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  • noteworthy: nordic knitting & wool

    I've been collecting some interesting links and resources in the past couple of months related to Norwegian wool and knitting and the Nordic wool scene more broadly - and I thought it'd be nice to share a few of them with you here. 

    First up: I wrote recently about the fantastic Bladet Garn, a new Norwegian (and Norwegian language) knitting mag that I'm super excited about. Another new Nordic magazine has joined the scene as of December, and those of you who aren't Norwegian speakers may have already heard about it, because this one's published in English: Laine Magazine, which is based in Finland (incidentally, "laine" is the French word for wool but apparently means "wave" in Finnish - I would be curious to hear more about the choice of name from the creators). Laine is dark but rich; luxurious and beautiful, like the last rays of sun coming through the trees of a forest in winter. I finally got a copy this week and while both the magazine and the patterns are gorgeous, the "& lifestyle" part of the "knit & lifestyle magazine" might get me the most excited: articles covering topics like a farm in western Finland dedicated to two domestic sheep breeds (pictured above), a feature on Helga Isager, a travel guide to Lisbon with its color and pattern inspiration, an interview with Stephen West, and some seriously delicious-looking recipes (chocolate cake with dried flowers and flaked sea salt, anyone?) - and that's not even covering everything. In a way it's much more like a book than a magazine, justifying the cost, which makes it somewhat of a luxury. But it is the perfect luxury for a long, slow weekend morning and I can't wait to spend some more time with the articles. My favorite patterns from issue one include Piece of Silver by Veera Välimäki and Siv by Heid Alander, but you can check out all of the patterns on Ravelry here. Laine is set to be published twice a year, I believe, and you can keep up with them on Instagram, or find a stockist near you on their website.

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    Simone of Temple of Knit has started a new interview series on her blog called Nordic Makers, with the intent to share conversations with the people and the businesses shaping her "immediate fiber world" - or more specifically, the fiber community that spans the Nordic region (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and to an extent, Greenland). Simone herself is a Dane living in southern Sweden, and her first interview of the series is with Louisa Bond, a Norwegian based in Oslo, whose blog Worn Values is a welcome addition to my daily blog reader. I highly recommend checking out Louisa's blog as well as Simone's, and Simone's introduction post to her Nordic Makers series is a good one to read, too. Louisa's recent posts on three ways to mend your knits and this guide to ethical shoes were both particularly interesting and useful.

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    Husfliden, the Norwegian Folk Art and Craft Association, is putting on a conference about Norwegian wool this April: Ullialt - Konferanse om norsk ull. This one is definitely for Norwegian speakers, and with my thesis work I doubt I'll be able to go (sadly!), but it's taking place April 20-23 in Stjørdal, just outside Trondheim (effectively right next to the Trondheim airport). The description roughly reads: "We invite the whole wool supply chain to come and join in as we build enthusiasm and knowledge about Norwegian wool - in industry, in design, in agriculture and handicrafts. How can Norwegians make better use of our own domestic wool?" It's exactly the sort of thing I get excited about, so I hope this won't be a one-off thing. Hat-tip to Norwegian wool hero Tone Tobiasson for the heads up.

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    These natural grey wool fabrics from Norway Cloth / Varp og Veft are making my heart flutter. The wool comes from Grey Trønder sheep (Grå Trøndersau) and both the yarn and the fabric are produced here in Norway. It's almost enough to make me want to give sewing another proper try... But on a related note, if you want to get a feel for the wool from the Trønder sheep, Selbu Spinneri sells trøndersau yarns (although I don't know what their international shipping policy is). In any case, this particular pattern is my favorite of the fabrics from Norway Cloth. They also sell finished objects made from the fabrics, like cushions.

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    There's more to share, but I'll save that for another day!

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  • best of 2016

    Already we are the better part of a week into the new year, but I've been traveling and I've only just gotten home, so I hope you'll humor me with one or two looks back to 2016 in the coming days. Mostly I just wanted to pop by to say that I have a few blog posts in the pipeline, but in the meantime I decided to take a quick look at which of my blog posts from 2016 was most popular, and I thought you might find that interesting too:

    1. Norwegian wool: Rauma Garn
    2. Project Planning
    3. 42 norske kofter
    4. Norwegian wool: Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk
    5. Slow Fashion October: my first sweater

    I'm pleased there's been interest in the Norwegian wool series, as I'm planning to continue that into this year (and I already know which company I'll be featuring next). Other than Norwegian wool, Norwegian knitting and sweaters are both themes that came out on top - so I expect you'll be pleased once I get some proper photos taken for a post about my finished Sandneskofte, which I'm looking forward to writing. Looking beyond posts from just 2016, all of my support/tutorial posts got a lot of traffic as well, so I'm so pleased to see that those continue to be useful to knitters!

