• snow days

    It's been snowing off and on since Tuesday; at first just a dusting, but now, in droves. There's a substantial amount blanketing the ground outside; cars look like marshmallows. Since our first snow several weeks ago, I've been patiently waiting for its return (as a native North Carolinian, snow will always be pretty magical to me).

    The timing is good, because snow makes the dark season immensely more cheerful. And today, the dark season, mørketida, officially begins. November 21st marks the first day of the year in Tromsø when the sun doesn't rise above the mountains in the south. We've said goodbye to the sun until January 21st! The middle hours of the day will be filled with twilight, which means that on a clear day, for a few hours the sky will be filled with the most beautiful colors - an hours-long dramatic sunrise/sunset (for it is both but neither, of course).

    Christmas lights have started going up around town, too. For an American, it can feel like holiday lights before Thanksgiving is too early - but Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Norway, of course, and as the sun disappears, lights around the city are a welcome sight. Tromsø's holiday street lights are absurdly charming: garlands of evergreens strung with soft white lights framing huge red hearts. It's hard not to love the warm glow.

    The city is also preparing its Christmas tree. This tree was brought in by helicopter just a few days ago; next weekend, the lights will be lit in a celebration. It sits in Stortorget ("the big square") in the middle of town. I remember the tree lighting in Debrecen, so I'm looking forward to seeing the lights go on next weekend. With any luck the snow will stick around.

    If it's cold where you are, I hope you're keeping warm! I'll be mostly snuggling up indoors (lovely) working on term papers (less lovely), but I'm also working on that blog post about making modifications for Aspen. It should be up soon!

  • aspen socks & legwarmers: the inspiration

    photo by Kathy Cadigan

    The days seem to be flying by at an alarming rate these days - I can't believe it's already mid-November. But the good news is that means last weekend Tolt Yarn and Wool celebrated their second anniversary with a big party! (A party, I should mention, that I was very sad not to be attending.) In conjunction with the anniversary, Tolt's new book Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool was finally released! Excited cheers all around! As I mentioned earlier this fall, I had the great honor of designing a pattern for this special book alongside some really talented folks, who can be seen in this fantastic photo taken by Anna's husband Greg (if you look closely, you may also spot my face in 2D, thanks to the creative genius of Anna and Lara). This was an incredibly interesting project to work on - they usually are, when Anna's involved - and so I thought it'd be nice to write a little bit about the process of designing my pattern, Aspen.

    When Anna approached me this spring about the book, she asked if I'd be interested in designing a pair of cozy over-the-knee socks (with a legwarmer option) in Tolt's own Snoqualmie Valley Yarn. One of the best things about working with the Tolt team is that Anna often already has a great idea to start with, and instead of building something from scratch, I get to build off of her idea and her vision. I love Tolt and I'd been wanting to work with Snoqualmie Valley Yarn since it had first been released, so saying yes was a no brainer (even though I had an international move on the near horizon). Once I had the yarn in hand, however - all five skeins of it - I realized that I'd signed myself up for a challenge.

    Anna sent over a few mood boards after I'd signed on: one to give a feel for the book as a whole, and one specifically filled with inspiration for my pattern assignment. It was full of beautiful pictures of all kinds of socks and legwarmers, most of which were textured in some way with cables or lace, all in neutral colors. It was beautiful, and I was excited to get working, but... colorwork is my muse. And here I was, with five skeins of undyed creamy white yarn, wondering where on earth to start.

    From the beginning the pattern was going to be written for one size. Because of this, I really wanted to keep things simple, initially. I wanted to. But once I started swatching, I realized my muse had other plans. I did more swatching for this design than I've done for any other pattern I've done, I think. I swatched all sorts of stitch patterns and combinations. I swatched cables - at the beginning I was so sure this design would have cables. The whole process got hung up for a little while during the swatching phase. 

    In the midst of this phase, I realized that tall textured socks made of undyed wool reminded me of something very specific - bunad strømper. Strømper is the Norwegian word for stockings, and the bunad is the national folk costume (which varies from region to region). The men's bunad typically features knitted stockings tucked into a pair of breeches.

    Bunadstrømper from Vest Agder (image source:

    Bunadstrømper from Gauldal in Sør-Trøndelag (image source:

    While they're not always this off-white color (the stockings for my region are black and white), many of them are, and as I started swatching I couldn't help but think about bunad stockings (which also bear a notable resemblance to Scottish kilt hose, right down to the sock bands tucked into the breeches). I enjoyed perusing this pamphlet from yarnmaker Raumagarn:

    Bunad Strømper og Luer ("Bunad stockings and caps")

    Even before I started filling my brain with Norwegian stockings, the motif I kept coming back to was one of the first I swatched: the eight-pointed star that features on the front of the Aspen pattern.

    photo by Kathy Cadigan

    Given my proclivity for colorwork, it's really not shocking that this is the motif I kept returning to. Using this as the main motif would mean the whole pattern got a little more complicated than I initially planned on, but in the end I realized it was going to be this motif or it was going to be a pattern I wasn't actually that stoked on. So I gave in. And I'm so glad I did!

    After I decided to start with this motif, I was able to choose a secondary motif to wrap around the back of the leg on either side, working in a calf gusset at the very back of the leg where the two secondary motifs met. Knowing that this pattern would only be one size, I designed it with modifications in mind, and I'm putting together a post that will give an overview of some of the ways you can modify the pattern if you find that you need to make changes. Look for that soon!

    photo by Kathy Cadigan

  • autumn days

    If October was "focused" last time I wrote, it got busy. Very busy. The last two weeks of October were my absolute busiest so far, and I'm hoping that the frenzied pace peaked with the two presentations I gave last Friday and I'm on the descent side of the slope now.

