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  • tolt icelandic wool month: skógafjall

    This year marks the third year in a row that Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, Washington has celebrated Tolt Icelandic Wool Month for the month of March. Back in 2015, I released my hat pattern Moon Sprites in conjunction with Tolt's first celebration, last year Tolt released the beautiful Blaer cardigan by Beatrice Perron Dahlen of Thread & Ladle, and this year I'm pleased as punch to once again be contributing to this celebration of Icelandic wool. This year, I've designed Skógafjall, a bottom-up round yoke pullover knit up in Léttlopi (which is probably my favorite weight of Lopi).

    For the vast majority of us, choosing Icelandic wool doesn't mean choosing local wool (the two most obvious exceptions being people who live in Iceland, or people outside of Iceland who raise Icelandic sheep). But it does mean supporting the yarn industry of Iceland, a country whose population is smaller than most cities I've lived in - and that means a lot. And the wool itself is reason enough for me to choose it, since it both affordable and adaptable, suitable to many different types of winter (and sometimes summer) climates. It's definitely suitable to my current northern Norwegian climate, and that is part of how I arrived at the design that became Skógafjall. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the ties between Icelandic and Norwegian wools, and the historical genetic links between the heritage sheep breeds found in these two countries - and all of that led me to want to design a sweater that pointed at that shared heritage in some way.

    So while it uses Icelandic wool, this sweater is inspired by my local Norwegian landscape and the verdant mountains I'm surrounded by in the summer months. The geology of Norway is quite different than Iceland's - Iceland straddles two continental plates and its geothermal activity means it's made up of cooled lava fields and volcanic rock, whereas Norway's rocky landscape is largely sedimentary. The deep green body of Skógafjall gives way to lighter greenery in the yoke and finally a heathery grey at the neck, which mimicks the rocky mountaintops of my immediate surroundings - and they're easy to see when the tree line is as low as it is in Tromsø. 

    The yoke pattern is equally evocative of the local landscape around western Washington, which makes it feel like a fantastic fit for Tolt and this annual celebration. The name Skógafjall can be translated as "forest mountain," more or less - though we've dubbed it "a sweater for exploring the forest, mountain, city or sea," and I think it would be just as at home in all of those places. 

    You can find Skógafjall on Ravelry here, or on the Tolt website here. Huge thanks to the whole Tolt team for letting me be a part of Icelandic Wool Month once again, and making sure this pattern got done in time while dealing with my grad school schedule - Anna, Clare, Karen (who knit the beautiful sample!), Kim (who modeled it so beautifully in these photos), and everyone else. You're all the best. And I can't forget to mention that Narangkar Glover did a lovely illustration of Skógafjall for a new Tolt project bag, too! It's available in the Tolt shop here.

    I have Iceland-related knitting plans lined up for this month, although my yarn choice is a little unorthodox - but I'll save that for another post.

    Related posts from previous years:

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  • dalis & riva

    I have a few new patterns that came out for Quince & Co. last week and I'm so pleased to finally be able to share these with you! Pictured above are the round-yoked Dalis pullover and the Riva hat and mittens, all knit in worsted weight Lark. They're part of the Sea Smoke collection which also features two beautiful patterns by Bristol Ivy (the patterns can each be purchased individually or the whole collection is available as an ebook).

    Both my patterns and Bristol's in the Sea Smoke collection have inspiration rooted in tradition, but we hope you'll agree that the pieces themselves are very wearable in anyone's everyday wardrobe. When I designed Dalis I had in mind several different sources of inspiration found in Scandinavian folk art, among them woven ribbons, klokkestrenger, or "bell pulls" (which are long, narrow pieces of decorative embroidery), and rosemåling certainly inspired the color palette I ended up with. Dalis uses one of my favorite constructions: knit from the bottom up, with body and arms knit first before they're joined together to work the yoke. Short row shaping at the back dips the yoke for a comfortable fit around the neck.

    When Pam, Quince's founder, first approached me about working with them on patterns, she mentioned noticing that I like to work with colorwork in my designs - and given the massive palette of colors to choose from in Quince's core wool line, they make it very easy to want to design more colorwork! Because Dalis uses five colors total, there's an incredible amount of room for creativity in color choice and changing just one color can give the whole pattern a different flavor - so I was thrilled when the Quince team decided to swatch different color combinations for the Quince blog and I'm in love with all of them. Along with their beautiful swatches, that blog post contains some excellent information about swatching for stranded colorwork, so I highly recommend checking it out (those are Leila's gorgeous swatches pictured above, but the blog post contains several more combos).

