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reflection
  • project planning: soothing knits

    I mentioned on Instagram this week that I've been in a little bit of a slump lately. I'm sure there are several contributing factors - the slog of mid-winter (and so far one with much less snow than usual), the feelings that come with the weird middle stretch of my thesis work (totally normal, but hard to shake all the same), and the political situation back in my home country (let's just go with "it's a mess" and not say any more about that here, shall we?). I also fell of the metaphorical horse with my exercise plan after several months of working out regularly and it's been hard to find my way back in. Exercise makes a huge difference when you're feeling down, or at least it does for me. Nonetheless, I feel like I'm on the upward curve again, thankfully. 

    A trip to Montreal at the end of January helped with that. I've been before, but it's still not a city I know very well, so there's so much to explore - and as a result, seemingly endless inspiration. I popped into La Maison Tricotée while I was there on a beautifully sunny Sunday, where I picked up a skein of sock yarn as a souvenir. That seemed like a great way to kick off a post of my upcoming knitting plans - and I think you'll sense a theme: soothing, repetitive knits.

    The skein of sock yarn I brought back from Montréal is Riverside Studio's Merino Cashmere Nylon fingering in the colorway Storm. I've knit exactly one pair of socks using a sock yarn with cashmere - these plain stockinette socks in Dream in Color's Smooshy with Cashmere - and they shot to the top of my "favorites to wear" list almost immediately. The cashmere feels so luxurious. So when I saw a merino cashmere base at La Maison Tricotée, I jumped on it. Riverside Studio was new to me, but Kat is located in Farrellton, Québec, not too far from Ottawa, and it felt good to bring something home from a Québecois dyer. I like these colors, too, and the way they bring to mind winter to me - on some of Kat's other bases, this color seems a bit bluer and more saturated, but something about the merino/cashmere/nylon base takes the color a little bit differently, and it really feels like it suggests snow, water in the mist, the sea reflecting snow clouds, and bare branches all at once.

    I plan to make a pair of Siv socks with this yarn, from the first issue of Laine magazine. Another of my all-time favorite pairs of socks is my Twisted Flower socks, from the pattern by Cookie A - but I know that the allover traveling-stitches-and-lace pattern will be too much for me when I'm working to get my thesis done. Siv's panel of traveling stitches feels like a nice compromise. But I won't be starting these until I finish my current sock project...

    When I got back from Montréal I started a pair of Fika socks, with this springy green Jorstad Creek BFL Tweed Sock yarn. The twisted rib leg and stockinette foot definitely counts as repetitive and soothing right now, and I've wanted to make a pair of Fika socks since the issue of Pom Pom that they're in first came out - nearly two years ago now. I've been wanting to use the yarn even longer - it's been in my stash since 2013, since I bought it at Knit Fit in Seattle, where I had a booth at the marketplace and the Jorstad Creek both was right across from mine. I'm about halfway through the first sock now and it feels so good to finally use a yarn that's just been languishing in the stash for years. 

    I've also been thinking about what I want to do with these two skeins of Woolfolk Tynd in Pewter. I bought them back in 2014 and I originally planned to make a pair of Fure armwarmers from Woolfolk's first pattern collection with them, but I've gone this long without casting on even though I really want to work with this yarn. So I've come to terms with the fact that it's probably not the right pattern for me (and besides, my Inglis mitts are plenty long for me, it turns out). Again, I've been thinking about patterns that are soothing and repetitive, which will fill a gap in my wardrobe, and I'm pretty sure some kind of simple cowl would be a good way to go here. The Woolfolk is really soft, which makes it an ideal next-to-the-skin sort of yarn, and a cozy cowl I can tuck into the top of my coat when it's not cold enough for a big scarf sounds fantastic. I'm not totally set on this yet, but I'm thinking about Lilac Wine by Amy Christoffers, which is a perfect blank canvas for a really beautiful yarn to shine. (Note that Amy's site no longer seems to be active, so clicking the link on Ravelry will give you an error message, but you can copy/paste the direct link into the Wayback Machine at archive.org to access it). For a stretchy cowl, the difference in yarn weight isn't an issue.

