checking in

One piece of housekeeping before I get into this post: I was notified a few weeks ago that my web host will be shutting down by the end of May. I’ll need to migrate the entire Paper Tiger website to a new platform, which will take me some time. I’ll be moving to WordPress over the course of the next two months. If you’re an email subscriber of this blog (or if you use a blog reader), unfortunately I’ll have no way to transfer that email list, but I will give you some warning before I make the final transfer. The website will still be paper-tiger.net, but links to other pages will be changing. So I anticipate some hiccups, as I’ll need to update links to blog posts or tutorial pages in a whole long list of places: pattern PDFs, YouTube video descriptions, and so on. So I hope you’ll bear with me through that process and forgive any bumps in the road. Now, on to the post…

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Hello, all. I hope you’re as well as can be. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside down for us all, and it’s a strange time to… well, to do much of anything. The Norwegian prime minister held a press conference on Thursday, March 12, announcing a number of initial measures they were taking to try to slow the spread, including closing schools and universities and instituting the social distancing policy we’re all now familiar with. March 12 was the first day I decided to work from home, and the press conference came as a relief, to know the government was taking the threat seriously and once they decided to take action, it was swift. My physical university campus is effectively shut down now, and employees have been instructed to work from home if they can. Looking at the calendar, today’s day 11 of isolation/social distancing/shelter-in-place/whatever your terminology. I’ve been out for walks at least every other day, and to the grocery store once, but otherwise, my partner and I are just home. There have been ups and downs, as you might expect, but overall we feel very lucky – lucky to be where we are (in this house, in this country), to not be worried about our jobs or work for the moment, to be able to go outside. We’re incredibly fortunate. We’re also worried about friends who have already lost their jobs, whose livelihoods are threatened. We’ve only seen the beginning of what this whole thing will bring.

It’s hard to know what to do to help, but I’ve been doing my best to support small businesses, both local and further afield. Even though I’ve been eager to knit from my stash this year (and I still am), I’ve been buying yarn I had no plans on buying a month ago. Buying patterns. Buying music on Bandcamp. Buying books. And feeling grateful to be able to lend that kind of support in some small way.

I find it hard to work on my academic work at the moment, and those I work with have been very understanding. I am getting some work done, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself too. And when it  all becomes too much, I knit. Or bake. Keeping my hands busy helps with the anxiety.

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I hope you’re taking care of yourself and your loved ones as well as you can. I hope you’re taking social distancing seriously, but I also hope you’re able to get outside and take in some fresh air when you can. It’s difficult to try and find a balance right now, but do your best – connect with others using the means we have available, but take a step away and take some time for yourself when you need to. This is a really emotionally complex time. People lives are at stake. If you’re part of the high risk group, take extra care. We’re all in this together. xx

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reflections on making

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Halfway through the second month of 2020, I’m beginning to get a sense of how limited my time for making is at the moment (and is likely to remain for at least several more months). Hashtag PhD life, or something like that? I’m getting a little bit of knitting done here and there, but it all feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace. I have two sock projects on the go, which I sometimes bring on my commute to work on, but I’m still on the first sock of both pairs. Most of the sweaters I have on the needles are fingering weight sweaters, which prompted me to cast on a worsted weight sweater a few weeks ago in the hopes that I could bang it out, but that also feels slow and now I just have another WIP. So you could say I’ve been thinking lately about my priorities when it comes to my making this year, and I thought I’d share what I’m feeling with you all.

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Firstly, after being apart from the majority of my WIPs and my stash for six months, I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all now that I have it back. Not entirely in a bad way – I missed it and I feel an excitement to work on projects with all these beautiful materials I’ve collected – but what makes it overwhelming is the relatively slow pace at which I’m working on projects at the moment. I managed to work through a lot of what I had with me in the fall, which felt very freeing, and I’m just not feeling that freedom anymore. This means I’m feeling two strong desires: one is to work through my existing WIPs (16 is the current count, going by my Ravelry project page), and the other is a desire to work from stash for new projects. I really, genuinely want to be doing both of those things. And that feels really good, although it’s clearly going to take a little while to work on the WIPs. A few of them aren’t so far from being finished (like my Galore as well as this summery sweater) and trying to get them wrapped up in the next couple of months will probably help a lot.