    I'm also very pleased with the Riva hat and mittens, which are simpler with a bolder motif, but knit in these colors they're a great match for Dalis. As fall collections have been coming out, however, I think one of my favorite things has been seeing echoes of the main diamond motif pop up elsewhere this season - a confluence of designers unknowingly working with the same muse, perhaps. Within the Sea Smoke collection, Bristol's beautiful Brooke pullover features textured diamonds around the yoke, the knit-purl cousins of Riva's diamonds. And when Jared Flood's Spearheads was released in this fall's Brooklyn Tweed collection, the white-on-blue men's version caught my eye right away since I knew Riva was soon being released. Three designers in three different cities working away on our patterns, having no idea of the similar thread running through our pieces... maybe it's just me, but I think there's something quite beautiful in that.

    The Quince team also put together a great post for Riva about how to make decisions when substituting colors, as the white color Egret is unfortunately out of stock at the moment. I'd also recommend checking out that very informative post right here

    The individual patterns as well as the whole ebook are available now either on Ravelry or on the Quince & Co. website.

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  • svana

    Happy September! I love the first of September for many reasons (the feeling that summer is drawing to an end, heading back to school, the Hogwarts Express...) so I'm extremely pleased that today is the day that the first of Quince & Co.'s fall collections is being released. This also means that I have another new pattern to show you! Meet Svana, a cropped pullover knit in Chickadee. It's part of the Glen collection, and it features several little details that I'm super pleased with.

    For this design I wanted to play around with a kind of mod silhouette, pattern blocking, and using more than two colors, so I decided to try my hand at working up the traditional Japanese seigaiha (or wave) pattern in stranded knitting. I quite like how the chart came out, but the repeats are relatively large, so to make it easier to grade the pattern for different sizes I decided to work a faux seam (basically a vertical stripe sequence) at each side of the body in order to break up the motif. While the faux seam serves a very practical purpose here, I actually really love the look of it and might use it again in the future (even when its practical use isn't strictly necessary).

    Svana also features compound raglan shaping at the shoulders and a doubled collar (knit twice as long as the final length, then folded over and sewn down to the inside of the neckline). This is a design element I also used on my first pattern for Quince, Ebba, though Svana's collar is taller than Ebba's and the cut of the neck is a round crew neck. I love the gentle heathery grey of the Iceland colorway in Chickadee, although my original vision for this sweater featured a much darker grey and blue - something about fall always brings out my fondness for deep, rich greys, blues, and greens (perhaps because they look so nice against the autumn foliage?). But I think the design looks equally as nice in the lighter colorways, and the blue used here is actually the same as we used for Ebba (the Delft colorway), which I have a great fondness for. While the sweater does use three colors, the vast majority of the stranded colorwork is just two colors per round; only where the pattern meets the solid top color are there a few rounds with three colors carried in a round.

    Svana is available as a single pattern as well as part of the ebook for the Glen collection (and I highly recommend checking out the rest of the collection).

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  • rosenhoff mittens

    I decided to write about Telespinn last week because I used one of their yarns for a very special pattern: meet the Rosenhoff mittens (or Rosenhoff Votter), my contribution to the magazine for this year's Oslo Strikkefestival. The festival is only in its second year this year, but it sounds like last year was a flying success and I can't wait to head down to Oslo this November and check it out for myself (yes! I'm coming to the festival!). I had the chance back in February to meet Katie, who runs the festival (and also works at Grünerløkka yarn store Pickles) and I was thrilled when she asked if I'd be willing to contribute a pattern for the magazine. Two other patterns are included: the beautiful and intriguing Gokstad Hat by Julie Knits in Paris, and the Oslo Skirt by Maja Karlsson, which features a interesting construction details and lovely stranded colorwork at the waistline. All three patterns are available for free in the Oslo Strikkefestival magazine, found here on their website if you weren't able to get one at the launch party. Currenly the written instructions are in Norwegian only, but the whole mitten is charted after the ribbing and I'm hoping to put together the English translation soon.

    I had a lot of fun working up the charts for these mittens and I'm very pleased with how they turned out. They're knit up in fingering-weight Symre (for the sample the main color is Sjøgrønn and the contrast is Lysgrå). A primarily mohair yarn is not the most traditional choice for what are otherwise rather traditional Norwegian mittens, but I felt like the spirit of Telespinn as a company is very Norwegian and that it would be a good fit for both this design and the festival itself. The resulting fabric created when the mohair-wool blend is worked stranded is a bit airier than wool would be, but it's also very warm. I took these mittens on a test run at an outdoor music festival in Tromsø this past weekend - the high temp the day I wore them was 8ºC / 46ºF and they kept my hands quite warm!

