• farm to needle: stories of wool

    If you’re familiar with Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, Washington, you can probably imagine how I felt when I received an email from Anna Dianich earlier this year … there was a book project she was putting together, and would I like to be involved? It was a no brainer, of course - YES, I said, even though I knew I had an international move on the horizon and a pretty packed to-do list. Some things are easy to make time for.

    Anna described her idea for the book - a focus on yarns with that could be traced to the source, made from American grown wool, spun and dyed at American mills, often coming from single flocks. I’ve come to know some of these yarns through visits to Tolt and I’m so excited for the stories of who makes them to be shared in book form. I think many knitters have become increasingly interested in yarns from smaller producers over the last several years as they begin to ask where their fiber is actually coming from, a trend that parallels the farm-to-table trend in the food industry. When Tolt began producing their own Snoqualmie Valley Yarn (whose wool comes from a single flock of BFL/Clun Forest sheep), it was fitting that the labels said “farm to needle.” To me, this book project feels like such a natural extension of what Tolt does as a yarn store and as the core of a community. And appropriately the book itself, which will be released around Tolt’s second anniversary party on November 7, is titled Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool.

    Here’s a short blurb from

    "When we pick up our needles, cast on the first stitch, we become part of something much bigger than the project at hand. Farmers, shearers, spinners and dyers are working hard not only to produce the yarn we love, but to preserve a way of life that is at real risk of being lost. Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool invites you to join us on a journey; to peek behind the scenes of some of our favorite producers and gain a deeper understanding of the people, places, and animals at work. Discover Aspen Hollow Farm, Green Mountain Spinnery, Imperial Stock Ranch, Thirteen Mile Farm, YOTH, Saco River Dye House, and Twirl through patterns by Dianna Walla, Tif Fussell, Veronika Jobe, Ashley Yousling & Annie Rowden, Karen Templer, and Andrea Rangel. Photography by Kathleen Cadigan."

    I can’t tell you how thrilled and honored I am to be part of such a stellar lineup. We’re all looking forward to sharing more of the book with you in the near future - I’m quite proud of my pattern and I can’t wait for you to see it (it is, unsurprisingly, Norwegian-inspired, but that's all I'll tell you for now!). Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool is available to pre-order now at and I hope some of you will be able to attend Tolt’s second anniversary party on November 7!

  • in the queue: simple knits

    It's been wool weather off and on since I arrived in Tromsø, so there's been a lot of wearing of hats, scarves/cowls, and fingerless mitts. I have a lot of beautifully patterned accessories - textured knits or pieces featuring colorwork - and I love those, but I've realized I'm craving simple accessories at the moment. Pieces that are a single color and either plain stockinette or ribbing keep drawing my eye. I've updated my queue to reflect that, so here's what I'm currently daydreaming about casting on for:

    Fure by Olga Buraya-Kefelian. These were part of the first collection for Woolfolk yarn, and I've had it queued for awhile. I have the necessary yarn in my stash: two beautiful skeins of Tynd, in Pewter. I have a feeling these are going to be a tedious knit (the length plus the twisted rib pattern make for repetitive and fiddly knitting) but I love the end result so much. The length of these is especially appealing, too - the ability to wear them long, bunch them up, or fold over the top makes them really versatile. I'm hoping to pair them up with this cardigan, which has bracelet-length sleeves and has become a little bit of a uniform these days, but I expect by the time I actually get these knit I'll be needing heavier layers.

    Middle Fork by Veronika Jobe. This hat was released over the summer as part of the Camp Tolt collection and I even have one of the little leather sheep patches that can be sewn on (as seen here). Middle Fork feels like a perfect basic ribbed beanie and I love the FOs I've seen. The pattern calls for Green Mountain Spinnery Mewesic, a yarn I do not have on hand, but I thought one of the skeins of the Norwegian pelsull from Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk pictured above might make an excellent substitute. The pelsull was actually my first yarn purchase post-move, so I'd love to use it for something that's going to get a lot of wear. Now the only question is: which color?

    Do you have simple staples in your handknit wardrobe or do you tend toward more complicated knits? Or maybe you have a good mix of both? I'd love to hear about your favorite patterns for simple knits in the comments!

