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  • lyngen, or, my new favorite sweater

    I don't think I wrote about Lyngen on the blog earlier this year. This is a pullover I designed for issue 5 of Making magazine (the COLOR issue), which came out this past spring. Making is a beautiful print publication and I was very happy to be included in such a bright and inspiring issue (I highly encourage you to head over to Ravelry to check out the other patterns in the issue). You can still get the pattern for Lyngen in that issue, but I've also just published it as an individual pattern on Ravelry, and it felt like a good time to share a little bit about it with you all.

    This was one of those designs that took a really long, meandering path to the final result. When Carrie first reached out about designing a pattern for this issue, I came up with two main colorwork sweater ideas, both of which were round yokes. One idea was inspired by the super colorful Hungarian embroidery from Kalocsa – the idea featured bands of motifs in different bright colors on a white background, and I think we were initially going to go with that idea. But then Birkin came out, and I emailed Carrie with a photo and said, "Is this too similar?" (Side note: this probably happens more often than most knitters realize, especially with regard to yoke designs. I've gotten two emails myself from other designer pals along similar lines after releasing some of my other yokes. Great minds, etc.) Even though we though it wasn't too similar, Carrie ended up deciding that my other idea would be a better fit for the issue. That idea featured a very similar chart to the one that ended up on the yoke of Lyngen, though I made some changes once we finalized the color palette. My proposal was a very me sort of palette – greys, with minty shades of turquoise and teal. Predictable. Carrie already had a project for the issue lined up in similar colors, though, so she proposed an alternate colorway, in four shades of Quince & Co. Finch: Maple, Petal, Clay, and Malbec. We continued waffling about color placement until finally deciding that Maple should be the main color of the body. Once we got there, I tweaked the yoke chart a little bit and decided to add small bands of colorwork to the bottom of the body and sleeves of the sweater as well.

    After all was said and done, I realized two things: firstly, that I loved this sweater. Secondly, the motifs made up of lots of single stitches in this particular color combination brought to mind the flowering heather I'd come to associate with early autumn in northern Norway. This gave the sweater its name; "lyng" is the Norwegian word for heather, and the mountains to the east of Tromsø are known as the Lyngen Alps. I've written before about how working with third parties such as magazines often means getting out of my color comfort zone and using colors or color combinations I wouldn't normally have chosen for myself, and that often leads to designs that are really satisfying and refreshing for me. I had no idea I would fall in love with Quince's Maple colorway in particular. I had no idea that I would fall in love with this sweater. 

    I got my sample back from the magazine in April, around the time the issue was released. But I didn't have a ton of time to wear it before Montreal was getting too warm for knitwear. So when we headed to Norway for a week or two in September, I brought it along, knowing it would get some wear. It was the only sweater I brought and I lived in it. And then we came home and I have just continued living in it. (If you've seen my latest YouTube video on colorwork books you may have noticed I'm wearing it there too.) A fingering weight yoke is such a perfect everyday kind of sweater – it's easy to wear indoors without overheating, but it layers up very well for going out in colder weather.

    One of the things I love about knitting is that there are always ways for knitting to surprise me. It's such a joy to fall in love with a piece that you didn't expect to. I'm considering knitting up a second version of this sweater for myself, perhaps in Rauma Finull this time – but for now, I will continue to wear this one to death.

    Have you ever had a knitting project surprise you that way?

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  • ruter og lus: retrostrikk frå salhus tricotagefabrik

    This fall is shaping up to be my busiest ever for new releases, and I'd like to periodically share some of them here on the blog. Today I'm very excited to tell you about a book project I had theopportunity to be a part of, called Ruter og Lus: retrostrikk frå Salhus Tricotagefabrik. I want to let you know up front that it's a Norwegian book, which means the patterns are pretty inaccessible to anyone who doesn't live in Scandinavia or understand Norwegian (and it's written in nynorsk - the less common written standard of Norwegian - which adds another barrier for non-native speakers). Nonetheless, it's a very cool project, so I hope you enjoy hearing about it all the same.

    Back in July I wrote a blog post about the Norwegian knitting industry museum in Salhus, outside of Bergen. If you haven't read that post, I recommend checking it out, because it will provide some background for this book project. The museum is located at the old Salhus Trikotasjefabrikk, or knitting factory, and I mentioned in that post that "the museum maintains an archive of different patterned fabrics, with some of the patterns perhaps never actually being put into production." 

    The museum decided a couple of years ago that it would be nice to revive that archive of patterned fabrics, and the way they decided to do that would be to take a selection of motifs/fabrics from the archive and hand them over to hand knitting designers, who would then create original designs for modern knitters using these fabrics from the archive. Since Salhus typically produced the kind of sweater known as an islender (or "Icelander" - I wrote a little bit about the origin of that term in my post about the museum), the motifs are all relatively small and repetitive, and would typically be used in an allover pattern on the sweater. This is represented in the name of the finished book: Ruter og lus.

    If you're familiar with Norwegian knitting, you may recognize lus as the first word in the compound lusekofte, and it refers to what we often call a "lice pattern" in English (lus meaning "louse"). Within the context of knitting, lus refers to small repetitive motifs, often a single stitch or pair of stitchs worked in a diagonal. Ruter is slightly more difficult to translate in this context – it essentially refers to squares and patterns with strong perpendicular lines, but it is not in itself the normal word for "square," either. Plaids, ginghams, and other grids could all be described as "rutete" (an adjectival form). Nonetheless, the most typical islender is made up of repeating motifs of what are essentially squares and lice, and I assume that this is where the book's title comes from.

