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  • late may postcard

    My thesis is turned in (hurra!) and the midnight sun began about a week ago, both of which sound like markers of summer's approach, but we're still trying to free ourselves from winter's grasp up here in the north. Tromsø has been declared "snow-free" based on the marker outside the weather station, and it is mostly snow-free now, but when you get off the roads and into the woods, or up on higher ground, there are plenty of stubborn patches still hanging around. I took a walk up to Prestvannet this evening, wanting to see what it looks like this year at the end of May.

    We had snow early in the month, and while that's not unheard of here, winter has lingered longer this year than it did last year (looking at this photo from roughly a year ago, I can say definitively that the mountains still have a lot more snow on them now). There are hints that winter's grip is weakinging, however. The first leaves are finally getting ready to unfurl on some of the trees, a marker of spring/summer that I've been eagerly awaiting since the beginning of the month. Most of the branches are still bare, as you can see in these photos, but hopefully not for long. The temperature hovers around 5-7°C (40-45°F) during the day, and while the snow has largely retreated, Prestvannet (which freezes over and accumulates several feet of snow on top of the ice during the winter) hasn't yet melted, though the thaw is definitely in progress. The many migratory birds that make this their home during the summer are here and out in force - they make quite a racket, and around the clock too, since the sun never sets. I'm glad to hear them, though, because it means that summer is coming. The sound of running water is another small pleasure I've been enjoying in recent weeks.

    Even with these encouraging signs that soon, soon this landscape will be transformed into a lush green summerscape, I have to admit I'm really glad that I'm escaping to Oslo this weekend, where there are definitely flowers in gardens and leaves on the trees and I plan to enjoy the positively summer-like temperatures being forecasted. While I truly love Tromsø, the lack of a real spring is one of the things I find most challenging about living here. Lucky for me, it's a quick trip to Oslo and I'll get to see some friends while I'm there as well. I'll be packing the sunscreen.

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  • queue check: may 2017

    I continue to be a fan of Karen Templer's Queue Check posts over at Fringe Association as a way to keep track of knitting projects and to prioritize upcoming projects, and it's been a little while since my last check-in on that front. I sent off a version of my thesis draft to my supervisor today - and while it still needs a lot more work in the next two weeks, I thought I'd take the evening off and do a little queue check of my own!

    Starting with the projects mentioned in my previous queue check post from February: both pairs of socks mentioned in that post are off the needles and I've been wearing them constantly (they're pictured above). I ended up working on them at the same time, and that seems to have started me on a trend of working one patterned pair and one plain pair of socks at the same time, which I'm really enjoying. Socks are definitely continuing to be soothing knits in a stressful time. I've finished a third pair since that post, which I haven't mentioned on this blog yet, but I'm going to save all of that for another day for what will probably be a blog post dedicated solely to socks.

    I have two new pairs on the needles at the moment. The plain pair above is Lumineux by Ysolda Teague, which I've wanted to knit since it came out in last fall's Knitworthy collection, because it looks like the coolest afterthought heel of all time. I'm knitting the vanilla sock version, not the textured one shown in the pattern photos, because the heel construction is the main thing I'm interested and I love the speckled yarn in plain stockinette. I'm using the We Love Knitting yarn from sweet Claire that I got at last year's Oslo Strikkefestival, and it feels great to cast on with it after it's been waiting on the shelf for a few months. I'm using the speckled blue and white as my main color (and I believe the colorway is called Icicle, which feels super apt because it makes me think of nothing so much as Elsa from Frozen) and the lovely tonal grey for my contrast heels and toes. On the bottom, the patterned pair of socks I'm working on is super special: Aimée of La Bien Aimée in Paris has a brand new colorway called Everything is Awesome, named after the song that Tegan and Sara did for the Lego movie, and it's a silvery grey base with vibrant rainbow speckles. I love Tegan and Sara and this yarn has got to be one of the coolest things I've ever worked with - it is so much *fun*. My skein is on Aimée's Merino Twist Sock base and I didn't want to knit just vanilla socks with it, so I'm working up a pair of Speckled Space Socks by Amanda Stephens, which are proving to be really enjoyable. But enough about socks for now!

