Yarn Crawl

I have sipped my way through a sophisticated wine crawl. I have chugged along on a pub crawl. I have even done a tequila crawl after too much Patron. But this was my first yarn crawl, and I was nervous.

I had decided to travel to Portland, Oregon to participate in the, “Rose City Yarn Crawl.” I was determined to go all in, and do the ”Mystery Crochet Along” as well. That was where the nervous part started.

For the mystery along, I knew I would be making a shawl. What the finished product looked like was the mystery. The pattern was broken into “clues”.  The clues were released one at a time, starting a few weeks before the four day crawl began in March. The objective being to wear the completed shawl during the crawl.

I am a slow crocheter, very slow. And I have trouble reading and following patterns. Given that, what could I possibly have to worry about?

The yarn suggestions were released in November. I was in Portland that day, so off to the yarn store the Grandbabies and I went . The conversation in the car went exactly like this:

Child: Grandma, do you have yarn at your house?

Me: Yes.

Child: Are you almost out?

Me:  (insert snorting noise here) Noooo.

Child: Then why do you need more?

Me: Have you been talking to Grandpa?

In January clue one was released. I struggled with the pattern, it was beyond my skill set and out of my comfort zone, but I persisted.  My friend helped me understand the stitches, and she gave me a, “you can do it” pep talk . I finished clue one the night before clue two dropped. Okay, I have got this! By the end of clue two I had caught my rhythm. I was feeling pretty happy with myself.

I had a long flight the day after clue three was released. Six hours with nothing to do but play with yarn. Then the trouble began. I was sitting on a plane and I did not understand the directions. There was no one there to help me. Lost and alone in pattern purgatory, I decided keep crocheting  anyway. It’s not like the pattern police were going to come if I changed a few (or all) stitches, right? Who would even notice if mine was a little different? I stitched along, making it up as I went.

Naturally since my clue three was “freestyle”, clue four had to be as well.

I finished on time. Whew, I breathed a sigh of relief. My shawl was lovely, but it did not look like the ones posted on the community board.  

During the crawl I was thrilled to see the talented designer of the crochet along pattern. She spotted my shawl, smiled and motioned for me to come over. Oh crap, there really was pattern police!  As I crossed the room, in my head I was frantically trying to think up excuses (lies) for having butchered her project. She looked closely at the stitches. Oh Lord, please help me! She said, “You did great, it looks wonderful”, as she gave me a hug.  In the photo you may notice my pained expression. That was my, “I am trying not to have a heart attack” face.

My favorite shawl was worn by a woman with the ball of yarn and knitting needles still attached. She hadn’t finished it, yet she wore it with pride. I wanted to run across the store and hug her.

As a group, yarn people are the best. Always loving and supportive of each other. There is camaraderie and kinship amongst total strangers. Driving in and around Portland I would know that I was getting close to a shop. I would begin seeing groups of women walking together, laughing, talking and wearing spectacular scarves,shawls and sweaters.

There are “passports” for the crawl. The goal is to get it stamped at each of the 11 shops then turn it in, with hopes of winning one of the abundant  yarn related prizes. Over 1,000 people completed their passports. I am proud to be one of them. What did I win? Only the knowledge that when I do it again next year I can be more relaxed. I know that the world is a warm and fuzzy place, when you are surrounded by yarn.

The Helicopter Ride

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Our helicopter banked sharply to the right. I could see straight down to the canyon floor, thousands of feet below us. Mist from the clouds swirled through the cabin. I clung to the strap that was bolted above my head, my fingers aching from the tight grip. I wasn’t sure if it was wind, tears, or fear that blurred my vision. My husband called this a birthday “surprise,” I called it panic.

Hubby had planned a helicopter tour of the island of Kauai. But this helicopter was missing something. That something was called DOORS! Nope, no doors.  Zero. None. Nothing but an unobstructed, terrifying view of the Garden Island.

During the pre-flight briefing we had been introduced to what was euphemistically called an Aloha bag, “just in case you see your lunch again.” I had chuckled at the time, but was now thinking I should have mine ready.