    But on to the patterns! I feel incredibly grateful to have been asked to take part in this project, and I'm quite proud of my two contributions: a sweater called Opal and a hat and mitt set called Dorthea. I found working on these designs an interesting creative challenge; I was one of the last designers to sign on for the project, and most of the motif options had already been claimed by then. So the two motifs I ended up with weren't my first choice, but I'm very pleased with what I was able to do with them in the end (which is very satisfying).

    Opal was a challenge to work on at first because I found the original swatch photos pretty uninspiring, to say the least. Salhus thinks this particular motif in the archive is from the 80s, and as far as they know they don't have any record of it being used for any of the knitwear they created. The motif uses four colors in total, and I decided to try charting up the motif with three colors from the same color family, and one from a different color family altogether. I love the blue version we ended up going with, which makes use of complementary colors, as three blue shades are accompanies by a golden yellow. I also swatched for a version with red/orange tones, making use of the same golden yellow contrast.

    I love the finished sweater (huge thanks to sample knitter Torgun, who actually knit the sample) and I'm so glad the museum chose to go with the blue version, which feels very, very me. We chose to knit this one up in one of my favorite yarns, Tinde from Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk. Because of the bold, graphic nature of the motif, it's possible to use a variety of shades that are relatively low contrast compared with other stranded colorwork, which makes the palette of Tinde (which is dyed on a natural grey base) really lovely for this.

    The other pattern is a hat and mitt set called Dorthea, and once again I was not wholly enthused by the original swatches in the archive. I decided going fully monochrome might be a way to make this 5-color motif look a little bit less like sprinkles on a birthday cake, so I swatched up a greyscale version first. I didn't even realize until I'd finished the swatch how much this motif suddenly recalled traditional Setesdal-style patterns. With a black base and five shades of grey, it was also a perfect opportunity to work a corrugated rib as a gradient – I feel like it makes a wonderful finishing touch. We also worked up the hat in an alternate colorway, using five shades of blue and blue-green.

    We used Rauma Finull for this pattern, which feels like the perfect yarn for this with its massive palette of colors.

    One of the things I love about this book is that the editors made it a priority to use Norwegian wool yarns for the patterns. While they didn't exclusively include yarns made from Norwegian wool, they've still featured Norwegian wool pretty heavily, and it makes me so happy to see a Norwegian pattern book prioritizing that. The beginning of the book also features some information about the history of the mill/factory, so all in all the book feels like a really natural part of the recent revival of traditional Norwegian patterns and Norwegian wool in the Norwegian knitting community. 

    If you're curious about what the rest of the book looks like, you can check out the other patterns on Ravelry here. The photos were shot at the museum, which I love, and while the collection of patterns as a whole does have a retro vibe (as the subtitle implies), I also think the designs feel very fresh and modern.

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  • slow fashion october: what's your look?

    Every year when Slow Fashion October kicks off, I read along and think about how I'd love to properly join the discussion. But for the past three Octobers, I was either working on a master's degree or dealing with my transatlantic move, and taking the time for the kind of reflection I think Slow Fashion October deserves has always felt like a challenge – let alone being able to write about it and share with others. This year, however, I'm beginning the month as I mean to go on. Slow fashion is something I think about year round, so taking the month of October to try and sort through some of my thoughts and feelings seems like a really great opportunity this year.

    Slow Fashion October was started by Karen Templer over at Fringe Association in 2015, and every year there's always a great discussion over different media platforms, often aided by themes or discussion prompts provided by Karen. There's no need to follow her own outline if you want to take part in the discussion of Slow Fashion October, but they are a useful guide when the topic feels overwhelming (and it can!). So I thought I'd kick off this month with the discussion prompts Karen posted on her blog today. I've skipped a few of the questions to keep this post from getting too long, but the overarching theme is: what's your look?

    Do you have a color palette?

    Most definitely. My Ravelry profile has, for years, read "blues, greens, greys" next to the "favorite colors" questions (don't you love that they say colors, plural, instead of trying to limit us to one?). That's held true for the past ten years that I've had my Ravelry profile. The first sweater I ever knit was purple, but sweaters number 2, 3, and 4 were green, grey, and blue, respectively. I knit with those colors a lot, and I wear those colors a lot. Blue is one of my neutrals, and blue or black jeans plus a grey t-shirt is one of my most commonly worn outfits. Lately, different shades of burgundy, dusty pink, and mustard have also been creeping into my wardrobe, and this is showing up in my knitting as well. Seeing it all together, though, it still manages to feel like a very cohesive palette. When I look at these colors, they feel very, very me.

    Is there a brand you’re always drawn to, for their clothes and/or how they put them together? Why?

    Jennifer Glasgow has been a favorite for years. I first discovered her clothing while shopping at Velouria in Seattle – it's a wonderful store with a selection of clothes from North American brands whose clothes are made domestically, either within the United States or Canada (if you find yourself in Seattle, I can't recommend them enough). Velouria was a huge part of my own journey towards thinking about incorporating slow fashion into my wardrobe. Jennifer Glasgow is based in Montreal, so I was excited when moving here that I'd get to shop at her flagship store General 54 on a regular basis - which for me, means about twice a year, each time the new collection is released. Aside from the fact that I really like the style and cut of a lot of Jennifer's pieces, and that they fit me well, she's very transparent about her production process and who's making the clothing, and she often prioritizes natural fibers over synthetics in her fabric choices, which is something I really appreciate and want to support.

    What is your favorite garment or outfit (right now or always) and why?