    Moving on to garments, I've finished my Norwegian wool Dalur (pictured at left), which I started in March for Tolt Icelandic Wool Month (and I blogged about my initial plans for it here). I'm planning a full FO post with proper photos for this one once my thesis is turned in, because I love this sweater and I love Norwegian wool and I want to give myself space to say everything I want to say. For now, just know that I'm super happy with how it came out and I look forward to sharing it with you properly. I do still have a greyscale garment on the needles, however - last month I finally cast on for my Bruntsfield vest (pictured right), another Ysolda pattern. I first swatched for it nearly a year ago last May, around the same time I swatched for my Sandneskofte, and I am absolutely loving how it's working up - the colorwork has proven very addicting, even with the frequent color changes and spit splicing of yarn. I'm nearly through the main part of the body and will be adding steeks for the armholes and the V-neck soon. This one also happens to be Norwegian wool (Rauma Finullgarn) so even though it's a very different garment, it feels like a cousin to my Dalur somehow.

    I'm wanting to clear my needles of old WIPs as well, so I recently picked up a project I started last year which has been hibernating for months and months: my Loess wrap (pattern by Christine de Castelbajac for Brooklyn Tweed), which I'm calling Sommarøya after a nearby island with beautiful turquoise waters whose name means "summer island." This one's a laceweight project, although it actually moves fairly quickly on US 5 / 3.75mm needles, so it feels like I could finish it this summer. I'm knitting it in a merino silk hand dyed yarn, Soft Like Kittens Nestling Lace, which is super beautiful. Annette of Soft Like Kittens stopped dying regularly a few years ago so I'm so pleased to have gotten one of the lace weight yarns she did (of which there weren't all that many, I believe). The colorway is called Pool Tile, which only adds to the summer vibe of this project, and I'm really enjoying it. It's going to be a lovely lightweight summer scarf when it's finished.

    I have some upcoming projects on the brain as well. I'm planning a Zara tee in Quince & Co. Sparrow with one of the new marled shades, Mineral (I seriously adore these new Quince & Co. marls, you guys), and I'm planning to use the luxe Blue Sky Fibers Metalico in Platinum as my contrasting color. While that one will absolutely continue the greyscale garments trend I have going so far this year, the other planned project definitely bucks that trend and even gets me out of my usual color comfort zone entirely - I'm planning a Garland by Stefanie Pollmeier from Pom Pom issue 7 with some super gorgeous yak lace from welthase, which is a luxurious lace weight merino/silk/yak blend. I'll be using the colorway Rosen, which is a subtle dusty pink that positively glows. Something about the spring months puts pink on my mind, even if it's still too early for any kind of blossoms in Tromsø. This one will be my project for the Pomfest KAL, the knitalong taking place in conjunction with Pom Pom Quarterly's fifth anniversary celebrations - but more on that later!

    Once I've laid it all out like that, it seems like an awful lot of knitting. But for various reasons we don't really need to go into here, I've been seeking out comfort constantly lately, and for me that's meant an hour or two of knitting before bed every night while listening to Harry Potter audiobooks. I can think of worse things, can't you? 

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  • leif cowl

    I actually have a new pattern to share with you today! I am beyond thrilled to be part of the newest volume of the Mason Dixon Knitting Field Guide series. The newest book is volume 3, with the theme WILD YARNS - and my pattern is a sweet little cowl called Leif. I wanted to tell you a little bit about it, but I also wanted to rave about the process of working with MDK, so a full blog post felt warranted!

    If you're unfamiliar with Mason Dixon Knitting, the website was originally started as a daily-letter-style blog by Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, writing back and forth to each other about knitting from Nashville and New York, respectively (hence the name). They published two books which are the stuff of early 2000s knitting legend (at least in my mind - see Mason Dixon Knitting and Mason Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines), and they gave their website a total overhaul last year, turning into a source of daily inspiration for crafty folk. Basically, check it out if you haven't!

    As I mentioned before, the theme of Field Guide volume 3 is wild yarns, and while you may not think of me when you hear those two words together (I currently have not one but two entirely greyscale stranded colorwork garments on the needles, you guys), when Ann got in touch and asked if I was interested in doing a pattern for the next Field Guide using Spincycle Yarns, it was one of the easiest "yes" decisions I've ever made. I know Rachel and Kate of Spincycle, who are both awesome ladies and really talented spinners. For the first eight years of the company, all of their yarns were handspun by them - today, to meet demand, they make use of a local micro-mill that allows them to produce more yarn but maintain the feel and the spirit of the handspun product they started with. Their yarns are beautiful and I've been happy to work with them before (in fact, there are a few other designs in the pipeline that use Spincycle yarns!). 

