I write (somewhat) regularly about two of my passions: knitting and wellness. Traveling is a third passion of mine — perhaps at the top of my list. From time to time, the stars align and I find myself knitting and traveling — bliss!
For me, part of the fun of traveling is to seek out local yarn shops (LYS). Europe produces many beautiful yarns; and, closer to the source, prices are more reasonable than at home. Ravelry.com is a great resource. Just enter the location in the handy local yarn shop directory search window, and up pops a list of stores. (Sign-in required; free to join.)
In October, my husband and I visited Corsica and Amsterdam. (An odd combination of rural and urban, I know; but, it worked for us.) Corsica is known for its beaches, mountains, and natural beauty. Although plenty of sheep graze on the brush-covered hills, the island lacks yarn production facilities. Fortunately, artisan crafts are part of its heritage. At Lana Corsa, visitors can tour an exhibit that demonstrates the process of producing yarn, de la
brebis au fil — from the sheep to the strand.
Following in the family tradition, an enterprising 30-something couple buys fleece directly from shepherds, sends the wool to Sardinia for processing, and dyes the yarn themselves with plant-derived pigments. My friend, Dianne, and I toured the workshop, tried our hand at spinning and weaving, and visited the Corsican sheep out back. Of course, we bought some yarn.
Although coarser than merino wool, Corsican wool is great for weaving. I plan to use my purchases for felting. To start, I’ll knit over-sized slippers, then felt (shrink) them in the washing machine with hot water.
In Amsterdam, I looked up the LYS listed on the yarn tourism forum on Ravelry: De Afstap. I found it in the fashionable Jordaan neighborhood, not far from the Anne Frank House.
When I visited, this delightful shop was celebrating its 40th anniversary. They stock high-end yarns, including lots of Rowan (from the UK). I had just finished my Misti Alpaca sweater (check out my Gallery for more photos) and wanted coordinating yarn for a hat; I found a skein, thanks to the helpful staff. I always look for locally produced yarn, too. The selection was limited, but I love the rich blue of this produced-in-Netherlands 100% wool; I bought enough for a cozy, cabled cardigan.
Where have you been recently? Which yarn stores have you visited? Leave a comment.
Happy travels, happy knitting!
Do you have a favorite color? I have several. Orange is one of them.
People have strong reactions to colors. Marketers have long used this information to their advantage. Blue instills a sense of calm and trust. Yellow and red are attention-grabbers. What about orange?
Orange, for me, is vitality — warm and sunny and strong. –Louis Palize
Perhaps that’s why I own orange yarn in several shades and weights. I delight in creating new projects, and I feel happy wearing the finished garments.
Last weekend, 8 other women and I spent two nights camping on the shores of the Yuba River at a private campground. I had forgotten that “car camping” in August meant being surrounded by other people, along with their RVs and off-road vehicles. It didn’t matter. The weekend was nothing short of magical.
I realized this was no ordinary weekend when we ate lunch in Nevada City; the cafe‘s motto is, “feel the joy.” After recovering from breast cancer, that is my mission.
At the campsite, some of us knitted. Others read, sketched or painted with watercolors. We shared the cooking and our stories; we ate fabulous food. We soaked our feet in the river, and enjoyed each other’s company. We had the time to talk — really talk — and connect on a deeper level.
Working with wisdom cards, I pulled a card that instructed me to dream. Isn’t that the perfect card for someone who believes in Envisioning Health (my business)? In order to figure out the next step, I need to trust my intuition and let my dreams inform reality.
If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering, how does a women’s camping trip relate to knitting and health? The knitting part is easy. I created a shawlette, finishing it when I returned home.
The health piece could be another post. In brief, holistic or whole-person health integrates the well-being of body, mind, and spirit within the context of community. This weekend, I experienced firsthand how important connection and community are to me.
Are you interested in learning more about holistic health? If so, which health topics concern you most? Please leave a comment. Thanks!
Knitting patterns suggest checking one’s gauge by creating a swatch with the recommended yarn and needles. Do you swatch? I’m the only one in my knitting group (of four) who almost always knits a swatch.
The main reason I create swatches is because I knit “off road,” as Leslie Petrovski puts it. I almost never follow a pattern as written; and I very rarely use the yarn suggested by the designer. Plus, I knit tighter than the average knitter; so, I usually go up one needle size to make gauge. Without a swatch, the chances of a finished garment fitting me would be slim-to-none. I don’t like those odds, so I’d rather invest a little time up front.