    I spent my summer in a piece from Jennifer Glasgow's spring/summer collection this year that I'm still just obsessed with, called the Mariner dress. In the past I've gone for more fit-and-flare style dresses from her, but this one is oversized and loose, which makes it just the most comfortable dress to wear. It's a silhouette I started playing with earlier this year and I like it a lot – I find myself increasingly prioritizing comfort. I feel like I absolutely lived in this dress over the summer (if you shop at Espace Tricot in Montreal there's a very good chance you saw me in it) and I intend to keep wearing it into the fall.


    What is the image you would like to project with your clothing?

    A degree of put-togetherness, and confidence. 


    Can you describe your style in five adjectives?

    I absolutely couldn't – I have very little objectivity there – but I would be curious to hear how others would describe my style. If I were being aspirational, I would want my style to be classic, sophisticated, playful, comfortable, and maybe the tiniest bit sparkly. 

    What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?

    Considering that my fashion / style board on Pinterest is something I've been casually building without very much thought over the course of several years, it was interesting to see that it's very overtly feminine. I know that I'm someone who often swings back and forth between feminine styles and more masculine or androgynous styles from day to day or season to season, but in general I think I trend towards more androgynous and it feels like there's very little of that represented here. To me, it often feels like there's a conflict between some of the feminine styles I'm very drawn to, especially dresses, and the practicality that I want or need in clothing in climates where there can be a lot of wind, or a harsh winter, for example. My clothes became very utilitarian when I lived in Tromsø, and I wore very few skirts and dresses there, but a lot more skirts and dresses worked their way back into my wardrobe this summer in Montreal. So that's interesting. But I also think that I have a tendency to think my clothes are more androgynous than they really are – I have a distinct memory from the year in college when I cut my hair into a short pixie for the first time, and to me, that felt like a bucking of traditional ideas of femininity (and admittedly, as a six foot tall woman, I do sometimes mistakenly get called "sir" by strangers who aren't paying attention when my hair is really short). But I took a course on women and political science from the women's studies department that semester, and my professor pointed out to me that despite my short hair, my overall look in terms of clothes and presntation was still very, very feminine. And she was right. I think that has changed slightly in the years in between, but I do still think there can be a disconnect between what I think is happening in terms of how I dress and how I actually look to the outside world. All that being said, when I pin something to this board, it is something that I feel like I could / would actually wear, even if it maybe isn't representative of my style as a whole.

    What’s an example of something you own and love (had to have!) but never wear, and why not?

    Vintage shopping is really hit and miss for me, and I have a few vintage pieces that I rarely wear, either because of the fit of the piece, or the fabric it's made from. Even though I love them, they may only come out once a year (but at least it's not never!). My own size – my height as well as the muscularity of my shoulders (since I started exercising my upper body more after recovering from my shoulder break in 2016), both mean the top half of my body isn't really the same size or shape as the average woman from half a century ago. So often, things are too small for me. 

    --

    I'm looking forward to see what others have to say to the "what's your look?" question. If you want to follow the discussion as well, I'd suggest following the #slowfashionoctober hashtag on Instagram (you don't need an account to be able to see public posts that have been tagged), or following the Fringe Association blog – and there are always interesting discussions going on in the comments, so don't skip those.

    For those who are curious, three of the pieces in the outfit I'm wearing pictured up top fall under the slow fashion banner in different ways: the dress is a new one from Jennifer Glasgow made here in Montreal, the cardigan was picked up second-hand at a clothing swap several years ago, and the boots are Red Wing Heritage Iron Rangers from the women's line, made in the US.

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  • love letter to norway

    I'm just back from a 10-day trip to Norway. I mentioned in my last post that Norway had been on my mind lately, and thinking ahead to this trip is part of why. It was the first trip back since my husband and I moved away a year ago, and we visited three cities spanning the country on this trip (Tromsø, where we lived for two years, Trondheim, and Oslo). There was so much to enjoy, and I did my best to soak it all up.

    I love this time of year in Norway - early September in northern Norway means the birches are just beginning to turn golden, and the cool air was a respite after the grueling hot summer Montreal has had. We were extremely lucky with the weather, and enjoyed clear skies for most of our trip, and even got to wave hello at the northern lights again in Tromsø (I have missed the northern lights).

    In Trondheim, the maples were beginning to turn orange and red, which made my heart very happy. I hadn't spent much time in Trondheim before, but it is a charming little city.

    And in Oslo, I walked some of my favorite oft-trodden paths. I'm incredibly fond of the little wooded paths southwest of Frognerparken, called Skøyenparken. Even though most of the leaves were still green on the trees and flowers were still in bloom around the city, here you could see that fall is coming.

    The trip left me with a lot to think about – and for me, ten days isn't nearly enough for a trip to Norway anymore (especially when divided between three cities). It was lovely to visit old haunts, see old friends, hear and speak Norwegian again instead of French. But I'm also glad to be back home in my own apartment now, ready to dive into work for this fall after a very busy August. There's a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon and I'm looking forward to sharing it with you. I hope that you're having a good September wherever you are.

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  • the norwegian knitting industry museum

    Norway's been on my mind lately and I realized I have a whole heap of photos I never got around to sharing from the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum (aka the Norsk Trikotasjemuseum) that I took when I had the chance to visit the museum with my friend Jena nearly two years ago (!). The museum is located just outside of Bergen and I shared it on my list of places to visit in my Bergen piece for Mason Dixon Knitting, so I thought some of you might enjoy seeing it in a little bit more detail.

    Before it was a museum, the Salhus Tricotasjefabrikk was a textile mill and factory – one that not only spun wool into yarn, but also created machine-knit fabrics in house and turned those into ready-to-wear pieces like sweaters, activewear, and underwear. It's a rare factory where all three of those processes would take place under the same roof, but I think it makes the museum especially interesting to visit. It was active from 1859 to 1989, and later on became a museum.  

