Tussah Silk – One of My Favourite Yarns

Among all the weaving equipment for sale at Husfliden – a handcraft association shop see photos at report-from-knit-cafe-at-kaffistova – I discovered the spools of Tussah Silk 20/2 from Borgs Vävgarner shining like precious stones just waiting to be touched. Obviously, several spools accompanied me home. What makes it different from any other silk, you ask. On my hands it feels more like a merino and silk mixture instead of a pure, usually, quite slippery silk. Not only easier to knit with but it also wear better due to its firm twist, I believe, since silk often can pill. My addiction to it has become rather severe and I did manage to convince my husband to travel all the way from London to Vittsjö, a village in southern Sweden, via Copenhagen. Here is the link: borgsvavgarner.

We found very few hotels nearby but soon discovered it was a short train journey away across the bridge that joins Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmö in Sweden. The trip across the bridge itself was way too quick but worth the journey all on its own. Do not attempt to buy tickets online from the Swedish Railway because it costs less than half when you buy tickets in Copenhagen. From Hässleholm we took a bus (read: very local since the bus driver knew everyone except us) past numerous farms and furniture makers before we reached Vittsjö. I was the only customer inside the shop consisting of 3 large rooms with a table & comfortable chairs with newspapers, coffee and cakes from the local bakery available for free especially for accompanying husbands. My husband was chuffed, needless to say…

I could not find their Tussah Silk, and could feel the panic coming on, but met one of the owners Jonas who took me into their warehouse. Bliss. Since I do not know how to drive nor operate a fork lift I could not study the shelves at the top but found the silk in question easily. A few hours later my husband came checking up on me wondering both where I was and whether I was still alive. Indeed, I was in yarn heaven and had started to fill my second basket at that point in time. Not only the Tussah silk tempted me but I chose a selection of other tempting yarns too together will all their shade cards. Another customer did enter a bit later and I was not surprised to find that it was another Norwegian woman who had discovered this yarn treasure trove in southern Sweden. Even my husband keeps asking when we are going back to Borgs…

I chose this pale yellow, shade 2587, for the shawl in my book, here stunningly worn by Anna Pfeiffer at Nøklevann in Oslo. The silk is lace weight and I have chosen to knit the shawl with 2 strands held together on a 4mm/US 6 and the cowl with a single strand on a 3 mm/US 2.5. It is important to realise that silk has a drop so too avoid making a garment that stretches a lot after wearing – a lesson learnt the hard way – I suggest you steam generously and stretch firmly during the knitting! I am so pleased that I have more of this luscious silk in my stash!


Craft Wave

A craft wave has hit Norway. On top of the bestseller list in the category of general literature – read non-fiction – is on no 1: Marius Strikkebok/ Marius Knitting Book and no 3: Sy Om/Re-make by television presenter Jenny Skavlan. Another well-know television presenter Dorthe Skappel designed an over-sized sweater in alpaca, not unlike the mohair sweaters popularised in the 1980’s, and started a “Dorthe genser/Dorthe sweater” craze that has lead to empty shelves in the yarn shops. Can it be described as designing when it is such a simple pattern? Knitters have discussed on blogs and on Facebook but the fact remains that it has attracted and introduced numerous young people to knitting! See photos on nrk.

With celebrities involved the media started paying close attention and we have been able to study Dorthe Skappel’s sweater in detail on the breakfast show on television as well as Jenny Skavlan’s re-made dress on a Saturday night talkshow with a part of the audience also wearing self made clothes. Not that we were able to study those in detail, only one person was interview sitting down and not made to stand up and do a twirl – which I was waiting for! Nor were we informed in more detail about the style, the sewing process nor the fibres in the fabric. But I should not complain, it was a start and perfect Saturday entertainment, at least for me.

Craft books are still very much what Nina Granlund Sæther calls “step children” of factual literature, rarely reviewed and introduced despite solid sale figures unless the author is a celebrity or has previously sold 40 000 copies. Do read her blog post on the topic – use google translator if you do not read Norwegian: faglitteraturens-stebarn

Oh, I forgot, in case you were wondering what was no 2. on the bestseller list a cookery book as you probably would have figured out by now.

Hence I will continue to promote and presenting my book:

Thursday 27. September to Gamle Oslo Husflidslag at 17 at Norbygate 39 in Oslo, see gamle_oslo_husflidslag

Tuesday 2. October to Larvik Husflidslag, see larvikhusflidslag

Wednesday 17. October at Flamingo Garn & Hobby’s knitcafé in Fredrikstad, see their page on Facebook.