    I decided to name the pattern after the area where I lived two summers ago while attending the International Summer School at the University of Oslo. Rosenhoff is on the east side of Oslo just north of Carl Berners plass, and aside from my personal connection to the area, the floral connotations of the name felt like a good fit for the two main flowery motifs on the back of the hand. It's a really lovely part of town that I'll probably always have a fondness for - that summer was like something out of a picture book.

    I should also mention that if you're planning to attend the festival and you knit one of the three official patterns from this year's magazine (these mittens included), you can be entered to win a 500 NOK gift card to be used in the marketplace! And if you start a project but haven't finished by the time of the festival, no biggie - just upload a photo of your WIP or FO to Instagram with the hashtag #oslostrikkefestival and you'll be entered. More info about the competition can be found on the Oslo Strikkefestival website here. And the Rosenhoff Votter can be found on Ravelry here.

    If you're planning to attend the festival I look forward to seeing you there!

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  • zara

    Quince & Co. launched this year's pattern collection for Sparrow this week, and my first pattern as part of the design team with it. Meet Zara, a boxy cropped tee:

    photo courtesy of Quince & Co.

    This is a super simple knit which makes use of applied crochet chains to create vertical stripes (together with the horizontal stripes knit into the front and back, they form a boxy grid pattern). When the weather gets warmer I often find myself reaching for lightweight tops with a lot of positive ease, though this tee works super well as a layering piece as the photo above displays. I was able to snap some photos of the sample before sending it off to Quince and I opted to style it with a high-waisted skirt instead, which gave it a slightly more dressed-up look.

    I really like this top, and I find it very interesting that the cropped length keeps the fabric very flowy - my Vasa in Sparrow is much longer, and consequently the garment itself is much heavier than Zara. I think they light and airy feel of the fabric comes through in the photos.

    photo courtesy of Quince & Co.

    I really enjoy the effect of the vertical applied crochet chains, which do a great job of blending into the fabric (rather than standing out in relief - people will ask you how you managed to knit vertical stripes). I first started playing around with applied crochet chains on knits as an alternative way to work vikkel braids, as it can be done in multiple colors for a nearly identical effect, but this might be my favorite use for them. Even if you don't know how to crochet, they're very simple to work and the pattern includes links to tutorials if you've never done it before.

    Zara is one of four patterns in the Sparrow collection (the others being Aila by Isabell Kraemer, Amalia by Pam Allen, and Pippa by Melissa LaBarre). It's available either individually or with the other three patterns as an eBook, both on Ravelry or quinceandco.com.

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  • the north sea

    I read a book a couple months ago called The Shetland Bus, which I picked up over Christmas break after someone posted about it on social media last fall. The phrase "the Shetland bus" refers to a British and Norwegian special operations unit who used fishing ships to carry supplies and refugees back and forth between Shetland and the west coast of Norway during World War II (as Norway was occupied by the Nazis, many Norwegians fled to the UK or the United States during the war). Shetland is due west from the west coast of southern Norway, with Lerwick and Bergen being on approximately equal latitudes, so it made sense as a home base for this type of special operations group.

    The book itself is fascinating for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it was first published in 1951 and the author was part of the unit that carried out these trips. The trips this group carried out were not in large boats, but fishing boats small enough to be unassuming and less likely to be stopped or questioned. And as the sun doesn't sink low enough below the horizon for total darkness in the summer time, these trips were carried out in fall and late winter, in the cold and under cover of darkness, often with stormy weather. Even having lived through my first Norwegian winter, I can't even imagine what it must have been like.

    Most of the action took place much farther south than where I live in Norway (Bergen sits at 60ºN while Tromsø is up at 69ºN) with the exception of chapter thirteen, which is one of the more incredible tales in the book about a seemingly impossible escape. Another chapter tells of the attempt to sabotage a German battleship in Trondheim - the attempt failed, but that battleship (Tirpitz) was later sunk just south of Tromsøya at the end of the war. The presence of a little bit of local history probably increased the impact of this book on me.

    I also found myself thinking about knitting at different points in the book. Now, nothing in this book is about knitting, but there's definitely a bit of shared history and tradition between Shetland and Norway - stretching back to the Viking age, of course, but also more recently. Both places are famous for their stranded knitting patterns, and though there are differences, there has always been a great deal of sharing of certain motifs between both places. As I neared the end of The Shetland Bus I found myself reaching for my needles.

    I wound up with a hat that I feel is part Norwegian in spirit and part Shetland-style, too. While the main motifs stand out in a single color, the background cycles through different colors. I've called it The North Sea in tribute to the fishermen of the Shetland bus, all of whom were incredibly brave, and many of whom found their final resting place at the bottom of that sea.