    It's located in Salhus, about 15 km north of Bergen on the Salhus Fjord. It's tucked right into the bottom of a hill at the water's edge, on a creek that flows down to the fjord (and which was the original power source for the museum, as for most old mills and factories in Norway). The houses peppering the steep hillside and the small marina outside make it a particularly picturesque location.

    The entrance to the museum leads you into the large cafe space with a wall of windows facing the fjord. This is where visitors can sit down with a cup of coffee or juice and some baked treats or sandwiches, but it's also where many of the museum's regular knitting events are held (such as knit cafes or author's talks). It's a welcoming space and the view of the water is beautiful. 

    Guided tours of the factory are given in Norwegian and English and visitors are shown a short film before the tour begins. You're taken through each section of the factory, so you get to see where each stage of the process from wool to garment took place: carding, spinning, winding, knitting, and sewing. Today, the machinery is used to knit scarves, socks, and sweaters that can be purchased in the gift shop.

    When it comes to the sweaters that the museum produced, Salhus specialized in a type of garment known as an islender. This means "Icelander" in Norwegian, and Annemor Sundbø refers to them as "Iceland sweaters" in her book Everyday Knitting. She asserts that despite the name, this type of sweater may have originated in the Faroe Islands:

    "In 1798, Jørgen Landt described Faroese sweaters with small figures, fine well made sweaters for the local inhabitants, and coarser garments for sale and export. Toward the end of the 1880's, Faroese export of knitwear increased, and these garments were often made of imported Icelandic wool, which the Faroese bartered for other commodities. This may be the explanation for the term 'Iceland sweaters', but then again similar sweaters were also produced in Jutland in Denmark and Halland in Sweden . . . There were several small patterns which were widely used in Faroese knitting."

    – from Everyday Knitting by Annemor Sundbø (2001)

    Sundbø goes on to discuss machine-knitted islender, which were "very popular work clothes." She mentions Devold, one of the producers of what may be the prototypical Norwegian islender, with its small repetitive motifs in black on natural white:

    Devold still produces this style of islender today. While I think this is what most people picture when they hear the term, some people use it more broadly to refer to similar sweaters which use different motifs, but to the a similar effect (other people might categorize these sweaters as sponsetrøyer instead, but to go down that road is to get into the nitty-gritty details of Norwegian knitwear nomenclature, so I'll leave it there). Many of the Salhus fabrics were variations on the typical islender, such as the examples below:

    (Images via Museumssenteret i Hordaland, downloaded from digitaltmuseum.no)

    Both of the above examples come from Salhus Trikotasjefabrikk – the top example is a swatch for the fabric and collar of a more classic black and white islender, though the motifs are slightly different than the version produced by Devold. The one on the bottom is a different pattern and also makes use of different colors, but it's still very typical of the sweaters that Salhus produced. The museum maintains an archive of different patterned fabrics, with some of the patterns perhaps never actually being put into production (but more on that at a later date!).

    I found the whole guided tour really interesting – our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and engaging, and it was fun to see such a wide variety of textile-specific machinery being demonstrated. I think I was also a little surprised at how light and bright so much of the factory felt, but of course when it was first built, the workers would have had to rely on natural light and the many windows (and even skylights!) allowed for that. (Bonus: for those of you who can understand Norwegian, you should check out the podcast episode that Kristin and Ingvild of Strikketerapi filmed in the museum with an audience at last year's Bergen Strikkefestival - it's quite cool to see them in that setting!)

    The museum shop sells a variety of interesting stuff, including ready-to-wear knitted garments and accessories, as I mentioned previously. My own souvenir, though, was some of the museum's yarn, Museumstvinn. While they no longer do full-scale yarn production, the museum does have a selection of yarns that are plied on their machinery (the individual plies are spun up the road at Hillesvåg before they're sent down to Salhus). I was particularly drawn to the interesting marled yarns spun from plies of slightly different shades, like the blue one above. 

    There's a large open space used for rotating exhibitions (and it was the location of the marketplace at last year's Bergen Strikkefestival, which the museum hosts and which I hope to attend someday). It's beautifully bright and airy, and when I visited in 2016 they had an embroidery exhibit going on. I have such a soft spot for so much of the Norwegian embroidery – I've held myself back from collecting old cross-stitched cushions (like the ones below) and decorative klokkestreng wall hangings, but it feels like it's only a matter of time before a few find their way into my home.

    In case it isn't obvious, if you find yourself in Bergen I definitely think the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum is worth a visit! Jena and I drove to the museum, but it's possible to get to the museum using the public transit as well (see the bus instructions on the museum's page here). It takes about 1.5-2 hours to tour the museum, but be sure to build in some extra time not only for getting to and from the museum, but also for browsing the shop and hanging out in the cafe (with a bit of knitting, of course). The guided tours happen at scheduled times, so you should check the schedule before you plan your trip to make sure you won't miss the last tour of the day. 

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    P.S.: A small postscript about the name, because those of you with knowledge of French probably picked up on the loanword in the factory's original name: Salhus Trikotasjefabrikk. The 'sj' combination forms sound we spell with 'sh' in English, so this is the modern Norwegianized version of French tricotage (it was actually spelled the French way at the time of the factory's founding). Norwegian uses the Scandinavian word for hand knitting: 'to knit' is å strikke and 'knitted garments' are strikkede plagg. So why the French loanword here? In my experience, I've seen trikotasje associated with knitting on an industrial scale (i.e. commercial machine knitting), while strikk is associated with knitting by hand. Since the Salhus factory created machine knit fabrics, we see that reflected in the name.

