new favorite blogs

Work is slow right now while we’ve been doing a lot of move prep, but I’m slowly chipping away at projects for fall when I can. In the meantime, I’ve added a few new inspiring blogs to my regular blog reader lately, and I thought I’d compile them here in case they’re new-to-you too.

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Top row, from left:

My Scandinavian Home – an interior design blog. If you follow me on Pinterest you may have noticed a proliferation of pins coming from this site. The blog is run by “a London girl in Sweden” and I absolutely adore her taste. The homes she features are super inspiring.

Ein Kopp Te, Takk – this blog is written by a Norwegian master’s student, Kristin (though it seems she’s nearly done with her degree). You won’t be able to read it unless you know Norwegian (Norwegian has two written forms, and Kristin writes in nynorsk rather than bokmål, so machine translation like Google Translate will come out even more mangled than usual). Still, her photos are gorgeous, bright and lofty, and it’s kind of worth following for those alone. The name means “a cup of tea, thank you.” Be sure to check out her Instagram, as well.

Bottom row, from left:

Ella Gordon – like many, I found my way to Ella’s blog via Kate Davies, and I’m so glad I did. Ella’s from Shetland and resides in Lerwick. She does quite a bit of hybrid knitting – machine knitting sweater bodies and hand knitting their yokes – which I find really fascinating. Her projects are always beautiful, as are her vintage finds. She works in the Jamieson & Smith shop, so perhaps we’ll cross paths one day when I make it to Shetland!

Paunnet – I’ve actually been following Anna’s blog since some time last year, but it’s one of my favorite sewing blogs, hands down. She lives in Italy and it’s fun to follow a sewing blog with a European perspective. I think I found her blog around the same time I found Deer & Doe patterns, because she sews a lot of them. Her photography is beautiful and I love her taste in fabric.

What blogs have you been inspired by lately?

lately

It always seems hardest to keep up with blogging when I’m at my busiest, and it’s been a busy fall so far! But there are many, many things of note happening in the craft world at the moment as well as in my own world, so I thought I’d mention a few things here:

– I’ve been sewing some more, in free moments. I finished my first Deer and Doe pattern two weeks ago, the Airelle blouse, and you can see my version here. I’m not sure if I’ll make it again (I prefer a straighter cut and narrower sleeves in blouses, I think) but the pattern itself was great and I’m very pleased with how it turned out! I’m looking forward to more sewing, and I recently picked up some lovely light grey fabric for the Chardon skirt, also from Deer and Doe.

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– Felicity Ford’s new book, the Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, has been making the rounds of the craft blogosphere and it’s become obvious that I need to pick myself up a copy! For anyone who’s ever wanted to get into stranded colorwork but struggled with choosing colors or finding inspiration, or if you’re the kind of knitter who wants to break free from patterns, I think this book will be a huge help. If you’d like to learn more about it, I’d hop over to this post by Kate Davies or this one from Ysolda (or, for that matter, check out the whole blog tour which begins today – the list can be found at the bottom of this post), and the book itself can be ordered right here.

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– Speaking of Kate Davies: Kate is wrapping up work on her forthcoming book, YOKES! I am beyond excited for this book: featuring 11 patterns for yoked sweaters of all different sorts, it will also feature quite a bit of history in the form of essays and other short pieces of writing. Having been a follower of Kate’s work for years, I’m beyond thrilled that I was able to aid Kate in her research for certain sections of the book. Isn’t that cover sweater a stunner? I’ll be sure to post when it’s available to order.

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– The preview of the Winter issue of Pom Pom Quarterly is up, and it’s beautiful! I love the cozy cover sweater by Bristol Ivy. The whole issue is full of cozy knits, soft and warm tones, and I love the pub where they did the photoshoot (especially that portrait of Queen Victoria).

– I’ve really been enjoying the #fringeandfriendsknitalong, the cabled-sweater knitalong begin hosted by Karen Templer of Fringe Association. I’m not participating, just following along, but it’s a great place to be a fly on the wall. Check out all the KAL-related blog posts over at Fringe.

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As for me, I’m furiously working away on wrapping up a few new patterns. One of those is Seven Stars, the pair of fingerless mitts pictured above, featuring Spincycle’s beautiful Dyed in the Wool. These will be the basis for a colorwork workshop I’m teaching at Knit Purl in Portland, Oregon on November 15 (I believe there are one or two spaces still available; more on that here). There will also be a Paper Tiger trunk show, so if you’re in or around Portland, you should stop by! Seven Stars is almost ready for publication, so I’ll have more info for you on those next week!

I’m also going to be stopping by Knit Fit! in Seattle the weekend of November 8-9. I won’t be vending this year, but I’m taking a crochet class (!) and I’ll definitely be stopping by the marketplace as well! If you see me there, say hello!

norsk folkemuseum part 2: indoors

I’ve been back from Norway for nearly two weeks and I’m finally settling in again and beginning to get back into a work flow. It’s so easy to forget how much of a buffer is sometimes needed between long travel and diving back into work. In any case, today I’m writing about the other half of the Norwegian Folkemuseum in Oslo: the indoor exhibits!

