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  • first snow and FOs

    Things have gotten very busy lately, but I wanted to pop in to say hello and share a few things.

    First up: Pomcast, the podcast of knitting & crochet Pom Pom Quarterly, has a new episode up featuring an interview with me! I a live interview with Lydia at the Oslo Strikkefestival, though the audio unfortunately didn't make it, so Sophie caught up with me via Skype after the fact (we largely covered the same questions, so don't feel too sad if you missed out on the original interview, and don't expect it to be wildly different if you happened to be there!). Still, it was fun to do an interview in a room full of lovely people knitting while we chatted and I enjoyed the novelty of wearing a "Britney Spears microphone," as Lydia called it.

    Secondly: while we're on the topic of the Oslo Strikkefestival, I have a couple of FOs to share that I knit up using yarn I bought at the marketplace! I finished my Lupine shawl, which I wrote about in my last post, and I'm so pleased with how it turned out.

    The pattern is by Cory Ellen Boberg of Indie Knits and the yarn is the gorgeous gradient I picked up from Squirrel's Yarns, which was one of my impulse purchases at the festival (the Pécan Fing base in the color Hématite). If you like gradient yarns, I can't recommend Lisa's gradients enough. The transitions are impossibly smooth and the finished shawl is so pretty to me in its simplicity.

    The other FO is also knit up in one of my marketplace purchases: it's a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig in the spælsau yarn I purchased from Værbitt. This was the first time I've knit with a 100% spælsau yarn, so I wanted to knit something simple that would get a lot of wear and let me really get a feel for the yarn knitted up in a fabric. I also didn't want the pattern to compete with the subtle variation in the colorway.

    I have to say, I love the finished hat. This yarn's a little bit rustic and it feels slightly wiry in the hand - it's very strong - but it's also surprisingly soft considering that, and when washed and blocked it developed a bit of a lovely halo that adds to that soft feel. This hat has gotten a lot of wear already and I think it'll continue to do so.

    Lastly: we've all been impatiently waiting for the snow in Tromsø, as last week we passed the previous record for the date of the first snowfall of the season (that means in recorded memory, it has never been as late as this year: yikes). But finally, on Saturday evening, the snow started falling. It kept coming down through Sunday, when I got to take a walk down to my favorite park. It's nice to revisit the photos, because Tuesday turned suddenly warm again, bringing rain, and the snow started to melt almost immediately. Between the rain clouds and the fact that we bid farewell to the sun last week (it won't rise again until January), it's been very, very dark this week. Hopefully before too long it'll cool down again and the snow will come back, but for now, enjoy these photos from Sunday's walk.

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  • on darkness and light

    I'm going to get a little philosophical today, but I hope you'll bear with me.

    As the days have grown shorter in Tromsø I've realized I'm taking fewer photos. I like shooting in natural light best, so as the availability of natural light becomes smaller and smaller, it's not surprising I reach for my camera less often. But that is only one reason. October moving into November always seems to be one of my busiest times - and the time of year that I am most susceptible to seasonal depression, due to the rapidly changing light and a number of other factors (I wrote about this a few weeks ago on my Instagram, and thank you so much to everyone who responded - I can't say how much I appreciate both your kind words and your open conversation). My seasonal depression is fall-specific, and doesn't usually last throughout the winter. So believe it or not, I feel myself coming out of that depressive low now, just as we're nearing the beginning of mørketida (literally, the dark time, the season in the north when the sun stays below the horizon). In the wake of the U.S. presidential election, there are many people turning to the thought that "the sun will still rise tomorrow" - and here I am, in a place where in a week's time, the sun literally will not rise on Tromsø. Does that sound dark to you? For me, it's not as dark as it sounds. I've been thinking about the best way to try to explain this.

    One of the most common questions I get at this time of year is people wondering what it's like to live somewhere where the sun sets so early in the fall, and then eventually, it doesn't rise or set at all. It's difficult to imagine if you've never experienced it, so here are a few key facts:

    • In Tromsø, where I live, the sun doesn't rise above the mountains in the south between November 21 and January 21.
    • This doesn't mean it's only night and total darkness, however, for the sun spends a few hours in the middle of the day just below the horizon. To imagine what clear days are like, picture several hours of the most beautiful sunset/twilight combination you can imagine. That's your daylight.
    • Once the snow comes, the effect of the darkness is lessened a great deal. The period leading up to Christmas can be the toughest, as the snow tends to come and go (and this year we have yet to have a proper snow), but after Christmas it usually sticks around and accumulates, and January and February are absolutely beautiful. A proper winter wonderland.

    So what is it like to live with? I know Norwegians and foreigners who embrace it and I know Norwegians and foreigners who struggle with it, too. I fall into the former camp - and people are always surprised when I tell them I prefer the polar night to the midnight sun. Everyone is different and there are many factors that influence how we cope with and feel about the dark season. I have always been a night person, often feeling my most creative and productive in the wee hours. That's probably part of it. But I think mindset is another part.

