more lofoten goodness

There were several other Lofoten-related things that came to mind as I was putting together the Lofoten Wool post, but I didn’t want the post to get too long and I really wanted the yarn and its relationship with the landscape to be the focus. So I decided to save these little bits for a new post – and I hope you enjoy these too.

First up, there are a few Lofoten-related segments from a TV show called Norge Rundt that I thought some of you might enjoy seeing. I’m pretty sure you should be able to stream these outside Norway, because I have memories of watching Norge Rundt from time to time when I still lived in Seattle. The show’s name means “Around Norway” and the format is made up of relatively short segments from some place or another, meeting a diverse array of people who do all kinds of things – and you usually jump around the country a bunch within a single episode. The show is still on today, but I’m particularly fond of the older episodes found in the show’s archives, and the clips I have to share today are both of that variety. The audio is in Norwegian only, but the visual experience alone is worth it, so don’t let that dissuade you if you don’t speak Norwegian:

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Clip 1: In my last post I mentioned the fishing huts where fishermen would lodge, called rorbuer, and how they mainly cater to tourists now. This clip from 1978, entitled “rorbuferie” (fishing hut holiday) covers that very topic, along with some stunning footage of Lofoten in the summertime. You’ll have to click through to the NRK website to watch it.

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Clip 2: This is a pretty endearing segment from 1979, which starts off with a voiceover about how the number of fishermen and of fishing boats in Kabelvåg is steadily decreasing, just like many other towns in Lofoten – “mange begynner etterhvert å glemme hvordan Lofotlivet i gamle dager var,” he tells us, or “many are beginning to gradually forget what Lofoten life was like in ‘the olden days’.” So the kids and teachers of the local school decided to host a big event about what life used to be like in Lofoten. Their stage performance features a handmade backdrop, adorably goofy singing, and lots of fantastic knitwear – all of which prompted my husband to ask “Wait, are we watching a Belle & Sebastian video?” when the girl in the yellow sou’wester showed up on the screen. (Fun side note: Belle & Sebastian have totally been to northern Norway, actually). But I love a community coming together to take a look back and remember what life was like in the not-so-distant past – with young people stepping up to take care of their traditions. Again, click through to watch the clip on the NRK website.

Given the dates of both of these clips, it’s worth pointing out that just like in Shetland, the 1970s was a decade that transformed sea-based industry in Norway after the discovery of oil on the continental shelf. I feel like both of these clips point to that changing landscape. (It also brought to mind the exhibition Ella Gordon put together for the Shetland Museum back in 2014 about Shetland knitting during the oil boom.)

Artwork was another theme that came up when I was thinking about Lofoten. Some of my favorite Norwegian artwork features scenes of northern Norway, and I thought I’d share a few pieces that to me, really manage to capture the place.

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Winter Morning in Svolvær by Gunnar Berg, 1887. Berg grew up in Svolvær, which is also where the landscape photos in the last post were from. Berg really captures the light, and the brilliance of the white snow against a blue winter sky. The misty clouds and the masterful reflection in the water are so atmospheric.

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From Reine in Lofoten by Otto Sinding in 1883 (courtesy Digitalt Museum). Sinding’s paintings of Lofoten manage to capture the feeling of the size and scale of the mountains in a way that photos can’t seem to do. I love the low winter light in this one, and the way the reflected sky is a steel grey. These are all the things I love to notice in my changing surroundings as the light changes at different times of year.

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And for something completely different, I love this piece by Reidar Aulie. This is Lofoten, tall rock formations, from some time after 1922 (courtesy Digitalt Museum). The first thing this piece brings to mind for me is some of J.R.R. Tolkien’s artwork, and given that they were very nearly contemporaries (Aulie was 12 years younger than Tolkien) that’s not entirely surprising. It’s just pen on paper, but it’s beautiful. The Tolkien pieces this one brings to mind are Caerthilian Cove & Lion Rock and Cove near the Lizard, both scenes from Cornwall which can be seen on this page, as well as in the book J.R.R Tolkien, Artist & Illustrator, which is where I was introduced to them.