    I went down to Telegrafbukta to shoot the photos of the hat about two months ago, when it was still much snowier here. This park is one of my favorite spots in Tromsø, on the southwest side of the island right on the water. It was a windy day, so I found myself facing in one particular direction more than any other - it just so happens that I wound up looking toward the sunken wreck of the Tirpitz.

    Using multiple background colors with colorwork makes this an excellent hat for leftovers, and that is exactly what I used - leftover yarn I had on hand. It is for this reason that the hat is knit in an American yarn (Brooklyn Tweed Shelter) though I'd love to see it worked up in wool from Norway or Shetland as well. It's a great project for any worsted-weight leftovers you have in your stash. As written, the pattern uses a tubular cast on, but that can be swapped out for any other stretchy cast on you like, and otherwise it's quite straightforward.

    The one thing that's unusual is that normally I write hat patterns for multiple sizes, but due to the very large repeat used on this hat, the pattern is written for just one size. In this case I would suggest trying to adjust gauge by changing needles sizes if you'd like to make the hat smaller or larger, and keep in mind that gauge from knitter to knitter can vary substantially in stranded colorwork, so you'll probably find it useful to swatch first.

    The North Sea is available on Ravelry now. Head over to that page for all the technical details about the pattern.

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  • aspen socks & legwarmers: making modifications & try on as you go

    My own copy of Farm to Needle came in the mail a week or so ago and I am blown away at how beautiful it is in person. I can't say thank you enough to Anna and everyone who made this book happen, and I am so incredibly grateful to be a part of it. I'm also completely in love with this Aspen legwarmer FO by Instagram user mandalu_who, knit in Snoqualmie Valley Yarn dyed with cabbage (and I'm amazed at how quickly she knit them up!). I can't wait to see more FOs, and to that end, this is a post I hope will be helpful for some knitters as they get ready to cast on for Aspen.

    A one-size pattern is difficult to pull off. It can be frustrating for knitters who need to hit measurements that differ from the schematic as written - and when it comes to legs, that's most of us. So perhaps Tolt and I were a bit crazy to publish a one-size pattern for high knee socks, but I spent a lot of time in the planning stages of Aspen considering the fact that this was a pattern that some people would need to modify. I did my best to construct the pattern in a way that would make it easier to tinker with, and I thought I'd outline a few of the things specifically designed with modifications in mind for any of you out there who need a hand with that step. I also drew up a quick sketch (very quick) to help with visualization.

    Customizable length: while I generally prefer to knit socks top-down, I decided Aspen should be toe-up (or bottom-up for the legwarmer version) so that the length was easy to customize. "Over the knee" for me, standing at six feet tall, is a longer sock than it is for someone who's five feet tall. A toe-up sock means that you can start the ribbing at the top of the sock wherever you want - mid-calf, below the knee, over the knee, wherever! The tubular bind off gives it a nice stretchy edge that should work for any length. Because the tubular bind off creates a reversible edge, the ribbing can be worn folded over, as well.

    Calf shaping: Both versions of Aspen feature a calf gusset that begins a few inches above the ankle. In order to create a gusset that would fit the widest range of sizes possible, I decided to work it in a 1x1 rib, so it would have a lot of give. If you find that the increase rate of the gusset as written isn't working for you, however, it's possible to adjust that, too. For a larger gusset, you can add extra repeats of the increase rounds - for a smaller one, you can omit one or more repeats. As written, the rate of increases corresponds to the diamond motif chart, but you can work increase rounds more often for a sharper increase angle, or less often for a gentler increase slope. Because the socks go over the knee, the gusset doesn't contain any decreases so as to fit over the lower thigh, but if the difference in circumference between your calf, your knee, and your lower thigh looks more like an hourglass, it's possible to add decreases to the calf gusset as well. 

    How to try-on-as-you-go with an afterthought heel: The sock version of Aspen is written for an afterthought heel, which means that the heel stitches are the last thing worked. Because waste yarn stitches are worked across the stitches where the heel will be placed, this typically means that the sock can't be tried on as you're knitting it. With a quick and simple trick, though, it is possible to try on a sock with an afterthought heel as you go.

    The two photos above show a sock in progress with a view of the sole of the foot/back of the leg. You can see a row of contrasting waste yarn stitches holding the place of the heel.

    The waste yarn stitches when working an afterthought heel act like a knitted in stitch holder. If you place the stitches in the rows direcly above and below the waste yarn on a new stitch holder, you can remove the original waste yarn and open up the heel. I like to use a new length of contrasting yarn to hold the stitches, since the yarn will remain flexible and it will be easier to actually try the sock on. Smooth yarns work best, particularly if you're knitting your socks with a grabby wooly wool. 

    First, thread the new length of waste yarn onto a tapestry needle (the new waste yarn is shown in red in the photos). The yarn should be long enough to go around both sides of the heel opening with extra length at the ends in case you want to tie a knot to secure the yarn.

