As I've mentioned before, I'm very drawn to the knitting of that part of the world so you can imagine my delight when Sara, the Marketing Director at Black Sheep Wools (the best local yarn shop a girl can have! J) asked if I'd like to go along to the workshop that Arne and Carlos were running. To say that I snatched her hand off is a bit of an understatement! I haven't done any colour work for a long time so the thought of re-visiting an old skill with the added benefit of advice from people who knit in a different way to me was very appealing. My yarn-in-the-left-hand knitting style is still far from perfect so the opportunity to watch first-hand how Arne and Carlos knit in the Norwegian style was just what I needed!
Here I am with them – and if you’re thinking that it doesn’t look much like Black Sheep Wools and perhaps a little more like, say, a restaurant, then you’re right.
Oh my – not only was I invited to the workshop but also out to dinner with Arne, Carlos and Sara from Black Sheep the night before (here we all are). How exciting is that! I felt like quite the superstar myself! And more than a little nervous before I met them, but I needn’t have worried.
Arne (pronounced Ar-nuh) and Carlos are engaging company and it's very easy to forget that you’re in the presence of people whose books have been translated into 17 languages and who appear on TV shows with millions of viewers – so easy in fact, that it wasn’t long before I had my socks on the table to show off my matching stripes (and no, my feet weren’t in them, that would have been very rude!). Luckily, they say that they always enjoy seeing the projects that people make otherwise it could have been a very awkward moment!
We talked about superstar moments, about Britain leaving the EU, visiting Peru (they've been a lot and of course big daughter is going there in just a few short months), knitting in schools, the way that adults shape a child’s life by unthinking or unkind comments, traffic jams, how much they enjoy seeing people’s projects, socks (of course) and favourite heels (Arne's is the Russia or after-thought heel and he's a toe-up knitter) and a dozen other topics ... you can see how I ended up feeling comfortable enough to show off my socks!
All too soon it was time to go home but there was still the workshop the following day to look forward to. There was a warm Norwegian welcome at Black Sheep Wools ...
and the Craft Barn was filled with Arne and Carlos goodies - copies of their books and more balls of Arne and Carlos yarn than you could shake a stick at.
I resisted sweeping it all up and bundling into the back of my car - just!
I wonder if it's strange coming face to face with a life-size image of yourself?
The workshop room was all ready and Arne and Carlos made some last-minute preparations whilst the workshop delegates gathered in the Craft Barn.
Then we were in the room and the workshop had begun! Arne and Carlos talked about the project that we were going to be creating, the wrist warmers pattern from their book Knitting Scandinavian Style. Thanks to the variations of language, the translated title doesn't explain that the patterns in the book all come from the Setesdal region of Norway where Arne's Grandmother came from. Originally, the folk costumes would have been embroidered and each region would have its own embroidery style that could be recognised right down to the embroiderer. Today, with the advent of machine embroidery, those skills are disappearing and Arne and Carlos are on a mission to keep the patterns of the region in popular tradition by incorporating them in knitted designs.
The format of the workshop was that everyone worked to their own pace and Arne and Carlos took turns to sit at each table to answer questions and demonstrate aspects of knitting with more than one colour.
Arne appears to be at his most comfortable with knitting in his hands, and boy is he fast! He always knits with 5 DPNs as that's much more common in Scandinavia and Europe than knitting with circulars is.
One of the things that I had struggled with whilst trying to get to grips with left-handed knitting was what to do with the yarn in my left hand. When I knit with my usual English flick style, I have the yarn wrapped comfortably around my fingers and this stops it flapping and helps to keep my tension even. When I've tried to do the same with my left hand, the yarn has become sticky and refused to slide evenly and it's affected my tension in the wrong way. I asked Arne to show me exactly what he did with which hand and with the yarn and at last I do believe I've got it! I've been trying to control the yarn too much and when I just trap it between my first and second fingers so that it doesn't flap about without trying to control the speed that it passes through my fingers, the tension magically sorts itself out. Hooray!
(Please ignore the state of my poor hands, the weather has been mild over the last couple of days so I've raced into the garden to catch up on the clearing up and enjoy the snowdrops. I've got plans for the garden this year!)
And now look at me! I can't tell you how pleased I was with myself to be able to work the colours with both hands and for my tension not to go horribly wrong. It's a bit fiddly being back on DPNs again but it's actually been slightly easier to work on a straight needle rather than a bendy circular whilst I'm learning something new.
I didn't finish my wrist warmer in the time we had for the workshop, but that doesn't matter. I feel that I have gained something much more valuable in my new Norwegian knitting skills and I'm looking forward to working on the project in my own time. The pattern that we were using is called Klo, which translates as "bear's claw", although the variations of language have struck again and it is subtitled "5 Wise Virgins". I don't know who the virgins are or what their connection to bears is (I suspect it may have something to do with the Bible story although there are definitely no bears in it) other than that the tall stands could indeed look like the candlesticks of the story rather than claws coming down from the red bear's paw.
After a break for lunch, the tables in the workshop room were replaced by seating and more people came in to listen to Arne and Carlos' afternoon lecture. I've been to quite a few university applicant lectures with big daughter recently and if I'm honest, I probably expected Arne and Carlos' talk to be in the same style; interesting, informative but delivered in a way that kept them at arm's length.
What I didn't expect at all was to listen a lecture delivered by a design team who work seamlessly together, two parts of the whole, and are clearly very comfortable in their own skin, as we would say in our family. There was a lot of laughter; they talked in a humorous, often self-deprecating way, happy to amiably correct each other during the conversation - because that was what it felt like. We could all have been sitting down at a dinner tble listening to them recount anecdotes from their lives.
They talked about their railway station house in the mountains which Arne bought and Carlos visited with a vision in his head of a wonderful house that didn't match up to the reality at first. Their beautiful English cottage garden built on raised beds on the station platform. Translation issues that we have already talked about - clearly it is something that they have grown used to after their first book 55 Christmas Balls to Knit didn't appear with the expected title of "Christmas Baubles" - although they wouldn't have got so many jokes from the word "baubles"!
I'm not going to show you every photo from the lecture or tell you everything about it as you may get the chance to go in the future and I wouldn't want to spoil it for you. I must tell you, though, the story of the sock yarn because ... well, because it's me and I must J.
I learnt that the colours of the sock range that Arne and Carlos designed were inspired by the paintings of the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. My favourite, called Star Night, which is at the top right of this picture is inspired by one of Munch's landscape paintings and the bottom right by one of his self-portraits. However, Munch's most famous painting is The Scream, a vivid orange painting of a distraught-looking man and you can guess which of the sock designs was inspired by that one! Unfortunately, the yarn manufacturers were less than enamoured at the thought of one of their yarns being called "Scream" so it was re-named as the rather less contraversial "Twilight". A later yarn based on one of Munch's paintings called Vampire also found itself being renamed. I can't think why ...!
After the lecture, there was time for photographs and book-signing; there was no question of people being rushed out before they had had chance to chat and pose for the camera. Preconceptions of celebrities who are too busy to spend time with the people who come to meet them just don't apply here; instead there is patience and generosity and I was both highly impressed and grateful for that.
It was a great privilege to be able to spend so much time with Arne and Carlos and listening to their stories has just deepened my interest in their part of the world. Northern - and Norwegian - inspiration indeed!
Huge thanks to Sara and Black Sheeps Wools for the invitation to dinner and the workshop, and to Arne and Carlos for sharing their evening with a Mum from Winwick.