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And last but not least, I wanted to mention a book I’ve just finished reading, which was a Christmas gift from my friend Anna: The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen. She gave me a copy in the original Norwegian (De usynlige), and she described it along the lines of being a sort of quintessential northern Norwegian novel. It follows the story of a girl who grows up on a small island, home to her family and her family only. They have a small farm, and her father goes to Lofoten to fish every winter. The content from page to page is very everyday sorts of stuff for much of the book, which makes it an excellent novel for someone interested in what life might have been like on a small Norwegian island in the gamle dager, the old days. It’s available in English as The Unseen (linked above), and I’m incredibly excited that the English translation just made the longlist for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Thanks for indulging a little bit of Lofoten exploration on the blog today.

norwegian wool: lofoten wool

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The Norwegian Wool series is finally back with another fantastic smaller company: Lofoten Wool. Wool sourced from Northern Norwegian sheep (including the Lofoten archipelago, hence the name), naturally dyed, and spun down at Hillesvåg – it’s a dream. The Røst collection (pictured above, and named for the remote island where the wool is sourced) comes from the wool of the crossbred norsk kvit sau, or the Norwegian white sheep. Their heavier weight yarns are made with wool from the heritage breeds Gammelnorsk sau and spælsau. To me, Lofoten Wool’s yarns are the stuff that local wool dreams are made of. (Consequently, I might adoringly gush a little bit more than usual in this post.)

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I feel like I need to provide some context to be able to adquately convey the feelings this yarn inspires. Between the northern Norwegian sheep, the natural dyes Ragnhild uses to create her beautiful colors, and the ties to specific locations within Lofoten, this company has something special going on. For those unfamiliar with the Lofoten archipelago, it lies north of the Arctic Circle and it’s home to some of the most iconic Norwegian scenery there is. Islands formed from mountains that jut right out of the water make for dramatic landscapes everywhere you go, reaching out in a line from the mainland like an arm pointing toward Iceland. I haven’t been as far out as Røst (where my skein of yarn’s wool came from) – it’s way out there – but I have passed through Lofoten twice now and spent sime time exploring Nordland, the county where Lofoten is located (Hurtigruten, the coastal ferry/cruise, passes through Lofoten). While the landscape is very different, it’s easy to see similarities and find connections with other north Atlantic island communities like Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and Shetland.

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Historically, fishing was the center of life in Lofoten. North Atlantic cod come to Lofoten each year to spawn, so cod fishing was the biggest industry (and it remains a big part of the local economy today). Many of the men who fished in and around Lofoten came from other parts of Norway, and when they were on shore, they lived in fishing cabins known as rorbuer. Many of these all over Lofoten have been converted to be used by tourists now (like these). The statue in the photo above sits at the edge of the harbor in Svolvær. It’s called Fiskarkona, “the fish wife,” and it’s by sculptor Per Ung. She faces away from the harbor, with an arm raised as if bidding farewell to her husband’s boat. Life in Lofoten was harsh, and the weather meant fishing could be dangerous, so I can only imagine what it was like to bid farewell to your spouse not knowing if their boat would return home.

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This brings me back to the yarn. I feel very fortunate that my favorite local yarn store carries Lofoten Wool so that I had the opportunity to check out some of their yarns in person. The naturally dyed colors are gorgeous, and I definitely fell in love with the indigo-dyed skein pictured at the top of this post as soon as I saw it. I have plans for this particular skein, but there’s enough yarn that I wanted to do a little bit of swatching just for fun, too. Both the blue shade of the yarn itself and the name of this particular color, brådjupt, bring to mind the clear blue waters of northern Norway for me (and cables felt like an appropriate medium for interpreting rippling waves). The swatch on the needles above uses a chart from Norah Gaughan’s incredible Knitted Cable Sourcebook – it’s a motif she calls Diverge. This 2-ply yarn from the Røst collection is a fantastically wooly wool: it’s kind of crunchy and lofty at the same time, somewhat like a woolen spun Shetland yarn can be; not luxuriously soft but also not unpleasant against the skin; pretty grabby but it still manages to cable beautifully. I think we hear words like “strong” and “workhorse yarn” associated with a lot of wooly wools, especially breed-specific ones, but those phrases seem somehow too heavy to describe this yarn. It is strong – with effort, it’s possible to break it instead of cutting it with scissors, but it’s much harder to break than the woolen spun Shetland yarns I’ve used. I think this yarn also qualifies as a workhorse yarn – it’s very well suited to this coastal northern Norwegian climate – but it feels lighter than that at the same time.