    There are more projects in the pipeline, but I'm trying not too get too ahead of myself as long as my thesis is my main focus. But these are some of the projects and yarns I'm looking forward to the most. Interestingly, two of these involve a lot of 1x1 ribbing and one involves traveling stitches - and I recognize that for some folks, neither of those things says "soothing." So I'm curious: what kind of knitting is most soothing for you? Are there particular kinds of yarns, projects, or stitch patterns you gravitate towards when you want some easy comfort knitting? I'd love to know!

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  • best of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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  • on darkness and light

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • slow fashion october: introduction

    When Karen launched Slow Fashion October last year, I really wanted to participate. I wasn't able to take part in any very active way, though, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I was knee-deep in the first semester of my master's program, trying to keep up with readings and homeworks and paper-writing after several years away from any type of schoolwork. For another, I had only moved to Tromsø two months before, so I was only just beginning to adjust to my new climate, which has had (and continues to have) a great effect on my wardrobe. This year, I'm in a much better place to join in on Slow Fashion October with some active reflection. I've spent over a year in my new climate and I have a much better idea of how it's transformed my relationship with clothing. It's also been a year and a half since I decided to step away from running Paper Tiger as my full-time day job and start the transition back to this being a part-time gig. It feels like a good moment for reflection.

    For those unfamiliar, Slow Fashion October was started by Karen Templer of Fringe Association last year as an opportunity for conversation - about what "slow fashion" is and means to us, about the ways in which we approach it, and reasons why a slow fashion wardrobe is a choice many of want to make. In Karen's words, "the conversation is not just about handmade — it’s about all the ways (and reasons!) we can approach a slow-fashion wardrobe." This includes finding ways to make do and mend, buying second hand, and thinking about how to keep clothing out of the landfill. I have many, many thoughts on fast fashion and the state of the fashion industry, but for today I'll focus on how my own context affects my approach to clothing.

    I've spent much of the last year thinking critically about my wardrobe and how my move to Norway is affecting my choices, as well as ways to make do with what I have. Even though I donated about half of my yarn stash before the move, my stash is still.... sizeable, to say the least. It no longer overwhelms me, but I would like to knit from it before buying new yarn, and it always feels good to find the holy grail: the right project that fits into my long-term wardrobe plans using yarn I already have. So I've slowly (very slowly) started to catalog my stash using Ravelry's stash feature. While it's an ongoing process, I've already seen the benefits - starting to catalog worsted weight yarns on Ravelry led directly to my Fringe & Friends KAL sweater (pictured at top, and nearly finished!), knit entirely from yarns in my stash. I don't think that stripe sequence would have popped into my head if I hadn't been handling the yarns and noting the quantities for my Ravelry stash page.

    So, how has my new climate affected my wardrobe? Those of you who follow this blog know that I live in Norway, but many of you probably don't realize exactly how far north Tromsø is. This felt like a good opportunity to provide some conext:

    Tromsø sits at 69ºN, well above the Arctic Circle (and the entirety of Iceland, which only just barely crosses the circle), and nearly due north of Stockholm (since Norway wraps around the northern coast of the Scandinavian peninsula, it shares a border not just with Sweden, but also with Finland and Russia). I'm up there. Tromsø is about as far away from Norway's capital, Oslo, as upstate New York is from Savannah, Georgia. Thanks to the Gulf Stream winters are actually quite mild for this latitude, but there's still about four months of the year when we've continuously got snow on the ground. Summers are also mild - 20ºC/70ºF is a hot day - and they can be on the wet side. It's often pretty windy here. My wardrobe has been moving in a more androdgynous direction for a few years, and living in Tromsø has definitely continued that trend, along with a healthy dose of practicality. When I think about things I want to make for myself now, I'm always taking the weather into account. This is obviously a wool-friendly climate, and truth be told, the biggest gap in my handmade wardrobe now is socks. I wear my few pairs of handknit socks with boots on a very regular basis for most of the year.

    Breaking my shoulder in March had an effect on my sartorial choices as well. Spending two months in a sling with instructions not to move my arm in certain directions meant getting in and out of clothing became a special challenge. Button-down shirts and loose boxy tops that were easy to pull on and off with one arm became my go-tos, and to be honest, things didn't really change that much after my shoulder started improving and I could move my arm again. Clothing that layers well and fits under a coat or jacket is also important. That means most of the time I find myself at a happy medium between fitted clothing and super oversized pieces. 

