Phōs

September is always an exciting month for me because it feels like the beginning of a new year. First, it's my birthday month. Turning one year older naturally makes me reflect on the previous year and gets me thinking about what I'd like to accomplish next. Also it feels like the knitting season really kicks into high gear with anticipation to make the most out of the upcoming winter months. 

Last week I turned twenty-seven and a few days later was thrilled to announce my first pattern published with amirisu! So far I've published designs through Pom Pom and also self-published through my own Ravelry shop. I'm really excited to be reaching a new audience and new knitters with amirisu. This also marks my first pattern to be translated into another language. Each issue of amirisu is published in English and Japanese. 

200XMP2267.jpg

With each new submission, I take my time looking over their moodboard and requirements. Then I tend to pull the photos I fixate on. It could be because of the colour, pattern or something in the image that draws my attention. With amirisu's moodboard, I narrowed it down to these three photos and then started to sketch and swatch. I was particularly drawn to the bold geometric pattern on the left. However, I wanted a more complicated design rather than just copying the diamond shapes with colour. Working with green was this issue's theme but I knew I wanted to do colourwork when I started to get inspired by the geometric shapes. I fell in love with the neutrals paired with the dark natural greens in the photo above. From the top left photo, I especially loved how the light changed as it filtered in through the leaves. I knew I wanted to create layers of colour by mixing the two yarns together to create light, medium and dark sections.

Sometimes I have a vision of what I want to create before playing around with a sample on my needles. Other times, it's just the opposite. As I knit and unravel, the idea of what I want as an accessory starts to form. For this design I really had to spend lots of time sampling to get the right effect of blending the two colours together. Below you'll see my finished swatch and sketches I sent off to amirisu to be considered for their issue. 

For yarn, we decided on Audouin and Boreal in Chickadee by Quince & Co. This was the second time I was able to work with Chickadee. It is one of my favourites to use for colourwork projects. I had the pleasure to use it for my scarf, Selsey, published in Pom Pom's Autumn Issue 10. A massive thank-you goes out to Loop, for yarn support and supplying the Chickadee. I was lucky enough to pull the skeins off the shelf and get started right away when the final colour decision was made. I've been fortune to have the support of the shop behind me as I work on my designs. I'm a little sad I can't be on the shop floor when this new issue of amirisu arrives at Loop! 

So let me finally introduce you to Phōs! Phōs is an ancient Greek word for light. I thought it would be appropriate since part of my inspiration came from the images of light filtering through the plant leaves. Phōs is a lightweight hat which plays with combining knits and purls to create the colourwork pattern. I can't wait to get my hands on this issue. I feel the amirisu team has done a beautiful job and I can't be more pleased. I'm also excited to be featured alongside other contributors I admire and a few new ones I'm glad to discover. Phōs is also available as a single pattern through amirisu's Ravelry shop

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Photo credit: amirisu

Helsinki

The most important reason for my trip to these European countries was to visit Helsinki. I was there to get a sense of the city because it is where Eero is from and of course to meet his family who live there. Helsinki is a beautiful city and often reminded me of Halifax, Nova Scotia at times. Like Halifax, Helsinki's harbour played an important part in shaping the city and still has a major role today. It did take a while getting used to the quiet streets compared to the busy rush of London. Plus, we were there during the summer solstice and the extremely long days were a new and strange experience for me. We spent many days in Helsinki, in between our trips to Stockholm and Estonia. 

When I sat down to put this post together I quickly realized I didn't have many photos of Helsinki itself. I spent my time soaking in the colours of the city and more time eating cake, though I'm definitely not complaining about either! For me, it's often hard to find something sweet to enjoy with a cup of tea when I have to worry about eating gluten-free. However, Roasberg, a cafe in Helsinki, had an amazing choice of gluten-free and vegan cakes. So naturally I had to visit a few times and sample their selection! The taste experiences in Helsinki were all special and incredibly delicious. 

Another one of my favourite experiences from my trip to Finland would be visiting 'kesämökki' which translates into 'summer cottage'. Many people vacate the city during the summer to enjoy the serenity of the calm lakes and vast forests in Finland making it an essential part of the Finnish lifestyle. This summer cottage was situated outside the city, after a four hour drive we arrvied near the Russian border.  I felt incredibly lucky to have been invited to such a special and peaceful place. Here we took advantage of the forest trails and I was introduced to my first Finnish sauna experience. 

