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  • on seasons

    A bit related to my post on darkness: today I’m thinking about seasons.

    For awhile now I’ve found it curious how so much our modern (western) society chooses to strictly adhere to the astronomical seasons as the only true definition of “season” (that is to say, the idea that each solstice or equinox marks the first day of a new season). As if seasons have borders. The winter solstice is December 22 this year, but does that mean that December 21 is “technically” still autumn? Plenty of people would say yes to that question, but for any of us who live in a climate where it’s been snowing already, that actually makes zero sense. Autumn one day, winter the next? (Maybe so, but that day came weeks ago here.) Perhaps printed calendars have something to do with it, but the older I get the more bizarre I find it, all the same.

    In some ways I feel like social media has amplified this effect in my own life – many of the people I follow, and I myself, often post about the changing seasons at the solstices and equinox. (See a few of my old examples here and here) But the more I see posts about how it’s not “technically” some season yet but it sure feels like it is, the less relevant this strict adherence to astronomical seasons feels. So I guess I’ve been craving something different. Does it "sure feel like winter"? Cool, sounds like it's winter to me.

    There are, both today and historically, different ways to define or conceptualize a season. Many places have or have had only two seasons: either a summer/winter dichotomy, or in more tropical regions, a wet season and a dry season. The Nordic countries are one of the regions that historically only distinguished between winter and summer – which makes the idea that Midsummer happens around the summer solstice make much more sense. I’m sure there must be others, but that’s the example I’m most familiar with.

    Even in four-season models, there are different boundaries for the four seasons. I’ve already mentioned the astronomical sense, where the seasons begin on the corresponding solstice or equinox. But do you know about meteorological seasons? Professional meteorologists in many regions use these definitions, and they correspond very neatly to three-month chunks: with winter beginning December 1, spring on March 1, summer on June 1, and autumn on September 1 (this is vindication for all you autumn-lovers out there who consider it autumn once the calendar hits September – remember this piece of information and you can use it next time someone tries to tell you “but it’s no technically autumn until September 21/22”).

    There are systems with six seasons, systems that pay no mind to the calendar at all but rather correspond to temperature or other natural or ecological cues, and other ways of marking seasons that you’ve probably never even considered. The "Season" Wikipedia page actually has a lot of interesting information about all of this, if you find all of this as fascinating or as liberating as I do to learn about.

    It goes without saying that I speak from my own perspective as someone who grew up and has always lived in the northern hemisphere, so the dates here correspond to that. The photos in this post are all from 2015-2017, when we were living in Tromsø (which is probably the place where I started to disengage from the supremacy of astronomical seasons, because they made so little sense there beyond the summer/winter distinction).

  • new pattern: rue du tage

    Last week I released another new pattern: Rue du Tage. I've been working on this one for quite awhile, and teased it on Instagram over the summer. I finished the scarf in November and have been weraing it nearly nonstop ever since; it is my favorite kind of properly-bundled-up scarf, worked in the round so it's doubly thick, and long enough to wrap around your neck with both ends tucked into your jacket. This kind of scarf can cover the bottom half of your face if you wear it right, and it holds up against the cold wind.

    I had an immense amount of fun both designing and knitting this scarf. It's worked up in La Bien Aimée Mondim, a yarny collaboration between La Bien Aimée in Paris and Retrosaria Roma Pomar in Lisbon. Mondim is made for Rosa Pomar from Portuguese wool, and this hand-dyed incarnation is then dyed by La Bien Aimée in Paris. I used three colors for this design, but you could easily use more if you wished, which would make this a great leftovers project.

    The Mondim is a sturdier wool than your typical hand-dyed merino – admittedly less soft, which will mean some knitters might not want to use it for a scarf, but for me it's soft enough to wear it next to my skin (especially if it's cold out). I found the yarn worked very nicely for colorwork, and I definitely had trouble putting the project down once I got going on a motif. Of course you could substitute other fingering weight yarns as well, especially if you have more than a few kicking around your stash (like I do). 