    Continuing this line of thought, I started off Slow Fashion October by frogging a sweater. In the midst of reassessing my wardrobe, I've realized there things I just don't wear anymore. With the exception of the short summer, I rarely wear skirts or dresses here, so my pre-move plan to knit more things I could wear with high-waisted skirts now seems pretty low on the priority list. When I do reach for a sweater to wear with skirts or dresses, it's my Chuck. Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile may remember the sweater pictured in that previous blog link - my Splitta Genser, with the lovely foldover back and dark grey garter stitch. It's a nice sweater. I genuinely thought it would help fill a hole in my handknit wardrobe. But - here's the crucial bit - I never, ever wear it. Truth be told, it came out too small (it's been rather aggressively blocked in those FO photos). Also, dolman sleeves? Not for me, it turns out - they don't work so well when you try and tuck them into a jacket. So over the weekend, I sat down and carefully unpicked the grafted seams and then frogged the whole thing. I love wearing grey and I have more of this yarn; I can easily turn it into something I'll actually wear on a regular basis. I'd rather have it as yarn waiting in my stash than as a sweater that I never wear (clothing storage space is at a premium for us in our closet-less Norwegian apartment).

    When it comes to buying ready-to-wear clothing, I'm a little at a loss these days. I find it very hard to avoid fast fashion in Norway and I've ended up buying clothing online from the US instead because I know I can buy from companies who are doing their best to make ethical business decisions and promote transparency in the fashion industry. If any Europeans (especially in Scandinavia) have suggestions for clothing companies that are sourcing their fabrics ethically and manufacturing domestically, I'd love to hear about it. Basically, I'm looking for a Norwegian version of my favorite shop in Seattle, Velouria. It feels like it must exist, but if it does, I don't know about it yet. I guess the silver lining is that I don't really need anything new - I do have plenty of clothes already.

    There's so much more I could say about my thoughts on slow fashion, but I'll save some for future posts. I've already been doing a lot of thinking and reading in these first few days of October. Karen linked to a really important piece of writing called No One Wants Your Old Clothes - it's an eye-opening piece that feels like an excellent prerequisite to this year's conversation. I also just last week started reading Empire of Cotton by Sven Beckert, which is already an excellent book just two chapters in and I'll have a lot more to say about that in a later post as well. Will you all be taking part in this year's Slow Fashion October?

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  • a year in tromsø

    The anniversary marking my first year in Tromsø has come and gone - I arrived on August 2nd, 2015, and this year on that date I found myself back at the airport as I embarked on a quick trip to Canada. The past few weeks have been a bit crazy and intense but I'm back in my cozy apartment now and have a moment to reflect before diving headfirst into my second year as a graduate student here (hello, thesis; let's get acquainted, shall we?). 

    Living abroad for extended periods of time is a curious experience, sometimes exciting and invigorating and other times isolating and deflating. I've had the incredible privelege of spending long stretches of time abroad before, and each experience is different. Norway has presented us with both incredible experiences as well as unique and frustrating challenges. But at the end of the day I usually feel very lucky to be living in this littly city in the Arctic, and as I've said before on this blog, one of my favorite things about being here is documenting the changing landscape around me through the seasons' changes.

    I've shared many, many photos of Tromsø on my Instagram account over the past year, and sometimes I have little videos to share too. What started as a whim - collecting little snippets of autumn into one video - turned into a four-part series of snippets of Tromsø in each season. I thought it would be fun to share those videos all in one place. (If for any reason the embedded Instagram videos below aren't showing up for you, they're also collected under the Instagram hashtag #ayearintromsø and can be viewed there.)

    Snippets of Autumn in Tromsø, collected in September and October.

    A video posted by Dianna ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Snippets of winter from the past few weeks. I live in an incredibly beautiful place. #tromsø

    A video posted by Dianna ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Summer snippets. #sommeritromsø #ayearintromsø

    A video posted by Dianna Walla ⚡️ (@cakeandvikings) on

    Autumn and winter are shorter, because Instagram's limit for video was 15 seconds when they were posted, but I was able to be more indulgent with spring and summer.