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Ragnhild of Lofoten Wool very kindly shared some photos of their sheep out at Røst, above – and as you can see, by the time you make it that far out, the landscape starts to look a little bit more like Shetland. What an incredible place to be a sheep, right? The sheep on Røst in the photos above are the crossbred Norwegian white sheep/norsk kvit sau. As I mentioned, Lofoten Wool’s heavier weight yarns come from the wool of heritage breeds, and the following photos are Ragnhild’s own flock of Gammelnorsk sau, also called villsau by some (“old Norwegian sheep” and “wild sheep,” respectively, though the latter name is a misnomer as they have been a domesticated breed for over a thousand years). They live on an island much closer to mainland Norway. You’ll also notice that there’s natural color variation amongst the heritage breed sheep, much like other northern European heritage breeds (Shetland or Icelandic sheep, for example).

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It’s such a fantastic treat to be able to knit with wool that has such traceable origins, and a huge thank you to Ragnhild for sharing these photos of the sheep with us!

To see the yarns and other wooly goodies Lofoten Wool has on offer, head over to their online shop. Lofoten Wool does ship internationally, but you should be aware that the cost of shipping can be high (especially outside Europe), You can get a sense of shipping rates abroad from Norway here (all prices are in Norwegian kroner, but you can use Google to convert to your own currency). A list of their Norwegian stockists can be found on the home page of their website, lofoten-wool.no.

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A note: with the exception of Ragnhild’s sheep photos, the photos of Lofoten featured in this post were all taken by me on a trip last August – some of them from a moving boat at dusk, so please excuse any motion blur! 

nordland rundt

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I’m recently back from a whirlwind trip around Nordland, the Norwegian fylke (county) just to the south of Troms, the county where I live. We’ve had some dear friends visiting from the states, and it seemed like a great opportunity to get ourselves off the beaten track and show our friends a nice cross-section of northern Norway. We were lucky to have some very nice weather and the autumn colors were pretty spectacular, all of which we got to enjoy from planes, trains, and automobiles – and on foot too, of course.

Nordland is long and narrow from north to south (the mainland part is so narrow that one of its larger fjords, Tysfjord, ends just 6km from the Swedish border), but it’s also home to the famous Lofoten archipelago. The Arctic Circle also cuts through Nordland. We began our journey with a train ride from Bodø to Mo i Rana (after flying to Bodø – there’s no train that goes to Tromsø)*, where we rented a car and started heading north. We stayed somewhere new each night and the drives were short, which meant there was time for long pit stops or detours depending on how we were feeling each day – it’s an approach I can highly recommend. A few highlights:

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The flight! Flying over northern Norway on a clear day is always a special treat. Tromsø to Bodø is just a quick 45-minute hop.

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Saltfjellet is incredibly unique. The area surrounding this mountain range is all national park, and I’m so glad we got to spend some time here. Going north meant a stop at the bizarre gift shop at Polarsirkelsenteret (situated at the Arctic Circle) before we made it to our lodgings for the night, the charming Saltfjellet Hotell Polarsirkelen (which has a great big common room that’s lovely for knitting or reading, for the record). The hotel is surrounded by nature, and it’s a short walk from the Lønsdal train station if you don’t have a car. This area is incredible for hiking, and the colors are just beautiful in autumn (I feel very lucky that we got to see it like this – as the woman at the hotel said, “one windy night and it’s all gone!”).

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Saltstraumen has one of the strongest tidal currents in the world, and I’ve been looking forward to seeing it in person for a long time. We arrived at just the right time, as the tide was changing, and the speed of the water and the meandering whirlpools were difficult to wrap my head around. We also got to see some “Saltstraumen safari” boats zig zag and run circles across the water. We stayed a night here at a rental cabin, but on the quiter side of the water at Saltstraumen Brygge (on the peninsula just to the south of the strait – that was our view in the photo directly above).

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Visiting the former mining town of Sulitjelma tucked into the inland mountains on a lake is an experience I’m unlikely to forget. We weren’t able to walk through the mine museum, but as mining was an active industry here until 1991, the traces were easy to see.

And one last highlight: we took a Hurtigruten boat from Svolvær back to Tromsø, and were blessed with clear weather and some very active northern lights that night. Unfortunately, a moving boat + long exposures don’t make for the best photos, so I left my camera in the cabin.

Aside from the stops, the drives themselves were just beautiful. It’s hard not to love long drives down tree-lined roads at this time of year, especially when the pit stops are also beautiful.

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If I haven’t convinced you that a road trip through Nordland in autumn is worth it, Van over at Snow in Tromsø went on a road trip through Nordland last October and shared a photo essay on her blog. Since she was there a few weeks later in the year than my trip, the mountains all have a lovely dusting of snow.

