a few summer knits

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I thought after my last post sharing some summertime snaps, I’d share what I’ve been knitting on for the past month or so as well. There’s actually been very little knitting for the past few days, as much of Norway has seen temps up and over 30°C (or 85°F), which is unusually warm here. My apartment gets full sun throughout the afternoon (the hottest part of the day) until the sun sets (currently around 10:30 PM), so I definitely haven’t been feeling too inspired to knit. But I can still get in a few stitches in the mornings, like I have this morning, when there’s a cool breeze blowing through the open windows.

While I always have a lot of projects on the go, many of my WIPs are still packed up in boxes along with my stash. We’re actually in a short-term rental for the time being, and will be finding long-term housing early this fall, so all our things will remain in storage until then. I think I have enough knitting to tide me over until then, though, since I thought ahead about what to pack in my suitcase.

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First up is actually a design that will hopefully be launching soon. This one has been in the works for awhile, and this is the second sample I’m knitting for the pattern, which will be for a tee or summer sweater (depending ons leeve length). The first version was lambswool hand-dyed by Ninapetrina, but this one is a slightly more summery blend of yarns. The grey yarn is Amirisu Parade (generously given to me by Amirisu earlier this year), a blend of 60% wool, 20% cotton, 10% linen, and 10% silk. It’s soft, has a lovely drape, and the blend gives this color a lovely heathered appearance. I’ve paired it with Quince & Co. Tern (75% wool/25% silk) for the contrast, in the Backbay colorway. You can find my Ravelry project page for this one here, although it’ll be lacking some information until the pattern comes out.

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I’ve also cast on for a pair of socks since arriving here, with yarn I brought with me. I’m knitting the Pebbles and Pathways socks by Marceline Smith (aka heybrownberry), who I had the chance to meet earlier this year in Edinburgh. Marce is so absolutely lovely, and I love that working on these socks makes me think of that trip and meeting Marce and so many other wonderful knitters. Some projects are like a warm hug, you know? I love the simplicity of this design and I’m really enjoying how it works up in this yarn, Blacker Yarns Mohair Blends 4-ply, a blend of Hebridean and Manx wools with mohair. It’s a woolen spun 2-ply yarn, and when I purchased it from The Woolly Thistle they let me know that Blacker is no longer recommending this yarn for socks (although their website doesn’t appear to have been updated to reflect that). Given the woolen spun structure I imagine it hasn’t worn as well as some people would like. But I’m not afraid of a little bit of mending, so I thought I’d use it for socks anyway and see for myself how it wears. In my experience with sock knitting, the gauge of the fabric matters nearly as much as whether or not a sock yarn has nylon in it. If I wear these socks often I expect I will get holes eventually, but that’s been true for all of my socks. So we shall see! You can find my project page here.

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Another pattern that went straight into my queue when it was released earlier this year was the Granskog tee by Renate Yerkes, designed for this years Oslo Knitting Festival magazine (although it is available as an individual pattern as well). This pattern features tree motifs worked in lace at the hem, and I just think it’s so clever and I love the effect. When I realized that this would be a pretty perfect pattern for two skeins of apple green yarn given to me by my friend Kristin, I made sure to stash those skeins in my suitcase so I could cast on for it this summer. I thought the lace might be a slog to get through, but on the contrary, I was so excited to see the trees emerge that I just wanted to keep knitting. I’m using Norwegian wool yarn from Sjølingstad Uldvarefabrik, an old wool mill in southern Norway that is both museum and functioning mill today. My project page is here.

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And finally, one afternoon a week or two ago I took the ferry over to Munkholmen, a small island in the Trondheimfjord, just a ten minute boat ride from the city center. The island has lived many lives, including being a monastery, a prison, and a fortress at different points in history, but these days it’s mostly a nice place for an outing, with plenty of green grass for a picnic, a little beach for swimming/bathing, and a few facilities on site like a cafe and a shop. I had a wander through the shop (called Munkholmen Galleri) which featured all kinds of things from local artists and makers, and got very excited when I stumbled into a corner with sheepskins and a basket of yarns in three natural colors – all from the grey Trøndersau. There was a light grey, a medium grey, and a natural black (which like most natural black yarns is a warm, deep chocolately brown in some lights). I thought picking up a skein of the lightest grey and the natural black would be a good idea, and hopefully enough to make a pair of mittens. Trøndelag, the county where Trondheim is situated, is also the home of Selbu, which is of course home to the tradition of Selbu mittens. The thought of making myself a pair of Selbu-style mittens with local wool from a rare local breed? I couldn’t resist. So when I got home, I had a browse through some existing patterns, but nothing quite captured what I was after. So I drew up my own chart. This is pretty heavy wool – I’d say aran weight, at least – so these are the thickest Selbu mittens I’ve ever made. But I’m knitting them at a dense gauge so they should be very warm in the winter! I’ll probably share more about these later, but for now you can find the project page here.