There are a host of different permanent exhibitions inside the main museum buildings (you can view the list here), my favorite of which were the exhibits on folk dress and folk art, and of course, the knitting history exhibit.

The gallery was dark, so as to protect the items on display, which means it wasn’t the best place to try and take photos of things (as is usually the case). I grabbed a few, though. In particular, I was pretty smitten with this chair:

Between the carving, the painting, and the woven seat cushion, it’s a crazy and beautiful amalgamation of several different folk arts.

There was a wonderful description of the Husflidsbevegelsen, the home crafts movement that is the origin of the modern husflidslag:

“Due to the great changes that occurred in rural society during the second half of the 1800s, long-standing traditions in crafts gradually began to vanish. In order to halt this trend, and to combat unemployment and poverty, the home crafts movement arose in the 1860s. Starting in the 1880s, museums of applied art became involved in this movement, primarily in order to ensure high artistic quality, but also as a result of the national romantic spirit of the times. In 1891, three home crafts associations in Kristiania (later renamed Oslo) merged to form the Norwegian Association for Home Arts and Crafts [Den Norske Husflidsforening]. This association opened shops in the city, and established a contact network with producers all over the country. The home crafts movement flourished, and similar associations were established in many towns, and eventually throughout the country.”

The husflid movement is still going strong today, with organizations all over the country (you can find their website, in Norwegian only, at husflid.no). The closest equivalent I can think of in the U.S. would be the guild system, but it’s not an exact equivalent. A husflidslag from a specific area of Norway will be interested in protecting the regional crafts and styles historically specific to that area, for example, and they cover far more than just knitting. Many of the regional organizations have shops you can visit, and the national Norges Husflidslag has a shop on the bottom floor of the historic GlasMagasinet department store in the middle of downtown Oslo. The yarn selection is great, for the record!

But back to the museum: the Knitting History section was small, but they managed to cover a lot. I could’ve simply stared at the items on display:

That’s an original copy of Annichen Sibbern Bøhn’s landmark Norske Strikkemønstre (Norwegian Knitting Designs, 1929) to the left. Annichen spent 1927 traveling around Norway collecting different designs and patterns, taking photographs of samples, and writing charts for the different designs. It’s a wonderful source of inspiration for anyone interested in Norwegian knitting and while the book was out of print for years, it’s been republished thanks to Terri Shea (author of Selbuvotter: Biography of a Knitting Tradition). You can take a peek here, and if you’re interested in learning more about Annichen, you can check out the PDF of an article Terri wrote for Piecework Magazine here (PDF link).

Moving to the right from Annichen’s book, there’s a stocking from Selbu, a mohair brush, and a collection of straight and circular needles in different sizes. And that painted needle case on the end!

There was also a large selection of sweaters on display. Lurking up on the wall, in the top right-hand corner of the photo, there’s a Skappelgenser, the super simple sweater that took Norway by storm in 2012 (I’ve knit one myself). Many Norwegians who weren’t knitters learned to knit to make themselves a Skappelgenser.

There was also a case full of sweaters designed by Unn Søiland Dale, who designed many sweaters for the Sandnes factory. Her most famous and most recognizeable design (especially as it’s seeing a resurgence right now), is the iconic blue, red, and white Marius sweater. Many of her sweater designs became Norwegian icons and are still recognizeable today, like the Marius sweater. Check out this lady’s style:

There was also a beautiful temporary exhibition on when I visited, featuring photography by Italian photographer Luca Berti. Luca cycles around Norway taking photos of people and the countryside, and the results are gorgeous. The photos were shot recently, but most are shot on film and many with large format cameras, so they feel quite nostalgic. That exhibition is up through September.

My souvenir from the museum gift shop was splurging on a book:

Ren Ull, or Pure Wool, by Tone Skårdal Tobiassen and Ingun Grimstad Klepp. It is exactly as it sounds: a book all about Norwegian wool. It’s a history, an account of wool in the lives of everyday Norwegians, and it tells the story of wool from sheep to product. Here’s an English translation of the description from the book jacket:

Wool is part of the Norwegian soul, a warming gold that is spun, knitted, woven, and transformed into wonderful products like our national costumes, sweaters and undergarments, upholstery and rugs. Everyone knows that the South Pole was reached because of Amundsen’s wool undergarments, and everyone knows that wool is tantamount to a happy childhood. With winter sport idols Vegard Ulvang and Kari Traa (who added a dose of sex appeal), wool  undergarments have undergone a renaissance.

