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  • norwegian wool: selbu spinneri

    The Norwegian Wool series returns with another of Norway's microspinneries, the fantastic Selbu Spinneri. One of two micro mills in Norway, it's a small operation that's only been spinning since 2011 (I believe there are just the two, the other being Telespinn, but if you know of any others please do let me know!). If the name sounds familiar to you, the Selbu is the same one you find in Selbuvotter, or Selbu mittens, the name for the iconic black and white Norwegian mittens (you may be familiar with Terri Shea's book, or the more recent the gorgeous and massive book by Anne Bårdsgård still only available in Norewgian as far as I know). Selbu is located near the city of Trondheim, in the middle of Norway's north-south span. The yarn made by Selbu Spinneri is special and Norwegian specific, with a focus on rare and endangered breeds. I made my first purchase from Selbu Spinneri earlier this year, back in the winter, and I opted to try three different yarns made from three different sheep breeds, pictured above. All three are very different - different weights, different textures that handle differently, and different colors - but they're all undyed yarns. This package was definitely a treat to open.

    The creamy off-white skein with a thick and thin texture is their 2-ply yarn made from wool from the gammel norsk sau, the Old Norwegian sheep, also called villsau ("wild sheep") by some, though it is a domestic breed. It's rustic and lofty, with some darker hairs mixed in with the cream, and it was the first skein I cracked into. It's a primitive heritage breed, with an outer fleece and a finer inner coat, like other northern European heritage breeds, and this yarn is spun from both layers, making it both robust and soft. It seemed to be about an aran weight to me, and I worked it up into a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig. A very, very cozy Simple Hat. The finished fabric gives you a good sense of the varying thickness of this yarn, but you also get a sense of the halo it has after it was blocked. The Simple Hat is such a fantastic blank canvas pattern to get a feel for any yarn, thanks to the fact that it's written for a huge range of yarn weights.


    The light grey yarn in the middle is a 2-ply yarn made from spælsau wool. It looks to be about a sport weight to me, and like all spælsau yarns it's pretty dense and wiry. It's smoother with more of a sheen than the other two yarns I purchased, and I have a pretty good sense of how this yarn will work up since I've worked with spælsau yarns before.

    I'm not sure I'll knit with this one, actually - I think it would make a sturdy crochet fabric and I'm tempted to try using it for a small crochet basket or something like that. It'd also be great and durable for weaving, but as I'm not much of a weaver, crochet seems most likely.

    The final skein, the lovely heathered dark grey one, is spun with wool from a breed I have yet to work with, the trøndersau, or Troender sheep.

    The region where Selbu is located is called Trøndelag, making this breed its eponymous sheep (trønder + sau). The trøndersau is extremely rare, with a very small number of animals existing. I'm really looking forward to trying this yarn, too - it's a 3-ply, both rounder and a little bit more uniform than the other two yarns, and I'd guess it's a DK or worsted weight. I love natural grey yarns and this is a beautiful one. It's more textured than the other two yarns, with less gloss and more of a matte look. I expect good depth and stitch definition, so I might use it for something cabled.

    Being a small operation with only a handful of employees, Selbu Spinneri's online shop is definitely aimed at a domesetic market, and their invoicing and shipping methods don't really lend themselves to international shipping, so I don't think you can get these yarns outside of Norway UPDATE: I've been in touch with Selbu Spinneri and they are happy to accommodate international orders - simply get in touch with them at post@selbuspinneri.no if you're interested and they'll help you figure it out. I do know, however, that hand-dyer Laila of Værbitt Garn uses some yarns from Selbu Spinneri as her bases, so you can always get in touch with her or check her Etsy shop to see if you can find any of Selbu Spinneri's rare breed yarns (in Laila's gorgeous colors!). 

    Previous posts in this series can be found here:

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  • norwegian wool: lofoten wool

    The Norwegian Wool series is finally back with another fantastic smaller company: Lofoten Wool. Wool sourced from Northern Norwegian sheep (including the Lofoten archipelago, hence the name), naturally dyed, and spun down at Hillesvåg - it's a dream. The Røst collection (pictured above, and named for the remote island where the wool is sourced) comes from the wool of the crossbred norsk kvit sau, or the Norwegian white sheep. Their heavier weight yarns are made with wool from the heritage breeds Gammelnorsk sau and spælsau. To me, Lofoten Wool's yarns are the stuff that local wool dreams are made of. (Consequently, I might adoringly gush a little bit more than usual in this post.)

