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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. 

    --

    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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  • inspiration: kristin drysdale / scandiwork

    It's been a long time since I've posted an old-school inspiration post (something I used to do more often years ago), but I was browsing the Ravelry designer page for Kristin Drysdale earlier this week and I was reminded how much I love her work, and how much I adore one pattern in particular:

    I need to think of someone in my life who has a child I can knit one of these for, because it is just. too. perfect. I love it so very much. This is her Little Swedish Dress pattern, and while it's my favorite of her children's dress patterns, the Midsommar Dress and the Little Dutch Dress are super adorable as well.

    You may have encountered Kristin's work on Instagram, either on her own feed (where she is @scandiwork), or perhaps like I did - via the feed of Lori Ann Graham, who has knit a few pairs of Kristin's Hansdatter slippers. Kristin's array of beautiful stranded slipper designs is slightly dizzying, and it's hard not to want to make them all. She uses relatively traditional colors in her stranded patterns but makes them feel very fresh in an incredibly pleasing way, and my favorite pieces of hers are the ones where she uses assorted motifs grouped together to great effect, as in the dresses above or the pillow below, the Swedish Christmas Pillow.

    She recently released a few adult-sized garments as well, which makes me excited to see what else she'll be coming up with. Dagna is a circular yoke pattern available as a cardigan or as a pullover, and I think it demonstrates really well the traditional-yet-fresh thing that Kristin has going on. 

    There are too many beautiful slipper patterns to pick a favorite, so I encourage you to head over to Kristin's Ravelry page and take a look yourself. All of the ones pictured at the top of this post are available individually or as part of the Norseknits ebook. And if Kristin's work tugs at your heartstrings the way it does mine, you should check her out on Instagram at @scandiwork as well. (Bonus: she's also a fan of Scandinavian baking!)

    --

    Slipper photo by Scandiwork, Little Swedish Dress and Dagna photos by Ben Lehnardt.

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  • new pattern: frost flowers

    I've got a new pattern out today: meet Frost Flowers! I thought I'd tell you a little bit about how this design came to be.

    A month or so after we moved to Montreal, I went to an in-store Julie Asselin event hosted by Espace Tricot (where, incidentally, I am now working two days a week). Julie is a yarn dyer located a few hours outside of Montreal, and she's also one of the sweetest humans on the planet. Espace Tricot carries several of Julie's yarn bases, but she'd brought along a few bases to sell that the store doesn't normally carry, one of which was her Nurtured: a lofty but smooth woolen spun yarn in a worsted weight, unusual for an indie dyer. I'd first heard about this yarn when Tolt Yarn and Wool started carrying it while I lived in Seattle, but this was the first time I'd really taken a close look at it. 

    Most indie dyers purchase undyed yarn in ready-made bases, which is part of why so many of the bases are so very similar. Julie, on the other hand, has her bases spun for her, and Nurtured is even more unique since she dyes it in the wool. So in the case of Nurtured, she sources the wool from the US, dyes the unspun wool itself, and then sends the dyed wool to Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont to have it spun into yarn. She outlines this process in a series of blog posts, which are excellent – you can see them in part 1, part 2, and part 3

    Flash back to the event at Espace Tricot - I was perched quite close to the Nurtured on the table as Julie talked about her yarns and answered questions, and I definitely found myself drawn toward one color in particular: the icy light blue color called Through the Looking Glass. When viewed up close, this is a gently heathered shade, with bits that are icy blue and bits that are almost light grey/natural and a few little blips here and there of a more saturated, darker blue. 

    A skein came home with me and once I had it, the idea for the overall palette took hold. I procured two more skeins of Nurtured, one in a heathered grey (Fer à Cheval) and one in a natural, undyed white (Natural), and started charting my colorwork ideas. It's no surprise that I gravitated toward this combo, because it encapsulates winter to me - I even knit up my personal pair of Hearth Slippers in a similar combination.