In PURE WOOL we follow the path from sheep to product. Here you’ll find the story of quality, Norwegian industry, nostalgia and tradition, and modern design. Here also we discount several myths – for modern wool neither scratches nor shrinks. The starting point is Norwegian sheep, but in a globalized world, the wool takes some detours that few know or think about. So let yourself be surprised and seduced into a world that affects us all. [Translation mine.]

It was released in conjunction with The Campaign for Wool‘s Wool Week in 2013, Norway being one of several other countries that has taken up the campaign since it was started in the UK in 2010. I’m so pleased to know that the importance of wool is being given real recognition in a country like Norway where it has historically been so important. I’m not terribly far into the book yet (I’m a much slower reader in Norwegian than in English) but it’s chock full of color photos past and present, and the topics covered are certainly wide. I’m really enjoying it, and I’d definitely recommend it to any Norwegian speakers (as far as I know, there is no English translation). It is nice to be reading it as I prep for the Nordic Knitting Conference, and I have a feeling a lot of the subject matter may come up in my classes.

All in all, the Folkemuseum on Bydøy is absolutely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in Oslo. Give yourself at least a whole day – it’s the largest museum of cultural history in Norway, after all – and try to go when the weather’s decent so you can enjoy the open-air museum. It’s also a great spot to hit if you’re doing research on many aspects of Norwegian culture, and you can read about the collections and archives of the museum here.

norsk folkemuseum part 1: the open-air museum

I’ve been wanting to get to the Norsk Folkemuseum on Bygdøy all summer, and last week I finally made it! The official English name is the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History, but for the sake of simplicity, I’m simply going to refer to it as the Folkemuseum. One of the perks of attending the International Summer School at UiO is that students get free entry to several museums around Oslo with their ISS student cards, and the Folkemuseum is among them (lucky me!).

I’ll be writing about the Folkemuseum in two posts, because it’s a vast and multidimensional museum, one I could easily spend several days at. In a way, it’s several museums in one: there are many indoor exhibits, permanent and temporary, dealing with the life of Norwegian people over time in a variety of different areas, but there’s also a large open-air museum outdoors. The indoor exhibits were quite good, but I must admit the open-air section of the museum was my favorite. I’ll be writing about that first.

The museum was officially founded in 1894 and established at Bygdøy in 1898. All of the buildings that belong to the open-air museum are actual historical buildings that were moved from their original locations to the museum over the last 100+ years, which is pretty remarkable. They’re laid out according to their location of origin, so there are many sections corresponding to geographic regions, such as Telemark, Setesdal, Hallingdal, and so on:

23e1125d32e9bf1c-friluftsmuseum(image courtesy of the Norsk Folkemuseum)

The first two buildings that the museum acquired were a bur and a loft, both from Telemark. The bur is a storehouse, and in this case it was the larder on the farm. The loft was the guesthouse, where guests to the farm would be lodged and entertained. A majority of the buildings in the open-air museum are from old farmsteads, and storehouses, lofts, and farmhouses from different parts of the country, from several different points in history. I found myself thinking often of Kristin Lavransdatter, the classic trio of novels by Sigrid Undset that depicts the life of a woman in 14th century Norway. None of the buildings in the museum are quite as old as that, but the first farmhouse I stepped into was from the second half of the 1600s, and farmsteads hadn’t changed all that much by then: the buildings were largely the same, the crops were largely the same, the wife/mother of the farm was still the keeper of the keys to the storehouse, etc. It’s quite an experience to be transported back in time simply by stepping into a building (through a very low doorway, I might add). In any case, here are the loft and bur from Telemark, which date from the mid-1700s:

I adore the intricate wood carving and sod roofs. Both are typical of Norwegian buildings from the countryside, and the spectacular woodworking skills of the Norwegians were also put to use on one of my favorite types of buildings: the stave church. The Folkemuseum has a stave church of its own, from Gol:

Built of sturdy pine, the Gol stave church dates from around 1200. The stave churches first appeared in the latter years of the Viking era, after King Olaf Tryggvason converted Norway to Christianity. At that point the Norwegian churches were Catholic, and the Norwegians simply took the concepts of the layout of a Catholic church (nave, circular apse, columns, vaulted ceilings, etc.) and used traditional construction techniques to apply them. This meant churches were built entirely of wood, with tarred exteriors (to weatherproof the building) and often an exterior set of walls for extra protection, which created a sort of hallway around the church hall itself. One of my favorite details is that for a church the size of the Gol stave church, the vaulted ceiling inside was effectively an upside-down longship – master shipbuilders that they were, it’s no surprise the Vikings borrowed that technique for their churches. The churches had to be tarred every three years to keep up with the weatherproofing, which was quite an undertaking. Everyone helped out with the task.

