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  • moments

    Hello, October. I'm glad to see you. We've been in Montreal not quite three weeks now, and while in some ways we're starting to get settled in and find our new routines, in other ways I still feel stuck right in the middle of The Transition. We are waiting on the majority of our things to arrive from Norway, and I think once it does and we can really start unpacking, that will help a lot. I had forgotten how long it could take to find your stride in a new place, especially with such a big change.

    I started a semi-intensive French course this past week to try and get my long-hibernating French skills up and moving again, which gives me a place to go every weekday morning at 8:30. That's been beneficial. I have a backlog of design work I want to get to in the afternoons, though it's been really slow trying to get back into the work groove. In the meantime, I did cast on for the Circlet Shrug I mentioned in August, and that's been pure pleasure to work on. I'll be going to Rhinebeck this year (my first!), and I would love to be able to wear it there, but with only twenty days left the possibility seems slim...

    I am trying to pull my camera out and take pictures throughout my days. When I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed or a bit listless, I grab my bag and go for a long walk around my new neighborhood. I love the tree-lined streets and the unique architecture here, so just like in Norway, a good long walk is a great way to calm my mind or lift my spirits.

    I thought I'd share a few photos of the past few weeks - from my walks, working on my knitting projects, and welcoming the first rainstorm since our arrival. I think October is going to be a good month.

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  • a new chapter

    In my last post I mentioned that my husband and I were preparing for packing up and leaving Norway, but I didn't say where we were headed. After a couple of weeks of travel, we landed in our new home of Montreal (!) a week and a half ago, and already I don't know where that time has gone. Moving is so full of seemingly unending lists of practical/tedious/annoying/difficult tasks that need to be accomplished, and we've been working away at as much of that as we can. But so far, September has been on the whole a good month. And we are very happy to be in Montreal.

    We left Tromsø the last day of August and woke up on the first of this month in Helsinki, a city that neither of us had ever visited before. We were positively charmed and I definitely want to make it back to Finland someday to spend more time there. 

    After three nights in Helsinki, we were off to Crete for what was essentially the first of two "work trips" (I was presenting at a couple academic conferences). Crete was hot and sunny, but after the northern Norwegian summer, we were both pretty happy to be able to enjoy some proper summer weather. Three nights on Crete was followed by three nights on Mallorca for the second conference. 

    And then, finally, Montreal. We are setting up a new home in a light-filled space in the city, and very soon we will begin finding our new routines and our new favorite places. Already I've enjoyed simply walking the streets of my new neighborhood, choosing different routes to and from various errands in order to explore as much new ground as I can. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and going new places and getting to know this incredibly unique city better. Soon we'll have internet up and running at home and I hope then I'll be blogging again more regularly! Until then, you can find me going for long walks as I explore my new city.

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  • in the pipeline, august 2017

    I've just returned to Tromsø after about three weeks away, visiting friends and family in North America, but things aren't going to slow down any time soon; in the next three weeks we are packing up our place as we prepare to leave Norway by the end of the month (my degree is well and truly finished, and we're moving on to what's next for us... but more on that at a later date), followed by some travel for academic conferences, and then hopefully moving on to our new home and starting to get settled there. In the meantime, I'm daydreaming of garments.

    Tromsø's summer hasn't been much of a summer this year, as far as I can tell. Beyond a few spectacularly warm and beautiful days here and there, I think it's been largely wet and chilly. Spending time in North American summer for three weeks was a little bit of a shock - I think I managed to be in Seattle for the hottest week of the year there - and I'd forgotten how much really hot weather makes me positively pine for autumn. So, garments...

    I'm determined to get my Garland off the needles before I cast on any new garments (not to mention I'm still working on deadline knits, one of which is a sweater), but I'm on the second sleeve of Garland now and it feels like the end is near! So here's a glimpse at the next several garments I'm planning to cast on, all of which I already have the yarn for.

    First up is the Mount Pleasant tee by Megan Nodecker of Pip & Pin. I've been fairly obsessed with this tee since I first caught sight of it on Ravelry, when it was still in the testing stages. I've got two skeins of a special yarn set aside for this one: a merino singles base from Garnsurr, which is a small, new indie hand dying company here in Norway that's also a refugee integration project (you can read more about Garnsurr on their website in English - and if you're in the NYC, Do Ewe Knit in Westfield, NJ is stocking their yarns!). This is a project I'm so pleased to support, and this blue is going to be pretty gorgeous knit up. I think I'll probably cast on this one first once I've finished Garland. Incidentally, Megan has also started a video podcast on YouTube, so if you're into knitting podcasts, you should check it out!