    I also enjoy revisiting photos of the same places in different times of year, and I think that our iconic peak, Tromsdalstinden (known colloquially as just "tinden," or "the peak") is a perfect example. On the top is a photo from February, and below, one from last month. Both photos are taken from Prestvannet, the lake on top of the island. I love seeing the lake frozen over and covered in snow in winter (with ski tracks!), while it forms a glassy mirror of sorts in the summer.

    I must admit, looking back through photos from the past year has gotten me more than a little bit excited for the arrival of autumn... the midnight sun has ended, the nights are growing darker, and soon this whole landscape will change yet again. September will bring visiting friends, and it's always nice to have things to look forward to.

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  • a look back; a look forward

    It's the time of year when we're all reflecting, we're all doing recaps on our blogs and social media, we're setting goals for the new year. I think these are good things, but I've had an unusual year, so I'll be doing it a little differently this time. A year ago today, I rounded up all my FOs for 2014 in one blog post. I'm not going to do that this year because despite my goal to take things a little easier, I wound up with more FOs this year than last year (35 this year to last year's 32; oops). I also haven't gotten any better at managing my number of WIPs (current count: 11). Still, I do feel less burned out this year; I do still feel like I took it easy. I took a giant step back from Paper Tiger as a business with the decision to go back to school, and that meant it could become my creative outlet again. That's been amazing. And the continued support of all of you who read this blog or knit my patterns or follow my Instagram has been absolutely amazing too. I couldn't ask for a better community and I am so grateful for all of it. 

    I am hugely proud of my accomplishments this year - highlights included my first patterns published with Quince & Co. and getting to be a part of both Tolt Yarn and Wool's Farm to Needle book as well as the Fringe Hatalong. But I think what I am proudest of has been the biggest leap I made this year - the decision to go back to grad school and the process of moving to Norway. It's still very much an experiment and a work-in-progress for me and for Chris, but it takes a lot of courage and a lot of work to make a leap like that and I'm so glad to have the support of family and friends and this community alike. I've been back in Seattle for Christmas and there's nothing easy about having two homes you love - it's such a joy to be back and to see friendly faces and favorite places again, but at the same time I miss Norway terribly. 

    I'm so excited to see where 2016 takes me. I'm excited to see where it takes us all! I can't wait to get back to Tromsø and start a new term of coursework, but I'll keep knitting, too (obviously). Thanks for following along with this space this year and always. I hope you're all ringing in 2016 in as mellow or as fancy a way as you like best, and I'll see you in the new year.

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  • october

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • september bits

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

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

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

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

    And speaking of knitting, some pieces of knitting news:

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

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

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

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  • forward

    What a few weeks it's been! Busy, with lots of ups and downs, and still so much practical stuff to do... but I'm remembering what a difference it makes to my mood to be well-fed and to knock a few key things off the to-do list (especially those I've been putting off). So having just made myself a nice lunch after successfully tackling a rather daunting to-do list this morning, I'm on the up at the moment.

    I forgot how it feels when you first move abroad - the way time marches forward, oblivious to the many, many things you need to do in order to start getting settled (and there's a lot more of it this time around than there was when I was in Hungary). There are utilities accounts to set up and housewares to buy and errands to run and furniture to put together. The electrician needs to come by and see why the overhead light in the bathroom isn't working properly. That piece of mail delivered to our box by mistake needs to be taken over to the post office. And I finally took care of getting a Norwegian SIM card this week only to learn after putting it in my phone and using it that I'll be unable to text American numbers if my Norwegian mobile provider doesn't have an agreement with the American mobile provider for that phone number (a problem I have never, ever had with Norwegian SIMs in the past). I forgot the way that all of those little things can start to add up and accumulate to make you feel like you're having The Worst Day Ever. And Time doesn't care, it marches on.

    But that stuff starts to get dealt with, and it gets better, too (and, note to self: eating good meals regularly helps immensely). There's so much to celebrate and be grateful for right now. School is going well and I love the little yarn store down the street. The nights are now dark enough for some of the stars to come out, and last night the aurora was out. I watched it from my bedroom window (my bedroom window!) for about an hour. It may seem trivial or frivolous to say this, but that is one of the things I have been looking forward to the most about moving here. The northern lights inspire a sense of childlike wonder in me in a way few other things do. The landscape here does it too, but the lights... the lights are magic. 

