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  • the north sea

    I read a book a couple months ago called The Shetland Bus, which I picked up over Christmas break after someone posted about it on social media last fall. The phrase "the Shetland bus" refers to a British and Norwegian special operations unit who used fishing ships to carry supplies and refugees back and forth between Shetland and the west coast of Norway during World War II (as Norway was occupied by the Nazis, many Norwegians fled to the UK or the United States during the war). Shetland is due west from the west coast of southern Norway, with Lerwick and Bergen being on approximately equal latitudes, so it made sense as a home base for this type of special operations group.

    The book itself is fascinating for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it was first published in 1951 and the author was part of the unit that carried out these trips. The trips this group carried out were not in large boats, but fishing boats small enough to be unassuming and less likely to be stopped or questioned. And as the sun doesn't sink low enough below the horizon for total darkness in the summer time, these trips were carried out in fall and late winter, in the cold and under cover of darkness, often with stormy weather. Even having lived through my first Norwegian winter, I can't even imagine what it must have been like.

    Most of the action took place much farther south than where I live in Norway (Bergen sits at 60ºN while Tromsø is up at 69ºN) with the exception of chapter thirteen, which is one of the more incredible tales in the book about a seemingly impossible escape. Another chapter tells of the attempt to sabotage a German battleship in Trondheim - the attempt failed, but that battleship (Tirpitz) was later sunk just south of Tromsøya at the end of the war. The presence of a little bit of local history probably increased the impact of this book on me.

    I also found myself thinking about knitting at different points in the book. Now, nothing in this book is about knitting, but there's definitely a bit of shared history and tradition between Shetland and Norway - stretching back to the Viking age, of course, but also more recently. Both places are famous for their stranded knitting patterns, and though there are differences, there has always been a great deal of sharing of certain motifs between both places. As I neared the end of The Shetland Bus I found myself reaching for my needles.

    I wound up with a hat that I feel is part Norwegian in spirit and part Shetland-style, too. While the main motifs stand out in a single color, the background cycles through different colors. I've called it The North Sea in tribute to the fishermen of the Shetland bus, all of whom were incredibly brave, and many of whom found their final resting place at the bottom of that sea.

    I went down to Telegrafbukta to shoot the photos of the hat about two months ago, when it was still much snowier here. This park is one of my favorite spots in Tromsø, on the southwest side of the island right on the water. It was a windy day, so I found myself facing in one particular direction more than any other - it just so happens that I wound up looking toward the sunken wreck of the Tirpitz.

    Using multiple background colors with colorwork makes this an excellent hat for leftovers, and that is exactly what I used - leftover yarn I had on hand. It is for this reason that the hat is knit in an American yarn (Brooklyn Tweed Shelter) though I'd love to see it worked up in wool from Norway or Shetland as well. It's a great project for any worsted-weight leftovers you have in your stash. As written, the pattern uses a tubular cast on, but that can be swapped out for any other stretchy cast on you like, and otherwise it's quite straightforward.

    The one thing that's unusual is that normally I write hat patterns for multiple sizes, but due to the very large repeat used on this hat, the pattern is written for just one size. In this case I would suggest trying to adjust gauge by changing needles sizes if you'd like to make the hat smaller or larger, and keep in mind that gauge from knitter to knitter can vary substantially in stranded colorwork, so you'll probably find it useful to swatch first.

    The North Sea is available on Ravelry now. Head over to that page for all the technical details about the pattern.

  • ut på tur

    Thank you all for your feedback on my last post! I'm happy to hear it seems like so many of you are interested in hearing more about wool in Norway, and I'm looking forward to sharing what I learn here on the blog. Today, though, I just have a few photos to share from a walk I took earlier this afternoon with my friend Anna. It's the end of the sememster for us, which means we're both spending a lot of time working on papers and presentations and generally being shut up indoors with laptops and books. I like that well enough, especially when I can get into a bit of a groove, but it's important to take proper breaks to clear one's head, too. And Sundays are the perfect days for that, especially when the sun is shining and the temperatures are getting warmer. 