The other thing I’m feeling really strongly is a desire to make things for friends and family. This isn’t entirely incompatible with wanting to knit from my stash, luckily, but it is somewhat at odds with trying to get through my WIPs. Nonetheless, after being reuinited with *all my knits* I’m also feeling how much I don’t need anything new, despite all the yarn kicking around in my stash. Of course there are sweaters and other things I want to make for myself that I already have yarn for, but I have plenty of yarn to do more knitting for others, as well.

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I know a lot of this is really in line with how many other crafters are feeling right now – The Crimson Stitchery is one of my favorite podcasts, and Anushka has talked a lot in recent videos about storage space, stash, WIPs, and desire vs. necessity. I really appreciate her approach to crafting as it’s always creative and beautiful, but also thrifty and practical. (The tagline for her podcast is “making all things beautiful and useful.”) She’s hosting an initiative called Stashless2020 in which you can join in with the aim to do one of two things: either try to work through your existing stash to become completely stashless, or put less into your stash and work more from what you already have. I definitely fall into the latter category – even if I had all the time in the world to knit this year, I wouldn’t empty my stash – but I appreciate the encouragement provided by a group effort, and knowing there are others feeling the same. If you’re intrigued by the idea of Stashless2020, I’d encourage you to check out this video where Anuskha discusses the question, “Can I go stashless in 2020?”

I am so lucky to have so many beautiful things to make with, so when I feel frustrated by how slowly my projects seem to be going at the moment, I just try to remind myself: it’s not a race.

transitions

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Trondheim in the autumn continues to charm. I’m starting to adjust to the general level of busy-ness that my life here is going to involve, but it’s definitely been a big shift for me. Partly that’s because I’m still working on some patterns in the background along with my new day job at the university; partly it’s because my PhD coursework has started as well and my to-do list is growing longer; and partly it’s because we’ve still been living in temporary accommodations and it can be a challenge to get into routines when there are things about your living situation you can’t change. But we’ll be moving into our new long-term home in November, and I’m really looking forward to that.

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While we wait for that, though, the weather continues to shift. The leaves are changing, but we still haven’t reached peak color yet. We had a couple of weeks of solid rain in the middle of the month before the sun came back out last week. I was in Kraków for a conference the tail end of last week and over the weekend, and I got home to Trondheim last night after dark. This morning I woke up to much cooler weather than we had last week (a few degrees above 0°C) and saw that the higher peaks in Bymarka (which are still relatively low) had a dusting of snow on them. The mountains across the fjord, as well. Now it well and truly feels like Norwegian autumn. I love Norway at this time of year, and I still can’t get over how much longer and slower the autumn is here in Trondheim compared with up north in Tromsø. This city is truly beautiful in its fall colors.

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One of the things the weather’s change has brought on is a mild panic over the fact that I don’t have that many warm clothes in my suitcases with me (the rest of our clothes are packed away with the belongings we moved from Montreal – patiently waiting in storage for us to move into our new place in November). I feel like I haven’t had much time for knitting recently, but now I’m determined to knit a little more and a little faster, if I can. I have two sweaters which are only missing sleeves, so I feel like with some concentrated knitting time in the evenings I could finish this No Frills sweater by next weekend.

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I don’t usually knit the same pattern over and over, but this will be my third No Frills (or Ingen dikkedarer as it’s known in Scandinavia), and I’m approaching this one a little differently than my first two. I’ll elaborate more on that when it’s finished, perhaps, because each of them is different and brings something unique to my wardrobe even as they all feel like everyday staples. I adore this color, a limited edition colorway of Hillesvåg Tinde made for Drople Design called Villbringebær (“wild raspberry”). It’s a color I fell head over heels in love with when Anne first launched it over a year ago and I’m so thrilled to finally be knitting a garment with it.