    In between and around a bunch of schoolwork and an extra three-day course I took (focused!), I've continued to enjoy life in Tromsø. 

    I made pickles for the first time. I used the light pickling solution from The New Nordic and these were a delight (that's radishes on the left and onions on the right). One of the bonuses of living in Norway is that I can basically find any of the ingredients used in that cookbook. I also made some fancy cookies which I can't show you yet, but more on those later (edit: the piece went live, so now I CAN link you to those fancy cookies!).

    I collected a few short video snippets I've been taking over the last couple of months into one video. It's just snippets, but for the curious, here's a glimpse of autumn in Tromsø:

    Mørketida, which I mentioned in my last post, draws ever nearer (or is already upon us, depending on how you look at it). Daylight Savings Time ended here on October 25th, which very suddenly made the days feel much shorter. The sun set today at 2:30 in the afternoon and it's really not long now before the sun disappears for the winter. One thing that makes the dark easier to cope with, though, is the northern lights that visit us when the weather's clear. I don't get tired of watching them from my living room window. I love how they often look like twisting green flames coming from behind the mountains to the east.

    Another thing that makes it easier to cope is snow. About a week ago we had our first snow in the city. It started snowing on the 26th and by the morning of the 27th there were several inches on the ground. It stuck around for a few days before mostly melting away, but man, it was beautiful. From what I've heard, the snow-melt-snow-melt cycle is pretty common here, but after Christmas the snow is more likely to stick around (and it also starts to get lighter again, so that's when skiing season really begins).

    This city is absolutely charming covered in snow. It's such a treat to see my daily landscape transform so dramatically. The university campus, too, looks a little bit more magical in the snow.

    So between the northern lights, the dramatic skies, and the snow, I think I'm going to get by okay during the dark season. 

  • october

    Hello there! October's been busy. Or maybe "focused" is a better word. My whole time here, since arriving in Tromsø, has been quite focused. I think I'm feeling it more now than I did before because September had me entertaining visiting friends and family for a few weeks, and in August everything still felt so new, and there was so much work to do to start getting settled. But it's been weeks without any of that and I'm beginning to realize just how much my uni program is dominating my attention.

    I've been following along a bit with Slow Fashion October (and the Instagram hashtag #slowfashionoctober) and while it's been really fantastic to see some of the conversations taking place, and I've even started drafting a few blog posts to join in, the truth is that that's just not where my head's at right now, you know? (Though I absolutely encourage you to check it out if you haven't!) For two months I've been intensely focused on school: on so much reading, on trying to make sense of the syntax of Tagalog (not what I expected to be spending so much time on, but grad school is full of surprises), on trying to choose topics for term papers and presentations. I spend more time in the university library than I do in my lectures; it's basically my second home. Add to that the fact that my husband's in a very focused place as well (holed up at the home studio in our flat working on a film score), and that sense of focus is compounded. I think it's turned me a bit antisocial.

    Chris and I were talking this week and I realized that in the nearly three months since I've arrived in Tromsø at the beginning of August, I've left the island of Tromsøya maybe three times? And each of those three times was just across the bridge to the mainland, which is still part of Tromsø, either hiking or taking the cable car up Storsteinen (that mountain on the right in the photo above). Tromsøya's not big: it has an area of 8.8 square miles, or 22.8 square kilometers (for the Pacific Northwesterners, that's roughly the same as Cypress Island, which lies to the southeast of Orcas in the San Juans). I literally haven't left Tromsø in almost three months; my world has been very small. I guess it's no wonder I'm starting to feel a little restless, and October tends to bring on that feeling in me anyway.

    But that doesn't mean I haven't been enjoying myself, though. I think the focused isolation actually suits me pretty well (what that says about me, I'm not entirely sure). There's so much here that I actively appreciate on a regular basis. I love my commute, as weird as that sounds; the bus ride to campus is almost always beautiful and in the changeable weather it's almost always different. The northern lights have been spectacular in the past few weeks (before the rain we've had for the past week started) - I can still hardly believe I can watch the aurora from my apartment windows. With the first storm of autumn a few weeks ago the mountains got their first dusting of snow (which has now mostly been washed or melted away, but it'll be back soon enough).

    The student welfare organization recently held an informational meeting for new international students on how to cope with mørketida - the dark season. With the nonstop rain we've had for the past week, it's feeling closer than ever. Because Tromsø sits so far north, there are two months in winter when the sun doesn't rise above the mountains in the south. We'll say goodbye to the sun on November 21st, but in the meantime the days grow increasingly shorter. And yet I find myself looking forward to the dark season. It's an excuse to cozy up indoors (and it's definitely helping with that academic focus I was talking about - it's harder to be tucked away in the library when it's nice out), to take some time to rest, to light candles and enjoy the quiet. I'll also be getting out of town at the end of the month, finally, for a quick trip. I'm looking forward to that too. 

    More soon, I hope - but for now, it's back to reading.

  • farm to needle: stories of wool

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

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

    Here’s a short blurb from

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

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

  • in the queue: simple knits

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

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

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

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

  • an autumn walk around prestvannet

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

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

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

  • ebba & berit

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • things I'd like to knit

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

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

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

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

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

  • september bits

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

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

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

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

    And speaking of knitting, some pieces of knitting news:

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

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

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