    Spring in Tromsø is interesting because throughout April, you have pockets of warmer days but it also still cools down regularly - enough for it to snow. There's also still a lot of snow lying around, especially on high ground and on trails and things that aren't plowed - our maximum snow depth this winter was just over a meter. You can imagine it takes awhile for all of that to melt away. So today we went traipsing around the northern half of the island, which I haven't explored anywhere near as much as the southern half. It was actually quite nice to be in the snow, since it's all melted in the city center and the roads are quite dusty. The north half of the island is less developed and there's a lot more forests and trails, too, which meant that the sweeping views we enjoyed today were all pretty spectacular.

    Spring comes late here, but there are signs that greener times are on the way. Aside from the melting snow, I've seen crocuses sprouting up at the university! I'm looking forward to the leaves coming back as well.

    Looking to the south, the rest of the island of Tromsøya is visible behind the trees, as well as the mountains on the mainland (to the left) and on Kvaløya (on the right, at the back). 

    Could we have asked for a better day?

    While we might get a dusting of snow tonight overnight, it's supposed to get much warmer this coming week. I'm already looking forward to the spring giving way to summer, since the summer in Norway is so absolutely magical. I feel incredibly lucky to live in this beautiful place.

  • norwegian wool: rauma garn

    I've been reading quite a bit while my shoulder recovers - books, websites, and other things, too. I recently went back and re-listened to some my Woolful podcast interview, where I talked about wanting to really explore the world of Norwegian wool. While I have started to do that since moving to Norway, I still feel like I've only just scratched the surface. Having a bit more time to sit around and read up on things, though, I'm opening some doors and connecting some dots that I hadn't before. Between revisiting the fantastic book Ren Ull ("Pure Wool") which I've posted about on this blog before, and having some ongoing conversations with friends, I've had Norwegian yarns on the brain - specifically, those yarns whose wool is actually sourced here in Norway. I thought it might be a nice idea to start a sort of informal series here on the blog about Norwegian wool, both as a way to document what I'm learning and a way to share it with you all. I'd love for it to be a conversation, too - I'm by no means an expert and I'm always happy to pick up new information about this stuff. While the Norwegian knitting industry can be rather insular - which means the stuff I write about in these posts may not always be accessible or available to those outside Norway - my hope is that you all find them interesting and hopefully inspiring, too.

    I think it makes sense to start with one of the larger yarn companies, and because their patterns have been inspiring me lately, I thought I'd kick off these posts with Rauma Garn. I started using Rauma's yarns a couple of years ago, first after purchasing some at the Nordic Knitting Conference and later when Tolt Yarn and Wool began carrying their fingering weight Finullgarn and the heavier 3-ply Strikkegarn. They're lovely woolen spun yarns that give knits a bit of character without being tweedy or heathered, necessarily. And obviously, I like Rauma because they're one of the Norwegian yarn companies making a point to use wool sourced in Norway. I've translated a little excerpt from their "about me" page here:

    "At Rauma Ullvarefabrikk we base our production on Norwegian wool, and the entire process - from wool to finished product - is carried out in our own mill in Veblungsnes in Møre og Romsdal. We consider our most important task to be awakening and inspiring joy in creativity, so we place great importance on design in our collections and we hope that you find inspiration in them." (Original text here)

    I have not been to Veblungsnes, but it sits at the end of a fjord on the west coast, which means it is bound to be beautiful. And as for the designs - I've been following Rauma's Instagram account for about a year, and I have to say, I definitely find inspiration in their collections.

    Because the knitting tradition and history is so rich in Norway, the major yarn companies have pretty serious back catalogs of patterns, and they often pick out old patterns to be reworked for modern tastes (much like Sandnes did with the patterns in 42 norkse kofter, which I blogged about here). Rauma's latest round of redesigns is particularly good.

    This sweater in particular caught my eye, from the collection 243R Redesign. Being a more traditional yarn company, the designs usually aren't named, but are rather given what are effectively serial numbers - and you also often won't find them on Ravelry. Remember what I said about the knitting industry here being insular? Nonetheless, I love this unisex number. The link above goes to the lookbook, where you can see it worked up in alternate colorways. And to top it off? There are kids' sizes too:

    From 244R Redesign.

