december light

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Today is Luciadagen, or St. Lucy’s Day, traditionally a day for celebrating light in the darkness here in Scandinavia. We started our day with an early morning walk up the hill to Elverhøy church for a fairly traditional celebration: one of the university choirs and a youth choir joined up to put on a Lucia procession and concert, lit only by candlelight. One of the girls from the youth choir was dressed as Lucia, with the wreath of candles on her head (those were the only electric candles – the rest were real). Saffron buns (known as lussekatter in Norway) were served. In the age of electricity and artificial light, an experience like that feels like a rare luxury. It was beautiful. (It was also not conducive to phone photos, but you can get a glimpse of what it looked like on my Instagram.)

It also made it feel like this day is an apt choice to share a few of the photos I’ve collected in the past week. It’s been three weeks since the sun disappeared below the mountains in the south – three weeks of no sunrise or sunset. Three weeks of mørketida. But that does not mean it’s always dark. The light that we do have in this season can be so beautiful. It isn’t always – we’ve got a week of rain ahead of us, which will mean dark skies and no snow to brighten up the ground, either. But the past several days have been pretty magic. And as the photo at the top of this post shows, even the grey days can be beautiful in the little bit of daylight that comes.

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I got to take a nice long walk on Saturday during the daylight, and it was such a treat. It was my favorite kind of cotton candy pastel sky. The rest of these photos are from that walk. The world looked like a painting.

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For me, there is so much beauty to be found in the dark season here. Even on the darkest rainy days, I am so grateful to be living here and experiencing this. I hope these photos bring a little light to your day today, too.

first snow and FOs

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Things have gotten very busy lately, but I wanted to pop in to say hello and share a few things.

First up: Pomcast, the podcast of knitting & crochet Pom Pom Quarterly, has a new episode up featuring an interview with me! I a live interview with Lydia at the Oslo Strikkefestival, though the audio unfortunately didn’t make it, so Sophie caught up with me via Skype after the fact (we largely covered the same questions, so don’t feel too sad if you missed out on the original interview, and don’t expect it to be wildly different if you happened to be there!). Still, it was fun to do an interview in a room full of lovely people knitting while we chatted and I enjoyed the novelty of wearing a “Britney Spears microphone,” as Lydia called it.

Secondly: while we’re on the topic of the Oslo Strikkefestival, I have a couple of FOs to share that I knit up using yarn I bought at the marketplace! I finished my Lupine shawl, which I wrote about in my last post, and I’m so pleased with how it turned out.

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The pattern is by Cory Ellen Boberg of Indie Knits and the yarn is the gorgeous gradient I picked up from Squirrel’s Yarns, which was one of my impulse purchases at the festival (the Pécan Fing base in the color Hématite). If you like gradient yarns, I can’t recommend Lisa’s gradients enough. The transitions are impossibly smooth and the finished shawl is so pretty to me in its simplicity.

The other FO is also knit up in one of my marketplace purchases: it’s a Simple Hat by Hannah Fettig in the spælsau yarn I purchased from Værbitt. This was the first time I’ve knit with a 100% spælsau yarn, so I wanted to knit something simple that would get a lot of wear and let me really get a feel for the yarn knitted up in a fabric. I also didn’t want the pattern to compete with the subtle variation in the colorway.

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I have to say, I love the finished hat. This yarn’s a little bit rustic and it feels slightly wiry in the hand – it’s very strong – but it’s also surprisingly soft considering that, and when washed and blocked it developed a bit of a lovely halo that adds to that soft feel. This hat has gotten a lot of wear already and I think it’ll continue to do so.

Lastly: we’ve all been impatiently waiting for the snow in Tromsø, as last week we passed the previous record for the date of the first snowfall of the season (that means in recorded memory, it has never been as late as this year: yikes). But finally, on Saturday evening, the snow started falling. It kept coming down through Sunday, when I got to take a walk down to my favorite park. It’s nice to revisit the photos, because Tuesday turned suddenly warm again, bringing rain, and the snow started to melt almost immediately. Between the rain clouds and the fact that we bid farewell to the sun last week (it won’t rise again until January), it’s been very, very dark this week. Hopefully before too long it’ll cool down again and the snow will come back, but for now, enjoy these photos from Sunday’s walk.

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a year in tromsø

The anniversary marking my first year in Tromsø has come and gone – I arrived on August 2nd, 2015, and this year on that date I found myself back at the airport as I embarked on a quick trip to Canada. The past few weeks have been a bit crazy and intense but I’m back in my cozy apartment now and have a moment to reflect before diving headfirst into my second year as a graduate student here (hello, thesis; let’s get acquainted, shall we?).