    There's a little bit of crossover with my most popular Instagram posts of 2016, which you can see here if you don't follow me on Instagram. 

    I'll be back very soon with more, but until then, I'm wishing you the happiest of new years for 2017! 

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  • inspiration: miscellany

    It's been awhile since I've done an old-school "inspiration" post, but at the beginning of this darkest week of the year, it's feeling like a good time to revive it. Here are a few things I'm really digging at the moment, as pictured above:

    Row 1: Rauma is selling several different ready-to-wear sweaters at Husfliden at the moment, most of which are recognizeable Norwegian classics like the Fana sweater, Marius, and the Setesdal sweater. I've become quite enamored with the cheery yellow Fana (left), which is a machine knit, as well as the Varde sweater (right), a less well-known pattern - but those greens! To be honest, the photos don't do either of the sweaters justice. If you're in Norway I suggest popping into a Husfliden store to check them out.

    Row 2: today I came across the incredibly detailed embroidery work of Chloe Giordano, whose wee creatures are so lifelike I can hardly believe it. While her original pieces are expensive to own (for good reason), she sells prints and card sets featuring her work as well, which is such a treat. She's on Instagram at @chloegiordano_embroidery.

    Row 3: German indie dyer Welthase has been running a special advent calendar this year with one-off yarns listed for one day only, and the colors have been absolutely slaying me. It's tough to actually nab any of these skeins, but fortunately for us, Miriam has a lot of beautiful non-advent yarns on offer as well (I used Miriam's yarns for my Swedish Pancakes pattern and it's gorgeous stuff). You can follow Miriam (and see all this year's advent calendar yarns) on Instagram at @welthase.

    Row 4: while I'm not sure I could pull it off in my home, these knitting-themed wallpapers from Murals Wallpaper are pretty fun and it's cool to see what types of fabric they feature. My favorite, unsurprisingly, is the stranded colorwork one, pictured on the left. The oversized stockinette, at right, reminds me of my friend Kathleen's big knitted rug

    I hope you have a good week this week, and wherever you are, I hope you have more daylight than I do!

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  • december light

    Today is Luciadagen, or St. Lucy's Day, traditionally a day for celebrating light in the darkness here in Scandinavia. We started our day with an early morning walk up the hill to Elverhøy church for a fairly traditional celebration: one of the university choirs and a youth choir joined up to put on a Lucia procession and concert, lit only by candlelight. One of the girls from the youth choir was dressed as Lucia, with the wreath of candles on her head (those were the only electric candles - the rest were real). Saffron buns (known as lussekatter in Norway) were served. In the age of electricity and artificial light, an experience like that feels like a rare luxury. It was beautiful. (It was also not conducive to phone photos, but you can get a glimpse of what it looked like on my Instagram.)

    It also made it feel like this day is an apt choice to share a few of the photos I've collected in the past week. It's been three weeks since the sun disappeared below the mountains in the south - three weeks of no sunrise or sunset. Three weeks of mørketida. But that does not mean it's always dark. The light that we do have in this season can be so beautiful. It isn't always - we've got a week of rain ahead of us, which will mean dark skies and no snow to brighten up the ground, either. But the past several days have been pretty magic. And as the photo at the top of this post shows, even the grey days can be beautiful in the little bit of daylight that comes.

    I got to take a nice long walk on Saturday during the daylight, and it was such a treat. It was my favorite kind of cotton candy pastel sky. The rest of these photos are from that walk. The world looked like a painting.

    For me, there is so much beauty to be found in the dark season here. Even on the darkest rainy days, I am so grateful to be living here and experiencing this. I hope these photos bring a little light to your day today, too.