The helicopter seated five people. In the back row were Hubby and another passenger. The front row held the pilot, another woman in the middle, and me on the far right. Upon boarding I had been securely fastened in with a multipoint harness system. I couldn’t move. I was told that I had the best seat. What they didn’t say was that given the tight quarters, a bit of my posterior would be slightly off the right edge of the seat, outside the framework of the aircraft. Yes, that’s right, a few inches of me were not even inside the helicopter, yikes!  

We toured island for an hour. Our earphones equipped with a microphone enabling us to speak to, and hear one another. The cabin vibrated steadily as the rotor blades slapped and chopped through the air, while our pilot shared his knowledge of local history and geology. Every change of terrain created a change in temperature. I could smell the saltiness of the ocean and the earthiness of the red dirt. Rain would blow in with the wind. Then the sun would pop into view and warm me. I was part of the brilliant blue sky.  

On the day before our ride, Hubby and I had kayaked for 45 minutes, then hiked for another 45,  to a pool at the bottom of Wailua Falls. At the base of the falls we stretched our necks backwards, to see to the top. They seemed huge. But now as we flew over those falls, the people at the base were barely discernible specks in the distance. It was wonderful  to experience the beauty from both perspectives.

Cruising along the NaPali coast, we spotted the water spout of a whale in the distance.  We drew closer and could see its massive shape just below the surface of the water. The pilot announced we would call the whale Tracy, in honor of my birthday. I clapped and thanked Tracy for the gift of her presence.

We flew into a tight canyon, so close to the side I felt I could reach out and pet the grazing cattle. I felt droplets on my face from the turbulent waterfall. Our pilot flew fast, straight toward the canyon wall, then waited until the last possible minute to pull up. The force of gravity pinned me to the back of my seat as we rocketed skyward, up and out of the canyon. I gasped for air. I had forgotten to breathe– again.

With every dip and tilt I felt as though I was being dangled midair, and a long fall to the ground was eminent.  As we swooped in and out of canyons, hovered over jagged cliffs and lush jungles, I made a decision. I wanted to do this again!

My Yarn is “slow”

 

I will attempt to say this as politely as possible. I do not want there to be any hurt feelings. I am pretty darn sure that my yarn is not (I will whisper now), as smart as other people’s yarn. My yarn simply cannot do what others peoples yarn does.

In her book “The Yarn Whisperer”, Clara Parkes takes us on a journey into a world, where the dough of a baked brioche is light and airy, much like the dense feel and springy look of the knit brioche stitch.  Mind you, I do own a heavy wool yarn that is supposed to be dense, that is its purpose. But I think that “denseness” has rubbed off on all of the other yarns in my stash.

In her blog, “The Yarn Harlot”, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee took her yarn to a museum, where it actually turned itself into a work of art while it was there. How is that even possible? The only place that my yarn could turn itself into art would be at a Picasso exhibit.

Blogger Phil of, “the twisted yarn.com” lives in the Oxfordshire countryside. She sketched the landscape, then her yarns transform themselves into knitted portraits of said landscape. In all four seasons! Unbelievable.  My yarn definitely does not know how to do that. When my yarn travels the country with me, it only manages to become a huge knot. Truly, it can take my yarn about one hour in the car to turn itself into a big, twisted, knotty mess. The last time that happened, it took four of us the better part of an hour to get it untangled.

Perhaps I am being unfair. Of course my yarn cannot do the things that the yarn of these famous knitters can. Those yarns are in the company of master knitters, such yarns were probably born knowing that they are meant for greatness. Mine live in an average world, filled with crocheting mediocrity, this has undoubtedly dulled their abilities. Blame the environment.

I have purchased yarns of the highest pedigree. Ones so special that I have to keep them in their own storage basket, separated from the mere commoners that came from Wal-Mart. Yet, amazingly enough, these pedigreed fibers do not perform any better than the others. Obviously I have wasted my money.

