Knitography Retreat in Norway – Part 2
Read Part 1 first if you haven’t already!
One of the wonderful things about the retreat was the opportunity to visit small fibre farms, run by people who are passionate about local breeds and heritage crafts. In this post I’ll be sharing our experience visiting two such farms: Holum Gård and Fannremsgården.
Straight after breakfast we wrapped ourselves up in preparation for a chilly day. We clambered into the minibus for a trip across snowy vistas, over partially frozen rivers and up winding hill roads. Gunn Elin welcomed us to her farm – Holum Gård – along with the candle-flanked paths and a comfortable outdoor fire.
We were offered log seats by the fire, and delicious birch-leaf tea. I had never tried the tea before and was surprised by the slightly sweet and strongly citrus flavour. It’s definitely one I’ll attempt to make once the leaves are out in spring!
As we sat and sipped, small groups of us ventured into Gunn Elin’s tiny cabin shop. No more than four at a time could fit into the cosy space, with shelves filled with complex natural shades of yarn, wool insoles, block-printed sheepskins and knitting kits.
After finishing our tea and admiring the beautiful views from the hillside farm, we went into the sheds to meet the sheep and learn about how the wool is processed.
The sheep are kept inside during winter to protect them from the harsh weather. As Gunn Elin does almost all the farm work herself, this means she can ensure the health and wellbeing of all her flock in safe, clean conditions.
Coming into the farmhouse from the snow, we stripped off boots, coats, hats, gloves, shawls, and exchanged them for warm, dry house-socks. We took places round the table, by the fire and on comfy sofas, and knitted in the low, golden light pouring in through the windows.
We enjoyed a deliciously simple meal of vegetable soup, and continued to knit. Taking turns, we went in small groups up to Gunn Elin’s studio, where she creates most of her beautiful work and stores more of her wares. The wool in the natural colours of the heritage breeds she raises is spun into warm, soft and strong yarns at a local mill. The marls that blend more than one of the colours are particularly lovely.
We all managed to clamber in front of the little cabin shop and asked the minibus driver to take a photo before we left. I'm so glad we got a photo of the whole group!
We returned to the hotel to warm up and spend some more time making. I took a while to wander to the riverside for a solitary spinning session before we went out for a lovely dinner in a cafe at a nearby shopping centre. I don't know that tofu and pomegranate salad is something I'd usually pick from a menu, but it turned out to be astoundingly tasty.
As we walked back to the hotel once more it started snowing. You've probably noticed already that I really love the snow. It was a magical setting for the last of the day's activities – a cheese and wine tasting.
We had a couple of rather nice European wines to accompany a few local cheeses with delicious seed crackers that I hope to try making soon. If you ever have the chance to try Høvding Sverre, seize it! It's an excellently flavoured, well-aged cheese that tastes half-way between a Comté and a really nice vintage cheddar.
The next day we went to visit Fannremsgården, a historical farm owned by Jon Fredrik Skauge. As we arrived, so, unexpectedly, did the shearer. While Jon Frederik attended to farm matters, we were left briefly to peruse the wonderful little shop next to the house, which sells a curated collection of local textiles and homewares.
The whole farm and house were a celebration of colour, history and rich details. Jon Frederik is an expert in local traditional clothing, and recreates historical costumes with extraordinary diligence.
We were invited in for tea, coffee, and butter on home-made bread.
The cows on the farm provide dairy products that are supplied to gourmet restaurants in Trondheim, and all the butter I’ve eaten since has been a pale and acute disappointment. I hadn’t even thought that butter could be that heavenly.
Once we had eaten, we were invited through to the kitchen, where Jon Frederik spins yarn from locally grown flax and the wool from his own sheep, and weaves it into beautiful fabric.
As well as hearing about the history of the house and farm, and the ongoing work there, it was wonderful to see the beautiful, practical little details.
What really inspired me is the end-to-end process that takes place on the farm. That morning the shearer arrived and sheared the sheep – the fleece was taken into the house and Jon Frederik began spinning it in the grease in front of that. That yarn will be woven into fabric, which then will probably be carefully transformed into something beautiful and useful. From fleece to fabric, to finished product, all produced on the same property.
After ogling the house and the work that takes place there, we went back out to the fire.
I love the way the ice melts around the fire pit.
I said in the last post that Sofia is queen of colourwork – she's also queen of colour co-ordination!
Maria made friends with all the farm cats and spent a while trying to summon them out of the barn.
I am all over this jacket/bag/shawl combination.
Marce bought some linen yarn, that I believe she's going to try embroidering with.
Next we went on to a ski resort to enjoy some proper snowtime, but you'll have to wait for the next post for that!
Later this week I'll also be uploading a video on YouTube to convey some of the atmosphere of the trip. If you want to catch that, make sure you subscribe to the Marina Skua channel on YouTube!