During my days in Helsinki I didn't spend much time in yarn shops at all, I swear! I was pretty pleased with my purchases from Makeri 14 in Stockholm and the craft shops in Estonia. However, during our last bus ride into the city centre for our final lunch before flying back to London, something caught my attention as we drove by. It must have been the bright skeins of Hedgehog Fibres in the window. I think any knitter would be able to spot them miles away. We got off at the stop just past the shop when I turned to Eero and said, "Ummm, I think we just drove by a yarn shop. Do we have time? Do you mind?". We didn't have much time to spare but I'm very glad he indulged me in this last request in Helsinki. I stepped into Snurre, an inviting and colourful yarn shop. Unfortunately, I didn't have much time to spend but I'm so glad to have made the quick visit. Perhaps I'll be able to return soon! 

I managed to find room in my already overstuffed suitcase for three skeins of Tuku Wool. Tuku is 100% Finnish wool. The owner of the shop told me that Finnish yarn is hard to come by since it's a country not known for their fibre production. Tuku Wool is grown, milled and dyed in Finland. I settled on the natural cream. Often with souvenir yarn I have no idea what it will later be but I thought it would be lovely to get back into natural dyes. Hopefully when I can find the time, these skeins will have some colour added to them! 

Kaali

My personal copy of the latest Pom Pom Quarterly arrived in Nova Scotia this week! In this autumn issue they highlight the art and mystery of natural dyes. All eleven patterns use various yarns that have been dyed with natural materials. When I first heard this theme was chosen, I immediately wanted to muster the inspiration to submit an idea. I haven't published anything new since Take Heart, so it feels good to get back to creating something new on the needles.

I've always held a strong interest in natural dyes. During my time studying at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University, I needed to take a handful of dyeing courses for my major in textiles. I immediately fell in love with the alchemy behind the process but was discouraged when my body started to react to the chemical dyes we were using in class. I was struggling physically and emotionally during the semester. I finally felt that textiles was an area I wanted to pursue but I didn't know how to, if the class materials were toxic to my health. After the class ended, I found out that there was a natural dye course being offered during the summer semester. I eagerly signed up and spent the summer on "foraging" field trips and learning about the science and magic behind plant based dyes. After that, I was in love. I was able to use this knowledge as I went into the rest of my courses and incorporated elements into my weaving and screen printing work. I no longer dabble in it since knitting takes up most of my time but when I can find gorgeous naturally dyed yarn, I do indulge. 

When I first glimpsed Pom Pom's autumn mood-board I had just finished my second year at Unravel, a knitting festival in Farnham. That weekend I treated myself and brought home lots of Elisabeth Beverley's plant dyed cashmere (pictured above) and a few skeins of her merino. I began thinking of a possible submission to Pom Pom and knew I had to use the cashmere. I mainly design small accessories and knew one skein of the cashmere would be perfect for a project like this. As for the mood-board, I was drawn to the photos of fabric swatches (pictured below). They reminded me of my own natural dye notebooks which hold swatches from various dye bath combinations. I instantly loved the gradient affect from the photo on the left and the layers in the photo on the right and drew inspiration from these two pictures. I wanted to somehow combine both of these elements into my design. 

Write here...

Write here...

Here are the beginning stages of my design, Kaali. This was the sketch and swatch I submitted to Pom Pom for their consideration. I wanted the cuffs of the fingerless mitts to be delicate and I used a different textures to create layers. I thought Temaricious cotton threads would be a perfect way to pull in hints of colour without having to invest in full sized skeins. I've always wanted to use their threads but don't have the extra time to spend on embroidery since I'm always knitting. For the rest of the mitt I wanted to have a simple but yet interesting texture to highlight the beautiful colour of the cashmere. 

I may be slightly biased but my overall impression of Issue 18 is that it's incredibly gorgeous. Many of the other designs I would like to knit for myself. Patterns such as Asklöv and Roquaine are on my list if I find the time to do some knitting purely for pleasure. I love Rachel Hayton's moody photography and Katie Green's illustrations of each natural ingredient. Many thanks to Pom Pom for including me in this issue with many other artists and designer who I admire and thanks to Elisabeth Beverly and Temaricious for providing yarn support! 