  • an autumn walk around prestvannet

    One of my favorite walks in Tromsø is the loop trail around Prestvannet, a lake at one of the higher points on Tromsøya. It's a small lake (the loop trail is only 1.7 km) but the surrounding area forms a public park and nature reserve. The lake itself and its marshy perimiter are a nesting area for a variety of bird species. It's only a twenty minute walk from my flat, but when you're up in the park, it's a serene spot to go walk, run, or simply sit and reflect. It's a sanctuary.

    My sister-in-law is in town for a visit and we took a walk up there this evening so I could show her the lake, and I was pleased to see Tromsø really starting to show its autumn colors (it was all green the first few times I was up there, as seen here). It's a special joy to watch the landscape begin to change like this for the first time. 

    I hope you enjoy seeing this shifting landscape too, and I'm looking forward to documenting it throughout the seasons.

  • ebba & berit

    If you happen to be subscribed to the Quince & Co. e-newsletter (or if you follow me on Instagram), then you've already seen that I have two new patterns out this week! Meet Ebba and Berit:

    I've gushed about my love for Quince & Co. on this blog before, so you can imagine how exciting it's been for me to work with them on these two patterns. I love Quince for their yarns, which are amazing to knit with, but I also love them for their commitment to ethically sourced American wool and to the U.S. fiber industry at large. Working with them has been a dream.

    I wrote a bit over on the Quince blog this week about the inspiration behind both designs, so I won't go into that too much here, but you can head over to the Quince blog to check that out.

    Both designs use Quince & Co. Chickadee, their sport-weight wool, in three colors. Both are definitely rooted in Norwegian knitting traditions as well, and make use of some traditional techniques many knitters may not have tried before: Ebba uses steeks to create the armholes for its drop shoulder sleeves, and Berit features embroidered embellishments. I've written a tutorial for working the steeks which can be found here (it's also linked both in the pattern and on my support & tutorials page).

    I'm so pleased for these patterns to be released in conjunction with my own move to Norway (somewhat serendipitously; Ebba was in the pipeline before I even knew I'd be moving!). And whether it's just the back-to-school timing or whether it was intentional, the book and specs (that resemble my own) used in the photoshoot felt like a nice little nod to my newfound status as grad student:

    This bespectacled student approves! I'm very much looking forward to working with Quince again in the future, and I hope you love these patterns as much as I do.

  • things I'd like to knit

    September always brings a slew of new pattern releases and this year's no different. Here are a few I'm excited about at the moment.

    I've knit exactly three shawls in my life, all of which were relatively small (and one of which was a gift for someone else). I've never considered myself a shawl knitter, and yet I can't stop thinking about this new release from my friend Cory of Indie Knits. It's called Lupine, and those garter ridges combined with the little yarnover clusters is such an appealing combination for me. I'd love to knit it up in a solid or a heather, which would feel quite different than the variegated. I've been thinking about small shawls a lot since the move, so my new climate may actually turn me into a shawl knitter after all - and if it does, this will likely be the first.

    Karie Westermann is releasing The Hygge Collection over the course of this month, and while only the first pattern has been released so far and the second previewed, I love them. Karie lives in Glasgow but is originally from Denmark, and the collection centers around the Scandinavian concept of hygge“a feeling of comfort, cosiness, and happiness.” The collection will feature five patterns, and the first pattern, Fika, is another shawl (who am I?!), simple and beautiful, and I love that textured edge. The second pattern, which she's previewed, is a wonderful looking pair of fingerless gloves (you can see them here on Instagram). It seems like there's already a color story in place and I like where it's headed.

    I'm also daydreaming about cardigans a lot these days (still). At the moment I'm pretty keen on Abram's Bridge by Mer Stevens from the gorgeous new issue of Pom Pom Quarterly (the autumn issue does always seem to be the best one). How beautiful is that stitch pattern all over the back, and how gorgeous is that color? If I had all the time in the world, I'd love to be casting on for this. This issue of Pom Pom is great from front to back, too - they've dubbed it The Wool Issue, and there's a focus on small yarn producers who can often trace their wool back to the sheep it came from. I love the encouragement to seek out small producer yarns that are local to you (and often domestically sourced and produced), and to support the work they're doing. Abram's Bridge is knit up in Fancy Tiger Heirloom Romney, a perfect example: Amber and Jaime from Fancy Tiger went out west earlier this year to meet the sheep their wool comes from.

