Norway Designs Christmas

Every Christmas I admire the Snow Palace at display at the Norway Designs store, close to the National Theatre in Oslo. It is always an amazing exhibition of decorative items for sale as well as numerous dishes of sweets to energise customers. This year the palace is hosting a gingerbread house competition and you can see entry number one – a modern and exciting twist – in the left hand side corner and below by architecture student Victoria Amundsen. I just adore the crystal pine tree placed inside it and would like a small series in different sizes to decorate my Christmas table.

Below is the winner of the competition held together with the Architectural School in Oslo AHO, where Marios Petrongonas, from Greece, is studying this term. Read more about him at Norway Designs’ website: “I was sure that Oslo would meet my expectations for living  in a beautiful city, where I can enjoy my studies in architecture, while also extend my horizons in the way of architectural design.” He adds: “I said yes to the project at once, because I always like to support and participate in creative and fun projects that get me out of my routine. It was a great chance for me to be a part of the Christmas spirit.” Read more on norwaydesigns

The store has an impressive paper department – the best in Oslo, in my opinion – a jewellery department, a kitchen department, a small but exquisite clothes department, a gifts department including baby & children’s clothing. Not all the designs are Norwegian but a majority are, but you will also find numerous other well known brands there. It is a constant source of inspiration, both inside and their window displays are perfect for window shopping. I recommend you visit when in Oslo, or let their website inspire you: norwaydesigns.


Christmas Celebrations

I have celebrated a wonderful Christmas Eve at my brother’s house and had to admire his gingerbread house or Tobias’ Tower to put it precisely from the Norwegian beloved children’s author, illustrator and composer Thorbjørn Egner’s book Folk og Røvere i Kardemomme By/People and Robbers in Cardamom City published in 1955. Not exactly inspired by Norwegian architecture, but by his travel to Morocco. Egner is celebrated this year, the centenary of his birth. Here you can see the tower in Egner’s own drawing and hear one of the accompanying songs: youtube.

My brother and I are late comers to walking around the Christmas tree singing Christmas Carols, and remember only the chorus while my sister-in-law knew the lyrics of each verse by heart. Anyway, my 5-year old niece was delighted by the mere action, and all our giggles. After a rather sceptical meeting of Father Christmas – my brother in a good disguise – and delightful unwrapping of what seemed like a ton of presents, she could not stay awake a minute longer. We did manage for a few more hours before turning in, with big smiles on our faces. Christmas Day was spent relaxing and knitting: nearly completing one design, in Hifa Embla, and working out a new one, this time in Tosh DK. More will be revealed soon, in the mean time: enjoy your Christmas, relax and knit – just, as I intend to  do!


Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan

It is what we call Little Christmas Eve today – anything to prolong the festivities, really – and very soon many of you will finally have time to cast on for a new, carefully selected Christmas knitting project. So I thought what better time to introduce another favourite knitting designer and book with the extremely fitting title: Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan. A familiar name to many of you, I am sure, that are used to reading Vogue Knitting and love Berroco Yarns and their pattern booklets many by their very own  Design Director.

What makes her designs so special? Norah explores the use of naturally occurring geometrical motifs in knitting and incorporate hexagonal and pentagonal symmetries in her designs. Often with a mind boggling result, that looks extremely complicated to the naked eye but in reality feels extremely natural when you start knitting. The book contains 39 marvellous patterns – mainly for women – and is divided into Hexagons, Pentagons, Spirals, Phyllotaxis, Fractals and Waves. Her innovative designs are a pleasure to the eye and a challenge to the mind!

One of her most well known designs is the Capecho which was on Vogue Knitting’s cover in the Winter 2006/2007 issue, now available as a downloadable pdf here: cabled-bolero. I was so intrigued by the cables that I had to make it. Here is the workshop, which explains how it is made: vogueknitting Just as it states: “Modular knitting is surprisingly easy and quite addictive once you get the hang of it.” I know, I enjoyed it so much I decided to make another. Both times I decided to leave out the button since the pentagons overlap more on me than in the picture from Vogue Knitting.

Below is a photo of my first version of the cabled bolero, knitted in the discontinued Rowan Yorkshire Tweed Aran. If I had more yarn – a very familiar issue, indeed – I would have extended the sleeves and made a ribbed waist extension. Do take a look at the interview with her by Interweave Knits editor Eunny Jang on Knitting Daily TV: youtube. Here is an overview of her stunning designs: ravelry. You will find several postings by Norah on the Berroco Design Studio Blog, well worth reading here: blog.berroco. I hope you enjoy your Christmas knitting and wish you a wonderful Christmas!


London Calling!

I have just spent the weekend in London as a tourist, for the first time in 10 years, and as I  had anticipated found it a lot more enjoyable than actually living there. The list of what I wanted to do, was too long but I did squeeze in as much as possible without exhausting myself completely. My husband did not approve of all my choices but found the nearest gadget shop, in no time. We stayed at the central Saint Georges at Langham Place  – yes, that is the address of BBC HQ too, 5 min off Oxford Circus – with a stunning view of not only All Souls’ church spire but also the roof of West London, from 11. floor. Maybe you too only know The Heights, the bar at the 15. floor of the hotel? Take a look here: saintgeorgeshotel.

