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Blog / Dianna Walla

  • Best Friend Vasa

    When Veronika first told me she was releasing a new yarn for light weight summer knits I was eager to see it.   I love wool yarn and it's usually the only thing I knit with which means I don't have many hand knits for the warmer weather ( actually, I think I only have one hand knit summer top!).  I told Veronika I was excited to see her Best Friend yarn and wanted to knit a Vasa tee with it, she kindly offered to send me a couple of skeins just in time for my trip to Santa Fe.  

    The yarn arrived the day before we were to fly out which didn't leave much time for swatching.   I decided to do something that I would never recommend to another knitter... I skipped the swatch.  Instead of going in blind I thought it wise to ask Veronika what she would recommend in the way of needles.   Vasa has a gauge of 24 stitches per four inches using fingering weight yarn on a recommended US 3 (3.25mm) needle, since Best Friend in a light fingering Veronika suggested I use a US 5 (3.75).  Veronika, the queen of swatching, warned me that this was a suggestion and that I wasn't to blame her if the garment didn't fit, haha!

    My plan was to knit the Vasa in the round.   Sitting on the plane I cast on the front panel stitches and worked a few rows of garter (knitting flat) and after about an inch and a half I put those stitches on hold and cast on the back panel stitches and worked them the same way. I then joined both pieces and worked them in the round until the desired length, purling two stitches on each side for a faux seem. When I reached the underarm I split for front and back and worked those pieces flat. Then, I bound off for the neck leaving an even amount over the shoulder so that I could do a three needle bind off.   

    This was a perfect project for my adventures in Santa Fe, simple and light weight, and I am so pleased with the way it turned out. I ended up getting about 25 stitches per four inches. The top turned out to be about a 34" bust (the smallest size) instead of the 38" bust I cast on for. Despite the smaller size it still fits nicely, and, because of this beautiful yarn, it has lovely drape. I'm so happy to have another summer knit!!!



  • My Skógafjall Color Inspiration

    I fell in love Dianna Walla's Skógafjall sweater design as soon as I saw it. The pattern was not released yet, and still in the test kitting phase, when I started picking colors for my version of the sweater.  

    My husband and I visited Iceland in March two years ago. In March, Iceland is not the lush green place that you see in all the photos, it's winter and the land is either white with snow or black lava rock with muted golden lichen or grass.  Still absolutely beautiful in it's winter glory.  This was the Iceland I saw, and the color inspiration behind my Skógafjall. 

    For the main body of my sweater I chose a charcoal Léttlopi, color 0005, and colors 9426 and 0054 for my contrast colors. Dianna added something very helpful to this pattern, along side the motif chart she added a  little chart indicating which color was held dominate in each row.  If your not familiar with color dominance I highly recommend reading her blog post about it.   

    I cast on for my Skógafjall in mid February and was finished a couple weeks later. A great thing about most Lopapeysas, is that they knit up quickly (and even faster if you have a broken leg and can't do much else but knit). It's been a cold and wet winter here in western Washington so my newly finished Skógafjall has already gotten a lot of wear.

    We love to see your finished projects and if your working on your own Skógafjall we would like to see the color you chose, be sure to tag us on Instagram with #toltknits and #tolticelandicwoolmonth .




  • Skógafjall by Dianna Walla


     Photo courtesy of Dianna Walla

    We are thrilled that Dianna Walla was able to work with us again, this time designing, Skógafjall, a gorgeous Lopapeysa for this years Icelandic Wool Month.   Dianna is an amazing designer and we have been so fortunate to work with her in other projects, she designed our Hearth Slippers and also the lovely Aspen Socks from Farm to Needle book.   We also featured her other lopi designs during our previous Icelandic Wool Month celebrations, Moon Pulls and Moon Sprites.

    You can find Dianna on Instagram @cakeandvikings and her website, Paper Tiger.

