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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • reading, thinking: seawomen of iceland

    The Sun Voyager, photographed in 2012 in Reykjavík

    Jess's Swatch of the Month post over on the Fringe blog today got me thinking about a book I read a few months ago. Her swatch this month is in Icelandic wool, the Lopi we all know and love, and her post includes a really fantastic short history of Iceland. Several lines caught my attention, among them the following:

    "I’m telling you this not because it’s related to knitting, but because it’s central to understanding who Icelanders are."

    I'm someone who's been interested in Iceland for awhile. I fell in love with Iceland through music first, listening to a lot of Sigur Rós and Múm when I was in high school (Múm's Finally We Are No One is still my desert island record after a decade and a half of listening to it). Later in college, when I started knitting more than just scarves, I began to get interested in Iceland's knitting as well (the 2007 Sigur Rós film Heima helped - it documents a series of free outdoor concerts they gave in Iceland and it feels like every third person in the film is wearing a lopapeysa). I'm lucky to have been to Iceland several times now and I've done a lot of reading about Iceland's history, its language (which I've studied), and its literary tradition. I completely agree with Jess that this kind of knowledge lends a much deeper understanding of why the Icelandic sheep are the way they are, why the wool is so practical and useful and holds a place of such importance, and how much more beautiful its place in society is because of all of that.

    Following that line of thought: I recently read a book that increased my depth of knowledge about Iceland in a very different way. This is not a book about knitting. But this book taught me so much more about Iceland's history and Iceland's spirit than I knew before I read it. 

    Jess's post features a quote from Árni Árnason on the lopapeysa: "It resembles the country’s rugged nature and reminds us of the history of farming and fishing when it provided its wearer with a vital shield from the disastrous weather one can encounter in the wild." Farming and fishing. Sheep, of course, are a vital part of Iceland's farming history, but I'd never spent much time thinking about Iceland's fishing industry beyond harðfiskur or fish leather, particularly given the challenges presented by the harsh climate. So I was very intrigued when I came across Seawomen of Iceland by Margaret Willson, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Washington who once worked on fishing boats herself (hat tip to Seattle's Nordic Heritage Museum, which is how I found out about the book).

    I appreciate this book so much for the glimpse it provides into the history of women in Iceland's fishing industry (which it seems is often overlooked even by Icelanders themselves), but also for its recognition of how dramatically Iceland's industry and cultural landscape has changed in the previous decades. The mass migration of people from the rural countryside to the city is staggering to think about when considering the ripple effect on the towns that get left behind. So while it's not a book about knitting, those of you interested in Iceland might find something to interest you here. It's available on Amazon or directly from the UW Press.

    Even if the book isn't for you, I do hope you'll enjoy this poem by seawoman Björg Einarsdóttir which is featured in the book, translated with great care by Margaret and her friend Ágústa:

    Thanks to Jess for such a wonderful post today over on Fringe and thank you to Margaret for such an incredible work of research.

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  • norwegian wool: telespinn

    I still have some larger yarn companies to cover in this series on Norwegian wool, but I'm jumping to a smaller company this week to tell you about one of my favorite Norwegian yarn companies: Telespinn (click "in English" at the top of their homepage if you don't speak Norwegian). I first encountered their yarn two years ago when I visited the Folkemuseum in Oslo, and I'm so happy to write a bit more about them. 

    Located in Telemark, Telespinn has their own microspinnery as well as their own sheep and Angora goats, which makes their yarn a pretty incredible farm-to-needle experience. This also means the core of their yarn content is actually mohair (from the Angora goats), but all of their made-in-house mohair yarns are blended with wool. Unlike what many of us think of when we hear the words "mohair yarn," this isn't brushed mohair, so the resulting yarn is much more smooth than fuzzy (though it does have a nice halo). The mohair/wool blends also have an incredible lustre, as the mohair fibers are relatively shiny. I'm particularly drawn to the candy-bright colors their yarns come in, and the light grey in the photo above legitimately looks and feels like mithril (in other words, I think this yarn is pretty magic). 

    Telespinn's magnificent Angora goats (photo used with kind permission from Telespinn)

    While the yarn is fantastic, one of the things I love the most about this company is their story. Yarn was just the eventual by-product of founder Bjørg Minnesjord Solheim's decision to keep mohair goats as a way of preserving the cultural landscape. Not wanting the mohair fiber to go to waste, she decided to have it made into yarn, but that meant the wool went first to Denmark and then on to South Africa in order to be processed. Trying to find more local and sustainable ways of having the fiber turned into yarn yielded no results, and eventually (after a trip to Canada to check out spinning machines) Telespinn had machinery imported in order to set up their own mini-mill. Talk about commitment. You can spend some time perusing the "about us" page on their website if you'd like to learn more - there's a lot of reading material there.

    Telespinn has their own webstore and I'm happy to say they ship all over the world, so you should be able to get your hands on some no matter where you are. Should you find yourself heading to Telemark, it's also possible to visit the farm, though visits need to be arranged in advance.

    Pictured at top is their light fingering weight 2-ply yarn, Symre, which I've used for a mitten pattern that I'll be writing about in the next post!

    Previous posts in this series can be found here:
    - Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk
    - Rauma Garn

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  • inspiration: this thing of paper

    "Who is ignorant of the difference between writing [scriptura] and printing [impressura]? A manuscript, written on parchment, can last a thousand years. How long will print, this thing of paper [res papirea] last?"
    — Johannes Trithemius, In Praise of Scribes (De Laude Scriptorum)

    When I was in high school, my mom worked in the office for the Women's and Gender Studies program at one of the local universities. The office was sent copies of Bust Magazine and mom always brought them home for me to read. If memory serves me correctly, it was in one of those copies of Bust that I first stumbled into a tutorial for how to make your own journal using some pretty basic bookbinding techniques. I was hooked after that first tutorial - all my high school journals from that point on were little simple books I'd bound myself (you can see a few of them in the photo above). I went on to make a set of journals in 2006/2007 for my friend, musician John Vanderslice. The books had canvas covers and I painted album artwork from his catalog on them - it was a pretty immense project that to this day I am proud of. And while I've always remained a dabbler, my interest in making books has held (the most recent one I made was a birthday gift for my husband for his birthday before last). 

    I think it's easy for fiber artists to be interested in books. The physicality of crafts like knitting or crocheting or spinning is central to them. We learn our way around the physical properties of wool and other fibers, the crunch or heft or twist. We learn to follow the feel of the knitting in our hands instead of relying on our eyes alone to see if we've dropped a stitch or made a mistake. And we really love beautiful pattern books. 

    So perhaps it's not surprising that we've gone a bit mad over Karie Westermann's upcoming project, This Thing of PaperYou've likely heard about it already, but in case you haven't: the project is inspired by Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press, and the fascinating era of transition in bookmaking that transpired. This collection is going to be a physical book - a beautiful physical book - with 10 patterns for garments and accessories as well as accompanying essays. Karie's funding the project via a Kickstarter, and thanks to the intense enthusiasm for this project she was 100% funded in just 25 hours (!!), and at this point she's raised an incredible sum of £21,641, absolutely blowing her original goal of £9,700 out of the water. If you haven't yet pledged your support but you'd like to, you can still do so on the Kickstarter page until Wednesday at 10:45AM central European time - just about 42 hours to go at the time this post goes live. I am so happy to help spread the word about this project, because the finished product is going to be something that I'll be very excited to hold in my hands - and obviously, as just one of Karie's many backers, I'm not alone in that feeling.

    Not shockingly, I'm most looking forward to the colorwork patterns, but this collection will feature more than just colorwork and I can't wait to see how Karie's own aesthetic as a designer interacts with her inspiration and source material. I'm also really looking forward to the essays - how can I not love a book that excites the academic in me just as much as the knitter? If you find yourself curious as well, you can back the project, check out Karie's mood board on Pinterest to get a peek at her visual inspiration, or peruse the stops on the blog tour for This Thing of Paper, of which this is the final stop. Highlights from the tour for me included JacquelineM's tutorial for binding a booklet to keep notes for projects from This Thing of Paper (not unlike that first journal tutorial I encountered in high school) and Felix's interview with Karie that went live last Friday, but the whole tour is absolutely worth checking out - the links below will take you directly to the blog posts:

    May 26: Naomi Parkhurst

    May 27: Meg Roper

    May 30: Natalie Servant

    June 1: Jacqui Harding

    June 6: Woolly Wormhead

    June 8: Tom of Holland / Tom van Deijnen

    June 10: Ella Austin

    June 13: Leona Jayne Kelly of Fluph

    June 15: JacquelineM

    June 16: Felix Ford/KNITSONIK

    June 17: Clare Devine

    When you've finished with that, be sure to check out Karie's own wrap-up post, which also has some great practical info regarding when the book will be available and how it can be purchased for wholesale, etc. Congratulations, Karie! We can't wait to see what you've come up with.

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  • norwegian wool: hillesvåg ullvarefabrikk

    I'm getting around to this second post in my new Norwegian wool series a bit later than originally planned (thanks, finals), but I'm happy to finally be sitting down today with a cup of coffee to write about what might be my favorite Norwegian yarn company/mill, Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk. Founded in 1898, Hillesvåg's mill is located about a half hour outside Bergen, and it's part of the économusée network which means that the mill is open the public and you can go visit.

    Their wool yarns are made from Norwegian wool - primarily the norsk kvit sau (Norwegian white sheep), which is the most dominant breed among sheep in Norway, but several of their yarn lines are made of wool from the pelssau, a cross between a Gotland and the Norwegian heritage breed spælsau. Being a cross between two northern European heritage breeds, the wool from the pelssau is similar to other northern European wools you may have worked with, like Lopi or Shetland. It's a longwool, very similar to pure Gotland (with the same natural grey shade, seen above second from left) but with a bit more luster. I'm particularly fond of Hillesvåg's yarns made from this wool, and I've actually mentioned it on the blog before:

    The green hat is worked up in Hifa Pelsull, the sport weight version, and the pink hat is Hifa Blåne, a bulky weight version of the same wool (for those curious, the patterns are Middle Fork by Veronika Jobe and Capstan by Norah Gaughan). The Blåne is especially lovely, and while it reminds me of Alafoss Lopi, it's a loftier, smoother yarn with more luster. The names of Hillesvåg's wool yarns are tied to Norwegian folklore and countryside history: the core line includes names like Trollgarn ("troll yarn"), sock yarns Fjell, Fjord, and Bonde ("mountain," "fjord," and "farmer"), Ask ("ash," with askeladden or "the ash lad" being a central character in many Norwegian folktales), and Alv ("elf"). Blåne describes the subtle blue shades of layers of mountains in the distance, and I'm dying to knit something with Huldra, a light fingering/heavy lace yarn named for a forest spirit in Scandinavian folklore. 

    As with the Rauma post, I have a video to share about Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk - and this time, with subtitles in English! Take a peek at the behind-the-scenes of the mill:

    If you find yourself in Bergen, you can visit the mill on the Osterfjord, and be sure to also check out the Norsk Trikotasjemuseum (aka the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum) while you're in the area.

    I'm not sure if Hillesvåg has distributors in North America or the UK, but if you know of any please let me know and I'll update this post with links!

    If you missed the first post in this series, you can read about Rauma Garn here.

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  • norwegian wool: rauma garn

    I've been reading quite a bit while my shoulder recovers - books, websites, and other things, too. I recently went back and re-listened to some my Woolful podcast interview, where I talked about wanting to really explore the world of Norwegian wool. While I have started to do that since moving to Norway, I still feel like I've only just scratched the surface. Having a bit more time to sit around and read up on things, though, I'm opening some doors and connecting some dots that I hadn't before. Between revisiting the fantastic book Ren Ull ("Pure Wool") which I've posted about on this blog before, and having some ongoing conversations with friends, I've had Norwegian yarns on the brain - specifically, those yarns whose wool is actually sourced here in Norway. I thought it might be a nice idea to start a sort of informal series here on the blog about Norwegian wool, both as a way to document what I'm learning and a way to share it with you all. I'd love for it to be a conversation, too - I'm by no means an expert and I'm always happy to pick up new information about this stuff. While the Norwegian knitting industry can be rather insular - which means the stuff I write about in these posts may not always be accessible or available to those outside Norway - my hope is that you all find them interesting and hopefully inspiring, too.

    I think it makes sense to start with one of the larger yarn companies, and because their patterns have been inspiring me lately, I thought I'd kick off these posts with Rauma Garn. I started using Rauma's yarns a couple of years ago, first after purchasing some at the Nordic Knitting Conference and later when Tolt Yarn and Wool began carrying their fingering weight Finullgarn and the heavier 3-ply Strikkegarn. They're lovely woolen spun yarns that give knits a bit of character without being tweedy or heathered, necessarily. And obviously, I like Rauma because they're one of the Norwegian yarn companies making a point to use wool sourced in Norway. I've translated a little excerpt from their "about me" page here:

    "At Rauma Ullvarefabrikk we base our production on Norwegian wool, and the entire process - from wool to finished product - is carried out in our own mill in Veblungsnes in Møre og Romsdal. We consider our most important task to be awakening and inspiring joy in creativity, so we place great importance on design in our collections and we hope that you find inspiration in them." (Original text here)

    I have not been to Veblungsnes, but it sits at the end of a fjord on the west coast, which means it is bound to be beautiful. And as for the designs - I've been following Rauma's Instagram account for about a year, and I have to say, I definitely find inspiration in their collections.

