nordenfjeldske kunstindustrimuseum + hannah ryggen

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This weekend I visited the Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, or the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design here in Trondheim. I really love museums, but for one reason or another when we moved to Tromsø in 2015 it took me around a year before I finally made it to any of Tromsø’s museums. I was determined not to let that happen in Trondheim, so on a rainy Sunday I ventured out to spend a couple of hours at NKIM.

The museum houses a permanent collection of art and artifacts, but I was especially interested in seeing the temporary exhibition they’re currently (co-)hosting, the Hannah Ryggen Triennial 2019: New Land (the other host of New Land is the Hannah Ryggen Center in Ørland). Hannah Ryggen was a textile artist born in Sweden who spent most of her life in Ørland, Norway, about an hour’s boat ride from Trondheim. She predominantly worked with tapestry weaving, and part of why I find her so interesting is that a lot of her work was very overtly political – she was born in 1894 and was coming of age and beginning to work in a time where fascism was on the rise, and much of her work could be considered social commentary against injustice. I had come across Ryggen’s name before but I hadn’t realized quite how political her work was until I went to the exhibition. (She was also trained in painting but was self-taught as a weaver, a fact about her which I enjoyed.)

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NKIM houses the largest collection of Ryggen’s works, but the exhibition itself brings together both works by Ryggen as well as contemporary works by other artists. The curator’s statement is well worth a read. I enjoyed seeing all the pieces, but two artists in particular stood out to me.

The first piece that stopped me in my tracks was Liquid, by Faig Ahmed, an Azerbaijani artist.

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It’s part of a series (you can see the pieces on his website), and there was another piece included in the exhibition, but this one really had an effect on me. The rugs are proper wool rugs, woven by hand and very traditional up until the point that they become incredibly distorted. I’ve never seen anything like it.

The other artist whose work really spoke to me was Alexandra Kehayoglou, an Argentinian artist. A series of pieces titled Prayer Rugs was her main contribution to the exhibition – primarily smaller pieces, as suggested by the name, and like Ahmed’s work, woolen rugs.

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The description provided in the catalogue puts it succinctly: “These tactile works are in memoriam of places that have been altered or destroyed forever. Some of them document environmental destruction, others depict lost landscapes that can never be experienced again.” The tufted rugs represent memories of Kehayoglou’s native landscapes, and to me the tactile nature of the pieces really drives home a sense of what is lost when we alter the landscape, intentionally or otherwise. It comes across in the small size of these pieces, but I imagine it’s even more impactful in one of her larger-scale pieces (just take a peek at this one on her website).

I’d encourage you to check out Kehayoglou’s website because her work is incredibly stunning.

Going back to Ryggen’s work, the piece housed in the museum that had the biggest impact on me was one called Vi lever på en stjerne, or “We live on a star.” The scale of the piece alone is overwhelming, but it was the story behind it that made me emotional. It was originally commissioned for the new government building in Oslo in 1958, the building that was until 2011 the location of the prime minister’s office (among other offices). This building was one of the targets of the terrorist attacks of July 22, 2011, an event that still feels vivid in my memory, though I only experienced it from afar, learning about it while watching the news in an American airport. 77 people died that day because of one right-wing extremist. Eight years on it is still difficult to fathom. The Ryggen tapestry was damaged in the bombing, but it has been stitched back together and now bears a scar, which I was able to examine up close, as it sits in the bottom portion of the tapestry.

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The scale of this piece is difficult to express through a photograph alone (in the museum it’s located in the landing of a large stairway), but this photo of the piece in situ in the government building probably gives a better idea:

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(Photo: Leif Ørnelund / Oslo Museum, via digitaltmuseum.no)

Perhaps this piece hit me the way it did because the 22/7 attacks have been on my mind as we approach the eighth anniversary (which is tomorrow, as it happens) and I had no idea the history of this piece so it caught me unaware. My very first visit to Norway was in November 2011, only months after the attacks, and I remember my friend Camilla walking me by the Government Quarter, where the damage was still visible, with many windows boarded up. The government has plans to demolish some of the existing buildings of the quarter and build new ones, but there will always be some things that bear the scars of the damage caused by that day, just as Norway itself carries them too.

The exhibition has left me wanting to dig deeper into Hannah Ryggen’s work, and I’ll likely go see it again before it closes next month. I’d also like to make the trip to the Hannah Ryggen Center in Ørland. Perhaps I can share more about Ryggen and her work later on. If you’d like to read more in the meantime, I found this piece quite interesting.

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.

