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Strikkestua – Fall 2019 Retreat

Had so much fun with the first fall “Strikkestua” retreat for Ellen Susanne Designs with members of Prairie Yarn Over Knitting Guild, followed the next day by a fall Yarn Shop Hop in central Iowa with an even larger group from the guild!

E S Designs Fall Retreat 2019

Our outings included a visit to Pacaland Alpaca Farm in Kelley, IA  and 4 yarn shops in Ankeny, West Des Moines, and Newton, Iowa. We began the weekend with a nordic-themed experience, beginning on Friday with afternoon coffee, heat-shaped waffles and mandler kake and discussion of our knitting experiences. This was followed with a presentation on historical developments of knitting in Norway and the important role knitters played in giving shape to the national identity.

2017-08-12 grace selbu troll

Then a private tour of Pacaland Alpaca Farm, a short 10-minute drive from my studio. We all fell in love with “Ariel” who is the hospitality ambassador of the Kramer alpacas.

pacaland 14 ariel

In the evening, we had a demo by licensed Massage Therapist, Allison of “Espiritu” where she pointed out ways we can take care of our bodies and the stressors knitting imposes. Day 2 began with a Nordic Breakfast which led to a discussion of all the white food in contrast to the rich use of color in the crafts…knitting, weaving, rosemaling…! Then off to join up with other members of the Prairie Yarn Over knitting guild as we visited yarn shops in central Iowa: Knitting Next Door in Ankeny; A Tangle of Yarn and Yarn Junction in West Des Moines; and Jan’s Yarn Barn in Newton in Iowa.

Pyo yarn hop fall 2019 -atoy-2

The Spring 2020 Strikkestua knitting retreat is scheduled for March with members of the Sons of Norway Knitting Group from Restoration Lodge 548.

“The Mountains are Calling”

It was the wee hours of the morning, still dark, with ice crystals framing the windshield of the car and I was watching the snow covered farms slip past my window as I tried to muster the will to move forward towards the airport which nonetheless seemed to be racing towards me. I didn’t want to leave. This remarkable land of my ancestors that, somehow, had a firm grip on my vitals seemed as reluctant to let me go as I was to leave–it was not loosening its grip on my heart. Lost in my self-centered revelry, my thoughts went to my great grandmother, Susanna, who left by the steamship, “Amerikansk Linie” from Bergen, Norway 138 years ago–hers was a final farewell, just once–that final. She was leaving behind very hard times…and thought she would be reuniting with her dearest love after landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and making her way westward to Wisconsin. That is another story for another time, but she is a frequent visitor to my thoughts when I am knitting Norwegian-inspired designs and especially when I make my journeys back to “gamle Norge.” On this farewell–on my journey to the very modern airport that would not only send me back to America, but promised to allow me to return to this magical land in only a few months time–I was nonetheless tearful and heartsick to leave…and then my cousin turned on the radio and a lilting and ironically joyful tune broke through the silent morning, turning my tears to laughter, as LoMsk squealed and pranced through this song:

“..Som å kome heim til norske fjell
Som å kome heim til bre og elv
her eg ser Montanas kvite tindar stikke imot ein himmelkvelv”
(Som Å Kome Heim by LoMsk)
(Listen to “Som å komme heim” on YouTube)

A rough translation…

“…It’s like coming home to Norwegian mountains
Like coming home to glaciers and rivers
here I see Montana’s white peaks piercing the vault of heaven…”

On the one hand, for me, knitting is an expression of the deep, unexplainable connection I feel to my ancestral home. Not unlike the early Norwegian immigrants to America who saw in their mind’s eye the mountains of home when they made their way across America, the power of this country of mountains and fjords moves from my heart to my hands. But on the other hand, my designs don’t have the vintage flavor–as much as I am a fan of vintage–they are rooted in NOW; they have a practical aesthetic born of today.