Check Cable Cardigan

I have finally completed my design and have sold it to the Norwegian magazine Familien/The Family, where it will be published in issue no 26, on sale from 17.th of December. My husband has photographed me wearing it, here, so as you can imagine I cannot wait to see it worn by a professional model and photographed by a professional photographer. The pattern will be released after a year and I will then make it available for sale as a downloadable pdf in Norwegian and English on my pattern page and on Ravelry. Here are photographs of the swatch, see my post: new-design-soon-finished

The Check Cable Cardigan is knitted in a simple yet decorative stitch pattern which is reversible combined with a wide collar in a ribbed cable pattern. It has a generous fit and designed to make you feel comfortable yet smart. The cardigan is knitted in Dale Yarns’ Lerke a mixture of wool and cotton with an optimal stitch definition on needle no 4 mm/US 6.

I have knitted two different belts to go with it. The first version, seemed like a brilliant idea at the time using the reversible cable pattern but it does not look as sophisticated as I wanted it to look so the second version is in stockinette stitch knitted sideways and together like a hem. I also tested out a few more versions in between: a 1 by 1 rib which looked way too uneven and I-cord which looked floppy. Hence I preferred to use my favourite hem edging as belt and added a folding row where I knit on the wrong side. The magazine has kept both to test out on the photo shoot, while the first version is in these photograph. I will publish the professional photos when they are available.


Professional Finishing Course Online

I am a member of the Norwegian Onlinestrikkekafé/online knit-café group, superbly organised by Dorthe Kristiansen, on Facebook and volunteered to hold the first part of a course in Finishing there. First let me tell you how it works: it is a closed group, with more than 500 members, so we all accepted invitations to join the group and then the invitations for the online knit-café with the occasional event, KAL – knit-along – and UFO – unfinished objects – evenings go out, three times a week. Some, I will not mention any names, are ready well in advance of the starting time usually at 14.oo while others join after work or dinner or those of us who work from home find ourselves spending too much time there reading people’s postings about their knitting, spinning, crocheting, sewing, or life in general. So not too unlike a real knit-café in many ways, I don’t always get a lot of knitting done…

Second, how do I hold an online workshop and how many will join in? Obviously I needed to make several videos, and my husband, a gadget fan, was well prepared. I realised I need to translate my workshop from English to Norwegian first, since I have only ever held it in English for 6 years. Then I grouped together some of the topics and planned what samples I could show and what to say. My husband, the director, demanded a re-take when the sun interfered, changing the lighting completely, and when I automatically started speaking English. In the end we had made 5 videos in Norwegian, with a few non-edited English words, to cover the first part of my online course. I planned to post them on the event page in quick succession and be ready to answer questions on each topic following in the previous tutor Nina Hove Myhre’s footsteps, see her videos on Domino knit on her blog, also in Norwegian: fiberandart. To my astonishment, more than 120 people signed on and I did wonder whether I would be able to type my answers quick enough or whether it would be a complete deluge of questions. Thankfully, not everyone started watching the videos at the exact kick off time at 18.30 so I could manage to answer the questions without too much difficulty. It was a magnificent challenge!

Now, if you still want to watch the videos, be prepared to listen in Norwegian, I will list them here in the post as well as making a separate page so they are easy to find later. I hope you find them useful.

1. Blokking/ Blocking For more detailed advice read the useful article by Jessica Fenlon Thomas in knitty. Blocking wires are available in Norway from projo-produkter.

2. Montering/ Finishing If you want to test while watching, have 4 swatches or neglected UFO pieces, yarn, a blunt sewing needle and a crochet hook ready to try out the 3 different main ways of sewing up.

3. Sette inn ermet/ Setting in a sleeve.

 4. Plukke opp masker/ Picking up stitches Again, if you want to test while watching, have 1 swatch or neglected UFO piece, a crochet hook without handle, yarn and a circular needle ready.

5. Brettekant/ Hem My favourite edge of the moment. Make it by using 2 circular knitting needles held parallel when casting on, then continue to knit with 1 for a number of rows, then fold the other needle behind and knit together. To test have 2 circular needles of same size but of different material and yarn ready.


Oslo Bookfestival

I am taking part in this year’s Bookfestival, where more than 200 Norwegian and foreign authors, take part in more than 200 different arrangements. Our main shopping street Karl Johan has been turned into a book shop where you can read and flick, receive good advice and good discounts, see above. No events are charged for nor closed for invitees only which makes it quite unique. The chair leader of the festival writes in her introduction: “It is not obvious that a small country such as Norway can publish more than 7000 new titles every year with high quality, in a multitude of genre and form, and in Norwegian.” We are among the most well read people in the world, she claims, maybe because we find adventures through entertainment and out of a curiosity of knowledge. See the complete program at oslobokfestival.

