It all started with Christmas balls…

A couple of months ago I randomly came across a blog by MathaAfterHours with loads of knitted Christmas balls and I fell in love with them instantaneously. As it happens, one usually start (re)searching one thing and then the next comes along, the search spreading in a web-like fashion.

Starting off from said balls, I became fascinated by Icelandic Lopi, northern knits, down to colourwork, Norwegian knitting and finally Fair Isle. I bought a lot of sample wool because I was curious about the yarn, its feel and also because it looked so “right” – you know, not the neat look that many of the commercial yarns have. And I loved that many of those yarns were produced on a smaller scale, possibly locally or in traditional mills. Purchasing the product is not just a matter of beautiful knitting, but it can also help support the local, small-scale economy and preserve valuable skills and traditions. There is such a beauty in those Nordic patterns, that all you want to do is try them!

So a few days ago, I really wanted to try making some Fair Isle swatches. I had never done any such work, so I was a little unsure about the technique, the tension and the difficulties in achieving a nice, regular result that I read about. After some reading, I dug out some wool from my stash and casted on. It was some wool that I had bought time ago, one of my first eBay yarn purchases: not exactly a traditional yarn and not all of the same sort (a brown pure wool, a settled powder pink and a sage green in a commercial wool mix). [edit: ScrapAndSalvage pointed out that this colour scheme reminds of spumoni, which really is the case, what a coincidence]


To make things a little more difficult, the size of the swatches was too small to be knitted in the round on my circular 40cm needles, so I had to use (my first time) some beautiful Laurel Hill DPNs that I had received on my birthday. I made a couple of swatches, one in two colours and the other in three – work proceeded slowly but it was exciting. The first was a traditional Fair Isle pattern from one of the books I bought, the other was a pattern I created myself after being inspired by some Donegal fabric I had seen. Pictures to follow in future posts – I’m still pondering and working on some small “patterns”, I mean, just for fun, no serious proper stuff!

Dale Garn, Heilo yarn                   Dale Garn, Heilo yarn

These are some of the books that I purchased as the knitting fever took hold of me; they are slightly different in their focus but all have a Nordic flavour in common, a real fascination to me (they follow in no particular order):


Northern Knits by Lucinda Guy: modern designs inspired by the knitting traditions of Scandinavia, Iceland and the Shetlands. Beautiful colours and patterns, I found in it many small and larger projects that I’d love to try one day. The sweater on the front cover is stunning.


Lopi by Istex is an Icelandic collection book that is published on a regular basis and also comes in an English edition. It reinterprets traditional Icelandic patterns with a modern twist; the lace sweaters, see the one on the cover, are fabulous. You can find it through the UK distributors, I got mine from Carreg Yarns, an Icelandic wool specialist.


The Complete Book of Traditional Fair Isle Knitting by Sheila McGregor is a classic book that in three parts tells about this style, from its background and origins to design and techniques and concludes with a comprehensive overview of patterns. It is a very good reference book.


Norwegian Handknits by Sue Flanders and Janine Kosel offers a collection of modern takes on heirloom designs from the Vesterheim Museum. The items are attractive and use traditional colour schemes. Very beautiful accessories and garments, in various project sizes.


Colorwork Creations by Susan Anderson-Freed presents accessory ideas using the colorwork technique. Well laid out, each section starts with presenting the basic pattern, followed by single projects, each with photo, colour charts as well as various information. Attractive motifs and beautiful colour ranges.

Of course, there are plenty more sources! The above is a only small selection and the choice criteria for my purchase was based on beauty of the patterns and reasonable price of the book.

And what books do you use as a reference for your works (if any)?


13 thoughts on “It all started with Christmas balls…

  1. ScrapAndSalvage says:

    i love the color combo in your swatch. it looks like spumoni! 🙂
    your knitting skills far outweigh mine. can’t wait to see what you create with your new yarn. and here, here on helping out the locals!

    • itwasjudith says:

      Wow, I didn’t know about spumoni (shame on me as I’m a real ice cream lover). I looked it up on wikipedia and the picture shown there, as you said, resembles the colour scheme I used, so, thanks for the comment! My knitting skills are quite basic, I did a bit as a teenager and only recently rediscovered this creative and soul restorative activity. I used to create stuff when I was about 18, like once I made a chess board and another time I painted a Klimt on glass… I’m really happy I started knitting again, it’s especially fun to create stuff, no matter whether for real use like accessories or just to try new things out… and the best is to see what other people get to create, it’s a sort of muted conversation in colours and shapes… plus, I can support the local producers, which is really important I think 🙂

    • itwasjudith says:

      I added your observation into the post, hope you don’t mind?

  2. Martha says:

    Hi. I’m visiting back from the blog “Martha After Hours…”
    Looks like we share the passion of the knitted julekuler. Have you knitted any already?

    Lovely choice of the books – some even look familiar to me 🙂
    Your knitted “nordic” swatch looks good – i like the choice of colours – mint, chocolate and raspberry. You will surely manage to work out the colour work soon and you are going to enjoy yourself. Good luck!
    I’m a newbie in fair isle too!

    • itwasjudith says:

      Hello, thanks for visiting 🙂 as you may have noticed from the post, it was actually reading about the making of your Christmas balls that ignited my enthusiasm for the Nordic style knitting, so a big thank you! After some reading of books and blogs, I’m slowly trying my luck with it. At the moment I haven’t done any Christmas things yet, but I’m sure I will later in the year (although I remember you starting in the summer so you could have all ready in time!).. I love your works and they are a good source of inspiration 🙂

      • Martha says:

        I’m glad and honoured to be a source of inspiration for someone else 🙂
        I’m a true Scandi-maniac so you will find lots of Nordic stuff on my blog – including knits, cards, cross stitch and glass painting 🙂
        I’m very pleased you enjoyed reading my posts – it’s always a great satisfaction for a blogger, isnt it?
        Did you go through all the posts with knitted balls? lol 😉 I blogged a lot about them! It was also a big job photographing all the balls on the way to the great finish 🙂
        I’ve got more balls in my plans!
        Nice you came in touch. keep posting 🙂

      • itwasjudith says:

        I indeed went through very many of them 🙂 possibly all! I enjoyed them very much, thanks for your hard work and the posts

  3. Martha says:

    ps. thanks for the mention x

  4. HKnits says:

    I just nominated you for the Leibster Award – I really enjoy reading your blog and think other people will too! Check out my latest post for more information.

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