    I think that stuff, that sense of awe and wonder, is so important to life and mental health and feeling whole and fulfilled in this world. So for now, I'll remind myself that the stuff that's hard right now will fall away with time, and I'll do my best to eat well and take care of myself and go easy on myself when I can. For now, that's enough. 

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  • a move; a shift; a change

    I have some rather big news to share today. I've been looking forward to sharing it so I'll get right to it - and for those of you who want to know the hows and whys and buts, you can read on below - but here it is:

    I'm moving to Norway this August where I'm going back to grad school. 
    I'll be starting a master's in Theoretical Linguistics this fall at the University of Tromsø.

    This is obviously a huge life changing thing - a move abroad is quite an undertaking in any case, and the scale of this one is pretty different than my first go-round (some of you may remember I once spent a year working in Hungary). There are many, many more practicalities to consider, I'm bringing a spouse along this time, etc. But it's also a huge career shift from where I am at this moment and what I've been doing for the last two and a half years. 

    I've spent an immense amount of time in the last year trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. That's a big question to ponder, and one we never totally figure out - we're constantly evolving, after all. But it's a question I definitely wasn't really ready to answer when I was finishing my BA in Linguistics six years ago. I freaked out about finishing school and applied to grad school at the last minute. I got a Master of Arts in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), a program that put my linguistics background to very practical use and which I enjoyed immensely. I went to Hungary to teach. Hungary was wonderful, but it was exhausting. I decided to head home to Seattle at the end of my contract and give my long-held dream of running my own arts & crafts business a go. And what a go it's been! But the challenges of being self-employed are myriad, particularly when one's spouse is also self-employed. Sometimes we just don't have an anchor, and I've struggled with it often. I'm incredibly lucky to have friends and colleagues to lean on for support, and I'm so lucky to have support from every one of you who's ever sent me a message, knit one of my patterns, taken a class, said hello at a conference or trade show. It's an incredible thing to make a job out of a passion, and I'm happy to have done it. But - of course there's a but - I've been making myself face a lot of truths about the realities of the situation I'm in. Motivational realities. Financial realities. Trying to imagine what I want my business to look like five or ten years down the road. Can I even imagine still running my business five years down the road?

    That's opened the door to imagining all kinds of possible futures. If what I do now isn't my career, then what do I want my career to be? It's a big question (there have been a lot of big questions lately). So I thought about it, and then I thought some more. And then some more (and I'm still thinking about it). I started thinking about academia again, about applying to go back to school. My summer in Oslo last year was a little bit of a test-run/research trip, actually, though of course I didn't divulge that here at the time. I quietly applied to grad schools last fall, and I also started thinking about the possibility of teaching English again (especially after I didn't get in to a few of the more competitive programs I applied for). But when I found out I got into the University of Tromsø's master's program in Theoretical Linguistics, it was a game-changer. It's a department I've followed since I was an undergrad, in a city I've been to and like quite a lot, in a country I really love. There are many reasons it's neither the most practical nor the "safest" option at this juncture. There's a lot of risk involved in a leap like this. And I agonized for a few weeks as I tried to make my decision about what to do. But in the end, I couldn't say no - the stuff about this decision that doesn't make sense falls away in the wake of all of the things that make total sense. Sometimes a big leap makes sense, even if it's risky in some ways. And I am very lucky to have a partner who's been supportive of this decision and is probably just as excited to move to Tromsø as I am.

    So what does that mean for the future of Paper Tiger? It's a valid question, and a good one. And the answer, of course, is that at this point it's impossible to know. I'm not naive about what I'm taking on with a research-based graduate degree. I won't make any promises about whether or not I'll continue designing once school starts this fall. But I can say that this space isn't going anywhere. I'll definitely still be knitting (I'm literally moving to the Arctic, after all), and I plan to keep writing - about knitting, about Norway, about whatever seems relevant. I'm definitely excited for a chance to learn more about knitting in Norway, and get to know Norwegian yarns that are domestically raised and produced.

    In the meantime, I do have a few things lined up for fall release that I'm working on before the move, so you certainly haven't seen the last of my patterns yet. This is still my day job, at least for a few more months! 