    Because the knitting tradition and history is so rich in Norway, the major yarn companies have pretty serious back catalogs of patterns, and they often pick out old patterns to be reworked for modern tastes (much like Sandnes did with the patterns in 42 norkse kofter, which I blogged about here). Rauma's latest round of redesigns is particularly good.

    This sweater in particular caught my eye, from the collection 243R Redesign. Being a more traditional yarn company, the designs usually aren't named, but are rather given what are effectively serial numbers - and you also often won't find them on Ravelry. Remember what I said about the knitting industry here being insular? Nonetheless, I love this unisex number. The link above goes to the lookbook, where you can see it worked up in alternate colorways. And to top it off? There are kids' sizes too:

    From 244R Redesign.

    There are also some more traditional two-color kofter, also from 243R Redesign:

    And the new designs have been fantastic lately, too. I'm particularly obsessed with the bright kelly green they're featuring this spring:

    How beautiful is this simple stole above, by Marie Cecilie Dahl? It's from the collection 241R, and the whole collection feels fresh and is styled beautifully. And lastly, the new kids' stuff is also bright and fresh and very hip:

    This is from collection 242R, and the whole thing is eye candy. It actually looks more like a ready-to-wear catalog than what I'm used to from the knitting world.

    To see more, you can click over to the catalog page to see the most recent catalogs online (which include everything I've featured here), or you can check out their Facebook photos page, or follow them on Instagram at @raumagarn.

    And just for fun, while this short film is only in Norwegian, it shows a glimpse of the mill, its setting, and its history as the marketing director walks you through the steps from wool to yarn:

    Have you worked with Rauma yarns before? 

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  • edinburgh yarn fest

    I had an incredible weekend in Scotland for Edinburgh Yarn Festival, though I did an absolutely terrible job of taking photos at the festival itself (and in fact I took very few photos all weekend). There were so many highlights - too many to name them all! It was incredible to see so many friends meet so many others for the first time, many of whom are colleagues whose work I've followed and blogs I've read for years (among them Ysolda Teague, Kate Davies, Felicity Ford, Bristol Ivy, Anna Maltz, Rachel Atkinson, Susan Crawford, Karie Westermann, Thea Colman, Kirsten Kapur, Ella Gordon, and the list goes on as I'm sure I'm leaving some people out). There is something so incredible about connecting in person with the community we so often interact with via a screen - it's a unique camaraderie. Now it's back to work and I have an email inbox full of messages that need replies...

    But first, I will share a few highlights! The marketplace was absolutely swamped on Friday morning when I arrived, and it was a treat to wander around and hear so many different accents (and languages!) around me and know that so many folks had traveled to the festival from afar like I did. I was able to attend Susan Crawford's talk on Saturday about the Vintage Shetland Project and it was incredible to hear about this project several years in the making. Susan has worked together with the textile museum in Shetland to recreate 27 different pieces, and the patterns to knit those pieces have been compiled in a book along with the unique stories of each garment and accessory. The book is being printed next month and I absolutely can't wait to see it (it's currently available for preorder here). Friday night's ceilidh was also a highlight, though I didn't partake in any dancing myself due to a shoulder injury. 

    I typically travel light and I didn't go straight home after the festival (I'm in LA for the remainder of my Easter break) so I didn't go nuts at the marketplace, but I did manage to squeeze in a few woolly souvenirs that I'm quite excited about. From left to right: the gorgeous Daughter of a Shepherd yarn launched by Rachel Atkinson at the festival, which is 100% Hebridean wool from her father's flock (and it's naturaly that gorgeous dark color); a skein of the recently-launched undyed Blend no. 1 from Ysolda, a blend of Merino, Polwarth, and Zwartbles wool that is the most gorgeous heathery light grey with a charcoal halo; and a small green skein of the same yarn, dyed by Triskelion Yarn.

    For more on the festival, check out Kate's recap and snapshots - the photo of Kate with Ella in her crofthoose yoke and Felix in her Missy Elliott masterpiece is a favorite.

    The rest of the weekend, for me, was about spending time with wonderful people in a wonderful city. I love Edinburgh, and I got to have many great meals and the weather was gorgeous Saturday and Sunday. I took a walk up the Crags on Sunday afternoon with Thea, Kirsten, and Rebecca Redston that was just the cherry on top. A massive thank you to everyone who made this such an incredible weekend, and to Jo and Mica who organize the festival. If you ever find yourself with a chance to go to Edinburgh Yarn Fest, my advice is simple: go. You won't regret it.

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  • 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: norskflid.no)

    Bunadstrømper from Gauldal in Sør-Trøndelag (image source: norskflid.no)

    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

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  • 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?

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  • a day trip to harrisville, new hampshire

    My last week in Seattle went by in a flash. The whirlwind of emotions is difficult to describe, but in some moments, it just hit me. In others, it really didn't feel like I was leaving at all. I expect that'll continue to happen for a little while.

    I left Seattle on Sunday, and I've been in New Hampshire this week visiting some family I won't see for awhile. They live about an hour away from Harrisville, home of Harrisville Designs - known to many knitters as the mill where Brooklyn Tweed's yarns are spun. Wool yarn has been spun in Harrisville since 1794, so this small town has a long and rich history and I felt like I couldn't miss another chance to head over and check it out. It was a bit of an impromptu trip, but my mother, my aunt and I enjoyed our short visit to the Harrisville Designs retail store (a beautiful space) as well as our lunch at the general store across the road. I spent quite a lot of time looking around the store; it's always wonderful to see the Brooklyn Tweed yarns in person, but I really enjoyed getting a chance to see and handle Harrisville Designs' own line of yarns, and they carried a small selection of other yarns as well (from the likes of Rowan, Shibui, and SweetGeorgia, to name a few). It was also a real pleasure to chat with the ladies working in the store (hello, Annmarie and Paula!). I'd love to go back someday and tour the mill buildings.

    a rainbow of Shetland wool on cones

    HD's own Watershed, a beautiful worsted weight

    The store sold much more than just yarn and fiber, and I was pretty smitten with these Maine-made blankets (I think they're these cotton throws from Brahms Mount, but if anyone knows otherwise please let me know!)

    Cheers to my mom for this photo of me at the store entrance!

    Even though it was a very warm summer's day, it was a beautiful one. The rain clouds rolled in as we were leaving town, which was actually pretty delightful. It's easy to fall in love with New England.

    For more Harrisville: Anna from Tolt recently visited Harrisville and you can find the blog post from her visit here; and check out the most recent episode of the New Hampshire Knits podcast (episode 25) for an interview with Nick Colony, whose family owns the business.

    --

    I'm off to New York today and I fly to Norway on Saturday, so the next post here will most likely be from Tromsø!

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  • around the net

    I'm super excited about a couple of things popping up on the Internet today. Firstly, the pattern for the next Fringe Hatalong has been posted, and it's a worsted weight version of Gudrun Johnston's Hermaness! The original pattern is written for fingering weight, and calls for Brooklyn Tweed Loft; this new version is worsted and calls for Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. I think they're both pretty dreamy, which is great, because you can knit either version for the hatalong. Hop on over to the Fringe blog to download the free PDF (and I should note that only the worsted weight version is available for free; the fingering weight version is part of Gudrun's gorgeous book The Shetland Trader Book Two or you can purchase it individually on Ravelry).

    photo by Karen Templer

    I think this hat is so lovely with its simple Shetland lace, but I'm not sure I'll be able to knit one during the hatalong with the amount of deadline knitting on my plate at the moment (not to mention I have a second L'Arbre Hat I need to finish). I can't wait to watch everyone else's hats taking shape, though! One of my favorite things about the Fringe Hatalong series is that it aims to help knitters develop their skills in small and manageable increments: the first hat was just a knit/purl pattern, the second hat featured knits, purls, and that fun stranded technique that created the motif in L'Arbre, and now we have a hat with a very simple lace repeat. It's the perfect introduction to reading a lace chart, if you've never been a chart reader: the repeat is simple and short, and the only technique we're adding to our repertoire is yarnover increases (since all of the hats have featured decreasing already). There's a guide to knitting from a chart in the Hatalong blog post over at Fringe, as well as several other great tips if you're new to lace or charts.

    If you join in, remember to use the hashtag #fringehatalong when sharing!

    The other thing I'm super excited about today is the launch of Twig & Horn, a new sister company from Quince & Co. I'm kind of a Quince & Co. / Pam Allen devotee at this point, so I was eagerly awaiting today's launch after the announcement earlier this week. Twig & Horn is a needlearts accessories company - in other words, a sister company producing tools for knitters, crocheters, and other fiber artists. Just look at this beautiful homepage:

    twigandhorn.com

    There are three products available at this point: the beautiful wool soap pictured on the home page above (unscented as well as three scented options), a handy gauge ruler, and a simple and beautiful wool project tote, pictured below (available in four colors, though both the blue and green appear to be sold out already). I wish I needed one of those totes right now, but I really don't - if you do, make sure to grab one quickly! I doubt this batch will last much longer.

    images via twigandhorn.com

    I can't wait to see what else Twig & Horn brings us. To stay up to date on their news, you can sign up for their mailing list at the website, or follow them on Twitter or Instagram.

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  • new favorite blogs

    Work is slow right now while we've been doing a lot of move prep, but I'm slowly chipping away at projects for fall when I can. In the meantime, I've added a few new inspiring blogs to my regular blog reader lately, and I thought I'd compile them here in case they're new-to-you too.

    Top row, from left:

    My Scandinavian Home - an interior design blog. If you follow me on Pinterest you may have noticed a proliferation of pins coming from this site. The blog is run by "a London girl in Sweden" and I absolutely adore her taste. The homes she features are super inspiring. 

    Ein Kopp Te, Takk - this blog is written by a Norwegian master's student, Kristin (though it seems she's nearly done with her degree). You won't be able to read it unless you know Norwegian (Norwegian has two written forms, and Kristin writes in nynorsk rather than bokmål, so machine translation like Google Translate will come out even more mangled than usual). Still, her photos are gorgeous, bright and lofty, and it's kind of worth following for those alone. The name means "a cup of tea, thank you." Be sure to check out her Instagram, as well.

    Bottom row, from left:

    Ella Gordon - like many, I found my way to Ella's blog via Kate Davies, and I'm so glad I did. Ella's from Shetland and resides in Lerwick. She does quite a bit of hybrid knitting - machine knitting sweater bodies and hand knitting their yokes - which I find really fascinating. Her projects are always beautiful, as are her vintage finds. She works in the Jamieson & Smith shop, so perhaps we'll cross paths one day when I make it to Shetland!

    Paunnet - I've actually been following Anna's blog since some time last year, but it's one of my favorite sewing blogs, hands down. She lives in Italy and it's fun to follow a sewing blog with a European perspective. I think I found her blog around the same time I found Deer & Doe patterns, because she sews a lot of them. Her photography is beautiful and I love her taste in fabric. 

    What blogs have you been inspired by lately?

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  • a vintage norwegian yoke

    Perhaps the posts about vintage yokes from Kate or Ella finally got to me, or perhaps it was just the siren song of the bright, bright teal, but I found myself impulse-buying this beautiful Norwegian yoke last weekend when I spotted it on the sidewalk rack of a local vintage shop.

    While the fit is a bit... let's say dated, and the sleeves are short (they're always short on me if I haven't made it myself), I really don't mind since the yoke is so striking and it'll be warm in the winter nonetheless. It's knit by hand, bearing the label "Maurtua," which was actually a handicrafts shop in Oslo that catered almost exclusively to tourists (which is probably how it made its way from Norway to Seattle). The address, Fridtjof Nansens Plass 9, is located in the semicircular plaza surrounding Oslo's city hall, and that storefront is actually still a souvenir shop today (though the current shop goes by the far more generic name of "Norway Shop"). 

    At any rate, I got curious about the pattern, which bears a notable resemblance to Unn Søiland Dale's famous "Eskimo" sweater. Those of you who have read Kate Davie's Yokes will recognize it from the chapter, "Greenlanders and Norwegians." If you don't have the book, Kate talks a bit about the sweater about halfway through this blog post.

    Unn Søiland Dale's "Eskimo" published by Sandnes 

    In any case, here's what I've managed to dig up looking for information about my own vintage yoke. It's almost a perfect match with one of the Husfliden pattens, number 419:

    (The image on the left is from Raumagarn, the older one on the right was found via this Pinterest user)

    A quick Google image search for "Martua Husflid" shows that Maurtua definitely made use of Husfliden 419, different iterations of which can be spotted on the image search page. While it's possible a pullover version of the pattern existed too, my best guess is that the knitter who made this sweater decided to make use of artistic license and modify the pattern. I must say I'm in favor of the design choices - the design looks great as a pullover rather than a cardigan, and the use of two different teal-blues gives the yoke a lovely depth that Norwegian knitting doesn't always achieve with its typically limited color palette (the same goes for the combination of light grey in addition to the main off-white color). The red is a sort of rusty brick red, less saturated than a candy apple red would be, which helps balance the yoke and keep the bright design from being too overwhelming. There are some chart differences as well, where the knitter appears to have embellished or modified existing motifs. The stripes at the ends of the ribbing at neck, cuffs, and hem are a nice touch. I love too how the stranded motif at the sleeve cuff echoes the motifs in the yoke without actually replicating them.

    I'm quite pleased with my new pullover - I love digging into the history and trying to track down the origins of a piece of knitting. Do you have any vintage favorites or hand-me-downs that bring you inspiration?