Living abroad for extended periods of time is a curious experience, sometimes exciting and invigorating and other times isolating and deflating. I’ve had the incredible privelege of spending long stretches of time abroad before, and each experience is different. Norway has presented us with both incredible experiences as well as unique and frustrating challenges. But at the end of the day I usually feel very lucky to be living in this littly city in the Arctic, and as I’ve said before on this blog, one of my favorite things about being here is documenting the changing landscape around me through the seasons’ changes.

I’ve shared many, many photos of Tromsø on my Instagram account over the past year, and sometimes I have little videos to share too. What started as a whim – collecting little snippets of autumn into one video – turned into a four-part series of snippets of Tromsø in each season. I thought it would be fun to share those videos all in one place. (If for any reason the embedded Instagram videos below aren’t showing up for you, they’re also collected under the Instagram hashtag #ayearintromsø and can be viewed there.)

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Summer snippets. #sommeritromsø #ayearintromsø

A post shared by Dianna • Paper Tiger (@papertigerknits) on

Autumn and winter are shorter, because Instagram’s limit for video was 15 seconds when they were posted, but I was able to be more indulgent with spring and summer.

I also enjoy revisiting photos of the same places in different times of year, and I think that our iconic peak, Tromsdalstinden (known colloquially as just “tinden,” or “the peak”) is a perfect example. On the top is a photo from February, and below, one from last month. Both photos are taken from Prestvannet, the lake on top of the island. I love seeing the lake frozen over and covered in snow in winter (with ski tracks!), while it forms a glassy mirror of sorts in the summer.

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I must admit, looking back through photos from the past year has gotten me more than a little bit excited for the arrival of autumn… the midnight sun has ended, the nights are growing darker, and soon this whole landscape will change yet again. September will bring visiting friends, and it’s always nice to have things to look forward to.

april (snow) showers

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It was starting to get springlike around here – well, enough for the temps to reach near 10ºC / 50ºF with lots of sunny days, melting most of the snow. But today brought fresh snow, perfectly normal here in northern Norway at this time of year! Spring comes late. The days are growing long, though (sunset is after 8PM now) and the midnight sun will begin in mid-May. The light here is always changing and it continues to be surreally beautiful. I’m grateful for that.

It’s a bit quiet here on the blog at the moment because April also means I’m now spending a majority of my time working on my course papers, which are due in May, and I also broke my shoulder a month ago, which means I’m on a bit of a necessary break from knitting, obviously. I need a bit more sleep and I’m eating more than normal, but otherwise it hasn’t interrupted my everyday life too much – aside from the knitting. I definitely miss it at this point and I’m looking forward to when I’ll be able to pick up the needles again.

If you’ve ever had to take a break from knitting due to injury (or for any other reason), I’d love to hear about what helped the most when all you could think about was the projects you’d love to be casting on!

currently

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The daylight walks continue to be lovely. On clear days, the colors are unreal. The photo above was taken from Telegrafbukta, the park on the southwest side of Tromsøya. It continues to be one of my favorite places, and at this time of year it’s the perfect place to watch the sunset. (I also finally saw the sun again on Friday! Momentous. Glorious. The days are growing longer at a fast clip now – this is the fun part.)

School is already busy, but that’s no shocker. In my downtime I’m managing to get a bit of knitting done. I finished my Toatie Hottie (no photos yet, though) and I’ve been working on several other projects, but most of those are the kind I can’t show you yet (aka future patterns). So in lieu of that, here’s some things I’d love to be joining in on if I had the time:

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Bang Out a Sweater over at Mason Dixon Knitting – Kay and Ann are leading a KAL of Mary Jane Mucklestone‘s Stopover, a beautiful lopapeysa. Cast on is tomorrow (February 1st), and it’s probably a good thing I don’t have time to join in, because I don’t think “new lopapeysa” is really one of my pressing needs at the moment.

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I’d also love to join in on the Anna Vest KAL hosted by Fringe, starting February 15th. This is one of my favorite patterns from Farm to Needle and while I’m not sure a vest/waistcoat like this would be a perfect fit for my wardrobe, I’d still love to knit it someday (perhaps I could add sleeves, since I am in need of cardigans?). I’m really looking forward to the versions that come out of this knitalong – I’m expecting to see some cool yarn and color choices and I’ll definitely be following along on social media.

Both the Stopover and Anna Vest photos are by Kathy Cadigan.

daylight walks

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Winter is dark in Tromsø. I wrote on back on November 21st that we said goodbye to the sun that day (and then I cheated, because I wasn’t in Tromsø for the darkest four weeks of the year). Today, January 21st, is soldagen (“the sun day”), the day we welcome the sun back. All week the weather forecast for today has been cloudy, but we got lucky and the clouds stayed at bay just long enough for the sun to make its first brief appearance of the year.

