Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Travelogue: Knitting in Bhutan
Bhutan is a spectacular, mist-shrouded kingdom, hidden high in the Himalayas between India and China. That's where I slipped away to for the last ten days. Mountain Man and his colleagues were there on field work, you see, and I tagged along for the end of their trip.
After a 50-hour journey, I joined up with them in time for a four-day trek. The plan was to have long days of sampling with evenings spent talking science and drinking tea in the meal tent. I was counting on my knitting -- a Shetland Triangle in 'Sangria' Sea Silk -- to keep me company while they went over the day's geology. So you can imagine my horror when I awoke on day two to find that one needle point had split in half. Here it is, laid out on the frosty ground
and crocheted myself a simple headband over the next few days. Sounds pitifully small, but it was slow going with such a primitive hook, and I was grateful to have something - anything! - to do with my hands.
And perhaps there was good that came out of it in the end. Instead of staring down at my knitting, I was looking around at the view
and the dusty, staticky pack horses
and the sturdy pack baskets
and the lichen hanging in the fir trees
and the frost on the tents
and Mountain Man wearing his Cambridge Watchcap, which I knit for him a few years ago.
Anyways, I'd packed some metal needle points that I could swap out at the end of the trek. In the end, I finished and lightly blocked the Shetland Triangle in time to wear it to the market in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan.
There are two parts to the theme of Bhutan and knitting. First, the knitting that I did in Bhutan. Second, the knitting/spinning/dyeing that I sought out in Bhutan. I had hoped so very much to meander through the Thimpu market and find myself yarn or an antique spindle or exotic dyestuff like lac or indigo. I saw snippets of all of these in the museums. But while the market had all kinds of other colorful items -- vegetables, incense ingredients, weavings -- I found not a gram of yarn or dye.
My mind is swirling with all kinds of other thoughts to share about Bhutan, but I'm afraid that jet lag is overtaking me! Perhaps I'll write more another day.