In 2017, I began designing a series of knitting patterns that I am more and more calling “New World Knitting.” Take it how you please: “New +World Knitting”? Perhaps: a new twist inspired by international designs? Yup. Or, “New World + Knitting”? That too. Like the Montana settlers in LoMsks’s song, and like Susanna, who embarked on her adventure to a new place, the power of the past gives color and texture to new experiences.

I launched “Jotunheimen Cowl” this  week — with a limited-time coupon code for a free download. Enjoy the pattern and see if perhaps you can hear the mountains calling.

The inspiration for this design is Jotunheimen, the impressive mountain range, extending from south-central to western Norway. This mountain range is known as the home of the jotuns (a race of giants) and plays a central role in Norse Mythology and Folklore. You will recognize it from the films featuring the Marvel character Thor, the Nordic film, The Ash Lad, as well as the classical music composed by Norway’s Edvard Grieg, “Hall of the Mountain King.”

This cowl features a textured motif which is an artistic interpretation of the five highest peaks of Jotunheimen (Galdhøpiggen, 8,100.4 ft; Glittertind, 8087.3 ft; Store Skagastølstind, 7890.4 ft; Store Styggedalstinden, 7831.4 ft; and  Skarstind, 7798.6 ft) and the innermost arm of Sognefjord which reaches towards this majestic mountain range.

One of my test knitters, from St. Louis, announced the completion of her project with “Mountains in St. Louis!” These mountains can travel.

I actually did stick to the plan and, when I reached the airport, collected my baggage from the boot of the car, checked it in and, with time to spare, made my way to the closest coffee vendor, trying to set my sights forward for the long day ahead. The barista made my brew and set it down in front of me: Yup, “The Mountains Are Calling” — right there on the cup. One last tug from the homeland. I’ll be back!

mountains coffee

Keep on the Sunnyside!

April is just around the corner, the days are longer, the bulbs have pushed their upwardly-stretched arms towards the sky as the green growth has broken through the dark heavy blanket of earth and yes…”here comes the sun!”

Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s all right

Sun, sun, sun here it comes…
(lyrics by Keith Harkin, “Here Comes the Sun”)

It’s more than alright…it lifts my spirits! I’m also excited to announce the recent release of my new pattern “Sunnyside Up Blanket.” I was thrilled to be approached by a Red Heart North America Inspiration Design Specialist when she asked me to design a baby blanket and I hope you love it. This is my first experience knitting for a yarn company and I’m so impressed with their commitment to presenting inexpensive and inspiring designs for knitters.

You can find the pattern both on the Red Heart North America web site (go to Patterns>Baby or simply type “sunnyside” in the search field) and on Ravelry (go to Patterns and type in “Ellen Susanne” to see the list of links to all my designs). It is a free PDF download and is both a single pattern and featured in the newly released Look Book entitled, “Hello Baby!” — also available for free download by Red Heart.

Sunnyside Up Blanket Pattern Download at Red Heart
https://www.redheart.com/free-patterns/sunnyside-up-blanket

Sunnyside Up Blanket Pattern page on Ravelry
https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sunnyside-up-blanket

Hello Baby Look Book at Red Heart
https://www.redheart.com/EBooks/Hello-Baby-Lookbook/p/EB171

A few comments about some of the factors influencing my design:

  1. Knit tightly enough that there are no little loops for baby fingers to get caught in: use of seed stitch and linen stitch as the textured styles achieve this.
  2. Accessible to knitters with a small repertoire of stitches under their belt: while it can seem complex because of the variety of techniques and styles used, each is relatively basic and, when combined, create tons of visual interest. Stitches include: cast on, bind off, knit, purl, k2tog, p2tog, yarn forward, yarn back, slipped stitches, cable cast on. Stitches are combined to create textures like linen stitch, seed stitch, attached Stst/Rev Stst Welted Ruffle. (The linen stitch can require a lot of concentration when worked in a single color, but is simplified when it alternates colors in the repeats as this pattern does.)
  3. Can be knit (nearly) seamlessly! (only 13 stitches to seam together using mattress after binding off at the end of the ruffle). The center section using linen stitch is knit at the same time as the seed stitch inner border. Once complete, stitches are picked up around the seed stitch perimeter to work the welted ruffle.
  4. A classic yet modern look, suitable not only for baby, but which can be enjoyed timelessly as a throw/aghan.
  5. No more than a single skein needed for each of the two colorways called for. You’ll find most of the solid colorway is used up but quite a lot of the striping yarn remains — enough to make coordinating pieces for the baby layette or pillows for your sofa if you like!
  6. I was aiming for a design which was both gender and age neutral. The welted ruffle softens the look and increases the drape (which would be lacking if only linen stitch was used), but in a non-frilly way.

