a quick road trip to smøla

Mountains and water are visible through the window of a ferry boat. A table and red seats are visible in the foreground.

At the beginning of the week, the heat finally broke, and we’ve been enjoying a bit of rain along with much cooler temperatures. For anyone whose summer holiday started this week, I recognize that that’s probably inconvenient, but since I’ll be working on and off throughout July (I only have half the usual allotted vacation days this year since I only worked 6 months in Norway last year) I have to admit I’m finding the change in weather more conducive to getting some work done. It feels quite a lot like it did this time last year – we had a lot of chilly rain after a period of beautiful weather.

That being said, I did take two days off this week and we drove over to see some dear friends who were spending the week on the island of Smøla. Smøla is a few hours west of Trondheim, in the neighboring county of Møre og Romsdal. It was a quick trip for us being only two days, but still really enjoyable and a nice break from the daily grind.

The last leg of the drive involves car ferry to get over to the island, and even though the ferry ride is a short twenty, it was nice to be on a boat. Smøla itself is pretty flat (I think the highest point is just over 60 m / 200 ft) so I wasn’t expecting the islands we drove through on the way to have such high peaks, but I enjoyed the dramatic landscape. It definitely made me want to come back to the Nordmøre region.

We did have grey skies and rain on our first day, but Wednesday was unexpectedly clear and we were able to enjoy a bit of sunshine as well (which also made the drive home that evening much easier). The change of scenery, staying in a seaside cabin with friends, eating fresh fish, and visiting different corners of the island were all so nice. We had cake and coffee on the deck at Villsaubutikken, serenaded by a chorus of villsau sheep. Or more accurately, gammelnorsk sau (“Old Norwegian sheep”). This sheep breed is very commonly known as villsau in Norway, but that name literally means “wild sheep” and is thus a misnomer, as the Old Norwegian sheep isn’t actually wild. There were quite a few of them on Smøla, in any case.

I brought along one knitting project, a shawl I started last weekend. It’s the Trelawney Shawl by Tyne Swedish, which has been in my favorites basically since she released it, and I’m knitting it up in two gorgeous colors of yarn from Birch Hollow Fibers. I was able to make some good progress on our trip.

And a shift from the tone of the rest of this post: normally I would link to the Ravelry pattern page for the pattern, but given Ravelry’s redesign and the health hazards it has posed for many, I’m opting not to do that here (but clicking Tyne’s name above will take you to her Instagram profile at least). As for Ravelry, the rollout of the new site design has been…tough. I have so much love for the people who make that site run, but like many others, I’ve been disappointed with the response from the team to the health & accessibility issues raised by so many. While people are resistant to change, and there have been negative reactions based solely on the aesthetic choices made in the new design, the people who have spoken up about accessibility and health risks are talking about something much more serious. The decisions that have been made and the communication from the team really makes it seem like they’re not taking it seriously and that they don’t get it. Or worse, that they do get it, but they don’t care. I keep hoping that what feels like radio silence (on questions they have specifically avoided responding to in their sporadic updates) is due to furiously working behind the scenes to make corrections or to compose an apology. But the more time that passes, the smaller that hope becomes. It’s kind of heartbreaking.

I’m still using the site for now because there is nothing else like it out there, but I’ve switched to the classic view and plan to keep it that way as long as I’m able. And in the meantime, I’m thinking about possible contingency plans for pattern sales, given that many of my patterns are only available on Ravelry. I’m also thinking about accessibility in my own online spaces in a way I haven’t before. I welcome thoughts on all of these issues in the comments here, especially if anyone has specific feedback about Paper Tiger (the website or my pattern formatting), but know that if you dismiss the needs or experiences of users who are unable to use Ravelry’s new design or other web accessibility problems, that’s not going to fly.

