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:

FO: norwegian wool dalur

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I finally had a chance to get some photos of my finished Dalur this week. I mentioned in this post that I’d finished it, but that this post would have to wait until after my thesis was in – and here it is! This has been a really special project for me, so giving it a proper FO post feels important, and I want to share some of the details with you all.

I’m pretty pleased with the photos I finally got of this sweater, which I took last night around 11 PM while I was out for my daily walk – and yes, you read that time right (thanks, midnight sun!). If you’re sitting in summer-like temps as you read this, I apologize if the photos make you break out in a sweat, but I was actually even more bundled up for the walk. I removed my jacket, scarf, hat, and fingerless gloves to take these photos, as it was about 3°C / 38°F when I was shooting. Nonetheless, I hope you like the photos too, and I hope they give you a sense of how this sweater fits seamlessly into my current landscape and northern climate.

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first shared my plans for making this sweater back in March, at the beginning of Tolt Icelandic Wool Month. The grey yarn used in this sweater was originally slated for a different project last year, but it wasn’t the right yarn or the right pattern for the recipient, really, so it went on the back burner until I could figure out what to do with it. While the pattern is Icelandic (from Knitting with Icelandic Wool), the yarn is not. I used all Norwegian wool for this particular sweater, and I can’t sing its praises enough. The charcoal and the grey are both Hifa Blåne, whose fiber comes from the pelssau, or literally “fur sheep,” a breed that resulted from crossing Gotland with the old Norwegian spælsau, both northern heritage breeds. I have mentioned in the past that Blåne reminds me a little bit of Álafoss Lopi, although it’s not an exact match. Blåne is made up of two distinct plies, while the structure of Lopi more closely resembles a single ply yarn. Both yarns are “hairy,” but I’d call Blåne better behaved, if that makes any sense – the hairy fibers are less unruly than they are with Lopi. In some of the closer shots you may be able to see the slight halo that results when Blåne is knitted into a fabric.

The grey used in the sweater is the natural undyed color of the Blåne, which doubles as the base for the dyed shades. This meant I needed a different yarn for my white contrast, and I opted for Hifa Troll, a bulky weight from the same company with the same structure as Blåne, but I believe Troll made from wool from the norsk kvit sau (the hybrid Norwegian white sheep, which is very common in Norway). I went for the bleached white because I wanted a high contrast between the different colors in the stranded sections.

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I wrote a little bit about making this sweater on Instagram when I first finished it. The pattern is a relatively straightforward bottom-up seamless circular yoked pullover. The biggest modification I made was that I added short rows to the back of the sweater before beginning the yoke for a better fit around the neck (there are no short rows in the pattern as written). I also added length to the body and the sleeves, although I went a bit overboard with the body, because I underestimated my yoke depth (I deliberately used a slightly larger gauge because I liked the feel of the finished fabric). My quick fix was to take scissors to my fully finished and blocked sweater – I cut the body apart at a point where I had joined a new ball of yarn, frogged about 2″ of length, put top and bottom halves of the body back on needles, and then grafted it back together using Kitchener stitch. Full disclosure: I honestly really enjoy Kitchener stitch, so this process was a no brainer to get the finished length I wanted. I’m really happy with the length of the body now, but I kept the extra-long sleeves. (I’m six feet tall and wear a small or medium on top, so ready-to-wear sleeves are never, ever long enough for me. These super long ones are like a special luxury.) The final modification I made was to do a tubular cast on for the body and sleeves, and a tubular bind off at the neck.

A heads up to any of you who may want to make Dalur for yourself: some (though not all) of the colorwork rounds involve carrying three yarns at once, so I wouldn’t recommend it to total newbies of colorwork. If you struggle to work with more than two yarns at once in colorwork, you may find a stranding guide like this one a useful tool to help keep your yarns separated.

I’m SO pleased with how this yoke turned out, and so happy to finally share it with you all. It’s gotten a lot of wear in the past month and I think I’ll probably be able to continue wearing it in the evenings through the summer. If you’re interested in more details (like the exact amounts of yarn I used), you can find my Ravelry project page for Dalur here.