So there’s a glimpse at some of the projects I’ve been working on this summer. I know we’re hardly the only ones who have been experiencing a heat wave – how are you keeping cool, if the summer’s been hot where you are?

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:

noteworthy: nordic knitting & wool

I’ve been collecting some interesting links and resources in the past couple of months related to Norwegian wool and knitting and the Nordic wool scene more broadly – and I thought it’d be nice to share a few of them with you here.

First up: I wrote recently about the fantastic Bladet Garn, a new Norwegian (and Norwegian language) knitting mag that I’m super excited about. Another new Nordic magazine has joined the scene as of December, and those of you who aren’t Norwegian speakers may have already heard about it, because this one’s published in English: Laine Magazine, which is based in Finland (incidentally, “laine” is the French word for wool but apparently means “wave” in Finnish – I would be curious to hear more about the choice of name from the creators). Laine is dark but rich; luxurious and beautiful, like the last rays of sun coming through the trees of a forest in winter. I finally got a copy this week and while both the magazine and the patterns are gorgeous, the “& lifestyle” part of the “knit & lifestyle magazine” might get me the most excited: articles covering topics like a farm in western Finland dedicated to two domestic sheep breeds (pictured above), a feature on Helga Isager, a travel guide to Lisbon with its color and pattern inspiration, an interview with Stephen West, and some seriously delicious-looking recipes (chocolate cake with dried flowers and flaked sea salt, anyone?) – and that’s not even covering everything. In a way it’s much more like a book than a magazine, justifying the cost, which makes it somewhat of a luxury. But it is the perfect luxury for a long, slow weekend morning and I can’t wait to spend some more time with the articles. My favorite patterns from issue one include Piece of Silver by Veera Välimäki and Siv by Heid Alander, but you can check out all of the patterns on Ravelry here. Laine is set to be published twice a year, I believe, and you can keep up with them on Instagram, or find a stockist near you on their website.

Simone of Temple of Knit has started a new interview series on her blog called Nordic Makers, with the intent to share conversations with the people and the businesses shaping her “immediate fiber world” – or more specifically, the fiber community that spans the Nordic region (Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and to an extent, Greenland). Simone herself is a Dane living in southern Sweden, and her first interview of the series is with Louisa Bond, a Norwegian based in Oslo, whose blog Worn Values is a welcome addition to my daily blog reader. I highly recommend checking out Louisa’s blog as well as Simone’s, and Simone’s introduction post to her Nordic Makers series is a good one to read, too. Louisa’s recent posts on three ways to mend your knits and this guide to ethical shoes were both particularly interesting and useful.

Husfliden, the Norwegian Folk Art and Craft Association, is putting on a conference about Norwegian wool this April: Ullialt – Konferanse om norsk ull. This one is definitely for Norwegian speakers, and with my thesis work I doubt I’ll be able to go (sadly!), but it’s taking place April 20-23 in Stjørdal, just outside Trondheim (effectively right next to the Trondheim airport). The description roughly reads: “We invite the whole wool supply chain to come and join in as we build enthusiasm and knowledge about Norwegian wool – in industry, in design, in agriculture and handicrafts. How can Norwegians make better use of our own domestic wool?” It’s exactly the sort of thing I get excited about, so I hope this won’t be a one-off thing. Hat-tip to Norwegian wool hero Tone Tobiasson for the heads up.

These natural grey wool fabrics from Norway Cloth / Varp og Veft are making my heart flutter. The wool comes from Grey Trønder sheep (Grå Trøndersau) and both the yarn and the fabric are produced here in Norway. It’s almost enough to make me want to give sewing another proper try… But on a related note, if you want to get a feel for the wool from the Trønder sheep, Selbu Spinneri sells trøndersau yarns (although I don’t know what their international shipping policy is). In any case, this particular pattern is my favorite of the fabrics from Norway Cloth. They also sell finished objects made from the fabrics, like cushions.

There’s more to share, but I’ll save that for another day!