    Ann said that she and Kay were interested in a colorwork cowl, and I was really happy to sketch up my ideas and send them their way. I have to say that the process designing this cowl was much closer to collaboration than anything else I've done - the final design varies in some significant ways from the original sketch and charts, and a lot of that was the result of working together with Ann to find a way to marry both of our visions in a pleasing and cohesive way (as well as some practical requirements, like putting a cap on the number of skeins of yarn the pattern could use). Every step of the process was a pleasure, from brainstorming with Ann to find the best ways to revise charts or construction techniques, to bouncing photos of swatches back and forth as we determined the best way to use two different colorways of Spincycle's Dyed in the Wool together. Combining two colorways with long color shifts while also maintaining enough contrast between them to see the pattern was a unique challenge, but I'm so pleased with where we ended up! And a huge special shout-out goes out to the MDK Field Guide editor Melanie Falick, who selected the final colorways that were used for the samples.

    The cowl does come into size options: one long enough to loop twice around the neck (as in the photo below) using four skeins total, and one that's just a single loop, which uses half as much yarn.

    If you plan to knit the Leif Cowl, I would recommend carefully considering your color choices if you plan to venture beyond the sample colorways. Spincycle's Dyed in the Wool features a lot of colorways that contain medium shades, which might look distinct when they're in hanks next to each other, but when knit up won't actually have enough contrast to show the pattern well. My number one tip in this case is to be sure to look at the colorways you're considering in greyscale, to get a sense of how much contrast they have between each other - going for a very light one and a very dark one will give you the sharpest result. I've taken a screenshot from the Spincycle website and pulled out the saturation in order to show you what I mean about many of the colorways being "medium shades":

    To compare, this was pulled from the Spincycle online shop, where you can view them in color (and the diversity of color may surprise you after looking at this black and white image).

    If you'd rather play it safe and use one of the sample colorways, I'm happy to say that Mason Dixon is carrying kits in their online shop! The kits are available here and they're for the yarn only, so the book must be purchased separately. The other two designs in this Field Guide volume are the Colorwash Scarf by Kirsten Kapur and the Easel Sweater by Sue McCain, and I'm so pleased to be sharing the pages of this book with them. The book is also available to order now, both as a paperback copy (with digital download included) or just as an ebook.

    Thank you again to Ann and Kay for being so wonderful to work with - and for wanting to work with me in the first place!

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  • april musings

    As the rest of Norway is getting ready for påskeferie (Easter holiday), stocking up on Solo and Kvikk Lunsj (orange soda and Kit Kats, basically) and preparing to head to their cabins for a cozy week of skiing/reading/knitting/beautiful time off, I am in the throes of my thesis writing, which will continue all through the Easter holiday. No time off for me. It'll be really sleepy around Tromsø, but maybe that's a good thing? As my thesis deadline has crept closer I'm spending more time inside, hunched over the computer, and I get out for fewer walks. Maybe the Easter holiday will be a good excuse to improve upon that situation. I could definitely use the fresh air.

    April in Tromsø means a constant cycle of melting snow, rain, and dips in the temperature that bring fresh snow again. Indecisive skies mean sun one minute, clouds and precipitation the next. But that indecision and constant change sounds like April in most places, doesn't it? (Even if in most places it involves more flowers.) I've been deeply envious of all the springy flower photos from back home I've been seeing on Instagram recently, but today I find I don't mind this indecisive Arctic "spring" weather. I suspect this is the result of eating well this week, cutting back on refined sugars (I have a horrible sweet tooth) and going for fresher foods. The longer days help, too. Today's sunrise was at 5:20 AM and sunset is at 8:10 PM - the midnight sun begins in just a month and a half. 

    In any case, for now I am living from day to day and keeping that thesis deadline in sight (it's May 15). It may be a little quieter around here while I work on finishing my thesis. I get in a little bit of knitting time in the evenings, but not more than that. But because it might be a little quiet around here in the coming weeks, I thought I'd share my current progress on the projects I'll be working on during that precious evening knitting time. 

    First up, I'm knitting away on my Norwegian wool Dalur (blogged here), having finished both sleeves. After the colorwork section at the hem, the body is just stockinette in the round, so once I cast on for that I think it'll go quite quickly at this large gauge. But I've been waiting for a weekend day when I can dedicate several hours to getting the body started, because I'll work a tubular cast on which takes some attention (and in that charcoal yarn, probably also some good daylight). Apparently I haven't taken a new photo since I finished the sleeves, but this still gives you an idea of what a gorgeous sweater this is going to be. I'm really looking forward to working the yoke once the body is finished. And I am loving, absolutely loving, knitting up a sweater out of the Hillesvåg Blåne. This yarn is really special.