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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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.

the norwegian knitting industry museum

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Norway’s been on my mind lately and I realized I have a whole heap of photos I never got around to sharing from the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum (aka the Norsk Trikotasjemuseum) that I took when I had the chance to visit the museum with my friend Jena nearly two years ago (!). The museum is located just outside of Bergen and I shared it on my list of places to visit in my Bergen piece for Mason Dixon Knitting, so I thought some of you might enjoy seeing it in a little bit more detail.

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Before it was a museum, the Salhus Tricotasjefabrikk was a textile mill and factory – one that not only spun wool into yarn, but also created machine-knit fabrics in house and turned those into ready-to-wear pieces like sweaters, activewear, and underwear. It’s a rare factory where all three of those processes would take place under the same roof, but I think it makes the museum especially interesting to visit. It was active from 1859 to 1989, and later on became a museum.

It’s located in Salhus, about 15 km north of Bergen on the Salhus Fjord. It’s tucked right into the bottom of a hill at the water’s edge, on a creek that flows down to the fjord (and which was the original power source for the museum, as for most old mills and factories in Norway). The houses peppering the steep hillside and the small marina outside make it a particularly picturesque location.

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The entrance to the museum leads you into the large cafe space with a wall of windows facing the fjord. This is where visitors can sit down with a cup of coffee or juice and some baked treats or sandwiches, but it’s also where many of the museum’s regular knitting events are held (such as knit cafes or author’s talks). It’s a welcoming space and the view of the water is beautiful.

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Guided tours of the factory are given in Norwegian and English and visitors are shown a short film before the tour begins. You’re taken through each section of the factory, so you get to see where each stage of the process from wool to garment took place: carding, spinning, winding, knitting, and sewing. Today, the machinery is used to knit scarves, socks, and sweaters that can be purchased in the gift shop.

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When it comes to the sweaters that the museum produced, Salhus specialized in a type of garment known as an islender. This means “Icelander” in Norwegian, and Annemor Sundbø refers to them as “Iceland sweaters” in her book Everyday Knitting. She asserts that despite the name, this type of sweater may have originated in the Faroe Islands:

“In 1798, Jørgen Landt described Faroese sweaters with small figures, fine well made sweaters for the local inhabitants, and coarser garments for sale and export. Toward the end of the 1880’s, Faroese export of knitwear increased, and these garments were often made of imported Icelandic wool, which the Faroese bartered for other commodities. This may be the explanation for the term ‘Iceland sweaters’, but then again similar sweaters were also produced in Jutland in Denmark and Halland in Sweden . . . There were several small patterns which were widely used in Faroese knitting.”

– from Everyday Knitting by Annemor Sundbø (2001)

Sundbø goes on to discuss machine-knitted islender, which were “very popular work clothes.” She mentions Devold, one of the producers of what may be the prototypical Norwegian islender, with its small repetitive motifs in black on natural white:

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Devold still produces this style of islender today. While I think this is what most people picture when they hear the term, some people use it more broadly to refer to similar sweaters which use different motifs, but to the a similar effect (other people might categorize these sweaters as sponsetrøyer instead, but to go down that road is to get into the nitty-gritty details of Norwegian knitwear nomenclature, so I’ll leave it there). Many of the Salhus fabrics were variations on the typical islender, such as the examples below:

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(Images via Museumssenteret i Hordaland, downloaded from digitaltmuseum.no)

Both of the above examples come from Salhus Trikotasjefabrikk – the top example is a swatch for the fabric and collar of a more classic black and white islender, though the motifs are slightly different than the version produced by Devold. The one on the bottom is a different pattern and also makes use of different colors, but it’s still very typical of the sweaters that Salhus produced. The museum maintains an archive of different patterned fabrics, with some of the patterns perhaps never actually being put into production (but more on that at a later date!).

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I found the whole guided tour really interesting – our tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and engaging, and it was fun to see such a wide variety of textile-specific machinery being demonstrated. I think I was also a little surprised at how light and bright so much of the factory felt, but of course when it was first built, the workers would have had to rely on natural light and the many windows (and even skylights!) allowed for that. (Bonus: for those of you who can understand Norwegian, you should check out the podcast episode that Kristin and Ingvild of Strikketerapi filmed in the museum with an audience at last year’s Bergen Strikkefestival – it’s quite cool to see them in that setting!)

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The museum shop sells a variety of interesting stuff, including ready-to-wear knitted garments and accessories, as I mentioned previously. My own souvenir, though, was some of the museum’s yarn, Museumstvinn. While they no longer do full-scale yarn production, the museum does have a selection of yarns that are plied on their machinery (the individual plies are spun up the road at Hillesvåg before they’re sent down to Salhus). I was particularly drawn to the interesting marled yarns spun from plies of slightly different shades, like the blue one above.

