l’hiver est arrivé

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Montreal has already had two snowstorms this month, so winter has definitely arrived in this corner of the world. It feels early here, and even though I love winter I admittedly love it less in this city than I did in Norway, so there is a small sigh along with winter’s arrival. Nonetheless, I will aim to make the best of it. December is nearly upon us (tomorrow!), so we’re entering the season of twinkling lights and joy and love and that is something to celebrate.

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I do love the transformational power of fresh snow, and will go out of my way to seek it out in this city of millions. (I’m very grateful for parks.)

At any rate, I wanted to pop in to tell you about a couple of exciting things that happened in the month of November. The first is that I was finally able to unveil a pattern I’ve been very excited about since I first knit it last December – I have a hat design in the new book from Kate DaviesMilarrochy Heids.

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My hat (or heid, a Scots word for “head”) is called Caithness, and it uses five shades of Kate’s lovely yarn Milarrochy Tweed. Unlike most of Kate’s books, which are full of her own lovely designs, Milarrochy Heids features 15 hat patterns from 13 designers, all worked up in Milarrochy Tweed, a fingering weight blend of 70% wool and 30% mohair in a palette of 15 shades. I actually purchased the initial pack of 12 shades that was available when the yarn was introduced, and that is what I used to knit my Caithness. The yarn comes in 25 g balls, and the pack had one ball of each color, so it was absolutely perfect for colorwork. I had first planned to self-publish this design, but then Kate asked about including it in a book of hat patterns she was planning at the time and I was over the moon. And so here we are!

Some of you will know I’ve been a huge fan of Kate’s for a very long time, and I’ve followed her forays into yarn production (and ready-to-wear) with great enthusiasm. It means a great deal to me to be included in this book alongside so many other wonderfully creative designers. I highly encourage you to go check out the other patterns here on Ravelry – it’s hard to pick a favorite but I might have to make myself a Tarradale at some point.

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The response to Milarrochy Heids has been phenomenal, and team KDD have unexpectedly already sold out of hard copies of the book in the pre-order period. More copies are on the way, but in the meantime, many local yarn stores will be receiving copies from the first print run, so if you didn’t pre-order but you’d like a copy before Christmas, I’d suggest checking with local stores, or those that ship orders! I should also mention that the KDD shop has put together yarn kits for every pattern in the book – you can find the yarn kit for Caithness here, and the others are all listed in the “yarn” section of Kate’s shop. Note that the yarn kits are the yarn only – you still need the book (or e-book) for the patterns.

I’ve been wearing my Caithness all autumn long and while Milarrochy Tweed is a relatively fine yarn, it’s a surprisingly warm hat, probably in part thanks to the mohair in it. It’s been such a joy to finally share it with you all.

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The other exciting bit of information is that I was featured as a guest on the “Knitters of the World” segment of the Fruity Knitting video podcast in their most recent episode (66: Uradale Yarns & Taatit Rugs). If you’re not familiar with Fruity Knitting, it’s an incredibly well-produced video podcast on YouTube, featuring heaps of fascinating interviews and information. Andrea and Andrew are wonderful hosts and I always learn something watching their show. Being a guest on this segment means I got to talk about a few of my favorite pieces I’ve knit, and in my case, it’s a mix of my own designs (like my Ebba, which I’m holding up in the screenshot above) as well as things I’ve knit from other people’s patterns. It was a treat to be included! You can check out the show notes for the episode here to get a sense of everything this episode included, and you can watch the full episode here (my segment starts around the 41:00 mark, but I do encourage you to watch the whole thing!).

I hope you’re all doing well as we move into the busy tail end of the year. Remember to breathe deeply, and to take a moment for yourself now and then.

new pattern: alice mittens

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This new mitten design is called the Alice Mittens, and I’m going to tell you about them in a minute, but first I have to tell you a little bit about their namesake.

A year ago this week, my family lost my beloved grandmother Alice, who was one of the kindest, sweetest human beings on the planet. It was neither sudden nor surprising – she had been living with cancer in addition to other health problems for a long time – and it was some small relief to know that she was no longer suffering, but none of that knowledge makes it any easier to deal with when the day you know is coming finally arrives. I was in Norway, and it was a sunny Friday afternoon when I got the tearful call from my folks. My husband had left just that morning for a work trip, and while I had mentally prepared myself for the possibility of getting that call during the few weeks he’d be away traveling, I hadn’t expected it to happen the day he left. The apartment felt very, very quiet, and I felt very alone. I remember going down the hill to the florist that day to buy some yellow tulips, which I brought back home and put in a vase, and then I sat down and tried to figure out what on earth to do with myself. (The answer was: knit and listen to Harry Potter audiobooks, my two ultimate comforts. I did a lot of that in the weeks that followed.)