The Gol stave church was moved from its original location in Hallingdal to Oslo around 1885. King Oscar II had a private open-air museum on Bygdøy at that point (oh, royalty); King Oscar’s Collection merged with the Folkemuseum in 1907. To this day, Oscar’s section of the open-air museum is known as Kong Oscar IIs Samling, or King Oscar the Second’s Collection. The gold leaf you can see halfway up the church front commemorates the relocation and restoration of the church. Unsurprisingly, there are only a handful of stave churches left in Norway, but if you’re curious about them, you can read more here. I am very fortunate to have been in more than one – I visited the Borgund stave church in 2012, and to give you an idea of the intricate carving around the entrance (symbolic, of course, as the gate through which one steps into God’s house) as well as a peek of the interior, here’s a photo from Borgund (the entrance and interior of Gol was very similar):

And the top of the portal of the Gol church:

Keeping up with the theme of beautifully carved wood, this was a door on a storehouse in the Setesdal section of the museum:

I found it especially noteworthy because the carvings on either side of the main door greatly resemble stockinette! It was also in the Setesdal section of the museum that I got a close-up photo of the edge of a sod roof:

While I think many of us find sod roofs incredibly charming, as it so happens, the grass on the roof is really just a by-product of this method of roof-building. The cheapest way to build a weather-proof roof in a wet, windy, and snowy land was to use readily available materials. Birch is abundant in Scandinavia as well as strong and resistant to water and soil, and so people would strip the bark from the trees and lay on top of the wooden roof boards in layers (around 8 layers or so, on average). To hold the birch “shingles” in place and keep them from falling off or blowing away, they’re weighted down. Sod was an obvious choice for this job, as it was (obviously) readily available and an insulator to boot. So next came a layer of sod, topside down (the bottom layer of grass helped with drainage and insulation), and then another layer, topside up. Once you put soil on your rooftop, the grass just grows! I love how you can see the ends of the birch bark pieces curling over at the edge of the roof.

In addition to the countryside areas, there’s a little Gamlebyen (old town) as well, to give museum-goers an idea of what life in a Norwegian city would be like at different points in history.

I was running out of time by the time I got to Gamlebyen, but I did have a chance to pop into the weaver’s shop and pick up some yarn. I chose a beautiful hank of Telespinn yarn, in a 2-ply variety called Symre (named after a flower that commonly grows in Telemark, where the yarn is sourced and spun). I couldn’t pass it up: as you can see, it’s gorgeous yarn, but I was also immediately drawn in by the company’s goals and values. Based in Telemark, they’re interested in learning about and preserving both the history and cultural landscape of their area, as well as the relationship between livestock farming and natural landscape (as regards their mohair goats, in particular). Symre is a mohair-lambswool blend, and it feels both hardy and luxurious at the same time. I wanted to buy all of it. You can learn more about Telespinn, their goats, and their mini-mill on their website here (link goes to the English version).

One of the other great things about the open-air museum is that many of the buildings have guides working inside, typically in costume and often partaking in a daily task typical of the building and time period they’re representing. I saw some tablet weaving of decorative belts, a folk dance demonstration, and I spent a few minutes in a very hot kitchen building chatting with some ladies making lefse in the most traditional way: on an iron tray over an open hearth (hence the heat). Then I got to eat some (it was delicious).

I’ve been quite wordy, so I’ll leave you with just a few more photos. Feel free to ask questions in the comments, though, and I’d love to hear if any of you have been to the Folkemuseum! Or if you’ve been to similar museums in other places, I’d love to hear about that too and I’d welcome your recommendations! I’m flying back to the states tomorrow, so I won’t be posting about the second half of the museum until later this week. I’m looking forward to getting home and regular posting should resume shortly thereafter.

a visit to the voss folkemuseum

On my trip to Voss last weekend we had a chance to visit the Voss Folkemuseum. While my trips to museums with groups are always shorter than they would be when I’m on my own (I spent so many hours at the National Museum of Iceland a few months back, which I am now realizing I never actually blogged about), it was a great visit and I think the museum’s definitely worth seeing if you ever find yourself in Voss! The biggest reason for the trip to Voss in the first place was that our friend Marius, who’s from Voss (but lives in Oslo now), was back home housesitting for a few weeks. Marius has a cousin, Bjørnar, who’s a guide at the museum, so he gave us a little tour around, which was great.

Marius & Bjørnar on the farmstead

One of the coolest things about the Voss Folkemuseum is that it started with the purchase of the Mølster farmstead in 1917 (Mølster remained a functioning farm until a few decades ago). The museum building housing artifacts and exhibits was built next to the old farmstead. The buildings of the farmstead exist exactly as they did when it was a functioning farm, i.e. they’re all in their original locations, sod roofs and slate roofs alike being maintained (Bjørnar explained that occasionally, the grass on top of the sod roofs has to be cut – in the old days, they’d just stick a goat up on the roof, but now the roofs are maintained by museum staff). The oldest building on the site dates from the 1500s, which is pretty remarkable. It’s a great way to see what a typical Norwegian farmstead would have looked like, both outside and in, up until the mid-20th century. It also sits up on a hill, overlooking Vossevangen. It’s a beautiful spot.