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queue check: may 2017

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I continue to be a fan of Karen Templer’s Queue Check posts over at Fringe Association as a way to keep track of knitting projects and to prioritize upcoming projects, and it’s been a little while since my last check-in on that front. I sent off a version of my thesis draft to my supervisor today – and while it still needs a lot more work in the next two weeks, I thought I’d take the evening off and do a little queue check of my own!

Starting with the projects mentioned in my previous queue check post from February: both pairs of socks mentioned in that post are off the needles and I’ve been wearing them constantly (they’re pictured above). I ended up working on them at the same time, and that seems to have started me on a trend of working one patterned pair and one plain pair of socks at the same time, which I’m really enjoying. Socks are definitely continuing to be soothing knits in a stressful time. I’ve finished a third pair since that post, which I haven’t mentioned on this blog yet, but I’m going to save all of that for another day for what will probably be a blog post dedicated solely to socks.

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I have two new pairs on the needles at the moment. The plain pair above is Lumineux by Ysolda Teague, which I’ve wanted to knit since it came out in last fall’s Knitworthy collection, because it looks like the coolest afterthought heel of all time. I’m knitting the vanilla sock version, not the textured one shown in the pattern photos, because the heel construction is the main thing I’m interested and I love the speckled yarn in plain stockinette. I’m using the We Love Knitting yarn from sweet Claire that I got at last year’s Oslo Strikkefestival, and it feels great to cast on with it after it’s been waiting on the shelf for a few months. I’m using the speckled blue and white as my main color (and I believe the colorway is called Icicle, which feels super apt because it makes me think of nothing so much as Elsa from Frozen) and the lovely tonal grey for my contrast heels and toes. On the bottom, the patterned pair of socks I’m working on is super special: Aimée of La Bien Aimée in Paris has a brand new colorway called Everything is Awesome, named after the song that Tegan and Sara did for the Lego movie, and it’s a silvery grey base with vibrant rainbow speckles. I love Tegan and Sara and this yarn has got to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever worked with – it is so much *fun*. My skein is on Aimée’s Merino Twist Sock base and I didn’t want to knit just vanilla socks with it, so I’m working up a pair of Speckled Space Socks by Amanda Stephens, which are proving to be really enjoyable. But enough about socks for now!

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Moving on to garments, I’ve finished my Norwegian wool Dalur (pictured at left), which I started in March for Tolt Icelandic Wool Month (and I blogged about my initial plans for it here). I’m planning a full FO post with proper photos for this one once my thesis is turned in, because I love this sweater and I love Norwegian wool and I want to give myself space to say everything I want to say. For now, just know that I’m super happy with how it came out and I look forward to sharing it with you properly. I do still have a greyscale garment on the needles, however – last month I finally cast on for my Bruntsfield vest (pictured right), another Ysolda pattern. I first swatched for it nearly a year ago last May, around the same time I swatched for my Sandneskofte, and I am absolutely loving how it’s working up – the colorwork has proven very addicting, even with the frequent color changes and spit splicing of yarn. I’m nearly through the main part of the body and will be adding steeks for the armholes and the V-neck soon. This one also happens to be Norwegian wool (Rauma Finullgarn) so even though it’s a very different garment, it feels like a cousin to my Dalur somehow.

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I’m wanting to clear my needles of old WIPs as well, so I recently picked up a project I started last year which has been hibernating for months and months: my Loess wrap (pattern by Christine de Castelbajac for Brooklyn Tweed), which I’m calling Sommarøya after a nearby island with beautiful turquoise waters whose name means “summer island.” This one’s a laceweight project, although it actually moves fairly quickly on US 5 / 3.75mm needles, so it feels like I could finish it this summer. I’m knitting it in a merino silk hand dyed yarn, Soft Like Kittens Nestling Lace, which is super beautiful. Annette of Soft Like Kittens stopped dying regularly a few years ago so I’m so pleased to have gotten one of the lace weight yarns she did (of which there weren’t all that many, I believe). The colorway is called Pool Tile, which only adds to the summer vibe of this project, and I’m really enjoying it. It’s going to be a lovely lightweight summer scarf when it’s finished.