This is all background information for the new pattern that I’m sharing with you today. Grandma always adored any of the stranded colorwork mitts and mittens I knit for myself or others – they might have been her favorite thing of all the things I knit. She expressed more than once her desire to have a pair of her own, but I didn’t get around to actually knitting her a pair of mittens until her last few months of life, and perhaps when I look back that’s how I know that I could tell her time was coming – I knew if I was ever going to knit mittens for her, it needed to happen right then. She did receive them before she died, but I don’t know if she ever even got to wear them. But on some level, that doesn’t actually matter – she loved them so much regardless, and they hung on the wall of her hospice room where she could admire them all the time.

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When I started working on a new mitten design a few months ago, using one of my favorite yarns (Buachaille by Kate Davies) and a favorite motif, too (you might recognize the flower on these mittens as being the same one used in Ebba‘s colorwork), it didn’t take me long to realize that these should be called the Alice Mittens. Grandma would have absolutely adored these mittens, and I only wish I could show them to her now.

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Losing my grandmother to cancer is not a unique story. I’m sure many (if not most) of you reading this have had your lives touched by cancer in some way or another. I feel incredibly fortunate that my grandmother had access to the incredible care and medication that she did for as long as she needed it, something which I have never taken for granted since I am incredibly fortunate that my mother, who was diagnosed with lung cancer twenty years ago (when I was but ten years old), is still living and healthy today. Cancer research is a cause near and dear to the hearts of my family. My mother has walked in the local Relay for Life, a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society, nearly ever year for the past two decades, as a way to give back to an organization that helped our family get through both  the emotional and the financial challenges of dealing with cancer. When I was a teenager, I used to walk with my mother, but that becomes harder when we live hundreds or thousands of miles apart. So this year, in memory of my grandmother Alice, I’m going to help her raise money for the ACS by donating 50% of the proceeds from the first week of sales of the Alice Mittens to my mother’s fundraiser. That means 50% of the money made through the end of Sunday, April 8 will go directly to her Relay for Life fundraiser page, which goes to the American Cancer Society. You can purchase the Alice Mittens (as well as find all of the practical info) here on Ravelry.

If you have no need of mittens, I’d encourage you to donate directly to the cancer organizations in your area. If you don’t have the funds to spare, there are always other ways to help. My mother volunteers at the hospital where her cancer surgery was performed, and as she knits too she cranks out chemo caps like nobody’s business.

I also want to give a special shout-out to Eli of Skeindeer Knits, who was part of the inspiration for these mittens in more ways than one. Eli is hosting a year-long stranded mitten/mitt knitalong this year, called the Year Long Mitt-Along, and that definitely jumpstarted my mitten chart exploration. Eli also recently lost her grandmother (which she shared on her podcast), and has designed a beautiful pair of stranded mitts in her honor – I believe that pattern will be ready very soon, so keep an eye out on her Instagram page for the Farmor mitts, because she’ll definitely announce the release there once it’s ready.

Thanks for letting me get a little bit personal here today, and I hope you like the mittens as much as I do.

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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!

project planning

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I’m a big fan of Karen Templer’s Queue Check posts over at Fringe, and if I’m honest it’s prompted me to assess the state of my own knitting queue with an eye towards prioritization and realistic expectations. (That sentence may be one of the least romantic things I’ve ever written about knitting on this blog, but I know some of you out there can relate – with perpetual startitis and too many projects on the needles at once.) Looking at my actual planned projects with a practical eye is one of those things that helps inspire me to knit the things I really want to knit, and that I really want to wear.

The other thing prompting me to think this way about my knitting has been coming to terms with the state of my yarn stash over the past year after moving into a 500 square foot apartment with my husband. There’s a lot of yarn that I’m frankly never going to get to, especially as I continue acquiring new and exciting Norwegian yarns that I want to explore and share. But I’d also really like to find the stuff in my stash that I can use to make the things I want, so I’m thinking about pattern choices, yarns, and project timelines much more critically than I used to. I know I will still occasionally throw caution to the wind and cast on something new that gets me excited – but it’s way more awesome when that happens because I’ve finally found the right pattern for that skein of laceweight yarn I bought several years ago (I’m looking at you, Loess). That kind of experience is great. So I’m moving toward an approach that allows room for that, but that also has some more structure than I typically employ now.

At the moment, I’ve got 13 projects on Ravelry listed as WIPs. While I know people with far more than that, I sometimes get jealous of the monogamous knitters who stick with one (or maybe two) projects at a time. Even though I’m already planning future projects, I know I’d like to work my way through finishing up some of these existing ones first. Some are close – a pair of mittens that only needs thumbs, for example, or small projects that come in pairs (mitts, socks) where the first of a pair just needs its mate. Some are larger, like the Sandneskofte I’m knitting in Buachaille (pictured above). I think at this point that I actually find the prioritizing pretty easy, but sticking to my plan is the hard part. So in the interest of trying to hold myself to some sort of plan as well as actually sharing some projects-in-progress on the blog, here’s a sort of State of the Knitting Address.

