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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • 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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