    Beginning with the stitches on the sole of the foot (in plain stockinette), find the rightmost stitch knit in the original waste yarn - it should be in the form of a V. The sock yarn in the row below will have a stitch directly below this waste yarn stitch; thread the needle under the right leg of the V-shaped stitch.

    Skip over the left leg of the first stitch and thread the needle under the right leg of the next stitch to the left. Continue in this manner, working across the row. Picking up the right legs of the stitches will mean your stitches are oriented properly when it's time to work the heel and the stitches are put on needles.

    I like to thread the needle through a chunk of stitches and pull the yarn through - going in smaller chunks is easier than trying to pull the new waste yarn through the whole row at once. Make sure to leave a long enough tail at the end opposite the needle to be able to secure the waste yarn.

    The photo above shows you what it looks like when you've pulled the new waste yarn through all of the stitches on the sole of the foot. At this point, turn the sock 180 degrees so that the sole of the foot is farther away from you and the patterned leg is closer to you, as in the following photo:

    Now you can see that I have the new waste yarn coming from the right side, with my needle still threaded, ready to pick up the stitches from the leg side of the heel.

    This side is a little bit trickier, because when you begin knitting the heel, you'll be changing the direction of the knitting. It's a bit like picking up stitches from a provisional cast on to knit in the other direction. Don't worry too much if you wind up with an extra stitch or two on this side; you can always use a k2tog decrease on the first heel round to get back to the right stitch count (and it might even help you avoid holes).

    Begin picking up the right leg of each stitch as you did on the other side of the heel. It's a bit harder to see on this side, because the leg stitches are patterned in a mix of knits and purls, but as long as you get the needle through one leg of each stitch, you'll be okay. If any stitches wind up twisted when they're transferred to a needle, that's a simple enough fix.

    Once again, I like to pull the new waste yarn through periodically as I work my way across. At this point, it's easy to see why using two different colored waste yarns that contrast with each other can be super helpful - it's much easier to make sure I've actually threaded a stitch onto the new waste yarn (red) when it stands out so much from the original knitted-in waste yarn (blue).

    And here's what the heel section looks like after I've threaded all of the heel stitches onto the new waste yarn. You can see that the old waste yarn is completely surrounded by the new.

    At this point, we're ready to start pulling out the old waste yarn stitches, because the stitches in the rows above and below are secure.

    At this stage, I think slow and steady wins the race. I like to use the tapestry needle to unpick each old waste yarn stitch, one at a time. Going slow and paying attention means you'll be able to see if any of the heel stitches didn't make it onto the new waste yarn (if that's the case, pop a locking stitch marker or safety pin on the stitch so it doesn't drop). 

    As you work your way across the old waste yarn stitches, the heel starts to open up. It's easy to see now  on the open section how the new waste yarn acts like a stitch holder.

    When all of the old waste yarn stitches have been removed, the heel is completely open and the new waste yarn can be secured. I like to tie both strands together in a slip knot, which is easy to undo later on without scissors.

    Now that the heel is open, you can try on your sock-in-progress!

    When it's time to work the heel, you simply take the stitches on hold, slip them onto the needles, and remove the waste yarn acting as stitch holder. It's one of my favorite tricks!

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  • aspen socks & legwarmers: the inspiration

    photo by Kathy Cadigan

    The days seem to be flying by at an alarming rate these days - I can't believe it's already mid-November. But the good news is that means last weekend Tolt Yarn and Wool celebrated their second anniversary with a big party! (A party, I should mention, that I was very sad not to be attending.) In conjunction with the anniversary, Tolt's new book Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool was finally released! Excited cheers all around! As I mentioned earlier this fall, I had the great honor of designing a pattern for this special book alongside some really talented folks, who can be seen in this fantastic photo taken by Anna's husband Greg (if you look closely, you may also spot my face in 2D, thanks to the creative genius of Anna and Lara). This was an incredibly interesting project to work on - they usually are, when Anna's involved - and so I thought it'd be nice to write a little bit about the process of designing my pattern, Aspen.

    When Anna approached me this spring about the book, she asked if I'd be interested in designing a pair of cozy over-the-knee socks (with a legwarmer option) in Tolt's own Snoqualmie Valley Yarn. One of the best things about working with the Tolt team is that Anna often already has a great idea to start with, and instead of building something from scratch, I get to build off of her idea and her vision. I love Tolt and I'd been wanting to work with Snoqualmie Valley Yarn since it had first been released, so saying yes was a no brainer (even though I had an international move on the near horizon). Once I had the yarn in hand, however - all five skeins of it - I realized that I'd signed myself up for a challenge.