    The fact that the yarn is a collaboration between La Bien Aimée and Rosa Pomar is what led to the name for this design. I was a bit stuck on the name for awhile, but while browsing a street map of LBA's neighborhood in Paris I spotted a street called Rue du Tage. A quick search confirmed my suspicions: this street is named for the Tagus river which runs through Spain and Portugal, with the river's mouth in Lisbon. It's a funny coincidence, to have a street around the corner from La Bien Aimée named for the river that Retrosaria Rosa Pomar sits within walking distance of. And so Rue du Tage it was.

    Thanks to La Bien Aimée for generously providing yarn support for this design. And I hope you all like it as much as I do! You can find the details about yardage, needles, and all the rest on the Ravelry pattern page.

  • darkness

    I saw an anecdote on Twitter this week about the words for December in Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic – in Irish Gaelic it's Mí na Nollag (Month of Christmas) and in Scottish Gaelic it's An Dubhlachd (The Blackness). There are historical and cultural reasons for this somewhat amusing difference, but nonetheless it's quite striking. I've been having talks with friends in the past several days about this darkest time of year, as Norway is now gearing up for Christmas. Advent has begun, and the city streets are positively full of twinkling lights. There are multiple traditions that involve bringing light into the darkest month – one that comes to mind in the Germanic countries is the tradition of having four advent candles (often arranged in an adventskrans, or an advent wreath) which are lit on the four Sundays of advent. On the first Sunday, the first candle is lit. On the second Sunday, two candles. And so on. The tradition is strong here and for many, it's largely secular, despite advent's Christian ties. Viewers of Skeindeer's Vlogmas videos will be familiar with the poem that many recite while lighting the candles. These days, Norway also celebrates Saint Lucia on the 13th. Other religious traditions and cultures have their own versions of bringing light into the darkness, and a common thread is that bringling light into the dark creates hope. I meditated on this theme a little bit on this blog back in 2016 (see the post "on darkness and light").

    I continue to be drawn to these themes. When we lived in Montreal, one of the things I really missed in summer and winter were the extremes of light that came with the solstices in the north. We knew Montreal's winter would be brutally cold, but we expected to cope better because the sun would rise every day. On the contrary, we found ourselves missing the darkness of the northern winter. For me, I felt so in tune with the cycle of the seasons and the movement of the earth when we lived in the north. So in many ways it's a relief to come back, even if in Trondheim we're not quite as far north as we were in Tromsø. 

    The weather has been in flux here as the days get shorter – the snow has started, but then it's followed by rain, which is followed by more snow, and then more rain. The rainy days are darker, because the snow forms a giant bright reflector on the ground. At the moment, though, I'm not minding the rainy days. I'm just happy to be back in the north.

    And while we're on the subject of the days growing shorter, a few weeks ago a book I'd been looking forward to was released: The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis. I've been a big fan of Carson's work for years and years, and I found out about this book because she was working on it. "The Shortest Day" is a poem by Susan Cooper, and here it's been turned into a picture book for kids, accompanied by Carson's beautiful illustrations. The poem is an ode to the winter solstice, a celebration of the fact that the shortest day is a turning point - once you finally reach it, the light starts to return again. It touches on the cyclical nature of it over time that I enjoy so much. "Welcome, Yule!"

  • new pattern: oak hollow

    I think it's been a long time since I've written a dedicated blog post for a new pattern, but now that I'm publishing new designs less often (I think 2019 will be an 8-pattern year compared to last year's 24), it feels easier to sit down to write about a new design. I'm very pleased to introduce you to a pattern that's been a long time in the making: meet Oak Hollow.

    Some of you may be familiar with the fact that I'm quite interested in non-superwash hand-dyed yarn. Of course there's a lot of superwash hand-dyed yarn in my stash as well, but as dyers have increasingly been experimenting with non-superwash bases, I've been increasingly excited about it. So in June 2018, when Canadian dyer Lichen and Lace announced a new base made with non-superwash Canadian wool, I knew I wanted to try some (Lichen and Lace is located in New Brunswick and I was living in Montreal at the time, so while they weren't exactly "local," they were only one province to the east). So I ordered myself three skeins of Rustic Heather Sport.