    I feel like I need to provide some context to be able to adquately convey the feelings this yarn inspires. Between the northern Norwegian sheep, the natural dyes Ragnhild uses to create her beautiful colors, and the ties to specific locations within Lofoten, this company has something special going on. For those unfamiliar with the Lofoten archipelago, it lies north of the Arctic Circle and it's home to some of the most iconic Norwegian scenery there is. Islands formed from mountains that jut right out of the water make for dramatic landscapes everywhere you go, reaching out in a line from the mainland like an arm pointing toward Iceland. I haven't been as far out as Røst (where my skein of yarn's wool came from) - it's way out there - but I have passed through Lofoten twice now and spent sime time exploring Nordland, the county where Lofoten is located (Hurtigruten, the coastal ferry/cruise, passes through Lofoten). While the landscape is very different, it's easy to see similarities and find connections with other north Atlantic island communities like Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Shetland.

    Historically, fishing was the center of life in Lofoten. North Atlantic cod come to Lofoten each year to spawn, so cod fishing was the biggest industry (and it remains a big part of the local economy today). Many of the men who fished in and around Lofoten came from other parts of Norway, and when they were on shore, they lived in fishing cabins known as rorbuer. Many of these all over Lofoten have been converted to be used by tourists now (like these). The statue in the photo above sits at the edge of the harbor in Svolvær. It's called Fiskarkona, "the fish wife," and it's by sculptor Per Ung. She faces away from the harbor, with an arm raised as if bidding farewell to her husband's boat. Life in Lofoten was harsh, and the weather meant fishing could be dangerous, so I can only imagine what it was like to bid farewell to your spouse not knowing if their boat would return home.

    This brings me back to the yarn. I feel very fortunate that my favorite local yarn store carries Lofoten Wool so that I had the opportunity to check out some of their yarns in person. The naturally dyed colors are gorgeous, and I definitely fell in love with the indigo-dyed skein pictured at the top of this post as soon as I saw it. I have plans for this particular skein, but there's enough yarn that I wanted to do a little bit of swatching just for fun, too. Both the blue shade of the yarn itself and the name of this particular color, brådjupt, bring to mind the clear blue waters of northern Norway for me (and cables felt like an appropriate medium for interpreting rippling waves). The swatch on the needles above uses a chart from Norah Gaughan's incredible Knitted Cable Sourcebook - it's a motif she calls Diverge. This 2-ply yarn from the Røst collection is a fantastically wooly wool: it's kind of crunchy and lofty at the same time, somewhat like a woolen spun Shetland yarn can be; not luxuriously soft but also not unpleasant against the skin; pretty grabby but it still manages to cable beautifully. I think we hear words like "strong" and "workhorse yarn" associated with a lot of wooly wools, especially breed-specific ones, but those phrases seem somehow too heavy to describe this yarn. It is strong - with effort, it's possible to break it instead of cutting it with scissors, but it's much harder to break than the woolen spun Shetland yarns I've used. I think this yarn also qualifies as a workhorse yarn - it's very well suited to this coastal northern Norwegian climate - but it feels lighter than that at the same time.

    Ragnhild of Lofoten Wool very kindly shared some photos of their sheep out at Røst, above - and as you can see, by the time you make it that far out, the landscape starts to look a little bit more like Shetland. What an incredible place to be a sheep, right? The sheep on Røst in the photos above are the crossbred Norwegian white sheep/norsk kvit sau. As I mentioned, Lofoten Wool's heavier weight yarns come from the wool of heritage breeds, and the following photos are Ragnhild's own flock of Gammelnorsk sau, also called villsau by some ("old Norwegian sheep" and "wild sheep," respectively, though the latter name is a misnomer as they have been a domesticated breed for over a thousand years). They live on an island much closer to mainland Norway. You'll also notice that there's natural color variation amongst the heritage breed sheep, much like other northern European heritage breeds (Shetland or Icelandic sheep, for example).

    It's such a fantastic treat to be able to knit with wool that has such traceable origins, and a huge thank you to Ragnhild for sharing these photos of the sheep with us!

    To see the yarns and other wooly goodies Lofoten Wool has on offer, head over to their online shop. Lofoten Wool does ship internationally, but you should be aware that the cost of shipping can be high (especially outside Europe), You can get a sense of shipping rates abroad from Norway here (all prices are in Norwegian kroner, but you can use Google to convert to your own currency). A list of their Norwegian stockists can be found on the home page of their website, lofoten-wool.no.

    A note: with the exception of Ragnhild's sheep photos, the photos of Lofoten featured in this post were all taken by me on a trip last August - some of them from a moving boat at dusk, so please excuse any motion blur! 

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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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  • 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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