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  • embracing summer

    Montreal is in the midst of a serious heat wave at the moment (along with a lot of other places both near and far), but in a place with a winter as cold as this one's, I find it hard to complain about the heat. I spent so many months looking forward to the arrival of summer, so I've been doing my best to embrace it now that it's here, heat wave and all. I can't remember the last time I wore jeans, since I've been living in shorts instead, along with a constant rotation of dresses and skirts that I rarely wore in Tromsø, where 20ºC / 70ºF constitutes a "hot" day. There's so much that I miss about the Norwegian summer, but Tromsø's been having a particularly chilly and rainy one so far, and I have to admit I'm not sad to miss that this year. 

    There's a lot of things to rejoice in during the summer in Montreal. The return of the farmer's markets with their local produce (and to my particular excitement right now, local strawberries), the opening of the (free) public pools, the lush, verdant tree-lined streets with their buildings covered in ivy or other greenery. The flora in general, in fact. I love seeing all the window boxes and plants on balconies, and the tiny gardens in front of the multiplexes of the Plateau. The summer here is full of festivals, and I got to see a bit of Montreal Jazz Fest last weekend when my parents were in town. The experience of being in this city in the summer is a little bit like living in a photo where the saturation has been dialed up a few notches. The hardest thing, in fact, is to try to find a little bit of peace and quiet, since the city's pretty chaotic at this time of year (as you might expect when a couple million people in a relatively small space all want to get outside at the same time). 

    And even though I've got a lot of work knitting on my needles, since summer is the time when many designers are preparing releases for the fall, I've managed to cast on some summery knitting for myself, as well. We recently started carrying BC Garn Bio Balance, a blend of organic wool and organic cotton, at the yarn store where I work and I decided to cast on for a Tarmac tank, a pattern by Anna Maltz from the summer issue of Pom Pom Quarterly. 

    There's a lot to love about that project, even if it's slow-going at the moment since I'm knitting on so many other things. I'd love to get it finished in time for Twist Festival (and more on that soon, in another post), but we'll see how I get on. How are you enjoying your summer, if you're in the northern hemisphere like me?

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  • new collection: fog & frost

    Some projects take longer than others to come to fruition, and over the past several years my self-publishing has definitely fallen by the wayside. When I started my master's degree in 2015, I had limited time to work on new designs, and as I started working with Quince & Co. around the same time, the majority of my designing time went to those patterns, or patterns for other third parties. Consequently I've had this collection on the back burner for years, visiting the patterns and working on them here and there, whenever I had a spare moment. So I'm positively thrilled to finally share Fog & Frost with the world: five new patterns inspired by the Norwegian landscape.

    The inspiration for this collection is actually quite easy for me to pinpoint: in the summer of 2014 I spent two months in Oslo, and my friend Camilla and I went on a road trip over to the western part of the country, known as Vestlandet. The drive is a beautiful one, and the landscape once you reach that part of the country is gorgeous as well, and I took many, many photos. The photo above was taken somewhere near Flåm, and I love the deep, moody hues. The same goes for the following photo, taken in Hallingdal on the drive back:

    It has the bonus of reminding me of the Snoqualmie Valley in western Washington state, where Tolt Yarn and Wool is located.

    The photos from this trip planted the seed of the idea for this collection. Most of the pieces existed in some form or another, even if only as design ideas/sketches/swatches, before that trip. The photos and the idea for a collection became the motivation to finish some of those back burner designs. 

    The collection features two pullovers with colorwork yokes, a hat, a pair each of fingerless mitts and full mittens, and a lightweight cowl. The palette was deliberately chosen to evoke the feeling the inspiration photos gave me. I thought I'd share a little bit about each piece here on the blog, because I love the way the pieces in this collection show that ideas sometimes morph by the time they're finished pieces, and that while our original plans for ideas don't always pan out, taking them in new directions can lead to really cool results.

    Mountain Hum began its life as a submission to Pom Pom Quarterly. Designers who submit to third party publications or collections always end up with more ideas that don't get picked than ideas that do, and it's satisfying to find a new home for some of those ideas. This was originally a sub for the spring 2015 issue of Pom Pom, which was issue 12. The mood for that issue was inspired by Scandinavian minimalism, and while this sweater didn't get picked, my Swedish Pancakes mitts did make it into that issue. When I first sketched this design, I imagined it in the Quince & Co. Finch, and the motif was simpler.

    The design inspiration was consequently slightly more obvious, as well! By 2015 I'd realized that a yoke like this would look gorgeous in the color-shifting Spincyle Yarns Dyed in the Wool, and I opted to pair it with YOTH Little Brother, a fingering-weight merino/cashmere/nylon blend. I decided to modify the chart at this fingering-weight gauge, in order to avoid super long floats between each petal motif. I love where this sweater ended up and it seems like you all do too, because this has been the resounding favorite of the collection since I started sharing teasers on Instagram

    The other sweater actually also began its life as a Pom Pom submission, although it evolved significantly more than Mountain Hum. Polar Night was originally imagined as a single-color yoked pullover with metallic embroidery on the yoke! The submission was for the autumn 2015 issue, and as it turns out, that ended up being one of my all-time favorite issues of Pom Pom (and it still is). So it worked out in the end!

    While I still like the embroidery idea, I decided to scrap that and come up with a colorwork motif instead – and once I started playing around with charts, the ideas continued to morph and change, as they do. I considered a lot of different yarns for this one as well, swatching different options before finally landing on Magpie Fibers Domestic Worsted, which I brought home from Rhinebeck last fall. I played with shaping on this sweater, too – while the body doesn't feature any waist shaping, I decided to combine raglan shaping with circular yoke shaping for the yoke of the sweater.

