A Few Hours on Fårö

Fårö is sparsely populated. The summer tourists were gone and the locals were not to be seen. We had the narrow roads all to ourselves.

Windmill on Fårö

I was on a quest to find Gotland sheep and Fårö satisfied. Along an empty road, behind a fence on a large pasture of land, I spotted them.

Gotland Sheep - Fårö

This fella’ (or gal) on the left was quite curious and walked over to me. Meanwhile, the two behind him were playing around butting heads.

Gotland Sheep playing on Fårö

As he got closer, I found his eyes to be quite interesting. Rather than round pupils, his were like horizontal slits. I had never noticed! Apparently this is quite typical for sheep. From a little research on the web, I found an article that explains how the shape of an animals’ pupils affects how well they can control light entering the eye.

Gotland Sheep eyes (Fårö)

… horizontally elongated pupils are nearly always found in grazing animals, which have eyes on the sides of their heads. They are also very likely to be prey animals such as sheep and goats. (Source)

Gotland Sheep grazing on Fårö

As we continued driving along, we pulled over to take a look at a Gotland farm. This farmhouse at Bondans was built in 1783. There was a visitor’s stand that provided the history of the farm. I snapped a picture of it so that I would remember the details and have transcribed parts of it here.

Bondans Farm

In bygone days, farms were largely self-sufficient. Stone was used to build houses and fences. The forests provided firewood and timber. Clothes were made from wool and linen. The people on the farm lived off their fields and animals, hunting and fishing.

The farmhouse is a ‘parhus’ – a traditional laterally inverted structure with a hall mid-front, backed by a small parlor, both flanked by a large room on each side. Other farm buildings include a cow-shed thatched with sedge, a barn with a threshing mill, a row of outhouses, a store with a goose shed, a cellar and flax-drying shed, where there is a kiln used to roast malt for beer. (Sign posted by the County Administrative Board of Gotland)

Stone structure and wall on Fårö

Even back then, these farmers were planting green roofs, which help with insulation.

Nature takes over.

When wood became scarce in the eighteenth century, the state granted twenty years’ tax relief to those who built houses of stone. In the stone houses that were subsequently built, the walls were no longer of finely hewn stone but of dry-walled stone, plastered both inside and outside. (Sign posted by the County Administrative Board of Gotland)

I found this little structure to be so quaint and wondered what it would look like in black and white.

Stone structure on Fårö in black x white

On the Langhammar Nature Preserve, before we reached the rock-covered beaches and giant rauks, we crossed an area with lush green vegetation.

Windmill at Langhammars

The vegetation at Langhammar and in the areas to the south have been strongly affected by long-term sheep-grazing. The south end of the reserve could almost be described as “discontinuous savanna”; pine groves alternate with barren, heath-like tracts of alvar, and smaller areas of somewhat more luxuriant wet meadows. In the central part of Langhammar, the rocky ground is largely covered by low, crouching juniper bushes, which have been stunted by sheep and the wind. (Sign at Langhammars Nature Reserve posted by the County Administrative Board of Gotland)

The Helgumannen fishing village is located on the Digerhuvud Nature Reserve. The cottages were all shuttered for the coming winter.

Fishing cabins at Helgumannen, Fårö

Near the Gamla Hamn Nature Reserve, we followed signs pointing to S:t Olof’s Kyrka. Instead of a building, we found only the foundation of the church which dates back to the Medieval period.

S:T Olof's Kyrka

According to tradition, Gotland was converted to Christianity by the saintly Norwegian King Olof. In front of you there are the foundations of a small wooden chapel called St. Olof’s Church. The chapel is surrounded by a circular churchyard. (Sign posted by the County Administrative Board of Gotland)

We didn’t see them but near the shore there is apparently a burial ground with various graves dating back to Medieval times. From the endless gray skies and chill from the wind, I can only imagine what it might have been like during the Ice Age, or to see Viking ships arriving at the harbor. We were only on Fårö for a few hours but I will remember it forever.

An Island in the Middle of the Baltic Sea

I understand why long ago people thought the earth was flat. Looking to the horizon, a pang of fear spread across my heart. If we kept going, surely we would fall off the edge…

Baltic Sea

From Stockholm, we took a bus from the central station to Nynäshamn, about an hour and twenty minutes’ ride. At Nynäshamn, we boarded a ferry to Gotland, a Swedish island in the middle of the Baltic Sea. The ferry ride took just over three hours. We rented a car and drove north. When the land ran out, we boarded another ferry for a seven minute ride to Fårö, our destination.

