Monday, 22 December 2014

Happy Holidays!

Even though it is still not very wintery outside (read: not wintery at all!), the holidays are fast approaching - and I am very, very much looking forward to some nice, quiet time with family and friends, enjoying good food and spending time together.

There are still a few last odds and ends to take care of, but I'm hoping to have them all finished this early afternoon - and then I will be going on a lovely, long-looked-forward-to winter break. This also means that there will be no blogging until January 9.

Thank you all for a wonderful year 2014! It has been a pleasure blogging here, and I'm looking forward to more of it next year. I hope you will all have nice, relaxed and happy holidays, with friends and loved ones, only nice surprises and lots of laughter.

Have a wonderful festive season and a terrific start into the new year - I will see you on the flip side!

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Frenzy!

As the holidays are approaching, I find myself in a frenzy to finish stuff before everything grinds to a halt for the enjoyment of food, friends, and family. Which means that it is absolutely time again to post a festive musical video:

Also? Enjoy a nice cuppa.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Dr Who rant.

A few years ago, I was introduced to the (new) Dr Who series... and I loved it. So, since we live in Germany and have no TV, we bought us some DVDs.

Season after season, we'd wait for the last one to appear on DVD, and as soon as we had it, there were nights when we went to bed far later than we should, because obviously we had to watch just one more episode. It was wonderful, and fun, and lovely.

And then... Russell T. Davies left the show. (That was 2009.) And then David Tennant left the show. (That was 2010.) The episodes with Matt Smith never rang the same with me as the earlier ones had done, and more and more we both lost that compulsion to spend half of the night watching the DVDs when they arrived. In fact, it took us ages to watch the last DVD season, and the highly praised "Day of the Doctor" was, well, sort of okay for me. I enjoyed seeing Rose again, and the other Doctors, but the story itself was more like meh for me.

A little while ago, we finally bought the Christmas special shown in 2013. (Not part of the DVD box, as usual - so we now have most of the specials twice. Gah.) We watched it the day before yesterday, and oh. Oh. (Might be mild spoilers ahead.)

It was easily the worst Dr Who episode that I have ever seen. It was so bad that I was thinking of deliberately trying to fall asleep after the first twenty minutes. It was so bad that I thought about getting up off the couch and doing some mindless computer gaming or read a book instead. It was so bad that I thought after half an hour "oh my goodness, another half hour left still". There was no plot, just weirdly sequenced apparitions of monsters. There was the Doctor betraying his companion (just to save her, of course). There were lots of explosions, plus there was some weird sexual innuendo at some point (wasn't that supposed to be a children's show, too?) and overall it seemed to me as if someone had just taken every monster from the last few seasons, put them into a box, and after shaking said box poured them out.

Ah, and the monsters... there were, once, rules about the monsters. Such as the Weeping Angels, who cannot move when someone looks at them. Including other Weeping Angels. There was that brilliant, brilliant end of the monster confrontation in the episode where the Angels stole the Blue Box.

Those rules got changed. Or nixed. Or now, they get ignored again and again - whatever of these three choices, it makes the angels less believable for me, and less scary, and less interesting. Similar stuff happened with a lot of other things, and other monsters. Again and again.

I'd like to have proper plots again. And monsters that follow the rules once made for them. More content, and fewer explosions to mask the lack thereof. Small but important things taken care of, not the whole universe, or whole planets, or whatever stuck here or there into another dimension because bigger is always better. It isn't. (That's like trying to mask bad quality with more volume. Not a good idea.)

So now we're thinking about whether to go on watching... or whether to stop. Capaldi probably deserves a chance, but if the show is written in the same style as it was these last seasons, I'm not very optimistic about how that Doctor will develop. Maybe we'll be able to borrow the next season from one of our friends instead of buying it - this time, I would prefer to be sure that I will like what I get before supporting the series with another DVD sale. And that, my friends, is sad.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Are you bored yet?

The EU vat rules have occupied me some more yesterday... and I'm very happy that I only have one pdf knitting pattern to sell, and that should be easily solveable by either continuing to sell it via Ravelry or taking it down come January. If that rule is really going to apply to physical goods in the future, though, things will look differently.

For those of you who enjoy graphic depictions of stuff, here's the comic listing the typical options for small businesses selling digital content:

(Comic by Dave Walker)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

More about the VAT madness.

January 1 is drawing closer, and with it the VAT madness. I've spent a good while yesterday figuring out things and possible solutions. Well.

For those of you knitting, Ravelry is hard at work together with LoveKnitting to get a solution to the VAT problem, so there is hope that if you live in the EU, you will still be able to get pdf knitting patterns when the new year has come. If you want to be on the safe side, though, you might want to get the pattern(s) on your list now.

In case you have no idea yet whether the new regulations will hurt you or not, you might want to read this. It's rather long, but it is an impressive list of things that will be influenced by the EU VAT regs.

