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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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  • phileas yarns

    Arthur's Seat, 2012

    This is going to be a post about yarn, but first I need to tell you a story. In my early twenties, I did a lot of solo travel on a shoestring budget, and one of the ideal ways to go about that is to couchsurf. Kind people offer up their couches (or their guest beds) to travelers and in return they sometimes host travelers at their own home. Admittedly I did more traveling than hosting, but it's a great way to meet like-minded or interesting people in new places. (For those of you feeling freaked out by this concept: don't worry, it was safe and secure, but I'm not going to go into those details here because that's not really the point of this story.)

    Several years ago, when I was living in Hungary, I decided to take a trip to Edinburgh. I didn't know when I booked my trip, but in Edinburgh I was going to meet the best couchsurfing host I ever had. I lined up a host for my first few nights, and her name was Sylvie. Sylvie went above and beyond when it came to hospitality - she even picked me up at the airport! And when we got into town, we stopped by her flat where she put a thermos and a container of cake in her bag, and then she walked me up to Arthur's Seat, where we watched the sun set over Edinburgh with tea and cake in hand. Is that not the most perfect thing you've ever heard? Part of what makes Sylvie such an incredible host is that she's a globetrotter herself - and who knows better what a lone traveler needs? And on top of all of that, it turned out that Sylvie was a knitter, too. Needless to say, we wound up friends and have kept in touch.

    Sylvie lives in York now, and she recently started up her own hand-dyed yarn business, Phileas Yarns. I was ecstatic when she got in touch and asked me if I wanted to try it out. She dyes five different bases, all with names based on that wanderlust we so keenly feel: Wanderer, Wanderlust, Globetrotter, Escapism, and Explorer. I decided I wanted to try one of her British Blue Faced Leicester bases, either Wanderer aran or Wanderlust DK. Her BFL comes from Yorkshire, so it's local to Phileas as well, which I found very appealing. So Sylvie popped a skein of Wanderer aran into the post (along with a few extra treats - thank you, Sylvie!) and I was so excited to receive it I got it wound and ready to knit right away.

    I don't usually go for reds, but this one I couldn't resist. It positively glows! The colorway is St Expedit, named for Expeditus, the Christian martyr who has a significant folk following on Réunion, an island off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Altars to St. Expedit on Réunion are always painted bright red. (Browsing the listings for the different Phileas colorways is like a history and geography lesson in one, I swear.)

    I wanted to knit something simple that would show off the subtle variegation of the semi-solid rather than compete with it, and since we live in the Arctic and my husband Chris didn't have a pair of hand knit mittens to his name (the cobbler's children have no shoes, as they say), I decided to use the yarn for a pair of Arched Gusset Mittens. It's a beautifully elegant and simple pattern, but the arched gusset makes it a bit more interesting than a traditional plain mitten.

    The end result is a beautiful and practical pair of mittens. I worked the cuff in a 2x1 rib, because I thought the rolled edge might be a bit annoying when it comes to staying tucked into coat sleeves, but otherwise made no modifications. These have been getting regular use every since they were finished! And though we do live in the Arctic, Tromsø actually has a sub-Arctic climate thanks to the gulf stream, so the BFL wool is completely appropriate for our +1/-1ºC temperatures at this time of year. BFL is truly one of my favorite fibers. When I asked Chris to describe it he said it was very comfortable to wear and "soft but not too soft," and pointed out how overly soft yarns can actually be distracting, particularly when it comes to workhorse knits like mittens. 

    Photographing reds is notoriously difficult, and made even more challenging by the low light at this time of year. The light tends to be very blue (especially in outdoor photos, as in the one above), but hopefully the photos still give you a sense of the beauty of this yarn.

    If you fancy trying out Phileas for yourself, head on over to the Phileas Yarns Etsy shop. Sylvie's currently offering free shipping on orders through December 21st; just use the code YARNTRAVELSFORFREE at checkout. You can also find Sylvie on Instagram, where you'll see a lot of photos of wool, but also travel photos and photos of her cat Miette. Thank you, Sylvie!

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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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  • summer days

    The longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere is right around the corner (Sunday the 21st, this year).

    The days have been hot lately, too. The entire west coast is in a drought - not just California, which you've probably heard about in the news, but up here in Washington, too. The cherries are early this year. Everything's early. I can't remember the last time it really rained. Just endless sunshine and 70-80 degree days.

    It might sound nice to some, but it can make a Seattleite grumpy. I'm yearning for cloudy days and and some actual, proper rain. Still, I'm doing my best to savor the good parts. Mary Jane is in town, so she and I and Cirilia headed out to the Ballard Locks this week with some treats to do a little outdoor knitting. We hovered in the shade, but it was certainly beautiful. We enjoyed watching the bird life - so many blue herons! - and eating the homemade cookies Cirilia had brought along. 

    I've been enjoying the lingering light as the days have grown longer, too. It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that when I get to Tromsø, the days will still be quite long and there will be no real darkness my first few weeks there. The days will rapidly grow shorter, though, so I'm enjoying the long daylight as long as I can, whether I'm here in Seattle or in Tromsø.

    I hope whatever your summer is like so far, you're enjoying it! 

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  • the fringe hat-along

    Back in February, Karen of Fringe launched the Fringe Hatalong series, and I really enjoyed following everyone's progress with the first pattern she picked, the Audrey hat from Tolt. I didn't join in on that round, knowing that there would be more coming in the series, but I'm excited to say that I'm very much looking forward to hat number two.

    The pattern won't be revealed until Thursday the 16th, but there's some preliminary information posted over on Fringe, particularly regarding yarn selection. Hat number two is a pattern with an all-over textured stitch pattern, and it calls for a heavy worsted/aran weight yarn. I've been doing some stash diving, trying to see if I have anything appropriate, but I've also been down in Portland for the weekend and I couldn't resist popping into a new-to-me yarn store, Twisted, so... in the end, I picked up a beautiful skein of Quince & Co. Osprey in Glacier, pictured above. So much for knitting from the stash. Oops! Perhaps I'll have to knit more than one hat so I can actually knit through some stash yarn as well.

    I can't wait for the pattern reveal on Thursday, and to see how this Osprey knits up! Will you be joining in on this round of the hatalong?

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