    There are also some more traditional two-color kofter, also from 243R Redesign:

    And the new designs have been fantastic lately, too. I'm particularly obsessed with the bright kelly green they're featuring this spring:

    How beautiful is this simple stole above, by Marie Cecilie Dahl? It's from the collection 241R, and the whole collection feels fresh and is styled beautifully. And lastly, the new kids' stuff is also bright and fresh and very hip:

    This is from collection 242R, and the whole thing is eye candy. It actually looks more like a ready-to-wear catalog than what I'm used to from the knitting world.

    To see more, you can click over to the catalog page to see the most recent catalogs online (which include everything I've featured here), or you can check out their Facebook photos page, or follow them on Instagram at @raumagarn.

    And just for fun, while this short film is only in Norwegian, it shows a glimpse of the mill, its setting, and its history as the marketing director walks you through the steps from wool to yarn:

    Have you worked with Rauma yarns before? 

  • april (snow) showers

    It was starting to get springlike around here - well, enough for the temps to reach near 10ºC / 50ºF with lots of sunny days, melting most of the snow. But today brought fresh snow, perfectly normal here in northern Norway at this time of year! Spring comes late. The days are growing long, though (sunset is after 8PM now) and the midnight sun will begin in mid-May. The light here is always changing and it continues to be surreally beautiful. I'm grateful for that.

    It's a bit quiet here on the blog at the moment because April also means I'm now spending a majority of my time working on my course papers, which are due in May, and I also broke my shoulder a month ago, which means I'm on a bit of a necessary break from knitting, obviously. I need a bit more sleep and I'm eating more than normal, but otherwise it hasn't interrupted my everyday life too much - aside from the knitting. I definitely miss it at this point and I'm looking forward to when I'll be able to pick up the needles again.

    If you've ever had to take a break from knitting due to injury (or for any other reason), I'd love to hear about what helped the most when all you could think about was the projects you'd love to be casting on! 

  • edinburgh yarn fest

    I had an incredible weekend in Scotland for Edinburgh Yarn Festival, though I did an absolutely terrible job of taking photos at the festival itself (and in fact I took very few photos all weekend). There were so many highlights - too many to name them all! It was incredible to see so many friends meet so many others for the first time, many of whom are colleagues whose work I've followed and blogs I've read for years (among them Ysolda Teague, Kate Davies, Felicity Ford, Bristol Ivy, Anna Maltz, Rachel Atkinson, Susan Crawford, Karie Westermann, Thea Colman, Kirsten Kapur, Ella Gordon, and the list goes on as I'm sure I'm leaving some people out). There is something so incredible about connecting in person with the community we so often interact with via a screen - it's a unique camaraderie. Now it's back to work and I have an email inbox full of messages that need replies...

    But first, I will share a few highlights! The marketplace was absolutely swamped on Friday morning when I arrived, and it was a treat to wander around and hear so many different accents (and languages!) around me and know that so many folks had traveled to the festival from afar like I did. I was able to attend Susan Crawford's talk on Saturday about the Vintage Shetland Project and it was incredible to hear about this project several years in the making. Susan has worked together with the textile museum in Shetland to recreate 27 different pieces, and the patterns to knit those pieces have been compiled in a book along with the unique stories of each garment and accessory. The book is being printed next month and I absolutely can't wait to see it (it's currently available for preorder here). Friday night's ceilidh was also a highlight, though I didn't partake in any dancing myself due to a shoulder injury. 

    I typically travel light and I didn't go straight home after the festival (I'm in LA for the remainder of my Easter break) so I didn't go nuts at the marketplace, but I did manage to squeeze in a few woolly souvenirs that I'm quite excited about. From left to right: the gorgeous Daughter of a Shepherd yarn launched by Rachel Atkinson at the festival, which is 100% Hebridean wool from her father's flock (and it's naturaly that gorgeous dark color); a skein of the recently-launched undyed Blend no. 1 from Ysolda, a blend of Merino, Polwarth, and Zwartbles wool that is the most gorgeous heathery light grey with a charcoal halo; and a small green skein of the same yarn, dyed by Triskelion Yarn.