* After having watched Nordlandsbanen minutt for minutt (the slow TV program produced by Norwegian national broadcaster NRK that documents the train journey from Trondheim to Bodø) multiple times, I was really excited to spend three hours on the northern end of the route. Someday we’ll do the whole thing. The full journey is 10 hours – I often put it on TV in the background when I’m working, as it’s relatively meditative background nosie – and you can check it out here (for free) on the NRK website if you’re interested.

new year

It’s been a surreal start for 2016. Here’s a glimpse:

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Emma Watson started an online feminist book club (it’s called Our Shared Shelf, and you can join the group on Goodreads, if that’s at all appealing). I read most of the first book, Gloria Steinem’s My Life on the Road, on a flight to London over the weekend. My route back to Tromsø included an overnight stay in London where I got to hang out with Lydia of Pom Pom and some lovely folks at Loop. I didn’t take any pictures until the train ride to Gatwick (that always happens these days), but I had a lot of fun. I love London.

Monday morning I woke up at six (thanks, jet lag) and spent some quiet time hanging out in the tiny bed in my tiny hotel room. It was there that I learned about Bowie’s passing, via Twitter. It felt absolutely unreal, and then I was just sad. It’s still surreal.

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I finished My Life on the Road in the first hour of my flight from London to Tromsø. It was really, really excellent. I tweeted about this, and then Emma Watson replied and retweeted me (!). I’ve now had a (very) tiny glimpse of what it’s like to be a celebrity on Twitter, and I’m grateful that’s not my reality. Not only do I have a lot of respect and admiration for Emma, but she’s an actress near my age who I watched grow up on screen, so the surreal score is off the charts for seeing my tweet right there at the top of her feed.

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I’m back in snowy, dark Tromsø now and the beauty of this place at this time of year is as surreal as ever. The days have been clear since I got back and the light’s been incredible. In less surreal news, I’ve started classes for the new term and already have a stack of reading to do, but I’ve managed to get in a few stitches here and there on some small projects. I’m sensing a color theme; it might have something to do with the light outside. I love these wintry blues. Also, now that I’m thinking about it, the fern pattern and the tree motif have quite a lot in common…

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The embroidery is a kit I bought last summer at Urban Craft Uprising, from Studio MME. It’s one of those fantastic and simple little kits where the pattern is printed right on the fabric so the stitching is relatively mindless but the end result is stunning (I’m sort of halfway through, so if you look very closely you can see the difference between my stitches and the printed bit I have yet to embroider). You can find this particular kit in their online shop (although it appears that it’s now being sold with a round hoop, instead of the oval one I got). The knitting is another kit, a Toatie Hottie by Kate Davies. The pattern is for a hot water bottle cozy and the kit (not currently available in Kate’s shop) came with yarn and pattern plust a mini-hot water bottle just for that purpose. I bought the kit ages ago and have actually used the hot water bottle several times, but I’m using it more regularly in Tromsø and I thought it was about time I actually knit the thing. I managed to knit most of it in an evening, getting through the whole chart with just the top bit and ribbing left.

velkommen til tromsø

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We’ve been in Tromsø for two weeks as of today, and what a whirlwind it’s been. There’s been so much to do and so many new experiences that I’ve barely had time to think, let alone sit down at the computer (let’s not even talk about the state of my email inbox). We’ve been in our new apartment for a week and it’s slowly (ever so slowly) creeping towards a cozy, habitable dwelling, but this has been the longest and most involved move of my life.

I thought it’d be nice to give you a little bit of info about my new Norwegian home. Tromsø sits at 69º north – well above the Arctic Circle (and the entirety of Iceland, for a knitterly point of reference; Reykjavík sits at 64º north). That means it gets the midnight sun in the summertime (the sun doesn’t set for two months) and polar night in the winter (the sun doesn’t rise above the mountains in the south for two months). That dramatic difference between summer solstice and winter solstice means the days are already growing shorter at a staggering rate. When we arrived two weeks ago, sunrise was at 2:26 AM and sunset was at 11:08 PM. Today, sunrise was at 3:48 AM and sunset was at 9:45 PM. That’s a difference of almost an hour and a half at each end – in two weeks! Still, it hasn’t gotten totally dark yet and it won’t for a couple more weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing the stars again (and eventually, the northern lights). You can check out sunrise and sunset times for the month of August here, if you’re curious.

