reflections on making

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Halfway through the second month of 2020, I’m beginning to get a sense of how limited my time for making is at the moment (and is likely to remain for at least several more months). Hashtag PhD life, or something like that? I’m getting a little bit of knitting done here and there, but it all feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace. I have two sock projects on the go, which I sometimes bring on my commute to work on, but I’m still on the first sock of both pairs. Most of the sweaters I have on the needles are fingering weight sweaters, which prompted me to cast on a worsted weight sweater a few weeks ago in the hopes that I could bang it out, but that also feels slow and now I just have another WIP. So you could say I’ve been thinking lately about my priorities when it comes to my making this year, and I thought I’d share what I’m feeling with you all.

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Firstly, after being apart from the majority of my WIPs and my stash for six months, I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all now that I have it back. Not entirely in a bad way – I missed it and I feel an excitement to work on projects with all these beautiful materials I’ve collected – but what makes it overwhelming is the relatively slow pace at which I’m working on projects at the moment. I managed to work through a lot of what I had with me in the fall, which felt very freeing, and I’m just not feeling that freedom anymore. This means I’m feeling two strong desires: one is to work through my existing WIPs (16 is the current count, going by my Ravelry project page), and the other is a desire to work from stash for new projects. I really, genuinely want to be doing both of those things. And that feels really good, although it’s clearly going to take a little while to work on the WIPs. A few of them aren’t so far from being finished (like my Galore as well as this summery sweater) and trying to get them wrapped up in the next couple of months will probably help a lot.

The other thing I’m feeling really strongly is a desire to make things for friends and family. This isn’t entirely incompatible with wanting to knit from my stash, luckily, but it is somewhat at odds with trying to get through my WIPs. Nonetheless, after being reuinited with *all my knits* I’m also feeling how much I don’t need anything new, despite all the yarn kicking around in my stash. Of course there are sweaters and other things I want to make for myself that I already have yarn for, but I have plenty of yarn to do more knitting for others, as well.

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I know a lot of this is really in line with how many other crafters are feeling right now – The Crimson Stitchery is one of my favorite podcasts, and Anushka has talked a lot in recent videos about storage space, stash, WIPs, and desire vs. necessity. I really appreciate her approach to crafting as it’s always creative and beautiful, but also thrifty and practical. (The tagline for her podcast is “making all things beautiful and useful.”) She’s hosting an initiative called Stashless2020 in which you can join in with the aim to do one of two things: either try to work through your existing stash to become completely stashless, or put less into your stash and work more from what you already have. I definitely fall into the latter category – even if I had all the time in the world to knit this year, I wouldn’t empty my stash – but I appreciate the encouragement provided by a group effort, and knowing there are others feeling the same. If you’re intrigued by the idea of Stashless2020, I’d encourage you to check out this video where Anuskha discusses the question, “Can I go stashless in 2020?”

I am so lucky to have so many beautiful things to make with, so when I feel frustrated by how slowly my projects seem to be going at the moment, I just try to remind myself: it’s not a race.

a few snaps from january

January felt like it went by in the blink of an eye, but I was better about getting outside for midday daylight walks than I was in December. Here are a few snaps from my walks, all taken between about 11:00 AM and 3:00 PM.

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January was pretty mild, and we had a lot of rain, so the days with peeks of sunshine felt extra precious. I haven’t minded the weather too much, though – I think that getting outside regardless probably helps with that. Here’s to keeping that up as the days continue to grow brighter!