Maybe it is a language barrier. I have bought yarn in Morocco, Spain and Turkey, and English is not their first language. The ones purchased in the U.K. and Ireland may have difficulty with the accent. So, those yarns are forgiven for not understanding a pattern. But what about the ones from the local Hobby Lobby? What is their excuse?  

My friend Kim crochets beanies. Using a pattern, it takes her yarn about two hours to complete each hat. When I make the same hat, using the same pattern, my yarn can take four to five hours. Yes, my yarn is slow.

I own a sock yarn that, I have to say it, is not too bright. Don’t get me wrong, the colors are bright and beautifully hand dyed. But it has never once turned itself into a sock. Never. I tried.

My yarn is simply not that sharp. Well, I do have one that is sharp, the one that rolled off into a tumbleweed while I was camping in the desert. I never have gotten all of the stickers out of it. Lesson learned there was that one mustn’t try to crochet and do Fireball shots at the same time. Blame the Fireball.

At least my yarn is smart enough to stay in my bag while I am walking. I have heard that people knit and walk at the same time, this cannot be good. If I were to do that, it would end with the yarn cushioning the blow as I hit the ground with a painful thud. Not a pretty sight.  

Please don’t misunderstand me, I love my yarns. Each is unique, and special. And even though mine are challenged, I am glad to have them. Maybe someday they will step up their game. I will keep my fingers crossed!         

(I caught this guy studying, so there is hope!)

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www.thetwistedyarn.com ,  February 14, 2018

Yarn: Dead or Alive?

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We had spent the morning exploring the narrow, earthen alleys and passageways of the souk in Fes, Morocco, on a blistering hot day.  We had seen everything from master wood carvers at work, to huge vats of tanned leather, and even a severed camels head, hanging from a stall in the meat market. When I asked our guide if we could buy yarn, he said yes, then asked do we want to see yarn dead, or alive? How do I answer that? If I reply alive, will he take us to the animals or to stalls of live sheep? And If I say dead, well I am not sure I even want to guess where that will lead us, I decided to play it safe and say, “Alive, please.”

Our guide walked so quickly that the hem of his djellabla (the long, loose traditional garment worn by many Moroccan people) seemed to glide around his feet and ankles. His English was excellent as he has educated us about his culture, his people, and the history of the country. To my request for yarn he said, “Come, come, I show you” and we scurried along behind him.

We darted into an alley so narrow that only one person at a time could pass, and so low that Hubby had to hunch over. We came out of the dark alley into the light, rounded a corner and came to an open air area where the poultry vendors gathered. They invited us to hold the chickens and take photos, it made me miss my pet hens. I told myself that when I return home I must remind them of how lucky, and spoiled they are.

Past the chickens, we turned our millionth corner and came to an alcove that serves as hotel of sorts. Many vendors travel great distances to bring their wares to market, they are provided these small tin sheds, in which to sleep and store their goods.  We were guided to a massive ten foot high by ten foot wide, mountain of sheared sheep wool. My nose tickled as I breathed in the smell of the raw, earthy dander. The wool vendor and our guide spoke to one another rapidly, then the vendor offered me a large handful of the un-carded wool. I accepted it with a smile and a handshake, as he would not accept payment. Our guide gestured grandly and proclaims that this is “alive” wool. Okay, so if this alive, what is dead?

“Come, come, I show you” he says, and just like that, the flash was off again, with us trotting behind. More mazes, seriously, how do they know where they are going?

We came to an aisle, a cobblestone walkway with open doorways to the right and left. One room had a huge vat of hot dye cooking over a small fire. Our eyes sting. The next open doorway had a room, lined with dozens of five gallon buckets, each filled with a different color of dye, full of yarn.

The water that ran down the center of the stone alley was a river flowing simultaneous colors of red, blue and brown. The feet and hands of the workers are permanently stained black.

Further down the path we found rooms strung with lines from one end to the other and back, all about shoulder height.  The lines were draped with colorfully dyed, drying yarn. The scent here is musty, almost moldy from the over 100 degree temperatures. With burning eyes and noses, we were relieved to move on.