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The natural beauty of the landscape here is overwhelming. Tromsø’s a city of around 70,000 (or 75,000 when university is in session) and most of it is situated on the island of Tromsøya (“Troms Island”). The Norwegian mainland lies to the east and a much larger island called Kvaløya (“Whale Island”) lies to the west. Tromsøya is connected to the mainland and to Kvaløya by bridges. I can’t even describe how happy it makes me to be living on an island surrounded by water and ringed by mountains. The weather can change at the drop of a hat and the light is often dramatic. I could probably stare at the sky and the light on the mountains all day.

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At this point in the year, there’s fireweed growing everywhere and it feels impossibly green and positively lush compared to drought-ridden Seattle. I love the scrappy subarctic birch forests, too. Even though the island of Tromsøya isn’t that big, there are so many corners to explore. We spent some time down at the beaches on the southwest side of the island last weekend, and I’ve started exploring the network of trails that criss-cross different parts of the island. Everything feels so alive. I expect that will change as winter approaches.

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I think we’re a few weeks away from really feeling settled in (we should be acquiring the essential pieces of furniture we still need this week, at the very least) but it’s easier to put up with the hassles of moving when all of this is right outside your door. My classes start this week and perhaps I’ll be able to get into a bit of a routine after the first week or two. And then, maybe then, I’ll be ready to check out the yarn stores that are just a few blocks from our new place. For now, I have plenty to do (and plenty of WIPs that need working on, if we’re being honest).

I’m looking forward to sharing more of this incredible place with you all as we find our feet here.

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a day trip to harrisville, new hampshire

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My last week in Seattle went by in a flash. The whirlwind of emotions is difficult to describe, but in some moments, it just hit me. In others, it really didn’t feel like I was leaving at all. I expect that’ll continue to happen for a little while.

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I left Seattle on Sunday, and I’ve been in New Hampshire this week visiting some family I won’t see for awhile. They live about an hour away from Harrisville, home of Harrisville Designs – known to many knitters as the mill where Brooklyn Tweed‘s yarns are spun. Wool yarn has been spun in Harrisville since 1794, so this small town has a long and rich history and I felt like I couldn’t miss another chance to head over and check it out. It was a bit of an impromptu trip, but my mother, my aunt and I enjoyed our short visit to the Harrisville Designs retail store (a beautiful space) as well as our lunch at the general store across the road. I spent quite a lot of time looking around the store; it’s always wonderful to see the Brooklyn Tweed yarns in person, but I really enjoyed getting a chance to see and handle Harrisville Designs’ own line of yarns, and they carried a small selection of other yarns as well (from the likes of Rowan, Shibui, and SweetGeorgia, to name a few). It was also a real pleasure to chat with the ladies working in the store (hello, Annmarie and Paula!). I’d love to go back someday and tour the mill buildings.

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The store sold much more than just yarn and fiber, and I was pretty smitten with these Maine-made blankets (I think they’re these cotton throws from Brahms Mount, but if anyone knows otherwise please let me know!)

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Even though it was a very warm summer’s day, it was a beautiful one. The rain clouds rolled in as we were leaving town, which was actually pretty delightful. It’s easy to fall in love with New England.

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For more Harrisville: Anna from Tolt recently visited Harrisville and you can find the blog post from her visit here; and check out the most recent episode of the New Hampshire Knits podcast (episode 25) for an interview with Nick Colony, whose family owns the business.

I’m off to New York today and I fly to Norway on Saturday, so the next post here will most likely be from Tromsø!

a move; a shift; a change

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I have some rather big news to share today. I’ve been looking forward to sharing it so I’ll get right to it – and for those of you who want to know the hows and whys and buts, you can read on below – but here it is:

I’m moving to Norway this August where I’m going back to grad school.
I’ll be starting a master’s in Theoretical Linguistics this fall at the University of Tromsø.

This is obviously a huge life changing thing – a move abroad is quite an undertaking in any case, and the scale of this one is pretty different than my first go-round (some of you may remember I once spent a year working in Hungary). There are many, many more practicalities to consider, I’m bringing a spouse along this time, etc. But it’s also a huge career shift from where I am at this moment and what I’ve been doing for the last two and a half years.