I wanted to buy some Madeline Tosh yarn for a magazine submission and went to Loop in Islington, where I used to work. And bought more yarn than intended – nothing new – and a few, new to me, Japanese books. Luckily, I met Lydia Gluck at work, one of the two editors of Pompom quarterly magazine, see pompommag. Here is a photo of the shelves downstairs at Loop, where the thinner yarns up to a DK are displayed. For more temptations, see loopknittingshop. And yes, they do ship worldwide.

I desperately wanted to chose a cake from Ottolenghi, only a few minutes away from Loop. When you go to London, I recommend you visit ottolenghi on Upper Street and enjoy the delicious food and tempting cakes. It is usually busy at the weekend so I finally decided which cakes I wanted and brought them back to the hotel to enjoy, including one, with the most chocolate, for my husband.

I enjoy window shopping in London and find inspiration in the many marvellous window displays. Miyake’s pleats never stops to amaze me with astonishing shapes! I did find a sample sale to my taste, as well as a few Christmas presents to accompany me home. How easy it is to spend a lot of money in London! But how very enjoyable, indeed!


Winter is Here

It is snowing and the view from our house is changing. With bare trees all around, we have discovered more of the area and seen houses we had previously only glimpsed. The white snow layer brightens up the scenery and we have had days with amazing light, just after a snowfall. Here is one of those days – first day of snow, actually – the photograph is taken from our terrace.

With a few weeks to Christmas, we hope the snow will stay and prepare us for the festivities as well as skiing. I and most children I know, are waiting for some serious snow covering everything in white, like a layer of icing sugar!


Professionally photographed: Check Cable Cardigan

My Check Cable Cardigan pattern will be published on Monday, in the latest issue, no 26, of the Norwegian magazine Familien/The Family. Photographer Geir Arnesen have taken these stunning photos of the cardigan. Unlike the photographs my husband took of me wearing it: check-cable-cardigan (read: my head is not as photogenic!) The stylist decided to show both belts I made for it: one in cables – less successful – and one in stocking stitch, knitted sideways and folded in two. I prefer the second but agree with the stylist that it does look good with both. Here is my introduction to the pattern: Curvy checks is a simple yet decorative stitch that is reversible so combined with wide collar in a rib and purl cable, my soft check cable cardigan was born. It has a generous straight fit, and is designed for you to feel comfortable, knitted in merino and cotton mixture for an ultimate stitch definition.

The cardigan is knitted in Lerke fra Dale Garn (52% fine merino, 48% Egyptian cotton, 50g/1.6 oz, 115 m/125 yds), which comes in a large selection of beautiful colours, using a 4 mm/US 6. See dalegarn. The Norwegian pattern is available:                                                 Size: S (M) L (XL)                                                                                                                              Finished Measurements:                                                                                                         Bust: 102 (116) 130 (144) cm/ 40 (45½) 51  (56¾)”                                                            Length: 70 (70) 70 (70) cm/ 27½ (27½) 27½ (27½)”                                                        Upper arm: 50 (50) 50 (50) cm/ 19¾ (19¾) 19¾ (19¾)”                                                    Belt: width: 4 cm/1½”                                                                                                                Belt: length: 195 cm/76″ cabled: 170 cm/67″

If you like my pattern and read Norwegian, you have yet another reason to buy the next issue of Familien, out on Monday, see familien. The English version of the pattern, together with the Norwegian version will be released as PDF’s when Familien’s copyright is released in a year. My next pattern however will be released in English later this week by Clotheshorse. To be continued.


Designer Market at DOGA

This is the 14. time the Designers’ Christmas Market is organised, but only the 10. at DogA; Norwegian Design and Architecture centre in Oslo, and only the 3. I have attended. An idea that started around a kitchen table in 1999 to test out new designs, and indeed, for designers to establish themselves on the market: “New unique design. An inspiring alternative to commercial Christmas shopping” according to the organiser, and I could not agree more, see dejm. The venue has changed from a much smaller photographer’s studio, but the queue to get in has not – even the Crown Prince & Princess were spotted in the queue some years back, nor has the increasing number of designers who want to participate, currently at 120. This year, it covers all 3 floors at DogA, which is always worth a visit just to admire their space and drool in their exquisite small shop for new design treasures.

“DogA was established by Norsk/Norwegian Form and the Norwegian Design Council in 2005 as a meeting place for design, architecture and related subject areas. The old transformer station in Hausmanns gate 16 is home to the two organisations. The centre also provides an arena for large and small architecture and design exhibitions, conferences and meetings, as well as a shop, a café & restaurant. The building is included on the Cultural Heritage Management Office’s “yellow” list of buildings worth preserving. The property consists of several combined buildings and was originally designed as a transformer station. The buildings were constructed in 1898, 1917 and 1948, and converted in 2003-2005 by architects Jensen og Skodvin Arkitekter AS. DogA was awarded the National Building Prize in 2006, the City Prize in 2007 and St. Olav’s Rose, the hallmark of Norwegian heritage, in 2008.” Continues on doga.