So I’ve been enjoying knitting on this sweater very much, even if it’s felt like slow going. Knitting on a wooly sweater goes so well with changing colors, chilly rainy days, and the smell of woodsmoke in the air, after all. I’ve been getting into the spirit of autumn in other ways too. Some of the local apples have been wonderful recently, and the other week I baked a fyriskaka (a Swedish apple cake with cardamom) from Fika, which is one of my favorite bakes for this time of year. I also received a massive bag of little plums from a friend at work – the plum tree in her garden went crazy this year, it seems – and I managed to turn some of those into a few jars of pickled plums and roasted plum butter. I’ve been enjoying the plum butter on toast or lomper in the mornings for breakfast. (We’ll see about the pickles, which were more of an experiment.)

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I’ve also been getting out for long walks or little hikes whenever possible. Now that I’ve seen that the snow is encroaching on the mountains in Bymarka, I’d like to get in a short hike in the next week or two to soak up the season. I always enjoy walking by the water as well. I’m always drawn to the water like a magnet – the smell of saltwater was another thing I missed so much in Montreal. The Trondheim Fjord can feel so much like Puget Sound in Washington state, a similarity I really enjoy.

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Of course there are challenges that come with this transitional season (both of the year but also of our lives), but overall we have fallen in love with this city, and I was so happy to come home to it after a weekend away. I can’t help but feel incredibly lucky that we get to live here. Vi trives godt her i Trondheim.

a few summer knits

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I thought after my last post sharing some summertime snaps, I’d share what I’ve been knitting on for the past month or so as well. There’s actually been very little knitting for the past few days, as much of Norway has seen temps up and over 30°C (or 85°F), which is unusually warm here. My apartment gets full sun throughout the afternoon (the hottest part of the day) until the sun sets (currently around 10:30 PM), so I definitely haven’t been feeling too inspired to knit. But I can still get in a few stitches in the mornings, like I have this morning, when there’s a cool breeze blowing through the open windows.

While I always have a lot of projects on the go, many of my WIPs are still packed up in boxes along with my stash. We’re actually in a short-term rental for the time being, and will be finding long-term housing early this fall, so all our things will remain in storage until then. I think I have enough knitting to tide me over until then, though, since I thought ahead about what to pack in my suitcase.

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First up is actually a design that will hopefully be launching soon. This one has been in the works for awhile, and this is the second sample I’m knitting for the pattern, which will be for a tee or summer sweater (depending ons leeve length). The first version was lambswool hand-dyed by Ninapetrina, but this one is a slightly more summery blend of yarns. The grey yarn is Amirisu Parade (generously given to me by Amirisu earlier this year), a blend of 60% wool, 20% cotton, 10% linen, and 10% silk. It’s soft, has a lovely drape, and the blend gives this color a lovely heathered appearance. I’ve paired it with Quince & Co. Tern (75% wool/25% silk) for the contrast, in the Backbay colorway. You can find my Ravelry project page for this one here, although it’ll be lacking some information until the pattern comes out.

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I’ve also cast on for a pair of socks since arriving here, with yarn I brought with me. I’m knitting the Pebbles and Pathways socks by Marceline Smith (aka heybrownberry), who I had the chance to meet earlier this year in Edinburgh. Marce is so absolutely lovely, and I love that working on these socks makes me think of that trip and meeting Marce and so many other wonderful knitters. Some projects are like a warm hug, you know? I love the simplicity of this design and I’m really enjoying how it works up in this yarn, Blacker Yarns Mohair Blends 4-ply, a blend of Hebridean and Manx wools with mohair. It’s a woolen spun 2-ply yarn, and when I purchased it from The Woolly Thistle they let me know that Blacker is no longer recommending this yarn for socks (although their website doesn’t appear to have been updated to reflect that). Given the woolen spun structure I imagine it hasn’t worn as well as some people would like. But I’m not afraid of a little bit of mending, so I thought I’d use it for socks anyway and see for myself how it wears. In my experience with sock knitting, the gauge of the fabric matters nearly as much as whether or not a sock yarn has nylon in it. If I wear these socks often I expect I will get holes eventually, but that’s been true for all of my socks. So we shall see! You can find my project page here.

