mid-august

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Mid-August. And suddenly, it feels like late summer.

The weather took a turn in the past week. I knew it would have to eventually – the weeks of blue skies and sunshine felt a little bit like an endless summer dream, but without rain, even paradise has an expiration date. And so now we have some slightly cooler temperatures (in the neighborhood of 12-16°C or 55-60°F), grey skies, and pretty regular rain. But I am fond of weather like this too, and it’s been nice to go for walks when the rain lets up. As the nights are growing steadily darker, I’m looking forward to seeing the stars again.

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The back-to-school feeling is in the air as well. Suddenly, the city is full of people again, as people have come home from their vacations and Trondheim’s 35,000+ students have been streaming back into the city in time for the semester start. Businesses that were closed for the summer in July have re-opened, campuses that felt like ghost towns feel alive again, and while a little part of me mourns the loss of the quiet, beautiful summer I’ve been having, I am glad for the change, too. The return of everyday Norwegian life is making it easier to really feel that we have actually moved back, after arriving two months ago.

Based on what I’ve heard from everyone here, Trondheim can be quite nice through August and even September, so it’s very possible we’ll have another stretch of warm, sunny days at some point before autumn really sets in. But for now I’m grateful for the timing of this change in the weather, coinciding with the transition from summer holiday back to everyday life.

P.S. With all this back-to-school talk, I figured I’d mention that Quince & Co. is offering some back to school bundles, and included among them are my Drumlin scarf and Turlough hat. The bundles are kits which include both yarn and pattern, and they have several different colorway options available. These are a couple of my favorite things I’ve designed for Quince so I’m very pleased that they’re offering these and wanted to share.

a few summer snaps

In a country with a such long and dark winter, it is so important to soak up the summer. One of the reasons I was looking forward to arriving in June for this move (as opposed to August, the month we arrived in Tromsø) is that I hoped I’d be able to experience the Norwegian summer again right away. I’m happy to say that’s been the case – and I am loving summer in Trondheim. No deep thoughts today, just sharing a few photos from the past couple of weeks.

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lately

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The first week in Trondheim brought unexpectedly beautiful weather. Most of the past week has been nothing but rain, just at the moment most people here are leaving for their summer holidays. While the rain can grow tiring, it’s also somehow comforting. It definitely invites a spot of quiet solitude, and there’s a lot that I enjoy about quiet solitude – I think I have always had a soft spot for melancholy.

I feel like that makes me sound sad, and I guess I am a little bit. There is some sadness in a big change. There is loss involved, even when you’re excited about whating you’re moving towards. But there is a deep comfort in being back in Norway, back by the water, with nature so close. And we come back to Norway more confident this time. More sure of ourselves, of who we are, of what we want in life. There is still the anxiety of a new city, of not knowing many people. But I definitely feel more comfortable just being myself. When we first moved to Norway in 2015 I had a (mostly) subconscious desire to fit in, to not stand out. I wanted to “pass.” After two years away, I care much less about that this time around. That makes a great difference.

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The wet weather this past few days has meant I haven’t done nearly as much exploring outside as I’d like to. I walked all over the city in the first few days but I’ve been itching to go hiking in Bymarka, the forest that butts up against the west edge of the city. But I think I’ll wait for a dry spell. In the meantime, there has been knitting.

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I had the urge last week to buy a skein of Hillesvåg Tinde and whip up a hat, even though I brought several projects with me (the remainder of my yarn and projects are in our main pack, which we won’t have access to for a little while). I popped into Husfliden last week and grabbed a skein in Cognac (not my typical color choice, but I fell for it for some reason), and knit a Mellomlua over an evening and a morning. Super simple, very soothing. And now I have a new hat. It was only after I knit it that I realized that Tinde was the first yarn I bought after my move to Norway in 2015, and I knit a hat with it that fall. Accidental symmetry.

I’ve been feeling a little bit like I’m in the space between: the space between one stage of my life and the next. Eras of our lives aren’t sharply defined, for the most part, and they can blur together at the edges. But the longer I’m back in Norway the more I’m adjusting to it again, and one day I will wake up and realize I don’t feel like I’m in the space between anymore, and I won’t know when that happened. It’s only been two weeks. So for now, I knit, I walk, I read, and I get to work, of course, since a job is what brought us back here. And I’ll enjoy that.