    Next up is the Ingen Dikkedarer Genser, or the No Frills Sweater as it's known in English, by PetiteKnit (the pattern is available in Norwegian, English, Danish, and Swedish). This is a super simple fingering/sport weight sweater (one strand fingering held together with one strand lace mohair), and I found myself craving something just like this to wear during our lingering winter this year, especially around April/May. Warm and cozy, but lightweight and easy to wear. This one's exciting because I'm going to use the Berroco Ultra Alpaca Fine that I frogged during last year's Slow Fashion October, and it's good to find a new purpose for that yarn. I'm planning to hold it together with Pickles Silk Mohair in a similar dark grey, which I picked up in Oslo in May. 

    Third up is a very special combination: Norah Gaughan's Circlet Shrug from issue 3 of Making, knit up in an unusual-for-me shade of Hillesvåg Tinde, their sport/DK pelsull yarn (swoon - pelsull is the same fiber my Dalur is knit in; this is just a different weight). Looking at my existing sweater shelf, my affinity for blue, green, and especially grey comes through loud and clear, so between my pink Garland and this deep golden yellow shade, 2017 is turning into the year of getting out of my color comfort zone. It felt a bit crazy to buy this yarn, and when I got home the first thing I did was photograph it against my face to make sure I hadn't made a huge mistake. And while this color still makes me feel like a slightly skittish cat when I look at the pile of skeins on their own, the photo helps me feel more confident in this decision. It's a color I always find myself drawn to in autumn, so I'm willing to try it out in my wardrobe. 

    This was another pattern I fell in love with immediately the first time I saw it (it's easy to obsess over those cables), and I hope this yarn will work out for it. The Tinde is a woolen-spun 2-ply in structure, so it's not going to have the same amazing stitch definition as Brooklyn Tweed Arbor (which the sample was knit in), and the natural heathering of the yarn runs the risk of obscuring the cables further (although that natural depth, caused by the undyed grey shade of the yarn, is one of my favorite things about Hillesvåg's pelsull yarns). So it'll require a big and proper swatch to make sure I'm happy with the fabric before I move forward with it. And if it doesn't work out, I'll be happy to use this yarn for something else - it's a yarn I won't really be able to get easily once we leave Norway, so I wanted to scoop it up before we go, as a kind of souvenir of my two years here. 

    --

    Are you thinking about fall yet, or does it feel too early to you? What kinds of things are you thinking of casting on in the near future?

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  • norwegian wool: selbu spinneri

    The Norwegian Wool series returns with another of Norway's microspinneries, the fantastic Selbu Spinneri. One of two micro mills in Norway, it's a small operation that's only been spinning since 2011 (I believe there are just the two, the other being Telespinn, but if you know of any others please do let me know!). If the name sounds familiar to you, the Selbu is the same one you find in Selbuvotter, or Selbu mittens, the name for the iconic black and white Norwegian mittens (you may be familiar with Terri Shea's book, or the more recent the gorgeous and massive book by Anne Bårdsgård still only available in Norewgian as far as I know). Selbu is located near the city of Trondheim, in the middle of Norway's north-south span. The yarn made by Selbu Spinneri is special and Norwegian specific, with a focus on rare and endangered breeds. I made my first purchase from Selbu Spinneri earlier this year, back in the winter, and I opted to try three different yarns made from three different sheep breeds, pictured above. All three are very different - different weights, different textures that handle differently, and different colors - but they're all undyed yarns. This package was definitely a treat to open.

    The creamy off-white skein with a thick and thin texture is their 2-ply yarn made from wool from the gammel norsk sau, the Old Norwegian sheep, also called villsau ("wild sheep") by some, though it is a domestic breed. It's rustic and lofty, with some darker hairs mixed in with the cream, and it was the first skein I cracked into. It's a primitive heritage breed, with an outer fleece and a finer inner coat, like other northern European heritage breeds, and this yarn is spun from both layers, making it both robust and soft. It seemed to be about an aran weight to me, and I worked it up into a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig. A very, very cozy Simple Hat. The finished fabric gives you a good sense of the varying thickness of this yarn, but you also get a sense of the halo it has after it was blocked. The Simple Hat is such a fantastic blank canvas pattern to get a feel for any yarn, thanks to the fact that it's written for a huge range of yarn weights.


    The light grey yarn in the middle is a 2-ply yarn made from spælsau wool. It looks to be about a sport weight to me, and like all spælsau yarns it's pretty dense and wiry. It's smoother with more of a sheen than the other two yarns I purchased, and I have a pretty good sense of how this yarn will work up since I've worked with spælsau yarns before.

    I'm not sure I'll knit with this one, actually - I think it would make a sturdy crochet fabric and I'm tempted to try using it for a small crochet basket or something like that. It'd also be great and durable for weaving, but as I'm not much of a weaver, crochet seems most likely.

    The final skein, the lovely heathered dark grey one, is spun with wool from a breed I have yet to work with, the trøndersau, or Troender sheep.

