Happy Local Yarn Shop Day!

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My closest store: Rumpelstiltskin on R Street in Sacramento

I am very fortunate as there are several stores that specialize in knit/crochet supplies. Babetta’s is my other go-to if I am in the burbs. Rumpelstiltskin is my closest shop and the one I bonded with when I began knitting 30 years ago. It recently changed ownership and the new management is bringing a fresh enthusiasm to knit, crochet and weaving.

Today is “support your local yarn store day” and Rumpelstiltskin was offering lots of exciting extras. I bought the store t-shirt for just $5 with my purchase. I bought the yarn to make the spring challenge and got the drea renee knits “The Shift” pattern for free! I also discovered a new zine called Making.

I love supporting a local business and getting new inspiration and projects. It is a complete bonus when the store is close enough to bicycle to on a beautiful spring day! My basket was full of cotton yarn on the way home. Love.

SWATCH: Mrs. Hedgehog’s Knit Shop

IMG_1336One of the joys of travel is squeezing in quick shopping expeditions to a wool shop for new knitting projects or a great book store. I had identified Mrs. Hedgehog’s Knit Bits in Cowes on the Isle of Wight before I left so I didn’t look for wool in Denmark. I also packed a few patterns that I plan to knit (after my disastrous assumption that I could translate Norwegian patterns when I got home).

It turns out that Google thought the shop was one place, and it was not. So I found my way there by asking other merchants on High Street until I found it on the corner of York Street and Mill High Road. It was the Big Woolly  Weekend and I was hoping to find a public knitting event to join. There wasn’t anything planned for Cowes so I focused on looking for yarn for a baby sweater.

Mrs. Hedgehog offers only acrylic yarn but in a great range of colors. The shop also offers everything you’d need for tools and some kits and patterns. I found a range of colors I loved and I might still have held out for washable wool, but the women in the shop were so friendly and helpful, I made a purchase.

August, 2017 postscript

I just finished the sweater inspired by a sweater Princess Charlotte sported in a photo in People magazine. I used Purl Soho’s “Little Girl Fair Isle Sweater” for the sizing (12 month) and adjusted for higher weight yarn. I adapted the sheep graph from Donna Smith’s “Baa-ble Hat.” I gave it to Amy’s expected baby girl.

Swatch: Slow TV Norway’s Evening of Knitting

slow tv 1Oh my gosh. I was prepared for several hours watching Norwegian women in a circle knitting. It is so much more dynamic and fun. If we watched live we could have checked in on facebook (Norge Rundt). It is all super quirky fun. Thank goodness for subtitles.  Available for streaming on Netflix.

hostessThe television host is Rebecca Nedregotten Strand and her enthusiasm is infectious.She and her crew assembled an interesting variety of knitters and projects–from a group knitting a sweater suit for a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and a fashion show of traditional and modern knitwear. As she says in the introduction, “A thread can contain so much. All you need is two needles to create warmth, love and care.”

There are instructional videos scattered through  the four hours if you want to learn how to cast on and start knitting. The method is continental style, which I’ve always suspected is more efficient than the American style that I learned.

slow tv 2I heard about Slow TV on a podcast about going slower. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I realize as I watch 4 or more hours of cycling in a morning during one of the three grand tours, I am not completely new to the charms of slow television. If you are remotely interested in knitting you’ll find this entertaining. Other episodes feature train trips.

I dare you to not be charmed by the Norwegians sharing their beautiful country and enthusiasm for traditional crafts. As one knitter said if you are wearing mittens you can only give it a thumbs up.

Swatch: Liberty of London

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Originally built in 1885 and opening to Regent Street, the store front was redeveloped using retired British naval ship timbers in the 1920s.

I have long drooled over the Liberty of London fabrics and clothing. It is harder to find the fabrics in the USA. J Crew carries some of the clothing. I have been to the fabric corner of Harrods numerous times to stroke and oogle the Liberty fabrics, the whole time not realizing that they have an entire department store near Oxford Circus!