I really enjoyed the inside of the museum as well. Being a folk museum, there were several permanent exhibitions showcasing what daily life was like for the people of Voss in decades and centuries past. Items used both in day-to-day life as well as more festive and formal occasions were on display. Unsurprisingly, I was drawn both to the knitting and wool-related items, as well as the items related to the bunad, or national costume, of Voss (for those who don’t know, Norway has regional national folk costumes worn for celebrations like Constitution Day or weddings; Norwegians who can afford bunads traditionally receive them for their Confirmation).

believe these are bunad bibs (the part in the middle of the bodice as seen on the bunad below) but for some reason I didn’t note what this display actually said, so I could be wrong. In any case, there was a lot of beautiful embroidery and beading on display.

A bunad from Voss. Voss is the only place in Norway where I’ve seen the two-pointed skaut shown here (skaut is the word for headscarf). For all regional bunads, traditionally the type of head covering often corresponded to one’s age and martial status, and brides wore special bridal crowns and silver for their weddings. The page is in Norwegian, but you can see photos of different types of bunads from Voss here, and you can see the wedding crown from Voss here. It’s interesting how the bridal crown maintains the unique shape of the skaut.

On to the wool!

The thing I enjoyed most about seeing the old tools for working with wool (prepping, spinning, ball-winding, etc.) is how very little these things have changed. The modern-made tools we use are the same in so many respects. I got especially excited about the umbrella swift in the bottom photo, which dates from 1842. The mechanism for adjusting the height of the moveable part of the swift appears to be a slim piece of wood removed and inserted into different holes, so that it effectively acts as a stopper. I’m not going to lie – this probably works better than the common wooden screw stopper version I have (like this one), which has a tendency to not hold the swift in place after enough use (leading to much grumbling and/or swearing).

There were also some knitted items on display:

They were well-worn and there was definitely some visible mending going on. I was pleased to see the long cap next to the stocking in the top photo on display; it’s actually knitted, but was rather made using nålbinding (it was nålbinded? Nålbound? Needle-bound? I’m at a past participle loss!). The sign in the bottom photo reads “Når sokken er tre gonger påspøta, er det nok -“. I’m utterly and completely unfamiliar with the word “påspøta” but I can only guess it has something to do with mending (the regular bokmål word for mending is bøte, which bears some resemblance to spøta, I guess). If that’s the case, this would mean something like “When the sock has been thrice mended, that is enough.” Fair enough! Of course, in Norway, once woollen goods reached the point beyond reasonable repair, they were often torn up and shoved into corners of walls and windows needing extra insulation, and then later, they’d be sent to the shoddy mills to be recycled into new woollen goods.

My other favorite thing in the permanent collection may have been the fiddles.

In Norway, there are hardingfeler and flatfeler (“Hardanger fiddles” and “flat fiddles,” respectively). Flat fiddles are more like a typical violin, but the Hardanger fiddles are a bit more special. Sound-wise, the biggest distinguishing characteristic is that they have a second set of strings, set below the main set, which are called understrings. The understrings aren’t played, but rather, they resonate when the main strings are played. I first saw a Hardanger fiddle up close and heard one played back in North Carolina when I was in college, and I remember thinking that the decoration was beautiful but perhaps a bit strange. I’ve really come to love them, though, having seen many more examples over the years of the lavish decoration that is typical of these fiddles. Patterns of black ink rosing on the body, inlay (usually mother of pearl, but sometimes bone) along the tailpiece and fingerboard, and an ornamental carving such as a dragon’s head above the pegbox are all typical decorations. I especially liked the more simple one pictured at left, because of the eight-pointed star motif.

There was also a temporary exhibit on display of photography by Christian Herheim, who was described to me as “Voss’s first photographer.” There were some pretty spectacular photos, both of daily life in Voss in the first half of the 20th century, as well as posed portraits for formal occasions. I was drawn to this photo below, of the Lirhus children (all eleven of them):

Admittedly, the knitwear they’re sporting is part of what drew me in. There was also this photo of a bride, who’s an ancestor of both Bjørnar and Marius (I think Bjørnar said she was his grandmother). You can see what the back of the bridal crown looks like in this photo:

We stopped by the gift shop on the way out where I picked up a bilingual book on popular bunads. It’s been fun to thumb through it and read a bit about some of the different bunads I haven’t seen before. All in all, a very worthwhile visit. Tusen takk, Voss!

reykjavík fashion festival

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The third and final post about my trip to Reykjavík: the Reykjavík Fashion Festival! Eight designers were showing this year, and according to Cirilia, the room was larger this year than last year, so I gather that this show is growing. Like many of the big events at DesignMarch, the venue was Harpa. It was my first experience with the world of fashion shows, so if you’re new to how they work like I was, here’s a little run-down:

The shows are short – ten, maybe 15 minutes at most, depending on how many pieces are being shown and how fast or slow the models walk. After each show, everyone must clear the room so they can reset the stage and prep for the next show, changing out lights, set pieces, screens, and any other scenery being put to use. After waiting around for about 45 minutes, they’re ready to reopen the doors and let the show attendees back in. The next show happens, and the whole process repeats. In, out, in, out, in, out, in out… you do a lot more waiting around (and people watching, as everyone’s totally put themselves on display – this is a fashion event, after all) than you do actually watching fashion shows.