    None of these patterns are in my immediate queue, but when the weather changes, it is nice to daydream, isn't it? What are you daydreaming about casting on for?

  • september bits

    September second marked one month in Tromsø for me. It also seems to be a seasonal milestone: in the past week there's been a noticeable change in the weather, almost like someone's flipped a switch. The air outside feels fresh and brisk. A few of the eager birches are starting to turn golden yellow, and the colors on the mountainsides have (just barely) started shifting from green to bronze. I turned on the heat in my apartment for the first time this week. As someone who grew up in North Carolina, where it always felt like it took aaages for fall to come around (especially since people started talking about it in August), I have to admit I'm enjoying the early shift. I'm already looking forward to snow appearing on the mountains nearby, and I'm very curious to see when the first snow in the city will be this year. We shall see!

    In an attempt to bottle up some of the remaining arctic summer, I made red currant jelly this week. I got the idea from Unlikely Pairing and then loosely followed the instructions on this blog. Highly recommended. Otherwise I've still been working on settling into the new apartment (we finally got some of the art up on the walls) and focusing on school. I've been scoping out study spots and I'm pretty sure I've found my favorite on campus.

    For those who are curious about what it is I'm doing in school, I wanted to point you toward this bit on BBC Radio 4 (streamable online through the end of the month). It's an episode of Fry's English Delight - and I love Stephen Fry - called English Plus One, all about bilingualism. The area I'm planning to focus on for my thesis is bilingual language acquisition in children, which is one of the topics that comes up. It's a half hour segment and interesting stuff for anyone who's interested in language.

    Finally, I've actually been able to start knitting again regularly! Some days it's a few minutes and others it could be an hour or two, but it's been so nice to be able to unwind with knitting again. The change in weather has certainly helped encourage me to pick it up this week.

    And speaking of knitting, some pieces of knitting news:

    - Karen has highlighted some of the creative mods knitters have made to Laurus over on the Fringe blog. You know I love mods, so I loved this post!

    - If you've ever wanted to knit yourself a Sundottir but you've been putting it off for whatever reason, you might want to join in on Fern Fiber's Sundottir KAL! Cast-on date is September 23rd and you can get the pattern for 10% off if you're joining in. Fern Fiber is a natural dye company run by Maria and Nikki (who you've probably heard before if you listen to the Woolful podcast - they're frequent Man on the Street contributors) and they'll also offering a limited number of yarn kits in the colors of your choice for the KAL. You can read up on the KAL details in their Ravelry group and check out the listing for the naturally dyed yarn kits on Etsy.  Fern Fiber hail from North Carolina (my home state!) and I'm so excited they've put this KAL together. It makes me wish I had time to take part (or that I needed another Sundottir).

    - Have you heard that Kate Davies has developed a yarn? I'm ecstatic about this news! It's called Buchaille and you can read all about it on her blog in a series of posts - everything from how they sourced the fiber (all Scottish), where is was scoured and prepped for spinning (with a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility), what kinds of colors will be included in the line, and more. There will, of course, be a collection of patterns to accompany the release of the yarn.

  • forward

    What a few weeks it's been! Busy, with lots of ups and downs, and still so much practical stuff to do... but I'm remembering what a difference it makes to my mood to be well-fed and to knock a few key things off the to-do list (especially those I've been putting off). So having just made myself a nice lunch after successfully tackling a rather daunting to-do list this morning, I'm on the up at the moment.

    I forgot how it feels when you first move abroad - the way time marches forward, oblivious to the many, many things you need to do in order to start getting settled (and there's a lot more of it this time around than there was when I was in Hungary). There are utilities accounts to set up and housewares to buy and errands to run and furniture to put together. The electrician needs to come by and see why the overhead light in the bathroom isn't working properly. That piece of mail delivered to our box by mistake needs to be taken over to the post office. And I finally took care of getting a Norwegian SIM card this week only to learn after putting it in my phone and using it that I'll be unable to text American numbers if my Norwegian mobile provider doesn't have an agreement with the American mobile provider for that phone number (a problem I have never, ever had with Norwegian SIMs in the past). I forgot the way that all of those little things can start to add up and accumulate to make you feel like you're having The Worst Day Ever. And Time doesn't care, it marches on.