Unfortunately, I was in a classroom during the few minutes it came out (the photo above was taken on Monday). I watched it happen on screen via NRK’s live feed (for the very curious, you can watch the playback here – the video is just under ten minutes). I was able to participate in other soldagen traditions, though, like eating solboller, which are sweet buns or donuts eaten on soldagen. In Tromsø the preferred type seems to be a frosted jelly-filled donut! What’s called a “solbolle” can vary from region to region. I must say, I’m in favor of holidays where it’s traditional to sit around with something warm to drink, eating donuts.

Even though I didn’t see the sun today, I’ll see it again soon enough. In the meantime, I’ve been taking lots of walks during the daylight hours. For me, the two most important ways to cope with the long hours of darkness are spending time outside during the daylight, and getting plenty of exercise. Long walks around the island during the daylight does a wonderful job of feeding two birds with one seed.

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People’s reactions when they first learn how little daylight we get at this time of year often aren’t that far from “horror-struck.” But somehow, I find it easier to really commit to darker days than to spend a winter with dark setting in at 4:00 pm all the time. I know it’s going to be dark for the vast majority of the hours in a day, so the daylight hours become precious (it’s part of why it’s so important to spend as much of the daylight outside as possible).

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The other thing, though, is that the light during the daylight is magical. It has an incredible quality. There is a time of day referred to by photographers as “golden hour” (or sometimes “magic hour”) and while without the sun I’m not sure it’s a true golden hour, it’s no secret the light at the edges of day has a special quality. The light we get here in winter? It’s like 4-5 hours of magic hour. On a cloudy day (and it seems my long walks have mostly been on cloudy days) there’s a softness cloaking everything, while on clear days, the sky turns into a giant ombre cotton candy daydream. Pair that with the snowy mountains all around, and I don’t feel sad about the darkness at all; on the contrary, I feel so lucky that this is the place I get to live and walk and breathe. And the snow makes it sound different too; the physical properties of snow make it a sound-absorber, which is why the world feels quiet when you’re out walking in a fresh snow.

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Thinking back to Tromsø when we arrived in the summer, it feels like a different planet. And while I am certainly looking forward to the days growing longer, and eventually, warmer (because the Norwegian summer is glorious), for now I am incredibly grateful for my long daylight walks through this magic winter wonderland.

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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.

snow days

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It’s been snowing off and on since Tuesday; at first just a dusting, but now, in droves. There’s a substantial amount blanketing the ground outside; cars look like marshmallows. Since our first snow several weeks ago, I’ve been patiently waiting for its return (as a native North Carolinian, snow will always be pretty magical to me).

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The timing is good, because snow makes the dark season immensely more cheerful. And today, the dark season, mørketida, officially begins. November 21st marks the first day of the year in Tromsø when the sun doesn’t rise above the mountains in the south. We’ve said goodbye to the sun until January 21st! The middle hours of the day will be filled with twilight, which means that on a clear day, for a few hours the sky will be filled with the most beautiful colors – an hours-long dramatic sunrise/sunset (for it is both but neither, of course).

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Christmas lights have started going up around town, too. For an American, it can feel like holiday lights before Thanksgiving is too early – but Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in Norway, of course, and as the sun disappears, lights around the city are a welcome sight. Tromsø’s holiday street lights are absurdly charming: garlands of evergreens strung with soft white lights framing huge red hearts. It’s hard not to love the warm glow.

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The city is also preparing its Christmas tree. This tree was brought in by helicopter just a few days ago; next weekend, the lights will be lit in a celebration. It sits in Stortorget (“the big square”) in the middle of town. I remember the tree lighting in Debrecen, so I’m looking forward to seeing the lights go on next weekend. With any luck the snow will stick around.

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If it’s cold where you are, I hope you’re keeping warm! I’ll be mostly snuggling up indoors (lovely) working on term papers (less lovely), but I’m also working on that blog post about making modifications for Aspen. It should be up soon!

north x west

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I’m starting to get back into the Pacific Northwest vibe now that I’m home. It’s been a typical PNW winter since we returned last week, with lots of clouds and drizzle, but that makes the sunny days all the more beautiful. It’s a good excuse to get out and go for a walk (especially in the middle of doing business taxes.)

With days in the upper-40s Fahrenheit (~10ºC), it feels positively balmy after spending new year’s in Montreal. I hope those of you on the east coast of the States and Canada are bundling up and staying warm in your sub-freezing temperatures!