FO: vellum

Today I wanted to share my Vellum cardigan. As I mentioned in my previous post, this one was an unplanned knit. I cast on May 1st and was finished by the 9th, so it went rather quickly. It was also a fun project for a lot of reasons.

This pattern is from Karie Westermann’s book This Thing of Paper. I wrote about the book several years ago, back when it was in the crowdfunding stages, and the end result is gorgeous. The inspiration for the patterns comes from the evolution of the printed page, from medieval manuscript to the printing press, which makes it a treat for a book lover. Still, even though I’ve had my copy since it was released in 2017, I had yet to knit anything from it. Vellum wasn’t even one of the patterns originally topping my list of favorites. Karie’s original color combo was nice, but it wasn’t very me, and some of the other pieces in the book spoke to me more.

Vellum by Karie Westermann

But it floated to the front of my mind when I realized the skeins of Mendip DK I’d purchased from Marina Skua would make a lovely colorwork yoke. Katie from Inside Number 23 knit a version of Vellum at the beginning of this year (seen finished in this episode), and it was that project that first helped me see this pattern in a new light. So when I decided I wanted to use my Mendip DK in a yoke, I figured playing with the charts from Vellum might work out well.

I made several modifications to this pattern to make it the sweater I wanted. I cropped the body slightly (although both the body and the sleeves came out slightly longer than I’d anticipated), and consequently changed the waist shaping. I also made several changes to the colorwork charts in order to really put Marina’s Mendip DK colorways on display. I was particularly interested in combining the Teal and Fox colorways in a section, so I added colorwork to one of the sections that was originally a single color. I also added a third color to one of the rows (the second motif from the bottom of the yoke, in brown Beech, orange Fox, and grey Sheep – the grey stitches were my addition). Getting the motifs to line up the way I wanted them to meant shifting around a couple of the decreases as well, but in the end it was absolutely worth it.

I mentioned the yarn of the main color for the body and sleeves in my last post: ancient stash yarn from Kahurangi Natural Wools in New Zealand, handed down to me from my aunt and originally purchased who-knows-how-long ago. This yarn is their Double Knitting and the colorway is Oatmeal. I’ve tried to use this yarn for one or two projects in the past and never ended up finishing them, so it felt really wonderful to finally put it to use, and in a garment I ended up loving. It was a pretty decent match for the Mendip DK, if perhaps ever-so-slightly thicker.

Vellum is steeked at the front, and I worked a crochet reinforcement before cutting it open. I believe this is the second cardigan front I’ve steeked (although I’ve steeked arm and neck openings on other garments) but this is the first time I’ve covered the steek edge with any kind of trim. It makes for such a neat finish, though, and I found the perfect trim to use over at Textile Garden (the buttons also came from Textile Garden). The teal and orange of the trim are a perfect match for Marina’s colorways.

I am very satisfied with this project – it feels good when things come together the way you hoped they would. I do feel like I want to address one issue, though – I recently spoke up about size inclusivity over on Instagram, and about my reasons for choosing not to knit a pattern from a recent collection Rauma launched in collaboration with an independent Norwegian designer. I want to acknowledge that the size range for Vellum isn’t that much bigger than the collection I was talking about. But I also want to state why knitting one of Karie’s patterns is different for me (and I understand if anyone disagrees with this): Karie is an independent designer who has also spoken up about pattern sizing and inclusivity in recent years. I know she cares about it. I know she’s been actively working on a size range for her patterns that includes much larger sizes than her patterns previously have done. I want to support her in that work, and I hope that some of her previously published work will see expanded sizing in the future (something I’m working on with my own previously published patterns). Companies like Rauma, while I love them for their yarns, do not have a great track record on size inclusivity and have not shown much of an inclination to change on that front. So it’s harder to choose to knit a Rauma pattern for a very basic summer top when that’s the case (I adapted a Jessie Maed pattern instead).

further reflections on making

Sir Duke shawl by Thread & Ladle, knit in Little Fox Yarn Vulpine DK

Back in February, I wrote a bit about the state of my creative life, as far as feeling like I had limited time to be making things, and how that played a role in my plans for knitting and sewing in 2020. At that point, I was still relatively recently reunited with my yarn stash and full roster of WIPs, and it was slightly overwhelming after six months without it. I wrote that I had two strong desires: to work through and finish existing WIPs, and to be working from stash for new projects. I had (and still have) a lot of projects queued up which I already have yarn for.