    Photo courtesy of Dianna Wallla
    Where are you from and what brought you to Norway?
    I grew up in North Carolina but I've moved around a lot since I finished my undergraduate degree. I moved to Seattle, where my husband is from, in 2009 and it's definitely my second home. But between a semester abroad in France and a year of teaching in Hungary, I recently realized that Norway (where I've lived since 2015) is the fourth country I've lived in! We moved here for the master's program I'm currently in, but there are many things that drew both of us to the country. The language, culture, and history have been a big part of the fabric of my life for years. The incredible natural beauty, the climate, and the textile traditions based in wool are a big part of the draw as well.
    Photo courtesy of Dianna Walla
    When did you start knitting?  Designing knitwear?
    My mother taught me to knit when I was a child, but knitting didn't become such a big part of my life until I around the end of high school. In college, I knit my first sweater, had my first experience buying local yarn from a farmer's market, and I kind of never looked back. By the time I started my first graduate degree in 2009, I was getting interested in designing, initially by making larger and larger modifications to existing patterns. In 2010 I designed my first sweater from scratch (which ended up being the prototype for my design, Sundottir) and I learned a lot about swatching and how much math was really involved in the process. A round yoke is such an excellent blank canvas for creative expression. I kept experimenting, coming up with my own designs, and by 2012 I really became "a designer," in the sense that I started taking it seriously, building a portfolio of work and submitting to magazines and other third parties. I love that however proud I am of the work that I've done in the past several years, I'll always have a special place in my heart for Sundottir, the first sweater I designed.
    What inspired the design for this sweater?
    Since moving to northern Norway in the summer of 2015, I've garnered a new appreciation for Icelandic wool and its wonderful properties. Tromsø is farther north than the entirety of Iceland, but Tromsø and Reykjavík have very similar climates, and their northern latitudes mean the seasonal shifts in terms of both weather and light are very similar. Historically, the traditional calendars of both Iceland and Norway only recognized two seasons: summer and winter. I feel a kinship between Iceland and (especially northern) Norway. So as I've been learning more and more about the heritage sheep and wool varieties native to Norway, I've been thinking about their similarities to the Icelandic sheep. All of this makes Icelandic wool a great match for the climate here in Tromsø, so it made sense to draw inspiration from my own locale when it came to designing this sweater. I've experienced two Augusts here now, and in early August the surrounding mountains are still very green. Because we're so far north, the tree line is relatively low, so the deeply-colored mountainside greenery often gives way to lighter scrubby brush and finally silvery-grey rocky peaks. It forms a beautiful gradient of color and I've wanted to knit that into a sweater since my very first week here. This also provided the inspiration for the name, Skógafjall, which is roughly "forest mountain" in Icelandic. 
    Dianna's other guest blog post with us:
    It’s hard not to fall in love with Iceland -From March 2015, our first Tolt Icelandic Wool Month
    You can also read more about the Skógafjall sweater on Dianna's blog.
  • Icelandic Wool Month at Tolt : It’s hard not to fall in love with Iceland - by guest blogger, Dianna Walla


    It’s hard not to fall in love with Iceland.


    There’s something about islands in general that creates unique qualities: microclimates, microcultures, and a geographical isolation that can motivate a stronger connection to the land itself. Surrounded by water, islands are exposed to the elements, and in many places wool has been an important part of protection from wind, water, and other weather.


    Iceland is known for its relative lack of trees in the modern era, which lends itself to what can be a foreign-looking landscape. That’s not to say that the landscape is unchanging, though. From one corner of the country to another, and from season to season, the landscape is constantly changing. I’ve been fortunate to visit Iceland several times; I’ve seen the midnight sun dip low in the sky in the summer, and I’ve slipped along the icy sidewalks in the dark days of winter. The changing colors of the mosses and heath that cover wide lava fields form a beautiful palette. The rapidly-changing light contributes to the ever-changing landscape. Mountains in the distance are by turn glowing bright blue and purple in the strong sun, covered in the shadows of the clouds, or shrouded in fog and mist.


    At left, the Gullfoss waterfall; at right, the active geyser Strokkur. Both are stops on what is known as the “Golden Circle” tour.


    One constant on all of my trips to Iceland has been Icelandic wool. While its usefulness is obvious in the winter months, it’s common to see locals donning their lopapeysas even in summer - Iceland can be a very windy place, and a lopapeysa makes a great evening jacket when you need to keep out the summer’s evening chill (particularly when knit from the unspun Plötulopi, or plate Lopi, which excels at filling out the spaces between stitches).


    It’s funny, because I can no longer remember exactly when I first encountered Icelandic wool or the tradition of the lopapeysa, but I do remember spending a lot of time with the Sigur Rós documentary, Heima, in college. I watched it over and over again, and both the footage of the landscape and the footage of the people coming to these free concerts all around Iceland really stuck in my mind. The film is a feast for the eyes, and it’s chock full of beautiful Lopi sweaters. I was left with the impression that everyone in Iceland must own one. When I visited Iceland myself I realized that impression probably wasn’t too far from the truth.


     Sweaters line shelves upon shelves at the Handknitting Association’s storefront in Reykjavík.



    I have lopapeysas of my own now, both of which are hand knit - one by me, and one by a knitter from the Handknitting Association of Iceland  that I purchased in their shop on Skólavörðustígur in Reykjavík. I love the traditional form of the round-yoked lopapeysa, and that it has regained popularity around the country in recent decades. But I also love that new designers in Iceland are finding ways to get creative with their native wool. Whether that means using the design of the lopapeysa for new applications or using the wool in different, less traditional ways, I’m constantly inspired. My own desire to come up with a different kind of lopapeysa led to my design Moon Pulls  (and its recent little sibling, the Moon Sprites hat), with simplified motifs, modern colorblocking, and a casual and contemporary silhouette.



    Moon Pulls at left; Moon Sprites at right (Moon Sprites photo by Kathy Cadigan)


      I love working with Icelandic wool, which is light and airy, and softens up considerably when given a good conditioning bath (instead of using a few drops of Soak or Eucalan, go for some hair conditioner instead). I’ve even dabbled in spinning with Icelandic wool on my drop spindle. Icelandic sheep are a heritage breed, closely related to many other northern short-tailed breeds, some of which you’re probably familiar with: Shetland, Gotland, Finn, and the Norwegian Spælsau are all relatives of the sheep that give us Lopi. The fiber that comes from these sheep breeds is some of my favorite, and it’s so ideal for when you need your knits to stand up to the outdoor elements. I’ve worked with the lace weight Einband all the way up to the bulky Alafoss Lopi, and I don’t think you can beat Icelandic wool for warmth.


    I can’t wait to hear all about Anna’s own trip to Iceland this month, and should you ever find yourself with an opportunity to visit: go! I promise you won’t regret it.



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