Tiny Fårö has expansive views of the sea. From its shores, the Baltic Sea is black and deep and cold. Ingmar Bergman, the famed Swedish director, lived and died on Fårö. Bergman also directed some of his films against the austere backdrop of the island.

Liv Ullman in Personal
Liv Ullman in Persona by Ingmar Berman (Source)
Scene from Through a Glass Darkly (Source)

We drove straight to the shore to see the “rauks,” giant limestone formations molded over time by the sea. They stood there, towering in the distance.

Sea stacks at Langhammars
Sea stacks at Langhammars.

Here and there, we could see man’s attempts to create their own stacks.

Rock pile at Langhammars

To give you some perspective, I took this photograph of my husband walking toward the sea. It’s difficult to express the impact of the scene on my senses. How tiny I felt against the raw power of rock and water and wind. So beautifully breathtaking and alarming at the same time.

Man vs. Nature @ Langhammars

The seawater is clear and cold.

Pool of cold sea water @ Langhammars

At times, I felt like an astronaut staring at a moonscape – eerily barren but very much alive.

Moonscape @ Langhammars

Topology @ Langhammars

This man-made stack was over six feet high. I wonder how long it will stand against the winds?

Man interferes @ Langhammars

The rocks were cold but soft from the constant beating from the sea.

Close-up of limestone rock @ Digerhuvud
Close-up of limestone rock at Digerhuvud

Our last stop was at Gamla Hamn. Gamla Hamn stands for “ancient harbor” as this area is thought to have been used for fishing and trading in the Middle Ages. (Source)

Sea stacks @ Gamla Hamn

As we walked further down the beach, we saw the sea arch known as both “The Coffee Pot” and “The Dog.” In the distance, I guess it does look like a dog standing at attention.
"The Dog" sea stack @ Gamlahamn Close-up of "The Dog" sea stack @ Gamlahamn

There was no one besides us out there, which made it that much more magical and melancholy. Then we spotted two swans swimming in the bitterly cold sea.

Swans swimming in the cold Baltic Sea

For some reason, the landscape made me sad. I was somehow insignificant against its raw immensity. But still I marveled at its beauty.

View to the sea @ Gamlahamn


A Houston Fiber Festival

HFF Yarn Bomb 1

This past summer, the Knit at Night Guild (KANG) organized the first ever Houston Fiber Fest. The event took place the weekend of July 17-19, 2015. That very weekend, I was on my way out-of-town on business to South Africa and almost missed it. On Friday after work, I raced over to the Berry Center located in a suburb of Houston for about an hour before they closed. The exhibit area was large but very doable. Many yarn shops from the greater Houston area were there with their wares.

At Little Monkey’s Stitch and Spin, they had hand dyed two-stranded sock flats (those little bags hanging from the sides of the display). Each flat is already knitted together from 80% merino and 20% nylon. As you knit up your socks, you are basically, unraveling the flat. The result is two socks or mittens whose stripes or color patterns will match perfectly – very clever! You can find this shop on Etsy.

Little Monkey's Stitch and Spin

I thought the booth for The Barbed Dragon was a lot of fun. According to their website, the shop is “a Texan’s flight of fancy into the fiber arts.” The dragon motif carries through to the names of their gorgeous hand-dyed fibers and yarns such as Dragon’s Indulgence and Dragon’s Treasure. They are located in Burleson, Texas (had never heard of it) but you can find them online. I think this shop partnered with another called Brazen Stitchery because they had this wonderful sparkly yarn in the booth. The names of these yarns were also so creative like a sparkly hank of Zombie American Princess variegated sock yarn.

The Barbed Dragon

The Purl & Loop booth featured needlecraft kits by yet another Texan. I love Angela’s (the owner’s) story. As a career woman, she had little spare time to devote to crafting and would order kits that had all the materials needed to complete a project. Out of that need, she launched her shop primarily devoted to kits for the busy modern person who wants to create but has little time. She even features how-to videos on her website for weaving and needle felting.

Purl & Loop

Park Avenue Yarns lived up to its name with tastefully curated yarns and these lovely silk braids. The sheen is gorgeous and they are oh-so-wonderful to touch. They also carried packets of precut quilting squares in fabrics with modern designs and vibrant colors.

Park Avenue Yarns

Finally, the members of the KANG yarn-bombed the area outside the conference center with smile-inducing knitting and crochet. Trees, benches and even trash cans were covered in yarn! I particularly liked the crocheted mandalas hanging off the trees like ornaments. And no yarn-bombing in Texas is complete without a crocheted Texas flag!