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I have some upcoming projects on the brain as well. I’m planning a Zara tee in Quince & Co. Sparrow with one of the new marled shades, Mineral (I seriously adore these new Quince & Co. marls, you guys), and I’m planning to use the luxe Blue Sky Fibers Metalico in Platinum as my contrasting color. While that one will absolutely continue the greyscale garments trend I have going so far this year, the other planned project definitely bucks that trend and even gets me out of my usual color comfort zone entirely – I’m planning a Garland by Stefanie Pollmeier from Pom Pom issue 7 with some super gorgeous yak lace from welthase, which is a luxurious lace weight merino/silk/yak blend. I’ll be using the colorway Rosen, which is a subtle dusty pink that positively glows. Something about the spring months puts pink on my mind, even if it’s still too early for any kind of blossoms in Tromsø. This one will be my project for the Pomfest KAL, the knitalong taking place in conjunction with Pom Pom Quarterly‘s fifth anniversary celebrations – but more on that later!

Once I’ve laid it all out like that, it seems like an awful lot of knitting. But for various reasons we don’t really need to go into here, I’ve been seeking out comfort constantly lately, and for me that’s meant an hour or two of knitting before bed every night while listening to Harry Potter audiobooks. I can think of worse things, can’t you?

FO: sandneskofte

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I’ve been meaning to get around to this post for a long time, but I had to let go of my vision for a grand snow-related photoshoot to make it happen (in the midst of my master’s thesis, that’s really not realistic, even if I think this cardigan deserves a grand photoshoot). So I finally got some shots – just at home, by the window in my apartment – of my finished Sandneskofte. This was my last FO of 2016, finished just in time for Christmas, and I’ve been wearing it very regularly ever since then.

I’ve mentioned it on this blog a few times – here, for example – but if you weren’t following along in Instagram, I thought I’d share a few details. This pattern is from the Norwegian book 42 norske kofter (blogged here) and my version is heavily modified. First of all, it calls for fingering weight yarn but I substituted with a heavier yarn – Kate Davies’s absolutely gorgeous Scottish wool, Buachaille, in the shades Islay and Haar. This is a fantatsic wooly wool, and I am so excited to make more things using this yarn in the future – serious kudos to Kate for spearheading the production of such a beautiful domestic British wool yarn (sourced in Scotland, spun and dyed in Yorkshire).

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Like all traditional Norwegian kofter, this cardigan is knit in the round and then steeked to create the front opening and the armholes. The Buachaille did beautifully with the steeking (and no surprise there). For those who are interested in more construction details: the body and the arms are worked separately from the bottom up, and the sleeves are sewn into the armholes after the opening is made. The pattern is for a crew neck cardigan, but I opted for a V-neck, so I began decreases after reaching a certain point on the body. Stitches were bound off for the back neck, the front openings and the armholes were reinforced before being cut open (I used the crochet method, although a sewing machine is the typical tool used in Norway), and then the shoulders were seamed before the sleeves were sewn in. The stitches for the vertical button bands were put on hold after the bottom ribbing was finished, then when the rest of the cardigan was done, the stitches on hold were put back on the needles and the button bands were knit back and forth separate from the body before being sewn on. There was a lot of finishing work for this piece – right down to the eight buttons I sewed on the front.

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I originally intended to finish the steeked edges on the inside of the fabric with some decorative ribbon, but I never go around to it (for one thing, I never came up with a clever way to deal with the angle where the straight body bends to form the V-neck) and the unfinished edges have put up absolutely zero fuss, so I will most likely leave them as-is. In the photo above you can see the light grey yarn I used to work the crochet reinforcement where I’m folding it away from the fabric, but it normally sits flush (as it does in the bottom of the photo). The cut edges of the fabric haven’t budged, and I probably wear this cardigan a couple of times a week. I can heartily endorse using Buachaille for steeked projects!

