From Coast to Coast // The Seafarer Collection with Hinterland

Last October I had the opportunity to fly out to Vancouver and attend Knit City, a weekend knitting conference and marketplace. I wasn't teaching or selling, so this trip was purely to attend the event for myself and finally meet designers, yarn dyers and shop owners that I had been admiring from afar. Plus, this was a perfect excuse to visit Vancouver for the first time. I had only been to the West Coast once before and that was to attend Vogue Knitting Live in Seattle, nearly five years ago. VKL was my first knitting conference experience. It was overwhelming and very energizing at the same time. After a weekend of classes and talking to other very supportive knitters, it was here, where I decided to make a real commitment to publish my own designs. A few months later, my first design, Take Heart, with published in Pom Pom Quarterly.  

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My trip to Vancouver reminded me of that first experience in Seattle, fully immersed in the knitting community of a new city. I've had the chance to work at many other knitting festivals, such as Unravel and Edinburg Yarn Festival in the UK and Knit East in New Brunswick, but when I'm not working these types of event, I feel very much like a kid in a candy shop. Being surrounded by gorgeous fibre and knowledgeable knitters gives me the opportunity to discover new yarns and gather inspiration and energy for new projects.

Part of my Knit City haul.

Part of my Knit City haul.

Over the weekend at Knit City, I found myself coming back to one booth in particular. Skeins of a delicious alpaca and wool blend were spread across the table. This is where I met Hanahlie, the hands and heart behind Hinterland, a Canadian based yarn company. I immediately fell in love with their yarn, Range, an aran weight blend of alpaca and Rambouillet which is grown and spun in British Columbia. I also met designer, Lindsey Inouye, also known as Standard Knits. She was helping Hanahlie with her booth that weekend and also promoting some of her own designs knit with Hinterland yarn. I brought her pattern Bowen and enough of Range in Cloud to make it. Pictured above is a portion of my haul from that weekend - books by Vancouver designers Caitlin ffrench and Sylvia McFadden, a Bowen pattern and skeins of Cloud. 

Bowen Sweater progress.

Bowen Sweater progress.

Off to Rhinebeck.

Off to Rhinebeck.

Once I was home from Vancouver, I quickly knit up a Bowen sweater for myself with the Hinterland yarn I had brought back. Within two weeks I had it finished, just in time to fly off to Rhinebeck, a wool and sheep festival in upstate New York. In fact, I don't think the sweater was fully dry when I boarded the plane. Oh well. Even though I lived in my Bowen sweater all winter, the yarn still manages to look fairly new but has that cozy feeling of being well worn. 

I had exchanged a copy of my book, Take Heart, with Hanahlie for some skeins of Range while I was at Knit City. This winter, Hanahlie had contacted me to say she was knitting my Chester Basin mittens from the book and asked if I would be interested in designing with Hinterland yarn. I naturally jumped at the chance and thus began our collaboration between East Coast and West Coast. 

Maple and Snow. 

Maple and Snow. 

Bedwell original swatch. 

Bedwell original swatch. 

Bedwell, my hat and mitten set were the first pieces to be designed. I wanted to find another fun but simple-to-knit texture like the Chester Basin set. Hanahlie sent out a skein of Maple and Snow in her aran weight yarn, Range. The hat and mittens are a combination of knits, purls and twisted slipped-stitches. It creates a great bumpy texture on the outside with an overall dense and cozy feeling, perfect for winter accessories. Bedwell can be completed with just two skeins of Range with plenty of yarn leftover to add a pompom if desired.

A Mountain of Range. 

A Mountain of Range. 

Next we started discussing sweaters. These two projects were a combination of what Hanahlie and I both like in a sweater, something slightly over sized and with pockets. Hanahlie also mentioned that she really liked Herringbone Stitch, so I incorporated that texture into one sweater. For the other one,  I added a small section of Intarsia onto the sleeves since I had been playing with that colour work technique recently. This time, Hanahlie sent out a mountain of yarn and I got started on my third and fourth sweater designs.  

The first was Kinsac, a cozy v-neck sweater, worked in pieces from the bottom up with dropped shoulders. I used Ash for the main colour and Snow for the contrasting sleeves. The colour work detail on the sleeves was worked using Intarsia to create a tidy and smooth surface on the inside. There are small pockets on the front but those could be easily ignored if you prefer a sweater without. My cat, Fergus and I are both huge fans of alpaca blends. It must be because of the soft finished pieces it creates. Every time I turned around I'd find him using my alpaca shawls and sweaters as a pillow if I left them around. Here he is, caught in the act, when I had the sweater out to dry. I inadvertently had created a perfect Fergus-sized, alpaca lined hammock, so I can't blame him for choosing to nap there. Thankfully, they are both grey. 

Kinsac original swatch.

Kinsac original swatch.

Caught in the act. 

Caught in the act. 

My final sweater for this collection was Pinehaven, a boat-neck pullover in the colour Honey, with pockets and Herringbone sleeves. I believe this was my most challenging sweater to date. It took me several attempts to finally get my inset pockets to work and be nearly invisible from the outside. This sweater has traveled with many kilometres with me, just like Barbicel. I brought it to work on while I was in Helsinki this summer, then to Portugal for a few weeks when I was on my way back home. Finishing touches, such as sewing in ends and blocking, were done here in Nova Scotia, before being sent back out West to where the yarn had originated. That was over 28,000 kilometres of traveling with this yarn in my project bag. 

In-progress, in Portugal. 

In-progress, in Portugal. 

It's now time to introduce you to the final shots of Bedwell, Kinsac and Pinehaven. I love Hanahlie's idea of naming the collection, Seafarer since it can incorporate both of our lives being close to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The names Kinsac and Pinehaven were chosen from names of areas I grew up around in Beaver Bank, Nova Scotia. Bedwell is the name of the waterway in the background where some of these photos were taken on Pender Island, BC. Thank you to Hanahlie for collaborating and for all the incredible yarn. Also thank you to Celeb Bayers for the beautiful shots on Pender Island and to my patient tech-editor Jemima Bicknell

If you're in the Vancouver area, you'll be able to find Hinterland at this year's Knit City, Sept 30 & Oct 1. Stop by to say hi to Hanahlie and see the designs in person. These patterns will be available through Ravelry

Bedwell Mittens, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Bedwell Mittens, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Bedwell Set, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Bedwell Set, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Pinehaven, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Kinsac, photography by Celeb Bayers.

Helsinki Polaroids

I recently returned home from spending two and a half weeks in Helsinki, Finland. I brought my Polaroid camera with me and snapped a few photos throughout my stay. I love the unexpected quality of the photos and the moody colours they captured. 

Sibelius Monument, Töölö.

Sibelius Monument, Töölö.

Grey Day in Porvoo.

Grey Day in Porvoo.

Christmas Eve in Lauttausaari. 

Christmas Eve in Lauttausaari. 

Kotiharjun Sauna, Kallio. 

Kotiharjun Sauna, Kallio. 

Pink Building, Kallio.

Pink Building, Kallio.

Sauna Session, Lauttasaari. 

Sauna Session, Lauttasaari. 

Sunsent in Lauttasaari. 

Sunsent in Lauttasaari. 

HIFK Lads. 

HIFK Lads. 

Rooftops, Ullanlinna.  

Rooftops, Ullanlinna.  

Cake at Rupla, Kallio.

Cake at Rupla, Kallio.

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! 

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". 

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