The EU VAT action has also planned a twitterstorm for today, starting in about... five minutes. In case you want to join, here's the official information page.

I'll be off to Twitter some...

Monday, 15 December 2014

Links for you.

It's time for links again!

Here's one to an ongoing comparison of fingerloop braids, together with instructions for each band, from Silkewerk.

Variations on yarn-overs, from Ysolda's blog. Just in case you want to tweak the size of your yarn-overs to make them exactly the same size.

If you read German and like things that make noise and stink (also known as ancient fireweapons), the page of the Bummsbrigade Hamborch should be just the thing for you. (If you don't read German, they are working on an English version of the page, according to said page, and you could look at the pictures of their stuff, "Zeug", meanwhile.)

Friday, 12 December 2014

Madness, brought to you by the EU. Please help stop it.

Just in case you have not heard about it yet (and I suppose a lot of you haven't): There will be a new regulation regarding taxes when selling digital services within the EU. Before January 1 2015, whatever you sold was taxed according to the rules your business is based in. After January 1, tax will have to be calculated according to the buyer's country rules, and you will have to pay your tax to them.

The intention behind this new rule? Prevent the big players from sitting somewhere in a low-tax country and shipping out oodles of stuff to everywhere else, making a bigger profit because of the lower tax rates. Which is all very nice - but this rule is, madly, going to apply to everybody. It is supposed to "level the playing field".

Can you imagine what that means for small businesses? Right. It means a lot of hassle, plus a lot of additional time investment, plus paperwork, plus costs. Or breaking the law. "Levelling the playing field", in their case, will mean taking them off the playing field entirely.

I learned about that rule change about two months ago, and I was really, really glad that I had opted for physical copies of the Pirate Robert hat to sell. This morning, though, I filled out a survey about the impact of the new rule, and I learned that the EU plans to include physical goods into this madness from 2016 on. WHAT?

This, Friends, Romans and Countrymen, will truly mean the end of many small businesses. Doing the paperwork for taxes is bad enough when you are handling your own country plus the exceptions that come with the "normal" rules. If I have to register for taxes in every country I ship to? And handle that accounting as well? That might kill my business. Together with many, many other small businesses.

The Internet has made it possible to get things from about everywhere, and the new regulations will cut that back to getting things from the big players only. Please help protest against the new regulations, in hopes that we can get better rules for us small players. There is a EU-wide petition for this - please sign, and pass on the information.

If you are a small-business owner yourself, or know one, here is the survey about the impact. Every survey helps. Every vote in the petition helps. Belief in miracles probably won't hurt either.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Tea time!

I love tea. Especially at this time of year, when it is cold and dreary outside, a nice cuppa makes life so much better, instantly.

I also love to have the tea on a teapot-warmer - for some kinds of tea, especially black tea, this seems to keep the taste nice for a longer time, as opposed to putting the hot tea into a thermos bottle. (At least that's what it feels like for me.)

Teapot-warmers, though, need something to burn within them. Which, usually, means tea lights. Now, these come in handy little packages, each one in their little aluminum shell, and the wax is not the most eco-friendly stuff either. That always scratched on my green conscience.

So from time to time, I'd try different things. Beeswax tea lights. "Eco" tea lights with different wax. They all did not work properly, due to different reasons.

A while ago, though, I discovered an alternative and have now tested it for a bit: oil lights. They are basically a cork swimmer thingie, you insert a short little wick into that, fill something like a small, flat bowl with water, put some vegetable oil on top, place the wicked swimmer on it and light the wick. There you go. Small, lightweight, no aluminum waste, and just a bit of oil that hangs out in the kitchen anyways. Plus, the company that has been making these since 1867 is based here, in my region, and does all the production locally as well.

I would have linked to them here and now, but they do not sell to end-users, and the oil lights seem to be relatively hard to find. Which means... I am actually thinking about getting them into my shop. It has nothing to do with textile production per se, but it is a wonderful product, we all know textile people need hot tea (right?), and it might also be just the thing a few living history folks need. (There were hanging oil lamps in medieval times, which definitely need something to hold a wick. That would be another nice excuse...)

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Even more ideas.

Just because it's that time of the year, and just because I can - in case you are still looking for some inspiration for your shopping:

The British Library would like to aid you with their list of things you can buy. (Nice stuff, though the quill they offer as part of the writing set triggers one of my pet peeves. The first thing you do before writing with a modified feather? Take off that annoying fluffy stuff. Writing quills are not supposed to look like feathers! They look like naked central ridges of feathers, maybe with a little rest of the vane at the very top. The rest of the vane? Gone. Look at any picture of medieval scribes. Or later scribes using quills.)

