nordic knitting conference / hearth slippers for tolt yarn and wool

It was a whirlwind weekend, but I had such an amazing time at the Nordic Knitting Conference a week and a half ago! It was the biggest conference yet, and it was such a treat to be teaching alongside such a fantastic roster of teachers. I’m incredibly grateful to my truly wonderful students for making such a busy weekend such a joy, as well. My five classes flew by, and nothing makes my day quite like a satisfied student’s sincere thank you on their way out the door. I also want to make sure to say thanks to the Nordic Heritage Museum for having me, and I hope to have the opportunity to work with the museum on events in the future.

One of the funny things about being an instructor at an event like this is that I didn’t actually see very much of my fellow teachers, but I did get to hear Arne & Carlos, our headliners, speak at the banquet. If you ever get the chance to take a class or see these guys speak, do it. It’s difficult to overstate how funny and engaging they are, and I was in stitches all night.

I was busy enough that I didn’t really have a chance to get any photos over the weekend, but you can check out the #nordicknittingconference tag on Instagram to see photos (viewable in a web browser here).


I also had a new pattern make its debut at the conference. Anna at Tolt Yarn and Wool approached me around a year ago about designing a pair of slipper socks, maybe with a Nordic-inspired design. Obviously, I was in! I started playing around with motif ideas and before too long, Hearth Slippers were on the needles. This was an interesting pattern to design and write, because it’s heavily charted but offered in three sizes (two adult sizes and a child size); this meant, in effect, writing three patterns in one, as each size comes with its own set of charts. I’m quite pleased with how it worked out, though! I’ve heard that the pattern kits Tolt was selling at the conference were a hit. I’m going to borrow a photo of Kathy Cadigan‘s, where you can see the project bag I designed for the kits as well!

These are worked in the round from the cuff-down (which is how I typically work socks), but everything else about the construction borrows heavily from traditional Norwegian mittens. The motifs on the top of the foot, back of the leg, and sole of the foot are divided into three separate sections, separated by borders. The heel is an afterthought heel, worked much like you might work a thumb on a mitten: waste yarn is worked across the row where the heel is placed as you work the length of the slipper, and then the waste yarn is removed and heel stitches placed back on the needles to work the heel after the fact. The motifs are very typically Norwegian, as well. A little bit of duplicate stitch in the center of the Selbu stars adds a pop of color and contrast.


We used Fancy Tiger’s Heirloom Romney for this design, a cozy but hard-working yarn made from American wool and well suited for winter slippers. The samples also have suede slipper bottoms from Fiber Trends sewn to the sole. I love the color palette of Heirloom Romney and I think there’s a lot of potential for beautiful combinations (and in fact I’ve just ordered some yarn from the new Fancy Tiger online shop to make myself a pair in a new color combination!).

Paper copies of the Hearth Slippers pattern can be purchased at Tolt Yarn and Wool’s brick-and-mortar store in Carnation, Washington, or you can procure a PDF version here on Ravelry or here on Tolt’s website.

new classes and events page

I’m busy with last minute Nordic Knitting Conference preparations this week, but I did want to pop in and let you all know that I’ve added a page for upcoming classes & events to the website! The Nordic Knitting Conference is listed there (for the next week, anyway), and I’m also teaching a workshop at Knit Purl in Portland, Oregon on November 15th. It’ll be a stranded colorwork workshop and we’ll be working on a brand new pattern for fingerless mitts using Brooklyn Tweed Loft and Spincycle’s gorgeous Dyed in the Wool! The cost for the three-hour workshop will be $55 and you can find more information and register on the Knit Purl website here. I’ll be keeping the classes & events page up-to-date as new events are scheduled.

nordic knitting conference 2014


I have a little announcement to make today. It’s a rather exciting announcement, actually! There’s an event coming up in October that I’m really looking forward to…if you know me well (or if you read the title of this post), you might already know what it is!


I’m teaching at this year’s Nordic Knitting Conference! Do you like Nordic knitting? Like the lace and mittens of the Baltics? Fancy some fair isle? Then it’s time to start thinking about coming to Seattle this fall. I’ll be teaching along with some pretty fantastic folks, I must admit. That’s reason enough to knit a pair of announcement mitts and take silly photos, don’t you think? This year’s conference takes place October 3-5You can find the class schedule and more details at the Nordic Heritage Museum website right here.

Arne & Carlos are the headliners this year, and it’s possible I squealed a little bit when I found out. You might’ve seen their book on knitted Christmas balls, or their Space Invaders Mariusgenser. These guys are masters at putting a new twist on old techniques, which I love. As headliners, they’ll be delivering the keynote speech on Saturday night, which is always worth attending.

Also on the teacher’s bill are Swedish-born technique master Susanna Hansson, handspinner extroadinaire Judith Mackenzie, all-things colorwork muse Mary Jane Mucklestone, the creative and talented yarn maven Cirilia Rose, and Laura Ricketts, an expert knitter who has lately focused her attention on Sámi knitting, which I find very, very exciting. It is an honor to be teaching alongside all of these folks; aside from my initial excited squealing when I heard about Arne & Carlos, as a colorwork lover I’ve been following Mary Jane’s work for years, and Cirilia and I actually met and became friends at the last Nordic Knitting Conference in 2012 (and come to think of it, Laura was in our Latvian mittens class, too!).