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across the atlantic once again

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Perhaps some of you have been able to tell through my words here and over on Instagram over the past year and a half, but Montreal hasn’t clicked for us quite the way that Norway did. Montreal was always a little bit of an experiment for us, and there have been some wonderful things about moving here (not least of which is the wonderfully warm knitting community I’ve felt a part of from the beginning – thank you to all of you here in Quebec and Canada who have made me feel that way), but for over a year we’ve actually been thinking about, and subsequently planning, a return to Norway. That’s been our goal for a little while, and the only question was one of when.

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The question of when has now been answered – mid-June – because I’ve gotten a job as a PhD fellow in Trondheim. This is huge news for me and I am incredibly excited, not only for the move back to Norway but also for the project I’ll be working on once we get there. (For the curious, it’s in educational studies and it’s a pretty perfect combination of my background in both linguistics and TESOL.) I announced the move over on Instagram earlier this week and I can only say thank you to everyone who has shared comments of encouragement and excitement so far. Thank you, genuinely. It means a lot to me.

I started a pair of Trondheim mittens by Sofia Kammeborn earlier this month and used that photo to tease the announcement. For each of my master’s degrees I knit a pair of mittens for myself in celebration (you can find the project pages for them here and here) and so a Trondheim pair felt apropros for this next stage of my academic career. I chose yarns from my stash to knit them, choosing mostly Norwegian wool: two colors of Rauma Finull (dark blue and mustard), a very special skein of indigo dyed lambswool from Lofoten Wool (the light blue), and a skein of Finnish wool in the form of Tukuwool Fingering (the red). I’m particularly pleased with the Lofoten Wool here, because I bought this skein without knowing what I was going to do with it, and the price of that yarn makes it somewhat precious. So I think it’s really lovely to use it for a special project like this one.

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Trondheim is a new city for us and while it will be challenging to start over in a new city yet again, I’m feeling very optimistic and looking forward to starting to get to know the city a little bit better. I love the Norwegian summer and I’m so happy I’ll get to experience it this year. I’ve technically been to Trondheim twice, but one of those times was passing through while traveling on the Hurtigruten, a stop that lasts only three or four hours, so the two days we were there last September account for most of my experience with the city (the city photos in this post were taken on those visits). Of course I know it’s a city with many, many knitters, and I’m looking forward to TRDstrikk‘s first festival this August (sidenote: it has been so fun to watch the festival scene grow throughout Norway since I first moved there four years ago!).

As always I am grateful to those of you who follow along here and elsewhere, and I’m looking forward to sharing snippets of Norway again as I get to know my new city.

signs of spring

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Spring is a time of such optimism, especially in places with long or harsh winters. Living in Tromsø made me miss a springtime full of blossoms, and living in Montreal, I really, really appreciate spring when it finally arrives. Signs of spring are beginning to appear in Montreal this week.

I had one of those days this week with a pattern I’ve been working on that just made my brain feel like mush. Some patterns turn out to be more of an ordeal to work out than others, and I knew this was going to be one of those, but still… brain mush. I’d been at it for hours and needed a break. So I went for a walk, because I knew that would help.

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It helped to notice the baby leaves starting to grow from branches that have been bare for the past six months. It helped to notice the early blossoms blowing gently in the breeze. It helped to see things turning green again. I tend to feel so disconnected from nature here in the city, but this time of year I’m constantly being reminded that there are living, growing things all around me. There are moments of everyday beauty to be found if you go looking for them.

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The city comes back to life in more ways than one when the weather turns. Everyone is suddenly outside again as much as possible on nice days. To be perfectly honest, Montreal can take it a bit too far into chaos (it seems that all cyclists, car drivers, and pedestrians seem to lose their minds when the weather finally changes), but that’s a subject for another day. Today’s about the lightness I felt when capturing these images.

