brought two lace weight projects with me because they take up so little room. The first is another crochet shawl from the Craftsy class, this one in pure linen on a 2.5mm hook. I am really enjoying it, I even got a few rows completed on the plane until I broke my little vintage plastic travel hook.

My other project is a Lilli Pilli wrap. This is designed for fingering weight, but the finished item is HUGE so I am doing it in laceweight, Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace, in light grey, dark grey and aqua on 3.25mm needles.
  
Both of these have been very soothing and enjoyable.
I’m going to take a bus right around the city tomorrow and slightly further afield. There are several yarn stores in Helsinki. They will be found.
B 🙂

Bag lady (and a crochet shawl)

A quick run through of my current knitting wips (works-in-progress) the other day saw my total at 14. This is in part due to the casting on frenzy of last week, but also I just have a short attention span. I am comfortable working on a large number of projects at once IF I can keep them segregated and organised in project bags. But things were getting a little out of hand.
I’ve been selling quite a few of my project bags and sock knitting kits of late, or I would just have commandeered some more bags from that stash. Being unable to do that, I decided to spend a morning making up some more bags for myself.

  
I started with a ‘fluff bucket’. These are pretty much like my large project bags, but without the fancy pockets and drawstring and handle. Just a lined, soft fabric bucket, basically. But they take so much tiiiiiime. Time that I’d rather be using doing a thousand other things. So I got one done, and then decided I needed a quicker option.

  
I can get one of these done in twenty minutes if I ignore perfectionism. That’s more like it. 

A couple of double drawstring ones first…

  

Then some little box-based ones with toggles…

    
This one was meant to be for sale. But seriously, it’s coffee and donuts. I had to keep it. I don’t eat donuts, but I sure do like coffee.

  
Then a larger one. When this was done I realised it needed a handle. So the next one got a handle. I dyed this piece of fabric when I was 15. I hung onto it because I knew I’d need it someday!! (24 years later…)

  
All of my bags are fully lined and have internal pockets, one for needles and one for stitch markers. I also have started doing one small pocket for a cable needle which, it turns out, is really handy.

  
Then I got a little bit fancy with linen and appliqué and funny linings and a little clasp for stitch markers…

   
 
My project bag tally now sits at 11 in total. 3 projects are still currently in plastic boxes. Because I save all my best fabrics for the bags I sell, my own are generally a mismatch of higgeldy piggeldy offcuts that clash violently with everything, including each other. But I care not. My favourite is still this one. 🙂

  
Of course I’ve also been knitting. Some secret knitting on my own new patterns, plus a couple of last minute projects for my Finland trip…a reeeally warm beanie, the pattern is ‘Hat most likely to succeed‘ by Alexandra Virgiel. I liked this pattern. It’s an interesting cable I hadn’t tried before, and I think I’ll take another of these as my plane knitting project.

  
And…cue dramatic music…..more crochet. My mum’s friend is donating lots of cakes of her beautiful handmade soap to a ‘farmer’s wife’ outback charity, and we are making little hanging bags for them all. 

  
So it was a busy week, but I also did another Craftsy class, My First Crochet Shawl. I didn’t enjoy this class as much as the crochet cardigan one, but at least I had enough yarn to finish this one.

   
   
I rather like it. The yarn is Lincraft ‘Splendour’ in the Red Sunset colour way, which I got at more than 50% off last weekend, so this is an AU$9 shawl. 🙂

  
 8 days to go. I’m pretty sure I can fit more knitting in….it’s 34 degrees Celsius all week here, and difficult to getting the ‘cosy knitting’ mojo on. Maybe if I turn the air con down a bit….
B 🙂

Finally Finished: Finland Sweater

  
For someone that can rabbit on as much as I do, I am struggling to come up with something to say about this sweater. It’s…ummm….nice? 

   
 So, obviously, I don’t love it. I don’t hate it either. I think, in the end, it’s just a little too sophisticated for scruffy bohemian me. The colour, the lines. I tried hard to roughen it up a little with some deep ribbed edgings and patch pockets. Nope, that didn’t help.

Out of nowhere, even my lovely sheepy-smelling scratchy natural wool turned into a smooth, drapey soft fabric when I blocked it. Bollocks. So in the end I abandoned the idea of elbow patches and wooden buttons and went with the natural flow of things, adding pretty mother of pearl buttons instead.

Pattern: Top-Down Turtleneck Cardigan by Purl Soho

Yarn: Bagabo Country Spun Wool 5ply 
Needles: 3.5mm (US 4)

Size: 35″

Mods:

4 x 4 rib edgings on body, 2 x 2 on cuffs

Patch pockets with buttonholes

Added about 2″ to overall length (I’m tall)

Ignored provisional cast on instructions at the under arms and just cast off/picked up

Likes

The yarn. Gorgeous.

The pockets with little buttons

The funnel neck

Dislikes:

The non-metric pattern

The slight pull at the shoulder increases

Trying to get a good photo in the thirty seconds I could wear it before dying of heat exposure.

  
  
I really did enjoy working a sportweight sweater. It fits very nicely under a jacket, and is surprisingly warm. Two weeks to go until I get out of this furnace and get to wear it in the cold! :))