Hobbyklubben – my publishers’ book club – is organising my demo of how to knit pleats as well as Nina’s demo of the newspaper technique and Bente’s demo of heart patterns, in a large tent outside Oslo’ s largest bookshop Tanum. Do join Bente today if you are able to!

Other equally interesting events are Literary Speeddating, Crime-o-rama, Dancing on top of the Bookshelves (at the music department at the main library), Book and Bun see above (reading for children) and my all time favourite; the Audio-Book Tram, one for adults and one for children, see the queue below. Two veteran trams travel a city centre route and selected authors read out loud on the Lydboktrikk. Now, that is a popular event that I believe could be done a lot more frequently! I can dream on and in the mean time I will continue to bring my knitting and my own selection of audio books to listen to when I am traveling on the tram!


Icelandic Sjónabók

I have wanted this book for nearly a year now, ever since the first time I saw it at a bookshop in Reykjavik and had planned to buy it next time we go to Iceland since there is so much more to explore on Iceland, see my post on 101-reykjavik and on knitting-iceland. But fortunately I was tipped off – yes, Ravelry again – that it was available online at shopicelandic – going there can be rather expensive, you have been warned. So what is this book, you ask. Traditional pattterns for textiles from Icelandic Manuscripts from the 17th through 19th Centuries collected and presented on grids and redrawn digitally. The patterns were used in embroidery, weaving and various forms of needlework.

The idea to publish a reference book of the old sjónabók manuscripts came at the 2007 conference on Nordic handcrafts in Iceland organised by the Icelandic Handcraft Association. “The Department of Design and Architecture at the Iceland Academy of the Arts expressed an interest in collaborating with the conference organisers by offering a course for graphic design students in which all of the sjónabók patterns would be drawn in electronic format. The aim of the course was to introduce aspiring designers to the ten pattern books, as well as to make this wealth of patterns and designs more accessible than before.” The result is a magnificent fabric bound hard cover book consisting of more than 780 pages and including a CD with all the patterns. Be aware that the CD is made for Windows and not Mac friendly – but thankfully my husband still has windows on his mac.

Nine of the manuscripts are registered and preserved at the National Museum of Iceland, while one is in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark. Each one has a brief description by Lilja Árnadôttir of the National Museum of Iceland. You will find the patterns in the book analysed under three headings: rosettes, friezes, and planar patterns in an essay by Lasse Savola of FIT, State University of New York, called “A Preliminary Mathematical Analysis of Patterns in Icelandic Sjônabók”.

Equally interesting but even more thought provoking is the essay by Gudmundur Oddur Magnússon of Iceland Academy of the Arts, introducing the patterns: “In our time, patterns or decorations have acquired a negative image precisely because they have lost their original symbolic values. Throughout history and across cultures, there are many examples of patterns having been designed not because of their decorative aesthetic value in and out itself, but rather to complete another given work and to emphasize its meaning. Patterns and symmetry originally stem from insight, purpose, and necessity, not from an aesthetic impulse or a superficial need for decorations. To imagine a pattern as a decoration that one can attach to an object out of personal taste and desire without it changing the object’s function is a more recent concept – a concept born after losing our understanding of the symbolic meaning of the pattern and having begun to see it as an empty form.”

The book “has been created for those who want to breathe new life into this rich world of designs and patterns that until now have been fairly inaccessible. It is to be used freely by creative people who wish to understand symbolic values and the divinity of symmetry.” Such an admirably undertaking it has been to make this book and I am extremely grateful that it is available – also online – even though it is worth a trip to Iceland all on its own!


Putefest/Cushion Party

I was so happy to be invited to my first “Putefest”, except that it was not a party where we were throwing cushions at each other but the launch of Nina Granlund Sæther’s new book – no 6, yes, I am in awe of the years of work that calculates to be when it comes to handicraft books – at Cappelen Damm last Monday! Just her latest book took approximately 40 hours per cushion and there are 70 cushions and 2 blankets in the book, all of them knitted, crocheted or embroidered by her while she was working full time as an editor in chief for the magazine “Hus & Bolig”/House & Dwelling. But then Nina is a former teacher and journalist who knows everything about deadlines and has learnt the lesson of working even standing waiting for the bus. Her mum, present at the launch, was claiming that the only place she did not work on a cushion was at funerals…

The book is stunningly photographed by Guri Pfeifer – yes, she has also photographed some of my swatches, see more photos on her website: guripfeifer. Nina’s cushions are in different styles to suit everyone and includes a few with texts you do read twice in astonishment since it does not sink in the first time. An American publisher is among the interested foreign ones but did want to exclude a small selection. Do look at Hobbyklubben’s webpage and you will soon find one of the suspects, klick on: “se bilder” on hobbyklubben.