    As I mentioned in my last post on the yarn I brought home from the Oslo Strikkefestival, I wanted to make a Lupine shawl with the lovely greyscale gradient from Squirrel's Yarns. I cast on last week after the election news, and the repetitive bands of lace and garter stitch have been my constant companions in an incredibly emotionally trying time. And this gradient yarn, with its slow, smooth transitions, is exactly as beautiful as I hoped it would be. But that's not what I want to talk about, though - I want to go in a more metaphorical direction. 

    I could've started at either end of the ball when I cast on for this shawl, but I like a center pull ball, and I decided to start from the center - the lightest end of the gradient. The fact that this means I've spent the last week literally knitting in the direction of the darkness is not lost on me. It has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. I could continue that line of thought - the further I knit, the longer the rows get, and the slower my progress feels, etc. I could see it as a slog. (Fortunately, I don't.) And here's the thing - this is where perspective comes in. There's a Fast Company article that made the rounds last year called "The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter," and spoiler alert: it's all about your mindset.

    From where I sit as I knit the shawl, this is my vantage point. I am situated at the dark end, watching the gradient fade back into the light. While I may literally be looking at where I came from, this vantage point allows me to remember that the darkness can - and does - give way to the light again. Our whole world functions in cycles. The planet rotates and orbits the sun, the winter we are heading into will give way to spring and summer, and the daylight will come back. The darkness is an important part of that cycle - and in the case of my shawl, the darker the yarn color gets, the easier it is to see the sparkle of the silver stellina spun into the yarn. Much like we cannot see the stars or the northern lights when the sky is overwhelmed by the light of the sun.

    I read a book a few years ago - while in Norway for the new year, aptly enough - that really changed my relationship with nighttime and darkness. It's by Paul Bogard and it's called The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artifical Light. It was a game changer for me, and a book I would recommend to anyone and everyone. I'd never thought about the importance of darkness in the balance of life this way before, since as humans we tend to fear the darkness, which can represent danger and the unknown. But this book helped me start to embrace the dark and it changed the way I think about certain types of light. I don't think I would enjoy mørketida as much without having read it. 

    I also want to say that while there are many situations where I think the cycle of light and dark is important, I would not extend that so far as to say that the darkness of the current political situation is a necessary part of any such cycle - I think there is a cycle of dark and light there, but the degree of darkness we have reached goes far beyond any natural cycle. Racism, misogyny, bigotry, and hate should have no place in our society, let alone in the White House (or any of the governments in which xenophobic nationalist movements are gaining ground). But in the midst of this darkness there are bright points of light emerging, and I would encourage you to seek those out. And as I sit and knit my shawl, I will remember that the darkness can - and does - give way to the light again. And in the coming days I'll be thinking very hard about concrete ways that I can step up and be a part of that movement.

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  • oslo strikkefestival: yarn

    I have a few posts-in-progress lined up for the blog once I have a chance to finish them, but as school has intensified this term, and the US election season approached its climax in the past weeks, it's been a bit of a struggle to get anything finished. And today, after having woken up to the results at six in the morning yesterday, I'll admit I'm feeling at a bit of a loss. This week is tough for many of us, American or otherwise.

    But in an attempt to turn toward the positive: I spent this past weekend at the Oslo Strikkefestival (for whom I designed my Rosenhoff Votter), in the company of a collection of absolutely incredible people. I'd love to share more about the experience soon - the fantastic organizers Katie and Tone, the workshops and the marketplace and the general atmosphere, meeting so many people in person who I've interacted with online. It was truly wonderful. But right now what I really need is a couple of mental health days before I dive headfirst back into my thesis work. So I thought for now I'd just share what I picked up from the marketplace - which, after reading the vendor list in advance, I was greatly anticipating.

    You all know I'm working to buy less yarn and knit from my existing stash whenever possible, but I've known for months that I was going to make a big exception for Oslo Strikkefestival. Having started the Norwegian wool series on this blog (which I hope to get back to soon!), I'm super interested in exploring new-to-me yarns that are domestically sourced and produced in Norway. I've also lately become interested in the world of Norwegian hand-dyed yarns, as many of those businesses are only just getting started. The marketplace at this past weekend's festival was an absolutely fantastic place to check out a large sample of Norwegian-made and/or Norwegian-dyed yarns in person all at once. And so I came home with a few things... and you can see from the photo at the top of this post that I didn't stray from my typical color palette too far. There are worse things than being predictable, though, I suppose.

    I've written about how much I love Hillesvåg and their pelsull yarn on this blog before, so I was very happy to pick up a skein of a new weight of pelsull. Sølje is a lovely fingering-weight version and it's surprisingly soft. Hillesvåg has kept with their tradition of naming their yarns after things related to Norwegian tradition and folklore, as sølje is also the name for the brooches typically worn with the bunad, the national folk costume. The Hillesvåg booth didn't have a lot of this yarn left by the time I made my way over to pick some up, but I snagged this skein in the color lys rødlig beige, or "light reddish beige." I'm not sure yet what it will be but I'm very curious to see how this weight knits up compared with the sport weight Pelsull and the bulky Blåne.