    I've also been working on both pairs of socks I mentioned in this post, and they have been every bit as soothing as I'd hoped they'd be in this busy and somewhat stressful time. I'm on the second sock of both pairs (Siv is a little further along than Fika at the moment, but I've been dividing my time between them pretty evenly - they're both past the heel now).

    Above is the first of my Fika socks, which I'm knitting up in a BFL Tweed Sock base from Jorstad Creek. It's such a lovely springy green to be working with at this time of year, and I can't wait for them to be finished. I used the teeniest bit of Welthase Fingering Light in Hazel for the contrasting toe stripe.

    And my beautiful Siv socks. I wrote about this on Instagram, but the combination of this yarn on these needles is really doing it for me. It's such a pleasure to knit with. The yarn is the MCN sock base from Kat's Riverside Studio in the Storm colorway, and I love that I think about my trip to Montréal every time I pick these up to work on them. And I am going to love wearing these.

    I actually have more socks planned for my next project - I'm really looking forward to casting on a pair of socks with this super gorgeous yarn I picked up from Hannah of Palindrome Knits (I'm thinking By the Seine River might show off the colorway really nicely) and there's something super special coming in the mail from La Bien Aimée as well, but I'm definitely waiting until I finish at least one of these pairs before starting any more socks. With any luck it won't be long now, even with the long writing days.

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  • more lofoten goodness

    There were several other Lofoten-related things that came to mind as I was putting together the Lofoten Wool post, but I didn't want the post to get too long and I really wanted the yarn and its relationship with the landscape to be the focus. So I decided to save these little bits for a new post - and I hope you enjoy these too.

    First up, there are a few Lofoten-related segments from a TV show called Norge Rundt that I thought some of you might enjoy seeing. I'm pretty sure you should be able to stream these outside Norway, because I have memories of watching Norge Rundt from time to time when I still lived in Seattle. The show's name means "Around Norway" and the format is made up of relatively short segments from some place or another, meeting a diverse array of people who do all kinds of things - and you usually jump around the country a bunch within a single episode. The show is still on today, but I'm particularly fond of the older episodes found in the show's archives, and the clips I have to share today are both of that variety. The audio is in Norwegian only, but the visual experience alone is worth it, so don't let that dissuade you if you don't speak Norwegian:

    Clip 1: In my last post I mentioned the fishing huts where fishermen would lodge, called rorbuer, and how they mainly cater to tourists now. This clip from 1978, entitled "rorbuferie" (fishing hut holiday) covers that very topic, along with some stunning footage of Lofoten in the summertime. You'll have to click through to the NRK website to watch it.

    Clip 2: This is a pretty endearing segment from 1979, which starts off with a voiceover about how the number of fishermen and of fishing boats in Kabelvåg is steadily decreasing, just like many other towns in Lofoten - "mange begynner etterhvert å glemme hvordan Lofotlivet i gamle dager var," he tells us, or "many are beginning to gradually forget what Lofoten life was like in 'the olden days'." So the kids and teachers of the local school decided to host a big event about what life used to be like in Lofoten. Their stage performance features a hanmade backdrop, adorably goofy singing, and lots of fantastic knitwear - all of which prompted my husband to ask "Wait, are we watching a Belle & Sebastian video?" when the girl in the yellow sou'wester showed up on the screen. (Fun side note: Belle & Sebastian have totally been to northern Norway, actually). But I love a community coming together to take a look back and remember what life was like in the not-so-distant past - with young people stepping up to take care of their traditions. Again, click through to watch the clip on the NRK website.

    Given the dates of both of these clips, it's worth pointing out that just like in Shetland, the 1970s was a decade that transformed sea-based industry in Norway after the discovery of oil on the continental shelf. I feel like both of these clips point to that changing landscape. (It also brought to mind the exhibition Ella Gordon put together for the Shetland Museum back in 2014 about Shetland knitting during the oil boom.)

    Artwork was another theme that came up when I was thinking about Lofoten. Some of my favorite Norwegian artwork features scenes of northern Norway, and I thought I'd share a few pieces that to me, really manage to capture the place.

    Winter Morning in Svolvær by Gunnar Berg, 1887. Berg grew up in Svolvær, which is also where the landscape photos in the last post were from. Berg really captures the light, and the brilliance of the white snow against a blue winter sky. The misty clouds and the masterful reflection in the water are so atmospheric.