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Short term goals include finishing the thumbs on these Hugin and Munin mittens in Rauma Finullgarn. This should be the easiest thing in my WIP pile, but the catch is that I designed these myself (the ravens come from my university’s seal) and I haven’t actually charted the thumbs yet (oops). Once I sit down and decide on the charts, however, I should be able to knock these out super quick. And then I can wear them! Hooray! I definitely don’t want to go another winter with these as a nearly-done WIP.

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I’d also like to wrap up my Inglis Mitts in Ysolda’s Blend No. 1 relatively soon, because they’re going to be really useful in just a few short weeks. In fact, I expect September and October to be prime time for these mitts, and if I don’t have them done by then they won’t really be useful again until spring. No time to waste!

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Lastly, I’d like to wrap up the Dunaway scarf I’ve started for my husband in time for him to wear it before the weather gets really cold; and I’d like to finish my Sandneskofte (pictured at top) in time to wear to the Oslo Strikkefestival in November. Dunaway is lovely mindless knitting, perfect for TV and movie-watching, and the Sandneskofte is actually farther along than that photo shows (I’m at the point, in fact, where I need to decide whether or not I’d like to make it a V-neck). That makes these goals all feel relatively achievable in the next couple of months, even though they’re going to be busy. As long as I stick to the plan!

Is your queue out of control or do you like to stick with one project at a time? Do you have project management strategies when you want to knit all the things? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

new year

It’s been a surreal start for 2016. Here’s a glimpse:

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Emma Watson started an online feminist book club (it’s called Our Shared Shelf, and you can join the group on Goodreads, if that’s at all appealing). I read most of the first book, Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, on a flight to London over the weekend. My route back to Tromsø included an overnight stay in London where I got to hang out with Lydia of Pom Pom and some lovely folks at Loop. I didn’t take any pictures until the train ride to Gatwick (that always happens these days), but I had a lot of fun. I love London.

Monday morning I woke up at six (thanks, jet lag) and spent some quiet time hanging out in the tiny bed in my tiny hotel room. It was there that I learned about Bowie’s passing, via Twitter. It felt absolutely unreal, and then I was just sad. It’s still surreal.

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I finished My Life on the Road in the first hour of my flight from London to Tromsø. It was really, really excellent. I tweeted about this, and then Emma Watson replied and retweeted me (!). I’ve now had a (very) tiny glimpse of what it’s like to be a celebrity on Twitter, and I’m grateful that’s not my reality. Not only do I have a lot of respect and admiration for Emma, but she’s an actress near my age who I watched grow up on screen, so the surreal score is off the charts for seeing my tweet right there at the top of her feed.

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I’m back in snowy, dark Tromsø now and the beauty of this place at this time of year is as surreal as ever. The days have been clear since I got back and the light’s been incredible. In less surreal news, I’ve started classes for the new term and already have a stack of reading to do, but I’ve managed to get in a few stitches here and there on some small projects. I’m sensing a color theme; it might have something to do with the light outside. I love these wintry blues. Also, now that I’m thinking about it, the fern pattern and the tree motif have quite a lot in common…

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The embroidery is a kit I bought last summer at Urban Craft Uprising, from Studio MME. It’s one of those fantastic and simple little kits where the pattern is printed right on the fabric so the stitching is relatively mindless but the end result is stunning (I’m sort of halfway through, so if you look very closely you can see the difference between my stitches and the printed bit I have yet to embroider). You can find this particular kit in their online shop (although it appears that it’s now being sold with a round hoop, instead of the oval one I got). The knitting is another kit, a Toatie Hottie by Kate Davies. The pattern is for a hot water bottle cozy and the kit (not currently available in Kate’s shop) came with yarn and pattern plust a mini-hot water bottle just for that purpose. I bought the kit ages ago and have actually used the hot water bottle several times, but I’m using it more regularly in Tromsø and I thought it was about time I actually knit the thing. I managed to knit most of it in an evening, getting through the whole chart with just the top bit and ribbing left.

september bits

September second marked one month in Tromsø for me. It also seems to be a seasonal milestone: in the past week there’s been a noticeable change in the weather, almost like someone’s flipped a switch. The air outside feels fresh and brisk. A few of the eager birches are starting to turn golden yellow, and the colors on the mountainsides have (just barely) started shifting from green to bronze. I turned on the heat in my apartment for the first time this week. As someone who grew up in North Carolina, where it always felt like it took aaages for fall to come around (especially since people started talking about it in August), I have to admit I’m enjoying the early shift. I’m already looking forward to snow appearing on the mountains nearby, and I’m very curious to see when the first snow in the city will be this year. We shall see!

