As it’s tradition for me, I spent the weekend around Ascension Day, which is a public holiday in Germany, together with friends, having some bookbinding fun.

The origin of this is that, many years ago, I took a one-week course about bookbinding. Back then, it was organised by the German Youth Hostel Association. I was a young student, and I loved books, and of course I had gazillions and gazillions of copies from books that were not readily available. So being able to bind your own books? That sounded very, very tempting. Also, I already had that thing about collecting craft knowledge…

Long story short – I took the week-long course, I loved the craft, and when I heard about an annual meet-up of “veterans” from that course, I was very happy to join them.

Over the years, a good bit of what I am mainly doing at those meet-ups has changed. There are much less copies to bind; in fact I haven’t done that for ages. Sometimes there’s something to repair, sometimes I need a new notebook, sometimes I have an idea about a special thing for a friend or family member. I have sort of gained a reputation for making boxes among our group, which is one of my fave things to make, and every year I make at least one box and at least one folder.

This year, there is a tie for “weirdest and funniest box” between this utterly ridiculously small box:

and this box, completely covered in (fake) fur:

So. Which one is weirder? Let me know!

Posted in and now for something completely different | 2 Comments

The new spindle whorls have arrived, and they are lovely!

While I make the hand-formed whorls myself, I have a professional potter who throws the whorls for me, after “inspirational pictures” of finds of spindle whorls that I send him. I always order a large batch (as that makes things more efficient), and it is a special pleasure to write there, as he lives close to the place I was born… so I am, in some way, buying “native soil”.

This time around, I had done some more research and found that light-coloured whorls seem to also have been rather common. So I did ask for a second, light colour clay for the whorls – and I got a third colour thrown in for good measure.

I also asked for some lighter-weight ones. Fun fact: The current production of wheel-thrown whorls happened to peak in the same weight slots as my last production of hand-formed ones, which is in the 20-22 g slot.

So now I am fully stocked again with whorls! I even have them all weighed and sorted already. When I started selling spindle whorls, I kept them in one large box, and I picked out one when somebody ordered. But since some orders are for a specific weight, I’ve found that it is much easier for me to weigh them all once and keep them into some kind of sorting box, organised into 2 g slots. That way, if someone asks for a 21 g whorl, I only have to look at the 20-22 g whorls to find the right one (and yes, I will put them onto the scales again and see if I can’t find one that is somewhere between 20.7 and 21.3 g… just because I can).

Sorting whorls. If you have been at my real-life market stall, you may have seen these boxes come out when someone asks for a whorl in a specific weight range!

If you feel like you need one, the shop is updated, and I’m all happy to sell these new colours and new old shapes!

Posted in all the gory details, spinning, textile techniques and tools, the market stall | Leave a comment

I’ve been writing about bicycles in our Western space yesterday – where the bike is not necessarily the first choice of transport.

Usually, the more urban the area, the more prominent the bike, as it’s harder to find a parking space, and more annoying and time-consuming to get through the traffic jam. People who live in rural areas often think of the car first when planning to go somewhere – and as the car is rarely really not a possibility, it’s the mode of transport used no matter if the trip in question could also be done on foot or on a bike. Taking the bike instead, though, has a lot of positive effects, as this German article outlines: less nitrogen dioxide and dust emissions, less noise and space consumption, less carbon dioxide emissions (and therefore good for our climate). You’ve certainly heard about all of these before.

What really surprised me, though, is that there is also a sociopolitical and socio-economic factor in this. There’s been a survey by Stefan Gössling from the Uni of Lund, who calculated the costs of a kilometre done by car as opposed to the costs to one by bike – including secondary costs due to climate change, subventions, noise, infrastructure, time of travel, traffic jams, the user’s life expectancy and accidents. The result? One kilometre per car costs about 20 cent. One kilometre per bike generates 30 cent. It generates money, folks.

That is… stunning.

What I really wanted to get at when I started writing this post, however, is the immense amount of positive impact that a bicycle has in non-Western countries. For us, using the bike sometimes feels like a step down – it’s slower over long distances (even if you drive your car like a gran on tranquilisers, like I do), it’s less comfortable as you may have to exert yourself a bit, or as you might get wet when it rains, and it has less transport capabilities than a car (though with some of the modern fancy cars, there’s not so much difference anymore). It’s also less of a status symbol thing, which surely also plays a role in how we grade our vehicles internally, knowingly or not.

In countries where there is no abundance of cars, though, and mobility is at a premium; where walking is the standard mode of transport, because there’s nothing else available? A bicycle will make a world of a difference. And this is where World Bicycle Relief comes in.

World Bicycle Relief is a charity that empowers people by developing a special bike, called the Buffalo Bike, and making it available to those in need of mobility. Such as doctors, nurses, or other healthcare practitioners who need to visit their clients. Girls and young women who can get to school safely and much faster with a bike. Farmers who need a way to transport their produce to a market. The bike is not only robust, sturdy, and easy to repair, it also has a large payload capacity – the carrier in the rear can take up to 100 kg, and it is large enough that it’s possible to transport a second person if that is necessary.

Even better, the charity goes for local assembly, it makes sure that there are spare parts available in bike shops, and they also train bike mechanics to make sure the bicycles stay in good working order. So these things not only help the new cyclists, they also create local, sustainable jobs.

Along with MSF, this is definitely one of my favourite charities. If you are looking for a place to do some good with your money, consider donating to them – they are currently running a campaign called “Racing the Sun” to get 5000 bicycles to people in need.

