Agujas

The Art of Knitting

Tesoros del Camino

My husband, the pilgrim, returned from a long walk of 863 kilometers across northern Spain. He walked westward from the Spanish-French border to the Atlantic Ocean. He followed the Camino De Santiago (the Way of St. James), a pilgrimage that has been walked by thousands before him since medieval times.

This was his trip, not mine, so I cannot write about its spiritual significance or the physical endurance required to make the trip. That is his story to tell, or not, in his own time. What I can relay are snippets of experiences and sights that he shared with me along the way.

The first day was the hardest. It was an uphill climb through ankle-deep mud in the pouring rain and winds that blew horizontally along the path. He told me that there were crosses and makeshift memorials covered in stones marking the places where pilgrims had started and ended their walks.

On his way from Roncesvalles to Burguete, he walked through the Sorginaritzaga Forest. Before entering, he came across a sign written in four languages. The caption read “Brujería” or “Witchcraft.”

The Sorginaritzaga forest, whose meaning is “oakwood of witches,” was where some of the most well-known witches’ covens of the XVI century were held, …

As he walked through the forest, he came across the White Cross placed there to protect the pilgrims from witches.

Sorginaritzaga Forest

Despite this ominous beginning, he found time to send me photos of the countryside and of sheep grazing in the fields. He spotted this flock of sheep near the Basque town of Zubiri.

Near Zubiri

He told me these were Manech sheep. They are black-faced free roaming sheep known for their milk and from which “ossau-iraty” cheese is made.

Manech Sheep

He even snapped photos of some of the yarn stores he happened to spot in the towns he came across. Mercería Nhilos is in Nájera; Lanas Lany in León.

Along the way, pilgrims stay in albergues. The albergues provide a bed and usually a meal, sometimes a community dinner or a light breakfast. Curfews are strict so as not to disturb the weary pilgrims. The bunk beds shown below are in a pilgrim’s shelter attached to a local church in Belorado. The albergue was run by German nuns. The bed was free although a contribution of 5€ to the nun’s fund was recommended.

Another albergue was at St. Mary’s Nunnery in the city of Carrión de los Condes. According to my husband, one nun will tend to your feet with an extensive first aid kit and all the patience in the world. That evening, they held a pilgrim’s mass with a blessing of the feet followed by a community dinner and some singing and entertainment for the weary travelers. The following day would consist of a brutal 20-mile walk in desert-like conditions.

Within 58 kilometers of Santiago de Compostela, my pilgrim made it up the side of a mountain in the province of Galicia where this stone marker is located.

El Camino Collage Summer 2014

This albergue was situated near Itero de la Vega in a medieval structure run by an Italian religious fraternity. The simple refuge had no electricity, only candles to light the way.

Albergue San Nicolás

In Burgos, he had a clear view of the magnificent cathedral.

Burgos Cathedral

Halfway between León and Santiago de Compostela, he stayed in the town of Vega de Valcarce, population 800. It was there he spotted this statue of an old woman knitting.

Statue @ Vega De Valcarce

From Ezcaray, arriving precisely on my birthday, he shipped this exquisite blanket woven with 73% mohair and 27% wool from Mantas Ezcaray.

Mantas Ezcaray

When he returned – a little sunburned, a bit achy – he came bearing gifts. For the boys, beautiful picture books about the Camino de Santiago and a myriad of stories, both funny and painful. For me, this book, Tejeduría Tradicional Galicia, or roughly translated, Traditional Weaving of Galicia. To complement this gift came a bookmarker knit by a local artisan made from a linen yarn spun from locally cultivated flax.

Tejedería Tradicional Galicia

We hope our boys make this journey some day. Perhaps my pilgrim and I will travel it together.

July FO: Purple Handwarmers

Knitting in the middle of a hot and humid Texas summer is not always pleasurable, but small projects make it tolerable and have allowed me to continue knitting through my stash.

Purple Hand Warmers in Progress

I’ve been wanting to use a lovely merino yarn that I bought when visiting Germany. This yarn is enriched with aloe vera and jojoba. What could possibly be better?!

Purple Hand Warmers 1

The yarn is by Zitrón. I had the pleasure of visiting with the owner of the company.  Zitrón is a family-owned business dedicated to making yarn especially for hand knitting. You can read more about it here.

Purple Hand Warmers 2

Purple Hand Warmers Close-up

The pattern came from Purlbee with minor modifications for the right gauge.

Purple Hand Warmers 3

I have enough of this purple-black-gray yarn for another small project. Perhaps a quick beanie to match?

June FO: Summerhouse Wristers

Finally got around to knitting the matching hand warmers for my mother. Here they are blocking.

Summerhouse Wristers - Blocking 1

Summerhouse Wristers - Blocking 2

They turned out okay. I wouldn’t say I’m crazy about them but Mom likes them. They match the hat from the Capitol Knits pattern book. Small project but continuing to work down my stash.

Yarn Terrors

Horrors! I had a knitter’s worst nightmare – while awake!

I recently switched phones and despite backing up my data, the yarn inventory on my Vogue knitting app did not carry over. I’m certain it was user error because most of my other data transferred.

I didn’t mind though. It was a perfect excuse to take out the yarn stash and air it out. I do that from time to time. It reminds me of the beautiful skeins I’ve picked up here and there and sparks project ideas.

Yarn Stash May 2014 2

To my horror, as I was halfway through taking it out of its bin, out flew a moth! Noooooooooo! You can imagine the waves of panic that shot through me. I chased the culprit around the room and away from my yarn. I then turned to my stash and immediately examined every single skein, ball and hank for damage. Alas, there were several casualties.

The next couple of days were devoted to separating the damaged skeins from the rest. I threw out three skeins that seemed to have gotten the worst of it. Thankfully, the damage seemed contained to a corner of one bin.

I was surprised to find the cursed critters in my stash. I periodically inspect and reorganize my stash (yes, I am a bit OCD about it) and keep a pile of cedar balls in each basket. But it was not enough.

Yarn Stash with Cedar Balls

After taking photos and entering my stash inventory into the app, I began storing the yarn inside plastic bags. I bought some lavender-scented moth balls wrapped in light paper and put one inside each bag, like little lethal sentinels guarding my treasures. I know those fibers are better off with circulating air but I was in defensive mode. I figured I could wash out the moth ball smell later. Better that than having to toss away yarn. My stash is a few skeins smaller but otherwise intact.

Yarn Stash May 2014 1

Now I really have to knit it down rather than risk losing any more of it. Yarn protection suggestions  are welcome.

May FO: Array Cowl

The Array Cowl is finally done.

Array Cowl - Finished 1

The texture produced by the stitches is lovely. Even my boys commented on how nice it looked. The pattern is free at Shibui Knits.

Array Cowl - Folded

I stayed loyal to my goal of using up my stash. The pink and gray combination of wool, alpaca, cashmere and silk make this cowl soft and warm.

Here my labels are ready to go into my knitting notebook.

Array Cowl - Yarn

Another shot of Bear wearing the cowl.

Array Cowl - Finished 2

Now to find another project…