“Come, come I show you” he said, when asked about yarn that is finished, ready for someone to take home. We pass a collection of stalls, each no wider than a doorway and only a few feet deep. We wondered how the shopkeepers move in and out of their shops.

We pass shops with beautiful silk threads, the threads are stacked so closely together that the eye barely sees the transitions as the colors flow from blues to greens and on to every color of the rainbow. The displays are works of art.

As we were being led from shop to shop, in search of alive vs. dead wool, I was fascinated by it all. My travel companions, however were less than thrilled, and pretty much over the whole thing. I needed to find my yarn, and soon!   

Suddenly our guide announces, “Here, dead wool!” and we stumbled out into the blinding light.

There it was, a yarn shop, at last! The yarns were piled loosely into bins, each color and texture spilling over onto the next, creating an exciting dance of fibers. Inside the stall was an ancient scale, where my selection is carefully weighed, and placed into a plastic bag. I thank the smiling vendor and did a little skip as I walked away with my turquoise beauties.

Is yarn dead, and wool alive? There are so many ways to look at it, it is certainly worthy of debate. However if you are ever looking for yarn in Morocco at least you know that you will be in for an adventure, and it just might include a severed camel head!   

Caminito Del Rey

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I was standing on a three foot wide wooden walkway, the walkway was suspended from the side of a towering cliff.  Gusts of wind blasted me, while I held my helmet to my head with my hand, and plaster my body against the canyon wall to stay upright. I was beginning to question my decision to be there.

I had vowed to attempt to do things that made me nervous. Heights made me nervous. That is how I ended up agreeing to go to Malaga, Spain, where we walked the Caminito Del Rey. This four mile trek was once known as the world’s most dangerous walkway. People had died on this path, however it had been closed for years for refurbishment, and reopened to the public.

The path was bolted to the cliff wall from beneath, with the cliff on the right side and a safety fence on the left. I questioned the safety of this however, as it consisted of open wire fencing  placed between intermittent posts, topped with elbow height heavy gauge wire as a railing .

The purpose of that fence was apparently to keep me from being blown off the walkway into the canyon below. Clutching tightly to Hubbys hand, I walked sticking closely to the cliff, not venturing towards the fence.

With each step I became increasingly  more comfortable. Eventually I managed to loosen the grip on Hubbys hand, letting him get circulation back into his fingers. After several minutes I made my way towards the center of the path, not holding onto anything or anyone. Eyes focused forward to the path ahead, never looking off the the openness  of the fencing on my left.

We had been walking for about half an hour before I finally inched my way to the very edge.  With a white knuckle grip on the wire, and the thundering of panic in my ears, I looked down for the first time.

Wow! what a view.  The river flows quietly 300 feet below, the striations in the rock formations were mesmerizing. I gathered enough courage to bend over the rail, and I saw a pair of sunglasses that had fallen to rest on an outcropping of rock several feet below. Note to self, hang on to the Ray-Bans.

At a point where the cliff, and the path jut out, there was platform. This platform extended out beyond the hanging wooden walkway, sides and bottom made of glass.  It appeared to be suspended in the air, magically floating above the river.

Posted near the platform was a sign, indicating that the maximum capacity of the platform was four people. There were already 2 people out there when we approached. It seemed to me, that one of the guys out there should count as two people. I point to the large, bright yellow sign, to make sure Hubby has made note of it. He was ready to add our weight to the platform, I was not. I insisted that we wait until the others had moved on, before we took our turn.

I stepped out, clutching the railing with both hands.  I bent my knees slightly, as if somehow lowering my center of gravity would keep me safe.  I took baby steps working my way to the very edge, I leaned my head over the railing and looked down.  I felt a moment of panic, like when an elevator makes a jolt and there is a sudden flash of fear.

I could hear only the wind, as it barrelled through the canyon,  it flapped the hem of my jacket against my body and blew my hair into my face.  It seemed the wind had blown my fear away as well because suddenly I felt calm and happy. I shouted to the wind, “look at me! I am doing this!”.