    --

    P.S. A very hearty thank you to all of your kind words about my Norway/grad school news. I am so excited to make this leap and your support and encouragement means the world to me. I've had a lot of people express hopes that I'll be writing about my adventure, and I'm absolutely planning to do that! Something to look forward to.

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  • swedish pancakes (pom pom spring 2015)

    The preview of the spring 2015 issue of Pom Pom Magazine went up today, and I'm thrilled to have a design in this issue! When the call for submissions was first posted, I have to admit I got pretty excited. "Clean lines and shapes and Scandinavian minimalism" were the key words, so I was all over it. I had time to put a couple of submissions together, and fortunately one of them made it in! Here's Swedish Pancakes:

    I'm so happy with how these sweet little mitts turned out. One of my favorite things about working with third parties like Pom Pom or Brooklyn Tweed is that they often push me to work outside my comfort zone with colors (leave it to me and I'll work with blue, grey, and green forever). My swatch for this stitch pattern was worked in white and blue, which is very typical for me, but I think the subtle pink and warm silver are a beautiful combination and I love the effect of the softened colorwork.

    To explain the name of the mitts, we have to turn to the pattern motif. I've wanted to work with this colorwork stitch pattern for quite awhile - it's very directly inspired by the exterior of a building here in Seattle: the Swedish Club. It's a box of a mid century building which was completed in 1961 (around the same time the Space Needle was nearing completion, the year before the Seattle World's Fair in 1962), and situated on the west side of Lake Union with a beautiful view of the lake and city. I first encountered the club when a friend suggested we try out their Swedish pancake breakfast back in 2010. Once there, we learned that the pancake breakfast is a monthly event that brings a thousand people through the doors in the space of a few hours, complete with folk bands and people of all ages, and it's bucketloads of fun. I joined the club that very day. My relationship with the club goes beyond pancake breakfast, though - it's also a pretty special building to me because it's where I got married. If you're in Seattle, I highly encourage you to check out the rather large calendar of events and find an excuse to go to the club. (Seriously - weekly happy hour, fiber arts open studio time, and dinners, movies, Swedish classes, car shows... there's a lot to choose from.)

    The south and east walls of the building feature an exterior layer of metal latticework in a geometric design of overlapping circles. It's one of my favorite things about the building and I'm so happy to finally feature it in a colorwork pattern.

    (photo borrowed from the inimitable Jenny Jimenez)

    You can check out more views of the building on Flickr.

    I also thought it would be fun to share a bit of memoribilia from the club. My husband Chris and I picked up this plate at one of their antiques & great finds sales:

    It's hard to make out in this photo, but I love that the plate features the original signage on the front of the building over the doors.

    We also have a handful of these vintage swizzle sticks, which were handed down by Chris's grandmother:

    Pretty swanky.

    Thanks for indulging my love of this Seattle institution, and I hope you'll feel inspired to check out the spring issue of Pom Pom! It's available for pre-order now from the Pom Pom website, and you can check out the rest of the patterns on Ravelry. (I especially love Joji's hat Vitsippa and the adorable Elske socks by Merrian Holland.)

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  • cardigans, or a lack thereof

    Karen's post on cardigans this week has me thinking again about a subject I'm often thinking of these days: the dearth of handknit cardigans in my life. I wear cardigans all the time, but they're mostly store-bought fine gauge knits, and I'd love to change that. While I've knit a few cardigans, none of them make it into totally regular rotation in my wardrobe. My first was this little cropped number, the Hexacomb cardigan by Katie Himmelberg, originally published in Interweave's spring 2008 issue:

    The resulting cardigan was super cute, and I liked my color choices (heck, I still love to wear grey and green all the time), but despite that I rarely wore it. I think I wore it two or three times before deciding to give it away to a friend who commented on really loving it (she ended up wearing it way more than I did, so I'm happy it found a good home). There were a few reasons for this. The body of Hexacomb is knit in one piece, which meant long rows that took me forever to knit, and between having to then knit and seam the sleeves into place and pick up button bands, I procrastinated a lot. This little cardigan took me about ten months to finally finish - it felt like a neverending project! At any rate, it left my wardrobe and took my handknit cardigan total back to zero.

    Other cardigans I've knit for myself include the prototype for Elskling, which was knit for my wedding, my delightfully oversized Michiyo cardigan, my Faire du Vélo bike sweater, and Svalbard. Svalbard is the closest thing to an everyday cozy cardigan, and it gets worn all the time because I love it, but I find myself thinking often these days of something a little more traditional in construction that's perfect for wearing around the house whether I'm working or spending a lazy Sunday reading. A search of my Ravelry favorites yields many potential options, but this time I want to take my time choosing a sweater to knit. Given my history with cardigans, I want to make sure I'm choosing a sweater that I'll want to reach for all the time once it's done - rather than choosing a pattern because I think it's beautiful/intriguing/fun to knit. I think this kind of decision-making can be one of a knitter's greatest challenges.

    So I've been asking myself some questions: what do I want in an everyday wear-around-the-house cardigan? Ideally: something long in length, with button bands and buttons, and in a perfect world, pockets. Here are some options I'm considering:

    Clockwise from top left: Edith by Pam Allen, from her new Home collection; Picea by Andrea Rangel; Aureus by Michele Wang; and Chocolate Stout by Thea Colman.

    There are a lot of features I'm interested in here: length, pockets, buttons. In all cases there are modifications I would make, but then, freedom to make modifications is the beauty of knitting something yourself! Still, as great as these options are, and against my better judgment, I can't stop thinking about this number:

    You may remember it from the Fred Perry controversy of 2013. Even though the "pattern" isn't truly a viable pattern, I'm still in love with this sweater. Given the incompleteness of the pattern file and its lack of sleeves (interestingly, the PDFs are all still accessible on the Fred Perry server), this would involve drawing out some charts for myself and doing a lot of math - basically reverse-engineering the thing. In a way, that's a little bit appealing; it would be a way to put my designer brain to work without having to come up with a cardigan design on my own, and I could use a little hand-holding in what seems to be a difficult area for me (cardigans). But it also seems a little crazy when there are so many wonderful cardigan patterns out there. I'd like to sit on it a little bit and see if my interest is holding - I think my fixation on it has something to do with the Amanda KAL that Fringe has been putting on for the last several months (aka the #fringeandfriendsknitalong).

    What about you? Is there an obvious hole in your handknit wardrobe? How do you tackle that?

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  • tolt & fringe: an anniversary, a party

    This time last week, Tolt Yarn and Wool was busy preparing for it's one-year anniversary weekend! Since I was in Portland on Saturday, I couldn't be at the actual party, but I did make it out for Thursday night's stitch circle, which featured a Q&A with Fringe Association's Karen Templer (who was in town shooting the Fringe holiday catalog with Kathy Cadigan, but more on that in a moment). Since Tolt is in Carnation, and depending on traffic, anywhere from a 45- to 90-minute drive from my neighborhood in Seattle, I don't make it over very often. This meant it was my first time at the Thursday evening stitch circle, but from what I gather, we were a much larger group than normal! Karen fielded questions and talked about her business for near on an hour and a half (she's a champ!), while we all merrily knit and stitched as we listened. Kathy grabbed a great photo, seen above. Gudrun was also in town for the weekend, doing a book signing on Saturday for the shiny new Shetland Trader Book 2 (which is gorgeous), giving a talk, and teaching a class on Shetland lace.

    Kathy also grabbed a photo of the shop on Saturday (above), during the proper anniversary celebration, and it looks like it was a madhouse. Congratulations on one year, Tolt! Anna has done such an amazing job with her store, creating not just a beautiful and inspiring space, but also a community around it. I'm so incredibly grateful to be a part of it. And I also can't wait to get my hands on some of Tolt's new Snoqualmie Valley Yarn - you can read about it on the Tolt blog here.

    Going back to Fringe for a minute, I mentioned that Karen was in town to shoot the Fringe holiday catalog with Kathy. It went up today, and man, it is gorgeous. I'm particularly obsessed with the old fiber mill spindles (and I may have already ordered a few; hoping to spice up the yarn storage situation at Paper Tiger HQ) but everything is beautiful and the brand new Fringe Supply Project Bag looks like a dream. You can view the clickable catalog below, or (in case the embedded version isn't showing up) view it on the Issuu website here.

    It's a joy to have friends who make such beautiful things happen. And one last thing! I've cast on for the Hearth Slipper KAL, jointly run by Tolt and Fancy Tiger. I'm trying out some new colors and I'm really enjoying the wintry feel (think ice caves / glaciers / snow at night). Check out all the photos tagged with #hearthslipperKAL right here.

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  • magpies, homebodies, and nomads

    I'm very excited to have a sneak peek on the blog today of Cirilia Rose's upcoming book, Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads: A Modern Knitters Guide to Discovering and Exploring Style (out this November on STC Craft / Melanie Falick Books; available for preorder here). My review copy arrived a week or two ago and I've been looking forward to it for so long that I immediately dropped everything to curl up on my couch with it. 

    Now, in the interest of full disclosure, Cirilia's a personal friend of mine, and I was actually one of the models for the book. Still, my glimpse at what the final product might be like was minimal at best. The patterns in the book are grouped into three sections, named in the title: Magpies (for those small amounts of precious yarns we inevitably collect), Homebodies (for time spent close to home), and Nomads (venturing into the world to meet friends and gather inspiration). I was a Magpie, along with our friend Kathleen (that's her on the cover up there), but each section was shot with different models on different days. This meant that the rest of the pieces, as well as the content of the book itself, were as much a mystery to me as for you until I got a copy in my hands.

    The photoshoot itself was quite fun, helped by the fact that we were shooting with Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed. Jared's photos are absolutely beautiful, as always, and I think he did a wonderful job of bringing Cirilia's vision to life (along with the outstanding hair, makeup, and style team). The layout and visual feel of the book is really gorgeous, as well; it's fresh, bright, and inspiring. 

    There's a lot of variety in the patterns: garments, accessories, and a few items for the home, as well (eleven garments, thirteen accessories, and two home items, by my count). My favorite parts, though, might be Cirilia's writing. At the end of each section are a few short essays on everything from where to look for inspiration to color choice, substituting yarns and thrifting. This is truly a knitter's style guide. Cirilia's writing is friendly and informative at the same time - you can tell how much she loves what she does, but you can also tell that she knows what she's talking about. I think the writing that accompanies each section is all helpful stuff for figuring out how to choose the right things to knit, and knit things that we (or our recipients) will love. I especially liked this bit, from the introduction ("Finding Your Inner Bricoleur"):

    "The past decade has seen a proliferation of knitwear designers, myself included, and we're all working from essentially the same sourcebooks, with the same basic resources: the knit stitch, the purl stitch, and a whole lot of yarn. So how does one innovate in an increasingly crowded landscape? The answer is, of course, through bricolage. The comination of elements from seemingly disparate cultural sources creates energy that didn't exist before, and when each of us cultivates our own unique concotion of referents, it guarantees more idiosyncratic knits."

    One of my favorite things about this excerpt is that if you deconstruct it further, the knit stitch and the purl stitch are essentially the exact same stitch, and whether it's a knit or a purl really just depends on your point of view or the way in which you're working it. One of my favorite things about being friends with Cirilia is that if you gave each of us the very same, identical garment on which to base an ensemble, the resulting outfits each of us would create would probably look very, very different from each other. I love to see her creative impulses because I think they're often coming from a different place than mine, and that idiosyncracy is exactly what she's talking about.

    I thought I'd share a few of my favorites patterns from the book, which all happen to be garments (one from Magpies, two from Nomads).

    This is the Isla Cardigan, a sweet little number worked up in Zealana Rimu DK, and of course, it's the cover star! It's a simple cardigan but the details are what I love the most: the high-wasited rib, the slightly puffled sleeve caps, and the subtle ruching at the front yoke. I'd love to knit this in a neutral, or possibly a soft blue. (Side note: we shot Magpies outdoors in Seattle's Discovery Park. If you've never been on a Pacific Northwest beach in mid-spring, it can be chilly. Kathleen makes it look serene!)

    Next up is the Gezell Coat, a cozy, oversized cardigan with pockets. This one's another simple piece with great details: the pockets, obviously, but also the bobbles at the hem and sleeve cuffs and the exposed back seam. I personally like the three-quarter sleeves, but the sleeve length would probably be easy to modify if they're not your thing (same goes for the bobbles). The thing I like most about this sweater is its lazy elegance; in a dark color like the sample shown above, it's slouchy and cozy but still manages to make Katie, the model, look totally put together.

    The last favorite I have to share today is the Reyka Pullover. A true lopapeysa, it's knit with Plötulopi, the unspun version of Lopi, the Icelandic wool, which comes in wheels. I love the traditional aspects of it, like the wool and the circular yoke, but I also love the hood (not really visible in this photo), the short-sleeve length, and the textured colorwork. Because the colorwork is purled instead of knit, it also manages to call to mind some of the Bohus knitting, even in only two colors. I think it's a sweet little piece with a lot of opportunity for modification - longer sleeves, extra colors, and think of all the possible color combinations! Brights, neutrals, darks, lights, they'd all yield such different results.

    If you'd like your own copy of Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads, you can pre-order it right here on Amazon, here on the Book Depository, or you can ask your local yarn store to order it (it's out November 4th, 2014). Special thanks to STC Craft / Melanie Falick Books for the chance to review it! 

    And a quick reminder that this upcoming weekend is the Nordic Knitting Conference here in Ballard, and both Cirilia and I will be teaching! I hope we see some of you there!