Or maybe you are looking for a different kind of gift? Something that will not accumulate dust? You could sponsor something like the research project for bat-friendly roofing membranes (will run for 6 more days), or the archaeological excavations at Sandby Borg in Sweden, or help the UCL museum to protect and conserve its collection of very special skeletons.

(h/t to ossamenta for these last three!)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014


It's time for some housekeeping again - well, housekeeping in regard to the computer. We have a lovely thing for keeping files safe and sound, since I have become an even bigger fan of secure backups when several hard disks died during my phd thesis writing. (I lost a bit of work each time, but not much, thanks to regular backing up.) So these days, we have a RAID 1, which is really cool, and with 2 TB, it's also quite roomy. For the non-computer geeks: RAID stands for Redundant Array of Individual (or Inexpensive) Disks. The 1 after that means you get two identical hard disk drives, and then you write all your data on both disks, so they should have identical content. The smart thing can check itself to make sure both disks are working and both have the same content - and in case one dies, you replace it and the thing mirrors the contents of the survivor to the empty replacement. It's not the securest thing there ever was, since there's no guarantee both won't die at once, but much better than just a single disk. (There's lots of more numbers for RAIDs that mean delightfully complicated arrangements of several disks to speed things up and make stuff extra-secure. But we stick with the 1, for now.)

Doing lots of backups, though, and with an inclination to rather copy a file once more than one time too few, duplicate files will inevitably accumulate. Which means that even roomy RAIDs will, at a certain point in time, not be so roomy anymore. So now and then, housekeeping is on the agenda. Which means that my computer has been running a duplicate search over night, and I just spent a little while checking what it has found, and generously deleting duplicates, triplicates and in some cases even quadriplicates. (That happens when you backup everything, then move a file to a different location, accidentally copy it again, and I have no clue where the fourth one came from.)

Just in case you are getting nervous now since your last backup has been ages ago: I use SyncBack as the backup tool, and AntiTwin to search and delete duplicate files. Both are free in their basic version. Go do a backup. It's the best way to make sure you might never need it - and if you do, well, then you have one!

Monday, 8 December 2014


For a change, I actually am remembering my blogiversary on the day this year.

On Monday, December 8, back in 2008, starting a blog seemed like a really good idea. It's Monday, December 8, 2014 now, and I would like to tell my past self that yes, starting a blog? Brilliant idea.

This morning, I looked at the visitor stats for the first time in ages - and I found out that I seem to have leveled out regarding both the views per year and the average RSS feeds that are taken from the blog. That means I'm at least interesting enough for a given number of people - and since you are one of them: Thank you for coming here (or getting the feed) and reading my blog! (Including enduring all the boring posts.)

Because without readers, a blog won't work. And meeting some of you readers is the best thing about blogging for me, by the way. When I meet somebody somewhere - at a conference, for example, or at an event, and somehow the blog comes up and the other person says "Oh, that's your blog? I read that!" I usually feel about 10 cm taller. Every time. (Good thing I only feel that way, or I'd be way past the record tallness for humans now.) It's nice to know that what you are writing goes out into the world, and even nicer that it is sometimes considered really helpful as well - posts like the one about untangling a skein of yarn or the series about fair prices in crafting get read again and again. (And now I'm possibly making them even more popular by linking them again.)

So. Thank you for reading. Thank you for all your comments, too, and for linking to this blog whenever I manage to do properly interesting stuff. I'm still enjoying the ride. (Or should that be "the write"?)

Here's to the next year of blogging - may my writing stay interesting enough for you to enjoy!

Friday, 5 December 2014

Looking for even more stuff?

If you read this blog regularly, you'll know that I was at the Kreativ fair last month. Our time to walk around and have a look at all the other stalls in the hall there was limited, but it was enough to get an impression of things and to find a few very interesting bits and pieces. Or amusing bits and pieces - like the eyes that I bought for Cousin Itt, erm, my distaff:

There. Isn't that nice?

But I promised you stuff, in the title. So here you go.
One of the colleagues at the fair was a lovely lady who sold her own invention, a stainless steel sewing gauge. It's more or less the typical style used in Germany, without a sliding bit, which means it's resilient and will not take up a lot of space in your sewing tool stack.

Since it's made of stainless steel, you can use for marking hems and buttonholes (like you would usually do), but also for exact ironing of hems or seams. Or seam allowances - including those on curves. You can find sample pictures of this on her website (text in German).

I've watched Nannette demonstrate this, and were I a modern sewing person, I would have bought one on the spot. (I am not sewing in the modern style, at all. Which means that I also do not iron seams or hems. That, again, means that I have no use even for a nifty cool gadget like this.) 

If you are doing things to your seams and seam allowances using an iron, however, this might be just what your sewing kit is lacking.  Or if you are looking for a present for somebody who does modern sewing, that might be just the thing. The gauge costs 25 € a piece, plus shipping costs, and you can order it directly from Nannette by e-mailing her. (I checked back with her, since the website is German only: she's fine with shipping internationally, she will tell you how much shipping to your country will be once you emailed her, and it's also possible to pay her with paypal.)