I had just started the #5 Jane Austen walking tour (more on this in future blog), when I looked down Argyll Street and spied Liberty stores at the end of the street. I had to detour.

Starting with the stunning florist at the entrance, the entire place is a palace of beauty. My heart beat faster as I tried to take it all in. I quickly recalculated the day I planned. I was not going to rush through this store. I wanted to soak in every display, every lovely English item.

Liberty does not just carry their own brand. You can find Stella McCartney baby outfits in the children’s section and designer clothes throughout. I started in the stationary shop and looking at bags and scarves. Some of the prices were quite reasonable and some made me hyperventilate. I bought some notecards and decided I may as well sign up for the loyalty points program because I was headed to the third level where the fabric and yarn is displayed.

I thought I might be going to a yarn shop in Islington at the end of the day, so luckily I had tucked in a couple of patterns that I plan to knit for my expected grandson. I shed all my bags and jackets and prepared for a good long browse.

Trudy asked if I needed assistance. We had a wonderful time trying to sort it all out with different weights and US and UK measurements. She is a very experienced knitter and we shared back and forth. The wifi in the store is excellent so I was able to show her Little Cotton Rabbits (I could hardly believe she had not seen this UK treasure!). She showed me her knitting project. In the end I spent more than I expected and I could not be more pleased.

I looked through many more departments and I stopped in the cafe for tea and an English cheese tray. The lovely customer service department refunded my VAT. Yet, the highlight for me was shopping with the assistance of Trudy Healy-Potter. She is a textile designer and offers classes at Liberty.

She showed me how she spliced three patterns from the Rowan loves… pattern book to create the colorful sweater she has almost finished. Not only am I excited about the projects I will be knitting this summer in anticipation of Grandson #1, I am reenergized about the craft overall. Liberty is so clever to have Trudy on their team.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Great Places to Buy Wool in Oslo for the Hip and Chic Knitter

If you knit (or crochet) and you are visiting Oslo for a day or more, then you have three great options for wool shopping. In Norway, if you see “strikke” on the shop window then it is probably a wool or yarn store as we know it in North America.

If you are cruising the Nordic countries and docking briefly in Oslo, there are two shops within walking distance of the port. The first, Strikkedilla (translated as Knitting Craze) is conveniently located in the Oslo City mall (a highrise next to the main train station). The mall includes a grocery store, so be sure to check out the aisle dedicated to nut butters! The knit shop is the smallest of the three and jam-packed with colorful fun projects children would like to wear.

Glasmagasinet at Stortorvet 9
Glasmagasinet department store

The second shop is my favorite of the three, Husfliden. It is inside the department store Glasmagasinet at Stortorvet 9. I was a little befuddled at first by this idea of a department store; it was a bit more like a mall without walls. In the basement I found the yarn, buttons, traditional costumes, and many other beautiful textiles. It was a feast for the eyes and fingers. They also offered readymade Oleana sweaters. If you only have time to browse one store, make it Den Norske Husfliden.IMG_1010 IMG_1009 IMG_1013

If you are taking a day trip to see the Vigeland Sculpture Park, there is a yarn shop a stone’s throw from the metro station (Majorstuen) for the sculpture gardens. I did not spot Tjorven at Valkyriegata 17 right away, so I have included a photo. The clerks were friendly and the yarn lucious. They did not offer any patterns in English (they call them recipes). I realized too late that it would have been smart to look for some patterns on Ravelry before I went shopping. The store clerk showed me a website that has language choices including English. These are the same Norwegian inspired (modern, not traditional) patterns featured in Drops magazine.

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There are also two readymade wool shops that offer beautiful, albeit expensive, sweaters and other wool garments. Dale of Norway at Tullins gate 5 offers more classical sweaters and made me want to go skiing. Oleana garments are inspired by traditional Norwegian design updated with a modern twist and a more colorful palette.