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Photography by Rachel Hayton

Muhu

My knowledge of Muhu was very limited before traveling to this small island. All of my information about Muhu and its culture came solely from the various Estonian knitting books Loop stocks. During down time in the shop, I've flipped through the pages and gazed over the photos of some of the most colourful and intricate patterns I've seen of traditional knitwear. So, when Eero and I talked about the possibility of traveling to Estonia, I asked about the chances of visiting Muhu. I really have him to thank for indulging my curiosity and putting this trip together and also to his family friends for lending us their summer cottage, conveniently located on Muhu!

We stayed in their restored Estonian farmhouse, the perfect place to settle in for the weekend and explore Muhu and Saaremaa. Unfortunately for us, the weather was the only thing not co-operating and it rained the whole weekend. We even lost power a few times due to the strong winds from a storm brewing over the Baltic Sea. One morning, when we thought we had regained power, we traveled to the Muhu Muuseum only to find they were without power too. We stayed to explore the dark homes and farmhouses which are a part of their open air museum. 

Since there was no power this meant their exhibition of Muhu's national textiles and costumes was completely in the dark. However, I'm still happy to have had a quick glimpse of these examples I had gotten to know through books such as Designs and Patterns from Muhu Island and Estonian Knitting. I feel very fortunate to have visited this quiet and understated place because I know many knitting enthusiasts would not have the opportunity to visit this remote island. 

The next few photos were taken at Lõngapood Kuressaare, a small craft supply shop I stumbled across on the main street in Kuressaare. A pleasant find was the DIY embroidery outlines to get you started on your own piece inspired by traditional Estonian floral motifs. I brought home a handful of colours and few outlines to try myself when I can find the time. 

Another souvenir I brought back was this knitting book, Parimusluksus: Luxury in Tradition by Estonian designer and author, Heli Väärtnõu-Järv. I admire how she's combined century old techniques and Estonian folk art as inspiration for modern day garments. I also love the addition of her paintings throughout the book. When I begin the designing process for a new piece I often start with a drawing of what I hope to create. Some of these drawings can be found in my book Take Heart. However, I would love to add a fine art element to some future designs. 

Saaremaa

After our first afternoon in Tallinn, Eero and I left the city and drove through the Estonian countryside towards the coast. We spent the weekend on Muhu Island which I'll mention more in my next post. Saaremaa is the biggest island off of Estonia and is connected to Muhu by a causeway.

Before leaving on this trip, a colleague of mine had mentioned that visiting Estonia would be like stepping inside a fairytale. I was happy to see that Saaremaa did not disappoint. We visited the main city, Kuressaare, a handful of times to explore the local craft shops, restaurants and of course, this castle complete with moat! How much more fairytale-esque could this place be? This is Kuressaare Castle, originally built in the 14th century and  is the best surviving example of a medieval fortification amongst the Baltic countries.

We enjoyed an amazing meal at Kuressaare Kuursaal one afternoon, located just across the moat from the castle. Their Ku-Kuu Kitchen emphasizes local produce from Saarremaa and Muhu. The salad, soup and fish all had locally sources ingredients and the pike I enjoyed was caught that morning. Everything was delicious and to savour this all within view of the castle was definitely a special treat. Another memorable meal from Kuressaare was at Kohvik Retro. Located on the main street, this restaurant was also really proud of their local produce and everything on their menu was made in house. This time I was too eager to dive in before taking any photos but would highly recommend it to those in the area. 

Another favourite site we visited was the Kaali Crater Field. This natural site is composed of nine different meteorite craters from one asteroid breaking up as it entered Earth's atmosphere. The exact time of impact is unknown but scientists believe it to have happened between 1530 - 1450 BCE. These photos are from the biggest crater which formed a near perfect circular pond. I've always been curious about space exploration and our mysterious universe so I was incredibly excited to visit this place. This crater is tucked away amongst quiet farmland, just behind a local school and playground. I felt it was really special to be able to walk around an amazing example of how forces outside our power shape and effect our natural landscape. Since returning home it's been enlightening to read about the mythology and spiritual significance behind this sacred place. Throughout Estonian folklore, this places was known as "where the sun went to rest". 

DSC00461.JPG