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!”

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.

mid-august

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Mid-August. And suddenly, it feels like late summer.

The weather took a turn in the past week. I knew it would have to eventually – the weeks of blue skies and sunshine felt a little bit like an endless summer dream, but without rain, even paradise has an expiration date. And so now we have some slightly cooler temperatures (in the neighborhood of 12-16°C or 55-60°F), grey skies, and pretty regular rain. But I am fond of weather like this too, and it’s been nice to go for walks when the rain lets up. As the nights are growing steadily darker, I’m looking forward to seeing the stars again.

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The back-to-school feeling is in the air as well. Suddenly, the city is full of people again, as people have come home from their vacations and Trondheim’s 35,000+ students have been streaming back into the city in time for the semester start. Businesses that were closed for the summer in July have re-opened, campuses that felt like ghost towns feel alive again, and while a little part of me mourns the loss of the quiet, beautiful summer I’ve been having, I am glad for the change, too. The return of everyday Norwegian life is making it easier to really feel that we have actually moved back, after arriving two months ago.

Based on what I’ve heard from everyone here, Trondheim can be quite nice through August and even September, so it’s very possible we’ll have another stretch of warm, sunny days at some point before autumn really sets in. But for now I’m grateful for the timing of this change in the weather, coinciding with the transition from summer holiday back to everyday life.

P.S. With all this back-to-school talk, I figured I’d mention that Quince & Co. is offering some back to school bundles, and included among them are my Drumlin scarf and Turlough hat. The bundles are kits which include both yarn and pattern, and they have several different colorway options available. These are a couple of my favorite things I’ve designed for Quince so I’m very pleased that they’re offering these and wanted to share.

signs of spring

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Spring is a time of such optimism, especially in places with long or harsh winters. Living in Tromsø made me miss a springtime full of blossoms, and living in Montreal, I really, really appreciate spring when it finally arrives. Signs of spring are beginning to appear in Montreal this week.

I had one of those days this week with a pattern I’ve been working on that just made my brain feel like mush. Some patterns turn out to be more of an ordeal to work out than others, and I knew this was going to be one of those, but still… brain mush. I’d been at it for hours and needed a break. So I went for a walk, because I knew that would help.

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It helped to notice the baby leaves starting to grow from branches that have been bare for the past six months. It helped to notice the early blossoms blowing gently in the breeze. It helped to see things turning green again. I tend to feel so disconnected from nature here in the city, but this time of year I’m constantly being reminded that there are living, growing things all around me. There are moments of everyday beauty to be found if you go looking for them.

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The city comes back to life in more ways than one when the weather turns. Everyone is suddenly outside again as much as possible on nice days. To be perfectly honest, Montreal can take it a bit too far into chaos (it seems that all cyclists, car drivers, and pedestrians seem to lose their minds when the weather finally changes), but that’s a subject for another day. Today’s about the lightness I felt when capturing these images.

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I’m going to try to soak up the season this year, because this is our last spring in Montreal. We’re here on temporary work permits which are expiring this summer, and it’s time for us to prepare to move on to what’s next. There’s a lot to do, but on sunny days, I’ll make sure to get outside, breathe in and out, and find the lightness.

midwinter reflections

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For me, January passed by in a flash. It brought cold weather: snow and ice and chilly winds, as it does in Montreal. When the weather was fine, I made an effort so spend some time outside. When it wasn’t, I’ve been inside, working. Knitting. And sometimes baking. I actually really like January (maybe it’s easier when it’s your birthday month?) but I know that January is often hard for many. That’s more and more true for me as I get older, too. I’m not that sorry to see it go this year.

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February brings us one step further into the year. It brings some plans for this year closer to fruition – new patterns among them, but also travel. I have a trip later this month, but I’m also really looking forward to heading back to Edinburgh this March for Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I went in 2016 and enjoyed it so very much, and it’s hard to believe that was three years ago. I’m very excited and very grateful to be going back. We are also in the midst of figuring out what the second half of this year looks like, since our Canadian work permits come to an end later this summer and we’re not 100% sure what our next move will be. (That doesn’t mean we don’t have ideas we’ve been working on, but there are factors outside of our control that play a large role.) So this winter feels like a little bit of limbo. And so I work. And bake.