    Next up is something different, although still in my typical grey: this is the Kid Silk base from Norne Yarns in the Fenrir colorway. Tuva of Norne Yarns was a vendor at last year's festival as well, and her specialty is luxury bases (I didn't asked her specifically about the sources of the bases but I assume they're sourced abroad). The diversity of yarns in the marketplace was one of the most exciting things to me - although I am a huge advocate for Norwegian wools, I think a Norwegian dyer working with luxury bases is an excellent niche to fill and I'm quite looking forward to trying this yarn out. This grey color is called Fenrir after Fenrir the grey, the great wolf from Norse mythology (also the inspiration for the werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter universe). One of my favorite things about Tuva's yarns is the Norse mythology woven through all the names, right down to the brand name itself - Norne - as the Norns are the Norse version of the female Fates who rule the destinies of men (artwork of the Norns spinning the threads of fate at the bottom of Yggdrasil is easy to find). Fans of Norse mythology will recognize many names in Norne's colorways: Yggdrasil, Valkyrie, Freyr, the Mistress of Seidr (which refers to Freyja), Skadi, Ratatosk, and many more. 

    Nina Petrina is probably my most local indie dyer, as Nina is from Troms (my county), just a short drive away from Tromsø over in Storfjord. I recently knit her Nordlyslue (northern lights hat), and I was looking forward to checking out more of her yarns in the marketplace. I was also really happy to meet Nina in person, as she is lovely! Not all of her yarns are domestic Norwegian wool - in fact, she carries some Quince & Co. yarns - but her focus is on organic and fair trade wool and she's very environmentally conscious. I picked up some of her Tynn Bluefaced Leicester (hooray for breed-specific wools!) in this beautiful teal shade that almost perfectly matched one of the stripe colors of my Fringe & Friends KAL sweater, which I was wearing at the time. I'm not sure what I'll use this for yet, but it's going to be beautiful.

    This yarn is one of the ones I'm the most excited about but at this point I can give you the least specifics. It's from the indie dyer I was perhaps the most eager to see: Værbitt. The name literally means "weather-bitten," and it's a word that I as a foreigner associate most strongly with the Norwegian national anthem, as it appears in the third line of the first verse (the only verse I know by heart). I had a lovely chat with Laila, the owner (and I probably gushed a bit), because Laila uses mainly Norwegian-sourced wools and Nordic breeds for her bases. The yarn above is spun from spælsau wool, both the sturdy guard hair layer as well as the softer inner layer of wool, so it's very sturdy even as a single-ply, and absolutely beautiful. I'm very excited to follow Værbitt's work in the future.

    All four of the above yarns were ones I planned to check out and I was expecting to come home with - but of course, there were a couple of curve balls, too. They came home with me because these are the yarns I actually have concrete plans for, unlike the ones above.

    Claire of We Love Knitting traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia to be a vendor at the marketplace, and she is honestly and without exagerration probably the sweetest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I came home with a skein of her Merino Fingering in the Icicle colorway (at bottom) and her Sock base in a beautiful grey (top). These will become a pair of Lumineux socks, from this year's Knitworthy collection from Ysolda. Thankfully I can always use more handknit socks here.

    And last but definitely not least, I think I'm actually incapable of resisting a beautiful greyscale gradient. This one came from Squirrel's Yarns, another one of the international vendors - Lisa is based in France and her gradients were one of the first things that caught my eye at the marketplace. This one is in her Pécan Fingering base, which has a bit of silver stellina in the yarn that gives it a lovely sparkle (which unfortunately doesn't seem to photograph very well in my low winter light). I'm pretty sure this is going to become a Lupine shawl, a pattern by my friend Cory I've been wanting to knit for a long time. I actually had another stash yarn set aside for that, but this one feels like an even better fit.

    Thanks again to Katie and Tone and everyone else who made Oslo Strikkefestival so fantastic this year. It was a bright spot in the midst of a dark time.

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  • FO: fringe and friends top-down knitalong

    This past week's Slow Fashion October theme is HANDMADE, and for whatever reason I'm not finding myself in the right headspace to write about it. Maybe it's because I feel like my style is in flux at the moment - I wrote about how moving to northern Norway and breaking my shoulder in March have both had an effect on my wardrobe. I make clothes by hand because at this point, I don't know how to not make things by hand. There is an element of habit and compulsion that I'm in the process of reflecting on. So I'm still working on how to acquire new materials thoughtfully and with purpose; meditating on how to avoid buying too much, or things I don't need. And while my stash doesn't feel like a burden the way it did two years ago, there's still a lot of it. 

    So I suppose when it comes to handmade, my priorities are a work in progress. Karen also brought attention to the handmade vs. homemade distinction, which I think is really interesting. For me, sometimes handmade is homemade (by me), but I'm also perfectly willing to invest in handmade clothes made by someone else for commercial production. I love small batch producers of ethical clothing. And since my forays back into sewing in the past few years have left me feeling a little frustrated (and I also no longer own a sewing machine), clothing handmade by small brands has real value to me. I am much less prone to excess when I'm spending a lot of money on a Jennifer Glasgow dress or a Curator top (or even a home-sewn dress from a vintage boutique). I'm forced to really think about how that piece will fit into my existing wardrobe or whether I'm buying a second version of something I already own, in a way that doesn't always happen when I'm casting on for a new project. I find that a useful exercise. But all this starts pushing into next week's topic, which is known origins, so let's get back to handmade for the moment...