Even though I would consider myself a fairly accomplished knitter, this project still managed to check several boxes on the list of firsts. This was my first allover stranded colorwork garment, my first time steeking a cardigan opening (I had steeked armholes, but never the front of a cardigan), and my first time knitting a vertical button band (and I was very grateful for Karen Templer’s “How to seam a button band” post). Even though colorwork is my usual wheelhouse, it goes to show there’s always room for building new skills.

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There are a few more photos of the details as well as several in-progress photos over on my Raverly project page, if you’re interested. This cardigan isn’t perfect, and there are things I would change if I were to knit it again, but I love this thing. The double thickness of the stranded fabric knit at a tight gauge means it’s quite warm and it’s been super useful all through the Norwegian winter, and I look forward to wearing it for years to come.

ETA: I should mention that Kate Davies will be at Edinburgh Yarn Festival this coming weekend, just in case you’re lucky enough to be going and you want to check out the yarn in person for yourself!

first snow and FOs

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Things have gotten very busy lately, but I wanted to pop in to say hello and share a few things.

First up: Pomcast, the podcast of knitting & crochet Pom Pom Quarterly, has a new episode up featuring an interview with me! I a live interview with Lydia at the Oslo Strikkefestival, though the audio unfortunately didn’t make it, so Sophie caught up with me via Skype after the fact (we largely covered the same questions, so don’t feel too sad if you missed out on the original interview, and don’t expect it to be wildly different if you happened to be there!). Still, it was fun to do an interview in a room full of lovely people knitting while we chatted and I enjoyed the novelty of wearing a “Britney Spears microphone,” as Lydia called it.

Secondly: while we’re on the topic of the Oslo Strikkefestival, I have a couple of FOs to share that I knit up using yarn I bought at the marketplace! I finished my Lupine shawl, which I wrote about in my last post, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out.

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The pattern is by Cory Ellen Boberg of Indie Knits and the yarn is the gorgeous gradient I picked up from Squirrel’s Yarns, which was one of my impulse purchases at the festival (the Pécan Fing base in the color Hématite). If you like gradient yarns, I can’t recommend Lisa’s gradients enough. The transitions are impossibly smooth and the finished shawl is so pretty to me in its simplicity.

The other FO is also knit up in one of my marketplace purchases: it’s a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig in the spælsau yarn I purchased from Værbitt. This was the first time I’ve knit with a 100% spælsau yarn, so I wanted to knit something simple that would get a lot of wear and let me really get a feel for the yarn knitted up in a fabric. I also didn’t want the pattern to compete with the subtle variation in the colorway.

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I have to say, I love the finished hat. This yarn’s a little bit rustic and it feels slightly wiry in the hand – it’s very strong – but it’s also surprisingly soft considering that, and when washed and blocked it developed a bit of a lovely halo that adds to that soft feel. This hat has gotten a lot of wear already and I think it’ll continue to do so.

Lastly: we’ve all been impatiently waiting for the snow in Tromsø, as last week we passed the previous record for the date of the first snowfall of the season (that means in recorded memory, it has never been as late as this year: yikes). But finally, on Saturday evening, the snow started falling. It kept coming down through Sunday, when I got to take a walk down to my favorite park. It’s nice to revisit the photos, because Tuesday turned suddenly warm again, bringing rain, and the snow started to melt almost immediately. Between the rain clouds and the fact that we bid farewell to the sun last week (it won’t rise again until January), it’s been very, very dark this week. Hopefully before too long it’ll cool down again and the snow will come back, but for now, enjoy these photos from Sunday’s walk.

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FO: fringe and friends top-down KAL

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This past week’s Slow Fashion October theme is HANDMADE, and for whatever reason I’m not finding myself in the right headspace to write about it. Maybe it’s because I feel like my style is in flux at the moment – I wrote about how moving to northern Norway and breaking my shoulder in March have both had an effect on my wardrobe. I make clothes by hand because at this point, I don’t know how to not make things by hand. There is an element of habit and compulsion that I’m in the process of reflecting on. So I’m still working on how to acquire new materials thoughtfully and with purpose; meditating on how to avoid buying too much, or things I don’t need. And while my stash doesn’t feel like a burden the way it did two years ago, there’s still a lot of it.