Posted in bike stuff, green living, things going on in the world | 1 Comment

I’m a day late to blog about this, but I only realised yesterday afternoon: June 3 is World Bicycle Day.

Bicycles are my personal favourite means of transport. I’ve been cycling to school as a teen (even though my parents could have take me in the car), and I continued to cycle when I moved to study in Bamberg. That’s not only because of my green soul – cycling in Bamberg is much smarter than taking the car anyways, as there’s no parking spaces and those that are there are usually either full or really expensive, so this was also a very practical solution to the mobility problem. (My car was parked either a quarter hour bus ride away or a quarter hour walk away, as these were the closest free parking opportunities where one could find a space without too big a hassle.)

When I hooked up with the most patient husband of them all, we found that he was a cyclist as well, so our transport preferences combined beautifully. Only our riding speeds did not – I was much, much slower. Which is not a big deal within a city, but does cause potential problems when you are going on cycling holidays. So we looked for a tandem with enough luggage capacity for cycling trips including camping gear, and we did stumble across the Pino, a half-recumbent tandem made in a small bike manufacture in Germany. (If you’re interested in the bike, there’s the Pinoforum, where you can find more information. It even includes a small English part.)

On the tandem at a fun ride – we were doing about 60 km/h at this time, it was one of the nice downhill passages!

So when we have to go somewhere in our day-to-day life, the default means of transportation is the bike. If that’s not possible, due to some reason – too far away, too much to transport – we check for public transport possibilities. In some cases, these will combine very well with taking the bike along; there’s a special ticket in our area that allows two adults to take two bikes along (in our case, only one is necessary, though). If that won’t work, it’s the car. Which means we travel a lot by bike, and it’s usually just as quick to take bike or public transport and bike as it would be to take the car, or even quicker. For instance, when we go bouldering, it’s about 10.5 km one way. With the car, due to how we have to drive, it takes us about 25 minutes. With the bicycle, it takes us… 30 minutes, and we arrive with already warmed up legs – and don’t have to look for a parking space for another 5 minutes.

Even in combination with public transport, the bike rules, in the speed department as well as in the cost department. As my car is the company car, I have to do the proper maths for all its costs… and my cost for driving one kilometer is about .34 €. Often, using public transport is cheaper or, at the most, coming to the same cost.

Plus there’s the health benefits of using a bicycle… some (more or less) fresh air, and some joint-friendly movement. It’s important to have a bike that fits so you can ride easily and comfortably, though, so it might be worth to look for a good bike shop, and take a bike-nerdy friend along to help. I’d also recommend keeping your tyres nicely filled, that makes for a much smoother ride, you have to pedal much harder on flat tyres.

Every kilometre not done with a car, but with a bike instead, counts. We only have one planet, and using a bike helps to make it last a little longer. So – take the bike if you can, not only on World Bicycle Day!

Posted in bike stuff, green living, personal stuff | 1 Comment

Here’s a collection of links for your delectation!

The weird ways of the Internet occasionally show me things. One of the things that occasionally turn up are figures re-imagined as somehow changed figures – and sometimes, this is interesting, and sometimes it’s weird, and most of the times I just go “meh” if I bother to look at it at all. But this is definitely the weirdest re-imagining I have yet seen: Disney Princesses, re-imagined as Cement Mixers.

As you might know, I’m not the tallest person around. Actually, I’m rather small – I’m still shorter than the average German woman who stands 166 cm tall according to here. And that even though I have somehow grown 2 cm in length, bringing me from 161 to 163 cm. (Thank you, bouldering core strength gain and yoga, with your joint result of a much better posture.) From time to time, this means I’ll heartily complain about being just not tall enough. There are also days when I wish I could eat more of some deliriously delicious thing, but there’s only so much energy I can use up in a day. However, as this article about female astronauts clearly shows, it is not always a bad thing to be small and female, and thus rather energy-efficient. (Which of course doesn’t mean that there have been lots of women in space… yet. Hopefully that will change in the future; at least there is awareness about the topic these days.

One more science newsy thing: Alzheimer’s might be caused by gum bacteria. I find this both scary (gum bacteria! Of a kind that lots of people have!) and hope-inducing (once you know the reason for something, it’s so much easier to find a way to heal or help).

And finally to round this off with something a little textile-related: Have an image of 17th century Spinning Sows, courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, plus an explanation of the motif.


Posted in and now for something completely different | Leave a comment

After seeing quite a lot of people doing amazing and fun stuff on Instagram – such as Margit or Alex, who is now posting pictures about her Cuthbert Embroidery project, which I had the joy of providing threads for, the itch to join that crowd was growing. Growing a lot.

So a few weeks ago, I have finally taken the plunge and made myself an Instagram-account! Now I am slowly getting familiar with the thing, though there’s still a lot of the “very new” feeling going on. If you are among the Instagram-ing people, you can follow me there, under katrinkania.

The cunning plan is to occasionally post some interesting pictures – we’ll see how that works out!

Posted in and now for something completely different | Leave a comment

You might know the “Kuckucksuhr”, that typical German clock that has a bird coming out on the full hour, making a cuckoo sound?

Well, that is not the only type of clock with a figure declaring the time of day – and there’s a virtual exhibition called “Tick Tack Trick – Schwarzwalduhren mit Figuren” (Tick Tack Trick – Black Forest Clocks with Figures). While the text is all in German, there’s a little video for each of the clocks that are featured, and those are all without text, but with clock sounds – and thoroughly enjoyable!

While we’re at the topic of time – tomorrow is a public holiday here in Germany, so you’ll get no blog post. See you on Friday!

Posted in and now for something completely different, museums | Leave a comment