    But that stuff starts to get dealt with, and it gets better, too (and, note to self: eating good meals regularly helps immensely). There's so much to celebrate and be grateful for right now. School is going well and I love the little yarn store down the street. The nights are now dark enough for some of the stars to come out, and last night the aurora was out. I watched it from my bedroom window (my bedroom window!) for about an hour. It may seem trivial or frivolous to say this, but that is one of the things I have been looking forward to the most about moving here. The northern lights inspire a sense of childlike wonder in me in a way few other things do. The landscape here does it too, but the lights... the lights are magic. 

    I think that stuff, that sense of awe and wonder, is so important to life and mental health and feeling whole and fulfilled in this world. So for now, I'll remind myself that the stuff that's hard right now will fall away with time, and I'll do my best to eat well and take care of myself and go easy on myself when I can. For now, that's enough. 

  • fringe hatalong

    I was hoping to get this post up last week, but it's been so busy with the semester start I'm only just getting it up! 

    Those of you who read this blog regularly will know I love the Fringe Hatalong series Karen is running this year, so when she got in touch with me to design pattern #4, I was thrilled! Let me introduce you to Laurus:

    Laurus is a free pattern available as a PDF download from the Fringe website right here. Most of the pertinent info is included in the Fringe blog post, including some info about swatching, knitting from a colorwork chart, and our featured charity for this pattern, Hats and More for War-Torn Syria. I don't want to overlap too much with Karen's post, but I did want to share some more about this pattern and how we arrived at it.

    The recommended yarn is Quince & Co. Lark, one of my very favorites. I love the Quince & Co. concept, since their wools (and their new cotton yarn, Willet) are all grown and produced domestically in the United States, with an emphasis on sustainable practices. Lark is a worsted weight 100% wool yarn available in 55 different colors (at current count). I chose Lark for the pattern not just because I love it (though I do), but also because I find the built in "compare" tool on the Quince website particularly useful when choosing yarns for a colorwork project. On any of the yarn pages on the Quince site if you click "compare colors" underneath the large photo at left, you're able to view up to five colorways side by side. Genius!

    One of the things I strive to do as a designer and a teacher is to emphasize the creative possibilities of modifications and the differences our creative decisions can make for our finished object. Since many folks knitting this hat for the hatalong may be doing colorwork for the first time (or have limited experience with colorwork), I suggested to Karen that we work up the hat in two different versions - but both versions would use the same two colorways, and simply swap the main color and contrasting color. I think this completely changes the feel of the hat, even though both samples use the same two colors. 

    I wanted to illustrate that color placement within a project makes a huge difference - and that's something you may not be able to visualize when looking at two skeins of yarn side by side. Swatching is a great way to work out what two colors might look like for your chosen pattern, but colored pencils and graph paper can also be a useful visualization tool.

    We released the pattern last Thursday, but several speedy knitters have already worked up their hats! I've seen a version that omits the stripes and I've also seen a version that takes the Laurus chart and uses it on a Moon Sprites hat instead - both clever and creative, two things I enjoy the most when browsing FOs! I love watching the projects progress, and you can share (or just browse) Fringe hatalong projects everywhere with the tag #fringehatalong.

    I encourage you to give this hat a try even if you've never done colorwork - this pattern's a great starting point with only 7 rounds of colorwork and it's a simpler and more repetitive motif than it appears to be at first glance. I'll be on hand to answer any questions I see popping up as well. I can't wait to see your hats!

    All photos by Kathy Cadigan.

  • velkommen til tromsø

    We've been in Tromsø for two weeks as of today, and what a whirlwind it's been. There's been so much to do and so many new experiences that I've barely had time to think, let alone sit down at the computer (let's not even talk about the state of my email inbox). We've been in our new apartment for a week and it's slowly (ever so slowly) creeping towards a cozy, habitable dwelling, but this has been the longest and most involved move of my life.