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I’m going to try to soak up the season this year, because this is our last spring in Montreal. We’re here on temporary work permits which are expiring this summer, and it’s time for us to prepare to move on to what’s next. There’s a lot to do, but on sunny days, I’ll make sure to get outside, breathe in and out, and find the lightness.

visiting a cabane à sucre

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Last year around this time of year I never managed to get around to having a very typical Québecois experience – going to visit a cabane à sucre, or a sugar shack. Quebec is not the only place that has them, of course, but it was here that I first learned of them and the concept is very tied to Quebec in my own mind. So this year, when a somewhat last-minute invite came from a friend to join a group going to a farm about 45 minutes outside of Montreal, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. So last weekend, we piled into a car and drove out to Rigaud, where we visited Sucrerie de la Montagne.

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I’m not going to lie – the whole experience is a *little* campy (the photo above is the horse-drawn cart that took us from the parking lot to the dining hall, a hilariously short distance), but it was also very, very fun. Even though it was a miserably cold and grey day with freezing rain coming down, everyone around us (ourselves included) was so very cheerful. I think some of that has to do with the sugar, but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that going to visit a sugar shack is a very tangible sign of spring on the horizon in a part of the world where the long, harsh winter means we won’t be seeing flowers pop up for another month or two.

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Cold nights and warm, sunny days encourage sugar maples to produce sap, so it’s this time of year that the tree taps start flowing. Sucrerie de la Montagne still maintains a lot of the more traditional ways of production, so the maple trees around their grounds have all got metal buckets attached to the taps.

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A visit to a sugar shack involves a big meal – ours was in a large wooden dining hall, full of communal tables, with live folk music and a fire. And let’s just say that the meal isn’t very vegetarian friendly (but then, in my experience, most of the traditional Québecois foods aren’t). But the last course involved pancakes and sugar pie, and those were predictably very good. After the meal we all headed outside for tire d’érable, or maple taffy.

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Troughs of fresh snow are laid out and maple syrup is poured over the top. Once the syrup has sunk in a little bit, you take a popsicle stick and roll it through the syrup for a little sticky maple popsicle. It is, as you would guess, very sweet! But if you just have a small one it’s not so bad.

I’m happy to have finally crossed this experience off the to-do list. And I’m very happy that it’s finally feeling like spring is just on the horizon. This winter hasn’t been as hard as the previous was, but it’s nice to have reminders like this that this one, too, is coming to an end.

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edinburgh

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Edinburgh Yarn Festival is always such a whirlwind. This time last week, I was sitting in the marquee at the big knit night, seaming a sleeve onto my Lapwing sweater. Now, I’m home, slowly working on the comedown + re-entry to real life. I wish I’d booked myself more time in Scotland, to be honest, but there is work to be done, and I know I will be back for a proper visit again sometime too (Edinburgh itself is always so lovely to visit).

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Many, many knitters are familiar with Edinburgh Yarn Festival by now, even if only by reputation. It’s a massive event, one organized by just two people, which always blows my mind (thank you Jo and Mica!), as there’s so much to coordinate and stay on top of while trying to make sure everything runs smoothly and everyone gets what they need to have a good festival. This was my second time going, and it has grown since I last went in 2016. The addition of the marquee is really excellent, as it does create vastly more space for folks to sit and knit and chat than there used to be. And while I think we come for the yarn and fiber, many of us stick around for the people.

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I took few photos and while I took some video, I took very little at the festival itself. Lucky for me, many other people were much better than I am at taking photos together. From left to right starting with the top row, I borrowed these photos from MinaMinaMina, then Espace TricotCalon Yarns, and Cross and Woods. It turns out Mina (of the Knitting Expat podcast) is especially excellent at getting group photos, as you can see. (Links go to the original posts on Instagram.)

I met so many new people this trip. Some were people I’d interacted with online, some were brand new, and I feel like everyone was so lovely. Thank you, if you’re someone I got a chance to say hello to, especially to those of you who came up to say that you enjoyed my patterns or that you’ve found my YouTube videos interesting or useful – that means so very much. I took note that there was a lot more of that this year than the first time I visited three years ago.

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I bought more than I was planning to, which I should’ve been able to predict. There is the frenzy of the festival which is easy to get swept up in, yes, but more than that, the EYF marketplace is undeniably one of the most interesting festival marketplaces out there, in my book. There’s so much interesting and unique wool to be found: single breed, single origin, rare breed, and so on, whether undyed, acid-dyed, or naturally dyed. One particular highlight this year was getting to spend a bit of time at The Woolist‘s stand, and getting to chat with Zoe, who’s behind the project. I think I’d like to plan a full blog post about that project at some point in the future, because it deserves to be highlighted.