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  • norsk folkemuseum, part 2: indoors

    I've been back from Norway for nearly two weeks and I'm finally settling in again and beginning to get back into a work flow. It's so easy to forget how much of a buffer is sometimes needed between long travel and diving back into work. In any case, today I'm writing about the other half of the Norwegian Folkemuseum in Oslo: the indoor exhibits!

    There are a host of different permanent exhibitions inside the main museum buildings (you can view the list here), my favorite of which were the exhibits on folk dress and folk art, and of course, the knitting history exhibit.

    The gallery was dark, so as to protect the items on display, which means it wasn't the best place to try and take photos of things (as is usually the case). I grabbed a few, though. In particular, I was pretty smitten with this chair:

    Between the carving, the painting, and the woven seat cushion, it's a crazy and beautiful amalgamation of several different folk arts.

    There was a wonderful description of the Husflidsbevegelsen, the home crafts movement that is the origin of the modern husflidslag:

    "Due to the great changes that occurred in rural society during the second half of the 1800s, long-standing traditions in crafts gradually began to vanish. In order to halt this trend, and to combat unemployment and poverty, the home crafts movement arose in the 1860s. Starting in the 1880s, museums of applied art became involved in this movement, primarily in order to ensure high artistic quality, but also as a result of the national romantic spirit of the times. In 1891, three home crafts associations in Kristiania (later renamed Oslo) merged to form the Norwegian Association for Home Arts and Crafts [Den Norske Husflidsforening]. This association opened shops in the city, and established a contact network with producers all over the country. The home crafts movement flourished, and similar associations were established in many towns, and eventually throughout the country."

    The husflid movement is still going strong today, with organizations all over the country (you can find their website, in Norwegian only, at husflid.no). The closest equivalent I can think of in the U.S. would be the guild system, but it's not an exact equivalent. A husflidslag from a specific area of Norway will be interested in protecting the regional crafts and styles historically specific to that area, for example, and they cover far more than just knitting. Many of the regional organizations have shops you can visit, and the national Norges Husflidslag has a shop on the bottom floor of the historic GlasMagasinet department store in the middle of downtown Oslo. The yarn selection is great, for the record!

    But back to the museum: the Knitting History section was small, but they managed to cover a lot. I could've simply stared at the items on display:

    That's an original copy of Annichen Sibbern Bøhn's landmark Norske Strikkemønstre (Norwegian Knitting Designs, 1929) to the left. Annichen spent 1927 traveling around Norway collecting different designs and patterns, taking photographs of samples, and writing charts for the different designs. It's a wonderful source of inspiration for anyone interested in Norwegian knitting and while the book was out of print for years, it's been republished thanks to Terri Shea (author of Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition). You can take a peek here, and if you're interested in learning more about Annichen, you can check out the PDF of an article Terri wrote for Piecework Magazine here (PDF link).

    Moving to the right from Annichen's book, there's a stocking from Selbu, a mohair brush, and a collection of straight and circular needles in different sizes. And that painted needle case on the end! 

    There was also a large selection of sweaters on display. Lurking up on the wall, in the top right-hand corner of the photo, there's a Skappelgenser, the super simple sweater that took Norway by storm in 2012 (I've knit one myself). Many Norwegians who weren't knitters learned to knit to make themselves a Skappelgenser. 

    There was also a case full of sweaters designed by Unn Søiland Dale, who designed many sweaters for the Sandnes factory. Her most famous and most recognizeable design (especially as it's seeing a resurgence right now), is the iconic blue, red, and white Marius sweater. Many of her sweater designs became Norwegian icons and are still recognizeable today, like the Marius sweater. Check out this lady's style:

    There was also a beautiful temporary exhibition on when I visited, featuring photography by Italian photographer Luca Berti. Luca cycles around Norway taking photos of people and the countryside, and the results are gorgeous. The photos were shot recently, but most are shot on film and many with large format cameras, so they feel quite nostalgic. That exhibition is up through September.

    My souvenir from the museum gift shop was splurging on a book:

    Ren Ull, or Pure Wool, by Tone Skårdal Tobiassen and Ingun Grimstad Klepp. It is exactly as it sounds: a book all about Norwegian wool. It's a history, an account of wool in the lives of everyday Norwegians, and it tells the story of wool from sheep to product. Here's an English translation of the description from the book jacket:

    Wool is part of the Norwegian soul, a warming gold that is spun, knitted, woven, and transformed into wonderful products like our national costumes, sweaters and undergarments, upholstery and rugs. Everyone knows that the South Pole was reached because of Amundsen’s wool undergarments, and everyone knows that wool is tantamount to a happy childhood. With winter sport idols Vegard Ulvang and Kari Traa (who added a dose of sex appeal), wool  undergarments have undergone a renaissance.

    In PURE WOOL we follow the path from sheep to product. Here you’ll find the story of quality, Norwegian industry, nostalgia and tradition, and modern design. Here also we discount several myths – for modern wool neither scratches nor shrinks. The starting point is Norwegian sheep, but in a globalized world, the wool takes some detours that few know or think about. So let yourself be surprised and seduced into a world that affects us all. [Translation mine.]

    It was released in conjunction with The Campaign for Wool's Wool Week in 2013, Norway being one of several other countries that has taken up the campaign since it was started in the UK in 2010. I'm so pleased to know that the importance of wool is being given real recognition in a country like Norway where it has historically been so important. I'm not terribly far into the book yet (I'm a much slower reader in Norwegian than in English) but it's chock full of color photos past and present, and the topics covered are certainly wide. I'm really enjoying it, and I'd definitely recommend it to any Norwegian speakers (as far as I know, there is no English translation). It is nice to be reading it as I prep for the Nordic Knitting Conference, and I have a feeling a lot of the subject matter may come up in my classes.

    All in all, the Folkemuseum on Bydøy is absolutely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Oslo. Give yourself at least a whole day - it's the largest museum of cultural history in Norway, after all - and try to go when the weather's decent so you can enjoy the open-air museum. It's also a great spot to hit if you're doing research on many aspects of Norwegian culture, and you can read about the collections and archives of the museum here.

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  • norsk folkemuseum, part 1: the open-air museum

    I've been wanting to get to the Norsk Folkemuseum on Bygdøy all summer, and last week I finally made it! The official English name is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, but for the sake of simplicity, I'm simply going to refer to it as the Folkemuseum. One of the perks of attending the International Summer School at UiO is that students get free entry to several museums around Oslo with their ISS student cards, and the Folkemuseum is among them (lucky me!).

    I'll be writing about the Folkemuseum in two posts, because it's a vast and multidimensional museum, one I could easily spend several days at. In a way, it's several museums in one: there are many indoor exhibits, permanent and temporary, dealing with the life of Norwegian people over time in a variety of different areas, but there's also a large open-air museum outdoors. The indoor exhibits were quite good, but I must admit the open-air section of the museum was my favorite. I'll be writing about that first.

    The museum was officially founded in 1894 and established at Bygdøy in 1898. All of the buildings that belong to the open-air museum are actual historical buildings that were moved from their original locations to the museum over the last 100+ years, which is pretty remarkable. They're laid out according to their location of origin, so there are many sections corresponding to geographic regions, such as Telemark, Setesdal, Hallingdal, and so on:

    (image courtesy of the Norsk Folkemuseum)

    The first two buildings that the museum acquired were a bur and a loft, both from Telemark. The bur is a storehouse, and in this case it was the larder on the farm. The loft was the guesthouse, where guests to the farm would be lodged and entertained. A majority of the buildings in the open-air museum are from old farmsteads, and storehouses, lofts, and farmhouses from different parts of the country, from several different points in history. I found myself thinking often of Kristin Lavransdatter, the classic trio of novels by Sigrid Undset that depicts the life of a woman in 14th century Norway. None of the buildings in the museum are quite as old as that, but the first farmhouse I stepped into was from the second half of the 1600s, and farmsteads hadn't changed all that much by then: the buildings were largely the same, the crops were largely the same, the wife/mother of the farm was still the keeper of the keys to the storehouse, etc. It's quite an experience to be transported back in time simply by stepping into a building (through a very low doorway, I might add). In any case, here are the loft and bur from Telemark, which date from the mid-1700s:

    I adore the intricate wood carving and sod roofs. Both are typical of Norwegian buildings from the countryside, and the spectacular woodworking skills of the Norwegians were also put to use on one of my favorite types of buildings: the stave church. The Folkemuseum has a stave church of its own, from Gol:

    Built of sturdy pine, the Gol stave church dates from around 1200. The stave churches first appeared in the latter years of the Viking era, after King Olaf Tryggvason converted Norway to Christianity. At that point the Norwegian churches were Catholic, and the Norwegians simply took the concepts of the layout of a Catholic church (nave, circular apse, columns, vaulted ceilings, etc.) and used traditional construction techniques to apply them. This meant churches were built entirely of wood, with tarred exteriors (to weatherproof the building) and often an exterior set of walls for extra protection, which created a sort of hallway around the church hall itself. One of my favorite details is that for a church the size of the Gol stave church, the vaulted ceiling inside was effectively an upside-down longship - master shipbuilders that they were, it's no surprise the Vikings borrowed that technique for their churches. The churches had to be tarred every three years to keep up with the weatherproofing, which was quite an undertaking. Everyone helped out with the task.

    The Gol stave church was moved from its original location in Hallingdal to Oslo around 1885. King Oscar II had a private open-air museum on Bygdøy at that point (oh, royalty); King Oscar's Collection merged with the Folkemuseum in 1907. To this day, Oscar's section of the open-air museum is known as Kong Oscar IIs Samling, or King Oscar the Second's Collection. The gold leaf you can see halfway up the church front commemorates the relocation and restoration of the church. Unsurprisingly, there are only a handful of stave churches left in Norway, but if you're curious about them, you can read more here. I am very fortunate to have been in more than one - I visited the Borgund stave church in 2012, and to give you an idea of the intricate carving around the entrance (symbolic, of course, as the gate through which one steps into God's house) as well as a peek of the interior, here's a photo from Borgund (the entrance and interior of Gol was very similar):

    And the top of the portal of the Gol church:

    Keeping up with the theme of beautifully carved wood, this was a door on a storehouse in the Setesdal section of the museum:

    I found it especially noteworthy because the carvings on either side of the main door greatly resemble stockinette! It was also in the Setesdal section of the museum that I got a close-up photo of the edge of a sod roof:

    While I think many of us find sod roofs incredibly charming, as it so happens, the grass on the roof is really just a by-product of this method of roof-building. The cheapest way to build a weather-proof roof in a wet, windy, and snowy land was to use readily available materials. Birch is abundant in Scandinavia as well as strong and resistant to water and soil, and so people would strip the bark from the trees and lay on top of the wooden roof boards in layers (around 8 layers or so, on average). To hold the birch "shingles" in place and keep them from falling off or blowing away, they're weighted down. Sod was an obvious choice for this job, as it was (obviously) readily available and an insulator to boot. So next came a layer of sod, topside down (the bottom layer of grass helped with drainage and insulation), and then another layer, topside up. Once you put soil on your rooftop, the grass just grows! I love how you can see the ends of the birch bark pieces curling over at the edge of the roof.

    In addition to the countryside areas, there's a little Gamlebyen (old town) as well, to give museum-goers an idea of what life in a Norwegian city would be like at different points in history. 

    I was running out of time by the time I got to Gamlebyen, but I did have a chance to pop into the weaver's shop and pick up some yarn. I chose a beautiful hank of Telespinn yarn, in a 2-ply variety called Symre (named after a flower that commonly grows in Telemark, where the yarn is sourced and spun). I couldn't pass it up: as you can see, it's gorgeous yarn, but I was also immediately drawn in by the company's goals and values. Based in Telemark, they're interested in learning about and preserving both the history and cultural landscape of their area, as well as the relationship between livestock farming and natural landscape (as regards their mohair goats, in particular). Symre is a mohair-lambswool blend, and it feels both hardy and luxurious at the same time. I wanted to buy all of it. You can learn more about Telespinn, their goats, and their mini-mill on their website here (link goes to the English version).

    One of the other great things about the open-air museum is that many of the buildings have guides working inside, typically in costume and often partaking in a daily task typical of the building and time period they're representing. I saw some tablet weaving of decorative belts, a folk dance demonstration, and I spent a few minutes in a very hot kitchen building chatting with some ladies making lefse in the most traditional way: on an iron tray over an open hearth (hence the heat). Then I got to eat some (it was delicious).

    I've been quite wordy, so I'll leave you with just a few more photos. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, though, and I'd love to hear if any of you have been to the Folkemuseum! Or if you've been to similar museums in other places, I'd love to hear about that too and I'd welcome your recommendations! I'm flying back to the states tomorrow, so I won't be posting about the second half of the museum until later this week. I'm looking forward to getting home and regular posting should resume shortly thereafter.

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  • a visit to the voss folkemuseum

    On my trip to Voss last weekend we had a chance to visit the Voss Folkemuseum. While my trips to museums with groups are always shorter than they would be when I'm on my own (I spent so many hours at the National Museum of Iceland a few months back, which I am now realizing I never actually blogged about), it was a great visit and I think the museum's definitely worth seeing if you ever find yourself in Voss! The biggest reason for the trip to Voss in the first place was that our friend Marius, who's from Voss (but lives in Oslo now), was back home housesitting for a few weeks. Marius has a cousin, Bjørnar, who's a guide at the museum, so he gave us a little tour around, which was great.

