Sunday, 10 January 2016


I belong to a local knitting group in Portsmouth which meets every Tuesday to knit, crochet, chat, drink copious amounts of tea and eat cake.  The cafe that hosts our weekly session is run by an extremely talented street artist and all round good chap who makes everyone feel welcome with his witty banter and generally laid back nature.  As we sit round a group of tables that have been pulled together, we can look out on the bleak winter-world outside through large glazed doors and revel in the warmth of our cosy little gathering.  This is what the Norwegians would call, Koselig.  There is no direct or fully accurate translation into English, but the nearest you'll find is the word 'cosy' or 'cozy' (US Eng). The meaning of Koselig goes beyond temperature and surroundings, it has a more esoteric sense which is about feelings and how there is comfort to be had in simple pleasures and friendships. This concept of Koselig is important to Norwegians, as it is to all the other Scandinavian countries (Hyggelig in Danish) because they have long, cold winters and the notion of hunkering down against the elements  has become a comfort rather than a chore.  It isn't just about surviving the winter though, Koselig carries on throughout the year in other elements of Norwegian life and culture.

This cosiness, it might be argued, can be seen in much of their arts and crafts.  Traditional motifs and patterns litter Norwegian textile history bringing with them a sense of continuity, quaintness and charm that many have tried to copy.  It is a design aesthetic that, whilst similar to the Scots Fairisle or Faroese designs, has more of an openness in it's design and often uses figurative and even narrative motifs.

One of the members of my knitting group is Norwegian and she introduced us to this idea of Koselig, proudly trying to explain its meaning but careful to emphasise that it was, to an extent, intangible. Whilst I can't fully appreciate what it must be like to live in darkness for several months of the year and be head deep in snow outside, I can understand the desire to knit and create comforting clothing.  It was with pleasure then that I came across this classic book of Norwegian knitting designs by Annichen Sibbern Bohn.  This book has been republished and can be bought from the Knitpicks website along with other Scandinavian knitting design books.

I challenge any knitter not to be charmed by these designs and want to give them a go.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Colour! Colour! COLOUR!!!!

     I recently fell into conversation with someone about the textile/clothing designer, Kaffe Fassett.  If you've found this blog through my twitter account or through searching out male/men/knitters/knitting, then no doubt, you will have heard of him already.   If not, here's his Wiki entry. That conversation lead me to revisit some web searches about his work and to seek out his latest designs.  In the process, I came across a great blog post which hit upon Kaffe's work in a tangential way, via his one-time-lover, Bill Gibb. His is a fascinating tale in itself but what pulled their two stories together in a triumph of design over accident was their love of colour and pattern.  I could go on and on about their work, but the blog I've mentioned, the V&A archive and general internet searching will tell you about it far better than I ever could.
What I do want to draw your attention to though is the central theme of Kaffe's work: colour.  Indeed, Kaffe is quoted as saying, " If in doubtadd twenty more colours".  With this mantra ringing through my head, I once dressed a charity shop window with colour being the only criteria.  Clashing, rich, jewel-like colours give warmth to winter wardrobes and should not be overlooked when choosing your jumper knitting palette for the season.  We all find that we are drawn to certain colours - indeed, the Ravelry website asks you to list your favourite colours on your profile, mine are mainly blues and greens, but more and more I find I am drawn to burgundy and plums.  Strange then that come Winter time, we all hibernate in browns, blacks, greys and sombre hues.  Whether you are fair skinned or dark skinned, colour IS an option; it's just about finding the right one(s) for you.

Finally, this is a design I'm currently knitting.  It started as a cowl scarf that I knitted on a trip to Berlin a few years ago.  I wasn't working from a pattern and the size of the cowl wasn't quite right - just a bit too big to be a snug tube and not long enough to wrap around a couple of times.  So, I took the plunge and am turning it into a cardigan, braving my first experience of 'Steeking' where you have to cut your work! Eek!!  I'm currently thinking I couldn't possibly wear these colours as a cardigan, so I'm planning on dying the finished work.  It could be a disaster.....and if it is, it will be shuffled off to the back of my wardrobe.  Or, it could be a colour triumph.  We'll have to wait and see.