13610916603_beee87e8c9_zThe Ziska show at RFF14

And speaking of putting oneself on display, while I didn’t put quite as much effort into my RFF ensemble as Cirilia and Stephen did, I can’t deny that I wanted to look good and I put some thought into my clothing choices! Cirilia knit herself a truly amazing dress with some Big Loop yarn from Loopy Mango and some Schoppel Wolle XL (distributed by Skacel). The fashion bloggers were all over it. Stephen wore a pair of his infamous swants with a pimped lopapeysa and a shoulder piece by Cakes and Troubles, and the fashion bloggers were all over that, too. I went a little simpler, with a few pieces from Velouria and a knitted collar. You can see Cirilia’s dress here, Stephen’s outfit here, and my ensemble here (all Instagram links). For the record, the people watching was great.

But on to the shows! I won’t write about all of them here, but here’s a list of the designers/labels that were showing, with links to photo slideshows:

Farmer’s Market
Ziska
Magnea
Ella
Rey
Sigga Maija
Cintamani
Jör

As far as the actual clothes, my favorites were probably Farmer’s Market and Ella. And for the shows, Farmer’s Market and Ziska (Ella’s show had a girl-power theme going on, but as far as I’m concerned there were some mixed messages about war and peace, both in the video portion and the models’ walk portion).

The Farmer’s Market Collection I could probably live in. It was the first show of the day, around 11am, and they kept a mellow pace throughout the show. I think some folks were hoping for something to wake them up first thing in the morning (for many residents of Reykjavik, 11:00 isn’t that far from “first thing in the morning”), but I really enjoyed the quiet mood. Atmospheric music played, and the screen at the back of the runway displayed a rural Icelandic church as the models lazily sauntered down the runway. It was the slowest-moving runway show I think I’ve ever seen. The nice thing about it was that you had plenty of time to take in every detail of the clothes. Farmer’s Market was creating a mood.

I’d call the Farmer’s Market style a little bit rustic; they’re definitely nodding at traditional garb and acknowledging a connection to Iceland’s history. Their knitwear is always gorgeous, and the styling for this show was fantastic as well. It was quite romantic, and as much as I start to roll my eyes when I hear someone bring up Kinfolk, it wouldn’t be out of place there. The palette is muted and often natural. None of these clothes would be out of place in Seattle.

d4b5424417934e62-RFF14_farmers_market_by_birta_ranFarmer’s Market at RFF14. Photos by Birta Rán, used with permission. View the whole slideshow here.

Mixed messages aside, I did really like the clothes in Ella’s collection, which was full of simple, wearable pieces. My favorites were the super sixties numbers with miniskirts/minidresses under coats – made to feel even more sixties by the Twiggy-esque hair. There was also a long dress (or skirt and top; I think it might be separates) that I loved. If I ever have reason to wear something floor length like that, I would absolutely wear that piece. The palette here still wasn’t bold, but there was more variation in color, paired with neutrals.

05c80436aa592145-RFF14_ella_by_birta_ranElla at RFF14. Photos by Birta Rán, used with permission. View the whole slideshow here.

Other thoughts: the palette of the Ziska show was gorgeous (black, white, grey, lavender, and mint), Cintamani pleasantly surprised us with a bright and colorful show we enjoyed (they’re an outdoor and activewear line, so we weren’t sure how much to expect, but it was the most bright color we saw all day), and the Jör show was totally weird, but weirdly enjoyable (it was clear that generally it was the most highly anticipated show, and consequently the best-attended one). It felt like we’d fallen into some kind of steampunk manga. All that said, I probably don’t need to attend any fashion shows for awhile, but I’m glad for the experience!

reykjavík so far

Hello from Reykjavík, where we’re halfway through DesignMarch 2014 and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival!

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I’ve been posting on Instagram since arriving, as have Cirilia and Stephen, and I put a bunch of our photos into the montage above. If you want to follow along, you can follow us at @cakeandvikings@cirilia, and @westknits.

First of all, Iceland is beautiful. I may be here for the design and fashion events (and to galavant around with buddies) but it wouldn’t be that hard to skive off and stare at the landscape or out over the rooftops all day instead. Truly.


I arrived early in the morning on Tuesday. I had the Flybus drop me off at Reykjavík Downtown Hostel, near my friend Peter’s place, which worked out well for me because I could have a coffee (I didn’t sleep on the overnight flight) and some breakfast while I waited for Peter. We got to spend the day together, but I also got to get some work done and take a nap (very necessary).