Then came Covid-19.

My overwhelming stash suddenly felt less overwhelming as my focus turned outward, to the many friends and independent businesses suddenly facing a year without revenue from fiber shows. That’s a massive blow for any small fiber business, and as I’m fortunate that my job hasn’t been in jeopardy, I ended up making a fair few purchases I hadn’t been planning on, both yarn as well as patterns and other supplies and tools. I definitely don’t regret it, but it meant this year’s making plans went out the window for a little while.

Twister Lolly Socks by The Crimson Stitchery, knit with Artfil Belle from stash

That being said, I wanted to sort of check in with myself here to see how it has affected my making. And when I sit down and look at what’s on the needles and what’s been completed, the impact was maybe smaller than I would’ve guessed. A few of those projects pictured in that post from February are now finished, for one thing. I’ve cast on several new projects since February, but many of those are also finished (see the Sir Duke shawl a the top of this post, the Twister Lolly socks above, and the Vellum cardigan below, for a few examples). Some of the old WIPs are still WIPs, but I’m working on that too. I’ve finished 17 projects since that post in February was written (a number I only just counted up and which makes me go !!!! a little bit). I still have 12 WIPs, which is evidence of new cast ons, but I had 16 in February so the overall trend is still towards more things getting finished than cast on. I guess the stay-at-home period combined with a delay in my data collection for my PhD meant there was more time for making than I was anticipating after all. The comfort that comes from slow stitching is certainly a factor as well, as it has been very welcome through the emotional rollercoaster that has been 2020 so far.

An almost-finished Angelou cardigan by Alexis Winslow, sans pocket linings & buttons and in need of a good blocking

Yarns have been a mix of new yarns and stash yarns. Most of the new yarns have been those purchases from indie yarnies who’ve had shows cancelled, and it does feel good to put those to use. And digging into some of my old stash yarns has felt really good as well. In particular, I’m nearing the finish line on an Angelou cardigan (a pattern from Alexis Winslow’s Homage collection), which is a pattern I first queued in May 2018, the same month I purchased the yarn for it. It had been patiently waiting for nearly two years, but I finally cast on in April. All that I have left to knit is the pocket linings, and then it’ll be ready for a blocking. I have nothing like it in my wardrobe, so it’s going to be incredibly satisfying to finally wear that one.

Vellum by Karie Westermann, knit in Marina Skua Mendip DK and Kahurangi Natural Wools

Even some of the surprise projects have made use of stash in unexpected ways. I purchased some skeins of Mendip DK from my friend Marina Skua back in April, thinking I might use them for some accessories. But then I realized they’d go together very nicely in a colorwork yoke, and I saw an opportunity to turn to my pattern library for inspiration. I chose to use the skeins of Mendip in the yoke of a Vellum cardigan (from Karie Westermann’s book This Thing of Paper), and the yarn for the main body and sleeves of the cardigan was proper deep stash: two 200g skeins of New Zealand wool from Kahurangi Natural Wools Double Knitting which were given to me by my aunt probably nearly 10 years ago. I have a few different yarns from Kahurangi that my aunt gave me, some of which I’ve used in the past, but some of which has been sitting around for years, leaving me feeling stumped as to what to do with it. So this one was an incredibly satisfying knit, and I’m planning to write about it in more detail very soon because I also made several modifications.

I’ve found that after the initial frenzy of shopping I did back in March, there’s been an ebb and flow to my desire to finish WIPs and work from the materials I already have on hand, and my desire to support businesses in the craft industry who are struggling due to a loss of revenue this year. But lately I’m once again finding the yarn stash a little overwhelming, and reminding myself that there are other ways to support businesses and designers that don’t involve adding yarn to an already overflowing stash. So for the latter half of this year I want to refocus, and to work on finishing up some of the projects that have been hanging around for months or even longer. Trying to focus on one or two projects at a time (one more complex “home” project and one simpler “on-the-go” project I can keep in my bag seems to work well for me) definitely helps speed up the process.

