This year l got a rather special birthday gift. From my mother in-law I got a membership to the first annual (hopefully) knitting festival held in the old town of Fredrikstad, Norway. My birthday was in February, and the festival from Thursday 22nd to Saturday 24th of September, so it’s been a long wait. But finally the day came when I could pack my bags and go to Fredrikstad for some serious bit of nerding around yarn and fibres.
I joined the challenge “One year one outfit” (#oneyearoneoutfit) back in April, and I thought that maybe I could use the festival to do some research for my project. I have already written about the challenge on my blog earlier here and here, so you can look that up if you are curious, but basically the idea is to source locally produced supplies for making a whole outfit. That means: fibre, dyes, thread, notions and all. Not an easy task. As I live in Norway, with a rather harsher climate than for instance Australia this means that my fibre choice is wool. There are several reasons for this, that I will not go further into here, but wool it is.
A knitting festival is a perfect venue to search for wool and wool related products. In Norway people mainly knit in wool, and you can hardly find any acrylic yarn at these kind of fairs at all. Not that I was looking for that. But I found what I was looking for.:
At the festival market I found a very sweet lady called Carol. She had a stand with wool fleece, yarn and loose wool fibres all from her own sheep local to the area. I was thrilled. Her wool is local to my old neighbourhood, as well as washed, processed and spun in a mini mill and is in all natural colours -not dyed at all! Her sheep are of a traditional short-tailed breed of sheep called “spelsau”, that I really think is worth saving from extinction. The colours of the wool are beautiful and the yarn soft and strong at the same time. Perfect!
I have now ordered some yarn from her that I think I will turn into a knitted cardigan in a traditional Norwegian pattern. I’m also in high hopes that I will get to visit her in the spring when they shear the wool. If so, I will of course try to document it here.
While at the festival I also took a 6 hour course in Indigo dyes. What better way to learn about wool dye than actually trying it myself. At the course we dyed with a synthetic Indigo but the plant pigment is virtually indistinguishable from the synthetic when it comes to the result, and the process is the same. The reason we used the man-made version of the pigment was that at the course we only had so much time to complete the whole process. Usually these courses run four nights or an entire weekend.
We started the course with a bit of theory. Our teacher was a remarkable woman who has been working with colours, weaving and art’s and crafts since she was twelve. And 20 years on different projects in Africa with these same themes. We were 8 people in the course, so not too many. We were divided into two groups, one for each of the big colouring pots.
The weather was beautiful and we did most of the dyeing out in the autumn sun. All in all we did six batches of dyeing without refreshing the colour in between. That way we got to experience how there was less and less pigments in the pot, and therefore also lighter and lighter colour on our yarn. Five of the batches was in “Norwegian natural white wool” but one of the batches was with a combination of fibres, and even a few grams of yellow wool. The yellow turned green when put in the Indigo dye bath.
In the break on Saturday I had just enough time to go to a presentation on the subject of Norwegian wool and sheep breeds. It might sound boring, but it really wasn’t. It could be because I’m interested of course, but I really got a lot from it.
The presentation was held in a beautiful old building in the old town and both the speakers were professional and clear voiced in the presentation. They talked about the unique status of wool and knitting in Norway, and the problem with the old sheep breeds disappearing because their wool isn’t valued by the people that puts the prices on it. In Norway we have a national collection and classification system for wool, and the state sets the prices according to how they believe the value to bee. As a result of this, natural pigmented wool from the old breeds gets low prices (if any at all) and is more seen as a waste problem than anything else. Shame on them if you ask me. However, things appear to be changing and the interest for this type of wool is rising.
I briefly talked to the presentation holders after the presentation, and got a few tips for where to source Norwegian made wool fabrics. One of the companies they suggested is a company called “Varp og Veft”. I looked at their website and I love the look of their fabrics, so the next step will be to order some samples.
I must say I love the feeling of progress..
The knitting festival in Fredrikstad was in many ways my perfect spot. I love the old town dearly, and I have been there many times. The old buildings are so idyllic, but they are also very much alive. Alive with people and with creativity, also when there isn’t a knitting festival going on. I can’t recommend the place enough. So I will leave you with a photo I took on the ferry crossing on Saturday morning.