Stephen and his friend Barbara (of Chillimint) arrived from Amsterdam later that day, and Cirilia arrived the next morning. Our days thus far have consisted of a lot of coffee, snacks, and knitting. And outfit changes. Reykjavík is known for its street style but I’m not sure this city’s residents can hold a candle to these guys.

Cirilia, Stephen, and Barbara headed down the hill to Harpa for Thursday’s opening day Design Talks. I love how Harajuku Cirilia’s pimped-lopapeysa look feels.

post-coffee on Wednesday

I feel positively tame standing next to them, swathed in black, white, and grey (right down to the lopapeysa I bought at the Handknitting Association today, seen in the Instagram montage above). But I feel like me, so it works.

Opening day’s talks on Thursday were really excellent (you can read about the programming on the DesignMarch website here). “Design” is such a diverse, broad term, and the wide range of speakers really drove that point home. The morning started off with two speakers who work in urban planning & design situations, and one of them, Kathryn Firth, might have been my favorite speaker of the day. She’s working on the ongoing redesign of Olympic Park in London in the wake of the 2012 Olympics, and I have to admit I hadn’t given much thought before to what happens to all the giant Olympics complexes after the games.

After lunch the talks switched gears: we had some tech talk first (with Robert Wong from Google) and then moved on to fashion, with Mikael Schiller from Acne Studios and finally Calvin Klein. The Google talk was good, and about what you’d expect: Robert was charming in a humble, not-smooth-talking kind of way, with funny quips and emotional hooks and appropriately placed “instructional videos” that are totally ads, no matter what Google claims. I got caught up in the moment during his talk, and found my feelings toward Google (which are mostly good, but I do have some grievances) shifting in a more positive direction. After his talk, however, I came down from this magic Cloud (I guess Glass isn’t a great thing to stand on) and realized I’d just been expertly emotionally manipulated. High five, Google. You’re winning whatever game you’re playing and it still makes me uncomfortable.

I really enjoyed Mikael from Acne’s talk. He was funny and genuine and seems generally bemused that people like what his company is doing (though of course he works very hard to make it so that people do). I probably won’t buy their jeans or other clothes, but Acne’s really on the up right now.

Calvin Klein… well, he’s undeniably a legend. Instead of giving a presentation like the other speakers did, his talk was in the form of an interview, and his interviewer was Icelandic designer Steinunn (a former employee of his). It was clear that CK and Steinunn have somewhat of a special relationship and the utmost respect for each other, which is lovely, but it made for a pretty vanilla interview, I must admit. I’m very glad to have heard Calvin Klein speak at all, and he gave some great advice for aspiring designers, but it would’ve been a much richer and more interesting interview if his interlocutor had been willing to bring up critique or controversy, or anything other than glowing praise. Perhaps if you’re Calvin Klein, you have the authority (or maybe the ego) to pretend critical analysis doesn’t apply to you and choose your interviewers accordingly. He was so casual when he mentioned hanging out in the Hamptons and deciding to send his personal plane to Boston to fly Marky Mark down to talk about underwear… and it was at that moment that I realized how far Calvin Klein’s reality was from mine, or most of the other people in this world. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear his story and I’m grateful I had the opportunity.

The weather the morning of Design Talks was gorgeous, and we took advantage of the gorgeous light outside Harpa (reflected off the geometric, multi-colored windows) and snapped a few goofy photos:

I have more to write about what we’ve done so far (especially the National Museum!), but I think I’ll save that for the next post. Until then!

stars on the brain

I’ve followed the work of artist Dan-ah Kim for several years now, and I’ve even got a few of her pieces up on the walls at Paper Tiger, so I was ecstatic when I saw that she’s released her first children’s picture book, If I Lived in the Sky.

0c89d3a510b51d9e-dkim-sky1photo via Dan-ah Kim

I’m such a sucker for a good night sky illustration, and Dan-ah’s pretty amazing at those. Her paintings have a lovely textural quality, often incorporating additional layers of paper or fabric as well as stitched elements in addition to the textured surface of the paint itself, and while a lot of that depth is lost in book format, the mixed media still comes through and it’s a breathtaking little book. Mine’s already come in the mail and if you’d like a copy of your own, it’s available for $11.84 on Amazon.

I’ve had starry skies on my mind a lot lately (I recently finished reading The End of Night, by Paul Bogard – a book I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a human) so it’s no surprise that when I stopped by my local yarn store after getting this package in the mail I walked away with a couple of skeins of Tosh Merino Light in the Stargazing colorway.

c942fa59bdfc6e2f-stargazingtoshmerinolight

It’s an exceptionally difficult color to photograph accurately, but it’s all deep rich blues, with purples and greens thrown in, rather like the Northern Lights. The sense of depth, of light and of shadow, is the hardest thing to capture in a photo. It’s pretty remarkable. I got to thinking that it would look really lovely as some kind of beaded shawl – where the beads are like stars – and then I remembered Audry Nicklin’s Southern Skies and Celestarium, two circular shawls that are celestial maps of the sky over the southern hemisphere and the northern hemisphere, respectively. Could there be a more perfect set of patterns for a colorway called “stargazing”? So I’m pretty sure my three skeins will become a Celestarium, eventually. I say “eventually” because I’ve got a few patterns to wrap up before I can dedicate that much time to a personal project (and more on those upcoming patterns soon).

