Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sangria Seasilk

I lost my steam for continuing the Bhutan travelogue, but I definitely still want to write about the Shetland Triangle I knit on the trip.

Mountain Man and I went up to the desert this evening to photograph it. We caught the last bit of light before the sun slipped down behind Piestawa Peak.

Here are the details: it's knit in Hand Maiden Seasilk in 'Sangria,' 1 skein. Size 6 needles. Pattern is the Shetland Triangle, with 10 repeats of the main pattern section. I can see why this pattern has been so popular: the construction is meditatively simple, and the stitch pattern has a lovely, organic flow.

It was a real pleasure to knit it in the lusciousness that is Seasilk. I can see myself knitting another of these in the near future, especially since this once is not destined for myself. I'm sending it off as a secret gift to someone (only to be revealed once it's received!).

Now, I had to include this last photograph because it was Mountain Man's favorite, and he was, after all, such a sweet man to indulge me by taking endless knitting photos. But I have to admit that I think he mostly liked it because it has rocks in it!

As for me, I think the ocotillos -- wild, wind-waving, intensely colored -- made for a better backdrop. They're so dramatic in this season, when they've dropped their leaves in the early heat but are still topped with a blaze of flowers.

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

My dream had been to finish the Shetland Triangle by the time we reached the highest point on the trek, a lake at 14,000 feet. I wanted to let the shawl snap in that high mountain wind like a prayer flag.

But there was no mending the needle. Even one layer of tape was too thick for the silky stitches to slide over. So, to keep my hands busy, I whittled myself a crochet hook in juniper wood

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.

The one bright spot was that I found another knitter, who was working on a scarf as she sold chilis in the market. We smiled at each others' knitting, had a moment, then went on with our lives.

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.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Spring is in its full glory in Phoenix. The jasmine has burst into perfumed bloom. The grapefruit flowers hang heavy and sweet on the trees. Green things are going into their growth spurts.

I've had my own burst of productivity and fruition, at least when it comes to my natural dyeing. Over the past few months, my hands have been kept busy gathering dyeplants, measuring out mordants, stirring pots, straining, dyeing, skeining, and labeling.

The dyes that I've used include juniper, creosote bush, sumac leaves, oak galls, pomegranate, pecan and walnut hulls, coffee, cochineal, and madder. All but the latter three are plants that I've grown or locally gathered.

These plant-dyed organic wool yarns are soon to be released as Ever Green Yarns, sold through the marvelous One Planet Yarn and Fiber shop.

I've been tending and nurturing these yarns for months, and I am so happy and proud (and, dare I say, relieved?) to finally share them with the world!