    --

    For those who will ask about the mitten in the photo: it's purely selfish knitting! The university seal of UiT features stylized renderings of Odin's ravens from Norse mythology, Hugin and Munin (representing "thought" and "memory"), and I couldn't resist knitting them up in to an otherwise very traditional Norwegian mitten. I actually knit myself a pair of mittens when I got into grad school the first time around, too. I'm happy to say my skills have progressed since then!

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  • 2-0-1-4

    Tomorrow is my birthday.

    I've always liked how neatly the years of my life line up with the years on the calendar; there's something very tidy about being the same age for an entire calendar year. I also haven't had to throw myself a birthday party for years - I get to celebrate with the whole world, welcoming a new year, without the focus being on me (which is kind of the best of both worlds). After 2014, I find myself at a little bit of a crossroads, trying to figure out where I want my future to take me. I've had a very good year, and it's been a great year for Paper Tiger, but in a very different way than 2013 was. At this juncture, I am especially grateful to all of you who make what I do possible. Your support means the world to me. It's such a joy to see your projects, to listen to your suggestions, to think of new ways to tackle your questions. I feel like I have learned so much and grown so much as a knitter and a designer. So thank you for that.

    Inspired by Karen's post about her knitting year in review, I started to assemble a folder of finished knits for the year, and it's insane to realize how absurd my output has gotten. Excluding things I've knit that are for patterns that are still under wraps, there's 27 finished objects. Adding in things I can't share yet bumps the total up to about 32 items, I think.

    One of my goals for this year was to do more personal non-work knitting. I think I succeeded with flying colors. Next year's goal is to take it easy a little bit. 

    This leaves out current WIPs entirely, but if you're super curious, you can always check out my Ravelry project page. I managed to finish some long-suffering WIPs this year, but I still have too many things on the needles. I'd like to get that down to a sane, manageable number.

    I'm looking forward to working on more patterns in 2015 (I only released four proper patterns this year) and I'm looking forward to more teaching - the Nordic Knitting Conference and my workshop at Knit Purl were definitely highlights this year. I'm also looking forward to my future becoming a little more certain; I've applied to go back to school, and while I await decisions from schools I'm trying to decide what my next move will be if any of the programs offer me a place.

    As for this space, you can look forward to more patterns and more blogging - I have a series of tutorial posts I'm starting to put together, based on the most common questions I get about patterns. I'm looking forward to getting some of that up. Thank you again for your continued support, and I wish you all a very happy new year!

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  • a quadrillion stitches

    I remember moments from before I was a knitwear designer, particularly when I was in college (and probably putting off writing a paper), when I would be knitting something and think to myself, Wouldn't it be awesome if I could just knit all the time? Wouldn't it be great if that was my job? I don't think I'm alone in that, but it's the minority that actually decides to turn knitting into their job. It probably takes a certain amount of crazy, and I guess I've got that.

    Of course, the reality of being a knitwear designer, even for the handknitting industry, involves a lot more than just knitting. It involves a lot of math, for example (that's okay, I like math). Pattern writing, photography, formatting, editing, pattern support, teaching and putting together tutorials... the list goes on. Still, for most of us, it also involves a lot of knitting. One of the things I didn't realize before I started working professionally in this industry was how my relationship with knitting, and my own skillset, would change. I was a fast knitter to begin with, but I got faster. The sheer amount of stuff I'm technically able to crank out is kind of mind-boggling. For me, this has led to a tendency to have too many projects going at once - like, twelve or more - because the faster I knit the more things I want to cast on. In theory, it sounds like a great ability, to be able to fly through projects, but I think it's not all it's cracked up to be. The more things I knit, and the more it feels like my own personal production line, the less special each knitted item is. I don't always have time to get to know the piece as I work with it.

    And then there's work knitting vs. personal knitting; even when I'm publishing a pattern in-house and the sample will be staying with me, it feels very different when I'm knitting a piece for work than when I'm knitting a purely personal project (which may be for me or for some other recipient, but it's not for work). I certainly wouldn't claim that all designers feel this way - I have no idea how most other designers feel about it, really - this is just my experience. And so it's important for me to have personal projects to work on or I  start to forget why I love knitting in the first place. And as I've come to this realization in the course of the last year, I've realized that many of my favorite knits are the ones I'm forced to go slow with: big projects without deadlines that might get set aside for awhile. Other knits may come and go, but that kind of project is always there for you (corny, I know, but true). Not only do those projects require patience, but they won't end up in a trunk show winging their way around the country at any point. While it's incredibly fun to think of one of my samples traveling the country, and I'm incredibly proud of the work that I do, at the end of the day, my favorite knitting is the knitting that isn't work.