I’ve spent an immense amount of time in the last year trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. That’s a big question to ponder, and one we never totally figure out – we’re constantly evolving, after all. But it’s a question I definitely wasn’t really ready to answer when I was finishing my BA in Linguistics six years ago. I freaked out about finishing school and applied to grad school at the last minute. I got a Master of Arts in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), a program that put my linguistics background to very practical use and which I enjoyed immensely. I went to Hungary to teach. Hungary was wonderful, but it was exhausting. I decided to head home to Seattle at the end of my contract and give my long-held dream of running my own arts & crafts business a go. And what a go it’s been! But the challenges of being self-employed are myriad, particularly when one’s spouse is also self-employed. Sometimes we just don’t have an anchor, and I’ve struggled with it often. I’m incredibly lucky to have friends and colleagues to lean on for support, and I’m so lucky to have support from every one of you who’s ever sent me a message, knit one of my patterns, taken a class, said hello at a conference or trade show. It’s an incredible thing to make a job out of a passion, and I’m happy to have done it. But – of course there’s a but – I’ve been making myself face a lot of truths about the realities of the situation I’m in. Motivational realities. Financial realities. Trying to imagine what I want my business to look like five or ten years down the road. Can I even imagine still running my business five years down the road?

That’s opened the door to imagining all kinds of possible futures. If what I do now isn’t my career, then what do I want my career to be? It’s a big question (there have been a lot of big questions lately). So I thought about it, and then I thought some more. And then some more (and I’m still thinking about it). I started thinking about academia again, about applying to go back to school. My summer in Oslo last year was a little bit of a test-run/research trip, actually, though of course I didn’t divulge that here at the time. I quietly applied to grad schools last fall, and I also started thinking about the possibility of teaching English again (especially after I didn’t get in to a few of the more competitive programs I applied for). But when I found out I got into the University of Tromsø’s master’s program in Theoretical Linguistics, it was a game-changer. It’s a department I’ve followed since I was an undergrad, in a city I’ve been to and like quite a lot, in a country I really love. There are many reasons it’s neither the most practical nor the “safest” option at this juncture. There’s a lot of risk involved in a leap like this. And I agonized for a few weeks as I tried to make my decision about what to do. But in the end, I couldn’t say no – the stuff about this decision that doesn’t make sense falls away in the wake of all of the things that make total sense. Sometimes a big leap makes sense, even if it’s risky in some ways. And I am very lucky to have a partner who’s been supportive of this decision and is probably just as excited to move to Tromsø as I am.

So what does that mean for the future of Paper Tiger? It’s a valid question, and a good one. And the answer, of course, is that at this point it’s impossible to know. I’m not naive about what I’m taking on with a research-based graduate degree. I won’t make any promises about whether or not I’ll continue designing once school starts this fall. But I can say that this space isn’t going anywhere. I’ll definitely still be knitting (I’m literally moving to the Arctic, after all), and I plan to keep writing – about knitting, about Norway, about whatever seems relevant. I’m definitely excited for a chance to learn more about knitting in Norway, and get to know Norwegian yarns that are domestically raised and produced.

In the meantime, I do have a few things lined up for fall release that I’m working on before the move, so you certainly haven’t seen the last of my patterns yet. This is still my day job, at least for a few more months!

For those who will ask about the mitten in the photo: it’s purely selfish knitting! The university seal of UiT features stylized renderings of Odin’s ravens from Norse mythology, Hugin and Munin (representing “thought” and “memory”), and I couldn’t resist knitting them up in to an otherwise very traditional Norwegian mitten. I actually knit myself a pair of mittens when I got into grad school the first time around, too. I’m happy to say my skills have progressed since then!

slovenia

Slovenia was special.

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I’ll be up front about the fact that before we started planning this trip, I didn’t know that much about Slovenia (even having lived in a bordering country, Hungary, for a year). A small country on the Adriatic Sea, sandwiched between Italy and Croatia, it has a population of just over two million people. It’s mostly mountainous, and there’s a lot of forested territory. We entered the country from the Italian side, as we were coming from Venice, and as it was a clear day, we had beautiful sweeping views of the snow-capped Julian Alps the entire time.

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And then we got to Ljubljana. We were utterly charmed by this city, and I think it would be hard not to be, especially when it’s all lit up for Christmas. The center of the town is the historical center, full of cobblestone streets and bridges criss-crossing the Ljubljanica river. I’ve been fortunate to see some pretty spectacular lit-up-for-Christmas city centers in Europe in my life, but Ljubljana’s was unlike any I’d seen before. Mostly forgoing the typical snowflakes, bells, horns, and traditional holiday imagery, many of Ljubljana’s holiday lights were astronomy, math, or art/design themed. My very favorite was probably the street full of shooting stars, pictured above.