    Marius & Bjørnar on the farmstead

    One of the coolest things about the Voss Folkemuseum is that it started with the purchase of the Mølster farmstead in 1917 (Mølster remained a functioning farm until a few decades ago). The museum building housing artifacts and exhibits was built next to the old farmstead. The buildings of the farmstead exist exactly as they did when it was a functioning farm, i.e. they're all in their original locations, sod roofs and slate roofs alike being maintained (Bjørnar explained that occasionally, the grass on top of the sod roofs has to be cut - in the old days, they'd just stick a goat up on the roof, but now the roofs are maintained by museum staff). The oldest building on the site dates from the 1500s, which is pretty remarkable. It's a great way to see what a typical Norwegian farmstead would have looked like, both outside and in, up until the mid-20th century. It also sits up on a hill, overlooking Vossevangen. It's a beautiful spot.

    I really enjoyed the inside of the museum as well. Being a folk museum, there were several permanent exhibitions showcasing what daily life was like for the people of Voss in decades and centuries past. Items used both in day-to-day life as well as more festive and formal occasions were on display. Unsurprisingly, I was drawn both to the knitting and wool-related items, as well as the items related to the bunad, or national costume, of Voss (for those who don't know, Norway has regional national folk costumes worn for celebrations like Constitution Day or weddings; Norwegians who can afford bunads traditionally receive them for their Confirmation).

    believe these are bunad bibs (the part in the middle of the bodice as seen on the bunad below) but for some reason I didn't note what this display actually said, so I could be wrong. In any case, there was a lot of beautiful embroidery and beading on display.

    A bunad from Voss. Voss is the only place in Norway where I've seen the two-pointed skaut shown here (skaut is the word for headscarf). For all regional bunads, traditionally the type of head covering often corresponded to one's age and martial status, and brides wore special bridal crowns and silver for their weddings. The page is in Norwegian, but you can see photos of different types of bunads from Voss here, and you can see the wedding crown from Voss here. It's interesting how the bridal crown maintains the unique shape of the skaut.

    On to the wool!

    The thing I enjoyed most about seeing the old tools for working with wool (prepping, spinning, ball-winding, etc.) is how very little these things have changed. The modern-made tools we use are the same in so many respects. I got especially excited about the umbrella swift in the bottom photo, which dates from 1842. The mechanism for adjusting the height of the moveable part of the swift appears to be a slim piece of wood removed and inserted into different holes, so that it effectively acts as a stopper. I'm not going to lie - this probably works better than the common wooden screw stopper version I have (like this one), which has a tendency to not hold the swift in place after enough use (leading to much grumbling and/or swearing).

    There were also some knitted items on display:

    They were well-worn and there was definitely some visible mending going on. I was pleased to see the long cap next to the stocking in the top photo on display; it's actually knitted, but was rather made using nålbinding (it was nålbinded? Nålbound? Needle-bound? I'm at a past participle loss!). The sign in the bottom photo reads "Når sokken er tre gonger påspøta, er det nok -". I'm utterly and completely unfamiliar with the word "påspøta" but I can only guess it has something to do with mending (the regular bokmål word for mending is bøte, which bears some resemblance to spøta, I guess). If that's the case, this would mean something like "When the sock has been thrice mended, that is enough." Fair enough! Of course, in Norway, once woollen goods reached the point beyond reasonable repair, they were often torn up and shoved into corners of walls and windows needing extra insulation, and then later, they'd be sent to the shoddy mills to be recycled into new woollen goods.

    My other favorite thing in the permanent collection may have been the fiddles.

    In Norway, there are hardingfeler and flatfeler ("Hardanger fiddles" and "flat fiddles," respectively). Flat fiddles are more like a typical violin, but the Hardanger fiddles are a bit more special. Sound-wise, the biggest distinguishing characteristic is that they have a second set of strings, set below the main set, which are called understrings. The understrings aren't played, but rather, they resonate when the main strings are played. I first saw a Hardanger fiddle up close and heard one played back in North Carolina when I was in college, and I remember thinking that the decoration was beautiful but perhaps a bit strange. I've really come to love them, though, having seen many more examples over the years of the lavish decoration that is typical of these fiddles. Patterns of black ink rosing on the body, inlay (usually mother of pearl, but sometimes bone) along the tailpiece and fingerboard, and an ornamental carving such as a dragon's head above the pegbox are all typical decorations. I especially liked the more simple one pictured at left, because of the eight-pointed star motif.

    There was also a temporary exhibit on display of photography by Christian Herheim, who was described to me as "Voss's first photographer." There were some pretty spectacular photos, both of daily life in Voss in the first half of the 20th century, as well as posed portraits for formal occasions. I was drawn to this photo below, of the Lirhus children (all eleven of them):

    Admittedly, the knitwear they're sporting is part of what drew me in. There was also this photo of a bride, who's an ancestor of both Bjørnar and Marius (I think Bjørnar said she was his grandmother). You can see what the back of the bridal crown looks like in this photo:

    We stopped by the gift shop on the way out where I picked up a bilingual book on popular bunads. It's been fun to thumb through it and read a bit about some of the different bunads I haven't seen before. All in all, a very worthwhile visit. Tusen takk, Voss!

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  • thursday thoughts

    Today marked the start of Me Made May, and while I'm not officially taking part in it, I hope I'll wear plenty of my handknits when the weather allows. The timing is cause for reflection, for me, as I've found myself itching to get back into sewing lately. I used to sew fairly often when I was in high school and through my first year or two of college, but as knitting gained greater prominence in my life, the sewing machine started gathering dust. I'm realizing now, as I'm thinking about taking it up again, that I've always been a bit of a "Well, that's good enough!" seamstress; a little sloppy, if functional. I'd like to do better than that. I decided to pick a simple project to get back into sewing. I want to sew something that's simple enough that I won't feel like I'm in over my head, but that will be something I'll actually wear regularly. I also decided I'd like to try a sewing pattern by an independent company, which is a corner of the sewing world I hadn't explored before. I'm pretty sure I've made my decision; I've already purchased the pattern, and I basically just need to choose fabric and pick up the few notions needed.

    (Image via Pattern Runway)

    I landed on the Easy Short Sleeved Kimono Dress from Pattern Runway, because it seems to be, well... easy, but also something I'll get a lot of mileage out of. No zippers and no darts is a huge plus, and I like the elastic waist (perfect with a belt). One of the biggest selling points for me was the step-by-step blog post on the Pattern Runway site that walks you through the whole process of making this garment. I'm happy to have a little bit of hand holding at this stage!

    I have a few weeks before I'll be able to start working on this, so I'm still trying to decide on fabric. When I was sewing a lot in high school I often didn't give much thought to fabric choice. Sometimes I bought fabric for projects, but most often I pulled something out of my mom's huge stash of old fabric. I think as my knowledge and skills in handknitting have advanced, and as I've started spinning wool and thinking about fiber and how and where it's sourced, it's affected how I think about textiles and clothing more generally. In this case, I think I'd like something light and airy, something that's easy to work with, and I'd also like it to be made of natural fibers - so perhaps a light-to-mid-weight cotton? It will give the dress a much more casual feel than the black fabric pictured above, but as I'm looking to make more of an everyday dress, that seems just fine. I prefer to buy fabric in person, so that I can see and feel it, so I'm planning to head to Drygoods Design sometime soon - there are a few fabric listed on the website that I'm itching to see in person.

    Are you taking part in Me Made May? I'd love to hear about your experiences with it! I'd also love any sewing advice you all have. I learned to sew as a kid, and I always thought that fact alone meant I was knowledgeable about sewing, but I feel like a total beginner coming back to it. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • reykjavík fashion festival

    The third and final post about my trip to Reykjavík: the Reykjavík Fashion Festival! Eight designers were showing this year, and according to Cirilia, the room was larger this year than last year, so I gather that this show is growing. Like many of the big events at DesignMarch, the venue was Harpa. It was my first experience with the world of fashion shows, so if you're new to how they work like I was, here's a little run-down:

    The shows are short - ten, maybe 15 minutes at most, depending on how many pieces are being shown and how fast or slow the models walk. After each show, everyone must clear the room so they can reset the stage and prep for the next show, changing out lights, set pieces, screens, and any other scenery being put to use. After waiting around for about 45 minutes, they're ready to reopen the doors and let the show attendees back in. The next show happens, and the whole process repeats. In, out, in, out, in, out, in out... you do a lot more waiting around (and people watching, as everyone's totally put themselves on display - this is a fashion event, after all) than you do actually watching fashion shows. 

    The Ziska show at RFF14

    And speaking of putting oneself on display, while I didn't put quite as much effort into my RFF ensemble as Cirilia and Stephen did, I can't deny that I wanted to look good and I put some thought into my clothing choices! Cirilia knit herself a truly amazing dress with some Big Loop yarn from Loopy Mango and some Schoppel Wolle XL (distributed by Skacel). The fashion bloggers were all over it. Stephen wore a pair of his infamous swants with a pimped lopapeysa and a shoulder piece by Cakes and Troubles, and the fashion bloggers were all over that, too. I went a little simpler, with a few pieces from Velouria and a knitted collar. You can see Cirilia's dress here, Stephen's outfit here, and my ensemble here (all Instagram links). For the record, the people watching was great.

    But on to the shows! I won't write about all of them here, but here's a list of the designers/labels that were showing, with links to photo slideshows:

    Farmer's Market
    Ziska
    Magnea
    Ella
    Rey
    Sigga Maija
    Cintamani
    Jör

    As far as the actual clothes, my favorites were probably Farmer's Market and Ella. And for the shows, Farmer's Market and Ziska (Ella's show had a girl-power theme going on, but as far as I'm concerned there were some mixed messages about war and peace, both in the video portion and the models' walk portion).

    The Farmer's Market Collection I could probably live in. It was the first show of the day, around 11am, and they kept a mellow pace throughout the show. I think some folks were hoping for something to wake them up first thing in the morning (for many residents of Reykjavik, 11:00 isn't that far from "first thing in the morning"), but I really enjoyed the quiet mood. Atmospheric music played, and the screen at the back of the runway displayed a rural Icelandic church as the models lazily sauntered down the runway. It was the slowest-moving runway show I think I've ever seen. The nice thing about it was that you had plenty of time to take in every detail of the clothes. Farmer's Market was creating a mood. 

    I'd call the Farmer's Market style a little bit rustic; they're definitely nodding at traditional garb and acknowledging a connection to Iceland's history. Their knitwear is always gorgeous, and the styling for this show was fantastic as well. It was quite romantic, and as much as I start to roll my eyes when I hear someone bring up Kinfolk, it wouldn't be out of place there. The palette is muted and often natural. None of these clothes would be out of place in Seattle.

    Farmer's Market at RFF14. Photos by Birta Rán, used with permission. View the whole slideshow here.

    Mixed messages aside, I did really like the clothes in Ella's collection, which was full of simple, wearable pieces. My favorites were the super sixties numbers with miniskirts/minidresses under coats - made to feel even more sixties by the Twiggy-esque hair. There was also a long dress (or skirt and top; I think it might be separates) that I loved. If I ever have reason to wear something floor length like that, I would absolutely wear that piece. The palette here still wasn't bold, but there was more variation in color, paired with neutrals.

    Ella at RFF14. Photos by Birta Rán, used with permission. View the whole slideshow here.

    Other thoughts: the palette of the Ziska show was gorgeous (black, white, grey, lavender, and mint), Cintamani pleasantly surprised us with a bright and colorful show we enjoyed (they're an outdoor and activewear line, so we weren't sure how much to expect, but it was the most bright color we saw all day), and the Jör show was totally weird, but weirdly enjoyable (it was clear that generally it was the most highly anticipated show, and consequently the best-attended one). It felt like we'd fallen into some kind of steampunk manga. All that said, I probably don't need to attend any fashion shows for awhile, but I'm glad for the experience!

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  • rvk part 2

    Barbara borrowed my hat when it started snowing on us.

    Friday was spent at the National Museum and ended with a fashion show, a precursor to Saturday's events. I didn't take any photos at the museum (though Cirilia did take a handful of them), but if you're interested in Iceland's history even a little bit, I feel like the National Museum is a must-see in Reykjavik. I spent two hours there but I could have lingered longer. I definitely spent some time nerding out over medieval manuscripts, and as a drop spindle spinner, I really enjoyed seeing the Viking-era stone spindle whorls and woven (or nalbinded) fabric remnants. There was also a really great photography exhibit on the the ground floor while we were there, and all the work being featured was shot by female photographers. The works spanned over a century of photography.

    The fashion show we went to was over at the art museum by the harbor, Hafnarhúsið. It was a very different vibe than the shows the next day. I think that the fashion world tends to take itself a little too seriously and the folks in attendance at the Hildur Yeoman show seemed to fall into that category. Still, it was an interesting experience and I'm glad we attended. The show was for Hildur's new collection, called Yulia. I believe it's named after (and partially inspired by) her great aunt. Or grandmother? Either way, it was a badass lady in her family, and I'm all for being inspired by that.

    The clothes weren't for me, but I managed to grab a photo or two anyway. Black, white, and red were th thematic colors for the collection. The girls you see at the back were doing a choreographed dance piece, which also kicked off the show.

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  • reykjavík so far

    Hello from Reykjavík, where we're halfway through DesignMarch 2014 and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival!

    I've been posting on Instagram since arriving, as have Cirilia and Stephen, and I put a bunch of our photos into the montage above. If you want to follow along, you can follow us at @cakeandvikings, @cirilia, and @westknits.