We’ll be teaching a variety of classes over three days, the class schedule is here (subject to change at this point). You’ll find classes on everything from introductory stranded knitting to spinning with Icelandic fleece, choosing colors for your colorwork, knitted braids, or even Lopapeysa-pimping. The only bummer about teaching myself is that I can’t take any of the classes! If you’re not a knitter or a spinner, there are also a few lectures you might be interested in attending. The conference is hosted every two years by the Nordic Heritage Museum, an organization right in my own backyard in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, and one of which I am a proud member. If you attend other knitting events like Vogue Knitting Live, Stitches, or Madrona, you’ll find that the Nordic Knitting Conference is much smaller – as evident by the much smaller list of instructors – but a cozy, friendly, and absolutely worthwhile experience. There’s an upside to specialization. Here’s a quick run-down:

– Classes take place over three days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (this year that’ll be the 3rd, 4th, and 5th of October)

– Friday night features a Happy Hour event so that you can get to know other conference attendees; mix, mingle, and knit, of course!

– Saturday evening is the keynote presentation, with dinner included. I’ve attended both times I’ve attended the conference and it’s always a wonderful experience.

– There’s a marketplace, featuring a variety of great local vendors!

– Registration opens June 2nd at 10:00 AM, so mark your calendar.

If you’re coming from out of town, the Hotel Ballard and the Ballard Inn (both on Ballard Avenue, about a 20-30 minute walk away from the museum but with easy bus access) are offering a 15% discount on rooms to conference attendees. Just ask for the Nordic Knitting Conference discount when reserving your room. If you’d rather not stay in a hotel, the Sunset Hill B&B is very close to the museum and would be a lovely place to stay. Other options could be found via, or if you want to try and room together with someone, you could try and coordinate lodging by posting in the Ravelry group for the 2014 conference.

Feel free to shoot any questions you have about the conference my way as well – if I don’t know the answer, I can direct you to the people who do. I hope to see some of you there! And for those of you who want to know about the mitts in the photos – I know you’re out there – I’ll be posting about those a little later on.

Tangentially related: if you’re in Seattle, or the Seattle area, the Nordic Museum hosts a monthly Knit & Spin gathering. Typically it’s the first Sunday of the month but you can check their Ravelry group to find out when it’s happening. I haven’t been for aaaages but I hope to make it back this year at some point!

the 2012 nordic knitting conference

Every other year, the Nordic Heritage Museum in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle hosts a Nordic Knitting Conference, and it’s something I look forward to with great anticipation. I love the chance to take a few classes and learn something new, to make new friends, and to nerd out about two of the things I love most in this world: Scandinavia and knitting.

As if “nordic knitting” weren’t enough of a niche already, this year the conference had a theme: mittens! Instructors were flown in from around the U.S. and the Nordic countries, and for three days conference-goers had the chance to learn about all aspects of mitten-knitting from across Scandinavia and the Baltics. The conference is topped off with a Saturday night banquet and keynote speech each year, and for the scholar in me, this is one of my favorite parts of the conference.

This year I elected to take two day-long classes, and I enjoyed them both very much. The first was a Latvian mittens class taught by Sandy de Master and Mary Germain (both teachers at Sievers School of Fiber Arts in Wisconsin). Sandy and Mary are wonderful teachers full of stories, and at the end of the day we’d learned all the necessary skills to knit a fully-lined Latvian mitten (and how these characteristics differed from other countries’ traditions). In a class like this you get a lot of history, personal and otherwise: there were tales of how Sandy and Mary started learning about Latvian mittens and got involved with their local Latvian community, a history of where the features of the mittens came from, and the role that mittens like this once played in Latvian culture. There *might* have also been some stories about the artificial insemination of sheep and knitting in jail. We all left for home with mini practice mittens in hand (I’ll be hanging mine on the Christmas tree, I think).

The other class I took was one I was looking forward to very much: Traditional Norwegian Design with Annemor Sundbø. Annemor is now recognized as a national treasure in Norway for her work and research in knitting, and the documentation and preservation of traditional Norwegian design. Over the course of the conference I was able to learn much of her backstory, and how she wound up doing what she’s doing, and anyone interested in textile & knitting history should take a peek around her website and maybe pick up one of her books. The short version of her story is that she amassed tons of old knitted garments while running a shoddy mill in southern Norway, and this “rag pile,” as she calls it, is the root of her work. She brought a very small piece of this rag pile to Seattle for the conference, which was on display during her classes and featured during her keynote speech on Saturday evening.

Annemor has collected different animal motifs she’s found on garments in her ragpile and knitted them all up in large panels, like a giant stitch dictionary.

In short, Annemor’s kind of a hero of mine, appealing to all of my senses as a scholar and a knitter & knitwear designer. It was a joy to hear her talk on Saturday evening and to take her class on Sunday. The premise of that class was to discuss the rules and guidelines that traditional Norwegian design followed, and to design our own mittens using those guidelines and the traditional motifs and patterns generally found on Norwegian knitting. I charted out and worked up my mitten, pictured below (still thumbless):

And my splurge for the weekend was treating myself to Annemor’s newest book, the fully bilingual (in Norwegian and English) Strikking i Billedkunsten / Knitting in Art:

From the back cover: “This book shows how artworks can be used to discuss knitting history even if the artists didn’t have that in mind when they painted. … Artworks also contain invisible lead threads tied to stories about knitting not immediately apparent in the pictures.”

I would be content to sit around and read this book all day, I must admit, but I’ve got things to get done and so that will have to wait. And on that note… I’m off to get some of that work done!