Mohair Poncho Jacket by Irene Welde Solsvik

I was gobsmacked by Irene’s stunning Mohair Poncho Jacket, instead of sewing up the front as I had suggested she left it open and sewed a slightly longer seam at the back to hold it in place! Irene chose the Norwegian yarn Iris Alpakka in a classic black shade by Rauma (74% suri alpaca, 22% wool and 4% nylon, 50 g balls of 130 m), more here: raumaull. I love her styling and how gorgeous it looks on her! Thank you, Irene!

The pattern is from my knitting book, “To rett en vrang. Designstrikk” available in Norwegian and in Finnish but also available as a single pattern with wristwarmers, only in English as a pdf download from ravelry. Below is another beautiful model, dancer Cristiane Sá, photographed by Kim Müller. If you knit it or any of my other designs, I will be honored to show them here on my blog!


Joint Book Presentation by Arne & Carlos and Tine Solheim

I have been to another book presentation, this time a joint one given by Arne & Carlos and Tine Solheim at their (and mine) publisher Cappelen Damm in Oslo. More than 250 people were there. We were welcomed through the book shop and given Garden Wine from boxes designed and served by Arne & Carlos, in addition to free raffle tickets before finding some seats in their canteen. I were in the very good company of fellow designer Nina Granlund Sæther (blog: syl.tynn), designer Sidsel J. Høivik (webpage: sidsel-j-hoivik) and her editor Ann Kristin Nås Gjerde from Gyldendal – Sidsel’s book is out next month and it looks marvelous! In addition, I met my editor Inger Margrethe Karlsen and other friends who were there, not wanting to miss this event.

Tine Solheim started by presenting her 5. book called “Masker og Interiør”/Stitches and Interiors with a focus on comfortable knitwear and fashionable interior items to knit and crochet. A huge selection of ponchos in different shapes, cushions and throws just to mention a few of her new designs. One throw was inspired by a pair of shoes she had bought in Paris and it was great fun to see her inspiration. You can read more about her and her designs here: tinesolheim.

After a short break, Arne & Carlos started their presentation and slide show. We were all envious seeing their beautiful garden, the source of inspiration for this latest book called “Håndarbeid fra Hagen”/Crafts from Our Garden. Packed with projects like the stunning throw on the cover and many fun smaller ones like the garden mouse called Magnus. Their newly released book has already been sold to 10 countries and will be published in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, The UK and the USA this year. Arne & Carlos are busy with promotion and working on patterns for the Japanese Knitting and Crochet Magazine Keito Dama in between enjoying their house (all 4 buildings which used to be the old Tonsåsen Train Station) and their garden! Here is their blog: arnecarlos. Both books in Norwegian are available to order from Cappelen Damm, here is the information in English on how to order: cappelendamm.

The raffle tickets were drawn and the prices were one neat sewing machine, two bags stuffed with yarn and other goodies plus another one I could not spot. As you can see from my photos it was packed but an ever so enjoyable and inspiring event!


Accessories – the small touches of joy!

I have been reading Hadley Freeman, fashion journalist in The Guardian, and had to laugh when she asks “how many accessories is too many accessories? When you rattle? When you have no spare hands and you haven´t left the house yet?” I do have amazing jewelry from Monies (if you didn’t know, see here: monies-jewellry) that rattle hence I do not wear it often enough, but looking at fashion icon Iris Apfel I know I should! Due to the relative cool spring we are having here in Oslo, I am still wearing cowls and will continue to design those until I tire of wearing them. The key, says Hadley Freeman of the guardian, is to have fun and enjoy the small touches of joy, accessories truly are and to wear them in a way that is comfortable for you.