I find that, as I swatch, I develop a relationship with the yarn. It reveals its personality, and I gain a better understanding of what shape it wants to take. For example, with Malabrigo Rios — one of my all-time favorites — I didn’t like the way my stitches looked on US #8 or #9 needles; they were too confined. They were begging for at least a US #10 to have a little more freedom. My gauge on size 10 — 4 stitches per inch — made it much easier to select a pattern to showcase the yarn. I can’t wait to cast on for a Twin Peaks Cardi sweater!
Although I learned the “right” way to swatch, I do it my way. I knit a few inches with one size needle; then, I try larger or smaller needles, depending on how the fabric looks. Besides checking how the knitted fabric feels, I hold swatches up to the light and check them for “air” — how much they breathe. This is largely a factor of the space between the stitches. For a pair of socks, I want a firm fabric with tight stitches — little to no air. For a shawl, I prefer a much airier fabric.
In terms of gauge, I am mostly concerned with the stitches per inch. However, if I have a specific pattern in mind, I pay attention to the number of rows per inch, also. Once I begin a project, I continue to check my gauge to make sure the piece will measure up. If I’m off, I can usually make it work by adding more rows. That’s part of why I love top-down patterns. I can try on the garment at various stages and make sure it fits.
Despite the small sample size, I wonder if 25% of knitters swatch? Leave a comment and let me know: do you or don’t you?
A bunch of us Ravelers (ravelry.com enthusiasts) are participating in a round robin Scarf KAL (knit-along) project, organized by Lisa Bogart to “spread a little kindness.” In groups of 6 or 7, one person at a time knits 8 inches of a scarf, and mails it to the next knitter on the list. When the scarf returns to the first person in the rotation, he or she will give it to a person in need. Today I mailed my contribution to a woman in New Hampshire.
Through a ravelry forum (sign-in required), I am part of an ongoing dialogue about knitting and health. My fellow knitters reminded me that helping others can be very healing. Isn’t that the truth? I remember when I was recovering from surgery, it felt good to shift the focus away from me and reach out to others — even through an act as simple as knitting a gift for someone else.
Although the Scarf KAL is my latest form of charity knitting, it is far from the first. Eight years ago, when my niece was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, I knitted a poncho and Chemo Caps for her. (She’s fine!) More recently, after recovering from a series of illnesses, I celebrated by coordinating a local outreach program for Warming Families. This grassroots organization distributes warm items to homeless and displaced persons. Our group knitted and crocheted hats for mothers and children housed temporarily at the domestic violence shelter in town.
Want to get involved?
Here are some additional organizations that do great work. Details can be found on their websites.
afghans for Afghans — wool sweaters, socks, mittens and hats for Afghan young people, ages 7 – 16
Mother Bear Project — teddy bears “providing comfort and hope to children affected by HIV/AIDS in emerging nations…”
Warm Up America! – afghans, caps and more for displaced Americans
Also, children’s hospitals often accept knitted caps for newborns.
Which other organizations can you recommend? Please share what you’re doing to spread the love.
This weekend, I turned a discarded piece of knitting — the remnants of a prayer shawl — into a sweater for an olive tree. As you know by now, I am a new-but-devoted yarn-bomber. This particular tree deserves a little extra love.
Olive trees adore the Sonoma climate. They can handle the frost, and they thrive in the heat and sunlight. We planted several in our yard. One mature tree — the grandmama — suffered some damage when it was planted. Despite losing a chunk of bark from its trunk, the tree healed itself and continues to grow. Like me, this tree is a survivor.
Healing is a lot more complicated for humans than trees. At least, we make it complicated…
I could write volumes on holistic approaches to health and healing (and I did in my master’s program). The older I get, the more I think it boils down to love and community.*
We knitters are part of a supportive community. And, when we create something, we’re sharing our love with others — even a tree. This is one of the reasons knitting is so healing.
What do you think? What is healing for you? Happy knitting, healthy day.
*Lots of books are available on this subject. I’m currently reading an oldie but a goodie:
Ornish, D. (1998). Love & Survival: 8 Pathways to intimacy and health. New York: Harper Collins.