    I already wrote that I jumped in on this year's Fringe and Friends KAL almost on impulse after getting an idea for a stripe sequence that would use a buch of stash yarn. Just over two weeks ago I finally finished weaving in all the stripey ends and got that sweater blocked and seamed, and I'm so pleased with it that it's hard not to just wear it every day.

    So here's my Improv (I used Karen's top-down tutorial on the Fringe blog). It's really interesting to write about this sweater this week, with this handmade theme for Slow Fashion October. Part of why I went ahead and cast on for this sweater when I had planned to stick to WIPs was because it was something that could be made entirely with stash yarn - I mean, how many of us have stashes full of single skeins (or perhaps pairs of skeins) of yarns we fell in love with and bought without a plan? Most of us don't have sweater quantities of single yarns in one color sitting around in our stashes. So a sweater entirely from stash - that felt like an exciting challenge. And sometimes the best time to jump in and start something is when you feel that spark. So I did! (And for the record, I've been doing pretty well at not casting on new things and working my way through those WIPs, so I'm giving myself a little pat on the back.)

    I've written before that the idea for the stripe sequence was able to emerge in my head largely because I've started cataloguing stash on Ravelry - I'd handled these yarns in the recent past, I'd weighed them to note the amounts I had, and I'd photographed them. I'd also noticed that some of the colors went really well together. So once I got the idea, I was able to determine pretty quickly that I had more than enough yarn for a sweater. Looking at the exact amounts allowed me to finalize the stripe sequence - I had remainders of single skeins of three colors, and I had about two skeins each of two colors. Technically, these were all leftovers from other projects, though in some cases I overbought for the initial projects (or the original plan changed), leaving an unusual amount of yarn leftover.

    These are all worsted weight yarns - three of them are Berroco Ultra Alpaca (in Charcoal Mix, Heathered Olive, and Turqoise Mix), and two are Stonehedge Shepherd's Wool Worsted (in Great Lakes and Blue Spruce). I wasn't too concerned about mixing these bases even though one is a wool/alpaca blend and one is 100% merino, and since the vast majority is the Ultra Alpaca, it really didn't matter in the end. Because I had the largest quantities of the Charcoal Mix and Heathered Olive, I worked stripes of both of those colors between each contrasting stripe. The distinction isn't one you really see from far away, but up close the subtle effect reveals itself and I love what it does for this sweater.

    The finished sweater very closely resembles my original vision. There's some subtle decreasing on the sleeves, but the body has no shaping. The bottom features a split hem. The one compromise I had to make in the end was the neck - when I imagined this sweater initially, I pictured a wide sort of foldover turtleneck (think Birch Bay), which seemed both posh and cozy and felt really inviting. But it became apparent really quickly as I worked my way through the sweater that it was very unlikely I'd have that much charcoal yarn leftover. I spent awhile thinking about whether to simply finish the neckline with the yarn I had or if it would be better to stay faithful to my initial vision and buy an extra skein of the charcoal to make the generous neck happen. (I also asked for your advice on Instagram at that point, and thank you all so much for your helpful feedback!) In the end I decided that I would rather not buy extra yarn - so much more satisfying for it to be entirely stash! - and just see how far the yarn I still had would get me. I also had the realization that practically, a simple open neck would be much more useful in my daily life than an oversized cowl/turtleneck, since I wanted to be able to wear this sweater inside, and I overheat really easily. And now that it's done? I'm really, really happy with the neck of this sweater. It truly does fit seamlessly into my existing wardrobe. And I definitely knocked back my stash a little bit. The photo at the top shows the leftovers of each color - from left to right there's Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Charcoal Mix, Heathered Olive, and Turqoise Mix, and then Shepherd's Wool in Great Lakes and Blue Spruce. 

    While I was knitting this sweater, I had dreams of photographing it in front of the beautiful golden birches, but by the time I got all the ends woven in, I'd kind of missed my window in Tromsø. The closest I got was this progress shot (above) during our trip in Nordland, when I was working my way through sleeve number two. (We'll just have to use our imaginations. But you can see that it would've been great, right?!)

    I learned a lot making this sweater. I learned about finding creative ways to use my stash to supplement my wardrobe. I learned a lot about why you might want to knit a sweater top-down (I'm still a steadfast bottom-up devotee, but now it's easier for me to see which cases might call for top-down). And I learned that my original vision may not always be the best fit for my wardrobe, and that taking time to reflect on that will probably help me knit pieces that become staples (and don't get frogged down the road). You can check out my Ravelry project page here, and I highly recommend taking a spin through the whole #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed to see everyone's beautiful sweaters. They are all so different and all so special - thanks to everyone else for sharing along the way!

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  • slow fashion october: my first sweater

    This week's topic for Slow Fashion October is LONG WORN. It's an interesting one and there are a lot of different ways to approach this topic, particularly when it comes to shopping second-hand or thrifting. And I do have a handful of vintage or second-hand pieces that I might decide to write about, but my wardrobe has been in a nearly constant state of flux for the past few years, as I moved in with a partner and got married (and started sharing closets and dressers for the first time in my life) and also saw a natural evolution in my style and how I use it to express my identity. I'm hoping that's starting to even out a little bit and I'll be seeing a slightly more stable wardrobe, with less pieces moving in or out, but because of all of that I thought it would make sense to write about one piece that I'm very unlikely to get rid of: the first sweater I ever knit. 