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Another pattern that went straight into my queue when it was released earlier this year was the Granskog tee by Renate Yerkes, designed for this years Oslo Knitting Festival magazine (although it is available as an individual pattern as well). This pattern features tree motifs worked in lace at the hem, and I just think it’s so clever and I love the effect. When I realized that this would be a pretty perfect pattern for two skeins of apple green yarn given to me by my friend Kristin, I made sure to stash those skeins in my suitcase so I could cast on for it this summer. I thought the lace might be a slog to get through, but on the contrary, I was so excited to see the trees emerge that I just wanted to keep knitting. I’m using Norwegian wool yarn from Sjølingstad Uldvarefabrik, an old wool mill in southern Norway that is both museum and functioning mill today. My project page is here.

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And finally, one afternoon a week or two ago I took the ferry over to Munkholmen, a small island in the Trondheimfjord, just a ten minute boat ride from the city center. The island has lived many lives, including being a monastery, a prison, and a fortress at different points in history, but these days it’s mostly a nice place for an outing, with plenty of green grass for a picnic, a little beach for swimming/bathing, and a few facilities on site like a cafe and a shop. I had a wander through the shop (called Munkholmen Galleri) which featured all kinds of things from local artists and makers, and got very excited when I stumbled into a corner with sheepskins and a basket of yarns in three natural colors – all from the grey Trøndersau. There was a light grey, a medium grey, and a natural black (which like most natural black yarns is a warm, deep chocolately brown in some lights). I thought picking up a skein of the lightest grey and the natural black would be a good idea, and hopefully enough to make a pair of mittens. Trøndelag, the county where Trondheim is situated, is also the home of Selbu, which is of course home to the tradition of Selbu mittens. The thought of making myself a pair of Selbu-style mittens with local wool from a rare local breed? I couldn’t resist. So when I got home, I had a browse through some existing patterns, but nothing quite captured what I was after. So I drew up my own chart. This is pretty heavy wool – I’d say aran weight, at least – so these are the thickest Selbu mittens I’ve ever made. But I’m knitting them at a dense gauge so they should be very warm in the winter! I’ll probably share more about these later, but for now you can find the project page here.

So there’s a glimpse at some of the projects I’ve been working on this summer. I know we’re hardly the only ones who have been experiencing a heat wave – how are you keeping cool, if the summer’s been hot where you are?

lately

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

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

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

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

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

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embracing summer

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

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

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

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

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the solace of finishing things

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I’m one of those people who tends to have a lot of projects up in the air at the same time, and I’m not sure I’ve ever been much of a juggler, to be honest. I’m very good at saying yes to too many things, or at starting things before I’ve finished other things. I know many of you reading this can relate to that, if only with your own knitting projects. Sometimes, I don’t mind at all. Sometimes, it’s interesting and exciting to have a lot of different things going on in my life. But sometimes, when life gets harder for one reason or another, trying to juggle too many things at once can start to feel like a burden. Instead of feeling free to choose which book (among the five I’m in the middle of) I’m going to read before bed on any given night, I can feel weighed down by all the unread pages, paralyzed by option anxiety. Sometimes, instead of enjoying that I have different types of knitting projects to pick up and put down, I feel like I haven’t finished a project in ages, which makes me feel hopelessly unproductive even when I have been making plenty of progress on things – they just aren’t finished yet. I’ve been feeling that way lately, as winter drags on, struggling to feel productive, and consequently struggling to feel good about myself (uncoupling my sense of self-worth from my productivity is a much longer process, one I expect to be working on for a long time).

I’m grateful that at this point in my life, I can recognize when this is happening, and I can find the motivation to dig myself out of that kind of a hole. Books and knitting projects seem the most susceptible to this sort of behavior, so I’ve been working on finishing books and finishing projects. I do sometimes get bored sticking to one book at a time, but seeing how much more quickly I get through a book when I decide to commit to just one at a time is always motivating, and I’ve just about finished the second book in as many weeks, which will mean I’m down to three books. With a few flights coming up later this week, I’m pretty confident I can get that number down to two by the end of this coming weekend.