    First of all, Iceland is beautiful. I may be here for the design and fashion events (and to galavant around with buddies) but it wouldn't be that hard to skive off and stare at the landscape or out over the rooftops all day instead. Truly. 


    I arrived early in the morning on Tuesday. I had the Flybus drop me off at Reykjavík Downtown Hostel, near my friend Peter's place, which worked out well for me because I could have a coffee (I didn't sleep on the overnight flight) and some breakfast while I waited for Peter. We got to spend the day together, but I also got to get some work done and take a nap (very necessary).

    Stephen and his friend Barbara (of Chillimint) arrived from Amsterdam later that day, and Cirilia arrived the next morning. Our days thus far have consisted of a lot of coffee, snacks, and knitting. And outfit changes. Reykjavík is known for its street style but I'm not sure this city's residents can hold a candle to these guys. 

    Cirilia, Stephen, and Barbara headed down the hill to Harpa for Thursday's opening day Design Talks. I love how Harajuku Cirilia's pimped-lopapeysa look feels.

    post-coffee on Wednesday

    I feel positively tame standing next to them, swathed in black, white, and grey (right down to the lopapeysa I bought at the Handknitting Association today, seen in the Instagram montage above). But I feel like me, so it works.

    Opening day's talks on Thursday were really excellent (you can read about the programming on the DesignMarch website here). "Design" is such a diverse, broad term, and the wide range of speakers really drove that point home. The morning started off with two speakers who work in urban planning & design situations, and one of them, Kathryn Firth, might have been my favorite speaker of the day. She's working on the ongoing redesign of Olympic Park in London in the wake of the 2012 Olympics, and I have to admit I hadn't given much thought before to what happens to all the giant Olympics complexes after the games.

    After lunch the talks switched gears: we had some tech talk first (with Robert Wong from Google) and then moved on to fashion, with Mikael Schiller from Acne Studios and finally Calvin Klein. The Google talk was good, and about what you'd expect: Robert was charming in a humble, not-smooth-talking kind of way, with funny quips and emotional hooks and appropriately placed "instructional videos" that are totally ads, no matter what Google claims. I got caught up in the moment during his talk, and found my feelings toward Google (which are mostly good, but I do have some grievances) shifting in a more positive direction. After his talk, however, I came down from this magic Cloud (I guess Glass isn't a great thing to stand on) and realized I'd just been expertly emotionally manipulated. High five, Google. You're winning whatever game you're playing and it still makes me uncomfortable.

    I really enjoyed Mikael from Acne's talk. He was funny and genuine and seems generally bemused that people like what his company is doing (though of course he works very hard to make it so that people do). I probably won't buy their jeans or other clothes, but Acne's really on the up right now.

    Calvin Klein... well, he's undeniably a legend. Instead of giving a presentation like the other speakers did, his talk was in the form of an interview, and his interviewer was Icelandic designer Steinunn (a former employee of his). It was clear that CK and Steinunn have somewhat of a special relationship and the utmost respect for each other, which is lovely, but it made for a pretty vanilla interview, I must admit. I'm very glad to have heard Calvin Klein speak at all, and he gave some great advice for aspiring designers, but it would've been a much richer and more interesting interview if his interlocutor had been willing to bring up critique or controversy, or anything other than glowing praise. Perhaps if you're Calvin Klein, you have the authority (or maybe the ego) to pretend critical analysis doesn't apply to you and choose your interviewers accordingly. He was so casual when he mentioned hanging out in the Hamptons and deciding to send his personal plane to Boston to fly Marky Mark down to talk about underwear... and it was at that moment that I realized how far Calvin Klein's reality was from mine, or most of the other people in this world. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear his story and I'm grateful I had the opportunity. 

    --

    The weather the morning of Design Talks was gorgeous, and we took advantage of the gorgeous light outside Harpa (reflected off the geometric, multi-colored windows) and snapped a few goofy photos:

    I have more to write about what we've done so far (especially the National Museum!), but I think I'll save that for the next post. Until then!

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  • travels &c.

    Well, I'm all packed...

    ...and ready to go to Iceland! I'm headed to Reykjavík next week for Design March and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival, where I'll be hanging out with Cirilia Rose, Stephen West, and my dear friend Peter (Peter and I are old friends from high school, and we used to get together to bake brownies and cake and watch Björk videos, so we're pretty excited to hang out in Iceland). I always love a trip to Iceland, but it's my first time going to Design March, so I'm looking forward to it even more than usual. I'm hoping to share some updates while I'm there (I've brought my laptop along for the ride).

    On that note, after Iceland I'll be visiting family for a week, so I won't be back at Paper Tiger HQ until the second week of April. I've taken down listings for physical items from the shop (digital items are obviously still available), and any wholesale orders won't go out until I get back. 

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  • stars on the brain

    I've followed the work of artist Dan-ah Kim for several years now, and I've even got a few of her pieces up on the walls at Paper Tiger, so I was ecstatic when I saw that she's released her first children's picture book, If I Lived in the Sky.

    photo via Dan-ah Kim

    I'm such a sucker for a good night sky illustration, and Dan-ah's pretty amazing at those. Her paintings have a lovely textural quality, often incorporating additional layers of paper or fabric as well as stitched elements in addition to the textured surface of the paint itself, and while a lot of that depth is lost in book format, the mixed media still comes through and it's a breathtaking little book. Mine's already come in the mail and if you'd like a copy of your own, it's available for $11.84 on Amazon.

    I've had starry skies on my mind a lot lately (I recently finished reading The End of Night, by Paul Bogard - a book I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a human) so it's no surprise that when I stopped by my local yarn store after getting this package in the mail I walked away with a couple of skeins of Tosh Merino Light in the Stargazing colorway.

    It's an exceptionally difficult color to photograph accurately, but it's all deep rich blues, with purples and greens thrown in, rather like the Northern Lights. The sense of depth, of light and of shadow, is the hardest thing to capture in a photo. It's pretty remarkable. I got to thinking that it would look really lovely as some kind of beaded shawl - where the beads are like stars - and then I remembered Audry Nicklin's Southern Skies and Celestarium, two circular shawls that are celestial maps of the sky over the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere, respectively. Could there be a more perfect set of patterns for a colorway called "stargazing"? So I'm pretty sure my three skeins will become a Celestarium, eventually. I say "eventually" because I've got a few patterns to wrap up before I can dedicate that much time to a personal project (and more on those upcoming patterns soon).

    Fore more starry-related goodness, I'd also recommend Find the Constellations and The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H. A. Rey, of Curious George fame. 

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  • a knitter's gift guide

    'Tis the season for gift guides, and if you're anything like me at this time of year, you'll find yourself realizing you've only checked a few people off your list and you have a whole bunch more to go. I thought I'd put together a few of my favorite things that would be perfect for gifts - whether you're a knitter giving gifts to someone else, a non-knitter shopping for a knitter, or a knitter shopping/knitting for another knitter! I've tried to cover all the bases.

    Last-minute knits

    No matter how busy you are, you definitely have time to knock out at least one of these in the next few weeks. 

    1. Toatie Hottie by Kate Davies, available as a kit (including hot water bottle!) here. (£15.99)

    2. Brig, a hat and scarf set, by Veronik Avery for Brooklyn Tweed. I'm pretty in love with the simple seaman's cap that's a part of this set. Definitely a quick knit! ($6.50)

    3. Earl Grey Mitts by Bristol Ivy. Quick, simple, beautiful, unisex. How can you beat that? ($2)

    4. Whichaway Mitts by Karen Templer, a free pattern. These genius little colorblocked mitts can be worn in either direction.

    5. The Tolt Mitts & Hat, by Andrea Rangel. Designed for the opening of Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, Washington, either the hat or the mitts would be a perfect last-minute knit and a great introduction to colorwork. ($8)

    6. The appropriately-named Jul Hat, by Jenny Gordy ($6.50). 'Jul' sounds like 'yule' and it means Christmas in Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish. I love Jenny Gordy's simple knits and her styling is always impeccable.

    Project bags

    I tend to work on a lot of projects at the same time, so I'm of the opinion that you can never have too many project bags. My all-time favorite is my bag from The Fibre Company, but any of these would do well!

    1. Bento bags from Fringe Supply Co. ($16-$18)

    2. 'A Daily Dose of Fiber' designed by Vera Brosgol and available from Ravelry. They also stock this bag with the spelling 'Fibre' which you can find here. ($15) Update: it appears they only have the latter bags in stock (spelled 'fibre').

    3. Bags by The Fibre Company. Available in several places online, including here & here, or you can find a stockist near you here. (~$12)

    Magazines

    Subscriptions are available for a few of my favorites:

    1. Pom Pom Quarterly, filled with beautiful knit and (often) crochet patterns, with a focus on creative life in general. Wonderful recipes in the back of every issue. A subscription gets you four issues and is £37.

    2. Knitscene is perfect for any knitter, featuring a range of patterns in different styles, but none too complicated. Any knitter could confidently tackle a Knitscene pattern. I love these guys. A subscription gets you four issues and is $24.

    3. Extra Curricular isn't strictly a knitting magazine and you actually aren't likely to find any knitting patterns in this one at all, but they do always have some DIY project or another you can try out. This NZ-based magazine is one of my absolute favorites, and they're focused on creative folk of all sorts. A subscription gets you three issues and is $42 (NZ).

    Project Notebooks

    I might be a notebook hoarder, but like project bags, I really don't think you can ever have too many.

    Moleskine. Call me boring, but I have no interest in any of the busy new editions Moleskine keeps coming out with - I'm a devotee of the simplest, plainest, most elegant notebooks they carry. You can't beat a classic. Available here from the Moleskine website, where you can choose your size, paper type (plain/lined/graph), cover weight, and color, among other things. ($9.95-$20.95)

    In contrast to Moleskine, I love the special 'Colors' editions by Field Notes. Their most recent edition is pretty beautiful: Cold Horizon. These come in three-packs and they're pocket-sized. Good for almost anything. ($9.95 for a 3-pack)

    Knitter's Graph Paper Journal from Fringe Supply Co. How many times have I wished I had one of these on me? If you do any charting yourself, or you know someone who does, this is a perfect gift. The grid is laid out like a knitting chart, so the columns are wider than the rows are tall. Perfect for visualizing a colorwork design or working out the kinks of a new cable. ($12)

    Notecards

    Looking for the perfect card to go along with your package? Here are a few of my favorites:

    1. Set of 5 sweater notecards by Brooklyn Tweed ($25)

    2. 'Bummer' notecard by Knerd ($5)

    3. Notions notecards from Ravelry ($6)

    Are you knitting any gifts this holiday season?

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  • monday inspiration

    It's a rainy Monday here in Seattle, but the rain is amping up the cozy vibes, since I'm laid up on the couch under a wool blanket (feeling pretty under the weather today). I finished my Faire du Vélo bike sweater last week, and I hope to grab some photos soon, but as that clearly won't be happening today, I thought I'd share a few beautiful things I'm feeling inspired by instead... 

    Photo courtesy Karen Templer

    Karen Templer of Fringe Association introduced her lovely Yarn Pyramid print a few days ago, available from Fringe Supply Co. here. Using the idea of the oldschool Food Pyramid, Karen's created (along with the help of a few talented friends) a Yarn Pyramid with recommended doses of different types of fibers, from sheep's wool building the foundation at the bottom to synthetic fibers at the very top ("use sparingly"). The posters are 16"x20" and letterpress-printed, so I bet they're gorgeous in person. Any fiber enthusiast would be happy to hang this on their wall, myself included.

    I also wanted to share a rather unique pattern I came across while browsing my recommended pattern highlights on Ravelry. Kieran Foley's Sari completely took my breath away. I've never seen a pattern quite like this:


    Photo copyright Kieran Foley

    Inspired by Indian embroidery and filigree patterns, Kieran's made use of Erica Heftmann's beautiful colorshiftyarn to create the contrasting gradients. The combination of stranded colorwork, intarsia, and lace knitting makes this stole unlike any knit piece I've ever seen before. It's an amazing marriage of pattern and yarn.



    Photo copyright Kieran Foley

    Kieran's Sari pattern is available on Ravelry here, and there's also a kit available with the necessary yarn if you wanted to create your own version of the sample (the pattern is not included in the yarn kit). Get the yarn kit here. You can see more of Kieran's work at his website, kieranfoley.com.

    -

    I also want to say thank you for all the wonderful feedback I've received on my new designs. It's been difficult to keep everything under wraps for the past few months: the collection, Pom Pom, Brooklyn Tweed, but it's a joy to finally share all that work with the world and I couldn't be happier with the reception. Every kind word, comment, rav favorite/queue, and of course, pattern purchase, means the world to me. A heartfelt thank you to you all.

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  • tolt yarn and wool

    Happy Monday! The highly anticipated opening of Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, Washington was this past weekend, and I'm so excited to share a few photos with you. There are also links galore, so grab a cup of something warm and delicious to keep you company while you peruse.

    Anna, the shop's owner, was absolutely instrumental in making the photoshoots for Paper Tiger Fall/Winter 13 a possibility, and the lookbook wouldn't have been possible without her help. She is one of the most awesome people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and I'm so proud of all of her hard work on the store and I'm incredibly excited she gets to share her vision with the world now that it's open.