    Truth be told, I came very, very close to letting this one go last Christmas in the midst of a clothing purge. It was my husband who talked be out of it, actually. "Firsts are important," he told me, and he was right (he still has his first guitar). Ten months on, I'm really glad I kept it. I was kind of shocked to realize exactly how long I've had it, once I started thinking about it; I made this sweater in 2007, which means it was nine years old this summer.

    Ten years ago my relationship with knitting was very different, unsurprisingly. I learned to knit as a kid but it didn't totally catch on for me until around 2005/2006, when suddenly there were new, hip knitting books being published (it was the age of Stitch 'n Bitch), I was regularly reading Bust Magazine, and there was a crafty community emerging online - I eagerly anticipated each new issue of Knitty (still going strong!) and I remember taking part in the Craftster forums. I had yet to discover local yarn stores and was still using lots of acrylic or acrylic-blend yarns from big-box craft stores and prior to this sweater I'd really only knit scarves. Lots and lots of ribbed scarves. I hadn't even tried out knitting a hat yet (I was afraid of knitting in the round for a long time). I'd received a copy of Stitch 'n Bitch from my mom for Christmas at some point and eventually decided I wanted to make the Big Sack Sweater by Jenna Wilson, which looked cozy and inviting.

    Since it was nearly a decade ago I remember very little of the decision-making process or how long it took me to knit the thing (I'm pretty sure it was months, though). What I do remember is that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The Big Sack Sweater calls for bulky yarn, but I picked out a worsted weight 100% acyrlic at the craft store. I definitely didn't swatch, so it seems like a miracle that I ended up with something that basically fits. The sweater's other flaws are easy to point out: I didn't know I should track my rows for the sleeves in order to make them the same, so I "estimated" (one sleeve is two inches longer than the other). There's an accidental m1 increase right in the front of the sweater. My picked-up stitches for the neckline are a mess. The sweater is worked flat in pieces and then seamed, and my seams are maybe the sloppiest I've ever seen. I didn't weave in the ends for years, literal years. But in spite of all of that, I was very proud and I loved this thing. And even though I would make very, very different decisions if I were knitting this sweater today (particularly with regard to yarn), I still love this thing and I do still wear it sometimes, even here in Tromsø, even though I have lots of handmade wool jumpers to choose from. I no longer have the second or third sweaters I made, but nine years on, I recognize the importance of this first for me, and it seems unlikely to leave my wardrobe for good, even if it falls out of regular rotation sometimes.

    More on the "long-worn" topic later, perhaps. For now, I'm happy that this is one of the pieces that's been in my wardrobe for the longest.

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  • dalis & riva

    I have a few new patterns that came out for Quince & Co. last week and I'm so pleased to finally be able to share these with you! Pictured above are the round-yoked Dalis pullover and the Riva hat and mittens, all knit in worsted weight Lark. They're part of the Sea Smoke collection which also features two beautiful patterns by Bristol Ivy (the patterns can each be purchased individually or the whole collection is available as an ebook).

    Both my patterns and Bristol's in the Sea Smoke collection have inspiration rooted in tradition, but we hope you'll agree that the pieces themselves are very wearable in anyone's everyday wardrobe. When I designed Dalis I had in mind several different sources of inspiration found in Scandinavian folk art, among them woven ribbons, klokkestrenger, or "bell pulls" (which are long, narrow pieces of decorative embroidery), and rosemåling certainly inspired the color palette I ended up with. Dalis uses one of my favorite constructions: knit from the bottom up, with body and arms knit first before they're joined together to work the yoke. Short row shaping at the back dips the yoke for a comfortable fit around the neck.

    When Pam, Quince's founder, first approached me about working with them on patterns, she mentioned noticing that I like to work with colorwork in my designs - and given the massive palette of colors to choose from in Quince's core wool line, they make it very easy to want to design more colorwork! Because Dalis uses five colors total, there's an incredible amount of room for creativity in color choice and changing just one color can give the whole pattern a different flavor - so I was thrilled when the Quince team decided to swatch different color combinations for the Quince blog and I'm in love with all of them. Along with their beautiful swatches, that blog post contains some excellent information about swatching for stranded colorwork, so I highly recommend checking it out (those are Leila's gorgeous swatches pictured above, but the blog post contains several more combos).

    I'm also very pleased with the Riva hat and mittens, which are simpler with a bolder motif, but knit in these colors they're a great match for Dalis. As fall collections have been coming out, however, I think one of my favorite things has been seeing echoes of the main diamond motif pop up elsewhere this season - a confluence of designers unknowingly working with the same muse, perhaps. Within the Sea Smoke collection, Bristol's beautiful Brooke pullover features textured diamonds around the yoke, the knit-purl cousins of Riva's diamonds. And when Jared Flood's Spearheads was released in this fall's Brooklyn Tweed collection, the white-on-blue men's version caught my eye right away since I knew Riva was soon being released. Three designers in three different cities working away on our patterns, having no idea of the similar thread running through our pieces... maybe it's just me, but I think there's something quite beautiful in that.