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  • bladet garn

    I received a magazine in the mail a couple of weeks ago and I've been wanting to sit down and write about it ever since. It's Bladet Garn, a brand new independent Norwegian knitting mag, and the first issue is absolutely gorgeous. The creators, Solveig Engevold Gaustad (aka Surrehue) and Unni Cathrine Eiken (aka Malsen og Mor), have obviously found a niche that had yet to be filled in the Norwegian market, as they launched the magazine after a very successful Kickstarter campaign. Notably, Unni is a fellow linguist, so we probably have her to thank for the fact that the magazine's logo is rendered in IPA, the international phonetic alphabet. "Garn" is the Norwegian word for "yarn," and due to Norway's diverse collection of regional dialects, the pronuncation of this word can vary from place to place. The pronunciation represented in the logo ([gɔːn]) is how you might expect to hear "garn" said in the Hedmark region of Norway, but the editors note several other pronunciations you might hear in their intro to this issue, and they invite readers to share their own pronunciation on Instagram with the hashtag #jegsiergarn (meaning "I say yarn"). So... a Norwegian-language knitting mag that also happens to be embracing sociolinguistics? It's probably no shocker that I'm a shoe-in for this one. I did record my own pronunciation, and if you didn't already see it on Instagram, you can scroll down to the bottom of this post. But for now, back to the knitting!

    I've been looking forward to this project since I first heard about it, but the moment I really got excited was when they revealed the cover in the days before publication - not only is it gorgous, but it features a shawl designed by Nina of Ninapetrina, my nearest local yarn dyer! It's called Glør and it's knit up in her gorgeous yarn too, of course. The rest of the issue doesn't disappoint, either. There are 14 patterns in total, a mix of garments and accessories for both adults and children. You can view all the patterns on Ravelry here. There's also a nice mix of articles which I'm still working my way through (I've mentioned before that I'm a very slow reader in Norwegian) on a range of topcis, including an essay on knitting from Bjørg Myhre Ims, a designer profile on Elisabeth Steenks, and a segment called "one to follow" profiling a knitter on Instagram (in this issue, @pollywantsanothercracker). It's great reading for someone like me who's still learning my way around the Norwegian knitting community. There's also a tutorial for making your own small weaving loom out of a frame, and an overview of some of the awesome knitting books recently published in Norway. In other words, they've packed a lot of good stuff in here. Here are just a few of my favorite patterns, aside from Nina's on the cover above:

    Clockwise from top left, these are the løvlibolerojakke jente (the girls' version) by Strikkelisa (Elisabeth Steenks), a beautiful cabled vest called Flettevest by Cecilie Oddenes, the adult version of the løvlibolerojakke by Strikkelisa, and some gorgeous mittens knit using two-color twined knitting, called Tvebandvotter, by Lene Tøsti. The twined mittens also have an accompanying article which I'm looking forward to reading.

    Unfortunately for those of you who don't speak Norwegian, this is only a Norwegian-language magazine. But maybe some of you out there who've spent time studying the language or who are interested in deciphering Norwegian knitting patterns might be interested? And for those of you who are in Scandinavia or speak a Scandinavian language, I hope you're as excited as I am to see where this magazine is headed. You can pick up your own copy (or a three-issue subscription) on the Bladet Garn website right here.

    Lastly, as promised, here's my contribution to the #jegsiergarn tag on Instagram. This one's for all of you who have ever wanted to see me awkwardly speak Norwegian on camera. Enjoy!

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  • first snow and FOs

    Things have gotten very busy lately, but I wanted to pop in to say hello and share a few things.

    First up: Pomcast, the podcast of knitting & crochet Pom Pom Quarterly, has a new episode up featuring an interview with me! I a live interview with Lydia at the Oslo Strikkefestival, though the audio unfortunately didn't make it, so Sophie caught up with me via Skype after the fact (we largely covered the same questions, so don't feel too sad if you missed out on the original interview, and don't expect it to be wildly different if you happened to be there!). Still, it was fun to do an interview in a room full of lovely people knitting while we chatted and I enjoyed the novelty of wearing a "Britney Spears microphone," as Lydia called it.

    Secondly: while we're on the topic of the Oslo Strikkefestival, I have a couple of FOs to share that I knit up using yarn I bought at the marketplace! I finished my Lupine shawl, which I wrote about in my last post, and I'm so pleased with how it turned out.

    The pattern is by Cory Ellen Boberg of Indie Knits and the yarn is the gorgeous gradient I picked up from Squirrel's Yarns, which was one of my impulse purchases at the festival (the Pécan Fing base in the color Hématite). If you like gradient yarns, I can't recommend Lisa's gradients enough. The transitions are impossibly smooth and the finished shawl is so pretty to me in its simplicity.