    I loved working with this yarn and I'm sure I'll use it again in the future. I'm also looking forward to trying more of Julie's yarns (I love her sock yarn, Nomade, which I used to knit my Amalia socks last year). Frost Flowers went live on Ravelry today, and you can check out the pattern page right here. It feels good to have a new Paper Tiger pattern to share - I didn't do very much self-publishing while I was working on my degree in Norway, since most of the time I had for designing went to my third-party work. I'm excited to start publishing more Paper Tiger patterns again this year, and I'm looking forward to sharing what I've been working on with you all.

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  • a wintry walk

    When we lived in Tromsø I was pretty good about getting out for walks on a regular basis. The goal was always a daily walk, and even if I sometimes fell short of that, it wasn't hard to find the motivation to get out for a walk when I was surrounded by so much natural beauty. Since moving to Montreal I have gone on fewer walks, especially since winter has set in. Given that in December we went through the longest continuous stretch of days that never made it above -17°C (about 1.5°F) in Montreal's recorded history, I suppose that's not a surprise. Lately, though, it's been much warmer (about -5°C / 23°F or so) and we've had a lot of snow, and I realized that I hadn't actually walked over to Parc La Fontaine since the snow first came. 

    I visited this park for the first time over the summer, when we were in Montreal looking for apartments before the move, and I fell in love with it immediately. It's a huge park to be in the middle of the city, full of trees and playing fields and with a pair of ponds (or one pond divided in two, depending on how you look at it) feauturing, as its name suggests, a big fountain. In summer, it feels like an oasis. The trees provide a leafy green canopy when you want a break from the sun and the heat, people picnic and laze in the grass, and take leisurely strolls on the paths through the park and around the ponds. It's one of those magical communal spaces that I'm so grateful exists.

    In winter, the experience is very different, unsurprisingly. I expected that there wouldn't be too many people in the park in the middle of a weekday, though there are a few, walking dogs or babies or simply going from point A to point B. The green grass is covered in a thick blanket of snow and the trees are bare. The main thoroughfares appeared to have been plowed, at least a little bit, but the park was also full of tracks from people taking shortcuts between the paths. 

    The ponds freeze over in winter and one of them is kept clear for skating. I'd heard about this before so I was pleased to see people on the ice. Having grown up in North Carolina, frozen ponds are the things of picture books to me (even after living in Norway), and it was fun to see that come to life before my eyes.

    One of the things that consistently catches me off guard about Montreal is how much the vegetation reminds me of the vegetation where I grew up. The tall deciduous trees are deeply familiar to me in a way that feels surprising in an otherwise pretty unfamiliar place. I moved to the west coast of the US after graduating from college, and grew to love the flora of the Pacific Northwest. Northern Norway presented a new set of trees, flowers, weeds, and herbs to become familiar with. But the vegetation here doesn't feel new or different the way that it did in those places. It's always so interesting to me which pieces of our childhood come back to the front of our minds when we least expect it.

    One thing I hadn't anticipated about the experience of being in Parc La Fontaine in the winter is how much more aware I was of the city surrounding me. You're still aware of being in the middle of the city in the summertime, but in winter when all the tree branches are bare you can't avoid it. It's easier to see downtown on the horizon when you look south/west, and all the buildings and the streets on the perimiter of the park are much easier to see and hear. It wasn't unpleasant, but it did make me want to head for Mount Royal next time I want to go for a long walk in the snow to get away from the feeling of the city.

    I wore my Brackett hat on what might have been its inaugural journey outside the house. This is a pattern of Whitney Hayward's for issue 3 of Laine Magazine, and I knit mine in the Harrisville Designs  Color Lab 2 yarn I brought back from Rhinebeck. There are so many different colors in this Harrisville yarn that it feels impossible to photograph correctly, but I think this photo gives you a little bit of an idea. (P.S. Have you seen the Bellows cardigan that Karen is knitting with it?)

    Today's walk was a lovely reminder that it's always a good idea to get out of the house for a walk, especially when the weather is good. I'll have to make sure to do it more often.

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