So I suppose when it comes to handmade, my priorities are a work in progress. Karen also brought attention to the handmade vs. homemade distinction, which I think is really interesting. For me, sometimes handmade is homemade (by me), but I’m also perfectly willing to invest in handmade clothes made by someone else for commercial production. I love small batch producers of ethical clothing. And since my forays back into sewing in the past few years have left me feeling a little frustrated (and I also no longer own a sewing machine), clothing handmade by small brands has real value to me. I am much less prone to excess when I’m spending a lot of money on a Jennifer Glasgow dress or a Curator top (or even a home-sewn dress from a vintage boutique). I’m forced to really think about how that piece will fit into my existing wardrobe or whether I’m buying a second version of something I already own, in a way that doesn’t always happen when I’m casting on for a new project. I find that a useful exercise. But all this starts pushing into next week’s topic, which is known origins, so let’s get back to handmade for the moment…

I already wrote that I jumped in on this year’s Fringe and Friends KAL almost on impulse after getting an idea for a stripe sequence that would use a buch of stash yarn. Just over two weeks ago I finally finished weaving in all the stripey ends and got that sweater blocked and seamed, and I’m so pleased with it that it’s hard not to just wear it every day.

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So here’s my Improv (I used Karen’s top-down tutorial on the Fringe blog). It’s really interesting to write about this sweater this week, with this handmade theme for Slow Fashion October. Part of why I went ahead and cast on for this sweater when I had planned to stick to WIPs was because it was something that could be made entirely with stash yarn – I mean, how many of us have stashes full of single skeins (or perhaps pairs of skeins) of yarns we fell in love with and bought without a plan? Most of us don’t have sweater quantities of single yarns in one color sitting around in our stashes. So a sweater entirely from stash – that felt like an exciting challenge. And sometimes the best time to jump in and start something is when you feel that spark. So I did! (And for the record, I’ve been doing pretty well at not casting on new things and working my way through those WIPs, so I’m giving myself a little pat on the back.)

I’ve written before that the idea for the stripe sequence was able to emerge in my head largely because I’ve started cataloguing stash on Ravelry – I’d handled these yarns in the recent past, I’d weighed them to note the amounts I had, and I’d photographed them. I’d also noticed that some of the colors went really well together. So once I got the idea, I was able to determine pretty quickly that I had more than enough yarn for a sweater. Looking at the exact amounts allowed me to finalize the stripe sequence – I had remainders of single skeins of three colors, and I had about two skeins each of two colors. Technically, these were all leftovers from other projects, though in some cases I overbought for the initial projects (or the original plan changed), leaving an unusual amount of yarn leftover.

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These are all worsted weight yarns – three of them are Berroco Ultra Alpaca (in Charcoal Mix, Heathered Olive, and Turqoise Mix), and two are Stonehedge Shepherd’s Wool Worsted (in Great Lakes and Blue Spruce). I wasn’t too concerned about mixing these bases even though one is a wool/alpaca blend and one is 100% merino, and since the vast majority is the Ultra Alpaca, it really didn’t matter in the end. Because I had the largest quantities of the Charcoal Mix and Heathered Olive, I worked stripes of both of those colors between each contrasting stripe. The distinction isn’t one you really see from far away, but up close the subtle effect reveals itself and I love what it does for this sweater.