    The pattern that spent the longest time on the back burner was West Wind, which features two versions of mittens with traveling twisted stitchs (fingerless and a full mitten). I wrote this pattern back in early 2014, knit and photographed samples, had it tech edited and basically ready to release, and then decided I needed to tweak the position of the thumb placement (and on top of that the dyer of the original yarn I used stopped dyeing). I put it on the back burner, where it stayed for awhile. Once I had the idea for the collection in 2015, I decided this pattern would be a good fit, and since they were worked up in DK weight yarn, YOTH Big Sister was a perfect fit. 

    I decided a hat that featured the same motifs as West Wind would be nice, so I came up with an alternating all-over pattern using the motif. Since this is a hat covered in twisted rib, essentially, I wanted to use a springy yarn with really good memory, so I opted to go for non-superwash for this pattern (in my experience, superwash rib tends to stretch out over time and not bounce back very well). Quince & Co. Chickadee was my top choice for that, and I'm so pleased with how it turned out. I love that it coordinates with the mitts/mittens without being a perfect match.

    The last pattern in the collection was partly an excuse to play with crochet. I took a crocheted motifs workshop with the Shibaguyz at Knit Fit (sadly now defunct) in Seattle several years ago, and I fell in love with modular motifs after that. North Wind combines three different hexagonal/six-pointed motifs (two of each) with a scarf knitted on the bais, so that a long lightweight loop is formed when you join the pieces. I worked it up in two colors of Schoppel-Wolle IN Silk, but there's a ton of creative potential with the motifs – you could work each one in a different color, or use multiple colors per motif, or even make a completely monochromatic version using one color for both the knitting and the crochet. I think many of us who are primarily knitters have dabbled in crochet and have expressed our desire to bring more crochet into our lives. So I hope that this helps with that, and I hope it means there's more crochet on the horizon for me!

    I had fun shooting these photos, which felt like a unique challenge. This collection was in progress when I moved to Norway in 2015, and given the inspiration, I had definitely planned on shooting the pieces there before third-party work kept pushing this collection to the side. By the time we left Norway, I'd yet to finish (or even start) all of the pieces and so it was pretty clear that I wouldn't be able to shoot in Norway after all. I was pretty committed to the original inspiration photos, though, and eventually I realized that I could have photo backdrops printed – and so that is what I did.

    My hope is that the incorporation of the backdrops helps give the photos the feeling that I get from seeing the original inspiration photos – it's definitely not an attempt to make it look like I'm "in" Norway, but rather a way to bring a mood to the collection photos, one that's more interesting than simply seeing the pieces in front of a blank wall. I've had a lot of fun bringing all the pieces of this collection together over the past couple of months, and I am incredibly grateful to my tech editor, my test knitters, and my friends and colleagues who've provided feedback and help along the way. 

    I'll wrap up with just a couple more photos from that road trip back in 2014. Thanks for reading, and I hope you like this new collection!

    Me in Voss, 2014

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  • the vintage shetland project

    I can't remember when I first encountered the work of Susan Crawford. I defnitely remember running into The Perfect Christmas Jumper while browsing Ravelry in the early days of my membership, and the Trimmed with Roses jumper has been floating around in my memory for a very long time too, but it's hard to pinpoint an exact moment. Nonetheless, Susan's name is one of those that sits in my brain along with several other influential designers like Kate Davies, Ysolda Teague, and Norah Gaughan as some of the first designers I became aware of and interested in following as I became more and more interested in knitting all the time in my late teens.

    This is part of why, when I decided to go to Edinburgh Yarn Festival two years ago, the only thing I booked a ticket to beyond the marketplace wasn't a class, but a talk – one Susan was giving on an ongoing project called The Vintage Shetland Project. (It turned out to be a very good thing indeed that I didn't book any classes, since I broke my shoulder a week before the festival!) The project involved a book-in-progress, but it was so much more than just a book project. Now that the (absolutely incredible) book has finally come to fruition, I couldn't not share it with you.

    When I attended her talk in Edinburgh, I got to hear firsthand about the 27 unique pieces in the Shetland Museum archive that Susan had selected to recreate - and then for each one, after the original piece had been painstakingly reconstructed and a new sample made, the design was graded and patterns written. This book is the culmination of eight years of intense work and it's difficult for me to even wrap my head around how much has gone into it. I don't want to go into too much detail here because Susan has talked about the scope of the project elsewhere - I highly recommend checking out this interview with her on Fruity Knitting (part 1 of the interview starts around 12:47; part 2 starts at 54:35), as well as this gorgeous behind-the-scenes video made by Susan's daughter, Charlie Moon (who is also one of the models in the book). I can only say that when my book finally arrived the other week, I actually started crying with joy.

    I did want to share a few glimpses of the pages inside, since the diversity of the 27 pieces is rather remarkable. There are garments and accessories: cardigans, pullovers, sleeveless tops/vests, hats, gloves, mittens, and stockings. I thought I would start with this lovely cardigan below.

    This piece is called Vaila, and it's named for the island in the Shetland Islands where the photoshoots for the book took place. I love the striking color combination, and I love how it's been styled on lovely Ella Gordon

    Unsurprisingly, there's lots of Fair Isle to be found within the pages of The Vintage Shetland Project, all beautifully photographed by Susan. The tam pictured here is called Twageos. The gallery section of the book also features photos of the surroundings on Vaila, including that rather magnificent Shetland pony on the right.

    There are also some lovely lace pieces, and I'm pretty enamored with this cardigan, which is called Marianne. 

