the north sea


I read a book a couple months ago called The Shetland Bus, which I picked up over Christmas break after someone posted about it on social media last fall. The phrase “the Shetland bus” refers to a British and Norwegian special operations unit who used fishing ships to carry supplies and refugees back and forth between Shetland and the west coast of Norway during World War II (as Norway was occupied by the Nazis, many Norwegians fled to the UK or the United States during the war). Shetland is due west from the west coast of southern Norway, with Lerwick and Bergen being on approximately equal latitudes, so it made sense as a home base for this type of special operations group.

The book itself is fascinating for a number of reasons, not least of which is that it was first published in 1951 and the author was part of the unit that carried out these trips. The trips this group carried out were not in large boats, but fishing boats small enough to be unassuming and less likely to be stopped or questioned. And as the sun doesn’t sink low enough below the horizon for total darkness in the summer time, these trips were carried out in fall and late winter, in the cold and under cover of darkness, often with stormy weather. Even having lived through my first Norwegian winter, I can’t even imagine what it must have been like.


Most of the action took place much farther south than where I live in Norway (Bergen sits at 60ºN while Tromsø is up at 69ºN) with the exception of chapter thirteen, which is one of the more incredible tales in the book about a seemingly impossible escape. Another chapter tells of the attempt to sabotage a German battleship in Trondheim – the attempt failed, but that battleship (Tirpitz) was later sunk just south of Tromsøya at the end of the war. The presence of a little bit of local history probably increased the impact of this book on me.

I also found myself thinking about knitting at different points in the book. Now, nothing in this book is about knitting, but there’s definitely a bit of shared history and tradition between Shetland and Norway – stretching back to the Viking age, of course, but also more recently. Both places are famous for their stranded knitting patterns, and though there are differences, there has always been a great deal of sharing of certain motifs between both places. As I neared the end of The Shetland Bus I found myself reaching for my needles.


I wound up with a hat that I feel is part Norwegian in spirit and part Shetland-style, too. While the main motifs stand out in a single color, the background cycles through different colors. I’ve called it The North Sea in tribute to the fishermen of the Shetland bus, all of whom were incredibly brave, and many of whom found their final resting place at the bottom of that sea.

I went down to Telegrafbukta to shoot the photos of the hat about two months ago, when it was still much snowier here. This park is one of my favorite spots in Tromsø, on the southwest side of the island right on the water. It was a windy day, so I found myself facing in one particular direction more than any other – it just so happens that I wound up looking toward the sunken wreck of the Tirpitz.

Using multiple background colors with colorwork makes this an excellent hat for leftovers, and that is exactly what I used – leftover yarn I had on hand. It is for this reason that the hat is knit in an American yarn (Brooklyn Tweed Shelter) though I’d love to see it worked up in wool from Norway or Shetland as well. It’s a great project for any worsted-weight leftovers you have in your stash. As written, the pattern uses a tubular cast on, but that can be swapped out for any other stretchy cast on you like, and otherwise it’s quite straightforward.

The one thing that’s unusual is that normally I write hat patterns for multiple sizes, but due to the very large repeat used on this hat, the pattern is written for just one size. In this case I would suggest trying to adjust gauge by changing needles sizes if you’d like to make the hat smaller or larger, and keep in mind that gauge from knitter to knitter can vary substantially in stranded colorwork, so you’ll probably find it useful to swatch first.

The North Sea is available on Ravelry now. Head over to that page for all the technical details about the pattern.


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!


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.


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.

brooklyn tweed / sundottir


I have a very big piece of news today: I’m incredibly honored to have a design in the newest guest designer collection by Brooklyn Tweed, Wool People Volume 6. I’ve been a longtime fan of Brooklyn Tweed patterns and I fell in love with their yarns this year, so it’s a dream come true to have a pattern in the collection. My design is a seamless bottom-up pullover called Sundottir, with a round yoke featuring stranded colorwork. Those of you who have been following the blog for a long time may remember a sweater I knit for myself three years ago with a similar name; it was the first sweater I’d ever knit without a pattern, and when I finished it, I hoped to turn it into a pattern eventually. Better late than never, right?


I met Jared (of Brooklyn Tweed) at the Madrona Fiber Arts Festival in Tacoma, Washington earlier this year, around the time BT was starting to put ideas together for Wool People 6. When Jared invited me to submit a few ideas, Sundottir was the first submission I put together. I was thrilled when it was the idea the team decided to go with, because I couldn’t have imagined a better way to finally release this design as a pattern. My prototype has seen a lot of wear as my go-to sweater, and it’s traveled the world with me. It’s pretty near and dear to my heart.


I made a few improvements to the design as I transitioned from prototype to pattern. The original sweater had no shaping to dip the yoke so that the neck opening was higher in the back and lower in the front, so the pattern features short row shaping before and after the stranded colorwork to make the yoke height taller in the back for a more comfortable fit. The original yoke chart was a repeat of 16 stitches, making it difficult to grade for different sizes, so I tweaked the chart a little bit to make it an 8-stitch repeat. I’m quite pleased with how it turned out! The sweater is also worked on smaller needles than my prototype was, so that the colorwork is easier to knit (I had trouble keeping my strand tension even on the yoke of the prototype because of the larger needle size on the original). All in all, I think the changes I made are all improvements that make a more comfortable, versatile pullover than the original. I might have to knit myself a new one out of Shelter in Almanac and Snowbound, although I love the muted palette of the sample I knit for Brooklyn Tweed (in Truffle Hunt and Fossil). Truffle Hunt is one of the Brooklyn Tweed yarn colors that seems to get used less, but I loved working with it – it’s full of depth and the blue flecks are just gorgeous. It’s a really rich and beautiful color in person.


As written, the sweater is intended to be worn with no ease or negative ease, though I think it looks great with a little bit of positive ease as well (as seen on the Brooklyn Tweed models). I got a quick snap of myself in the sample before I sent it off, so you can see what it looks like with a little less ease (there’s about a half inch of negative ease at the bust when I’m wearing it):


The list of designers for Wool People 6 is quite impressive, so I’m incredibly flattered to be among them. You can check out the rest of the patterns for Wool People 6 and view the lookbook on the Brooklyn Tweed website, and you can view the full details for Sundottir on the Ravelry page here. Thank you to Jared and Brooklyn Tweed for letting me be a part of this collection.

All photos copyright Brooklyn Tweed except the last two photos, which are mine.