January FO: Molly Knit Hat

After all those hours on garter stitch, my hands were itching to knit something with more variety. I found this lovely textured knit hat pattern called Molly … for free!

Molly Knit Hat Front

I dug into my stash and found this lovely Tosh DK in the gauge called for in the pattern. I loved the interplay of the lights and darks in the hand-dyed yarn. I rolled the three skeins into center pull balls but ended up only needing one for the hat.

Tosh DK Center Pull Balls

Here it is in progress. It was the perfect little project after the large blanket.

Molly Knit Hat in progress

Remember those Made in China project bags from the giveaway? Well, I kept one for me! It was just the right size for the yarn, notions and needles. The pattern stayed within easy reach tucked into the outer pocket.

My China Knitting Bag

I love the texture created by the color variations of the yarn combined with the pattern. The cabling is easy and I really like how it tapers down as you decrease.

Molly Knit Hat Back

There may be enough yarn left for a cowl or small scarf. I may reuse the cabling and textured pattern in the hat and whip up a matching scarf …

A Totally Frivolous Post

It was time for a manicure so I walked into a nail salon near the apartment. The place was tiny. It only had room for 5 seats and they were always occupied.

What drew me in was the clientele – all young ladies mostly in their twenties. The manicurists were laughing and talking as they bent over their intricate work. Every now and then they argued. Their voices grew louder and more demanding. Scowls were all too common. One of the younger girls was a bit clumsy, always managing to trip over someone’s foot or bumping someone’s arm just as they were about to paint a nail. She got the brunt of it.

At first, all I wanted was a new color. Then I started paying attention to the other customers. The colors went far beyond those of the rainbow. One lady was carefully applying bright purple sequins on someone’s nail with a toothpick. Another sprinkled glitter from a brush. Yet another painted tiny designs on each nail guided by a picture in a book. They were like artists mixing nail colors together, consulting with each other, choosing just the right sequin or ornament from trays and trays of shiny baubles. I was hooked.

I had fun trying new designs. Like putting on a new persona in a faraway land. Besides, I like the look of pretty nails while hands are clicking away on knitting needles.

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The Stars Above

It was my last weekend in Beijing. There were only a couple of sights left on my list and this was my last opportunity. Unfortunately, the air quality was not in my favor. The AQI had vacillated between “Unhealthy” and “Very Unhealthy” since Friday. One could almost touch the air, it was so thick.

Azimuth Theodolite

On the daily commute, we would pass by the star-gazing equipment at the Ancient Observatory. This was my destination.

According to the brochure, the Beijing Ancient Observatory was built in 1442 during the Ming Dynasty.

Sextant

As I walked around the grounds, I felt both sadness and anticipation. I would miss this city.

Sundial - Detail

I would miss its history and its splendor, but most of all I would miss my new colleagues and friends.

During those last two weeks, every time I said good-bye to someone, it was with the knowledge that I might never see them again.

Chinese Moondial

Even though my sadness was tempered with the anticipation of being home with my family and friends, it would be hard leaving.

Armilla Sphere Replica - Dragon Detail (facing right)

My only comfort was that the stars above would somehow guide us back together someday.

Armillary

Zaìjiàn. 在见。

Weaving in Ancient China

After a three-month stint in Beijing, I went home for a month. It’s funny how being away makes you appreciate every little thing. Of course there is family – my husband, sons, my mom, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. Then there are blue skies, clean air, the sound of quiet, driving my car, air conditioning, clean bathrooms, ice …

A month later, I am back in Beijing. It’s different this time. While it is still a fabulous adventure, it was much tougher leaving home. The first time, there was the mystery of Asia and the challenge of the new business venture. We still have challenging work to do but I miss the rhythms of home.

While here, I continue to explore the city. My first free day, I went to the Summer Palace. It is 20 subway stops from where I stay and took almost an hour to get there.

Summer Palace 1

The property is huge like most everything else here. It covers an area of 2.9 square kilometers (720 acres), most of which are bodies of water. It is kept immaculately groomed and landscaped. I walked for five hours straight that day, up and down steep stairs and around the lake.

Summer Palace 2

I enjoyed …
The walk.
Being out in the fresh air on a cool day.
The rich vegetation of the gardens.
The earthy smell of the pine trees.
Seeing families camping on the grounds, having picnics and taking naps.
Watching ladies dancing under gazebos.
Listening to an old man playing his flute by the lake.

Summer Palace 4

Summer Palace 5

Summer Palace 8

Summer Palace 6

Summer Palace 7

Along the corridor of the Studio of the Jade River (Yuhe Zhai), there was a series of stone carvings. According to the placard, the original scenes were painted on woven silk by the painter Cheng Qi during the Yuan Dynasty (mid-1700s). The scenes portray men farming and women weaving in ancient China. I selected the ones showing women’s work.

The stone carvings were framed and the bright day cast reflections on the glass.

Farming and Weaving 1
Farming and Weaving 2

Farming and Weaving 3

Farming and Weaving 4

Farming and Weaving 5

Farming and Weaving 6

Farming and Weaving 7

Farming and Weaving 8

Farming and Weaving 9

Farming and Weaving 10

It was a beautiful day but there is still no place like home.