    The Quince team also put together a great post for Riva about how to make decisions when substituting colors, as the white color Egret is unfortunately out of stock at the moment. I'd also recommend checking out that very informative post right here

    The individual patterns as well as the whole ebook are available now either on Ravelry or on the Quince & Co. website.

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  • slow fashion october: introduction

    When Karen launched Slow Fashion October last year, I really wanted to participate. I wasn't able to take part in any very active way, though, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I was knee-deep in the first semester of my master's program, trying to keep up with readings and homeworks and paper-writing after several years away from any type of schoolwork. For another, I had only moved to Tromsø two months before, so I was only just beginning to adjust to my new climate, which has had (and continues to have) a great effect on my wardrobe. This year, I'm in a much better place to join in on Slow Fashion October with some active reflection. I've spent over a year in my new climate and I have a much better idea of how it's transformed my relationship with clothing. It's also been a year and a half since I decided to step away from running Paper Tiger as my full-time day job and start the transition back to this being a part-time gig. It feels like a good moment for reflection.

    For those unfamiliar, Slow Fashion October was started by Karen Templer of Fringe Association last year as an opportunity for conversation - about what "slow fashion" is and means to us, about the ways in which we approach it, and reasons why a slow fashion wardrobe is a choice many of want to make. In Karen's words, "the conversation is not just about handmade — it’s about all the ways (and reasons!) we can approach a slow-fashion wardrobe." This includes finding ways to make do and mend, buying second hand, and thinking about how to keep clothing out of the landfill. I have many, many thoughts on fast fashion and the state of the fashion industry, but for today I'll focus on how my own context affects my approach to clothing.

    I've spent much of the last year thinking critically about my wardrobe and how my move to Norway is affecting my choices, as well as ways to make do with what I have. Even though I donated about half of my yarn stash before the move, my stash is still.... sizeable, to say the least. It no longer overwhelms me, but I would like to knit from it before buying new yarn, and it always feels good to find the holy grail: the right project that fits into my long-term wardrobe plans using yarn I already have. So I've slowly (very slowly) started to catalog my stash using Ravelry's stash feature. While it's an ongoing process, I've already seen the benefits - starting to catalog worsted weight yarns on Ravelry led directly to my Fringe & Friends KAL sweater (pictured at top, and nearly finished!), knit entirely from yarns in my stash. I don't think that stripe sequence would have popped into my head if I hadn't been handling the yarns and noting the quantities for my Ravelry stash page.

    So, how has my new climate affected my wardrobe? Those of you who follow this blog know that I live in Norway, but many of you probably don't realize exactly how far north Tromsø is. This felt like a good opportunity to provide some conext:

    Tromsø sits at 69ºN, well above the Arctic Circle (and the entirety of Iceland, which only just barely crosses the circle), and nearly due north of Stockholm (since Norway wraps around the northern coast of the Scandinavian peninsula, it shares a border not just with Sweden, but also with Finland and Russia). I'm up there. Tromsø is about as far away from Norway's capital, Oslo, as upstate New York is from Savannah, Georgia. Thanks to the Gulf Stream winters are actually quite mild for this latitude, but there's still about four months of the year when we've continuously got snow on the ground. Summers are also mild - 20ºC/70ºF is a hot day - and they can be on the wet side. It's often pretty windy here. My wardrobe has been moving in a more androdgynous direction for a few years, and living in Tromsø has definitely continued that trend, along with a healthy dose of practicality. When I think about things I want to make for myself now, I'm always taking the weather into account. This is obviously a wool-friendly climate, and truth be told, the biggest gap in my handmade wardrobe now is socks. I wear my few pairs of handknit socks with boots on a very regular basis for most of the year.

    Breaking my shoulder in March had an effect on my sartorial choices as well. Spending two months in a sling with instructions not to move my arm in certain directions meant getting in and out of clothing became a special challenge. Button-down shirts and loose boxy tops that were easy to pull on and off with one arm became my go-tos, and to be honest, things didn't really change that much after my shoulder started improving and I could move my arm again. Clothing that layers well and fits under a coat or jacket is also important. That means most of the time I find myself at a happy medium between fitted clothing and super oversized pieces. 

    Continuing this line of thought, I started off Slow Fashion October by frogging a sweater. In the midst of reassessing my wardrobe, I've realized there things I just don't wear anymore. With the exception of the short summer, I rarely wear skirts or dresses here, so my pre-move plan to knit more things I could wear with high-waisted skirts now seems pretty low on the priority list. When I do reach for a sweater to wear with skirts or dresses, it's my Chuck. Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile may remember the sweater pictured in that previous blog link - my Splitta Genser, with the lovely foldover back and dark grey garter stitch. It's a nice sweater. I genuinely thought it would help fill a hole in my handknit wardrobe. But - here's the crucial bit - I never, ever wear it. Truth be told, it came out too small (it's been rather aggressively blocked in those FO photos). Also, dolman sleeves? Not for me, it turns out - they don't work so well when you try and tuck them into a jacket. So over the weekend, I sat down and carefully unpicked the grafted seams and then frogged the whole thing. I love wearing grey and I have more of this yarn; I can easily turn it into something I'll actually wear on a regular basis. I'd rather have it as yarn waiting in my stash than as a sweater that I never wear (clothing storage space is at a premium for us in our closet-less Norwegian apartment).