    The store is lofty and large; it's a really beautiful old space on Carnation's little main drag. It's thoughtfully designed and laid out, too. I remember that Anna was dismayed when she realized the old hardwood floor was in bad enough shape that they'd have to tear it out, but in an effort to preserve some of the space's history, much of the wood from the floor was salvaged and used on the south wall of the space. It adds warmth and character that would have otherwise been lost. Anna's stocked the store with both hardy wools as well as more luxurious yarn options (being a fan of both, I'm very happy about this). She's also carrying several Skacel yarns and Ístex Létt-Lopi, which makes it great place to pick up yarn if you're planning to make, say, Moon Pulls or Nikoline. Also in stock is HiKoo Kenzie, so you're covered if you want to make a Pine Bough Cowl. There's even a sample on display in the little Kenzie corner!

    Andrea Rangel, who was just down here in Seattle for Knit Fit, designed a pair of patterns to celebrate the store's opening, and the pieces are proudly on display front and center when you walk in the door. Aren't the Tolt Hat and Mitts beautiful? I love the subtle color shifts of the contrasting yarn, one by Spincycle Yarns (also locals, up in Bellingham!).

    The notions, bags, and other accessories in stock at Tolt are also pretty crush-worthy. There are some sweet goods from Fringe Supply Co. and I really liked these bags from Such Sweet Tierney. One of those Tolt mugs came home with me, too.

    I can tell I'll be making many trips over Lake Washington to visit this cozy space. If you have a chance, you should make the trip yourself, whether you're local or you're just traveling through the Pacific Northwest! You definitely won't regret it. Visit the website for Tolt Yarn and Wool at toltyarnandwool.com, and be sure to follow the blog if you'd like to keep up with what's going on!


    (click on that last image to make it larger) 

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  • inspiration: field notes

    I'm one of those people who hoards notebooks, especially small-sized ones. There's something about beautiful stationery that's hard for me to resist, and I don't think I'm alone in that respect. For those who are familiar with the Field Notes Brand notebooks, it will come as no surprise that I'm a longtime avid fan. The regular Field Notes memo books are great, but what I really love are the limited edition variations they come out with quarterly. They started out as simply special colors, but they've progressed to variations with wider themes, and it's one of those things they do really well. Past editions have included the County Fair Edition, the "Expedition" Edition, and the last one I purchased, the genius Dry Transfer ______ Edition, which came complete with dry transfer sheets of letters in 36-point Futura Bold, so you could apply anything you wanted in place of the usual Field Notes logo. (I've got one around here somewhere that says "Paper Tiger," but I couldn't find it to take a photo.)

    I got an email a couple weeks ago about the summer 2013 edition, and I knew right away I'd be buying a 3-pack. The newest edition is the Night Sky Edition.

    Beautiful, simple front, but it's the back of the memo books that's really the star (no pun intended). Three different sections of the summer sky over the northern hemisphere are depicted, with major constellations outlined and the stars themselves done in silver holographic foil. It's a beautiful thing to behold. And the paper? A sort of dot grid graph paper, but instead of dots, there are tiny crosshair reticles, like you might see if you were looking through a telescope. I love it.

    It looks like the 3-packs are already sold out, but the Night Sky Edition is still available with a new Colors Subscription, which is basically a pre-order of the current edition and the next three to come (in other words, you'll get every limited edition for a year). You get a couple 3-packs of the regular Field Notes, too. That's all available here, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page.

    I'm planning to use these little notebooks (and the rest in my stash) as garden journals, because I'm planning to start a vegetable garden this summer. They'll fit nicely in my back pocket so I can bring them outside with me. Using Field Notes for... actual field notes! I can't wait to get started.

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  • the new paper tiger hq

    A few weeks ago I made a very exciting decision - I signed a lease on a studio/office space for Paper Tiger! While there are some things I loved about working from home, I feel like making the leap to a workspace outside the home has been a fantastic decision for my creative work. Change can be a little scary, but over the past few weeks I've been working on putting together a bright, inviting space that is both comfortable and inspiring. It's still a work in progress, and there are a few more pieces of furniture I need to procure before it's "done" and presentable, but I thought I would share a sneak peek of a few details of the space in progress!

    For those who are curious: the succulent is Burro's Tail; the teal fabric on the wall is a Michael Miller print I bought at Drygoods Design (available here); the ombré curtain is from Target; the dreamy pendant lamp is the Garland Light by Tord Boontje; the mirror with Norwegian on it says "to dream and to do"; and the coat rack yarn holder was totally my husband's idea.

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  • tonari no totoro!

    I watched My Neighbor Totoro for the first time in a very long time last night. I grew up with this movie, and it was my introduction to Japanese animation and to Miyazaki's work in particular. It's still brilliant, and I think it's only getting better with time. I decided my chalkboard at home needed a little tribute, which I present to you here:

    The characters read "Tonari no Totoro," or "My Neighbor Totoro." If you've never seen this movie, I highly recommend finding a copy. There is so much to love about it.

    Photo pulled from my instagram feed. If you're on instagram, you can follow me here.

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  • inspiration: scissors for a brush

    A few weeks ago I stopped by the Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle to check out one of the rotating exhibitions. It's called Scissors for a Brush, and it's an exhibition of work by Danish-Norwegian artist Karen Bit Vejle. Her artwork is all papercut, or psaligraphy, done with paper and scissors, and it's pretty amazing to behold. Intricate, delicate, and sometimes astonishing in scale.

    The exhibition features somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 different pieces, and it's been traveling since 2009. If you're in Seattle, the exhibit is up through June 16th, and it's absolutely worth seeing. It was hugely inspiring and it made me wish I had that kind of patience.

    The images below are from Karen Bit Vejle's website, papercutart.no.


    [click the image to make larger]

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  • extra curricular

    It's been a little quiet around here, but only because I've been working away! I have a couple upcoming patterns that should be ready for release in a few weeks, plus a few other projects I've been working on, so I don't have so many finished things to show off at the moment. I figured I'd take this opportunity, when I'm mid-project on so many projects, to share a little bit about an independent magazine I totally fell for while in New Zealand.

    I found my way into a textiles bookshop while in Wellington (I know - it was just as dreamy as it sounds) called Minerva, and I walked away with a copy of a little publication called Extra Curricular. It's an independent quarterly magazine focused on creative folks and the way that people bring creativity into their lives. I picked up a slightly older issue, because I was especially interested in the self-publishing featurette inside, but I can tell that any issue I picked up would've made me fall in love with them. The content is really fantastic, inspiring, and well-curated.

    On a purely aesthetics level, it's great too. Smaller in size than a typical magazine (I believe it's just shy of A5) with matte paper and full color throughout - well laid out, good font choices, crisp photos. Rounded corners complement the aesthetic without feeling trendy. I'd be hard pressed to ask for more.

    I learned about some fantastic stuff in one little issue, particularly Conversations with Creative Women (though I wish the hard copy wasn't sold out!), the photography of Elle Sendall, and there was a short feature on The Hungry Girls' Cookbook (I had actually picked up volume 3 a few days before in Sydney). The issue also featured how-tos, a few recipes, and so many interviews with creative folks that felt more like stories than magazine interviews. The focus on supporting local creatives in and from New Zealand and Australia came through strongly.

    Sometimes you come across something that drives you to want to be better at what you do, and Extra Curricular is one of those things. It's a very personable publication, and I just might have to order myself a subscription.

    The most recent issue (#11) came out a few weeks ago and you can pick up your own copy here.

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  • sydney favorites

    I wanted to round up a list of a few favorite discoveries from Sydney, Australia. Five days is not a long time to explore a new city, and though I did my best to get out and around different areas of the city, many of these favorites are located in the neighborhood where I stayed, Surry Hills. It's a neighborhood I can heartily recommend visiting, though, and I enjoyed strolling up and down Crown Street, checking out a myriad of awesome local shops and restaurants. But without further ado, on to the favorites:

    Hyde Park / Metro St. James

    Hyde Park is in the center of town, a gorgeous green couple of blocks full of tree-lined walks and fountains. I found myself in Hyde Park every day I was in Sydney, but the walk through the park early in the morning my first day there was pretty magical. We stopped for breakfast at Metro St. James, a brand new French cafe built into an old building that's part of the entrance to the St. James metro station. The cafe opens up onto the park so that even when sitting inside, you feel like you're out on the terrace. And this place is good. Great coffee, and I had the best avocado on toast of my life. Both the park and the cafe are worth your time.

    Kürtősh

    It's relatively rare to see Hungarian restaurants, bakeries, or shops outside of Hungary, so after my year spent living there I get really excited when I stumble upon one. Kürtősh isn't specifically Hungarian themed, but the prioprietors did take its name from the Hungarian pastry kürtőskalács, one of my favorites (anglicizing the name with an 'h' at the end, so that you might come close to pronouncing it correctly!). They even traveled to Hungary in order to purchase the traditional oven kürtőskalács is baked in, and they trained with Hungarian bakers to learn how to make this specialty properly. I can vouch for the authenticity: their kürtőskalács is super good and exactly like what I've had in Hungary. The philosophy of this cafe, which has a few locations, was to create a cozy space that feels like home, reminiscent of childhood memories of a kitchen filled with the smell of fresh baked goods. The selection of treats reflect that, with a mix of different offerings, from the aforementioned kürtőskalács and traditional Hungarian dobos torta to the less exotic but totally comforting 'mum's chocolate cake'. I visited the Surry Hills location three times in five days, where the staff was super friendly and amazing, and they have two other spots, in Randwick and Crows Nest.

    Follow

    During an afternoon downpour we took refuge inside a little shop called Follow. I didn't get any photos of the shop interior itself, which is a shame, because it's tucked inside a beautiful old pharmacy storefront - and I mean old. All the old wooden pharmacy cabinets lining the walls have been preserved and now showcase beautiful products by independent Australian designers. This is one of the best curated boutiques I've come across in a long time, carrying clothing by independent designers, a range of artwork and other handmade goods, paper goods and stationery, and jewelry. This spot was another Surry Hills find.

    Taronga Zoo

    As far as zoos go, this one's pretty spectacular. Taronga Zoo is a short ferry ride from downtown Sydney, so the journey to the zoo is a trip in itself, with great views of the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. Everything about this zoo felt so well done, and there's a huge emphasis on education and conservation, helping park visitors to learn about the impact our everyday lives as humans have on the natural world and ideas for how to reduce that impact. (Public thank you to my mom for suggesting a trip to this zoo - we wouldn't have made it over otherwise.)

    Mardi Gras Parade

    This last one's kind of cheating, because it's time-dependent, but I couldn't not include it in this list. We had no idea until right before we we left for the trip that we'd accidentally booked ourselves into Sydney Mardi Gras's culminating weekend, but I'm so glad we did. Mardi Gras in Sydney is basically a three week-long pride festival, drawing hundreds of thousands of people every year, with a big emphasis on LGBTQI rights and equality. The parade was immensely fun and while I didn't make it to any of the other events going on, this festival is both one big party and a great opportunity for discussion and education. It was hugely inspiring and I encourage anyone interested to check out the official Sydney Mardi Gras website.

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  • color/texture/pattern in sydney, australia

    The biggest impression that Sydney, Australia left on me was one of color and life. This city felt like it was brimming with vivid saturation, a reflection of the vibrant, bustling, and creative communities that have sprung up over the last decade. I have more to share about my time in the city, but I wanted to put some of the examples I collected of that color and life around the city into one post.

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  • inspiration: michiyo

    I'm still putting together my posts on Sydney and New Zealand, but in the meantime I've been working on several knitting designs (it's submission season for everyone's fall/winter collections). I really enjoy the process of putting together a design submission for a publication, but it does mean lots of sketching and swatching and not a lot of project-oriented knitting. It's left me itching to put a project on my needles and work from somebody else's pattern for once!

    On my trip to Japan for Summer Sonic music festival last summer, I spent an inordinate amount of time in bookstores looking at Japanese knitting books (they're hard to resist). I fell in love with Michiyo's knit and crochet designs and picked out one of her books to bring back home, vowing to learn the basics of reading a Japanese charted pattern so I could knit the projects from it I was interested in. This is the book in question, and in English the title is Enjoyable Patterns Knit Daywear (or so Ravelry tells me - rav link). As we're heading into spring, I opted to knit the lacy wrap top/cardigan (S. Cardigan) pictured on the right side of the cover below, probably the first piece in the book I fell in love with.

    cover image from amazon.co.jp

    The boxy construction and repetitive lace pattern mean it's wonderful TV/movie knitting. I'm knitting it up with wool from my stash, some old Te Awa Natural Wools 8-ply gifted to me by my aunt. It's undyed natural New Zealand wool, and given my recent trip, it's nice to be knitting with! After learning a few basics and taking some notes, I find the chart pretty simple to work from. I'm excited about this, because it means I'll be able to knit from more Michiyo patterns in the future. Because I bought this book on my Summer Sonic trip, I've dubbed my lace top 'Summer Sonic' (サマーソニック) and you can follow my progress on Ravelry here.

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  • inspiration: old stomping grounds

    I'm back in my hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina for the holidays, and I've been out & about hitting up some old haunts and I'm happy to see it seems like Greensboro's doing well. In particular, I've been spending time in a little pocket of Elm Street, downtown, and I thought I'd share some of the goodness with you.

    One of my favorite spots to hit up when I was in high school was a vintage shop called Design Archives. They've moved locations a couple of times since I moved away, but their current spot at 342-344 S. Elm Street is half Design Archives vintage shop, half handmade emporium with booths full of handmade goods and art by local vendors and designers. While I miss the old giant location of my high school years, this might be my favorite incarnation of Design Archives to date. The handmade emporium is kind of hard to beat. (storefront photo from the Design Archives website)

    I picked up a really cute print by Heart & Craft while I was there to remind me of my home state once I'm back in Seattle. I love everything this husband and wife team is doing.