And so it goes with knitting projects, too! Last week, I finished three things over the course of three days. One was a pattern sample (more about that at a later date, after I’ve taken pattern photos), but the other two I thought I’d share with you. I love both of these so much, and it’s good to remind myself of just how great it feels sometimes to slow down, focus on just one project, and see it through to its completion.

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First up is a pair of socks that’s been on the needles since December: my Selbu Socks. This pattern is by Eli of Skeindeer Knits, and it’s one that I was looking forward to immensely last fall, when Eli shared the design-in-progress with us before the pattern was published. I cast on the day it was released with stash yarn (Eli very generously gave me a copy of the pattern as a gift – thank you Eli!) and loved watching the pattern emerge, but over the next few months, progress happened in fits and starts as I put these down to work on other things, occasionally picking them up to work a few rounds here and there, but definitely never giving them my undivided attention. I’m so glad that last week I decided they needed it, since they were actually getting pretty close to finished. I’ve knit (and designed) socks with stranded colorwork before, but these are my first allover-colorwork socks, which feels like an achievement of sorts. They are slightly thicker than my typical hand knit socks, given that the stranded fabric is twice as thick, but I can still wear them with my boots, so I love that while these have the feeling of traditional Norwegian stockings, they’re truly everyday socks that I can wear whenever I like (temperature permitting). Given that it’s still very much winter in Montreal (currently 23ºF / -5ºC), these will actually see a little bit of wear before they get put away until next winter.

The last thing I want to mention is the yarns: I used superwash merino/nylon blends for these socks. The light grey yarn is no longer available, but the red yarn is Explorer Sock by Phileas Yarns in the St Expedit colorway, which is dyed by my friend Sylvie in York (in the UK) and I have described this color more than once as my favorite red (I first wrote about this colorway on a different base, here). It is always a pleasure to work with Sylvie’s yarns and I’m so happy to have used it for such a special project.

More technical details as well as more photos can be found over on my Ravelry project page.

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The other personal project I finished was my Mount Pleasant tee, a pattern by Megan Nodecker of Pip & Pin (and the Pip & Pin podcast). I fell in love with this design when Megan shared it in a Ravelry forum post last spring, asking advice about pattern photos from fellow designers (I think many of us fell in love with this design after that post, to be honest!). I bought it when she released it last May, and the same week I ordered yarn to make it. I’d decided I wanted to make it with yarn from Garnsurr, a yarn-dyeing company in Norway that’s also a refugee integration project, and one of my favorite companies to support. I actually posted about my plans for this project last August, and I wound the yarn into cakes before we left Norway at the end of that month. Nonetheless, with too many other things on my plate, I hadn’t cast on for it until a few weeks ago, when I decided it would be my only travel project for a two-week trip to Singapore and India that my husband went on. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably spotted some progress shots of this tee (including this photo which led to a really fantastic discussion of everyone’s experiences with flying with knitting in hand luggage – thanks to everyone who joined in on that conversation!). The finished tee is exactly what I’ve been dreaming of since last spring, and I can’t wait to get some wear out of it as the weather warms up here in Canada and this spring finally arrives. I didn’t really make any modifications to this pattern, but you can still find the details (including links to the pattern page and the yarn page) over on my Ravelry project page. Megan has definitely become one of my favorite designers over the past year and if you’ve never checked her out, I’d highly recommend a quick (or long and leisurely) browse through her designs on Ravelry. On top of the beautiful but wearable pieces she creates, her photography is always gorgeous.

With these projects done, I’m down to 8 WIPs (ha!), including the sweater pattern sample that is my current priority. I don’t think I’ll ever be a one-project-at-a-time kind of knitter again, but it does feel really good to prioritize finishing things for the moment. And now that I think about it, those Nikoline socks pictured at the top of this post are getting pretty close…