    Anna sent over a few mood boards after I'd signed on: one to give a feel for the book as a whole, and one specifically filled with inspiration for my pattern assignment. It was full of beautiful pictures of all kinds of socks and legwarmers, most of which were textured in some way with cables or lace, all in neutral colors. It was beautiful, and I was excited to get working, but... colorwork is my muse. And here I was, with five skeins of undyed creamy white yarn, wondering where on earth to start.

    From the beginning the pattern was going to be written for one size. Because of this, I really wanted to keep things simple, initially. I wanted to. But once I started swatching, I realized my muse had other plans. I did more swatching for this design than I've done for any other pattern I've done, I think. I swatched all sorts of stitch patterns and combinations. I swatched cables - at the beginning I was so sure this design would have cables. The whole process got hung up for a little while during the swatching phase. 

    In the midst of this phase, I realized that tall textured socks made of undyed wool reminded me of something very specific - bunad strømper. Strømper is the Norwegian word for stockings, and the bunad is the national folk costume (which varies from region to region). The men's bunad typically features knitted stockings tucked into a pair of breeches.

    Bunadstrømper from Vest Agder (image source: norskflid.no)

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

    While they're not always this off-white color (the stockings for my region are black and white), many of them are, and as I started swatching I couldn't help but think about bunad stockings (which also bear a notable resemblance to Scottish kilt hose, right down to the sock bands tucked into the breeches). I enjoyed perusing this pamphlet from yarnmaker Raumagarn:

    Bunad Strømper og Luer ("Bunad stockings and caps")

    Even before I started filling my brain with Norwegian stockings, the motif I kept coming back to was one of the first I swatched: the eight-pointed star that features on the front of the Aspen pattern.

    photo by Kathy Cadigan

    Given my proclivity for colorwork, it's really not shocking that this is the motif I kept returning to. Using this as the main motif would mean the whole pattern got a little more complicated than I initially planned on, but in the end I realized it was going to be this motif or it was going to be a pattern I wasn't actually that stoked on. So I gave in. And I'm so glad I did!

    After I decided to start with this motif, I was able to choose a secondary motif to wrap around the back of the leg on either side, working in a calf gusset at the very back of the leg where the two secondary motifs met. Knowing that this pattern would only be one size, I designed it with modifications in mind, and I'm putting together a post that will give an overview of some of the ways you can modify the pattern if you find that you need to make changes. Look for that soon!

    photo by Kathy Cadigan

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  • farm to needle: stories of wool

    If you’re familiar with Tolt Yarn and Wool in Carnation, Washington, you can probably imagine how I felt when I received an email from Anna Dianich earlier this year … there was a book project she was putting together, and would I like to be involved? It was a no brainer, of course - YES, I said, even though I knew I had an international move on the horizon and a pretty packed to-do list. Some things are easy to make time for.

    Anna described her idea for the book - a focus on yarns with that could be traced to the source, made from American grown wool, spun and dyed at American mills, often coming from single flocks. I’ve come to know some of these yarns through visits to Tolt and I’m so excited for the stories of who makes them to be shared in book form. I think many knitters have become increasingly interested in yarns from smaller producers over the last several years as they begin to ask where their fiber is actually coming from, a trend that parallels the farm-to-table trend in the food industry. When Tolt began producing their own Snoqualmie Valley Yarn (whose wool comes from a single flock of BFL/Clun Forest sheep), it was fitting that the labels said “farm to needle.” To me, this book project feels like such a natural extension of what Tolt does as a yarn store and as the core of a community. And appropriately the book itself, which will be released around Tolt’s second anniversary party on November 7, is titled Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool.

    Here’s a short blurb from farmtoneedlebook.com:

    "When we pick up our needles, cast on the first stitch, we become part of something much bigger than the project at hand. Farmers, shearers, spinners and dyers are working hard not only to produce the yarn we love, but to preserve a way of life that is at real risk of being lost. Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool invites you to join us on a journey; to peek behind the scenes of some of our favorite producers and gain a deeper understanding of the people, places, and animals at work. Discover Aspen Hollow Farm, Green Mountain Spinnery, Imperial Stock Ranch, Thirteen Mile Farm, YOTH, Saco River Dye House, and Twirl through patterns by Dianna Walla, Tif Fussell, Veronika Jobe, Ashley Yousling & Annie Rowden, Karen Templer, and Andrea Rangel. Photography by Kathleen Cadigan."

    I can’t tell you how thrilled and honored I am to be part of such a stellar lineup. We’re all looking forward to sharing more of the book with you in the near future - I’m quite proud of my pattern and I can’t wait for you to see it (it is, unsurprisingly, Norwegian-inspired, but that's all I'll tell you for now!). Farm to Needle: Stories of Wool is available to pre-order now at farmtoneedlebook.com and I hope some of you will be able to attend Tolt’s second anniversary party on November 7!