    Being very fond of grey, I ended up with only one skein that was actually dyed – that gorgeous yellow to the left, Pollen. The two greys (Charcoal and Birch) are undyed colors. Yellow has never featured hugely in my wardrobe or my design work, but I thought this combination was absolutely gorgeous, and last summer I was already charting up an idea for a pair of fingerless mitts. I was incredibly busy with other patterns last fall, though, and didn't get around to starting these in time for them to be a fall release. And there was no question to me that they should be a fall release. So they got put on the back burner for awhile.

    When it came time to pack our suitcases for the move to Trondheim last May/June, I knew I'd have to be selective about what projects and yarn to pack (the majority of our stuff came separately and we will finally be reunited with it later this month when we move into our new place, and I am SO glad!). Not knowing how long I'd be away from the majority of my stash, I made sure to pack these skeins in the suitcases so that this pattern could happen this year. 

    In the end, it still took some time, and some trial and error. Some patterns just do. The first mitt I started working up I probably got three quarters of the way through before I realized/accepted that it was actually just way too small. I set it aside, went up a needle size, and started again. This time I knit the pair, which fit much better with one exception – after finishing, blocking, and wearing the mitts for a week or two, I realized I wasn't happy with the thumb gusset, which was still too small. So I frogged the finished mitts back to the place where the new thumb gusset would begin – which felt very close to the beginning – and knit them back up. But the effort was worth it! The new thumb gusset was a much better fit, and I'm so happy I took the time to get this one right, rather than rushing through it, even though that meant the pattern didn't come out until November 1. Maybe it still feels like autumn where you are, or maybe you're still waiting for the autumn weather to show up, but in Norway? Winter is setting in. We've had our first snow of the season today in Trondheim, and I know the Oslo area had the same this weekend. It's beautiful, but it's been nice to hang on to autumn a little bit through this design.

    I've been blown away by the enthusiastic response to this design and I can only say thank you. It's been so much fun to watch projects popping up on Ravelry and Instagram already. If you'd like to make your own mitts, Oak Hollow is knit with three colors of sport weight yarn at a gauge of 28 stitches per 4"/10 cm (at that gauge a fingering weight would probably also work for these mitts, particularly if it's woolen spun), and the pattern is written for two sizes. I think it would be relatively easy to work in two colors instead if you didn't want to bother with the very small amount needed of the third color. Overall, these mitts don't use a lot of yarn and would be great for leftovers. You can find all the details on the Ravelry pattern page.

  • peak fall

    I think Trondheim finally hit peak fall color in the past week (yes, I know, I am still talking about autumn, but I just can't get over how long and slow it is here!). But on Tuesday a serious windstorm blew through and knocked down quite a few of the leaves. I have a few snaps from the weekend and the past few days, though, that show some of the beautiful golden color I've been surrounded by lately. Luckily, there are still a few leaves still hanging on even after the windstorm, though these photos are all from beforehand.

    I've also finished a few knitting projects lately. Both the No Frills I mentioned in my last post, as well as the Featherweight Cardigan you can see in this one, and I also finished up a new design. We got to take some pattern photos last weekend, pre-windstorm, and it was nice to take advantage of the fall colors both on the trees and blanketing the ground. These mitts are for a pattern that will be called Oak Hollow, about which more soon.

    If it's fall in your part of the world, I hope you're getting the chance to soak up some color. The autumn gold that's ubiquitous in Norway always makes me feel like I'm in Lothlorien (especially if it's a birch grove), and I love it so much.

  • transitions

    Trondheim in the autumn continues to charm. I'm starting to adjust to the general level of busy-ness that my life here is going to involve, but it's definitely been a big shift for me. Partly that's because I'm still working on some patterns in the background along with my new day job at the university; partly it's because my PhD coursework has started as well and my to-do list is growing longer; and partly it's because we've still been living in temporary accommodations and it can be a challenge to get into routines when there are things about your living situation you can't change. But we'll be moving into our new long-term home in November, and I'm really looking forward to that.