What role has making been playing in your life this year?

custom woolen mills

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One of the makes I finished in April was my Aveiro sweater, by Orlane Sucche of Tête Bêche Knitwear. I shared the early stages of this one back in February, and I think it was originally cast on in January, so I didn’t quite bang it out the way I’d originally hoped. But I’ve been planning to write about this one because I wanted to share my thoughts about the yarn in particular.

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I knit this up in yarn from Custom Woolen Mills, a mill in Alberta, Canada whose focus is Canadian-grown wool. For full disclosure, this yarn was sent to me free of charge to try out. I have long been interested in locally, or at least domestically-grown and produced wool yarns, so after we moved to Canada in 2017 I expressed an interest in that as well. I knew very little about Canadian wool or available Canadian wool yarns, and so when Custom Woolen Mills offered to let me try their mule-spun yarn I very gratefully accepted. I thought they might send 2-3 skeins; I did not expect them to send a sweater quantity! I received 6 skeins and a bundle of minis of their 2-ply mule-spun yarn (a worsted weight): 4 natural grey skeins, and the others were naturally dyed. The skeins are 4 oz. (112 grams) with 198m / 216 yds, making this a heavy worsted. I’d probably go as far as to call it an aran weight.

“Mule-spun” refers to the fact that the yarn is spun on a spinning mule, so named because it was a cross between the spinning jenny and the water frame. If you’ve read Clara Parkes’ Vanishing Fleece you may remember that one of her Great White Bale yarns was spun on a mule spinner in Maine, and that they’re a rarity these days (you’ll find that info in chapter 6).

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I decided to knit Aveiro with this yarn because I liked how it looked both in the pattern photos and people’s project photos, and it was easy to an additional color to the stripes so I’d be able to use both blues for the contrast. I knew the shape might be a little bit of a gamble – the raglan yoke is very deep to begin with, and I knit this at a slightly larger gauge than recommended so mine is even deeper (I went with a larger gauge since my yarn was slightly heavier than the yarn called for in the pattern). I’m still not sure if I’m sold on the shape, but otherwise I’m very fond of the finished sweater.

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As for the yarn: this is one of those yarns that really benefits from a good wash. The dyed colors smelled and felt more pleasant from the get-go, but the undyed grey either had some residual lanolin or spinning oil still in the yarn that I didn’t totally enjoy. When I blocked this sweater, I soaked it twice, emptying the water in between – I did the first soak with some of my shampoo in the water, and I used Soak wash (which is my usual wool wash) on the second soak. The finished sweater smells lovely and the residual oily feeling is definitely gone. The fabric blooms up marvelously with washing, as well.

On the downside, every skein had at least one knot. I’m not sure if there’s something about the mule spinning process that makes breakage (and thus knots) more likely, but some skeins even had multiple knots. I dealt with this by wet splicing the yarn wherever I encountered knots, which was mildly annoying, but no more than that. I also wet spliced each time I joined a new skein of the grey. The knots wouldn’t keep me from using this yarn again, given that it was relatively easy to join by splicing.

It feels like it’s going to wear very well, especially at this gauge, but as for that only time will tell!

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Thank you so much to Custom Woolen Mills for the yarn, and you can find additional details about my modifications, yarn amounts, etc. over on my Ravelry project page.

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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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.

lately

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The first week in Trondheim brought unexpectedly beautiful weather. Most of the past week has been nothing but rain, just at the moment most people here are leaving for their summer holidays. While the rain can grow tiring, it’s also somehow comforting. It definitely invites a spot of quiet solitude, and there’s a lot that I enjoy about quiet solitude – I think I have always had a soft spot for melancholy.

I feel like that makes me sound sad, and I guess I am a little bit. There is some sadness in a big change. There is loss involved, even when you’re excited about whating you’re moving towards. But there is a deep comfort in being back in Norway, back by the water, with nature so close. And we come back to Norway more confident this time. More sure of ourselves, of who we are, of what we want in life. There is still the anxiety of a new city, of not knowing many people. But I definitely feel more comfortable just being myself. When we first moved to Norway in 2015 I had a (mostly) subconscious desire to fit in, to not stand out. I wanted to “pass.” After two years away, I care much less about that this time around. That makes a great difference.

