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  • oslo strikkefestival: yarn

    I have a few posts-in-progress lined up for the blog once I have a chance to finish them, but as school has intensified this term, and the US election season approached its climax in the past weeks, it's been a bit of a struggle to get anything finished. And today, after having woken up to the results at six in the morning yesterday, I'll admit I'm feeling at a bit of a loss. This week is tough for many of us, American or otherwise.

    But in an attempt to turn toward the positive: I spent this past weekend at the Oslo Strikkefestival (for whom I designed my Rosenhoff Votter), in the company of a collection of absolutely incredible people. I'd love to share more about the experience soon - the fantastic organizers Katie and Tone, the workshops and the marketplace and the general atmosphere, meeting so many people in person who I've interacted with online. It was truly wonderful. But right now what I really need is a couple of mental health days before I dive headfirst back into my thesis work. So I thought for now I'd just share what I picked up from the marketplace - which, after reading the vendor list in advance, I was greatly anticipating.

    You all know I'm working to buy less yarn and knit from my existing stash whenever possible, but I've known for months that I was going to make a big exception for Oslo Strikkefestival. Having started the Norwegian wool series on this blog (which I hope to get back to soon!), I'm super interested in exploring new-to-me yarns that are domestically sourced and produced in Norway. I've also lately become interested in the world of Norwegian hand-dyed yarns, as many of those businesses are only just getting started. The marketplace at this past weekend's festival was an absolutely fantastic place to check out a large sample of Norwegian-made and/or Norwegian-dyed yarns in person all at once. And so I came home with a few things... and you can see from the photo at the top of this post that I didn't stray from my typical color palette too far. There are worse things than being predictable, though, I suppose.

    I've written about how much I love Hillesvåg and their pelsull yarn on this blog before, so I was very happy to pick up a skein of a new weight of pelsull. Sølje is a lovely fingering-weight version and it's surprisingly soft. Hillesvåg has kept with their tradition of naming their yarns after things related to Norwegian tradition and folklore, as sølje is also the name for the brooches typically worn with the bunad, the national folk costume. The Hillesvåg booth didn't have a lot of this yarn left by the time I made my way over to pick some up, but I snagged this skein in the color lys rødlig beige, or "light reddish beige." I'm not sure yet what it will be but I'm very curious to see how this weight knits up compared with the sport weight Pelsull and the bulky Blåne.

    Next up is something different, although still in my typical grey: this is the Kid Silk base from Norne Yarns in the Fenrir colorway. Tuva of Norne Yarns was a vendor at last year's festival as well, and her specialty is luxury bases (I didn't asked her specifically about the sources of the bases but I assume they're sourced abroad). The diversity of yarns in the marketplace was one of the most exciting things to me - although I am a huge advocate for Norwegian wools, I think a Norwegian dyer working with luxury bases is an excellent niche to fill and I'm quite looking forward to trying this yarn out. This grey color is called Fenrir after Fenrir the grey, the great wolf from Norse mythology (also the inspiration for the werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter universe). One of my favorite things about Tuva's yarns is the Norse mythology woven through all the names, right down to the brand name itself - Norne - as the Norns are the Norse version of the female Fates who rule the destinies of men (artwork of the Norns spinning the threads of fate at the bottom of Yggdrasil is easy to find). Fans of Norse mythology will recognize many names in Norne's colorways: Yggdrasil, Valkyrie, Freyr, the Mistress of Seidr (which refers to Freyja), Skadi, Ratatosk, and many more. 

    Nina Petrina is probably my most local indie dyer, as Nina is from Troms (my county), just a short drive away from Tromsø over in Storfjord. I recently knit her Nordlyslue (northern lights hat), and I was looking forward to checking out more of her yarns in the marketplace. I was also really happy to meet Nina in person, as she is lovely! Not all of her yarns are domestic Norwegian wool - in fact, she carries some Quince & Co. yarns - but her focus is on organic and fair trade wool and she's very environmentally conscious. I picked up some of her Tynn Bluefaced Leicester (hooray for breed-specific wools!) in this beautiful teal shade that almost perfectly matched one of the stripe colors of my Fringe & Friends KAL sweater, which I was wearing at the time. I'm not sure what I'll use this for yet, but it's going to be beautiful.

    This yarn is one of the ones I'm the most excited about but at this point I can give you the least specifics. It's from the indie dyer I was perhaps the most eager to see: Værbitt. The name literally means "weather-bitten," and it's a word that I as a foreigner associate most strongly with the Norwegian national anthem, as it appears in the third line of the first verse (the only verse I know by heart). I had a lovely chat with Laila, the owner (and I probably gushed a bit), because Laila uses mainly Norwegian-sourced wools and Nordic breeds for her bases. The yarn above is spun from spælsau wool, both the sturdy guard hair layer as well as the softer inner layer of wool, so it's very sturdy even as a single-ply, and absolutely beautiful. I'm very excited to follow Værbitt's work in the future.

    All four of the above yarns were ones I planned to check out and I was expecting to come home with - but of course, there were a couple of curve balls, too. They came home with me because these are the yarns I actually have concrete plans for, unlike the ones above.

    Claire of We Love Knitting traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia to be a vendor at the marketplace, and she is honestly and without exagerration probably the sweetest person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I came home with a skein of her Merino Fingering in the Icicle colorway (at bottom) and her Sock base in a beautiful grey (top). These will become a pair of Lumineux socks, from this year's Knitworthy collection from Ysolda. Thankfully I can always use more handknit socks here.

    And last but definitely not least, I think I'm actually incapable of resisting a beautiful greyscale gradient. This one came from Squirrel's Yarns, another one of the international vendors - Lisa is based in France and her gradients were one of the first things that caught my eye at the marketplace. This one is in her Pécan Fingering base, which has a bit of silver stellina in the yarn that gives it a lovely sparkle (which unfortunately doesn't seem to photograph very well in my low winter light). I'm pretty sure this is going to become a Lupine shawl, a pattern by my friend Cory I've been wanting to knit for a long time. I actually had another stash yarn set aside for that, but this one feels like an even better fit.

    Thanks again to Katie and Tone and everyone else who made Oslo Strikkefestival so fantastic this year. It was a bright spot in the midst of a dark time.

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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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  • 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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