Red Heart gave the name to this design and I love it. It conjures up happy childhood memories of singing in the car on family trips: One of my favorite songs was “Keep on the Sunnyside.”

Well there’s a dark and a troubled side of life.
There’s a bright and a sunny side too.
But if you meet with the darkness and strife,
The sunny side we also may view.

Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life.
It will help us every day, it will brighten all the way,
If we keep on the sunny side of life….
(lyrics by The Carter Family, Johnny Cash)

Words to live by! Enjoy the pattern! And if you are uncertain about any of the stitches, remember that, on ellensusanne.com you can follow the links in the Resources area for instructions and technical support of all techniques, and stitches used in my designs. I hope you will share your pictures! (Photo: Copyright Coats & Clark)

sunnyside cover photo

 

Winter Solstice 2018

a troll inside a selbu mitten at candlelight
Tusse-Troll

As a knitter, I find myself drawn to the traditions and lore of the winter solstice…
…that in the longest night of the year and the cold and the dark of winter there is warmth in candle light,
…that the owl calling outside my window knows the sun will come to replace my candle’s flame,
…that, just as the wheel of seasons turn, so turns the spinning wheel,
…and each bind off compels me to cast on again.

Wrapped in my cosy knits, I am grateful for the woolen warmth gifted from the animals who wore them first, and I am reminded that in life there are new beginnings just as in knitting…
…that holey socks can be darned,
…that stained wool can be dyed,
…that a frogged blanket can become a sweater.
The broken is mended, the blemished is reborn, the discarded is  transformed.

Let us slow down
….and listen to the silence,
….breathe deeply the cold winter air that has the power to put fire in our hearts,
….and ask nature to help us to remember what we have forgotten.

Darkness. Light.
Exhale. Inhale.
Let go. Embrace.
Be still. Dance.

Ellen Susanne
21 Dec 2018 Winter Solstice

 

On Curiosity and Knitting

You found me!

Maybe you are a knitter.  I’ve never met a knitter without an inquiring spirit, her attention permanently stretched from her hands to the horizon–as she anticipates the discovery of a new pattern or yarn or technique, all the while click-click-clicking out the creation of a beautiful new life form on her needles. So, yes, you might be a knitter because knitters by definition are curious, captains all…of a ship permanently at sail on the quest for new discoveries that infuse color and pattern and texture into everyday life. No surprise then that a knitter might well find my blog in the sea of words and images on the Internet. But perhaps you are not tethered to needles by yarn? I hope that whether your clicking of choice is that of knitting needles or keys on your computer, you will click to follow my blog–do so either quietly or by chiming in with your own thoughts. Sure this blog will be about knitting–yarns, techniques, patterns–but it will also be about finding beauty, celebrating inquisitiveness, seeking out the extraordinary. I’ve been thinking about the role of curiosity in the life of a knitter and I think it might well be one of the core traits; I’m going to give it some more thought! In the mean time, I want to share this article with you written by Francesca Gino and printed in the Harvard Business Review (Sept-Oct 2018), just in case you, like me, are curious about curiosity: Why Curiosity Matters.

Stay tuned: My Myrhorn knitting pattern will be released later today. A unisex design that comes with instructions for both a cowl and a gaiter; knits up quickly with a special twist: it includes elements of both stranded and lace knitting. Free downloads for the first 5 days (Oct 17-21). Follow @ellensusannedesigns on Facebook for timely news releases.

Nels Allison Myrhorn Profile.PNG