    For more on the festival, check out Kate's recap and snapshots - the photo of Kate with Ella in her crofthoose yoke and Felix in her Missy Elliott masterpiece is a favorite.

    The rest of the weekend, for me, was about spending time with wonderful people in a wonderful city. I love Edinburgh, and I got to have many great meals and the weather was gorgeous Saturday and Sunday. I took a walk up the Crags on Sunday afternoon with Thea, Kirsten, and Rebecca Redston that was just the cherry on top. A massive thank you to everyone who made this such an incredible weekend, and to Jo and Mica who organize the festival. If you ever find yourself with a chance to go to Edinburgh Yarn Fest, my advice is simple: go. You won't regret it.

  • zara

    Quince & Co. launched this year's pattern collection for Sparrow this week, and my first pattern as part of the design team with it. Meet Zara, a boxy cropped tee:

    photo courtesy of Quince & Co.

    This is a super simple knit which makes use of applied crochet chains to create vertical stripes (together with the horizontal stripes knit into the front and back, they form a boxy grid pattern). When the weather gets warmer I often find myself reaching for lightweight tops with a lot of positive ease, though this tee works super well as a layering piece as the photo above displays. I was able to snap some photos of the sample before sending it off to Quince and I opted to style it with a high-waisted skirt instead, which gave it a slightly more dressed-up look.

    I really like this top, and I find it very interesting that the cropped length keeps the fabric very flowy - my Vasa in Sparrow is much longer, and consequently the garment itself is much heavier than Zara. I think they light and airy feel of the fabric comes through in the photos.

    photo courtesy of Quince & Co.

    I really enjoy the effect of the vertical applied crochet chains, which do a great job of blending into the fabric (rather than standing out in relief - people will ask you how you managed to knit vertical stripes). I first started playing around with applied crochet chains on knits as an alternative way to work vikkel braids, as it can be done in multiple colors for a nearly identical effect, but this might be my favorite use for them. Even if you don't know how to crochet, they're very simple to work and the pattern includes links to tutorials if you've never done it before.

    Zara is one of four patterns in the Sparrow collection (the others being Aila by Isabell Kraemer, Amalia by Pam Allen, and Pippa by Melissa LaBarre). It's available either individually or with the other three patterns as an eBook, both on Ravelry or quinceandco.com.

  • quince & co.

    A lot has happened in the month since I wrote last. The middle of the semester is busy as usual, so the weeks seem to be flying by. I was beginning to suffer from some cabin fever but I took a weekend trip to Oslo a few weeks ago that was incredibly refreshing - I celebrated a friend's birthday, saw friends I haven't seen in ages, visited favorite old haunts, and I also got the chance to meet up with Katie, the organizer of the Oslo Strikkefestival. It was quite a treat, and I came home to Tromsø feeling energized and happy to be back. I've planned some more travel since then: Edinburgh Yarn Festival coincides with the beginning of my Easter break (Norwegians take a whole week off) so I decided to book myself a trip! I'm quite looking forward to it (so many fantastic folks in one place!), and if you're attending as well, keep an eye out and say hello if you spot me!

    My biggest piece of news today, however, is that I am absolutely thrilled (humbled, honored, overjoyed) to be a part of the inaugural design team for Quince & Co. My first piece as part of the team should be out sometime this week, but in the meantime you can read the announcement on the Quince blog over here. I've written about my love for Quince as a company and for their yarns on this blog before, so needless to say I'm truly so thrilled to be working with them on more patterns. The whole design team lineup is absolutely stellar and I count myself lucky to be listed among them: Bristol Ivy, Cecily Glowik MacDonald, and Isabell Kraemer have already been announced and Pam Allen is also contributing patterns to the collections (ETA: also Melissa LaBarre, who was announced today!). My first pattern as part of the team will be going live soon, so I'll share more then!