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The wet weather this past few days has meant I haven’t done nearly as much exploring outside as I’d like to. I walked all over the city in the first few days but I’ve been itching to go hiking in Bymarka, the forest that butts up against the west edge of the city. But I think I’ll wait for a dry spell. In the meantime, there has been knitting.

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I had the urge last week to buy a skein of Hillesvåg Tinde and whip up a hat, even though I brought several projects with me (the remainder of my yarn and projects are in our main pack, which we won’t have access to for a little while). I popped into Husfliden last week and grabbed a skein in Cognac (not my typical color choice, but I fell for it for some reason), and knit a Mellomlua over an evening and a morning. Super simple, very soothing. And now I have a new hat. It was only after I knit it that I realized that Tinde was the first yarn I bought after my move to Norway in 2015, and I knit a hat with it that fall. Accidental symmetry.

I’ve been feeling a little bit like I’m in the space between: the space between one stage of my life and the next. Eras of our lives aren’t sharply defined, for the most part, and they can blur together at the edges. But the longer I’m back in Norway the more I’m adjusting to it again, and one day I will wake up and realize I don’t feel like I’m in the space between anymore, and I won’t know when that happened. It’s only been two weeks. So for now, I knit, I walk, I read, and I get to work, of course, since a job is what brought us back here. And I’ll enjoy that.

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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…

a wintry walk

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When we lived in Tromsø I was pretty good about getting out for walks on a regular basis. The goal was always a daily walk, and even if I sometimes fell short of that, it wasn’t hard to find the motivation to get out for a walk when I was surrounded by so much natural beauty. Since moving to Montreal I have gone on fewer walks, especially since winter has set in. Given that in December we went through the longest continuous stretch of days that never made it above -17°C (about 1.5°F) in Montreal’s recorded history, I suppose that’s not a surprise. Lately, though, it’s been much warmer (about -5°C / 23°F or so) and we’ve had a lot of snow, and I realized that I hadn’t actually walked over to Parc La Fontaine since the snow first came.

I visited this park for the first time over the summer, when we were in Montreal looking for apartments before the move, and I fell in love with it immediately. It’s a huge park to be in the middle of the city, full of trees and playing fields and with a pair of ponds (or one pond divided in two, depending on how you look at it) feauturing, as its name suggests, a big fountain. In summer, it feels like an oasis. The trees provide a leafy green canopy when you want a break from the sun and the heat, people picnic and laze in the grass, and take leisurely strolls on the paths through the park and around the ponds. It’s one of those magical communal spaces that I’m so grateful exists.

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In winter, the experience is very different, unsurprisingly. I expected that there wouldn’t be too many people in the park in the middle of a weekday, though there are a few, walking dogs or babies or simply going from point A to point B. The green grass is covered in a thick blanket of snow and the trees are bare. The main thoroughfares appeared to have been plowed, at least a little bit, but the park was also full of tracks from people taking shortcuts between the paths.

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The ponds freeze over in winter and one of them is kept clear for skating. I’d heard about this before so I was pleased to see people on the ice. Having grown up in North Carolina, frozen ponds are the things of picture books to me (even after living in Norway), and it was fun to see that come to life before my eyes.

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One of the things that consistently catches me off guard about Montreal is how much the vegetation reminds me of the vegetation where I grew up. The tall deciduous trees are deeply familiar to me in a way that feels surprising in an otherwise pretty unfamiliar place. I moved to the west coast of the US after graduating from college, and grew to love the flora of the Pacific Northwest. Northern Norway presented a new set of trees, flowers, weeds, and herbs to become familiar with. But the vegetation here doesn’t feel new or different the way that it did in those places. It’s always so interesting to me which pieces of our childhood come back to the front of our minds when we least expect it.

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One thing I hadn’t anticipated about the experience of being in Parc La Fontaine in the winter is how much more aware I was of the city surrounding me. You’re still aware of being in the middle of the city in the summertime, but in winter when all the tree branches are bare you can’t avoid it. It’s easier to see downtown on the horizon when you look south/west, and all the buildings and the streets on the perimeter of the park are much easier to see and hear. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it did make me want to head for Mount Royal next time I want to go for a long walk in the snow to get away from the feeling of the city.