The American businesswoman and Interior Decorator, Iris Apfel’s bold choice of jewelry, magnetic bright colors in her fashionable clothing and distinctive glasses makes her one of a kind. Well into her eighties she is an icon, going where others would not dare to go. I have been drooling over the magnificent photos of equally stunning clothing and jewelry in the book, based on the exhibition of Iris Apfel’s fashion collection, by Eric Boman: Rare Bird of Fashion, The Irreverent Iris Apfel, published by Thames & Hudson. Harold Koda, Curator of The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York describe her so well in his introduction: “Even in the flock of New York style setters, she stands apart as a rare bird. Mrs. Apfel, who has the gift of an “eye” that can ferret out treasures from a morass of flea-market junk and mark-down racks, is endowed with the yet rarer ability to collage objects of autonomously assertive beauty into compositions of a larger, unified whole. Her joy of the hunt has resulted in a collection of astonishing beauty, but it is in the incorporation of her treasures into her daily life that they take on a fuller conceptual richness.” The book is available at amazon and in Norway at tanum.

I find the photos a true inspiration, the colour and jewelry combinations pure bliss. When creating my own book I had a vision that I wanted a similar bold, lavish and generous layout in my book. I did tell my editor about my visions, and she gently brought me down to earth. At least I believe I managed to capture inspiration and I have been told that I have made people who don’ knit take up their knitting needles. And that makes me proud as well as humble! I will continue to design garments with accessories, because I believe those small (read: at times rather large accessory projects like the cowl above photographed by Kim Müller) makes a difference to the look of the garment itself, adding another layer of joy!


Rosewood Knitting Needles

I have become increasingly fond of my Destiny solid rosewood needles made by Lantern Moon, from certified sustainable forests. So much so that I recently ordered some more from jimmybeanswool and have been lucky enough to have some delivered by hand from New York, by a friend. Unlike bamboo, rosewood needles adorn my hands, feels more polished and firmer in addition the stitches slide better on them. They are also a lot sturdier than bamboo which might easily snap or the tip split in the smaller sizes. I prefer using rosewood needles to my Nr 1. Signature needles when I am working with silk and other slippery fibers as well as with complicated lace pattern when I need to knit more concentrated (read: slower).

The needles are made in Vietnam in a factory run by the family father Thuan. His amazing story and destiny has given name to the knitting needles he makes. “As Thuan reflects back on that time he recalls, “Each time we tried to leave we had less and less for the pirates and the police to steal, but things were also getting a little better in the country so I thought there must be something we are supposed to be doing here.” And, according to Thuan, that something turned out to be the needle factory.

“After 1975 it seems like I spent all my waking hours trying to keep the family together and get out of the country so that I could take care of them but for some reason it never worked. I never understood why until the opportunity to make the needles came along. Now it is what we do. It is why we are here. It is how we stay together. It is how I take care of my family and it was our destiny.”

Is it important to know who makes your needles and to know that they believe in destiny? We think so. Uncle Huyet asked me recently, “I spent two years in prison trying to gain my freedom. If my attempts to get out of Vietnam had been successful, who would make your needles?” End of quote, read the full captivating story here: lanternmoon.


Shawl Fever – Viajante by Martina Behm

The shawl knitting fashion continues. Not only are beautiful books and useful videos on DVD or downloadable workshops on traditional shawls launched such as “Orenburg Knitting. Knitting Gossamer Webs”, see knittingdaily but also modern takes with newly developed shapes are appearing. I am intrigued by Martina Bhem’s shawl Viajante, see photo below. She explains in her pattern: “How about making one that, instead of just being a flat piece of fabric, is three-dimensional, knit in the round and doubles as a big loop, hood and very big cowl? Well, here it is: Viajante (Portugese for “traveller”) takes your knitting to another dimension!”. The hunt for yarn – yes, not a great surprise really since it is knitted in the divine Wollmeise Lace – can be seen at Ravelry and at Strikkesida/The Knitting page a Norwegian Facebook group just to mention a few. Currently there are 756 Viajante projects listed which are either in progress or finished. And I know of at last one more on the go which I am excited to see when finished – no, it is not mine even though I would love to knit one too! You can see more photos and buy the pattern here at ravelry. Read about wollmeise-one-of-my-favourite-yarns and then join the Wollmeiseholics Anonymous Group on Ravelry.