  • 42 norske kofter

    Today I'm thinking about kofter. This ubiquitous Norwegian word can feel difficult to properly translate, as it can describe several different pieces of clothing. Today I'm writing about it in the sense of "knitted cardigans" - you may have heard the word in connection with the famous lusekofte, or "lice jacket," from Setesdal. Kofte is the singular form, while kofter is the plural.

    Kofter are beloved here in Norway, and one glance at the knitting shelf of any bookstore will show it: titles like Kofteboken, Kofteboken 2, and Koftefest peer out at you. Last November another hit the shelves, called 42 norske kofter: fra Lindesnes til NordkappI saw it everywhere I went, and I finally picked up a copy for myself.

    This book was a project from Sandnes Garn, reworking many of their classic kofte patterns published in the mid-20th century by modernizing the fit, changing the sample yarn, or playing with the colors (while I don't have any of these old patterns in their original form, I do have a handful that were published by Husfliden and they're great fun). It also reflects the fact that patterns were often affiliated with specific regions in Norway, hence the subtitle "from Lindesnes to Nordkapp" (Lindesnes is at the southern tip of Norway while Nordkapp is the northermost point on the mainland). I've had some time to sit down with it this week and overall, I think it's pretty fantastic.

    Aside from the patterns, there's a lovely bit of introductory text at the beginning about kofter and their place in Norwegian history and society (seen in the photo above, with the heading "Kofter, yarn, and production"). It celebrates the resurgence of popularity these cardigans have experienced, and provides a nice quick historical overview as well as some information about the yarn production (specifically the production of Sandnes Garn, as they published the book). I love it when this type of information is included in pattern books, as it gets knitters thinking more about the production and sourcing of the materials they purchase at the yarn store, which can only be a good thing. Within the introduction, this quote stuck out (translation is mine):

    "Even though kofter are a Norwegian national treasure, the history of the kofte is actually quite international."

    I appreciate the acknowledgment that what's considered traditional to a place can often have far-flung roots. The authors write about the fact that the generally accepted origin for the word kofte is the Persian word kaftan, and they also note that the motifs and patterns used in these knitted cardigans sometimes came from or were inspired by people and traditions from abroad. 

    The patterns themselves are great, too. The forty-two patterns are effectively for 27 different cardigans, some of which are written up for both men and women, others of which are written up with two different constructions (one option for a drop shoulder cardigan and another for one with a round yoke). You get a glimpse of the original pattern photos and styling, which I think is fantastic too. 

    Eventually I'd like to knit at least one of the cardigans in this book, though I have a lot of knitting on my plate to finish before I can do that. Fortunately that means I have plenty of time to ruminate on my favorites and decide which would make the best addition to my wardrobe. (You can see photos of all the different cardigans on the Sandnes Garn page for the book.)

    The technical aspects are also fun to look at. Since this is a book full of cardigans worked up in stranded colorwork, you may have guessed that steeks are involved, and you'd be right. In the Norwegian tradition, though, two lines of reinforcing stitches are sewn by machine before cutting. In the case of a cardigan, it makes quite a lot of sense - machine stitches are excellent reinforcement for a button band that's going to see a lot of handling, and it's less bulky than a crocheted reinforcement. 

    Other technical information points to the self-reliance of Norwegian knitters. Having seen several patterns from the mid-20th century, I can say it's no wonder that the Norwegian word for a knitting pattern (as in "set of instructions to knit something") is oppskrift, the word for "recipe." The patterns in this book definitely contain more information than their original forms must have done, but still, only stitch gauge is given, not row gauge, and yarn quantities are listed in grams, not yardage or meterage (leaving the knitter to do some quick arithmetic if they plan to substitute yarns at all). I haven't actually worked from Norwegian patterns yet, so I find it interesting to compare these details with what I'm used to from the US.

    All in all I'm very excited about this addition to my knitting library!