Zàijiàn Beijing

The cacophony of car horns

Curled tongues at the end of every word

Clearing the throat of phlegm … followed by the inevitable sound of spitting … on the street … next to your foot

Where an AQI over 200 means take shallow breaths

The inviting sound of rain signaling a clear tomorrow

Toddlers peeing by the sidewalk

Grown men peeing by the sidewalk

Men baring their bellies to cool off

Old men walking their birds in the park

Animated card games

Grandmothers dancing in the park

Graceful tai chi movements

Inventing your very own form of sign language with exaggerated gestures

The joy of being understood

The frustration at understanding only every five words spoken

The din of motor bikes

Dui, dui, dui, dui, dui, dui

Sidewalk barber shops, a pile of hair neatly swept to the side

Music blaring from the mobile boot-legged CD vendor

Selling anything from the trunk of a car

Where a cloth on the floor and a few knick-knacks means you’re an entrepreneur

Avoiding going blind from looking into the green laser lights for sale at busy intersections

Fearing for your life from pedi-cabs passing by

The constant ringing of bike bells

Coming home with bruised arms from everyone who bumped into you

Carrying a small towel everywhere you go to wipe the grime from your face

Forcing your way onto the subway train

Forcing your way out of the subway train

The rancid smell of bodies huddled together on the train

Blaring unending car horns … that everyone ignores

Being accosted at the market … Lady, lady, you want a bag?

Bargaining as if your life depended on it

Wondering if it’s silk or polyester

Never feeling you got the better part of the bargain

Long distance phone calls that never connect

Carrying tissue with you at all times

Squatting and praying you don’t slip

Avoiding looking at the trash can in the ladies’ room

The joy of ice cubes

Ten dollar foot massages

Sweating in the back seat of un-air conditioned taxis

Not knowing whether its best to open the window to let air in or close the window to keep pollution out

Undistinguishable odors emanating from food vendor stalls

Contemplating ordering the jelly-like mass on the menu but deciding against it

The best soup dumplings ever

Craving sautéed bitter greens and bamboo shoots

Funky nail art

A mountain of shaved ice under condensed milk and slices of mango

~~ * ~~

Zàijiàn doesn’t mean goodbye … it means see you again

在见 北京

Outside the 5th Ring Road

In my ongoing quest to find yarn in Beijing, I tried another market recommended by the Beijing Guild. Maofangcheng is also known as the Fabric Market. From what I read, you can have wool and cashmere coats tailor made from any fabric shop inside the five-story building.

The first task was getting there. The market is located on the Northeastern side of the city just outside the 5th Ring Road, far from where I am staying.

Map & Directions to Maofangcheng Market

It was well worth the trip. Among the five floors of wool, cashmere and silk fabrics, were almost two full floors of yarn shops. Two — floors — of — yarn. I only took a couple of photographs. All you have to do is imagine walls of yarn in store after store after store.

These cones are wrapped in fine thin threads of cashmere.

Store 205

My first purchase was in Store #205 where I picked up this colorful wool and mohair blend. So festive!

Fashion Wool - 66% Wool, 34% Mohair (Store #205)
Fashion Wool – 66% Wool, 34% Mohair (Store #205)

Fashion Wool 3

I also could not resist these lovely purples.

Ricignole Mohair - 66% Wool, 34% Mohair (Store #205)
Ricignole Mohair – 66% Wool, 34% Mohair (Store #205)

In Store #315, I picked up five balls of this luscious cerulean blue yarn.

Wool 40%, Mohair 30%, 亚克力 30% (Store #315)
Wool 40%, Mohair 30%, 亚克力 30% (Store #315)

Next I found this jewel-toned mohair in Store #323.

Xiao Mohair - Kid Mohair 45%, Viscose 30%, Anti-Pilling 25% (Store #323)
Xiao Mohair – Kid Mohair 45%, Viscose 30%, Anti-Pilling 25% (Store #323)

I fell in love with this orange cotton and cashmere blend. It reminds me of creamsicles!

Cotton 80%, Cashmere 20% (Store #323)
Cotton 80%, Cashmere 20% (Store #323)
Cotton 80%, Cashmere 20% (Store #323)
Cotton 80%, Cashmere 20% (Store #323)

My last purchase was this amazingly soft cotton and cashmere blend that one of the ladies was using to knit a shawl.

Cashmere & Cotton Blend (Store #323)
Cashmere & Cotton Blend (Store #323)

I took this partial cake of unknown yardage. It is made up of 11 thinly spun threads.

No Label Wool, Cotton & Cashmere Blend Detail

As I was getting ready to leave, I decided to pick up a couple of crochet hooks.

Crochet Hooks

I spent a total of ¥280 or about $46. Now how am I going to get all this yarn home?

In Search of Yarn at Tuanjiehu Market

I had been wanting to visit Tuanjiehu Park which is fairly close to where I am staying in Beijing. Then I received a tip from the contact at the Beijing Guild that the Tuanjiehu Market might have a yarn booth or two. That’s all I needed to know so off I went. The day was rainy but I was determined. After taking a subway, I found the park entrance.