another new year

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Happy new year, all. I made that Norwegian godt nyttår garland back in 2010, and it’s still going strong – I expect it to last a long while yet. At the time, I was living in a shared house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle with a housemate I met in Icelandic class (who became one of my dearest friends), working part time in a plastics shop while I worked on my first master’s degree. It feels like a lifetime ago, but it also one of the periods of my life I look back on with the greatest fondness. It’s nice to remember all of that at the turn of each year, when that garland comes out.
I’ve been reflecting on the decade a little bit. There have been soaring highs but it has been turbulent in other ways – three transatlantic moves since 2015 seems to have really taken it out of me this year, even if I feel incredibly happy and comfortable in our decision to come back to Norway. I feel exhausted, but I also feel excited about the future we’ve chosen here. And so I find myself looking forward more than back, even if I feel apprehensive about some of the things 2020 may bring.
We spent the last two weeks of 2019 moving into our new house (finally!). Of course it takes time to make your home in a new place, but we already feel so good in our new home, which is a relief after six months of living out of a couple of suitcases in temporary rentals. I’ve been putting together a craft room (/hobby room/Paper Tiger HQ) again, and I’ve felt a renewed sense of inspiration that’s been missing for a few months now. It makes me excited about the projects this new year will bring. I’m not aiming to make more (in fact I’m always aiming to make less), but either way I am hoping to make things that I will really, really love. I would like to make more for others this year, as well.

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On that front, I got a sewing machine for Christmas, which I am incredibly excited about – I gave away my old sewing machine when we moved to Tromsø in 2015, and I haven’t had one since. It’s a little startling to realize that’s nearly half the decade I’ve been without one. I got it as a slightly early gift, so that I could hem some curtains for the new house, but I can’t wait to embark on a few garment projects later this year. I bought a few dress patterns in 2019 that I’ve admired for a long time (knowing that I planned to get a sewing machine again once we got settled here in Trondheim): the Bleuet dress from Deer & Doe, the Fen dress from Fancy Tiger, and the Emery dress from Christine Haynes. The only question is which one will win out to be first (I expect the Emery will win, though the Fen is a close second – I want to hold off on the Bleuet dress with all its buttons until I feel like I’ve gotten to practice a bit with my machine).
As for knitting, there are one or two design projects on the horizon, but it’s going to be a lot quieter on the pattern front, which I’m very okay with. I’m interested in knitting up some of the things from my queue, which overlaps with my other goal to knit more from stash. I’ll admit that I stocked up on a few things while working at Espace Tricot in Montreal (again, knowing that we were going to try to move back to Norway and certain yarns would be harder to get) and my stash has reached some rather astonishing proportions, at least by my own standards. It would feel really good to follow through on that planning and actually start knitting with some of that yarn. I think working in a few leftovers projects would be nice as well.
In general, 2020 is feeling like the year I’ve been planning for for a long time. We’ve spent several years trying to figure out where we wanted to “settle” – at least for a little while – and after moving every two years for I-don’t-know-how-many-years I’m definitely excited to not have any moves in the foreseeable future. Right now I have so much to be grateful for. I think 2020 will be the year I get to find my rhythm in Trondheim for real, and I can’t wait.

on seasons

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A bit related to my post on darkness: today I’m thinking about seasons.

For awhile now I’ve found it curious how so much our modern (western) society chooses to strictly adhere to the astronomical seasons as the only true definition of “season” (that is to say, the idea that each solstice or equinox marks the first day of a new season). As if seasons have borders. The winter solstice is December 22 this year, but does that mean that December 21 is “technically” still autumn? Plenty of people would say yes to that question, but for any of us who live in a climate where it’s been snowing already, that actually makes zero sense. Autumn one day, winter the next? (Maybe so, but that day came weeks ago here.) Perhaps printed calendars have something to do with it, but the older I get the more bizarre I find it, all the same.

In some ways I feel like social media has amplified this effect in my own life – many of the people I follow, and I myself, often post about the changing seasons at the solstices and equinox. (See a few of my old examples here and here) But the more I see posts about how it’s not “technically” some season yet but it sure feels like it is, the less relevant this strict adherence to astronomical seasons feels. So I guess I’ve been craving something different. Does it “sure feel like winter”? Cool, sounds like it’s winter to me.

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There are, both today and historically, different ways to define or conceptualize a season. Many places have or have had only two seasons: either a summer/winter dichotomy, or in more tropical regions, a wet season and a dry season. The Nordic countries are one of the regions that historically only distinguished between winter and summer – which makes the idea that Midsummer happens around the summer solstice make much more sense. I’m sure there must be others, but that’s the example I’m most familiar with.