    When it comes to buying ready-to-wear clothing, I'm a little at a loss these days. I find it very hard to avoid fast fashion in Norway and I've ended up buying clothing online from the US instead because I know I can buy from companies who are doing their best to make ethical business decisions and promote transparency in the fashion industry. If any Europeans (especially in Scandinavia) have suggestions for clothing companies that are sourcing their fabrics ethically and manufacturing domestically, I'd love to hear about it. Basically, I'm looking for a Norwegian version of my favorite shop in Seattle, Velouria. It feels like it must exist, but if it does, I don't know about it yet. I guess the silver lining is that I don't really need anything new - I do have plenty of clothes already.

    There's so much more I could say about my thoughts on slow fashion, but I'll save some for future posts. I've already been doing a lot of thinking and reading in these first few days of October. Karen linked to a really important piece of writing called No One Wants Your Old Clothes - it's an eye-opening piece that feels like an excellent prerequisite to this year's conversation. I also just last week started reading Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert, which is already an excellent book just two chapters in and I'll have a lot more to say about that in a later post as well. Will you all be taking part in this year's Slow Fashion October?

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  • nordland rundt

    I'm recently back from a whirlwind trip around Nordland, the Norwegian fylke (county) just to the south of Troms, the county where I live. We've had some dear friends visiting from the states, and it seemed like a great opportunity to get ourselves off the beaten track and show our friends a nice cross-section of northern Norway. We were lucky to have some very nice weather and the autumn colors were pretty spectacular, all of which we got to enjoy from planes, trains, and automobiles - and on foot too, of course.

    Nordland is long and narrow from north to south (the mainland part is so narrow that one of its larger fjords, Tysfjord, ends just 6km from the Swedish border), but it's also home to the famous Lofoten archipelago. The Arctic Circle also cuts through Nordland. We began our journey with a train ride from Bodø to Mo i Rana (after flying to Bodø - there's no train that goes to Tromsø)*, where we rented a car and started heading north. We stayed somewhere new each night and the drives were short, which meant there was time for long pit stops or detours depending on how we were feeling each day - it's an approach I can highly recommend. A few highlights:

    The flight! Flying over northern Norway on a clear day is always a special treat. Tromsø to Bodø is just a quick 45-minute hop.

    Saltfjellet is incredibly unique. The area surrounding this mountain range is all national park, and I'm so glad we got to spend some time here. Going north meant a stop at the bizarre gift shop at Polarsirkelsenteret (situated at the Arctic Circle) before we made it to our lodgings for the night, the charming Saltfjellet Hotell Polarsirkelen (which has a great big common room that's lovely for knitting or reading, for the record). The hotel is surrounded by nature, and it's a short walk from the Lønsdal train station if you don't have a car. This area is incredible for hiking, and the colors are just beautiful in autumn (I feel very lucky that we got to see it like this - as the woman at the hotel said, "one windy night and it's all gone!").

    Wobbly time lapse from Saltstraumen, the world's strongest tidal current. #Saltstraumen

    A video posted by Dianna Walla ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Saltstraumen has one of the strongest tidal currents in the world, and I've been looking forward to seeing it in person for a long time. We arrived at just the right time, as the tide was changing, and the speed of the water and the meandering whirlpools were difficult to wrap my head around. We also got to see some "Saltstraumen safari" boats zig zag and run circles across the water. We stayed a night here at a rental cabin, but on the quiter side of the water at Saltstraumen Brygge (on the peninsula just to the south of the strait - that was our view in the photo directly above).

    Visiting the former mining town of Sulitjelma tucked into the inland mountains on a lake is an experience I'm unlikely to forget. We weren't able to walk through the mine museum, but as mining was an active industry here until 1991, the traces were easy to see.

    And one last highlight: we took a Hurtigruten boat from Svolvær back to Tromsø, and were blessed with clear weather and some very active northern lights that night. Unfortunately, a moving boat + long exposures don't make for the best photos, so I left my camera in the cabin. 

    Aside from the stops, the drives themselves were just beautiful. It's hard not to love long drives down tree-lined roads at this time of year, especially when the pit stops are also beautiful.

    If I haven't convinced you that a road trip through Nordland in autumn is worth it, Van over at Snow in Tromsø went on a roadtrip through Nordland last October and shared a photo essay on her blog. Since she was there a few weeks later in the year than my trip, the mountains all have a lovely dusting of snow.

    --

    * After having watched Nordlandsbanen minutt for minutt (the slow TV program produced by Norwegian national broadcaster NRK that documents the train journey from Trondheim to Bodø) multiple times, I was really excited to spend three hours on the northern end of the route. Someday we'll do the whole thing. The full journey is 10 hours - I often put it on TV in the background when I'm working, as it's relatively meditative background nosie - and you can check it out here (for free) on the NRK website if you're interested.

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  • reading, thinking: seawomen of iceland

    The Sun Voyager, photographed in 2012 in Reykjavík

    Jess's Swatch of the Month post over on the Fringe blog today got me thinking about a book I read a few months ago. Her swatch this month is in Icelandic wool, the Lopi we all know and love, and her post includes a really fantastic short history of Iceland. Several lines caught my attention, among them the following:

    "I’m telling you this not because it’s related to knitting, but because it’s central to understanding who Icelanders are."