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  • ebba & berit

    If you happen to be subscribed to the Quince & Co. e-newsletter (or if you follow me on Instagram), then you've already seen that I have two new patterns out this week! Meet Ebba and Berit:

    I've gushed about my love for Quince & Co. on this blog before, so you can imagine how exciting it's been for me to work with them on these two patterns. I love Quince for their yarns, which are amazing to knit with, but I also love them for their commitment to ethically sourced American wool and to the U.S. fiber industry at large. Working with them has been a dream.

    I wrote a bit over on the Quince blog this week about the inspiration behind both designs, so I won't go into that too much here, but you can head over to the Quince blog to check that out.

    Both designs use Quince & Co. Chickadee, their sport-weight wool, in three colors. Both are definitely rooted in Norwegian knitting traditions as well, and make use of some traditional techniques many knitters may not have tried before: Ebba uses steeks to create the armholes for its drop shoulder sleeves, and Berit features embroidered embellishments. I've written a tutorial for working the steeks which can be found here (it's also linked both in the pattern and on my support & tutorials page).

    I'm so pleased for these patterns to be released in conjunction with my own move to Norway (somewhat serendipitously; Ebba was in the pipeline before I even knew I'd be moving!). And whether it's just the back-to-school timing or whether it was intentional, the book and specs (that resemble my own) used in the photoshoot felt like a nice little nod to my newfound status as grad student:

    This bespectacled student approves! I'm very much looking forward to working with Quince again in the future, and I hope you love these patterns as much as I do.

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  • fringe hatalong

    I was hoping to get this post up last week, but it's been so busy with the semester start I'm only just getting it up! 

    Those of you who read this blog regularly will know I love the Fringe Hatalong series Karen is running this year, so when she got in touch with me to design pattern #4, I was thrilled! Let me introduce you to Laurus:

    Laurus is a free pattern available as a PDF download from the Fringe website right here. Most of the pertinent info is included in the Fringe blog post, including some info about swatching, knitting from a colorwork chart, and our featured charity for this pattern, Hats and More for War-Torn Syria. I don't want to overlap too much with Karen's post, but I did want to share some more about this pattern and how we arrived at it.

    The recommended yarn is Quince & Co. Lark, one of my very favorites. I love the Quince & Co. concept, since their wools (and their new cotton yarn, Willet) are all grown and produced domestically in the United States, with an emphasis on sustainable practices. Lark is a worsted weight 100% wool yarn available in 55 different colors (at current count). I chose Lark for the pattern not just because I love it (though I do), but also because I find the built in "compare" tool on the Quince website particularly useful when choosing yarns for a colorwork project. On any of the yarn pages on the Quince site if you click "compare colors" underneath the large photo at left, you're able to view up to five colorways side by side. Genius!

    One of the things I strive to do as a designer and a teacher is to emphasize the creative possibilities of modifications and the differences our creative decisions can make for our finished object. Since many folks knitting this hat for the hatalong may be doing colorwork for the first time (or have limited experience with colorwork), I suggested to Karen that we work up the hat in two different versions - but both versions would use the same two colorways, and simply swap the main color and contrasting color. I think this completely changes the feel of the hat, even though both samples use the same two colors. 

    I wanted to illustrate that color placement within a project makes a huge difference - and that's something you may not be able to visualize when looking at two skeins of yarn side by side. Swatching is a great way to work out what two colors might look like for your chosen pattern, but colored pencils and graph paper can also be a useful visualization tool.

    We released the pattern last Thursday, but several speedy knitters have already worked up their hats! I've seen a version that omits the stripes and I've also seen a version that takes the Laurus chart and uses it on a Moon Sprites hat instead - both clever and creative, two things I enjoy the most when browsing FOs! I love watching the projects progress, and you can share (or just browse) Fringe hatalong projects everywhere with the tag #fringehatalong.

    I encourage you to give this hat a try even if you've never done colorwork - this pattern's a great starting point with only 7 rounds of colorwork and it's a simpler and more repetitive motif than it appears to be at first glance. I'll be on hand to answer any questions I see popping up as well. I can't wait to see your hats!

    All photos by Kathy Cadigan.

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  • new hat patterns!

    Okay, neither of these is technically brand new anymore, but they are both newly available as individual patterns through my Ravelry store.

    You might recognize Fjordland, shown at right, which was first published in issue 7 of Pom Pom Quarterly (Winter 2013). I've been meaning to release it as an individual pattern ever since the rights reverted, and my new camera gave me the little push I needed. Fjordland is worked in fingering weight yarn - the pattern calls for Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, and I can tell you it's the perfect pattern for using up leftovers (partial sock yarn skeins, anyone?). The sample was actually knit with leftovers from my Amiina and Vasa samples! Check out the Ravelry page for more details and photos and to purchase it.