    The piece that has completely stolen my heart, however, is this Fair Isle turtleneck called Yule. I love that they've shown it on both a man and a woman, and I absolutely love both the colors and the fit of this piece. I have most of the right colors in my stash in Brooklyn Tweed Loft, which isn't the best match for the pattern (which calls for either Jamieson & Smith Shetland Heritage or Susan's own Fenella 2-ply), but I know I can get gauge. The gauge is quite small (32 stitches per 4"), which in Loft I can achive on a 2.25mm needle, so I may want to wait a few months before I embark on such a small-gauge allover colorwork project. Nonetheless, I have a feeling I'll be casting this one on sooner than later once I pick up the three additional skeins I need. I just love it so much.

    The patterns are slowly being added to the Ravelry database (as someone who knows what goes into adding a good pattern page to Ravelry, that is no small feat for 27 patterns) but for now you can see all 27 samples in the lookbook here, if you're interested in seeing more.

    The first section of the book is made up of nearly 100 pages of historical background – both about the specific pieces recreated in the book and Shetland knitting in the time period that is Susan's focus here (the 1920s through the 1950s) as well as knitting farther afield. I've spent several mornings in the past few weeks reading a chapter or two with my morning coffee, and it makes for excellent reading for anyone interested in knitwear history or the history of the knitting industry. Susan has done an incredible amount of research and she's really presented it in a top-quality full color hardback that is a pleasure to read or simply to flip through for inspiration. 

    The book is available from Susan herself over on her website, and there are a few shops out there stocking it as well.

    Even though I linked it above, I'll end this post with the video made by Susan's daughter, Charlie Moon. I first saw this film at Susan's talk two years ago and it's absolutely gorgeous. If you have a few minutes, I hope you'll take the time to watch it too, and be transported to Vaila.

    The Vintage Shetland Project from charliemoon on Vimeo.

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  • new pattern: alice mittens

    This new mitten design is called the Alice Mittens, and I'm going to tell you about them in a minute, but first I have to tell you a little bit about their namesake.

    A year ago this week, my family lost my beloved grandmother Alice, who was one of the kindest, sweetest human beings on the planet. It was neither sudden nor surprising - she had been living with cancer in addition to other health problems for a long time - and it was some small relief to know that she was no longer suffering, but none of that knowledge makes it any easier to deal with when the day you know is coming finally arrives. I was in Norway, and it was a sunny Friday afternoon when I got the tearful call from my folks. My husband had left just that morning for a work trip, and while I had mentally prepared myself for the possibility of getting that call during the few weeks he'd be away traveling, I hadn't expected it to happen the day he left. The apartment felt very, very quiet, and I felt very alone. I remember going down the hill to the florist that day to buy some yellow tulips, which I brought back home and put in a vase, and then I sat down and tried to figure out what on earth to do with myself. (The answer was: knit and listen to Harry Potter audiobooks, my two ultimate comforts. I did a lot of that in the weeks that followed.)

    This is all background information for the new pattern that I'm sharing with you today. Grandma always adored any of the stranded colorwork mitts and mittens I knit for myself or others - they might have been her favorite thing of all the things I knit. She expressed more than once her desire to have a pair of her own, but I didn't get around to actually knitting her a pair of mittens until her last few months of life, and perhaps when I look back that's how I know that I could tell her time was coming - I knew if I was ever going to knit mittens for her, it needed to happen right then. She did receive them before she died, but I don't know if she ever even got to wear them. But on some level, that doesn't actually matter - she loved them so much regardless, and they hung on the wall of her hospice room where she could admire them all the time. 

    When I started working on a new mitten design a few months ago, using one of my favorite yarns (Buachaille by Kate Davies) and a favorite motif, too (you might recognize the flower on these mittens as being the same one used in Ebba's colorwork), it didn't take me long to realize that these should be called the Alice Mittens. Grandma would have absolutely adored these mittens, and I only wish I could show them to her now. 

    Losing my grandmother to cancer is not a unique story. I'm sure many (if not most) of you reading this have had your lives touched by cancer in some way or another. I feel incredibly fortunate that my grandmother had access to the incredible care and medication that she did for as long as she needed it, something which I have never taken for granted since I am incredibly fortunate that my mother, who was diagnosed with lung cancer twenty years ago (when I was but ten years old), is still living and healthy today. Cancer research is a cause near and dear to the hearts of my family. My mother has walked in the local Relay for Life, a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, nearly ever year for the past two decades, as a way to give back to an organization that helped our family get through both  the emotional and the financial challenges of dealing with cancer. When I was a teenager, I used to walk with my mother, but that becomes harder when we live hundreds or thousands of miles apart. So this year, in memory of my grandmother Alice, I'm going to help her raise money for the ACS by donating 50% of the proceeds from the first week of sales of the Alice Mittens to my mother's fundraiser. That means 50% of the money made through the end of Sunday, April 8 will go directly to her Relay for Life fundraiser page, which goes to the American Cancer Society. You can purchase the Alice Mittens (as well as find all of the practical info) here on Ravelry.

    If you have no need of mittens, I'd encourage you to donate directly to the cancer organizations in your area. If you don't have the funds to spare, there are always other ways to help. My mother volunteers at the hospital where her cancer surgery was performed, and as she knits too she cranks out chemo caps like nobody's business.

    I also want to give a special shout-out to Eli of Skeindeer Knits, who was part of the inspiration for these mittens in more ways than one. Eli is hosting a year-long stranded mitten/mitt knitalong this year, called the Year Long Mitt-Along, and that definitely jumpstarted my mitten chart exploration. Eli also recently lost her grandmother (which she shared on her podcast), and has designed a beautiful pair of stranded mitts in her honor - I believe that pattern will be ready very soon, so keep an eye out on her Instagram page for the Farmor mitts, because she'll definitely announce the release there once it's ready.