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I wore my Brackett hat on what might have been its inaugural journey outside the house. This is a pattern of Whitney Hayward’s for issue 3 of Laine Magazine, and I knit mine in the Harrisville Designs  Color Lab 2 yarn I brought back from Rhinebeck. There are so many different colors in this Harrisville yarn that it feels impossible to photograph correctly, but I think this photo gives you a little bit of an idea. (P.S. Have you seen the Bellows cardigan that Karen is knitting with it?)

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Today’s walk was a lovely reminder that it’s always a good idea to get out of the house for a walk, especially when the weather is good. I’ll have to make sure to do it more often.

recent FOs

After a summer full of sample knitting for patterns, I was eager to get a bunch of personal projects off the needles once fall hit. I’m happy that I’ve managed to finish a few things recently, and I thought I’d share a few photos with you all.

First up was my Garland sweater (which I initially wrote about planning to knit in this post, and I gave a little progress update here). I started it back at the beginning of May, but it got set aside when I needed to dedicate my knitting time to work knitting, and then it got packed with all our stuff in the move from Norway to Montréal, so when I was finally able to pull it out of a moving box in mid-October I was super eager to finish it (it was really close!).

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I will admit that I had some moments of doubt while this project was a work in progress, because both the color and the silhouette of the sweater are not my usual wheelhouse. I’d also never knit a sweater with laceweight yarn before. As a result, the finished garment was a pleasant surprise, because this is easily one of my favorite sweaters to wear that I’ve ever knit. The light weight of the fabric makes it super wearable and great for layers, and the cropped length means it’s easy to layer over long shirts with jeans or skirts and dresses, which means it’s one of the more versatile sweaters now in my wardrobe. It’s very comfortable but there’s a casual elegance about it too, with the bands of lace and the way the ribbed sleeves hug my arms without feeling tight.

The pattern is by Stefanie Pollmeier, from the winter 2013 issue of Pom Pom Quarterly (issue 7). I believe this pattern is still only available as part of the magazine. For yarn I used Welthase yak lace, rather than a mohair lace like the pattern was originally written for, and for me the yarn choice is definitely part of why this sweater already feels so versatile. Miriam, the dyer behind Welthase, has a wonderful sense of color, and I became pretty enamored with her pinks after getting to use her single fingering base for my Swedish Pancakes mitts.

I also finished what I’ve called my Pewter Cowl, a simple 1×1 ribbed cowl in Woolfolk Tynd.

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This was my mindless bus knitting project for months – something I could pick up and put down to work on whenever I had a moment without ever needing to refer to a pattern. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to make with this yarn (Woolfolk’s wool is very, very soft) and in the end a simple and easy-to-wear project felt like the right way to let the yarn do the talking. The softness means it’s suitable for against-the-neck wear, and it’s relative lack of sturdiness will be less of an issue as a cowl than it would have been if I’d made mitts with this yarn, as I intended when I purchased it three years ago. I’m really pleased with this, but now I think I need a new mindless 1×1 rib project to work on…

The last piece I want to share is my finished Circlet Shrug. The pattern is by Norah Gaughan, a creative force when it comes to cables, and she originally designed it for the third issue of Making magazine, which came out this past spring. (She will be releasing it as an individual pattern in the coming days, but I suggest checking out the whole issue of Making, because it’s a beautiful issue!)

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This knit needed a lot of attention – there are cables every other row for the entirety of the sweater (save the bottom ribbing), and I had maybe almost memorized the chart by the time I was working the final repeats of the back. But it was a super interesting knit nonetheless, and I really adore the finished fabric. The Hillesvåg Tinde has such depth as a yarn, and I’m so pleased with how it’s worked up into these cables. This was the last yarn I bought before we left Norway, so it’s a bit of a special souvenir. I finished this the week after Rhinebeck, which I had originally hoped to knit it for, but given the temps we had during the days, I’m happy I didn’t push myself to stress out over finishing.