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There’s a large open space used for rotating exhibitions (and it was the location of the marketplace at last year’s Bergen Strikkefestival, which the museum hosts and which I hope to attend someday). It’s beautifully bright and airy, and when I visited in 2016 they had an embroidery exhibit going on. I have such a soft spot for so much of the Norwegian embroidery – I’ve held myself back from collecting old cross-stitched cushions (like the ones below) and decorative klokkestreng wall hangings, but it feels like it’s only a matter of time before a few find their way into my home.

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In case it isn’t obvious, if you find yourself in Bergen I definitely think the Norwegian Knitting Industry Museum is worth a visit! Jena and I drove to the museum, but it’s possible to get to the museum using the public transit as well (see the bus instructions on the museum’s page here). It takes about 1.5-2 hours to tour the museum, but be sure to build in some extra time not only for getting to and from the museum, but also for browsing the shop and hanging out in the cafe (with a bit of knitting, of course). The guided tours happen at scheduled times, so you should check the schedule before you plan your trip to make sure you won’t miss the last tour of the day.

P.S.: A small postscript about the name, because those of you with knowledge of French probably picked up on the loanword in the factory’s original name: Salhus Trikotasjefabrikk. The ‘sj’ combination forms sound we spell with ‘sh’ in English, so this is the modern Norwegianized version of French tricotage (it was actually spelled the French way at the time of the factory’s founding). Norwegian uses the Scandinavian word for hand knitting: ‘to knit’ is å strikke and ‘knitted garments’ are strikkede plagg. So why the French loanword here? In my experience, I’ve seen trikotasje associated with knitting on an industrial scale (i.e. commercial machine knitting), while strikk is associated with knitting by hand. Since the Salhus factory created machine knit fabrics, we see that reflected in the name.

a rhinebeck weekend

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This time a week ago I was at my very first Rhinebeck. I took the train back to Montreal last Monday, a journey which is much longer than it seems like it should be (nine hours!), but I’m glad I had a little bit of time to myself to decompress after a whirlwind weekend before diving back into real life. What a wonderful weekend it was.

I’ve wanted to write about it, but how is it possible to say everything I want to say about the weekend? While I enjoyed the festival itself, it was truly the magical combination of the festival, the fall colors and atmosphere, and especially the presence of a huge number of friends I don’t get to see very often that made the weekend what it was.

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It’s admittedly a little strange to finally attend an event you’ve known about and watched others go to for years and years. There can be a lot of expectation tied up in the experience – is it is good as everyone says it is? Will I see everything I want to see? Do the apple cider donuts live up to the hype? (For the record, they do.) I think that for me, this trip came at exactly the right moment. I have been treading water a little bit since I left Norway and came to Montreal, trying to work out exactly who I am in this new city. Perhaps that sounds silly – I’m still me, after all – but I had become so accustomed to how I defined myself and presented myself to the world with Norway as a backdrop, that removing that backdrop and replacing it with something else left me feeling a little uncertain. Big moves and transitional periods don’t always allow for a lot of self reflection in the moment, it turns out. It’s after the fact that you realize there’s something different about the person looking back at you in the mirror and you haven’t figured out exactly what it is yet.

So it was wonderful to have a new experience that made me feel very much like me, getting to spend time with friends I haven’t seen since last year’s Oslo Strikkefestival, or Edinburgh Yarn Fest 2016, or friends I’d never met in person but I’ve known a long time. This wooly knitting industry is overall a very warm and supportive place to be, and I am so glad for all of the people I get to call friends within it.

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I saw a lot of wonderful stuff last weekend. I fell in love with a number of yarns, but mostly stuck to my plan to buy one sweater’s quantity as a souvenir (a few extra skeins came home with me, since Harrisville did a beautiful limited edition run of an irresistible blue). I was taking mental notes, though, checking out yarns I might want to try out in the future. I fell pretty hard for the naturally-dyed hues of Tidal Yarns‘s Romney wool, pictured below, and her booth was a reminder of why shows like this are so special – she doesn’t sell her yarns online at all, but she does do around 15 shows a year.

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In the end, I didn’t end up with a Rhinebeck sweater. I had been knitting away on my Circlet Shrug for a month and I got very close to finishing it – I was two cable repeats away from finishing the back. But with the weather in the 70s (fahrenheit), it worked out okay in the end. I finished knitting it on Wednesday, and will block it and seam the sides soon.. I did enjoy checking out the sweaters of those dedicated knitters (and crocheters) who wore their completed garments even in the heat. I also enjoyed checking out the animals.

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How could you not?

I came home feeling refreshed, motivated, and creatively inspired. Thank you, New York Sheep & Wool, and thank you to everyone who made this weekend so special.