Photo: Martina Behm


Magic Loop – two sleeves at a time

I have finally mastered knitting two sleeves at a time using magic loop. Double pointed needles I can handle but I have never loved it as I love the magic loop. First, I were frustrated by the ladders I accidentally made when using DPNS, second I became fed up of hunting for a lost needle especially on double decker bus without any friendly knitters on board – if there were I did not have to look at all – it would be given back a few seconds later by a fellow knitter who can spot it very quickly indeed! But I digress, I have used the magic loop for years now, and would recommend it warmly. Using a good quality circular needle is essential otherwise you might end up with just a needle tips without a cord or a kink damaged cord (read: I have done both). It needs to be a minimum of 80 cm/32″ long, since you need to pull out a loop at each end, in a figure 8. Now, I have managed to knit two at a time with the aid of Liat Gat’s brilliant YouTube video – she demonstrates knitting both the English way and the Continental way here: Two at at time.

I found it hard to solve the cast on issue on my own and needed a teacher to show me which method of cast on I should use so that the yarn would be in the right position, and the fact that you actually first cast on half the amount of the first sleeve, then the full amount for the second sleeve. Next, you pull out the cord in the middle and join second sleeve then work half of it before casting on remaining stitches for the first sleeve and repeat the join on the first sleeve. I also find it easier to work in a lace pattern across a magic loop, since I only work half a sleeve at a time instead of a quarter of it and hence do not need to move stitches from one needle to the other, when I end on a knit 2 together for instance. So I am knitting my lace sleeves a lot quicker than I thought I would and it is pure bliss!


Pingouin Créateurs – a pattern adventure from 1985

I wish I kept more of my old knitting patterns, but at least I was smart enough not to get rid of this magnificent pattern booklet from a time when the French yarn company Pingouin was huge and influential. What a marvelous idea to ask five of the most acknowledged designers to design a collection where they could experiment freely according to their personal beliefs and intuition of fashion. As Melka Treanton says in her introduction that the idea of letting the creative and the innovative unite hand knitting and fashion became something between play and fireworks. Azzedine Alaïa, the innovative. Anne Marie Beretta, the strict. Jean Paul Gaultier, the inventor. Thierry Mugler, the daring. Chantal Thomass, the feminine. Knitted evening dresses, beachwear, gorgeous jackets in bold colors as divine today as then, even though the styling is at times very much from its time. The professional finish is outstanding!

You can see pictures of all the 29 garments here: album. I still remember my excitement when I found it in, what used to be my local yarn shop which stopped trading just as Pingouin unfortunately did. My version is translated into Swedish, even though most of the other patterns used to be sold in Danish which has more similar knitting terms to Norwegian. If you want to compare for yourself, take a look here: garnstudio. What I do like about the magazine is not only how mind blowing it felt to realise that you can knit amazing, fashionable garments that do not look homemade but also the professional lay out and fashion styling. Each designer has a portrait page and each design has been given plenty of space, unlike the limited space and page numbers each design is given by publishers today. I have been waiting for a new issue ever since…


Design In Progress

In preparation for spring and summer I have started working in cotton, very optimistic considering the amount of snow and ice still covering the ground here in Oslo, I know. But since I am not a speedy designer; I need time to work and complete a design if I want to be able to have the chance of publishing it during the Spring/Summer season. I am not able to design a garment a week or have it is as a goal (read: totally unrealistic). My designs require time to evolve. What cotton have you chosen, you ask? An Egyptian mercerized cable-spun cotton which can take a 60 degrees centigrade washing machine program, named appropriately Luxor in 62 divine colours – I have chosen wine red and navy blue, not an easy choice, see luxor – made by Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk. I love the crisp stitch definition and chose a beautiful lace pattern for the wine red shade.

The navy blue sample is a wavy rib pattern. None of them have reached a garment state yet and I am still considering whether I should make them into a possible set to be worn together or on top of each other. Maybe lace sleeves and a simpler body stitch pattern? Wavy rib vest or shawl with buttons? While I ponder some more, do look at all these marvelous colours.