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Looking for stuff?

Just in case you are still searching for things to delight friends, family, loved ones or colleagues with, now is the time of year to go read John Scalzi's blog. At Whatever, this year's Holiday Shopping Guide is live again, and you might just find something in the links that helps you with your finding-of-things quest.

In much the same spirit, the Yarn Harlot is also doing her yearly "Gifts for Knitters" thing again. (Scroll down a bit to find the gifts section.)

For both of these blogs, check back on them later - more stuff is going to be posted there. And even if you are all set with your presents already, they are worth looking at, if only for the curious things posted!

Wednesday, 3 December 2014


It's very grey and wintery outside these days, but we still have no snow - as opposed to where my parents live, they've already had some of the white stuff.

It is nice to slowly migrate towards the calmer time of the year, though. While there are still plenty of things left to do hereabouts, there is no more fair or show or market for now, which greatly reduces the urgency of certain things. And that is a very good thing, as I still feel like I could use some more days off to relax and regenerate.

For now, though, having some nice quiet time in the evenings and looking forward to the weekend will have to do. Oh, and motivational hot beverages help as well. Plus chocolate. And the fact that it is pleasant work, overall - even if it is still work.

Just in case you would rather like to learn something new (or old) instead of reading me rambling on about the weather and wanting some holidays, here's a website helping you learn Middle English. Chaucer, anyone?

Or maybe a gratuitous knitting pic? I've succumbed to the lure of all that yarn while at the Kreativ, plus it was cool in the hall - so I just had to cast on for a snuggly triangular scarf/shawl. It's made from one skein of sock wool in the "Jeans" colourway, dyed by Margit from Alte Künste. (Here's the shop link.) I finished it a few days ago, and I've been enjoying its snugglyness ever since.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

News from the shop.

I blame today's very, very late blog post on the weather. To be more precise, I blame it on the light - I wanted to take the long overdue photos yesterday, but it was not light enough. So I waited until noon today... and now, finally, the plant-dyed silk embroidery threads are in the online shop.

(No use putting threads in there without pictures, right?)

And here they are, in all their splendour. Pictures don't do these justice, the colours are a lot nicer and more vibrant in reality.

I have limited stocks of some colours, and I realise that this is not the full palette that one might want to have for embroidery, but it's a good start - and I do take requests for other colours once a few have sold and I can think about widening the colour diversity.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Pre-Festivity Baking: Gingerbread.

Due to my sort-of-newly discovered food intolerances, the baking this year is both a little different and, in a way, a little more important than usual. Having the typical cookies for the season was always important for me, and baking them became one of my personal traditions years ago - I think it is more than a decade by now. (Wow. Time really flies.)

Traditionally, though, I only made cookies. A few things were not home-made, but bought - such as Lebkuchen (gingerbread). You might have heard of the Nuremberg Gingerbread, which is a speciality, and apart from the few very big producers of said food, there are small bakeries that have even better gingerbread. Which, however, always includes a few things that I cannot or do not want to eat these days, such as wheat flour (in the wafer at the bottom and usually also a little in the dough), soy lecithin (in the chocolate covering) or glucose-fructose syrup (in the candied orange and lemon peel, as well as in the apricot jam sometimes added).

That is a pity. And a bad thing, because this season without gingerbread? It's unthinkable for me. Which is why I had to trawl the 'net for different recipes until I found one that comes close to the recipe of our previous favourite gingerbread maker. I reduced the sugar content, though, and upped the amount of nuts and almonds.

Just in case you want to make some, too - here you go:

8 egg whites
200 g brown sugar
10 g salts of hartshorn
200 g marzipan (I use marzipan paste which has less sugar and more almonds)
200 g hazelnuts
600 g almonds
100 g lemon marmalade with peel (substitute for the candied peel)
100 g orange marmalade with peel
120 g honey (use an aromatic one)
50 g apricot jam
30 g gingerbread spices
pinch of salt
flour as necessary

Beat egg whites and sugar for several minutes, until the sugar has dissolved completely. Grind nuts and almonds (I use half of them finely ground, half more coarsely). Mix all the ingredients into the beaten egg-sugar mixture; tear the marzipan into small pieces first so it will dissolve better.

The dough should be viscous and sticky. If it's too liquid, you can add in some flour of your choice, or more finely ground nuts. Let it stand in a cool place overnight (or at least for a few hours) before baking.

For baking, place portions onto a silicone baking sheet, baking paper, or place portions of the dough on the traditional wafer thingies. Bake for c. 10 mins at about 200°C. The gingerbread should be slightly toasted brown on the outside, but still moist on the inside.