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I also managed to find what I later learned was the only commercially-made yarn in Slovenia – made by Soven (website in Slovene only). Not purely a yarn company, Soven deals in a wide range of woolly industries, and carry not just their yarns in the store but also a selection of knitted goods (both hand knits and machine knits), a variety of bedding materials, wool insulation for construction, and more. Quite a different type of company than I’m used to interfacing with! I spent the most time looking at the yarn, of course, which came in a range of solid colors, both dyed and undyed, as well as a selection of marled yarns. I kind of fell in love with this pink/cream melange above.

I commented on Instagram that there seemed to be a lot of knitters/crocheters/weavers around, and put out a general call for information on Slovenian textiles. A Ravelry member sent along a very sweet message with some info, particularly on the lace-making tradition (thanks Neža!), which had caught my eye. If you’re interested in lace, I recommend checking out this link on Idrijan lace that Neža sent along. It’s bobbin lace, not knitted lace, but it’s incredible beautiful and the lace school in Idrija has operated continuously since 1876, which I think is quite a feat. I’d still love to hear suggestions of links or texts to check out on Slovenian textiles, and welcome suggestions in the comments!

some thoughts

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We’re really into the meat of our trip now (or if the trip is a chausson aux pommes, we’re into the gooey pastry filling). It’s nice to take a step back from the daily routine – home and work truly feel lightyears away – and we’ve seen some incredible stuff. I’ve been thinking about food, too.

France and Italy were a little bit of a revelation. One of the things that I’m realizing is that stereotypes and ideas about other cultures tend to stick around, outliving the things that created them in the first place. Without going too deeply into it (this isn’t a food and drink blog, after all), this article about France’s coffee situation is a really interesting read, particularly for anyone who’s been to France and wondered, why on earth is this coffee so terrible? On the bright side, we found the most amazing little locally-sourced foods store in Lyon, de l’autre côté de la rue.

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Italy was interesting this time too. We really only made it to Venice, which is a beautiful unicorn of a city – I’d been once before, but Chris had never been. But Venice is expensive and there’s some shockingly bad food to be had. On the flipside, there’s also some incredible food – but it makes me realize that I’m spoiled by having a place like Delancey in my neighborhood at home. Once upon a time, you had to go to Italy to get pizza like that. Now, I can sit down eating pizza in a beautiful square in Venice and say, this is almost on par with Delancey. The modern world is weird. Still, I think I left Italy this time much more interested in Italy and the Italian language, which is a bit of a surprise (I’ve never cared much about Italy one way or another). I’m looking forward to going back and seeing different parts of the country someday.

I am so grateful to be on a trip like this; to see so much is a privilege in the first place. But I am also incredibly grateful to have a trip like this open my eyes to new things and ideas, which I suppose is part of why people travel in the first place.

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land of the angles

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Here’s to falling asleep at 7:30 pm (because you didn’t sleep at all on the red-eye) and not getting up until 7:00 am the next morning. To blustery December days and afternoon tea breaks. To long talks over a veggie English breakfast. And to handknit socks when you’re far from home and forgot to pack a scarf (seriously).

Just wanted to pop in to say that we arrived in England yesterday safe and sound (if exhausted). I love this country and I’m so happy we’re kicking off our trip here. I’d like to try and post periodically to check in on this trip – I always forget that I really like writing about travel, and it doesn’t feel like work the same way that blogging about my work does (funny, that). In any case, I realized there were a few things I wanted to post about, too:

  • If you’re in the London area, the Pom Pom Christmas Party is happening this weekend (Saturday, December 6). I’m sad I’ll miss it by only a few days, but you can read more here.
  • If you’re in the Seattle area, this weekend is Urban Craft Uprising. Whether you’ve never been or you’ve been before, GO. It’s such a fantastic craft fair. Runs Saturday and Sunday at Seattle Center.
  • Cirilia is hosting a knitalong for the Loro Vest from her new book, Magpies, Homebodies and Nomads. The official cast on date is December 15, but you can find all the details here.
  • ETA: Spincycle Yarns and Pepperberry Knits are running a Pine Bough Cowl KAL! It kicks of December 26 and you can find details on Ravelry here.

That’s it for now! Wherever you are, I hope you’re staying warm (and for the record, I bought a scarf).