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Even in four-season models, there are different boundaries for the four seasons. I’ve already mentioned the astronomical sense, where the seasons begin on the corresponding solstice or equinox. But do you know about meteorological seasons? Professional meteorologists in many regions use these definitions, and they correspond very neatly to three-month chunks: with winter beginning December 1, spring on March 1, summer on June 1, and autumn on September 1 (this is vindication for all you autumn-lovers out there who consider it autumn once the calendar hits September – remember this piece of information and you can use it next time someone tries to tell you “but it’s no technically autumn until September 21/22”).

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There are systems with six seasons, systems that pay no mind to the calendar at all but rather correspond to temperature or other natural or ecological cues, and other ways of marking seasons that you’ve probably never even considered. The “Season” Wikipedia page actually has a lot of interesting information about all of this, if you find all of this as fascinating or as liberating as I do to learn about.

It goes without saying that I speak from my own perspective as someone who grew up and has always lived in the northern hemisphere, so the dates here correspond to that. The photos in this post are all from 2015-2017, when we were living in Tromsø (which is probably the place where I started to disengage from the supremacy of astronomical seasons, because they made so little sense there beyond the summer/winter distinction).

new pattern: rue du tage

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Last week I released another new pattern: Rue du Tage. I’ve been working on this one for quite awhile, and teased it on Instagram over the summer. I finished the scarf in November and have been weraing it nearly nonstop ever since; it is my favorite kind of properly-bundled-up scarf, worked in the round so it’s doubly thick, and long enough to wrap around your neck with both ends tucked into your jacket. This kind of scarf can cover the bottom half of your face if you wear it right, and it holds up against the cold wind.

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I had an immense amount of fun both designing and knitting this scarf. It’s worked up in La Bien Aimée Mondim, a yarny collaboration between La Bien Aimée in Paris and Retrosaria Roma Pomar in Lisbon. Mondim is made for Rosa Pomar from Portuguese wool, and this hand-dyed incarnation is then dyed by La Bien Aimée in Paris. I used three colors for this design, but you could easily use more if you wished, which would make this a great leftovers project.

The Mondim is a sturdier wool than your typical hand-dyed merino – admittedly less soft, which will mean some knitters might not want to use it for a scarf, but for me it’s soft enough to wear it next to my skin (especially if it’s cold out). I found the yarn worked very nicely for colorwork, and I definitely had trouble putting the project down once I got going on a motif. Of course you could substitute other fingering weight yarns as well, especially if you have more than a few kicking around your stash (like I do).

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The fact that the yarn is a collaboration between La Bien Aimée and Rosa Pomar is what led to the name for this design. I was a bit stuck on the name for awhile, but while browsing a street map of LBA’s neighborhood in Paris I spotted a street called Rue du Tage. A quick search confirmed my suspicions: this street is named for the Tagus river which runs through Spain and Portugal, with the river’s mouth in Lisbon. It’s a funny coincidence, to have a street around the corner from La Bien Aimée named for the river that Retrosaria Rosa Pomar sits within walking distance of. And so Rue du Tage it was.

Thanks to La Bien Aimée for generously providing yarn support for this design. And I hope you all like it as much as I do! You can find the details about yardage, needles, and all the rest on the Ravelry pattern page.