It is Dah-ley, not Dale like Yale next to the Hard Rock Cafe in Oslo. No yarn for sale here.
It is Dah-ley, not Dale like Yale next to the Hard Rock Cafe in Oslo. No yarn for sale here.

One challenge with yarn shopping in Norway is the patterns are almost all in Norwegian, of course. I bought a couple of patterns with yarn to make them, thinking that between Google Translate, friends who speak Norwegian and my knitting experience I could figure them out. Hah! Not yet. When I return to Norway I am taking some patterns that I want to make and then shopping for wool. All of these shops are perfect if you need a tool, or inspiration.IMG_1008

I visited these three shops in July 2013, and I have just checked and they are all still in business. I also used Linda Marveng’s blog post as my guide. She lists additional shops and I visited a few others; however, I am including my favorites here. Linda Marveng is also enthused about Norway Designs, just know that there is nothing knitting related in the shop.

Norway can be one of the most expensive countries to visit in Europe, so I was very pleased to find wool prices a comparative bargain.  Shops are both plentiful and the ones mentioned here carry a good variety of quality yarn. It is good to be in a country where a lot of people still knit. There were some awesome patterns, if I only spoke Norwegian.

Swatch: Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits

Downton Abbey Season 4
Downton Abbey Season 4

In the “tradition” of Interweave’s other theme publications, Jane Austen Knits, and The Unofficial Harry Potter Knits, this magazine presents designs inspired by the popular television program Downton Abbey.  The cover promises “27 inspired knitting projects for upstairs, downstairs & the troops.” The story lines in Downton Abbey cover the time period from the sinking of the Titanic, through the Great War (WWI) and the roaring twenties, so the knitting projects run the thin line between retro and costume.

I enjoyed the articles on life in Highclere Castle, marrying an English lord, and knitting for the troops more than the knitting designs. I was surprised by the knitwear for “downstairs.” The projects for the servants hold more modern appeal to me as a knitter and potentially for my wardrobe.

These magazines are expensive at $14.99 US/CAN and are more easily justified if you think of them as a booklet that you will keep for ideas and inspiration. I have not made a project from any of these specialty publications so I can only hope that they hold the same standard of pattern accuracy as other Interweave publications.

This magazine will disappear from the news stands about the time Season 4 begins to play on PBS in the United States: January 5, 2014.

Travel is Life

I am participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, this month. I have several longer travel-writing projects I want to pursue and I am challenged with carving out the time needed to complete these and get them to publication. I am excited about this challenge. I completed a 50,000+ word novel in 2011 while I was living in St Heliers, Auckland and it helped me discover myself as a writer. I wrote the first draft to a mystery novel called Death by Sand and Gravel. Over time I discovered that I make a better travel writer than mistress of mysteries, so I am using November to recommit to a more disciplined approach to my writing life.

November is National Novel Writing Month.
November is National Novel Writing Month.

The reward will be a couple of long essays that I can independently publish through On Your Radar Media Company and many, many blog posts. There are other rewards. To write “The Hip and Chic Knitter’s Guide to Norway,” I will also knit a pretty-in-pink project that I purchased in Bergen. This will involve some pattern translation challenges and may involve interviewing other knitters who regularly translate patterns from other languages into English. This child’s sweater will also be a Christmas gift for a friend’s daughter. (Sorry to remind you that Christmas is coming.)

Thinking through how I am going to translate this pattern–asking my friend Susie in Sweden to help me and coordinate with her friends in Stavanger–got me to thinking about how travel is no longer a time set aside with strict bookends. At one time it felt like my “self” on adventures abroad was somehow different that the duller, more cautious Julie who lived a work-a-day life in NorCal. At some point, my travels and the friends I made on my adventures became so numerous that they could not be easily contained in a 2 week time slot called “vacation.” The transition was complete when I redesigned my life to be less about earning a paycheck and more about living a full life. I now have as many or more friends living abroad and I see my travel adventures as bright colored threads woven into my life tapestry, not a separate scarf only donned at the airport. Nor are my work threads the beige neutral threads in my life; they are full of vibrant color too.