    The region where Selbu is located is called Trøndelag, making this breed its eponymous sheep (trønder + sau). The trøndersau is extremely rare, with a very small number of animals existing. I'm really looking forward to trying this yarn, too - it's a 3-ply, both rounder and a little bit more uniform than the other two yarns, and I'd guess it's a DK or worsted weight. I love natural grey yarns and this is a beautiful one. It's more textured than the other two yarns, with less gloss and more of a matte look. I expect good depth and stitch definition, so I might use it for something cabled.

    Being a small operation with only a handful of employees, Selbu Spinneri's online shop is definitely aimed at a domesetic market, and their invoicing and shipping methods don't really lend themselves to international shipping, so I don't think you can get these yarns outside of Norway UPDATE: I've been in touch with Selbu Spinneri and they are happy to accommodate international orders - simply get in touch with them at post@selbuspinneri.no if you're interested and they'll help you figure it out. I do know, however, that hand-dyer Laila of Værbitt Garn uses some yarns from Selbu Spinneri as her bases, so you can always get in touch with her or check her Etsy shop to see if you can find any of Selbu Spinneri's rare breed yarns (in Laila's gorgeous colors!). 

    Previous posts in this series can be found here:

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  • oslo strikkefestival 2017: saltstraumen

    It's ended up being a busy summer and I'm a little behind on sharing new work, but I have an exciting pattern to share today! I was fortunate to be asked again this year to contribute a pattern to the magazine for the Oslo Knitting Festival, and I was so happy to say yes. This year I designed a hat called Saltstraumen, and it's a little bit of a love letter to northern Norway.

    Saltstraumen is a maelstrom located in the county of Nordland (and I actually got to visit it last fall during our road trip around Nordland, blogged here). It's a spectacular place with one of the strongest tidal currents in the world, where the water rushing through the bottleneck during the changing of tides creates whirlpools and white water dancing in circles. I adapted a cable motif from Norah Gaughan's excellent Knitted Cable Sourcebook to mimic the swirling of the water across this hat, which is knit in beautiful indigo-dyed yarn from Lofoten Wool. Lofoten Wool, as you may remember from my Norwegian Wool post on the company, is also located in Nordland, and water obviously plays a huge role in the lives of the people throughout the Lofoten archipelago. I love the deep connection between the motif inspired by water, the deep blue of the indigo dye, and the wool from Røst, one of the islands of Lofoten furthest from the mainland - it's not every day so many elemnts come together in a design like that.

    Saltstraumen is knit up in Lofoten Wool's Røst Collection 2-ply (look for "2 trådet" in their online shop) in the Brådjupt colorway. If substituting yarn, a woolen-spun sportweight would be ideal. The pattern is available in the Oslo Knitting Festival Magazine, alongside a pattern by Julie Knits In Paris (pictured above along with the Saltstraumen hat) and one by Anna Maltz. I believe the magazine is print-only, not digital, but if you have questions about that I'd suggest getting in touch with the festival organizers or perhaps asking in the new Ravelry group for the festival.

    As a side note, I'm planning to make my pattern for last year's magazine, the Rosenhoff mittens, available for individual purchase this fall. I'll be sure to let you know when they're available!

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  • FO: norwegian wool dalur

    I finally had a chance to get some photos of my finished Dalur this week. I mentioned in this post that I'd finished it, but that this post would have to wait until after my thesis was in - and here it is! This has been a really special project for me, so giving it a proper FO post feels important, and I want to share some of the details with you all.

    I'm pretty pleased with the photos I finally got of this sweater, which I took last night around 11 PM while I was out for my daily walk - and yes, you read that time right (thanks, midnight sun!). If you're sitting in summer-like temps as you read this, I apologize if the photos make you break out in a sweat, but I was actually more bundled up for the walk. I removed my jacket, scarf, hat, and fingerless gloves to take these photos, as it was about 3°C / 38°F when I was shooting. Nonetheless, I hope you like the photos too, and I hope they give you a sense of how this sweater fits seamlessly into my current landscape and northern climate.

    I first shared my plans for making this sweater back in March, at the beginning of Tolt Icelandic Wool Month. The grey yarn used in this sweater was originally slated for a different project last year, but it wasn't the right yarn or the right pattern for the recipient, really, so it went on the back burner until I could figure out what to do with it. While the pattern is Icelandic (from Knitting with Icelandic Wool), the yarn is not. I used all Norwegian wool for this particular sweater, and I can't sing its praises enough. The charcoal and the grey are both Hifa Blåne, whose fiber comes from the pelssau, or literally "fur sheep," a breed that resulted from crossing Gotland with the old Norwegian spælsau, both northern heritage breeds. I have mentioned in the past that Blåne reminds me a little bit of Álafoss Lopi, although it's not an exact match. Blåne is made up of two distinct plies, while the structure of Lopi more closely resembles a single ply yarn. Both yarns are "hairy," but I'd call Blåne better behaved, if that makes any sense - the hairy fibers are less unruly than they are with Lopi. In some of the closer shots you may be able to see the slight halo that results when Blåne is knitted into a fabric. 