darkness

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I saw an anecdote on Twitter this week about the words for December in Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic – in Irish Gaelic it’s Mí na Nollag (Month of Christmas) and in Scottish Gaelic it’s An Dubhlachd (The Blackness). There are historical and cultural reasons for this somewhat amusing difference, but nonetheless it’s quite striking. I’ve been having talks with friends in the past several days about this darkest time of year, as Norway is now gearing up for Christmas. Advent has begun, and the city streets are positively full of twinkling lights. There are multiple traditions that involve bringing light into the darkest month – one that comes to mind in the Germanic countries is the tradition of having four advent candles (often arranged in an adventskrans, or an advent wreath) which are lit on the four Sundays of advent. On the first Sunday, the first candle is lit. On the second Sunday, two candles. And so on. The tradition is strong here and for many, it’s largely secular, despite advent’s Christian ties. Viewers of Skeindeer’s Vlogmas videos will be familiar with the poem that many recite while lighting the candles. These days, Norway also celebrates Saint Lucia on the 13th. Other religious traditions and cultures have their own versions of bringing light into the darkness, and a common thread is that bringling light into the dark creates hope. I meditated on this theme a little bit on this blog back in 2016 (see the post “on darkness and light“).

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I continue to be drawn to these themes. When we lived in Montreal, one of the things I really missed in summer and winter were the extremes of light that came with the solstices in the north. We knew Montreal’s winter would be brutally cold, but we expected to cope better because the sun would rise every day. On the contrary, we found ourselves missing the darkness of the northern winter. For me, I felt so in tune with the cycle of the seasons and the movement of the earth when we lived in the north. So in many ways it’s a relief to come back, even if in Trondheim we’re not quite as far north as we were in Tromsø.

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The weather has been in flux here as the days get shorter – the snow has started, but then it’s followed by rain, which is followed by more snow, and then more rain. The rainy days are darker, because the snow forms a giant bright reflector on the ground. At the moment, though, I’m not minding the rainy days. I’m just happy to be back in the north.

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And while we’re on the subject of the days growing shorter, a few weeks ago a book I’d been looking forward to was released: The Shortest Day, by Susan Cooper, illustrated by Carson Ellis. I’ve been a big fan of Carson’s work for years and years, and I found out about this book because she was working on it. “The Shortest Day” is a poem by Susan Cooper, and here it’s been turned into a picture book for kids, accompanied by Carson’s beautiful illustrations. The poem is an ode to the winter solstice, a celebration of the fact that the shortest day is a turning point – once you finally reach it, the light starts to return again. It touches on the cyclical nature of it over time that I enjoy so much. “Welcome, Yule!”

new pattern: oak hollow

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I think it’s been a long time since I’ve written a dedicated blog post for a new pattern, but now that I’m publishing new designs less often (I think 2019 will be an 8-pattern year compared to last year’s 24), it feels easier to sit down to write about a new design. I’m very pleased to introduce you to a pattern that’s been a long time in the making: meet Oak Hollow.

Some of you may be familiar with the fact that I’m quite interested in non-superwash hand-dyed yarn. Of course there’s a lot of superwash hand-dyed yarn in my stash as well, but as dyers have increasingly been experimenting with non-superwash bases, I’ve been increasingly excited about it. So in June 2018, when Canadian dyer Lichen and Lace announced a new base made with non-superwash Canadian wool, I knew I wanted to try some (Lichen and Lace is located in New Brunswick and I was living in Montreal at the time, so while they weren’t exactly “local,” they were only one province to the east). So I ordered myself three skeins of Rustic Heather Sport.

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Being very fond of grey, I ended up with only one skein that was actually dyed – that gorgeous yellow to the left, Pollen. The two greys (Charcoal and Birch) are undyed colors. Yellow has never featured hugely in my wardrobe or my design work, but I thought this combination was absolutely gorgeous, and last summer I was already charting up an idea for a pair of fingerless mitts. I was incredibly busy with other patterns last fall, though, and didn’t get around to starting these in time for them to be a fall release. And there was no question to me that they should be a fall release. So they got put on the back burner for awhile.

When it came time to pack our suitcases for the move to Trondheim last May/June, I knew I’d have to be selective about what projects and yarn to pack (the majority of our stuff came separately and we will finally be reunited with it later this month when we move into our new place, and I am SO glad!). Not knowing how long I’d be away from the majority of my stash, I made sure to pack these skeins in the suitcases so that this pattern could happen this year.