The organisers wanted to offer only homemade food and cakes to both hungry designers and their customers from the very beginning. This year, at DogA only the restaurant is open, but a very practical pop-up café offered free cakes and biscuits, something especially the children present had discovered. Last chance to visit the 2012 market, is today from 10 until 18. Go and buy Christmas presents or to seek inspiration if you can! Or just to enjoy the space and the free cakes!


JuleExpo/Christmas Expo

I have been to yet another Christmas event, a fair open to the public of all ages. A number of families were present and visited Father Christmas’ stand – yes, you could deliver you Christmas Wish list – and watched the magician’s show. That was not the reason I was there, though! My mission was to watch Sidsel Høivik’s fashion show, presenting a large selection of garments from her upcoming book, due out in May of next year. It also gave me an opportunity to meet her, since we have only had contact by e-mail and on Facebook. She is the designer in black, see below.

Her book is called “Lekre Masker og Lekne Sting”/Gorgeous Stitches and Playful Embroidery and will have 50 patterns for women with a few matching outfits for children, Gyldendal is the publisher. A perfect title as you can see from these photos. Sidsel is an established designer, educated at L’Accademia di Costume e di Moda in Rome. For more amazing designs, look at sidsel-j-hoivik.

I realised that I have been admiring her dresses for a long time; the colour combinations and the stunning finishing touches! Below is one of my favourites. As you can see, I am not a brilliant photographer but there were at least one present at the show: former designer now photographer Anne Helene Gjelstad – yes, she has photographed Sidsel’s book and you can see the fabulous cover photo here: annehelenegjelstad.

Next to the fashion show was publisher Gyldendal, where I met their Hobby- and Sidsel’s editor, whom I  last saw at their knit cafe. Of  course, I also discovered some new yarn shops with tempting yarns and bought a few Christmas presents. On my way out, I loved the atmosphere of the Christmas lights and the Christmas trees, see top photo. Christmas is definitely coming closer.


Creative Christmas Party

I went to my first Creative Christmas Party on Thursday. I have been to plenty of Christmas Parties, but none that can be compared to this one. Organised by my publisher Cappelen Damm, the invitation said that four knitting book authors would be present and on hands with their expertise: Mette Handberg; Christmas Stockings, Nina Granlund Sæther; Cushions, Bente Presterud Rørvik; Hearts and Hege Barnholt; Christmas’ Treasure Trove, as well as Christmas servings, Christmas gifts for everyone – yes, goodie bags – plus Christmas inspiration. Do bring your knitting! Yes, it was free, so no wonder that nearly 100 women accepted the invitation, including me.

The Christmas servings was the nordic Christmas drink of gløgg/a sweet spicy drink, not unlike mulled wine but, served with almonds and raisins (read: an awful lot better than mulled wine and often served without any added red wine, see gloggrecipe) or red wine and to eat rice porridge with cinnamon – also traditional at Christmas time in Norway. But a number of us where more preoccupied with the goodie bag we had been given on entry; it was packed and contained very generous gifts: 2 pocket books (one crime and one Norwegian Saga, since you ask) and a chapter of J.K. Rowlings latest novel in Norwegian, 2 balls of Finull yarn, see raumaull from Rauma, a large bag of 59 assorted wooden buttons, tiny mittens in the shape of Christmas tree decorations, two different card making kits, a knitting needle measurer in the cute shape of a sheep, a separate bag from the yarn producer Du Store Alpakka containing a ball of Sterk/Strong, see dustorealpakka a thick sock yarn including a sock pattern. Wow!

Presenting and interviewing the authors present was Kaja Marie Lereng Kvernbakken formerly a designer at Du Store Alpakka, now a writer & broadcaster. All the authors are well known in Norway and at least two of them are published abroad, and agreed on the huge amount of time it takes to make a book, even one on smaller items like all of these. One of the highlights was Nina’s recollection of her earliest memorable knitting project: turquoise hot pants made in the 1970’s to the crafts teacher’s utter horror!

Each of the authors had decorated a table with items from their recently published book, and offered to show different knitting/crochet techniques, answering questions and Bente offered a new heart pattern and free balls of yarn from Rauma to make it. Now, how can that not be a hit?

Did I have any time to do any knitting? I did, but not much since I was busy eating porridge, drinking Gløgg, examining my goodie bag as well as listening to the authors being brilliantly interviewed by Kaja and then bumping into familiar faces like Marthe Sveen Edvardsen from Vestre Aker Husflidslag afterwards, then browsing in the open book shop. A very blissful evening! I hope there will be another Creative Christmas Party next year, because I will definitely come!