Entrance to Tuanjiehu Park.
Entrance to Tuanjiehu Park.

Nearby, I spotted this romantic bridge.

Jie Xiu Bridge.
Jie Xiu Bridge.
Jie Xiu Bridge Banister.
Jie Xiu Bridge Banister.

I took cover from the rain under some branches where I was able to observe local Beijingers enjoying the park. This young girl in a pink kimono and traditional wooden shoes walked across the park trying to stay dry.

Tuanjiehu Park - Pink Kimono

A young couple kept dry under a large umbrella.

Couple under Umbrella

Locals sat out of the rain under the gazebo. A husband and wife enjoyed a game of cards. Every now and then you could hear the loud slap of the cards on the bench.

Gazebo at Tianjiehu Park.
Gazebo at Tuanjiehu Park.

I was delighted when I encountered this woman crocheting by the lake. She was making a dainty cardigan-like top to wear over a blouse. I bought this amigurumi bunny for ¥50. I paid too much but I wasn’t going to haggle for a hand-made item.

Crocheting by the Lake.
Crocheting by the Lake.

Many families were enjoying their outing. Kids were feeding the fish in the lake. The paddle boats were all lined up waiting for a sunny day.

Feeding Fish near a bridge

Paddle Boats for Rent.
Paddle Boats for Rent.

After walking through the park, I found Tuanjiehu Market. There are several buildings selling different items – one had fish and meats, another fresh fruits and vegetables, and a larger building had rows and rows of stalls. The stalls were mostly filled with a variety of household items – notepads, pens and pencils, shoes, some kitchen items. There were several fabric stalls with women sitting at old sewing machines working on pillow covers and bedspreads.

I found one yarn stall. A man sat next to it on a small stool playing with a Rubik’s Cube knock-off. I managed to ask him if he carried natural yarns and showed him the characters for camel and mohair. He laughed. I took that as a no. I did not buy any yarn. The selection was limited and I wasn’t impressed with the colors or textures. I did find some other goodies, though. I picked up these cute nail polishes. I couldn’t resist the bottles. I paid ¥10 for both, or about $1.50 USD. The bags were ¥10 each.

Tuanjiehu Market Buys

At one point, it occurred to me that I was the only non-Chinese person in the entire market. It seems the market caters to neighborhood residents. Some of the vendors spoke a word or two of English but not much. It was fun listening and communicating in Chinese. Overall, a good day, despite the yarn fail.

Crocheting at the Long Corridor

One hazy day, we went to the Temple of Heaven Park. The air quality index was very high at 347 (hazardous) and reached a high of 477 (more hazardous) by evening. I’ve noticed that the worse the air quality, the cooler it gets, so overall it was a pleasant afternoon.

We gravitated toward a long passageway where many locals had congregated. There were countless groups of men and women playing lively games of cards.

Men Playing Cards - Long Corridor

Women Playing Cards - Long Corridor

As we continued, I was immediately drawn to a woman working with her hands. From afar I could tell she was crocheting! She had several of her handmade items for sale and even let me add a few triple crochet stitches.

Crocheting Along the Long Corridor

Crocheted Handbags - Long Corridor

The Long Corridor consists of covered passages connecting the Animal Killing Pavilion to the Divine Kitchen and the Divine Warehouse. From what I read, the night before a ceremony, the Long Corridor would be lit up with lanterns. Offerings of jade, silk, grains, and fruit would be stored there.

Beams along the Long Corridor

The Temple of Heaven is actually the name of the entire park covering 2.7 million square meters. During the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, the emperors held worship ceremonies here.

Route to Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Detail en route to Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests is perhaps the most associated with the Temple of Heaven. Worship ceremonies were held here to pray for good weather and good harvests.

Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Inside Views - Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Water Drainage - Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

View from Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Near the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests, there is a Seventy-Year-Old Door. According to the sign, it is so named because it was built for Emperor Qianlong as a shortcut to the ceremony when he was 70 years old and in failing health. Out of concern that his sons would abuse the convenience, he decreed that only his offspring who had reached the age of 70 could use the door. No other emperor in the Qing Dynasty reached that age so he was the only person to ever use the door.

70 Year Old Door

Near the Seventy-Year Old Door.

Detail of Water Drainage - Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Annex - Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

Colorful Beams - Temple of Heaven Park

Flower Detail Water Drainage - Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests

The Nine Dragon Juniper is over 500 years old. The trunk is covered with grooves that resemble nine dragons twisting around the tree, hence the name.

Nine-Dragon Juniper

The next stop was the Imperial Vault of Heaven. The surrounding wall is called Echo Wall because of the acoustics.

The Imperial Vault of Heaven

Sculpted Stone - Temple of Heaven Park

Roof Detail - Imperial Vault of Heaven

The last stop was through these gates to the Circular Mound Altar, which is the actual temple of heaven as this is where the emperors sacrificed to Heaven. By then, there were many visitors and it was impossible to get a good photo of the Heavenly Center Stone.

En Route to the Circular Mound Altar

After walking the length of the park, we were ready for a nap.