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In the end, it still took some time, and some trial and error. Some patterns just do. The first mitt I started working up I probably got three quarters of the way through before I realized/accepted that it was actually just way too small. I set it aside, went up a needle size, and started again. This time I knit the pair, which fit much better with one exception – after finishing, blocking, and wearing the mitts for a week or two, I realized I wasn’t happy with the thumb gusset, which was still too small. So I frogged the finished mitts back to the place where the new thumb gusset would begin – which felt very close to the beginning – and knit them back up. But the effort was worth it! The new thumb gusset was a much better fit, and I’m so happy I took the time to get this one right, rather than rushing through it, even though that meant the pattern didn’t come out until November 1. Maybe it still feels like autumn where you are, or maybe you’re still waiting for the autumn weather to show up, but in Norway? Winter is setting in. We’ve had our first snow of the season today in Trondheim, and I know the Oslo area had the same this weekend. It’s beautiful, but it’s been nice to hang on to autumn a little bit through this design.

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I’ve been blown away by the enthusiastic response to this design and I can only say thank you. It’s been so much fun to watch projects popping up on Ravelry and Instagram already. If you’d like to make your own mitts, Oak Hollow is knit with three colors of sport weight yarn at a gauge of 28 stitches per 4″/10 cm (at that gauge a fingering weight would probably also work for these mitts, particularly if it’s woolen spun), and the pattern is written for two sizes. I think it would be relatively easy to work in two colors instead if you didn’t want to bother with the very small amount needed of the third color. Overall, these mitts don’t use a lot of yarn and would be great for leftovers. You can find all the details on the Ravelry pattern page.

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peak fall

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I think Trondheim finally hit peak fall color in the past week (yes, I know, I am still talking about autumn, but I just can’t get over how long and slow it is here!). But on Tuesday a serious windstorm blew through and knocked down quite a few of the leaves. I have a few snaps from the weekend and the past few days, though, that show some of the beautiful golden color I’ve been surrounded by lately. Luckily, there are still a few leaves still hanging on even after the windstorm, though these photos are all from beforehand.

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I’ve also finished a few knitting projects lately. Both the No Frills I mentioned in my last post, as well as the Featherweight Cardigan you can see in this one, and I also finished up a new design. We got to take some pattern photos last weekend, pre-windstorm, and it was nice to take advantage of the fall colors both on the trees and blanketing the ground. These mitts are for a pattern that will be called Oak Hollow, about which more soon.

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If it’s fall in your part of the world, I hope you’re getting the chance to soak up some color. The autumn gold that’s ubiquitous in Norway always makes me feel like I’m in Lothlorien (especially if it’s a birch grove), and I love it so much.

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transitions

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Trondheim in the autumn continues to charm. I’m starting to adjust to the general level of busy-ness that my life here is going to involve, but it’s definitely been a big shift for me. Partly that’s because I’m still working on some patterns in the background along with my new day job at the university; partly it’s because my PhD coursework has started as well and my to-do list is growing longer; and partly it’s because we’ve still been living in temporary accommodations and it can be a challenge to get into routines when there are things about your living situation you can’t change. But we’ll be moving into our new long-term home in November, and I’m really looking forward to that.

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While we wait for that, though, the weather continues to shift. The leaves are changing, but we still haven’t reached peak color yet. We had a couple of weeks of solid rain in the middle of the month before the sun came back out last week. I was in Kraków for a conference the tail end of last week and over the weekend, and I got home to Trondheim last night after dark. This morning I woke up to much cooler weather than we had last week (a few degrees above 0°C) and saw that the higher peaks in Bymarka (which are still relatively low) had a dusting of snow on them. The mountains across the fjord, as well. Now it well and truly feels like Norwegian autumn. I love Norway at this time of year, and I still can’t get over how much longer and slower the autumn is here in Trondheim compared with up north in Tromsø. This city is truly beautiful in its fall colors.