Fore more starry-related goodness, I’d also recommend Find the Constellations and The Stars: A New Way to See Them by H. A. Rey, of Curious George fame.

monday inspiration

It’s a rainy Monday here in Seattle, but the rain is amping up the cozy vibes, since I’m laid up on the couch under a wool blanket (feeling pretty under the weather today). I finished my Faire du Vélo bike sweater last week, and I hope to grab some photos soon, but as that clearly won’t be happening today, I thought I’d share a few beautiful things I’m feeling inspired by instead…

31d497379c6ae97e-yarn_pyramid_clip_vignettePhoto courtesy Karen Templer

Karen Templer of Fringe Association introduced her lovely Yarn Pyramid print a few days ago, available from Fringe Supply Co. here. Using the idea of the oldschool Food Pyramid, Karen’s created (along with the help of a few talented friends) a Yarn Pyramid with recommended doses of different types of fibers, from sheep’s wool building the foundation at the bottom to synthetic fibers at the very top (“use sparingly”). The posters are 16″x20″ and letterpress-printed, so I bet they’re gorgeous in person. Any fiber enthusiast would be happy to hang this on their wall, myself included.

I also wanted to share a rather unique pattern I came across while browsing my recommended pattern highlights on Ravelry. Kieran Foley’s Sari completely took my breath away. I’ve never seen a pattern quite like this:

12b2c46d0c64be92-sari_03_medium2Photo copyright Kieran Foley

Inspired by Indian embroidery and filigree patterns, Kieran’s made use of Erica Heftmann’s beautiful colorshiftyarn to create the contrasting gradients. The combination of stranded colorwork, intarsia, and lace knitting makes this stole unlike any knit piece I’ve ever seen before. It’s an amazing marriage of pattern and yarn.

f49906a107381804-sari_flat_medium2Photo copyright Kieran Foley

Kieran’s Sari pattern is available on Ravelry here, and there’s also a kit available with the necessary yarn if you wanted to create your own version of the sample (the pattern is not included in the yarn kit). Get the yarn kit here. You can see more of Kieran’s work at his website, kieranfoley.com.

I also want to say thank you for all the wonderful feedback I’ve received on my new designs. It’s been difficult to keep everything under wraps for the past few months: the collection, Pom Pom, Brooklyn Tweed, but it’s a joy to finally share all that work with the world and I couldn’t be happier with the reception. Every kind word, comment, rav favorite/queue, and of course, pattern purchase, means the world to me. A heartfelt thank you to you all.

inspiration: field notes

I’m one of those people who hoards notebooks, especially small-sized ones. There’s something about beautiful stationery that’s hard for me to resist, and I don’t think I’m alone in that respect. For those who are familiar with the Field Notes Brand notebooks, it will come as no surprise that I’m a longtime avid fan. The regular Field Notes memo books are great, but what I really love are the limited edition variations they come out with quarterly. They started out as simply special colors, but they’ve progressed to variations with wider themes, and it’s one of those things they do really well. Past editions have included the County Fair Edition, the “Expedition” Edition, and the last one I purchased, the genius Dry Transfer ______ Edition, which came complete with dry transfer sheets of letters in 36-point Futura Bold, so you could apply anything you wanted in place of the usual Field Notes logo. (I’ve got one around here somewhere that says “Paper Tiger,” but I couldn’t find it to take a photo.)

I got an email a couple weeks ago about the summer 2013 edition, and I knew right away I’d be buying a 3-pack. The newest edition is the Night Sky Edition.

Beautiful, simple front, but it’s the back of the memo books that’s really the star (no pun intended). Three different sections of the summer sky over the northern hemisphere are depicted, with major constellations outlined and the stars themselves done in silver holographic foil. It’s a beautiful thing to behold. And the paper? A sort of dot grid graph paper, but instead of dots, there are tiny crosshair reticles, like you might see if you were looking through a telescope. I love it.

It looks like the 3-packs are already sold out, but the Night Sky Edition is still available with a new Colors Subscription, which is basically a pre-order of the current edition and the next three to come (in other words, you’ll get every limited edition for a year). You get a couple 3-packs of the regular Field Notes, too. That’s all available here, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page.

I’m planning to use these little notebooks (and the rest in my stash) as garden journals, because I’m planning to start a vegetable garden this summer. They’ll fit nicely in my back pocket so I can bring them outside with me. Using Field Notes for… actual field notes! I can’t wait to get started.