    The grey used in the sweater is the natural undyed color of the Blåne, which doubles as the base for the dyed shades. This meant I needed a different yarn for my white contrast, and I opted for Hifa Troll, a bulky weight from the same company with the same structure as Blåne, but I believe Troll made from wool from the norsk kvit sau (the hybrid Norwegian white sheep, which is very common in Norway). I went for the bleached white because I wanted a high contrast between the different colors in the stranded sections.

    I wrote a little bit about making this sweater on Instagram when I first finished it. The pattern is a relatively straightforward bottom-up seamless circular yoked pullover. The biggest modification I made was that I added short rows to the back of the sweater before beginning the yoke for a better fit around the neck (there are no short rows in the pattern as written). I also added length to the body and the sleeves, although I went a bit overboard with the body, because I underestimated my yoke depth (I deliberately used a slightly larger gauge because I liked the feel of the finished fabric). My quick fix was to take scissors to my fully finished and blocked sweater - I cut the body apart at a point where I had joined a new ball of yarn, frogged about 2" of length, put top and bottom halves of the body back on needles, and then grafted it back together using Kitchener stitch. Full disclosure: I honestly really enjoy Kitchener stitch, so this process was a no brainer to get the finished length I wanted. I'm really happy with the length of the body now, but I kept the extra-long sleeves. (I'm six feet tall and wear a small or medium on top, so ready-to-wear sleeves are never, ever long enough for me. These super long ones are like a special luxury.) The final modification I made was to do a tubular cast on for the body and sleeves, and a tubular bind off at the neck. 

    A heads up to any of you who may want to make Dalur for yourself: some (though not all) of the colorwork rounds involve carrying three yarns at once, so I wouldn't recommend it to total newbies of colorwork. If you struggle to work with more than two yarns at once in colorwork, you may find a stranding guide like this one a useful tool to help keep your yarns separated.

    I'm SO pleased with how this yoke turned out, and so happy to finally share it with you all. It's gotten a lot of wear in the past month and I think I'll probably be able to continue wearing it in the evenings through the summer. If you're interested in more details (like the exact amounts of yarn I used), you can find my Ravelry project page for Dalur here.

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  • hello, june

    In my last post I mentioned that I was going to Oslo for the weekend, and that turned out to be a very good idea - after a weekend of summer-like temps and sunshine in Oslo, it was snowing in Tromsø when I arrived home late Monday night. "Velkommen til vinteren," said my cab driver as I got into a taxi a the airport (that's "welcome to winter"). It's been above freezing, so the snow didn't really stick around, but the higher altitudes on the island turned white again for a little while. I posted a video of the snow on Instagram from the university campus, which was reposted by the CNN account this morning (it's a bit surreal to see that something you filmed on your iPhone has over 100,000 views).

    In any case, Tromsø is still distinctly un-summery and I'm even feeling a little bit under the weather today, so I thought it would be nice to revisit some of the photos I took over the weekend (which was absolutely jam-packed with buddies and lots of time spent outdoors in the beautiful weather). Katie, who started the Oslo Strikkefestival, was telling me that May is her favorite month in Oslo, and it's easy to see why. The whole city feels like it's in full bloom, and the new green leaves feel positively lush. 

    These photos were taken in Slottsparken (or Palace Park), the public park that surrounds the royal palace, but we visited several parks over the course of the weekend, including Frognerparken (always a favorite) as well as one I knew of but had never been to, Ekebergparken, which sits up on a hill east of central Oslo and features some truly beautiful views over the city and the Oslofjord (and it's also a sculpture park). Even though I've spent a summer in Oslo before, I didn't arrive until mid-June, so I never realized how many lilacs there were all across the city! The smell as you stroll around is simply divine. Up north the lilacs bloom much later - and spring/summer up here is even later this year than normal.

    I'm so incredibly grateful to have had such a beautiful weekend, and I'm feeling pretty spoiled by it all. Oslo truly is one of my favorite cities.

    I've also continued to have lighter-weight spring and summer knitting projects on the brain, and I've made headway with my two laceweight projects. I made some progress on my Loess wrap (aka my "sommarøya wrap") while in Oslo, and I've been focused on my Garland pullover since I got home. I finished the main body, so you can finally see the garment starting to take shape, and I've started the first sleeve. This welthase yak lace is such a pleasure to work with.

    The slightly desaturated pink of the yarn goes quite nicely with all the photos of blossoms, don't you think? Now, if only we had some blossoms of our own in Tromsø...

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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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