10 thoughts on “a quick road trip to smøla

  1. i always enjoy reading your posts – your pictures are great and it’s a way for all of us to travel virtually. Did you take any pictures of the sheep? Would love to see them – also pictures of the fresh seafood that you all prepared. I am sorry about your frustrations about ravelry – hopefully, they will address your issues soon. I have no suggestions for your website or pattern formatting as I am technically inept!!! I love your posts – keep up the good work.

    • Just to clarify, I wouldn’t say the Ravelry issues are “my” issues – they’re universal issues of accessibility. I personally don’t have any health-related issues caused by the new website (my own gripes are aesthetic). But I care about accessibility and I want to see Ravelry do right by its affected users.

      I put a couple of videos of the sheep up in my Instagram stories, but of course those disappear after 24 hours. Here are a few photos/videos from one of my traveling companions, though:

      View this post on Instagram

      #Smøla

      A post shared by fredarve (@fredarve) on

      View this post on Instagram

      #Smøla

      A post shared by fredarve (@fredarve) on

  2. I love your posts and photos. They bring calm.
    I do have a question about your new wbsite. Why would you need to use cookies? I never accept but just found it different than other bloggers’ sites. Thank you!

  3. Can you be specific about the health and accessibility issues? I genuinely don’t understand, but I would like to.
    I am not a user of any social media, nor do I join any discussions on Ravelry, apart from a recent question about a book which was quickly and helpfully answered.
    I use Ravelry to post my projects and look for patterns, yarns, LYSs and follow my friends, so I think I am missing something important to know.

    • I’ll do my best to provide an overview.

      The issues with the new design range from eye strain to debilitating migraines to, at the worst end of the spectrum, triggering seizures. There has been more than one seizure reported, unfortunately. High contrast (white background with lots of black outlines), small text, drop shadows, and the color combination (the cyan and cinnamon coral both seem to be culprits, especially in combination) are all things that people have flagged. The new login page was originally animated by default and was causing dizziness or vertigo in some users.

      The Rav team has not been entirely unresponsive – the login page animation is now off by default (users who want to view the animation can press a play button), you can switch off drop shadows in your profile settings, you can change your font, etc. BUT. But. Several of the options they’ve implemented that are improvements for people are opt-IN, ie the problematic elements are the default and users have to navigate past them in order to turn off drop shadows, or switch to the classic look, etc. The accessibility issue is that users who are unable to use the site for any period of time aren’t able to login and navigate to their settings in order to change things on their own. That’s not accessible. Period.

      There were a lot of common issues that came up over and over in the discussion threads in the For the Love of Ravelry forum (when they were open – most discussion threads about the redesign are being locked pretty quickly now) and what’s clear is that the Rav team read those threads, chose to make some minor changes, but have otherwise seemed to ignore a lot of the feedback. There’s not been a lot of communication from them on these issues, and there’s been no indication that they’re planning to hire an outside web accessibility specialist, which I think is an absolutely necessary step. I suspect the lack of communication is a result of legal advice, but it doesn’t change the fact that people feel really betrayed, and people who did use the forums a lot but now find themselves unable to feel like they’ve lost a safe space on the Internet. Another strike against Ravelry on this is that there was zero warning for users that the look of the site was going to change.

      If you’re curious to read some of the firsthand experiences people have had with the site causing visual issues, migraines, or worse, you can look through the accessibility threads from last week. Note that these links go to the Ravelry forums, so if you’re logged in and haven’t switched over to the classic view, these pages will come up in the new design:
      https://www.ravelry.com/discuss/for-the-love-of-ravelry/4046109/1-25
      https://www.ravelry.com/discuss/for-the-love-of-ravelry/4046388/1-25

      • Thanks, that has clarified the issues for me, and I have read the pages you linked to for examples of what some users experience. I appreciate you taking the time to help me become aware and understand better.

    • Just to add that I didn’t really suffer adverse effects from the new design, but I was shocked by the change. Reading people’s firsthand accounts in those threads really helped open my eyes to the accessibility issues though, so I think it’s worth reading a few pages if you want to understand why people are upset. Hope that helps!

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