    The other hat, shown at left, is called Cliff Park. This pattern was originally designed for LYS A Grand Yarn's Indie Club, and since A Grand Yarn was - up until last winter - located in Spokane, Washington, the hat was named after nearby public park Cliff Park. I love the combination of stripes and colorwork, and I especially love the yarn. Cliff Park calls for Stonehedge Fiber Mill Shepherd's Wool Worsted, a delightfully springy worsted spun yarn made from merino top. If you've only ever worked with superwash merino, get ready to have your mind blown. Merino is SO delightful when it hasn't been superwash treated, and Shepherd's Wool is incredibly soft and bouncy. It's also availabe in a huge palette of colors, so there are endless potential color combinations. Find Cliff Park on Ravelry here to see more photos and purchase the pattern.

    --

    Between all the hats I've released this year, plus the Fringe Hatalong, 2015 is feeling like the Year of the Hat. And speaking of the Fringe Hatalong, Karen's put up the preview for hat #3 - the big reveal is happening next Thursday, June 18th, and I can't wait!

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  • moon sprites & icelandic wool month at tolt

    After releasing my F/W13 collection, I decided I wanted to knit something special as a thank you for the folks in Carnation who had helped make the photoshoot possible - Anna from Tolt Yarn and Wool and her friends and neighbors Shelley and Janya. Moon Pulls was already a collection favorite and I thought it'd be fun to knit each of them a hat inspired by Moon Pulls - and so I did!

    While I decided early on that I wanted to write the pattern for the hats, it took a little while for that plan to come to fruition. I had made two different versions of the hat when I knit the prototypes for Anna, Shelley, and Janya, and I had an idea for a third version I wanted to include as well. Deciding how best to incorporate three "views" (in the way a sewing patterns often include different views) into one knitting pattern took me some time, and actually sitting down and knitting different versions took a little bit of time, too. While the hat itself is a pretty quick knit, I had to fit in the knitting of the samples around many other projects.

    I knit the first three samples while in Iceland last spring during DesignMarch. Shopping for Lopi at the Handknitting Association's store in central Reykjavík convinced me that I shouldn't stop at three samples - one for each view - but rather I should knit at least two per view, in order to showcase different color combinations. There's such an immense opportunity for creativity with the wide palette of colors Ístex offers. In the end, I knit eight, all of which are featured in the pattern's pages to give you ideas for color pairings.

    Finally, a year after knitting the first pattern sample, Moon Sprites is available! Here's an overview of the three different pattern views:

    View A - three colors, colorblocked. This matches up with the sleeves on Moon Pulls.

    View B - three colors, without colorblocking. This matches up with the bottom of the body on Moon Pulls.

    View C - two colors only, colorblocked. 

    This pattern is absolutely fantastic at using up leftovers of Létt-Lopi (or any other aran-weight yarn, for that matter). It makes a great gauge swatch if you're planning to knit Moon Pulls. And with only a little bit of colorwork (seven rounds in total), it's also ideal for colorwork beginners. I love how much possibility is packed into one little hat pattern and I can't wait to see what beautiful versions knitters come up with!

    You can find Moon Sprites as a digital download on Ravelry, on Etsy, or on Kollabora, and the printed version is going to press as I type (they should be available at Tolt starting mid-week next week; if you're a store interested in carrying hard copies, email me at the address listed on the about page).

    Special thanks to Kathy Cadigan for the beautiful pattern photos!

    --

    To bring this whole thank-you-hat thing full circle, this month is Icelandic Wool Month at Tolt Yarn and Wool! The Tolt community is celebrating Icelandic wool and its wonderful properties, and you can share your Lopi projects on social media with the hashtag #tolticelandicwoolmonth. It's worth noting here that Tolt carries Einband, Létt-Lopi, Álafoss Lopi, and now Plötulopi, so you can get your Lopi fix in a variety of weights. Be sure to stop by Tolt if you can to check out Moon Pulls and Moon Sprites in person

    Anna and I were pretty excited when we realized the release of Moon Sprites would coincide with Icelandic Wool Month at Tolt. When she asked if I'd be willing to be one of this month's guest bloggers, I gladly said yes - so today I'm on the Tolt blog waxing poetic about Iceland! Thanks so much to Anna for inviting me to share!

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  • swedish pancakes (pom pom spring 2015)

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

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

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

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

    (photo borrowed from the inimitable Jenny Jimenez)

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

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

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

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

    Pretty swanky.

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

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