    The other FO is also knit up in one of my marketplace purchases: it's a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig in the spælsau yarn I purchased from Værbitt. This was the first time I've knit with a 100% spælsau yarn, so I wanted to knit something simple that would get a lot of wear and let me really get a feel for the yarn knitted up in a fabric. I also didn't want the pattern to compete with the subtle variation in the colorway.

    I have to say, I love the finished hat. This yarn's a little bit rustic and it feels slightly wiry in the hand - it's very strong - but it's also surprisingly soft considering that, and when washed and blocked it developed a bit of a lovely halo that adds to that soft feel. This hat has gotten a lot of wear already and I think it'll continue to do so.

    Lastly: we've all been impatiently waiting for the snow in Tromsø, as last week we passed the previous record for the date of the first snowfall of the season (that means in recorded memory, it has never been as late as this year: yikes). But finally, on Saturday evening, the snow started falling. It kept coming down through Sunday, when I got to take a walk down to my favorite park. It's nice to revisit the photos, because Tuesday turned suddenly warm again, bringing rain, and the snow started to melt almost immediately. Between the rain clouds and the fact that we bid farewell to the sun last week (it won't rise again until January), it's been very, very dark this week. Hopefully before too long it'll cool down again and the snow will come back, but for now, enjoy these photos from Sunday's walk.

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  • on darkness and light

    I'm going to get a little philosophical today, but I hope you'll bear with me.

    As the days have grown shorter in Tromsø I've realized I'm taking fewer photos. I like shooting in natural light best, so as the availability of natural light becomes smaller and smaller, it's not surprising I reach for my camera less often. But that is only one reason. October moving into November always seems to be one of my busiest times - and the time of year that I am most susceptible to seasonal depression, due to the rapidly changing light and a number of other factors (I wrote about this a few weeks ago on my Instagram, and thank you so much to everyone who responded - I can't say how much I appreciate both your kind words and your open conversation). My seasonal depression is fall-specific, and doesn't usually last throughout the winter. So believe it or not, I feel myself coming out of that depressive low now, just as we're nearing the beginning of mørketida (literally, the dark time, the season in the north when the sun stays below the horizon). In the wake of the U.S. presidential election, there are many people turning to the thought that "the sun will still rise tomorrow" - and here I am, in a place where in a week's time, the sun literally will not rise on Tromsø. Does that sound dark to you? For me, it's not as dark as it sounds. I've been thinking about the best way to try to explain this.

    One of the most common questions I get at this time of year is people wondering what it's like to live somewhere where the sun sets so early in the fall, and then eventually, it doesn't rise or set at all. It's difficult to imagine if you've never experienced it, so here are a few key facts:

    • In Tromsø, where I live, the sun doesn't rise above the mountains in the south between November 21 and January 21.
    • This doesn't mean it's only night and total darkness, however, for the sun spends a few hours in the middle of the day just below the horizon. To imagine what clear days are like, picture several hours of the most beautiful sunset/twilight combination you can imagine. That's your daylight.
    • Once the snow comes, the effect of the darkness is lessened a great deal. The period leading up to Christmas can be the toughest, as the snow tends to come and go (and this year we have yet to have a proper snow), but after Christmas it usually sticks around and accumulates, and January and February are absolutely beautiful. A proper winter wonderland.

    So what is it like to live with? I know Norwegians and foreigners who embrace it and I know Norwegians and foreigners who struggle with it, too. I fall into the former camp - and people are always surprised when I tell them I prefer the polar night to the midnight sun. Everyone is different and there are many factors that influence how we cope with and feel about the dark season. I have always been a night person, often feeling my most creative and productive in the wee hours. That's probably part of it. But I think mindset is another part.

    As I mentioned in my last post on the yarn I brought home from the Oslo Strikkefestival, I wanted to make a Lupine shawl with the lovely greyscale gradient from Squirrel's Yarns. I cast on last week after the election news, and the repetitive bands of lace and garter stitch have been my constant companions in an incredibly emotionally trying time. And this gradient yarn, with its slow, smooth transitions, is exactly as beautiful as I hoped it would be. But that's not what I want to talk about, though - I want to go in a more metaphorical direction. 

    I could've started at either end of the ball when I cast on for this shawl, but I like a center pull ball, and I decided to start from the center - the lightest end of the gradient. The fact that this means I've spent the last week literally knitting in the direction of the darkness is not lost on me. It has crossed my mind on more than one occasion. I could continue that line of thought - the further I knit, the longer the rows get, and the slower my progress feels, etc. I could see it as a slog. (Fortunately, I don't.) And here's the thing - this is where perspective comes in. There's a Fast Company article that made the rounds last year called "The Norwegian Secret to Enjoying a Long Winter," and spoiler alert: it's all about your mindset.