    I thought it'd be nice to give you a little bit of info about my new Norwegian home. Tromsø sits at 69º north - well above the Arctic Circle (and the entirety of Iceland, for a knitterly point of reference; Reykjavík sits at 64º north). That means it gets the midnight sun in the summertime (the sun doesn't set for two months) and polar night in the winter (the sun doesn't rise above the mountains in the south for two months). That dramatic difference between summer solstice and winter solstice means the days are already growing shorter at a staggering rate. When we arrived two weeks ago, sunrise was at 2:26 AM and sunset was at 11:08 PM. Today, sunrise was at 3:48 AM and sunset was at 9:45 PM. That's a difference of almost an hour and a half at each end - in two weeks! Still, it hasn't gotten totally dark yet and it won't for a couple more weeks. I'm looking forward to seeing the stars again (and eventually, the northern lights). You can check out sunrise and sunset times for the month of August here, if you're curious.

    Looking west to Kvaløya from Tromsø at 11:45 PM, August 7th

    The natural beauty of the landscape here is overwhelming. Tromsø's a city of around 70,000 (or 75,000 when university is in session) and most of it is situated on the island of Tromsøya ("Troms Island"). The Norwegian mainland lies to the east and a much larger island called Kvaløya ("Whale Island") lies to the west. Tromsøya is connected to the mainland and to Kvaløya by bridges. I can't even describe how happy it makes me to be living on an island surrounded by water and ringed by mountains. The weather can change at the drop of a hat and the light is often dramatic. I could probably stare at the sky and the light on the mountains all day.

    Tromsøya as seen from Storsteinen on the mainland, with Kvaløya at back

    At this point in the year, there's fireweed growing everywhere and it feels impossibly green and positively lush compared to drought-ridden Seattle. I love the scrappy subarctic birch forests, too. Even though the island of Tromsøya isn't that big, there are so many corners to explore. We spent some time down at the beaches on the southwest side of the island last weekend, and I've started exploring the network of trails that criss-cross different parts of the island. Everything feels so alive. I expect that will change as winter approaches.

    I think we're a few weeks away from really feeling settled in (we should be acquiring the essential pieces of furniture we still need this week, at the very least) but it's easier to put up with the hassles of moving when all of this is right outside your door. My classes start this week and perhaps I'll be able to get into a bit of a routine after the first week or two. And then, maybe then, I'll be ready to check out the yarn stores that are just a few blocks from our new place. For now, I have plenty to do (and plenty of WIPs that need working on, if we're being honest).

    I'm looking forward to sharing more of this incredible place with you all as we find our feet here.

  • a day trip to harrisville, new hampshire

    My last week in Seattle went by in a flash. The whirlwind of emotions is difficult to describe, but in some moments, it just hit me. In others, it really didn't feel like I was leaving at all. I expect that'll continue to happen for a little while.

    I left Seattle on Sunday, and I've been in New Hampshire this week visiting some family I won't see for awhile. They live about an hour away from Harrisville, home of Harrisville Designs - known to many knitters as the mill where Brooklyn Tweed's yarns are spun. Wool yarn has been spun in Harrisville since 1794, so this small town has a long and rich history and I felt like I couldn't miss another chance to head over and check it out. It was a bit of an impromptu trip, but my mother, my aunt and I enjoyed our short visit to the Harrisville Designs retail store (a beautiful space) as well as our lunch at the general store across the road. I spent quite a lot of time looking around the store; it's always wonderful to see the Brooklyn Tweed yarns in person, but I really enjoyed getting a chance to see and handle Harrisville Designs' own line of yarns, and they carried a small selection of other yarns as well (from the likes of Rowan, Shibui, and SweetGeorgia, to name a few). It was also a real pleasure to chat with the ladies working in the store (hello, Annmarie and Paula!). I'd love to go back someday and tour the mill buildings.

    a rainbow of Shetland wool on cones

    HD's own Watershed, a beautiful worsted weight

    The store sold much more than just yarn and fiber, and I was pretty smitten with these Maine-made blankets (I think they're these cotton throws from Brahms Mount, but if anyone knows otherwise please let me know!)

    Cheers to my mom for this photo of me at the store entrance!

    Even though it was a very warm summer's day, it was a beautiful one. The rain clouds rolled in as we were leaving town, which was actually pretty delightful. It's easy to fall in love with New England.

    For more Harrisville: Anna from Tolt recently visited Harrisville and you can find the blog post from her visit here; and check out the most recent episode of the New Hampshire Knits podcast (episode 25) for an interview with Nick Colony, whose family owns the business.


    I'm off to New York today and I fly to Norway on Saturday, so the next post here will most likely be from Tromsø!