    I'm someone who's been interested in Iceland for awhile. I fell in love with Iceland through music first, listening to a lot of Sigur Rós and Múm when I was in high school (Múm's Finally We Are No One is still my desert island record after a decade and a half of listening to it). Later in college, when I started knitting more than just scarves, I began to get interested in Iceland's knitting as well (the 2007 Sigur Rós film Heima helped - it documents a series of free outdoor concerts they gave in Iceland and it feels like every third person in the film is wearing a lopapeysa). I'm lucky to have been to Iceland several times now and I've done a lot of reading about Iceland's history, its language (which I've studied), and its literary tradition. I completely agree with Jess that this kind of knowledge lends a much deeper understanding of why the Icelandic sheep are the way they are, why the wool is so practical and useful and holds a place of such importance, and how much more beautiful its place in society is because of all of that.

    Following that line of thought: I recently read a book that increased my depth of knowledge about Iceland in a very different way. This is not a book about knitting. But this book taught me so much more about Iceland's history and Iceland's spirit than I knew before I read it. 

    Jess's post features a quote from Árni Árnason on the lopapeysa: "It resembles the country’s rugged nature and reminds us of the history of farming and fishing when it provided its wearer with a vital shield from the disastrous weather one can encounter in the wild." Farming and fishing. Sheep, of course, are a vital part of Iceland's farming history, but I'd never spent much time thinking about Iceland's fishing industry beyond harðfiskur or fish leather, particularly given the challenges presented by the harsh climate. So I was very intrigued when I came across Seawomen of Iceland by Margaret Willson, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Washington who once worked on fishing boats herself (hat tip to Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum, which is how I found out about the book).

    I appreciate this book so much for the glimpse it provides into the history of women in Iceland's fishing industry (which it seems is often overlooked even by Icelanders themselves), but also for its recognition of how dramatically Iceland's industry and cultural landscape has changed in the previous decades. The mass migration of people from the rural countryside to the city is staggering to think about when considering the ripple effect on the towns that get left behind. So while it's not a book about knitting, those of you interested in Iceland might find something to interest you here. It's available on Amazon or directly from the UW Press.

    Even if the book isn't for you, I do hope you'll enjoy this poem by seawoman Björg Einarsdóttir which is featured in the book, translated with great care by Margaret and her friend Ágústa:

    Thanks to Jess for such a wonderful post today over on Fringe and thank you to Margaret for such an incredible work of research.

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  • project updates

    Since the whole idea of my queue check of sorts from a few weeks back was to hold myself accountable to my plan, I figured I'd post a follow up! I'll start with the good news:

    I finished the Hugin and Munin mittens! As I mentioned in the earlier post, these only needed thumbs, so once I had time to sit down and chart them out, the knitting itself was pretty quick. I'm so pleased with how these turned out, and even more pleased that they're finally done! The Rauma Finullgarn is so fantastic for mittens, and since these are knit at a fine gauge (on US 1 / 2.25mm needles) they'll be very warm.

    I also powered through and finished my Inglis Mitts in time to wear them this year before it's too cold! Already I'm wearing them without the top folded down a majority of the time, so they're extra long. My project page now also incredibly has an absurd number of faves on Ravelry, since Sarah featured my mitts in a community eye candy post on the Ravelry blog (thanks Sarah!). And if you've been eyeing the Inglis Mitts but didn't get the Edinburgh Yarn Fest magazine in which they were originally published, I'm really happy to be able to let you know that they're now available as an individual pattern on Ravelry

    I've also made some progress on my Dunaway scarf, though I have yet to finish it. I think that's probably top of the priority list now.

    The neutral news: I haven't touched my Sandneskofte since I last posted about it, but I still have plenty of time to finish it before the Oslo Knitting Festival, so I'm not too worried about that.

    The curve ball: many of you probably saw on Instagram that I did end up casting on something new after all. It was one of those times where you get an idea in your head and it just takes hold - I tried to push it to the back of my mind for later, but this was one was stubborn. I got an idea for a stripe sequence that would use up a bunch of worsted weight yarn in my stash and I couldn't get it out of my head. After a couple of days of trying not to think about it, I gave in and decided to work up a little swatch to test the sequence of stripes to see if it would work out in real life the way it was working out in my head. And oh, it did. I wrote last time about how satisfying it is to find a happy marriage of stash yarn and pattern, and once I saw that this stripe sequence would work, imagining the sweater I could use it on was the easiest thing imaginable. And so I threw caution to the wind. I decided to join in on this year's Fringe and friends KAL with my stripes, so I'm working my way through an improvised top-down pullover. To make it go quickly so as not to disrupt my existing project plans too much, I've worked the whole thing seamlessly in the round, with purl columns on the sides of the body in case I want to seam the sides. Stockinette in the round is my speediest knitting, and on US 8 / 5mm needles it is flying along. It's ready for the sleeves, but I think I'll knit those flat.

    I'd like to wrap this up soon, but I think I should finish the Dunaway scarf first! And so that's my planned weekend knitting. What will you be working on this weekend?

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