    From where I sit as I knit the shawl, this is my vantage point. I am situated at the dark end, watching the gradient fade back into the light. While I may literally be looking at where I came from, this vantage point allows me to remember that the darkness can - and does - give way to the light again. Our whole world functions in cycles. The planet rotates and orbits the sun, the winter we are heading into will give way to spring and summer, and the daylight will come back. The darkness is an important part of that cycle - and in the case of my shawl, the darker the yarn color gets, the easier it is to see the sparkle of the silver stellina spun into the yarn. Much like we cannot see the stars or the northern lights when the sky is overwhelmed by the light of the sun.

    I read a book a few years ago - while in Norway for the new year, aptly enough - that really changed my relationship with nighttime and darkness. It's by Paul Bogard and it's called The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artifical Light. It was a game changer for me, and a book I would recommend to anyone and everyone. I'd never thought about the importance of darkness in the balance of life this way before, since as humans we tend to fear the darkness, which can represent danger and the unknown. But this book helped me start to embrace the dark and it changed the way I think about certain types of light. I don't think I would enjoy mørketida as much without having read it. 

    I also want to say that while there are many situations where I think the cycle of light and dark is important, I would not extend that so far as to say that the darkness of the current political situation is a necessary part of any such cycle - I think there is a cycle of dark and light there, but the degree of darkness we have reached goes far beyond any natural cycle. Racism, misogyny, bigotry, and hate should have no place in our society, let alone in the White House (or any of the governments in which xenophobic nationalist movements are gaining ground). But in the midst of this darkness there are bright points of light emerging, and I would encourage you to seek those out. And as I sit and knit my shawl, I will remember that the darkness can - and does - give way to the light again. And in the coming days I'll be thinking very hard about concrete ways that I can step up and be a part of that movement.

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  • oslo strikkefestival: yarn

    I have a few posts-in-progress lined up for the blog once I have a chance to finish them, but as school has intensified this term, and the US election season approached its climax in the past weeks, it's been a bit of a struggle to get anything finished. And today, after having woken up to the results at six in the morning yesterday, I'll admit I'm feeling at a bit of a loss. This week is tough for many of us, American or otherwise.

    But in an attempt to turn toward the positive: I spent this past weekend at the Oslo Strikkefestival (for whom I designed my Rosenhoff Votter), in the company of a collection of absolutely incredible people. I'd love to share more about the experience soon - the fantastic organizers Katie and Tone, the workshops and the marketplace and the general atmosphere, meeting so many people in person who I've interacted with online. It was truly wonderful. But right now what I really need is a couple of mental health days before I dive headfirst back into my thesis work. So I thought for now I'd just share what I picked up from the marketplace - which, after reading the vendor list in advance, I was greatly anticipating.

    You all know I'm working to buy less yarn and knit from my existing stash whenever possible, but I've known for months that I was going to make a big exception for Oslo Strikkefestival. Having started the Norwegian wool series on this blog (which I hope to get back to soon!), I'm super interested in exploring new-to-me yarns that are domestically sourced and produced in Norway. I've also lately become interested in the world of Norwegian hand-dyed yarns, as many of those businesses are only just getting started. The marketplace at this past weekend's festival was an absolutely fantastic place to check out a large sample of Norwegian-made and/or Norwegian-dyed yarns in person all at once. And so I came home with a few things... and you can see from the photo at the top of this post that I didn't stray from my typical color palette too far. There are worse things than being predictable, though, I suppose.

    I've written about how much I love Hillesvåg and their pelsull yarn on this blog before, so I was very happy to pick up a skein of a new weight of pelsull. Sølje is a lovely fingering-weight version and it's surprisingly soft. Hillesvåg has kept with their tradition of naming their yarns after things related to Norwegian tradition and folklore, as sølje is also the name for the brooches typically worn with the bunad, the national folk costume. The Hillesvåg booth didn't have a lot of this yarn left by the time I made my way over to pick some up, but I snagged this skein in the color lys rødlig beige, or "light reddish beige." I'm not sure yet what it will be but I'm very curious to see how this weight knits up compared with the sport weight Pelsull and the bulky Blåne.