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In an attempt to bottle up some of the remaining arctic summer, I made red currant jelly this week. I got the idea from Unlikely Pairing and then loosely followed the instructions on this blog. Highly recommended. Otherwise I’ve still been working on settling into the new apartment (we finally got some of the art up on the walls) and focusing on school. I’ve been scoping out study spots and I’m pretty sure I’ve found my favorite on campus.

For those who are curious about what it is I’m doing in school, I wanted to point you toward this bit on BBC Radio 4 (streamable online through the end of the month). It’s an episode of Fry’s English Delight – and I love Stephen Fry – called English Plus One, all about bilingualism. The area I’m planning to focus on for my thesis is bilingual language acquisition in children, which is one of the topics that comes up. It’s a half hour segment and interesting stuff for anyone who’s interested in language.

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Finally, I’ve actually been able to start knitting again regularly! Some days it’s a few minutes and others it could be an hour or two, but it’s been so nice to be able to unwind with knitting again. The change in weather has certainly helped encourage me to pick it up this week.

And speaking of knitting, some pieces of knitting news:

– Karen has highlighted some of the creative mods knitters have made to Laurus over on the Fringe blog. You know I love mods, so I loved this post!

– If you’ve ever wanted to knit yourself a Sundottir but you’ve been putting it off for whatever reason, you might want to join in on Fern Fiber’s Sundottir KAL! Cast-on date is September 23rd and you can get the pattern for 10% off if you’re joining in. Fern Fiber is a natural dye company run by Maria and Nikki (who you’ve probably heard before if you listen to the Woolful podcast – they’re frequent Man on the Street contributors) and they’ll also offering a limited number of yarn kits in the colors of your choice for the KAL. You can read up on the KAL details in their Ravelry group and check out the listing for the naturally dyed yarn kits on Etsy.  Fern Fiber hail from North Carolina (my home state!) and I’m so excited they’ve put this KAL together. It makes me wish I had time to take part (or that I needed another Sundottir).

– Have you heard that Kate Davies has developed a yarn? I’m ecstatic about this news! It’s called Buchaille and you can read all about it on her blog in a series of posts – everything from how they sourced the fiber (all Scottish), where is was scoured and prepped for spinning (with a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility), what kinds of colors will be included in the line, and more. There will, of course, be a collection of patterns to accompany the release of the yarn.

a new year, tutorials, and yokes

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Happy 2015! I hope everyone’s new year has gotten off to a good start. I must admit since getting home (and it is so good to be home again) that I’ve been swept up in the new-year-fresh-slate-mindset a little bit. I decided to give in to that impulse this year, knowing that some of the changes I’ve made this first week/month of the year will stick, and some won’t; some will probably come and go depending on the weather/my mood/the time of year/any other number of things. It’s hard not to feel good about taking steps to make positive changes in my life, though. Three mornings in a row of yoga (which is kicking my butt but still manages to make me feel amazing) followed by a huge green smoothie feels like a great start, even if I can’t keep it up every day moving forward.

I’ve been slowly working my way back into work this week – I always have a hard time getting back into a good work flow after traveling – so there’s been a lot more studio organizing and a lot less hands-on work. The good news is that’s given me a chance to start planning a schedule for the tutorials I’m hoping to start posting soon. I’m aiming to address a lot of the most common questions I get about my patterns, so there will be a definite focus on colorwork! I’m hoping to cover things like different provisional cast ons and grafting together ends (used for Pine Bough Cowl and Inkling), working the thumb gusset increases for a Norwegian-style mitt/mitten (as in Seven Stars), as well as some more general colorwork stuff like how to trap long floats and ways to combat tight colorwork. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to see me cover, please let me know! I’ll make sure to add it to my list.

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One of the most exciting things about getting home was finally being able to crack into my copy of Yokes, the beautiful new book by Kate Davies I’ve been posting about. I have no idea which sweater I’ll knit first, or even when I’ll have time to cast on for one, but in the meantime the wonderful essays should keep me busy! I had the opportunity to read through the second chapter, “Greenlanders and Norwegians,” in advance; Kate and I did some writing back and forth about this topic and I was able to translate a few small pieces of one of the chapters in Ren Ull to help her find some information she was missing about some iconic Norwegian yokes. It was a thrill after helping her with the research to see how amazingly she tied everything together and was able to draw through-lines I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, and I’m so excited to read the other pieces of writing in the book. Thank you so much to Kate for the engaging conversations and for putting such a wonderful book out into the world.

You can view all 11 patterns from Yokes on Ravelry, and you can purchase your own copy here.