    While we wait for that, though, the weather continues to shift. The leaves are changing, but we still haven't reached peak color yet. We had a couple of weeks of solid rain in the middle of the month before the sun came back out last week. I was in Kraków for a conference the tail end of last week and over the weekend, and I got home to Trondheim last night after dark. This morning I woke up to much cooler weather than we had last week (a few degrees above 0°C) and saw that the higher peaks in Bymarka (which are still relatively low) had a dusting of snow on them. The mountains across the fjord, as well. Now it well and truly feels like Norwegian autumn. I love Norway at this time of year, and I still can't get over how much longer and slower the autumn is here in Trondheim compared with up north in Tromsø. This city is truly beautiful in its fall colors.

    One of the things the weather's change has brought on is a mild panic over the fact that I don't have that many warm clothes in my suitcases with me (the rest of our clothes are packed away with the belongings we moved from Montreal – patiently waiting in storage for us to move into our new place in November). I feel like I haven't had much time for knitting recently, but now I'm determined to knit a little more and a little faster, if I can. I have two sweaters which are only missing sleeves, so I feel like with some concentrated knitting time in the evenings I could finish this No Frills sweater by next weekend.

    I don't usually knit the same pattern over and over, but this will be my third No Frills (or Ingen dikkedarer as it's known in Scandinavia), and I'm approaching this one a little differently than my first two. I'll elaborate more on that when it's finished, perhaps, because each of them is different and brings something unique to my wardrobe even as they all feel like everyday staples. I adore this color, a limited edition colorway of Hillesvåg Tinde made for Drople Design called Villbringebær ("wild raspberry"). It's a color I fell head over heels in love with when Anne first launched it over a year ago and I'm so thrilled to finally be knitting a garment with it.

    So I've been enjoying knitting on this sweater very much, even if it's felt like slow going. Knitting on a wooly sweater goes so well with changing colors, chilly rainy days, and the smell of woodsmoke in the air, after all. I've been getting into the spirit of autumn in other ways too. Some of the local apples have been wonderful recently, and the other week I baked a fyriskaka (a Swedish apple cake with cardamom) from Fika, which is one of my favorite bakes for this time of year. I also received a massive bag of little plums from a friend at work – the plum tree in her garden went crazy this year, it seems – and I managed to turn some of those into a few jars of pickled plums and roasted plum butter. I've been enjoying the plum butter on toast or lomper in the mornings for breakfast. (We'll see about the pickles, which were more of an experiment.)

    I've also been getting out for long walks or little hikes whenever possible. Now that I've seen that the snow is encroaching on the mountains in Bymarka, I'd like to get in a short hike in the next week or two to soak up the season. I always enjoy walking by the water as well. I'm always drawn to the water like a magnet – the smell of saltwater was another thing I missed so much in Montreal. The Trondheim Fjord can feel so much like Puget Sound in Washington state, a similarity I really enjoy.

    Of course there are challenges that come with this transitional season (both of the year but also of our lives), but overall we have fallen in love with this city, and I was so happy to come home to it after a weekend away. I can't help but feel incredibly lucky that we get to live here. Vi trives godt her i Trondheim.

  • september

    The semester started, and things got busy. There were a couple of weeks where there was suddenly a lot to do – campus was full of people again, my PhD to-do list grew rapidly, we moved apartments (from one temporary place to another, for now), and there was plenty outside of all of that to keep us busy too. There wasn't a lot of knitting during those weeks, but we're starting to settle in now a little bit. And I have managed to finish a project or two.

    One of them is my Granskog tee which I finished a couple of weeks ago! Sadly I did not make it to Oslo Knitting Festival this year – this pattern was designed by Renata Yerkes for this year's festival magazine – but I know I'll make it back at some point. I made a few minor modifications to mine, which can be found on my Ravelry project page along with yarn info and other details. While I love the bright green color of this yarn from Sjølingstad Uldvarefabrik, I initially wasn't totally sure if I was going to be able to pull it off. But I quite like it! This is the fourth green garment I've finished this year, so 2019 definitely seems to be the year of the green sweater for me.