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The finished sweater very closely resembles my original vision. There’s some subtle decreasing on the sleeves, but the body has no shaping. The bottom features a split hem. The one compromise I had to make in the end was the neck – when I imagined this sweater initially, I pictured a wide sort of foldover turtleneck (think Birch Bay), which seemed both posh and cozy and felt really inviting. But it became apparent really quickly as I worked my way through the sweater that it was very unlikely I’d have that much charcoal yarn leftover. I spent awhile thinking about whether to simply finish the neckline with the yarn I had or if it would be better to stay faithful to my initial vision and buy an extra skein of the charcoal to make the generous neck happen. (I also asked for your advice on Instagram at that point, and thank you all so much for your helpful feedback!) In the end I decided that I would rather not buy extra yarn – so much more satisfying for it to be entirely stash! – and just see how far the yarn I still had would get me. I also had the realization that practically, a simple open neck would be much more useful in my daily life than an oversized cowl/turtleneck, since I wanted to be able to wear this sweater inside, and I overheat really easily. And now that it’s done? I’m really, really happy with the neck of this sweater. It truly does fit seamlessly into my existing wardrobe. And I definitely knocked back my stash a little bit. The photo at the top shows the leftovers of each color – from left to right there’s Berroco Ultra Alpaca in Charcoal Mix, Heathered Olive, and Turqoise Mix, and then Shepherd’s Wool in Great Lakes and Blue Spruce.

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While I was knitting this sweater, I had dreams of photographing it in front of the beautiful golden birches, but by the time I got all the ends woven in, I’d kind of missed my window in Tromsø. The closest I got was this progress shot (above) during our trip in Nordland, when I was working my way through sleeve number two. (We’ll just have to use our imaginations. But you can see that it would’ve been great, right?!)

I learned a lot making this sweater. I learned about finding creative ways to use my stash to supplement my wardrobe. I learned a lot about why you might want to knit a sweater top-down (I’m still a steadfast bottom-up devotee, but now it’s easier for me to see which cases might call for top-down). And I learned that my original vision may not always be the best fit for my wardrobe, and that taking time to reflect on that will probably help me knit pieces that become staples (and don’t get frogged down the road). You can check out my Ravelry project page here, and I highly recommend taking a spin through the whole #fringeandfriendsKAL2016 feed to see everyone’s beautiful sweaters. They are all so different and all so special – thanks to everyone else for sharing along the way!

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slow fashion october: my first sweater

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This week’s topic for Slow Fashion October is LONG WORN. It’s an interesting one and there are a lot of different ways to approach this topic, particularly when it comes to shopping second-hand or thrifting. And I do have a handful of vintage or second-hand pieces that I might decide to write about, but my wardrobe has been in a nearly constant state of flux for the past few years, as I moved in with a partner and got married (and started sharing closets and dressers for the first time in my life) and also saw a natural evolution in my style and how I use it to express my identity. I’m hoping that’s starting to even out a little bit and I’ll be seeing a slightly more stable wardrobe, with less pieces moving in or out, but because of all of that I thought it would make sense to write about one piece that I’m very unlikely to get rid of: the first sweater I ever knit.

Truth be told, I came very, very close to letting this one go last Christmas in the midst of a clothing purge. It was my partner who talked be out of it, actually. “Firsts are important,” he told me, and he was right (he still has his first guitar). Ten months on, I’m really glad I kept it. I was kind of shocked to realize exactly how long I’ve had it, once I started thinking about it; I made this sweater in 2007, which means it was nine years old this summer.

Ten years ago my relationship with knitting was very different, unsurprisingly. I learned to knit as a kid but it didn’t totally catch on for me until around 2005/2006, when suddenly there were new, hip knitting books being published (it was the age of Stitch ‘n Bitch), I was regularly reading Bust Magazine, and there was a crafty community emerging online – I eagerly anticipated each new issue of Knitty (still going strong!) and I remember taking part in the Craftster forums. I had yet to discover local yarn stores and was still using lots of acrylic or acrylic-blend yarns from big-box craft stores and prior to this sweater I’d really only knit scarves. Lots and lots of ribbed scarves. I hadn’t even tried out knitting a hat yet (I was afraid of knitting in the round for a long time). I’d received a copy of Stitch ‘n Bitch from my mom for Christmas at some point and eventually decided I wanted to make the Big Sack Sweater by Jenna Wilson, which looked cozy and inviting.