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I have also been very tuned in to the conversation about racism in the knitting community that began towards the beginning of January. I think it’s a very important conversation to be having, and one that’s long overdue. I’ve been listening to the voices of many of the BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) members of this community because their words deserve our attention. It’s hard to cover very much in the space of a short blog, but I wanted to acknowledge it here because it is important.

If you are a white knitter like I am, I hope you recognize that everyone who has shared their experiences with racism or microagressions in this community is facing into their own past trauma every time they share those stories, and if you are shocked by the experiences they have shared (“I can’t believe this is happening in 2019!”), recognize that being able to feel that is the white privilege that they are referring to. Please have the respect to believe them. Please understand that they cannot, will not just “stick to knitting” because even in the knitting community they face exclusion based on the color of their skin. Defensiveness is a common reaction from white people when they are faced with the everyday racism our societies are entrenched in, and if you feel that, I would suggest you sit with that and give yourself some time to reflect before you speak up about it; if someone shares their experiences with racism with you and the first thing you say back to them is some version of, “but not all white people!”, the impact of that is to dismiss and minimize that already marginalized voice. Maybe “I’m so sorry you’ve been treated that way” is a better starting point. Also keep in mind that when knitters share the experiences of racism they have faced and they talk about white privilege, they are not saying that you, as a white knitter, have never been discriminated against for other reasons – just that you haven’t been discriminated against because of your race. Ageism, ableism, homophobia, these are all real too. And those conversations are happening too. But the conversation at large has been about racism. If you’re looking for resources to educate yourself about these issues, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to recommend some books/podcasts/articles, depending on what you’re looking for.

If you are a BIPOC member of this community, know that I see you, and I hear your words, and I am listening. I am so grateful for the experiences and perspective everyone has shared that have opened my eyes and I am so sorry you have had to live those experiences. You are welcome here, and if I ever do or say anything that makes you feel unwelcome, I hope you will call me out on it.

Edited to add: I turned on comment moderation when I published this post, because I want the comment section to be a safe space for BIPOC. If you submit a comment that I feel would make BIPOC feel unheard or unsafe, I (and only I) will see it but I won’t be approving that comment to appear here. You’re free to speak your mind on your own platforms, but this is my space and I will do what I can to keep it a safe and inclusive one.

looking back at 2018

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I’ve been taking some time to look back, as one is wont to do at this time of year. Yesterday was the winter solstice, which means this year has almost drawn to a close. 2018 has been quite a year. I released a lot of patterns this year. I knew I had done more work than usual, and kicking it up a notch in the first full calendar year after finishing my master’s degree was the plan, but still, when I sat down to count out how many new designs I actually released, I was stunned to realize there were twenty-four of them. 24 new patterns in 2018! Fifteen of those came in the form of three collections. I am absolutely astonished at my own productivity. Of course, there are some things that helped make this achievable – working with third parties always makes the work less for me, and tied to that is the fact that the work for some of this year’s releases was actually done in 2017 (or in the case of Fog & Frost, even earlier). Sample knitters also knit a few of these samples. These are all things I’m grateful for as someone designing and writing knitting patterns. But here’s a look at my 24 patterns of 2018 (a list with links will follow in case something piques your interest):

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From left to right –
Row 1: Frost FlowersLyngenAlice Mittens
Row 2: Mountain HumPolar NightNorth Wind
Row 3: West WindCloud PineAdrian
Row 4: OpalDortheaTurlough
Row 5: DrumlinWeekend Walking MittsCaithness
Row 6: Tremblant ToqueLe Massif ScarfSutton Slippers
Row 7: Stoneham PonchoBromont MittsBrave at Heart
Row 8: Just and LoyalWit Beyond MeasureGreat Ambition

The collections are definitely all highlights – Fog & Frost, the Chalet Collection for Espace Tricot, and Lion, Badger, Eagle, Snake. The reception for the latter two in particular has been incredible, and I don’t know how to say thank you in a way that actually conveys my gratitude. But thank you.

A few of these patterns were published in books, and it is always exciting to see my name and my work in print. Opal and Dorthea were published in the Norwegian book Ruter og Lus: Retrostrikk fra Salhus Trikotagefabrikk (which I wrote about here) and I still can’t quite believe the museum wanted me of all people to be involved with that project. And then Caithness was published in Kate Davies’s new compilation of hat patterns, Milarrochy Heids, and it means a great deal to me to be included in those pages and to call Kate a colleague and a friend.