    Next up is something different, although still in my typical grey: this is the Kid Silk base from Norne Yarns in the Fenrir colorway. Tuva of Norne Yarns was a vendor at last year's festival as well, and her specialty is luxury bases (I didn't asked her specifically about the sources of the bases but I assume they're sourced abroad). The diversity of yarns in the marketplace was one of the most exciting things to me - although I am a huge advocate for Norwegian wools, I think a Norwegian dyer working with luxury bases is an excellent niche to fill and I'm quite looking forward to trying this yarn out. This grey color is called Fenrir after Fenrir the grey, the great wolf from Norse mythology (also the inspiration for the werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter universe). One of my favorite things about Tuva's yarns is the Norse mythology woven through all the names, right down to the brand name itself - Norne - as the Norns are the Norse version of the female Fates who rule the destinies of men (artwork of the Norns spinning the threads of fate at the bottom of Yggdrasil is easy to find). Fans of Norse mythology will recognize many names in Norne's colorways: Yggdrasil, Valkyrie, Freyr, the Mistress of Seidr (which refers to Freyja), Skadi, Ratatosk, and many more. 

    Nina Petrina is probably my most local indie dyer, as Nina is from Troms (my county), just a short drive away from Tromsø over in Storfjord. I recently knit her Nordlyslue (northern lights hat), and I was looking forward to checking out more of her yarns in the marketplace. I was also really happy to meet Nina in person, as she is lovely! Not all of her yarns are domestic Norwegian wool - in fact, she carries some Quince & Co. yarns - but her focus is on organic and fair trade wool and she's very environmentally conscious. I picked up some of her Tynn Bluefaced Leicester (hooray for breed-specific wools!) in this beautiful teal shade that almost perfectly matched one of the stripe colors of my Fringe & Friends KAL sweater, which I was wearing at the time. I'm not sure what I'll use this for yet, but it's going to be beautiful.

    This yarn is one of the ones I'm the most excited about but at this point I can give you the least specifics. It's from the indie dyer I was perhaps the most eager to see: Værbitt. The name literally means "weather-bitten," and it's a word that I as a foreigner associate most strongly with the Norwegian national anthem, as it appears in the third line of the first verse (the only verse I know by heart). I had a lovely chat with Laila, the owner (and I probably gushed a bit), because Laila uses mainly Norwegian-sourced wools and Nordic breeds for her bases. The yarn above is spun from spælsau wool, both the sturdy guard hair layer as well as the softer inner layer of wool, so it's very sturdy even as a single-ply, and absolutely beautiful. I'm very excited to follow Værbitt's work in the future.

    All four of the above yarns were ones I planned to check out and I was expecting to come home with - but of course, there were a couple of curve balls, too. They came home with me because these are the yarns I actually have concrete plans for, unlike the ones above.

    Claire of We Love Knitting traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia to be a vendor at the marketplace, and she is honestly and without exagerration probably the sweetest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I came home with a skein of her Merino Fingering in the Icicle colorway (at bottom) and her Sock base in a beautiful grey (top). These will become a pair of Lumineux socks, from this year's Knitworthy collection from Ysolda. Thankfully I can always use more handknit socks here.

    And last but definitely not least, I think I'm actually incapable of resisting a beautiful greyscale gradient. This one came from Squirrel's Yarns, another one of the international vendors - Lisa is based in France and her gradients were one of the first things that caught my eye at the marketplace. This one is in her Pécan Fingering base, which has a bit of silver stellina in the yarn that gives it a lovely sparkle (which unfortunately doesn't seem to photograph very well in my low winter light). I'm pretty sure this is going to become a Lupine shawl, a pattern by my friend Cory I've been wanting to knit for a long time. I actually had another stash yarn set aside for that, but this one feels like an even better fit.

    Thanks again to Katie and Tone and everyone else who made Oslo Strikkefestival so fantastic this year. It was a bright spot in the midst of a dark time.

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  • FO: fringe and friends top-down knitalong

    This past week's Slow Fashion October theme is HANDMADE, and for whatever reason I'm not finding myself in the right headspace to write about it. Maybe it's because I feel like my style is in flux at the moment - I wrote about how moving to northern Norway and breaking my shoulder in March have both had an effect on my wardrobe. I make clothes by hand because at this point, I don't know how to not make things by hand. There is an element of habit and compulsion that I'm in the process of reflecting on. So I'm still working on how to acquire new materials thoughtfully and with purpose; meditating on how to avoid buying too much, or things I don't need. And while my stash doesn't feel like a burden the way it did two years ago, there's still a lot of it. 

    So I suppose when it comes to handmade, my priorities are a work in progress. Karen also brought attention to the handmade vs. homemade distinction, which I think is really interesting. For me, sometimes handmade is homemade (by me), but I'm also perfectly willing to invest in handmade clothes made by someone else for commercial production. I love small batch producers of ethical clothing. And since my forays back into sewing in the past few years have left me feeling a little frustrated (and I also no longer own a sewing machine), clothing handmade by small brands has real value to me. I am much less prone to excess when I'm spending a lot of money on a Jennifer Glasgow dress or a Curator top (or even a home-sewn dress from a vintage boutique). I'm forced to really think about how that piece will fit into my existing wardrobe or whether I'm buying a second version of something I already own, in a way that doesn't always happen when I'm casting on for a new project. I find that a useful exercise. But all this starts pushing into next week's topic, which is known origins, so let's get back to handmade for the moment...

    I already wrote that I jumped in on this year's Fringe and Friends KAL almost on impulse after getting an idea for a stripe sequence that would use a buch of stash yarn. Just over two weeks ago I finally finished weaving in all the stripey ends and got that sweater blocked and seamed, and I'm so pleased with it that it's hard not to just wear it every day.

    So here's my Improv (I used Karen's top-down tutorial on the Fringe blog). It's really interesting to write about this sweater this week, with this handmade theme for Slow Fashion October. Part of why I went ahead and cast on for this sweater when I had planned to stick to WIPs was because it was something that could be made entirely with stash yarn - I mean, how many of us have stashes full of single skeins (or perhaps pairs of skeins) of yarns we fell in love with and bought without a plan? Most of us don't have sweater quantities of single yarns in one color sitting around in our stashes. So a sweater entirely from stash - that felt like an exciting challenge. And sometimes the best time to jump in and start something is when you feel that spark. So I did! (And for the record, I've been doing pretty well at not casting on new things and working my way through those WIPs, so I'm giving myself a little pat on the back.)

    I've written before that the idea for the stripe sequence was able to emerge in my head largely because I've started cataloguing stash on Ravelry - I'd handled these yarns in the recent past, I'd weighed them to note the amounts I had, and I'd photographed them. I'd also noticed that some of the colors went really well together. So once I got the idea, I was able to determine pretty quickly that I had more than enough yarn for a sweater. Looking at the exact amounts allowed me to finalize the stripe sequence - I had remainders of single skeins of three colors, and I had about two skeins each of two colors. Technically, these were all leftovers from other projects, though in some cases I overbought for the initial projects (or the original plan changed), leaving an unusual amount of yarn leftover.

    These are all worsted weight yarns - three of them are Berroco Ultra Alpaca (in Charcoal Mix, Heathered Olive, and Turqoise Mix), and two are Stonehedge Shepherd's Wool Worsted (in Great Lakes and Blue Spruce). I wasn't too concerned about mixing these bases even though one is a wool/alpaca blend and one is 100% merino, and since the vast majority is the Ultra Alpaca, it really didn't matter in the end. Because I had the largest quantities of the Charcoal Mix and Heathered Olive, I worked stripes of both of those colors between each contrasting stripe. The distinction isn't one you really see from far away, but up close the subtle effect reveals itself and I love what it does for this sweater.

    The finished sweater very closely resembles my original vision. There's some subtle decreasing on the sleeves, but the body has no shaping. The bottom features a split hem. The one compromise I had to make in the end was the neck - when I imagined this sweater initially, I pictured a wide sort of foldover turtleneck (think Birch Bay), which seemed both posh and cozy and felt really inviting. But it became apparent really quickly as I worked my way through the sweater that it was very unlikely I'd have that much charcoal yarn leftover. I spent awhile thinking about whether to simply finish the neckline with the yarn I had or if it would be better to stay faithful to my initial vision and buy an extra skein of the charcoal to make the generous neck happen. (I also asked for your advice on Instagram at that point, and thank you all so much for your helpful feedback!) In the end I decided that I would rather not buy extra yarn - so much more satisfying for it to be entirely stash! - and just see how far the yarn I still had would get me. I also had the realization that practically, a simple open neck would be much more useful in my daily life than an oversized cowl/turtleneck, since I wanted to be able to wear this sweater inside, and I overheat really easily. And now that it's done? I'm really, really happy with the neck of this sweater. It truly does fit seamlessly into my existing wardrobe. And I definitely knocked back my stash a little bit. The photo at the top shows the leftovers of each color - from left to right there's Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Charcoal Mix, Heathered Olive, and Turqoise Mix, and then Shepherd's Wool in Great Lakes and Blue Spruce. 

    While I was knitting this sweater, I had dreams of photographing it in front of the beautiful golden birches, but by the time I got all the ends woven in, I'd kind of missed my window in Tromsø. The closest I got was this progress shot (above) during our trip in Nordland, when I was working my way through sleeve number two. (We'll just have to use our imaginations. But you can see that it would've been great, right?!)

    I learned a lot making this sweater. I learned about finding creative ways to use my stash to supplement my wardrobe. I learned a lot about why you might want to knit a sweater top-down (I'm still a steadfast bottom-up devotee, but now it's easier for me to see which cases might call for top-down). And I learned that my original vision may not always be the best fit for my wardrobe, and that taking time to reflect on that will probably help me knit pieces that become staples (and don't get frogged down the road). You can check out my Ravelry project page here, and I highly recommend taking a spin through the whole #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed to see everyone's beautiful sweaters. They are all so different and all so special - thanks to everyone else for sharing along the way!

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  • slow fashion october: my first sweater

    This week's topic for Slow Fashion October is LONG WORN. It's an interesting one and there are a lot of different ways to approach this topic, particularly when it comes to shopping second-hand or thrifting. And I do have a handful of vintage or second-hand pieces that I might decide to write about, but my wardrobe has been in a nearly constant state of flux for the past few years, as I moved in with a partner and got married (and started sharing closets and dressers for the first time in my life) and also saw a natural evolution in my style and how I use it to express my identity. I'm hoping that's starting to even out a little bit and I'll be seeing a slightly more stable wardrobe, with less pieces moving in or out, but because of all of that I thought it would make sense to write about one piece that I'm very unlikely to get rid of: the first sweater I ever knit. 

    Truth be told, I came very, very close to letting this one go last Christmas in the midst of a clothing purge. It was my husband who talked be out of it, actually. "Firsts are important," he told me, and he was right (he still has his first guitar). Ten months on, I'm really glad I kept it. I was kind of shocked to realize exactly how long I've had it, once I started thinking about it; I made this sweater in 2007, which means it was nine years old this summer.

    Ten years ago my relationship with knitting was very different, unsurprisingly. I learned to knit as a kid but it didn't totally catch on for me until around 2005/2006, when suddenly there were new, hip knitting books being published (it was the age of Stitch 'n Bitch), I was regularly reading Bust Magazine, and there was a crafty community emerging online - I eagerly anticipated each new issue of Knitty (still going strong!) and I remember taking part in the Craftster forums. I had yet to discover local yarn stores and was still using lots of acrylic or acrylic-blend yarns from big-box craft stores and prior to this sweater I'd really only knit scarves. Lots and lots of ribbed scarves. I hadn't even tried out knitting a hat yet (I was afraid of knitting in the round for a long time). I'd received a copy of Stitch 'n Bitch from my mom for Christmas at some point and eventually decided I wanted to make the Big Sack Sweater by Jenna Wilson, which looked cozy and inviting.

    Since it was nearly a decade ago I remember very little of the decision-making process or how long it took me to knit the thing (I'm pretty sure it was months, though). What I do remember is that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The Big Sack Sweater calls for bulky yarn, but I picked out a worsted weight 100% acyrlic at the craft store. I definitely didn't swatch, so it seems like a miracle that I ended up with something that basically fits. The sweater's other flaws are easy to point out: I didn't know I should track my rows for the sleeves in order to make them the same, so I "estimated" (one sleeve is two inches longer than the other). There's an accidental m1 increase right in the front of the sweater. My picked-up stitches for the neckline are a mess. The sweater is worked flat in pieces and then seamed, and my seams are maybe the sloppiest I've ever seen. I didn't weave in the ends for years, literal years. But in spite of all of that, I was very proud and I loved this thing. And even though I would make very, very different decisions if I were knitting this sweater today (particularly with regard to yarn), I still love this thing and I do still wear it sometimes, even here in Tromsø, even though I have lots of handmade wool jumpers to choose from. I no longer have the second or third sweaters I made, but nine years on, I recognize the importance of this first for me, and it seems unlikely to leave my wardrobe for good, even if it falls out of regular rotation sometimes.

    More on the "long-worn" topic later, perhaps. For now, I'm happy that this is one of the pieces that's been in my wardrobe for the longest.

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