    (here's the listing, if you're hankering for one of your own)

    I also popped into a shop on the next block called Just Be (352 S. Elm Street), and I'm glad I did. They carry a really nice product mix, some strictly local stuff and some larger nationally-distributed independent companies as well (I was happy to see some products from Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress, of Bellingham, WA in there). Their website is also an online store, if you're too far away to make it to the brick-and-mortar location.

    This pocket of Elm Street is also home to one of my favorite local coffee places, The Green Bean, and my favorite yarn store in Greensboro, Gate City Yarns. Should you ever find yourself in Greensboro, make sure you save some time to make it downtown!

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  • the 2012 nordic knitting conference

    Every other year, the Nordic Heritage Museum in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle hosts a Nordic Knitting Conference, and it's something I look forward to with great anticipation. I love the chance to take a few classes and learn something new, to make new friends, and to nerd out about two of the things I love most in this world: Scandinavia and knitting.

    As if "nordic knitting" weren't enough of a niche already, this year the conference had a theme: mittens! Instructors were flown in from around the U.S. and the Nordic countries, and for three days conference-goers had the chance to learn about all aspects of mitten-knitting from across Scandinavia and the Baltics. The conference is topped off with a Saturday night banquet and keynote speech each year, and for the scholar in me, this is one of my favorite parts of the conference.

    This year I elected to take two day-long classes, and I enjoyed them both very much. The first was a Latvian mittens class taught by Sandy de Master and Mary Germain (both teachers at Sievers School of Fiber Arts in Wisconsin). Sandy and Mary are wonderful teachers full of stories, and at the end of the day we'd learned all the necessary skills to knit a fully-lined Latvian mitten (and how these characteristics differed from other countries' traditions). In a class like this you get a lot of history, personal and otherwise: there were tales of how Sandy and Mary started learning about Latvian mittens and got involved with their local Latvian community, a history of where the features of the mittens came from, and the role that mittens like this once played in Latvian culture. There *might* have also been some stories about the artificial insemination of sheep and knitting in jail. We all left for home with mini practice mittens in hand (I'll be hanging mine on the Christmas tree, I think).

    The other class I took was one I was looking forward to very much: Traditional Norwegian Design with Annemor Sundbø. Annemor is now recognized as a national treasure in Norway for her work and research in knitting, and the documentation and preservation of traditional Norwegian design. Over the course of the conference I was able to learn much of her backstory, and how she wound up doing what she's doing, and anyone interested in textile & knitting history should take a peek around her website and maybe pick up one of her books. The short version of her story is that she amassed tons of old knitted garments while running a shoddy mill in southern Norway, and this "rag pile," as she calls it, is the root of her work. She brought a very small piece of this rag pile to Seattle for the conference, which was on display during her classes and featured during her keynote speech on Saturday evening.

    Annemor has collected different animal motifs she's found on garments in her ragpile and knitted them all up in large panels, like a giant stitch dictionary.

    In short, Annemor's kind of a hero of mine, appealing to all of my senses as a scholar and a knitter & knitwear designer. It was a joy to hear her talk on Saturday evening and to take her class on Sunday. The premise of that class was to discuss the rules and guidelines that traditional Norwegian design followed, and to design our own mittens using those guidelines and the traditional motifs and patterns generally found on Norwegian knitting. I charted out and worked up my mitten, pictured below (still thumbless):


    And my splurge for the weekend was treating myself to Annemor's newest book, the fully bilingual (in Norwegian and English) Strikking i Billedkunsten / Knitting in Art:

    From the back cover: "This book shows how artworks can be used to discuss knitting history even if the artists didn't have that in mind when they painted. ... Artworks also contain invisible lead threads tied to stories about knitting not immediately apparent in the pictures."

    I would be content to sit around and read this book all day, I must admit, but I've got things to get done and so that will have to wait. And on that note... I'm off to get some of that work done!

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  • urban craft uprising, day 1

    One of the largest craft fairs that happens here in Seattle, Urban Craft Uprising, is going on this weekend at Seattle Center. I got to go for the first time last December (they do a winter show and a summer show), and for anyone who has an affinity for the cute and the handmade, it is the ultimate collection of Stuff You Want to Buy. There are some mega-talented people selling stuff this weekend, and it feels great to be able to meet all the wonderful folks making rad stuff in the northwest.

    I swung by today for a quick peek at who was selling, and I'm headed back tomorrow to make a few purchases. One of the great things about having all these amazing artists in one place is that you can start a collection of business cards as you make your rounds, stash them in a box, and then pull them back out when a friend has a birthday coming up or the holidays are coming or you just want to buy something nice for someone (or for yourself). As a designer, it's always really fun to see what folks do with their cards, too. I thought I'd share a few of my vendors this time around, starting with...



    Jill Bliss!
    jillbliss.com
    I've actually been a huge fan of Jill's stuff for years now, so it was pretty thrilling to see a whole booth full of gorgeous Jill Bliss artwork, and to get to meet her too! She tends to illustrate plants and animals and natural things in some not-so-natural pastel shades which makes for a combination that is both striking and delicately pretty.




    Sycamore Street Press
    sycamorestreetpress.com
    I discovered these guys at the last UCU in December and I am such a huge fan of their letterpress notecards and prints. I was really happy to see them selling again this time around. Eva's business card is totally gorgeous, too - letterpress (of course) on a nice thick cardstock. It's a great card in that it totally represents what these guys are all about (which a good business card should do, truly). Somehow these guys are both chic and cheeky and it totally works.




    Blue Diamond Stamp Company
    bluediamonstamps.com
    I love stamps, but somehow I'd never come across these guys. The coolest thing about Blue Diamond is that they sell acrylic stamps - the actual stamp is a clear polymer that sticks to an acrylic block. You only need one block for all your polymer stamps, so you save a ton of space on storage. Plus, the acrylic block is totally clear, so you can see exactly where your image is going!


    I'll write about a few more vendors tomorrow, as well as share a few images from the event. If you're in Seattle, it's going on from 11-5 at Seattle Center!

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  • urban craft uprising, day 2

    Day two of UCU was just as fun as the first - and today I had my wallet with me. I went with my friend Jess and James at 11am this time, when the fair opens, and much to my surprise, we were close enough to the front of the line to get swag bags! The goodies inside were totally rad, too. The combined contents of mine and James' bags:

    1. Handmade vegan soaps, Estrella Soaps
    2. Bottlecap pin from Tami Potts
    3. Handmade glass bead, Hammer and Torch
    4. Selected buttons, Creation Station
    5. Gorgeous forest green ribbon from Midori Ribbon
    6. Little sheep (!) pouch, Maluhia Designs
    7. Needlework scissors from Pacific Fabrics & Crafts
    8. Fabric buttons from Laura Bucci
    9. Mega-super-adorable blue gingham buttons from Midori Ribbon
    There was also a headband from Texture but I forgot to throw it in the photo (whoops!).

    Pretty incredible freebies, to be honest. UCU does it right. And as for my purchased goods...

    I'd say I did okay! In the back is a gorgeous print from favorite Jill Bliss. Also pictured: an adorable card from Sycamore Street Press ("Great job on that thing you did, really super!"), some iron-on patches and a wooden button from R and L, and a DAVID BOWIE NECKLACE! from Fable & Fury.

    And as I mentioned, I collect a big stack of business cards as I go along, and you can see a few of the favorite vendors I've written about tucked in there:



    And speaking of favorite vendors, here's a few more additions to the list I started yesterday:





    Locket 2 You
    locket2you.com
    These lockets were both adorable and amazing, and the folks are super nice. They're based in Portland and they rotate their designs seasonally, so there's always rad new designs on the way.





    MuchoDesign
    muchodesign.etsy.com
    These guys had some stellar embroidered artwork and really, really gorgeous jewelry. If I remember correctly, much of the embroidered work was made with reclaimed textiles, which is really awesome. Also: embroidered Spock?! What's not to love?





    Princess of Patterns
    princessofpatterns.com
    Sarah's got a huge selection of gorgeous vintage knitting patterns available. Being a fan of both knitting and vintage clothing, I was swooning over her patterns just a wee bit...




    Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress
    bisonbookbinding.com
    These guys had some gorgeous cards but my favorite were the ones pictured above - letterpress notecards with recipes on the front!


    And for good measure, here's a few more photos...



    Brad slings Estrella Soap



    Jess peruses Attic Journals


    Gorgeous yarns from Yarnia


    Adorable laser-cut wooden plant labels from RandL


    Pretty little notebooks at the Jill Bliss booth

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  • inspiration: chris mcveigh

    I haven't had a proper "inspiration" post for awhile, but I came across Chris McVeigh's work yesterday and had to share. He's a graphic designer and a photographer and shoots a lot of different things (there's a lot of Legos and action figures on his photostream), but my favorites of his have to be the little Lego worlds he creates as well as the shots of chipmunks with Star Wars action figures. If I had to describe his work, I'd probably say it's ridiculous in a good way.


    "A Balanced Breakfast"


    "I've Got a Bad Feeling About This"


    "Business is Slow"

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  • inspiration: christian sorensen hansen

    Seattle is so alive with creativity that sometimes my heart feels fit to burst. I am beyond impressed with the musicians and artists here, and these two videos by Christian Sorensen Hansen are a perfect representation of why. Be sure to check out both of these bands as well as Christian's other work -

    International Filing Systems / Christian Sorensen Hansen
    Bryan John Appleby
    Campfire OK

    Cliffs Along The Sea from Christian Sorensen Hansen on Vimeo.



    Dreidel, Dreidel from Christian Sorensen Hansen on Vimeo.



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  • inspiration: beautiful angle

    I'm a longtime fan of anything letterpressed, and while I've been making posters and doing other design for years, there are a few tangible design mediums I haven't yet had a lot of experience with. Letterpress is one of those, and the other week I finally got a chance to see the process in person (and even help out a little bit!).



    Beautiful Angle is a letterpress studio in Tacoma, WA run by Lance Kagey that's constantly turning out really wonderful stuff. Once a month, Lance and writer Tom Llewellyn (along with friends and collaborators) make a run of posters to put up around Tacoma. On top of the monthly Beautiful Angle posters, Lance often does posters for events in the area. I got a chance to look through the huge backlog of posters they've built up while we worked on pressing some posters for upcoming Wintergrass. I couldn't help grabbing a few photos while down there...


    Some custom letters Lance designed himself.


    The portion of the Wintergrass posters we were pressing that night.


    Lance's gorgeous vintage letterpress.



    Letterpress is an art that's tangible in a way that many things in our lives aren't anymore. In such a digital age I find it refreshing to work with my hands and it helps me really appreciate the physical result of such a time-tested craft. I'm looking forward to spending more time with this medium in the future.


    Posters drying.

    And here are just a few examples of the work Beautiful Angle has done:





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  • inspiration: EF language programs

    It's not terribly often that my interests in art/design and linguistics/language teaching overlap, but here's a case where they have quite beautifully. EF language programs put together a series of videos advertising their "live the language" approach to language learning. The entire team that worked on these did a stunning job - the photography on its own is gorgeous, but it's the typography here that really won me over. Type done well says more than many other aspects of design can do. Watch their video for French below, and be sure to check out their others for Spanish, English, and Chinese.





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  • inspiration: hum creative

    There's a lot of talented design studios in Seattle, and one of my larger inspirations of late is Hum Creative. Kate Harmer has a style that is bright and clean and full of character, which translates well in both print and web. She has a serious flair for typography, and I think her work is showcased especially well when letterpress printed. Being a sucker for good typography and letterpress myself, it's no wonder she's a favorite.


    Logo & business cards for Seattle photographer/creative manager Sarah Jurado

    Some of my favorite projects of Kate's are her interactive ones. What Comes To Mind? "in­structs view­ers to make con­nec­tions be­tween the image and the let­ter print­ed over it" via a series of photos removed from context. Each photo is juxtaposed with a letter of the alphabet and a lined card for viewers to write down their associations.



    Another favorite interactive project is Methods Employed, a collaborative list of methods people have suggested for creative endeavors. It's full of (as the name would suggest) methods, advice, ideas, and general thoughts on the creative process. I enjoyed reading through the list and even added a few myself!

    Kate's a talented illustrator too, and I fully recommend checking out her full portfolio.

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  • inspiration: books and pdx

    This summer has been surprisingly full of travel, and I'm only just getting around to projects that have been on the to-do list. In the meantime, I've been totally in awe of two new projects by Portland-based illustrators/authors.

    My friend Amy Martin recently relocated to Portland from Los Angeles. This coincided with the release of her new children's book, Symphony City, by McSweeney's.



    Amy's illustration is hugely inspiring for me - her work is saturated with color and her graphic style is appealing and very well-suited for everything from music posters to (you guessed it) children's books. What impresses me the most about her latest project is that she also wrote the book herself, and great children's literature is deceptively difficult. If you get a chance, pick up a copy from your local bookstore (it's also available on amazon.com).


    Another huge inspiration at the moment is the new project of Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy and Decemberists illustrator (and wife of Colin) Carson Ellis. I have long loved Carson's work, and so it's been incredible to see what she's come up with for their new book Wildwood, the first in a series of books known as the Wildwood Chronicles. Colin is authoring the texts, and Carson is illustrating. You can preview the first four chapters via the Wildwood website now. I think I'm most excited to see all of the illustrations Carson has come up with.




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