Since it was nearly a decade ago I remember very little of the decision-making process or how long it took me to knit the thing (I’m pretty sure it was months, though). What I do remember is that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. The Big Sack Sweater calls for bulky yarn, but I picked out a worsted weight 100% acyrlic at the craft store. I definitely didn’t swatch, so it seems like a miracle that I ended up with something that basically fits. The sweater’s other flaws are easy to point out: I didn’t know I should track my rows for the sleeves in order to make them the same, so I “estimated” (one sleeve is two inches longer than the other). There’s an accidental m1 increase right in the front of the sweater. My picked-up stitches for the neckline are a mess. The sweater is worked flat in pieces and then seamed, and my seams are maybe the sloppiest I’ve ever seen. I didn’t weave in the ends for years, literal years. But in spite of all of that, I was very proud and I loved this thing. And even though I would make very, very different decisions if I were knitting this sweater today (particularly with regard to yarn), I still love this thing and I do still wear it sometimes, even here in Tromsø, even though I have lots of handmade wool jumpers to choose from. I no longer have the second or third sweaters I made, but nine years on, I recognize the importance of this first for me, and it seems unlikely to leave my wardrobe for good, even if it falls out of regular rotation sometimes.

More on the “long-worn” topic later, perhaps. For now, I’m happy that this is one of the pieces that’s been in my wardrobe for the longest.

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project updates

Since the whole idea of my queue check of sorts from a few weeks back was to hold myself accountable to my plan, I figured I’d post a follow up! I’ll start with the good news:

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I finished the Hugin and Munin mittens! As I mentioned in the earlier post, these only needed thumbs, so once I had time to sit down and chart them out, the knitting itself was pretty quick. I’m so pleased with how these turned out, and even more pleased that they’re finally done! The Rauma Finullgarn is so fantastic for mittens, and since these are knit at a fine gauge (on US 1 / 2.25mm needles) they’ll be very warm.

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I also powered through and finished my Inglis Mitts in time to wear them this year before it’s too cold! Already I’m wearing them without the top folded down a majority of the time, so they’re extra long. My project page now also incredibly has an absurd number of faves on Ravelry, since Sarah featured my mitts in a community eye candy post on the Ravelry blog (thanks Sarah!). And if you’ve been eyeing the Inglis Mitts but didn’t get the Edinburgh Yarn Fest magazine in which they were originally published, I’m really happy to be able to let you know that they’re now available as an individual pattern on Ravelry.

I’ve also made some progress on my Dunaway scarf, though I have yet to finish it. I think that’s probably top of the priority list now.

The neutral news: I haven’t touched my Sandneskofte since I last posted about it, but I still have plenty of time to finish it before the Oslo Knitting Festival, so I’m not too worried about that.

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The curve ball: many of you probably saw on Instagram that I did end up casting on something new after all. It was one of those times where you get an idea in your head and it just takes hold – I tried to push it to the back of my mind for later, but this was one was stubborn. I got an idea for a stripe sequence that would use up a bunch of worsted weight yarn in my stash and I couldn’t get it out of my head. After a couple of days of trying not to think about it, I gave in and decided to work up a little swatch to test the sequence of stripes to see if it would work out in real life the way it was working out in my head. And oh, it did. I wrote last time about how satisfying it is to find a happy marriage of stash yarn and pattern, and once I saw that this stripe sequence would work, imagining the sweater I could use it on was the easiest thing imaginable. And so I threw caution to the wind. I decided to join in on this year’s Fringe and friends KAL with my stripes, so I’m working my way through an improvised top-down pullover. To make it go quickly so as not to disrupt my existing project plans too much, I’ve worked the whole thing seamlessly in the round, with purl columns on the sides of the body in case I want to seam the sides. Stockinette in the round is my speediest knitting, and on US 8 / 5mm needles it is flying along. It’s ready for the sleeves, but I think I’ll knit those flat.

I’d like to wrap this up soon, but I think I should finish the Dunaway scarf first! And so that’s my planned weekend knitting. What will you be working on this weekend?