Even though I design patterns myself, there is so much joy for me in getting to knit some of the beautiful pieces that my friends and colleagues have designed. But not to worry, I am working on more of my own patterns, too – I’ve also recently bound off on a garment design for an upcoming Paper Tiger collection! But more about that on another day. What are you all working on as we head into the tail end of the year?

norwegian wool: selbu spinneri

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The Norwegian Wool series returns with another of Norway’s microspinneries, the fantastic Selbu Spinneri. One of two micro mills in Norway, it’s a small operation that’s only been spinning since 2011 (I believe there are just the two, the other being Telespinn, but if you know of any others please do let me know!). If the name sounds familiar to you, the Selbu is the same one you find in Selbuvotter, or Selbu mittens, the name for the iconic black and white Norwegian mittens (you may be familiar with Terri Shea’s book, or the more recent the gorgeous and massive book by Anne Bårdsgård still only available in Norewgian as far as I know). Selbu is located near the city of Trondheim, in the middle of Norway’s north-south span. The yarn made by Selbu Spinneri is special and Norwegian specific, with a focus on rare and endangered breeds. I made my first purchase from Selbu Spinneri earlier this year, back in the winter, and I opted to try three different yarns made from three different sheep breeds, pictured above. All three are very different – different weights, different textures that handle differently, and different colors – but they’re all undyed yarns. This package was definitely a treat to open.

The creamy off-white skein with a thick and thin texture is their 2-ply yarn made from wool from the gammel norsk sau, the Old Norwegian sheep, also called villsau (“wild sheep”) by some, though it is a domestic breed. It’s rustic and lofty, with some darker hairs mixed in with the cream, and it was the first skein I cracked into. It’s a primitive heritage breed, with an outer fleece and a finer inner coat, like other northern European heritage breeds, and this yarn is spun from both layers, making it both robust and soft. It seemed to be about an aran weight to me, and I worked it up into a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig. A very, very cozy Simple Hat. The finished fabric gives you a good sense of the varying thickness of this yarn, but you also get a sense of the halo it has after it was blocked. The Simple Hat is such a fantastic blank canvas pattern to get a feel for any yarn, thanks to the fact that it’s written for a huge range of yarn weights.
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The light grey yarn in the middle is a 2-ply yarn made from spælsau wool. It looks to be about a sport weight to me, and like all spælsau yarns it’s pretty dense and wiry. It’s smoother with more of a sheen than the other two yarns I purchased, and I have a pretty good sense of how this yarn will work up since I’ve worked with spælsau yarns before.

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I’m not sure I’ll knit with this one, actually – I think it would make a sturdy crochet fabric and I’m tempted to try using it for a small crochet basket or something like that. It’d also be great and durable for weaving, but as I’m not much of a weaver, crochet seems most likely.

The final skein, the lovely heathered dark grey one, is spun with wool from a breed I have yet to work with, the trøndersau, or Troender sheep.

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The region where Selbu is located is called Trøndelag, making this breed its eponymous sheep (trønder + sau). The trøndersau is extremely rare, with a very small number of animals existing. I’m really looking forward to trying this yarn, too – it’s a 3-ply, both rounder and a little bit more uniform than the other two yarns, and I’d guess it’s a DK or worsted weight. I love natural grey yarns and this is a beautiful one. It’s more textured than the other two yarns, with less gloss and more of a matte look. I expect good depth and stitch definition, so I might use it for something cabled.

Being a small operation with only a handful of employees, Selbu Spinneri’s online shop is definitely aimed at a domesetic market, and their invoicing and shipping methods don’t really lend themselves to international shipping, so I don’t think you can get these yarns outside of Norway UPDATE: I’ve been in touch with Selbu Spinneri and they are happy to accommodate international orders – simply get in touch with them at post@selbuspinneri.no if you’re interested and they’ll help you figure it out. I do know, however, that hand-dyer Laila of Værbitt Garn uses some yarns from Selbu Spinneri as her bases, so you can always get in touch with her or check her Etsy shop to see if you can find any of Selbu Spinneri’s rare breed yarns (in Laila’s gorgeous colors!).

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Previous posts in this series can be found here: