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.

fringe hatalong

I was hoping to get this post up last week, but it’s been so busy with the semester start I’m only just getting it up!

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know I love the Fringe Hatalong series Karen is running this year, so when she got in touch with me to design pattern #4, I was thrilled! Let me introduce you to Laurus:

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Laurus is a free pattern available as a PDF download from the Fringe website right here. Most of the pertinent info is included in the Fringe blog post, including some info about swatching, knitting from a colorwork chart, and our featured charity for this pattern, Hats and More for War-Torn Syria. I don’t want to overlap too much with Karen’s post, but I did want to share some more about this pattern and how we arrived at it.

The recommended yarn is Quince & Co. Lark, one of my very favorites. I love the Quince & Co. concept, since their wools (and their new cotton yarn, Willet) are all grown and produced domestically in the United States, with an emphasis on sustainable practices. Lark is a worsted weight 100% wool yarn available in 55 different colors (at current count). I chose Lark for the pattern not just because I love it (though I do), but also because I find the built in “compare” tool on the Quince website particularly useful when choosing yarns for a colorwork project. On any of the yarn pages on the Quince site if you click “compare colors” underneath the large photo at left, you’re able to view up to five colorways side by side. Genius!

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One of the things I strive to do as a designer and a teacher is to emphasize the creative possibilities of modifications and the differences our creative decisions can make for our finished object. Since many folks knitting this hat for the hatalong may be doing colorwork for the first time (or have limited experience with colorwork), I suggested to Karen that we work up the hat in two different versions – but both versions would use the same two colorways, and simply swap the main color and contrasting color. I think this completely changes the feel of the hat, even though both samples use the same two colors.

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I wanted to illustrate that color placement within a project makes a huge difference – and that’s something you may not be able to visualize when looking at two skeins of yarn side by side. Swatching is a great way to work out what two colors might look like for your chosen pattern, but colored pencils and graph paper can also be a useful visualization tool.

We released the pattern last Thursday, but several speedy knitters have already worked up their hats! I’ve seen a version that omits the stripes and I’ve also seen a version that takes the Laurus chart and uses it on a Moon Sprites hat instead – both clever and creative, two things I enjoy the most when browsing FOs! I love watching the projects progress, and you can share (or just browse) Fringe hatalong projects everywhere with the tag #fringehatalong.

I encourage you to give this hat a try even if you’ve never done colorwork – this pattern’s a great starting point with only 7 rounds of colorwork and it’s a simpler and more repetitive motif than it appears to be at first glance. I’ll be on hand to answer any questions I see popping up as well. I can’t wait to see your hats!

All photos by Kathy Cadigan.