    I've gotten to wear it several times, which I'm grateful for, because the weather is starting to feel distinctly autumnal in Trondheim (although I can't get over how much later autumn comes here compared with Tromsø) and I'm realizing how many of my warmer sweaters are going to be in storage until November, when we'll be moving into our new long-term home. Warmer projects are quickly going to become a priority.

    For now, though, I'm continuing to enjoy the shift in the seasons in a new place again. As the evenings grow darker earlier, I'm looking forward to the peak of autumn foliage (only a few trees have started changing so far), and a part of me is really looking forward to the Norwegian winter again (although I'm glad it's still a couple of months away). There is nothing quite like a Norwegian landscape covered in snow in the blue light that comes with the dark season. 

  • mid-august

    Mid-August. And suddenly, it feels like late summer.

    The weather took a turn in the past week. I knew it would have to eventually – the weeks of blue skies and sunshine felt a little bit like an endless summer dream, but without rain, even paradise has an expiration date. And so now we have some slightly cooler temperatures (in the neighborhood of 12-16°C or 55-60°F), grey skies, and pretty regular rain. But I am fond of weather like this too, and it's been nice to go for walks when the rain lets up. As the nights are growing steadily darker, I'm looking forward to seeing the stars again.

    The back-to-school feeling is in the air as well. Suddenly, the city is full of people again, as people have come home from their vacations and Trondheim's 35,000+ students have been streaming back into the city in time for the semester start. Businesses that were closed for the summer in July have re-opened, campuses that felt like ghost towns feel alive again, and while a little part of me mourns the loss of the quiet, beautiful summer I've been having, I am glad for the change, too. The return of everyday Norwegian life is making it easier to really feel that we have actually moved back, after arriving two months ago.

    Based on what I've heard from everyone here, Trondheim can be quite nice through August and even September, so it's very possible we'll have another stretch of warm, sunny days at some point before autumn really sets in. But for now I'm grateful for the timing of this change in the weather, coinciding with the transition from summer holiday back to everyday life.

    --

    P.S. With all this back-to-school talk, I figured I'd mention that Quince & Co. is offering some back to school bundles, and included among them are my Drumlin scarf and Turlough hat. The bundles are kits which include both yarn and pattern, and they have several different colorway options available. These are a couple of my favorite things I've designed for Quince so I'm very pleased that they're offering these and wanted to share.

  • a few summer knits

    I thought after my last post sharing some summertime snaps, I'd share what I've been knitting on for the past month or so as well. There's actually been very little knitting for the past few days, as much of Norway has seen temps up and over 30°C (or 85°F), which is unusually warm here. My apartment gets full sun throughout the afternoon (the hottest part of the day) until the sun sets (currently around 10:30 PM), so I definitely haven't been feeling too inspired to knit. But I can still get in a few stitches in the mornings, like I have this morning, when there's a cool breeze blowing through the open windows.

    While I always have a lot of projects on the go, many of my WIPs are still packed up in boxes along with my stash. We're actually in a short-term rental for the time being, and will be finding long-term housing early this fall, so all our things will remain in storage until then. I think I have enough knitting to tide me over until then, though, since I thought ahead about what to pack in my suitcase.

    First up is actually a design that will hopefully be launching soon. This one has been in the works for awhile, and this is the second sample I'm knitting for the pattern, which will be for a tee or summer sweater (depending ons leeve length). The first version was lambswool hand-dyed by Ninapetrina, but this one is a slightly more summery blend of yarns. The grey yarn is Amirisu Parade (generously given to me by Amirisu earlier this year), a blend of 60% wool, 20% cotton, 10% linen, and 10% silk. It's soft, has a lovely drape, and the blend gives this color a lovely heathered appearance. I've paired it with Quince & Co. Tern (75% wool/25% silk) for the contrast, in the Backbay colorway. You can find my Ravelry project page for this one here, although it'll be lacking some information until the pattern comes out.

    I've also cast on for a pair of socks since arriving here, with yarn I brought with me. I'm knitting the Pebbles and Pathways socks by Marceline Smith (aka heybrownberry), who I had the chance to meet earlier this year in Edinburgh. Marce is so absolutely lovely, and I love that working on these socks makes me think of that trip and meeting Marce and so many other wonderful knitters. Some projects are like a warm hug, you know? I love the simplicity of this design and I'm really enjoying how it works up in this yarn, Blacker Yarns Mohair Blends 4-ply, a blend of Hebridean and Manx wools with mohair. It's a woolen spun 2-ply yarn, and when I purchased it from The Woolly Thistle they let me know that Blacker is no longer recommending this yarn for socks (although their website doesn't appear to have been updated to reflect that). Given the woolen spun structure I imagine it hasn't worn as well as some people would like. But I'm not afraid of a little bit of mending, so I thought I'd use it for socks anyway and see for myself how it wears. In my experience with sock knitting, the gauge of the fabric matters nearly as much as whether or not a sock yarn has nylon in it. If I wear these socks often I expect I will get holes eventually, but that's been true for all of my socks. So we shall see! You can find my project page here.

    Another pattern that went straight into my queue when it was released earlier this year was the Granskog tee by Renate Yerkes, designed for this years Oslo Knitting Festival magazine (although it is available as an individual pattern as well). This pattern features tree motifs worked in lace at the hem, and I just think it's so clever and I love the effect. When I realized that this would be a pretty perfect pattern for two skeins of apple green yarn given to me by my friend Kristin, I made sure to stash those skeins in my suitcase so I could cast on for it this summer. I thought the lace might be a slog to get through, but on the contrary, I was so excited to see the trees emerge that I just wanted to keep knitting. I'm using Norwegian wool yarn from Sjølingstad Uldvarefabrik, an old wool mill in southern Norway that is both museum and functioning mill today. My project page is here.

    And finally, one afternoon a week or two ago I took the ferry over to Munkholmen, a small island in the Trondheimfjord, just a ten minute boat ride from the city center. The island has lived many lives, including being a monestary, a prison, and a fortress at different points in history, but these days it's mostly a nice place for an outing, with plenty of green grass for a picnic, a little beach for swimming/bathing, and a few facilities on site like a cafe and a shop. I had a wander through the shop (called Munkholmen Galleri) which featured all kinds of things from local artists and makers, and got very excited when I stumbled into a corner with sheepskins and a basket of yarns in three natural colors – all from the grey Trøndersau. There was a light grey, a medium grey, and a natural black (which like most natural black yarns is a warm, deep chocolately brown in some lights). I thought picking up a skein of the lightest grey and the natural black would be a good idea, and hopefully enough to make a pair of mittens. Trøndelag, the county where Trondheim is situated, is also the home of Selbu, which is of course home to the tradition of Selbu mittens. The thought of making myself a pair of Selbu-style mittens with local wool from a rare local breed? I couldn't resist. So when I got home, I had a browse through some existing patterns, but nothing quite captured what I was after. So I drew up my own chart. This is pretty heavy wool – I'd say aran weight, at least – so these are the thickest Selbu mittens I've ever made. But I'm knitting them at a dense gauge so they should be very warm in the winter! I'll probably share more about these later, but for now you can find the project page here

    So there's a glimpse at some of the projects I've been working on this summer. I know we're hardly the only ones who have been experiencing a heat wave – how are you keeping cool, if the summer's been hot where you are?

  • a few summer snaps

    In a country with a such long and dark winter, it is so important to soak up the summer. One of the reasons I was looking forward to arriving in June for this move (as opposed to August, the month we arrived in Tromsø) is that I hoped I'd be able to experience the Norwegian summer again right away. I'm happy to say that's been the case – and I am loving summer in Trondheim. No deep thoughts today, just sharing a few photos from the past couple of weeks.