Mostly, I admire the newspaper cushions where she has transcribed only a small part of the text that you can read but the rest is clearly embroidered or crocheted to look like printed text. Do take a look at Nina’s blog – use Google translate if you do not read Norwegian, it is worth the effort – to see more photographs and read some of her other post! Here at syl.tynn. I, for one, am happy she has started blogging again after completing her latest book.


Villa Stenersen

An acknowledged villa, unlike the one we live in though also, designed by architect Arne Korsmo, built in 1937-1939, for the financier, art collector and author Rolf Stenersen and his family. It was to be his house but also a frame for his extensive art collection including numerous works by Picasso, Mondrian and Munch – now at the Stenersen Museum for more details see stenersen.museum – he assisted Munch in his youth. The villa is considered one of the main works of Norwegian functionalism and was, indeed, this year ranked among the 100 most important functionalist buildings in the world.

The house was given to the state in 1974 to be used as an honorary building but only one prime minister has lived there and it has been left unused for long periods of time even close to be sold at one point but the Stenersen family interfered reminding the state it was a gift. Unfortunately it has not been refurbished to the extent it needs. I could say that also applies to our house. My husband would love to restore it to its former glory given the opportunity and equally essential; the financial means to do so…

Since 2000, the villa has been run by Norsk Form who offers guided tours on Sundays throughout the spring and summer – Sunday 2. September was the last of the season – and uses it as a gathering place for meetings and seminars of an architectural – or design related nature, see for visiting details: norskform. We found a long list of similarities between the villa and our house: (if this is news to you: do see my posts: we-are-moving and reunited-with-my-belongings)

  • Identical columns on the ground.
  • Identical colour scheme chosen throughout the building.
  • Equally beautiful door handles – photos already requested by other architect friends.
  • Identical stone slab in front of the fireplace.
  • Identical “space ship” lamp in the living room – though not actually acknowledged as Korsmo’s design.
  • Huge sliding windows in front of the living room – Korsmo was way ahead of his time!

The bathroom at Villa Stenersen, using glass bricks to capture as much light as possible just as the whole facade, with a very clever mirror that can be swung into position. I must admit that ours is not as functional nor one of Korsmo’s designs, unfortunately.

The crowd visiting on Sunday was substantial and we could quite easily spot the architects present – just look for those wearing all black and with trendy glasses. The villa is now, finally, listed by the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage. “The semi-circle cuts through the otherwise cubic structure and creates dynamics and tension in the composition of the villa. Circles are used as a theme throughout the house, both as a play with geometrical shapes, and as a means of giving the villa a more dynamic expression.” taken from Norsk Form’s introduction and not an unfamiliar theme even today, see my post on parallel-practises-in-fashion-and-architecture. And do study the entrance and the columns.

I was delighted to discover that Villa Stenersen has a Garden Room, a reception room for many of Rolf Stenersen’s dinner party guests, with a circular dance floor and a bar especially designed by Korsmo, photographed by Norwegian Broadcaster nrk. Rolf Stenersen youngest son had his 80th birthday at the villa and can remember a number of parties in his youth at a very popular bar… As you might have guessed we do not have a Garden Room but our Living room does have a view of our garden and the fjord, so I am not complaining! Nor do we have any plans to offer guided tours…


Mina Milanda a Flower Heaven

I have finally visited the flower shop Mina Milanda at Frogner in Oslo. Recommended by friends, it is a delightful place to visit. You do need to know its location to find it since it inside the back yard of a block of flats, next door to a popular coffee shop called “Kolonihagen”/The Allotment Garden. So there is yet another reason to visit! The flowers that welcome you in do take your breath away, see above. You will also meet extremely dedicated professionals who love what they do.

Here is a photo of the entrance to the shop that offers interior related items such as candles, vases etc.  Below is their exquisite  fireplace decoration.

Below you can also see coffee shop, full when we were there, with the extremely well fitting name of “Kolonihagen”/The Allotment Garden. All their food is ecological, do check it out on kolonihagenfrogner. It does look a garden you would want to take part in creating and draw inspiration from. Mina Milanda change their selection of flowers not only with season but also of colour and the current topic is white summer flowers. If you are not able to visit I do recommend you merely admire their beautiful photos on facebook.com/pages/MinaMilanda The love for flowers has just increased with age and I adore studying their colours, shape and texture.