I also returned to teaching this year, giving a few classes at Espace Tricot and teaching a full weekend of workshops at Twist Festival in Saint-André-Avellin, Québec. I spent eight months of this year working at Espace Tricot as well, getting to know local knitters and making friends and generally becoming a part of the wonderful fiber community in and around Montréal and Québec, so being invited to teach at Twist was a highlight. All the classes I gave were colorwork related, and it brings me so much joy to share my love and knowledge of colorwork with other knitters.

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From top to bottom: teaching my Traditional Mittens workshop, being interviewed by Transistor Media (you can listen here), and hanging out with buds in the Knitting It Up Yarns booth (first two photos by Sébastien Lavallée for Twist Festival, third photo courtesy of Annie of Knitting It Up)

While I’ve been invited to teach at a few retreats and events in 2019, I’m not anticipating very much teaching in the coming year, I’m sorry to say. The reason for that is that I’m likely looking at another big move next summer (which can make event planning difficult-to-impossible), but more on that at a later date.

Plenty of other things have happened this year – I read 30 books, I learned a new craft, I traveled to some new and exciting places as well as some old and familiar ones. I feel I have so much to be grateful for right now. Given the year I’ve had, I’m taking it easy for the last few weeks of the year, and I’m looking forward to spending the Christmas holiday with family and friends. I am especially grateful to you, my readers, followers, customers. You all are a massive part of the wonderful year 2018 has been on a professional level, and I can’t say thank you enough. My birthday falls on the first of the new year, and some of you may remember I held a birthday sale on patterns last year – keep an eye out, because I plan to do the same this coming year. It’s such a nice way to say thank you for the year just gone by.

Whatever the end of 2018 holds for you – travel, festive celebrations, time for quiet reflection – I hope you enjoy it. And I’ll see you in the new year.

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slow fashion october: what’s your look?

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Every year when Slow Fashion October kicks off, I read along and think about how I’d love to properly join the discussion. But for the past three Octobers, I was either working on a master’s degree or dealing with my transatlantic move, and taking the time for the kind of reflection I think Slow Fashion October deserves has always felt like a challenge – let alone being able to write about it and share with others. This year, however, I’m beginning the month as I mean to go on. Slow fashion is something I think about year round, so taking the month of October to try and sort through some of my thoughts and feelings seems like a really great opportunity this year.

Slow Fashion October was started by Karen Templer over at Fringe Association in 2015, and every year there’s always a great discussion over different media platforms, often aided by themes or discussion prompts provided by Karen. There’s no need to follow her own outline if you want to take part in the discussion of Slow Fashion October, but they are a useful guide when the topic feels overwhelming (and it can!). So I thought I’d kick off this month with the discussion prompts Karen posted on her blog today. I’ve skipped a few of the questions to keep this post from getting too long, but the overarching theme is: what’s your look?

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Do you have a color palette?

Most definitely. My Ravelry profile has, for years, read “blues, greens, greys” next to the “favorite colors” questions (don’t you love that they say colors, plural, instead of trying to limit us to one?). That’s held true for the past ten years that I’ve had my Ravelry profile. The first sweater I ever knit was purple, but sweaters number 2, 3, and 4 were green, grey, and blue, respectively. I knit with those colors a lot, and I wear those colors a lot. Blue is one of my neutrals, and blue or black jeans plus a grey t-shirt is one of my most commonly worn outfits. Lately, different shades of burgundy, dusty pink, and mustard have also been creeping into my wardrobe, and this is showing up in my knitting as well. Seeing it all together, though, it still manages to feel like a very cohesive palette. When I look at these colors, they feel very, very me.

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Is there a brand you’re always drawn to, for their clothes and/or how they put them together? Why?

Jennifer Glasgow has been a favorite for years. I first discovered her clothing while shopping at Velouria in Seattle – it’s a wonderful store with a selection of clothes from North American brands whose clothes are made domestically, either within the United States or Canada (if you find yourself in Seattle, I can’t recommend them enough). Velouria was a huge part of my own journey towards thinking about incorporating slow fashion into my wardrobe. Jennifer Glasgow is based in Montreal, so I was excited when moving here that I’d get to shop at her flagship store General 54 on a regular basis – which for me, means about twice a year, each time the new collection is released. Aside from the fact that I really like the style and cut of a lot of Jennifer’s pieces, and that they fit me well, she’s very transparent about her production process and who’s making the clothing, and she often prioritizes natural fibers over synthetics in her fabric choices, which is something I really appreciate and want to support.

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What is your favorite garment or outfit (right now or always) and why?

I spent my summer in a piece from Jennifer Glasgow’s spring/summer collection this year that I’m still just obsessed with, called the Mariner dress. In the past I’ve gone for more fit-and-flare style dresses from her, but this one is oversized and loose, which makes it just the most comfortable dress to wear. It’s a silhouette I started playing with earlier this year and I like it a lot – I find myself increasingly prioritizing comfort. I feel like I absolutely lived in this dress over the summer (if you shop at Espace Tricot in Montreal there’s a very good chance you saw me in it) and I intend to keep wearing it into the fall.
What is the image you would like to project with your clothing?

A degree of put-togetherness, and confidence.
Can you describe your style in five adjectives?

I absolutely couldn’t – I have very little objectivity there – but I would be curious to hear how others would describe my style. If I were being aspirational, I would want my style to be classic, sophisticated, playful, comfortable, and maybe the tiniest bit sparkly.

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What showed up in your mood board that surprised you?

Considering that my fashion / style board on Pinterest is something I’ve been casually building without very much thought over the course of several years, it was interesting to see that it’s very overtly feminine. I know that I’m someone who often swings back and forth between feminine styles and more masculine or androgynous styles from day to day or season to season, but in general I think I trend towards more androgynous and it feels like there’s very little of that represented here. To me, it often feels like there’s a conflict between some of the feminine styles I’m very drawn to, especially dresses, and the practicality that I want or need in clothing in climates where there can be a lot of wind, or a harsh winter, for example. My clothes became very utilitarian when I lived in Tromsø, and I wore very few skirts and dresses there, but a lot more skirts and dresses worked their way back into my wardrobe this summer in Montreal. So that’s interesting. But I also think that I have a tendency to think my clothes are more androgynous than they really are – I have a distinct memory from the year in college when I cut my hair into a short pixie for the first time, and to me, that felt like a bucking of traditional ideas of femininity (and admittedly, as a six foot tall woman, I do sometimes mistakenly get called “sir” by strangers who aren’t paying attention when my hair is really short). But I took a course on women and political science from the women’s studies department that semester, and my professor pointed out to me that despite my short hair, my overall look in terms of clothes and presntation was still very, very feminine. And she was right. I think that has changed slightly in the years in between, but I do still think there can be a disconnect between what I think is happening in terms of how I dress and how I actually look to the outside world. All that being said, when I pin something to this board, it is something that I feel like I could / would actually wear, even if it maybe isn’t representative of my style as a whole.

What’s an example of something you own and love (had to have!) but never wear, and why not?

Vintage shopping is really hit and miss for me, and I have a few vintage pieces that I rarely wear, either because of the fit of the piece, or the fabric it’s made from. Even though I love them, they may only come out once a year (but at least it’s not never!). My own size – my height as well as the muscularity of my shoulders (since I started exercising my upper body more after recovering from my shoulder break in 2016), both mean the top half of my body isn’t really the same size or shape as the average woman from half a century ago. So often, things are too small for me.

I’m looking forward to see what others have to say to the “what’s your look?” question. If you want to follow the discussion as well, I’d suggest following the #slowfashionoctober hashtag on Instagram (you don’t need an account to be able to see public posts that have been tagged), or following the Fringe Association blog – and there are always interesting discussions going on in the comments, so don’t skip those.

For those who are curious, three of the pieces in the outfit I’m wearing pictured up top fall under the slow fashion banner in different ways: the dress is a new one from Jennifer Glasgow made here in Montreal, the cardigan was picked up second-hand at a clothing swap several years ago, and the boots are Red Wing Heritage Iron Rangers from the women’s line, made in the US.

love letter to norway

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I’m just back from a 10-day trip to Norway. I mentioned in my last post that Norway had been on my mind lately, and thinking ahead to this trip is part of why. It was the first trip back since my husband and I moved away a year ago, and we visited three cities spanning the country on this trip (Tromsø, where we lived for two years, Trondheim, and Oslo). There was so much to enjoy, and I did my best to soak it all up.

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I love this time of year in Norway – early September in northern Norway means the birches are just beginning to turn golden, and the cool air was a respite after the grueling hot summer Montreal has had. We were extremely lucky with the weather, and enjoyed clear skies for most of our trip, and even got to wave hello at the northern lights again in Tromsø (I have missed the northern lights).

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In Trondheim, the maples were beginning to turn orange and red, which made my heart very happy. I hadn’t spent much time in Trondheim before, but it is a charming little city.

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And in Oslo, I walked some of my favorite oft-trodden paths. I’m incredibly fond of the little wooded paths southwest of Frognerparken, called Skøyenparken. Even though most of the leaves were still green on the trees and flowers were still in bloom around the city, here you could see that fall is coming.

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The trip left me with a lot to think about – and for me, ten days isn’t nearly enough for a trip to Norway anymore (especially when divided between three cities). It was lovely to visit old haunts, see old friends, hear and speak Norwegian again instead of French. But I’m also glad to be back home in my own apartment now, ready to dive into work for this fall after a very busy August. There’s a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. I hope that you’re having a good September wherever you are.

embracing summer

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Montreal is in the midst of a serious heat wave at the moment (along with a lot of other places both near and far), but in a place with a winter as cold as this one’s, I find it hard to complain about the heat. I spent so many months looking forward to the arrival of summer, so I’ve been doing my best to embrace it now that it’s here, heat wave and all. I can’t remember the last time I wore jeans, since I’ve been living in shorts instead, along with a constant rotation of dresses and skirts that I rarely wore in Tromsø, where 20ºC / 70ºF constitutes a “hot” day. There’s so much that I miss about the Norwegian summer, but Tromsø’s been having a particularly chilly and rainy one so far, and I have to admit I’m not sad to miss that this year.

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There’s a lot of things to rejoice in during the summer in Montreal. The return of the farmer’s markets with their local produce (and to my particular excitement right now, local strawberries), the opening of the (free) public pools, the lush, verdant tree-lined streets with their buildings covered in ivy or other greenery. The flora in general, in fact. I love seeing all the window boxes and plants on balconies, and the tiny gardens in front of the multiplexes of the Plateau. The summer here is full of festivals, and I got to see a bit of Montreal Jazz Fest last weekend when my parents were in town. The experience of being in this city in the summer is a little bit like living in a photo where the saturation has been dialed up a few notches. The hardest thing, in fact, is to try to find a little bit of peace and quiet, since the city’s pretty chaotic at this time of year (as you might expect when a couple million people in a relatively small space all want to get outside at the same time).

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And even though I’ve got a lot of work knitting on my needles, since summer is the time when many designers are preparing releases for the fall, I’ve managed to cast on some summery knitting for myself, as well. We recently started carrying BC Garn Bio Balance, a blend of organic wool and organic cotton, at the yarn store where I work and I decided to cast on for a Tarmac tank, a pattern by Anna Maltz from the summer issue of Pom Pom Quarterly.

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There’s a lot to love about that project, even if it’s slow-going at the moment since I’m knitting on so many other things. I’d love to get it finished in time for Twist Festival (and more on that soon, in another post), but we’ll see how I get on. How are you enjoying your summer, if you’re in the northern hemisphere like me?

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the solace of finishing things

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I’m one of those people who tends to have a lot of projects up in the air at the same time, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been much of a juggler, to be honest. I’m very good at saying yes to too many things, or at starting things before I’ve finished other things. I know many of you reading this can relate to that, if only with your own knitting projects. Sometimes, I don’t mind at all. Sometimes, it’s interesting and exciting to have a lot of different things going on in my life. But sometimes, when life gets harder for one reason or another, trying to juggle too many things at once can start to feel like a burden. Instead of feeling free to choose which book (among the five I’m in the middle of) I’m going to read before bed on any given night, I can feel weighed down by all the unread pages, paralyzed by option anxiety. Sometimes, instead of enjoying that I have different types of knitting projects to pick up and put down, I feel like I haven’t finished a project in ages, which makes me feel hopelessly unproductive even when I have been making plenty of progress on things – they just aren’t finished yet. I’ve been feeling that way lately, as winter drags on, struggling to feel productive, and consequently struggling to feel good about myself (uncoupling my sense of self-worth from my productivity is a much longer process, one I expect to be working on for a long time).

I’m grateful that at this point in my life, I can recognize when this is happening, and I can find the motivation to dig myself out of that kind of a hole. Books and knitting projects seem the most susceptible to this sort of behavior, so I’ve been working on finishing books and finishing projects. I do sometimes get bored sticking to one book at a time, but seeing how much more quickly I get through a book when I decide to commit to just one at a time is always motivating, and I’ve just about finished the second book in as many weeks, which will mean I’m down to three books. With a few flights coming up later this week, I’m pretty confident I can get that number down to two by the end of this coming weekend.

And so it goes with knitting projects, too! Last week, I finished three things over the course of three days. One was a pattern sample (more about that at a later date, after I’ve taken pattern photos), but the other two I thought I’d share with you. I love both of these so much, and it’s good to remind myself of just how great it feels sometimes to slow down, focus on just one project, and see it through to its completion.

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First up is a pair of socks that’s been on the needles since December: my Selbu Socks. This pattern is by Eli of Skeindeer Knits, and it’s one that I was looking forward to immensely last fall, when Eli shared the design-in-progress with us before the pattern was published. I cast on the day it was released with stash yarn (Eli very generously gave me a copy of the pattern as a gift – thank you Eli!) and loved watching the pattern emerge, but over the next few months, progress happened in fits and starts as I put these down to work on other things, occasionally picking them up to work a few rounds here and there, but definitely never giving them my undivided attention. I’m so glad that last week I decided they needed it, since they were actually getting pretty close to finished. I’ve knit (and designed) socks with stranded colorwork before, but these are my first allover-colorwork socks, which feels like an achievement of sorts. They are slightly thicker than my typical hand knit socks, given that the stranded fabric is twice as thick, but I can still wear them with my boots, so I love that while these have the feeling of traditional Norwegian stockings, they’re truly everyday socks that I can wear whenever I like (temperature permitting). Given that it’s still very much winter in Montreal (currently 23ºF / -5ºC), these will actually see a little bit of wear before they get put away until next winter.

The last thing I want to mention is the yarns: I used superwash merino/nylon blends for these socks. The light grey yarn is no longer available, but the red yarn is Explorer Sock by Phileas Yarns in the St Expedit colorway, which is dyed by my friend Sylvie in York (in the UK) and I have described this color more than once as my favorite red (I first wrote about this colorway on a different base, here). It is always a pleasure to work with Sylvie’s yarns and I’m so happy to have used it for such a special project.

More technical details as well as more photos can be found over on my Ravelry project page.

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The other personal project I finished was my Mount Pleasant tee, a pattern by Megan Nodecker of Pip & Pin (and the Pip & Pin podcast). I fell in love with this design when Megan shared it in a Ravelry forum post last spring, asking advice about pattern photos from fellow designers (I think many of us fell in love with this design after that post, to be honest!). I bought it when she released it last May, and the same week I ordered yarn to make it. I’d decided I wanted to make it with yarn from Garnsurr, a yarn-dyeing company in Norway that’s also a refugee integration project, and one of my favorite companies to support. I actually posted about my plans for this project last August, and I wound the yarn into cakes before we left Norway at the end of that month. Nonetheless, with too many other things on my plate, I hadn’t cast on for it until a few weeks ago, when I decided it would be my only travel project for a two-week trip to Singapore and India that my husband went on. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably spotted some progress shots of this tee (including this photo which led to a really fantastic discussion of everyone’s experiences with flying with knitting in hand luggage – thanks to everyone who joined in on that conversation!). The finished tee is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of since last spring, and I can’t wait to get some wear out of it as the weather warms up here in Canada and this spring finally arrives. I didn’t really make any modifications to this pattern, but you can still find the details (including links to the pattern page and the yarn page) over on my Ravelry project page. Megan has definitely become one of my favorite designers over the past year and if you’ve never checked her out, I’d highly recommend a quick (or long and leisurely) browse through her designs on Ravelry. On top of the beautiful but wearable pieces she creates, her photography is always gorgeous.

With these projects done, I’m down to 8 WIPs (ha!), including the sweater pattern sample that is my current priority. I don’t think I’ll ever be a one-project-at-a-time kind of knitter again, but it does feel really good to prioritize finishing things for the moment. And now that I think about it, those Nikoline socks pictured at the top of this post are getting pretty close…