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I came home with a mix of yarns: vivid pink lac-dyed Finnish wool from Aurinkokehrä (purchased from Midwinter Yarns); sock minis from Phileas Yarns for a very silly project I’ll show you at some point in the future; two charcoal skeins of Amirisu Parade*, a summery blend of wool, cotton, linen, and silk (!); a skein of Falkland aran weight, naturally dyed by Ocean by the Sea, a teal skein of high-twist Corriedale from Ovis et cetera, and two skeins of Hillesvåg Sølje (because of course I came home with some Hillesvåg). I also bought a hand-woven wrap from Ardalanish, woven on the Isle of Mull, and a few books from Ysolda‘s booth/shop, which is as excellent a space as everyone says it is. The good news is, I managed to fit all of this into my hand luggage, since I was traveling without checked bags. Just barely, but I made it work.

*These two skeins were a gift from the lovely ladies of Amirisu – thank you, Meri and Tokuko!

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For now I’m left sorting through memories of the past week, thinking about everything I’m grateful for and the people I’m going to miss the most. It’s so wonderful that the festival brings so many people together, but it’s a bit like going to a wedding in that it’s not for very long and you don’t get as much time as you’d like to catch up with anyone. But we had fine weather, fun times, and overall an amazing weekend, so I can’t really complain. So once again, until next time, Edinburgh…

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midwinter reflections

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For me, January passed by in a flash. It brought cold weather: snow and ice and chilly winds, as it does in Montreal. When the weather was fine, I made an effort so spend some time outside. When it wasn’t, I’ve been inside, working. Knitting. And sometimes baking. I actually really like January (maybe it’s easier when it’s your birthday month?) but I know that January is often hard for many. That’s more and more true for me as I get older, too. I’m not that sorry to see it go this year.

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February brings us one step further into the year. It brings some plans for this year closer to fruition – new patterns among them, but also travel. I have a trip later this month, but I’m also really looking forward to heading back to Edinburgh this March for Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I went in 2016 and enjoyed it so very much, and it’s hard to believe that was three years ago. I’m very excited and very grateful to be going back. We are also in the midst of figuring out what the second half of this year looks like, since our Canadian work permits come to an end later this summer and we’re not 100% sure what our next move will be. (That doesn’t mean we don’t have ideas we’ve been working on, but there are factors outside of our control that play a large role.) So this winter feels like a little bit of limbo. And so I work. And bake.

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I have also been very tuned in to the conversation about racism in the knitting community that began towards the beginning of January. I think it’s a very important conversation to be having, and one that’s long overdue. I’ve been listening to the voices of many of the BIPOC (black, indigenous, people of color) members of this community because their words deserve our attention. It’s hard to cover very much in the space of a short blog, but I wanted to acknowledge it here because it is important.

If you are a white knitter like I am, I hope you recognize that everyone who has shared their experiences with racism or microagressions in this community is facing into their own past trauma every time they share those stories, and if you are shocked by the experiences they have shared (“I can’t believe this is happening in 2019!”), recognize that being able to feel that is the white privilege that they are referring to. Please have the respect to believe them. Please understand that they cannot, will not just “stick to knitting” because even in the knitting community they face exclusion based on the color of their skin. Defensiveness is a common reaction from white people when they are faced with the everyday racism our societies are entrenched in, and if you feel that, I would suggest you sit with that and give yourself some time to reflect before you speak up about it; if someone shares their experiences with racism with you and the first thing you say back to them is some version of, “but not all white people!”, the impact of that is to dismiss and minimize that already marginalized voice. Maybe “I’m so sorry you’ve been treated that way” is a better starting point. Also keep in mind that when knitters share the experiences of racism they have faced and they talk about white privilege, they are not saying that you, as a white knitter, have never been discriminated against for other reasons – just that you haven’t been discriminated against because of your race. Ageism, ableism, homophobia, these are all real too. And those conversations are happening too. But the conversation at large has been about racism. If you’re looking for resources to educate yourself about these issues, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to recommend some books/podcasts/articles, depending on what you’re looking for.