    From Reine in Lofoten by Otto Sinding in 1883 (courtesy Digitalt Museum). Sinding's paintings of Lofoten manage to capture the feeling of the size and scale of the mountains in a way that photos can't seem to do. I love the low winter light in this one, and the way the reflected sky is a steel grey. These are all the things I love to notice in my changing surroundings as the light changes at different times of year.

    And for something completely different, I love this piece by Reidar Aulie. This is Lofoten, tall rock formations, from some time after 1922 (courtesy Digitalt Museum). The first thing this piece brings to mind for me is some of J.R.R. Tolkien's artwork, and given that they were very nearly contemporaries (Aulie was 12 years younger than Tolkien) that's not entirely surprising. It's just pen on paper, but it's beautiful. The Tolkien pieces this one brings to mind are Caerthilian Cove & Lion Rock and Cove near the Lizard, both scenes from Cornwall which can be seen on this page, as well as in the book J.R.R Tolkien, Artist & Illustrator, which is where I was introduced to them.

    And last but not least, I wanted to mention a book I've just finished reading, which was a Christmas gift from my friend Anna: The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen. She gave me a copy in the original Norwegian (De usynlige), and she described it along the lines of being a sort of quintessential northern Norwegian novel. It follows the story of a girl who grows up on a small island, home to her family and her family only. They have a small farm, and her father goes to Lofoten to fish every winter. The content from page to page is very everyday sorts of stuff for much of the book, which makes it an excellent novel for someone interested in what life might have been like on a small Norwegian island in the gamle dager, the old days. It's available in English as The Unseen (linked above), and I'm incredibly excited that the English translation just made the longlist for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

    Thanks for indulging a little bit of Lofoten exploration on the blog today.

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  • norwegian wool: lofoten wool

    The Norwegian Wool series is finally back with another fantastic smaller company: Lofoten Wool. Wool sourced from Northern Norwegian sheep (including the Lofoten archipelago, hence the name), naturally dyed, and spun down at Hillesvåg - it's a dream. The Røst collection (pictured above, and named for the remote island where the wool is sourced) comes from the wool of the crossbred norsk kvit sau, or the Norwegian white sheep. Their heavier weight yarns are made with wool from the heritage breeds Gammelnorsk sau and spælsau. To me, Lofoten Wool's yarns are the stuff that local wool dreams are made of. (Consequently, I might adoringly gush a little bit more than usual in this post.)

    I feel like I need to provide some context to be able to adquately convey the feelings this yarn inspires. Between the northern Norwegian sheep, the natural dyes Ragnhild uses to create her beautiful colors, and the ties to specific locations within Lofoten, this company has something special going on. For those unfamiliar with the Lofoten archipelago, it lies north of the Arctic Circle and it's home to some of the most iconic Norwegian scenery there is. Islands formed from mountains that jut right out of the water make for dramatic landscapes everywhere you go, reaching out in a line from the mainland like an arm pointing toward Iceland. I haven't been as far out as Røst (where my skein of yarn's wool came from) - it's way out there - but I have passed through Lofoten twice now and spent sime time exploring Nordland, the county where Lofoten is located (Hurtigruten, the coastal ferry/cruise, passes through Lofoten). While the landscape is very different, it's easy to see similarities and find connections with other north Atlantic island communities like Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Shetland.

    Historically, fishing was the center of life in Lofoten. North Atlantic cod come to Lofoten each year to spawn, so cod fishing was the biggest industry (and it remains a big part of the local economy today). Many of the men who fished in and around Lofoten came from other parts of Norway, and when they were on shore, they lived in fishing cabins known as rorbuer. Many of these all over Lofoten have been converted to be used by tourists now (like these). The statue in the photo above sits at the edge of the harbor in Svolvær. It's called Fiskarkona, "the fish wife," and it's by sculptor Per Ung. She faces away from the harbor, with an arm raised as if bidding farewell to her husband's boat. Life in Lofoten was harsh, and the weather meant fishing could be dangerous, so I can only imagine what it was like to bid farewell to your spouse not knowing if their boat would return home.