    All of that was a wordy, rambling way to introduce a recent FO that I'm pretty enamored with. When the autumn issue of Pom Pom Quarterly came out last year in 2013, I immediately fell in love with Quadrillion by Meghan Fernandes. I knew I wanted to make myself one, but I was right in the middle of getting my F/W collection ready, in addition to prepping for my booth at Knit Fit and getting ready to promote my patterns in Wool People 6 and the winter issue of Pom Pom. I knew it would have to wait a little while.

    Meghan's version is knit in a beautiful vibrant blue from The Uncommon Thread, a light DK-weight Blue Faced Leicester which is probably lovely to work with, but I realized at some point in January that I already had the yarn I wanted to make this with. My booth at Knit Fit last year was right across the walkway from Jorstad Creek, and there was a great big pile of beautiful grey wool that kept catching my eye. Sometime during the second day of the marketplace, I walked over and purchased a sweater's quantity of undyed Finnsheep wool yarn, a sport weight, without having any idea at the time what I would make with it. Two or three months later I had figured it out. Woolly cables! By March, I'd swatched and cast on for the front.

    Cables slow me down anyway, so perhaps this project was destined to be a slow one. Eight (!) different cables run up the front (not quite a quadrillion, but it felt like it at some moments), with different repeat lengths requiring judicious use of post-its or washi tape to keep track of one's place. The front was the slowest, and it got pushed aside at several different points when projects with deadlines cropped up, or I was traveling, or I was working on my Svalbard, or I just got tired of cables. I finished the front in September, and then I had the back and the sleeves knit within the next two months. But then it was done! And I've been wearing it nearly nonstop ever since.

    A lot of the knitting that I do doesn't challenge me anymore, which is great from the standpoint of needing to get samples knit by deadlines, and that kind of thing, but not as great when I consider what I like about the act of knitting, and about learning about knitting. In a technical sense, this sweater wasn't necessarily a challenge, but it challenged me in other ways, particularly in my patience and commitment. My investment was greater, and I think that's part of why the reward of wearing it is so sweet.

    The work/life balance is still a constant struggle for me, as it is for many who are self-employed or working on a freelance basis, but I'm working on it. Special thanks to my friend Lee for the photos!

    Pattern: Quadrillion, by Meghan Fernandes
    Yarn: Jorstad Creek Finnsheep Wool
    I made the second-smallest size, and other details like needle sizes used and modifications can be found on my Ravelry project page. The hat I'm wearing is Fjordland, from Pom Pom Winter 2013.

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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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  • god jul / godt nyttår

    Wishing everyone a warm and happy holiday from my native North Carolina. Normally I try to keep this blog to art/craft and inspiration related to those things, but this is a special time of year for me, and I always like to reflect on the year gone by. I have thought a lot in the past few days about the significance of this season, about tradition, about the importance of cherishing time spent with loved ones, be it friends or family or in some cases both, and simply being grateful for everything that we have. 2010 was a rough year for many folks I know, but there was a lot of good that came out of it. I am always inspired by the ability of people to take something bad and turn it around into something good - something from which to draw experience and strength, something to inspire them to make good happen. I've watched it happen over and over again this year and I am so grateful for all the good that came to me in my dark times this year.



    Winter is not known for being a bright season, but this year it is filled with brightness in my eyes. I no longer live close to my family and so I cherish my time with them like I never did before. Tonight I listened to my grandmother tell stories and was overcome by the urge to record them (something which I am now planning to do) - she always wanted to write a book but perhaps we'll have to do it for her. After dinner I went for a Christmas Eve walk around my old neighborhood. The air was crisp and smelled like woodsmoke and the neighborhood was quiet and filled with lights and I found myself wondering how anyone could not like this time of year. I ran into some old family friends on my walk, took a few photos, and went on my way. As I sit by the Christmas tree, I feel content and grateful. And ready to face a new year.



    Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it, and a happy holiday and happy new year too.

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