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One of the things the weather’s change has brought on is a mild panic over the fact that I don’t have that many warm clothes in my suitcases with me (the rest of our clothes are packed away with the belongings we moved from Montreal – patiently waiting in storage for us to move into our new place in November). I feel like I haven’t had much time for knitting recently, but now I’m determined to knit a little more and a little faster, if I can. I have two sweaters which are only missing sleeves, so I feel like with some concentrated knitting time in the evenings I could finish this No Frills sweater by next weekend.

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I don’t usually knit the same pattern over and over, but this will be my third No Frills (or Ingen dikkedarer as it’s known in Scandinavia), and I’m approaching this one a little differently than my first two. I’ll elaborate more on that when it’s finished, perhaps, because each of them is different and brings something unique to my wardrobe even as they all feel like everyday staples. I adore this color, a limited edition colorway of Hillesvåg Tinde made for Drople Design called Villbringebær (“wild raspberry”). It’s a color I fell head over heels in love with when Anne first launched it over a year ago and I’m so thrilled to finally be knitting a garment with it.

So I’ve been enjoying knitting on this sweater very much, even if it’s felt like slow going. Knitting on a wooly sweater goes so well with changing colors, chilly rainy days, and the smell of woodsmoke in the air, after all. I’ve been getting into the spirit of autumn in other ways too. Some of the local apples have been wonderful recently, and the other week I baked a fyriskaka (a Swedish apple cake with cardamom) from Fika, which is one of my favorite bakes for this time of year. I also received a massive bag of little plums from a friend at work – the plum tree in her garden went crazy this year, it seems – and I managed to turn some of those into a few jars of pickled plums and roasted plum butter. I’ve been enjoying the plum butter on toast or lomper in the mornings for breakfast. (We’ll see about the pickles, which were more of an experiment.)

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I’ve also been getting out for long walks or little hikes whenever possible. Now that I’ve seen that the snow is encroaching on the mountains in Bymarka, I’d like to get in a short hike in the next week or two to soak up the season. I always enjoy walking by the water as well. I’m always drawn to the water like a magnet – the smell of saltwater was another thing I missed so much in Montreal. The Trondheim Fjord can feel so much like Puget Sound in Washington state, a similarity I really enjoy.

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Of course there are challenges that come with this transitional season (both of the year but also of our lives), but overall we have fallen in love with this city, and I was so happy to come home to it after a weekend away. I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky that we get to live here. Vi trives godt her i Trondheim.

september

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The semester started, and things got busy. There were a couple of weeks where there was suddenly a lot to do – campus was full of people again, my PhD to-do list grew rapidly, we moved apartments (from one temporary place to another, for now), and there was plenty outside of all of that to keep us busy too. There wasn’t a lot of knitting during those weeks, but we’re starting to settle in now a little bit. And I have managed to finish a project or two.

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One of them is my Granskog tee which I finished a couple of weeks ago! Sadly I did not make it to Oslo Knitting Festival this year – this pattern was designed by Renata Yerkes for this year’s festival magazine – but I know I’ll make it back at some point. I made a few minor modifications to mine, which can be found on my Ravelry project page along with yarn info and other details. While I love the bright green color of this yarn from Sjølingstad Uldvarefabrik, I initially wasn’t totally sure if I was going to be able to pull it off. But I quite like it! This is the fourth green garment I’ve finished this year, so 2019 definitely seems to be the year of the green sweater for me.

I’ve gotten to wear it several times, which I’m grateful for, because the weather is starting to feel distinctly autumnal in Trondheim (although I can’t get over how much later autumn comes here compared with Tromsø) and I’m realizing how many of my warmer sweaters are going to be in storage until November, when we’ll be moving into our new long-term home. Warmer projects are quickly going to become a priority.

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For now, though, I’m continuing to enjoy the shift in the seasons in a new place again. As the evenings grow darker earlier, I’m looking forward to the peak of autumn foliage (only a few trees have started changing so far), and a part of me is really looking forward to the Norwegian winter again (although I’m glad it’s still a couple of months away). There is nothing quite like a Norwegian landscape covered in snow in the blue light that comes with the dark season.