If you are a BIPOC member of this community, know that I see you, and I hear your words, and I am listening. I am so grateful for the experiences and perspective everyone has shared that have opened my eyes and I am so sorry you have had to live those experiences. You are welcome here, and if I ever do or say anything that makes you feel unwelcome, I hope you will call me out on it.

Edited to add: I turned on comment moderation when I published this post, because I want the comment section to be a safe space for BIPOC. If you submit a comment that I feel would make BIPOC feel unheard or unsafe, I (and only I) will see it but I won’t be approving that comment to appear here. You’re free to speak your mind on your own platforms, but this is my space and I will do what I can to keep it a safe and inclusive one.

love letter to norway

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I’m just back from a 10-day trip to Norway. I mentioned in my last post that Norway had been on my mind lately, and thinking ahead to this trip is part of why. It was the first trip back since my husband and I moved away a year ago, and we visited three cities spanning the country on this trip (Tromsø, where we lived for two years, Trondheim, and Oslo). There was so much to enjoy, and I did my best to soak it all up.

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I love this time of year in Norway – early September in northern Norway means the birches are just beginning to turn golden, and the cool air was a respite after the grueling hot summer Montreal has had. We were extremely lucky with the weather, and enjoyed clear skies for most of our trip, and even got to wave hello at the northern lights again in Tromsø (I have missed the northern lights).

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In Trondheim, the maples were beginning to turn orange and red, which made my heart very happy. I hadn’t spent much time in Trondheim before, but it is a charming little city.

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And in Oslo, I walked some of my favorite oft-trodden paths. I’m incredibly fond of the little wooded paths southwest of Frognerparken, called Skøyenparken. Even though most of the leaves were still green on the trees and flowers were still in bloom around the city, here you could see that fall is coming.

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The trip left me with a lot to think about – and for me, ten days isn’t nearly enough for a trip to Norway anymore (especially when divided between three cities). It was lovely to visit old haunts, see old friends, hear and speak Norwegian again instead of French. But I’m also glad to be back home in my own apartment now, ready to dive into work for this fall after a very busy August. There’s a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you. I hope that you’re having a good September wherever you are.

embracing summer

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Montreal is in the midst of a serious heat wave at the moment (along with a lot of other places both near and far), but in a place with a winter as cold as this one’s, I find it hard to complain about the heat. I spent so many months looking forward to the arrival of summer, so I’ve been doing my best to embrace it now that it’s here, heat wave and all. I can’t remember the last time I wore jeans, since I’ve been living in shorts instead, along with a constant rotation of dresses and skirts that I rarely wore in Tromsø, where 20ºC / 70ºF constitutes a “hot” day. There’s so much that I miss about the Norwegian summer, but Tromsø’s been having a particularly chilly and rainy one so far, and I have to admit I’m not sad to miss that this year.

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There’s a lot of things to rejoice in during the summer in Montreal. The return of the farmer’s markets with their local produce (and to my particular excitement right now, local strawberries), the opening of the (free) public pools, the lush, verdant tree-lined streets with their buildings covered in ivy or other greenery. The flora in general, in fact. I love seeing all the window boxes and plants on balconies, and the tiny gardens in front of the multiplexes of the Plateau. The summer here is full of festivals, and I got to see a bit of Montreal Jazz Fest last weekend when my parents were in town. The experience of being in this city in the summer is a little bit like living in a photo where the saturation has been dialed up a few notches. The hardest thing, in fact, is to try to find a little bit of peace and quiet, since the city’s pretty chaotic at this time of year (as you might expect when a couple million people in a relatively small space all want to get outside at the same time).

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And even though I’ve got a lot of work knitting on my needles, since summer is the time when many designers are preparing releases for the fall, I’ve managed to cast on some summery knitting for myself, as well. We recently started carrying BC Garn Bio Balance, a blend of organic wool and organic cotton, at the yarn store where I work and I decided to cast on for a Tarmac tank, a pattern by Anna Maltz from the summer issue of Pom Pom Quarterly.

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There’s a lot to love about that project, even if it’s slow-going at the moment since I’m knitting on so many other things. I’d love to get it finished in time for Twist Festival (and more on that soon, in another post), but we’ll see how I get on. How are you enjoying your summer, if you’re in the northern hemisphere like me?

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