    Thanks for letting me get a little bit personal here today, and I hope you like the mittens as much as I do.

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  • the solace of finishing things

    I'm one of those people who tends to have a lot of projects up in the air at the same time, and I'm not sure I've ever been much of a juggler, to be honest. I'm very good at saying yes to too many things, or at starting things before I've finished other things. I know many of you reading this can relate to that, if only with your own knitting projects. Sometimes, I don't mind at all. Sometimes, it's interesting and exciting to have a lot of different things going on in my life. But sometimes, when life gets harder for one reason or another, trying to juggle too many things at once can start to feel like a burden. Instead of feeling free to choose which book (among the five I'm in the middle of) I'm going to read before bed on any given night, I can feel weighed down by all the unread pages, paralyzed by option anxiety. Sometimes, instead of enjoying that I have different types of knitting projects to pick up and put down, I feel like I haven't finished a project in ages, which makes me feel hopelessly unproductive even when I have been making plenty of progress on things – they just aren't finished yet. I've been feeling that way lately, as winter drags on, struggling to feel productive, and consequently struggling to feel good about myself (uncoupling my sense of self-worth from my productivity is a much longer process, one I expect to be working on for a long time).

    I'm grateful that at this point in my life, I can recognize when this is happening, and I can find the motivation to dig myself out of that kind of a hole. Books and knitting projects seem the most susceptible to this sort of behavior, so I've been working on finishing books and finishing projects. I do sometimes get bored sticking to one book at a time, but seeing how much more quickly I get through a book when I decide to commit to just one at a time is always motivating, and I've just about finished the second book in as many weeks, which will mean I'm down to three books. With a few flights coming up later this week, I'm pretty confident I can get that number down to two by the end of this coming weekend.

    And so it goes with knitting projects, too! Last week, I finished three things over the course of three days. One was a pattern sample (more about that at a later date, after I've taken pattern photos), but the other two I thought I'd share with you. I love both of these so much, and it's good to remind myself of just how great it feels sometimes to slow down, focus on just one project, and see it through to its completion.

    First up is a pair of socks that's been on the needles since December: my Selbu Socks. This pattern is by Eli of Skeindeer Knits, and it's one that I was looking forward to immensely last fall, when Eli shared the design-in-progress with us before the pattern was published. I cast on the day it was released with stash yarn (Eli very generously gave me a copy of the pattern as a gift - thank you Eli!) and loved watching the pattern emerge, but over the next few months, progress happened in fits and starts as I put these down to work on other things, occasionally picking them up to work a few rounds here and there, but definitely never giving them my undivided attention. I'm so glad that last week I decided they needed it, since they were actually getting pretty close to finished. I've knit (and designed) socks with stranded colorwork before, but these are my first allover-colorwork socks, which feels like an achievement of sorts. They are slightly thicker than my typical hand knit socks, given that the stranded fabric is twice as thick, but I can still wear them with my boots, so I love that while these have the feeling of traditional Norwegian stockings, they're truly everyday socks that I can wear whenever I like (temperature permitting). Given that it's still very much winter in Montreal (currently 23ºF / -5ºC), these will actually see a little bit of wear before they get put away until next winter. 

    The last thing I want to mention is the yarns: I used superwash merino/nylon blends for these socks. The light grey yarn is no longer available, but the red yarn is Explorer Sock by Phileas Yarns in the St Expedit colorway, which is dyed by my friend Sylvie in York (in the UK) and I have described this color more than once as my favorite red (I first wrote about this colorway on a different base, here). It is always a pleasure to work with Sylvie's yarns and I'm so happy to have used it for such a special project. 

    More technical details as well as more photos can be found over on my Ravelry project page.

    The other personal project I finished was my Mount Pleasant tee, a pattern by Megan Nodecker of Pip & Pin (and the Pip & Pin podcast). I fell in love with this design when Megan shared it in a Ravelry forum post last spring, asking advice about pattern photos from fellow designers (I think many of us fell in love with this design after that post, to be honest!). I bought it when she released it last May, and the same week I ordered yarn to make it. I'd decided I wanted to make it with yarn from Garnsurr, a yarn-dyeing company in Norway that's also a refugee integration project, and one of my favorite companies to support. I actually posted about my plans for this project last August, and I wound the yarn into cakes before we left Norway at the end of that month. Nonetheless, with too many other things on my plate, I hadn't cast on for it until a few weeks ago, when I decided it would be my only travel project for a two-week trip to Singapore and India that my husband went on. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably spotted some progress shots of this tee (including this photo which led to a really fantastic discussion of everyone's experiences with flying with knitting in hand luggage - thanks to everyone who joined in on that conversation!). The finished tee is exactly what I've been dreaming of since last spring, and I can't wait to get some wear out of it as the weather warms up here in Canada and this spring finally arrives. I didn't really make any modifications to this pattern, but you can still find the details (including links to the pattern page and the yarn page) over on my Ravelry project page. Megan has definitely become one of my favorite designers over the past year and if you've never checked her out, I'd highly recommend a quick (or long and leisurely) browse through her designs on Ravelry. On top of the beautiful but wearable pieces she creates, her photography is always gorgeous.

    With these projects done, I'm down to 8 WIPs (ha!), including the sweater pattern sample that is my current priority. I don't think I'll ever be a one-project-at-a-time kind of knitter again, but it does feel really good to prioritize finishing things for the moment. And now that I think about it, those Nikoline socks pictured at the top of this post are getting pretty close...

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