    This brings me back to the yarn. I feel very fortunate that my favorite local yarn store carries Lofoten Wool so that I had the opportunity to check out some of their yarns in person. The naturally dyed colors are gorgeous, and I definitely fell in love with the indigo-dyed skein pictured at the top of this post as soon as I saw it. I have plans for this particular skein, but there's enough yarn that I wanted to do a little bit of swatching just for fun, too. Both the blue shade of the yarn itself and the name of this particular color, brådjupt, bring to mind the clear blue waters of northern Norway for me (and cables felt like an appropriate medium for interpreting rippling waves). The swatch on the needles above uses a chart from Norah Gaughan's incredible Knitted Cable Sourcebook - it's a motif she calls Diverge. This 2-ply yarn from the Røst collection is a fantastically wooly wool: it's kind of crunchy and lofty at the same time, somewhat like a woolen spun Shetland yarn can be; not luxuriously soft but also not unpleasant against the skin; pretty grabby but it still manages to cable beautifully. I think we hear words like "strong" and "workhorse yarn" associated with a lot of wooly wools, especially breed-specific ones, but those phrases seem somehow too heavy to describe this yarn. It is strong - with effort, it's possible to break it instead of cutting it with scissors, but it's much harder to break than the woolen spun Shetland yarns I've used. I think this yarn also qualifies as a workhorse yarn - it's very well suited to this coastal northern Norwegian climate - but it feels lighter than that at the same time.

    Ragnhild of Lofoten Wool very kindly shared some photos of their sheep out at Røst, above - and as you can see, by the time you make it that far out, the landscape starts to look a little bit more like Shetland. What an incredible place to be a sheep, right? The sheep on Røst in the photos above are the crossbred Norwegian white sheep/norsk kvit sau. As I mentioned, Lofoten Wool's heavier weight yarns come from the wool of heritage breeds, and the following photos are Ragnhild's own flock of Gammelnorsk sau, also called villsau by some ("old Norwegian sheep" and "wild sheep," respectively, though the latter name is a misnomer as they have been a domesticated breed for over a thousand years). They live on an island much closer to mainland Norway. You'll also notice that there's natural color variation amongst the heritage breed sheep, much like other northern European heritage breeds (Shetland or Icelandic sheep, for example).

    It's such a fantastic treat to be able to knit with wool that has such traceable origins, and a huge thank you to Ragnhild for sharing these photos of the sheep with us!

    To see the yarns and other wooly goodies Lofoten Wool has on offer, head over to their online shop. Lofoten Wool does ship internationally, but you should be aware that the cost of shipping can be high (especially outside Europe), You can get a sense of shipping rates abroad from Norway here (all prices are in Norwegian kroner, but you can use Google to convert to your own currency). A list of their Norwegian stockists can be found on the home page of their website, lofoten-wool.no.

    A note: with the exception of Ragnhild's sheep photos, the photos of Lofoten featured in this post were all taken by me on a trip last August - some of them from a moving boat at dusk, so please excuse any motion blur! 

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  • inspiration: oleana

    I came across the spring 2017 collection for Oleana on social media this week, and not only did the springy pastels that feature heavily in the collection jump out at me, but I also realized that many of my readers and followers outside of Norway may be unfamiliar with Oleana. It seemed like a great opportunity for an inspiration post! That led to me digging into pieces from some of their older collections, too, which is where the first few photos in the post are from (the newest spring pieces are down below).

    To me, Oleana is best known for their striking fine-gauge knitwear. They're celebrating 25 years in business this year, having been founded in 1992 at a time when the textile industry in most wealthy, developed nations was struggling to stay alive. From the beginning, their mission has been to show that high-cost economies can still produce clothing and they can do so responsibly. Oleana is worth talking about for that reason alone - fortunately, the knitwear also happens to be beautiful. Oleana's designer is named Solveig Hisdal, and she also happens to be the company's in-house photographer. I love her use of color and gradient to play with and break up repetitive motifs - and the combination of fine gauge and machine knitting allows for more freedom than traditional Norwegian colorwork.

    Oleana's pieces are produced in their factory near Bergen - located on a fjord in Ytre Arna. The factory is open to the public as an Économusée (much like the Hillesvåg mill), which means you can actually visit and get a glimpse of the production as it happens (I haven't been, but I would love to go!). One thing that I can't say about Oleana is that as far as I know, they don't use domestic wool (most of their wool garments are made from merino/silk blends), but their emphasis on fair and responsible domestic production is hugely important in our modern textile industry, and I'm happy to elevate them for that.

    I think Solveig's design work really carries her signature. In some ways, I can see through lines with some of the work of the Rowan designers, particularly when it comes to the florals, but Solveig's pieces have a bit more saturation and flair, with a distinctive modern Scandinavian feeling. It's a step away from subtle sweeping moors and in the direction of Marimekko, if you will, while very much being its own beautiful thing.