HFF Yarn Bomb 1

HFF Yarn Bomb 2

HFF Yarn Bomb 3

HFF Yarn Bomb 4

HFF Yarn Bomb 5

It was one of the most delightful hours I’ve had. A bit rushed but very much worth the effort. Kudos to the KANG for a wonderful festival. The 2016 Houston Fiber Fest is scheduled for June 24-25, 2016. Mark you calendars!



The Yarn Tree (or Yarn Store by Proxy)

During the few hours that we were able to do some sightseeing in South Africa, we did attempt to visit a couple of yarn stores. Unfortunately, we struck out because either the store was closed or non-existent or we simply did not have the correct address, and we had very little time. Knowing how disappointed I was, my husband decided to try again and found this gem in Houghton. So I give you The Yarn Tree, a yarn store by proxy.

The Yarn Tree - partial view

The Yarn Tree started off as a calligraphy studio and is located in a beautiful residential suburb of Johannesburg. The Yarn Tree is a labour of love for a British ex-pat and two South African women who met volunteering for 67 Blankets for Mandela.

I was interested to learn about 67 Blankets for Mandela and looked them up online. It turns out that in April of this year, volunteer knitters, crocheters and quilters covered 3133 square meters with handmade blankets and broke a Guinness World Record for the largest area covered by a blanket. The meaning behind the number is a call to devote 67 minutes to community service in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of service to South Africa. (Source)


As the story unfolded, I became even more excited to learn about The Yarn Tree. The selection of yarn is carefully curated by Adrienne, Kelly and Anne-Marie with an eye toward eco-friendly materials sourced in South Africa. With Kelly’s help, my husband brought me some yarn called Eco-Fusion, a 50% cotton, 50% bamboo blend by Nurturing FibresNurturing Fibres is an eco-friendly yarn brand, hand dyed near Cape Town.

Eco-Fusion Yarn 1

Nurturing fibres strives to conserve as much energy and water during their production process. They make use of borehole water which is heated by solar power for the dye baths. After dyeing, the PH levels in the dye-baths are neutralized and the water is then used to irrigate an olive grove near the dye studio. (Source: Placard at The Yarn Tree)

Eco-Fusion Yarn 2

The next gift was also specially curated for women who have had mastectomies. With the Knitted Knockers kit, you can knit a prosthetic breast for mastectomy patients. The kit contains a 50 gram ball of organically grown cotton yarn by ColourSpun and 25 grams of pure merino for the filling. Each skein is hand wound and hand dyed.

Knitted Knockers

Even though I was unable to visit in person, I learned a tremendous amount about these mission-driven ladies and their beautiful shop. You can follow The Yarn Tree on Facebook or contact them at theyarntree (@) yahoo (dot) com. The Yarn Tree hosts Charity Afternoons on Mondays and a Coffee Club on Friday mornings. They also have various workshops including a Knitting for Knockers Charity Day. Look them up if you are in Johannesburg. I know I will!

Rosebank Roof Market

On the only Sunday morning in Johannesburg, we walked over to the rooftop of Rosebank Mall where we were greeted with a huge market. What a delight! The spice table was our favorite. We were able to sample quite a few of the combinations. The Biltong Spice in the back was scrumptious! It is rubbed on raw meat so that the flavors soak in as it dries. (Biltong is a dried, cured meat similar to beef jerky).

Rosebank Roof Market Spices

There were handicrafts and souvenirs everywhere – an explosion of color! Loved the fabrics used on these cuff bracelets. There was quite a bit of beadwork such as shown on the coasters. The colorful giraffes are from a painting.


Amongst the handmade items, were these adorable knitted stuffed gnu and other “wildlife.”

Gogo Olive was born in Zimbabwe to empower local women – each product is lovingly handmade and is as individual and cheerful as the lady who knitted it! Hope (v.): to trust or believe. Knit (n.): to join or be joined together closely.

These farm-friendly animals are shaped with strong wire and then beaded. Love the sheep! Unfortunately, he did not fit in my suitcase.


These baskets are woven from telephone wire. They are so colorful and the swirls are mesmerizing.


There were various fabrics ranging from bright and bold geometric patterns to the more modern interpretations below. (That second set of fabrics is from the Neighbourgoods Market).

Traditional colors and patterns.

A modern twist to fabric designs.

I enjoyed absorbing all the colors and smells of the market. If you ever make it to South Africa, I highly recommend the Rosebank Sunday Market.