  • currently

    The daylight walks continue to be lovely. On clear days, the colors are unreal. The photo above was taken from Telegrafbukta, the park on the southwest side of Tromsøya. It continues to be one of my favorite places, and at this time of year it's the perfect place to watch the sunset. (I also finally saw the sun again on Friday! Momentous. Glorious. The days are growing longer at a fast clip now - this is the fun part.)

    School is already busy, but that's no shocker. In my downtime I'm managing to get a bit of knitting done. I finished my Toatie Hottie (no photos yet, though) and I've been working on several other projects, but most of those are the kind I can't show you yet (aka future patterns). So in lieu of that, here's some things I'd love to be joining in on if I had the time:

    Bang Out a Sweater over at Mason Dixon Knitting - Kay and Ann are leading a KAL of Mary Jane Mucklestone's Stopover, a beautiful lopapeysa. Cast on is tomorrow (February 1st), and it's probably a good thing I don't have time to join in, because I don't think "new lopapeysa" is really one of my pressing needs at the moment.

    I'd also love to join in on the Anna Vest KAL hosted by Fringe, starting February 15th. This is one of my favorite patterns from Farm to Needle and while I'm not sure a vest/waistcoat like this would be a perfect fit for my wardrobe, I'd still love to knit it someday (perhaps I could add sleeves, since I am in need of cardigans?). I'm really looking forward to the versions that come out of this knitalong - I'm expecting to see some cool yarn and color choices and I'll definitely be following along on social media.

    Both the Stopover and Anna Vest photos are by Kathy Cadigan.

  • daylight walks

    Winter is dark in Tromsø. I wrote on back on November 21st that we said goodbye to the sun that day (and then I cheated, because I wasn't in Tromsø for the darkest four weeks of the year). Today, January 21st, is soldagen ("the sun day"), the day we welcome the sun back. All week the weather forecast for today has been cloudy, but we got lucky and the clouds stayed at bay just long enough for the sun to make its first brief appearance of the year.

    Unfortunately, I was in a classroom during the few minutes it came out (the photo above was taken on Monday). I watched it happen on screen via NRK's live feed (for the very curious, you can watch the playback here - the video is just under ten minutes). I was able to participate in other soldagen traditions, though, like eating solboller, which are sweet buns or donuts eaten on soldagen. In Tromsø the preferred type seems to be a frosted jelly-filled donut! What's called a "solbolle" can vary from region to region. I must say, I'm in favor of holidays where it's traditional to sit around with something warm to drink, eating donuts.

    Even though I didn't see the sun today, I'll see it again soon enough. In the meantime, I've been taking lots of walks during the daylight hours. For me, the two most important ways to cope with the long hours of darkness are spending time outside during the daylight, and getting plenty of exercise. Long walks around the island during the daylight does a wonderful job of feeding two birds with one seed.

    People's reactions when they first learn how little daylight we get at this time of year often aren't that far from "horror-struck." But somehow, I find it easier to really commit to darker days than to spend a winter with dark setting in at 4:00 pm all the time. I know it's going to be dark for the vast majority of the hours in a day, so the daylight hours become precious (it's part of why it's so important to spend as much of the daylight outside as possible). 

    The other thing, though, is that the light during the daylight is magical. It has an incredible quality. There is a time of day referred to by photographers as "golden hour" (or sometimes "magic hour") and while without the sun I'm not sure it's a true golden hour, it's no secret the light at the edges of day has a special quality. The light we get here in winter? It's like 4-5 hours of magic hour. On a cloudy day (and it seems my long walks have mostly been on cloudy days) there's a softness cloaking everything, while on clear days, the sky turns into a giant ombre cotton candy daydream. Pair that with the snowy mountains all around, and I don't feel sad about the darkness at all; on the contrary, I feel so lucky that this is the place I get to live and walk and breathe. And the snow makes it sound different too; the physical properties of snow make it a sound-absorber, which is why the world feels quiet when you're out walking in a fresh snow.

    Thinking back to Tromsø when we arrived in the summer, it feels like a different planet. And while I am certainly looking forward to the days growing longer, and eventually, warmer (because the Norwegian summer is glorious), for now I am incredibly grateful for my long daylight walks through this magic winter wonderland.