    The spring pieces really caught my eye because of the colors used - I've been very drawn to bright, saturated spring and summer hues lately, even though it's still so very wintry outside. The return of the sun has led to a little bit of a winter outside/summer inside vibe (avocado toast with lime and cilantro, anyone?) so I enjoyed poking through the spring 2017 catalogue.

    You can view the spring 2017 catalogue here, or check out the autumn 2016 catalogue here (which the first two pieces pictured at the top of this post are from). Are those spring pastels speaking to you too right now? Particularly you east coasters in North America who just got hit with a snowstorm...

    About half of Oleana's products are sold abroad (all over Europe, the US, Canada, even Australia and Japan), so you can check out their store locator to see if there's a stockist anywhere near you. And if you live in Minnesota, Norway House in Minneapolis has an Oleana exhibition up through March 26th. You can read more about that here.

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  • march

    I think March is one of my favorite months here in Tromsø. It's often beautiful outside, and definitely still winter, but by the time we reach March we're practically dashing towards the equinox, in the middle of the few magical months where daylight and darkness are so in balance this far north. And when there's still so much snow, the daylight can have special qualities.

    On a sunny day, it can be positively blinding. But yesterday the light was stranger, moodier. A change in the weather was beginning as we moved into a week of unusually mild, above-freezing days. The clouds hung in the sky like a heavy curtain of gauze, not blocking out the sun, but turning the world around me into one big softbox. The mountains to the south looked flat, like two-dimensional block prints across the horizon in light and dark grey.

    It was, I have to admit, one of my favorite kinds of days for walking. To revel in the bright whiteness of untouched snow without being blinded by it - but at the same time getting to see depth in the sky, and knowing where the sun is too. Since I knew that the weather would be changing this week, yesterday felt like my one chance to get that kind of walk in before it all turns sloshy. The city streets quickly turn into the world's northernmost Slurpee. (That bit is not one of my favorite parts about living here.)

    In the midst of longer work days, trying to squeeze in some extra transcription for my thesis project which is now due in just two months (eek!), it was so nice to set aside a little bit of time for a long walk. Despite the shifting weather, it was very calm and quiet yesterday. I stood at the southern end of the island, and when you are standing at that point staring out across the strait at the mountains beyond, it is so easy to remember to breathe in big, and to breathe out slowly. In, and out. The slow, calming rhythm is encouraged by the gentle waves lapping at the rocks on the beach. 

    I'm sharing these photos so that I can soak up this late winter landscape - and I can't help but notice it's full of all of the colors and nuances that drew me to the sock yarn I bought in Montréal (mentioned in this post), which I've enjoyed knitting with immensely. Sometimes people ask about how my environment influences my knitwear design work, and there are several ways to answer that question - but it's always clear to me that the lanscape seeps into whatever it is I'm making through colors first and foremost. And aren't these lovely colors to see outside your window?

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  • FO: sandneskofte

    I've been meaning to get around to this post for a long time, but I had to let go of my vision for a grand snow-related photoshoot to make it happen (in the midst of my master's thesis, that's really not realistic, even if I think this cardigan deserves a grand photoshoot). So I finally got some shots - just at home, by the window in my apartment - of my finished Sandneskofte. This was my last FO of 2016, finished just in time for Christmas, and I've been wearing it very regularly ever since then.

    I've mentioned it on this blog a few times - here, for example - but if you weren't following along in Instagram, I thought I'd share a few details. This pattern is from the Norwegian book 42 norske kofter (blogged here) and my version is heavily modified. First of all, it calls for fingering weight yarn but I substituted with a heavier yarn - Kate Davies's absolutely gorgeous Scottish wool, Buachaille, in the shades Islay and Haar. This is a fantatsic wooly wool, and I am so excited to make more things using this yarn in the future - serious kudos to Kate for spearheading the production of such a beautiful domestic British wool yarn (sourced in Scotland, spun and dyed in Yorkshire). 

    Like all traditional Norwegian kofter, this cardigan is knit in the round and then steeked to create the front opening and the armholes. The Buachaille did beautifully with the steeking (and no surprise there). For those who are interested in more construction details: the body and the arms are worked separately from the bottom up, and the sleeves are sewn into the armholes after the opening is made. The pattern is for a crew neck cardigan, but I opted for a V-neck, so I began decreases after reaching a certain point on the body. Stitches were bound off for the back neck, the front openings and the armholes were reinforced before being cut open (I used the crochet method, although a sewing machine is the typical tool used in Norway), and then the shoulders were seamed before the sleeves were sewn in. The stitches for the vertical button bands were put on hold after the bottom ribbing was finished, then when the rest of the cardigan was done, the stitches on hold were put back on the needles and the button bands were knit back and forth separate from the body before being sewn on. There was a lot of finishing work for this piece - right down to the eight buttons I sewed on the front.

