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2012 – A Yarn Odyssey November 28, 2012

Posted by Mitchell in Art, Crochet, Knitting, Yarncraft.

It’s been a long, strange journey that actually started several years ago, during a cruise up the Alaskan coastline. It was a wonderful, relaxing trip with new sights to greet me every morning outside on my room’s balcony. If you’ve never been on a cruise you owe it to yourself to do it at least once in your lifetime. But that’s enough shilling for the cruise-line industry. Anyway, even with all the things one can do on a cruise ship I did find myself with lots of spare time on my hands and I thought I would finally get around to trying something I’d been curious about since I was a kid: knitting.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful knit
That started from this arctic port
Aboard this mighty ship

As a kid? Yes, well if told a rightly I suppose this story really starts when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, some mumble years ago. One of our reading assignments was short story that has stuck with me for all these years and it planted the knitting seed in the back of my head. The story was set back in Dubya Dubya 2, and it was about a boy in elementary school. One day the teacher announces to her class that they were going to knit wash rags that were going to be included in care packages given to soldiers who were shipping out to Over There. Knitting needles and yarn were distributed, lessons given and the kids started their projects. One boy struggled with his knitting, starting out too loosely and then getting the hang of it as he neared the end. It turned out lop-sided and awkward and he felt bad about how some guy was going to get stuck with it. Alas, there was no time to re-do it as the care packages were to be packed up that day and distributed to the soldiers the next as they were leaving. The class went down to the train station the next morning to see them off. There was much waving and good-byes and such and just before the train started to pull away the boy saw that one of the soldiers had already dug into his care package and pulled out the knitted rag. It was his rag! It was recognizable because of the sloppy stitching on one side. The soldier was very sweaty and was using it to wipe his face and wave at the crowd from the train window. He had a big smile and seemed very happy with his rag. The boy felt much better as obviously it’s better to have a lop-sided rag than no rag at all. The end.

Yes, I remember all those details in that story from that long ago. I recount it here because it has bearing on stuff I do later. Now, back to the ship. We pull in and dock at one of the towns along the way and we head into the shopping district. One of the stores we find sells hand-knitted clothing articles made with 100% qiviut yarn. Ahhh, qiviut! “What is it” you ask? Good question, we had no idea either. It was explained to us by the salesperson that it’s the yarn made from the downy winter undercoat of the muskox that roam around in Alaska. It’s softer than cashmere and eight times warmer than wool. It’s so verrrry nice.

The Look of Luxury

It can’t be harvested like wool or other similar animal fibers. No, you have to wait for the one time of the year in the spring when the muskoxen shed their undercoat. There are only so many muskox around and most of the yarn is used making stuff to sell to tourists. A limited quantity of it is available to purchase to make your own stuff as I’d find out later. Prices in the store started out around $200 for small items, up to several thousand dollars for some of the nicer sweaters. No doubt it’s all marked way up for the rich cruise folks. We didn’t buy anything, but we were all very impressed by this super-soft yarn and it made me want to learn how to knit all the much more.

Later on I found a fabric store that sold knitting supplies. Yay! I bought a starter kit with a pair of needles, instruction book and other items. I asked the nice lady who ran the store what would be a good yarn for a learner to start out with and she showed me a selection of chenille yarns that she had. “My granddaughter started out with this,” she explained. I picked out a pretty blue-green hank and left the store determined to master this ancient and arcane art.

To be continued…



1. 2012 – A Yarn Odyssey: Journey’s End « The Center of the Anomaly - December 5, 2012

[…] Part 1 here […]

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