Standing out there in the wind I could see the beauty of the river below, and stare in awe at the stunning layers of red and browns in the rocks above,  below and all around me. We stayed for a few minutes, took our selfies and moved on.

I was more confident and comfortable with each step, finally free of the nervousness. We were enjoying the camaraderie of our fellow hikers, sharing stories of where we were from, and where in Spain we had traveled. I was having fun. Until we rounded the final corner.

At the point where canyon gets deeper and narrower  there was a bridge. That bridge had to be be crossed, to get to the other side of the gorge.  The bridge was more of a beam. A narrow steel beam, about two feet wide and thirty feet long, with holes in it large enough to see through to the river below. Along each side was one heavy gauge wire, waist high, that spanned the length of the bridge. Oh no.

The bridge was one person wide, and allowed  only one person at a time to cross. Hubby crossed first, to show me it was going to be okay. I was not convinced. Holding back my tears, I let a few others take their turn ahead of me while I bolstered my confidence.

My fellow hikers offered words of encouragement  “is okay, you can do”. But from the back of the line I heard “for Pete’s sake, go already”.  I was holding up the line.

I  was thinking to myself,” Okay,  I can do this, but how? Do I just go fast and get it over with? Or slow and precise, which means I will be out there, hanging in the air, for even longer?” What happened next is a blur. I remember taking a big breath and one step, then another, and another, until  finally there was the blessed feel of solid ground beneath my feet. I did a little happy dance, feeling very pleased with myself. I did it! Yay me!

There is a notice which says “persons of a nervous disposition” are advised not to attempt the walk. But I did it and I am proud of myself, for overcoming my hesitations and fears, and for not losing my Ray-Bans. I still don’t love heights,but I am eager to see where my vow to overcome my fears will take me next.

Yarngasm

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I experienced a yarngasm… in public.  I tried not to. Really I did, but some things simply cannot be stopped.  With one look at that sensuous yarn, I was filled with an intense physical need to touch it, to feel the warm, soft, tenderness against my skin. Ahhh, Qiviut.

I had disembarked our cruise ship in Juneau, Alaska,  wandered along a seaside street, climbed a set of stairs, and walked into heaven. Sitting on the counter was a misty cloud of yarn, a cotton candy ball of fluffy fiber ecstasy. As I fondled it and purred, the shop owner shared  some facts about the object of my desire.

Qiviut (KIV-ee-ute) is from the Arctic Musk Ox, this shaggy creature is able to survive the frigid tundra temperatures due to its thick undercoat. This undercoat is shed naturally each spring, gathered and spun into a fabric that is softer than cashmere and warmer than wool.

I happily purchased two balls of pleasure.  I would tell you the cost, but Hubby may read this one day, and no good could possibly come of that conversation.

I returned with my treasures in my pocket. While I continued to stroke and bathe in their bubbly softness, I dreamt of what I would create with these beauties.

After much internal debate I decided to transform one of the fluffy clouds into an Alaskan “Smoke Ring.” This  elongated cowl forms a hood that covers the head, ears and neck. It took me months to complete the project, not because it was difficult, but because I am incredibly slow at crocheting.    

When it was complete, I fell in love with the feel of my smoke ring. It covered me in warmth, I felt like a princess, wearing royal crown of yarn.

Months later, I braved the ice covered streets of Istanbul, on a snowy New Years Eve.  My smoke ring kept me beautifully warm and dry. I wore it with pride.

Qiviut is the ideal travel project, it almost weightless and adds no bulk in a carry on.  I was crocheting the last ball of my treasure while sitting in an airport lounge, when a woman came to a dead stop, right in front of me. I looked up at her, she wiggled her eyebrows and smiled mischievously, as if we were sharing a secret. She bent down, touched the yarn in my lap, and with a quiver in her voice she whispered, “Ahh, Qiviut”.

I am pretty sure that she had a yarngasm of her own as she walked away.