    I originally intended to finish the steeked edges on the inside of the fabric with some decorative ribbon, but I never go around to it (for one thing, I never came up with a clever way to deal with the angle where the straight body bends to form the V-neck) and the unfinished edges have put up absolutely zero fuss, so I will most likely leave them as-is. In the photo above you can see the light grey yarn I used to work the crochet reinforcement where I'm folding it away from the fabric, but it normally sits flush (as it does in the bottom of the photo). The cut edges of the fabric haven't budged, and I probably wear this cardigan a couple of times a week. I can heartily endorse using Buachaille for steeked projects!

    Even though I would consider myself a fairly accomplished knitter, this project still managed to check several boxes on the list of firsts. This was my first allover stranded colorwork garment, my first time steeking a cardigan opening (I had steeked armholes, but never the front of a cardigan), and my first time knitting a vertical button band (and I was very grateful for Karen Templer's "How to seam a button band" post). Even though colorwork is my usual wheelhouse, it goes to show there's always room for building new skills.

    There are a few more photos of the details as well as several in-progress photos over on my Raverly project page, if you're interested. This cardigan isn't perfect, and there are things I would change if I were to knit it again, but I love this thing. The double thickness of the stranded fabric knit at a tight gauge means it's quite warm and it's been super useful all through the Norwegian winter, and I look forward to wearing it for years to come. 

    ETA: I should mention that Kate Davies will be at Edinburgh Yarn Festival this coming weekend, just in case you're lucky enough to be going and you want to check out the yarn in person for yourself!

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  • a twist on tolt icelandic wool month

    In my last post I mentioned that I have Iceland-related knitting plans lined up for this month, although they don't exactly fit the parameters of Tolt's Icelandic Wool Month. I wrote about how Skógafjall was the result of ruminating on the historical links and similar properties of Icelandic wool and some of the Norwegian wools - and I have continued to spend a great deal of time thinking about that. Ending up with a sweater in Icelandic wool with ties to the Norwegian landscape was a lot of fun - but I've found myself thinking about the inverse, too. What about a traditional Icelandic lopapeysa pattern that's knit up in a suitable Norwegian wool?

    Since the very first time I worked with Hillesvåg's Blåne - their bulky weight pelsull yarn - I have thought it would make a good substitute for the bulky Álafoss Lopi. So I'm going to put that idea to the test! Last year I purchased a sweater's worth of undyed grey Blåne to make a pullover for Chris, but after finishing both sleeves and most of the body, I finally admitted to myself that 1) the yarn was too heavy for the pattern I'd chosen, and 2) the yarn was totally the wrong yarn for him; I bought it because*I* liked it. So I've bought replacement yarn for his sweater and I've spent months trying to find the right match for all this beautiful grey Blåne, looking for the kind of pattern that makes me think, "Yes! That's totally it!" I think something about the approach of Icelandic Wool Month finally got the gears really turning.

    A couple of years ago just before the first Icelandic Wool Month, Anna from Tolt knit a Dalur in Álafoss Lopi for a trip to Iceland she was taking that March. I've been a little bit in love with Dalur ever since, and I realized a few weeks ago that if I bought the contrasting colors, I could finally have a plan for all that grey Blåne, and I'd get to see how good a substitute it really is for Álafoss Lopi. So I bought a few skeins of the dark charcoal grey color (which is sadly discontinued, so I'm happy I could still get it locally), and since Blåne's undyed color is the medium grey, I went with a different bulky yarn base for the white - Troll, which is still a 2-ply yarn spun by Hillesvåg and still Norwegian wool, even if it's a different breed, so I'm hoping it will be a good match in the colorwork sections.

    I'm planning to at least cast on for this sweater this month, although I don't expect to finish it by the end of March (I would like to prioritize Chris's sweater!). As you can see in the photo at the top of this post, I still need to frog the pieces of last year's ill-fated first attempt to use this grey yarn, so it might be a little while before I get around to it. Nonetheless, I love working with this yarn, and I'm really looking forward to it.

    Dalur is available in the book Knitting with Icelandic Wool, which is also available in Norway under the title Islandsk StrikkWill you be doing any Iceland-related knitting this month?

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