The Yarn Tree (or Yarn Store by Proxy)

During the few hours that we were able to do some sightseeing in South Africa, we did attempt to visit a couple of yarn stores. Unfortunately, we struck out because either the store was closed or non-existent or we simply did not have the correct address, and we had very little time. Knowing how disappointed I was, my husband decided to try again and found this gem in Houghton. So I give you The Yarn Tree, a yarn store by proxy.

The Yarn Tree - partial view

The Yarn Tree started off as a calligraphy studio and is located in a beautiful residential suburb of Johannesburg. The Yarn Tree is a labour of love for a British ex-pat and two South African women who met volunteering for 67 Blankets for Mandela.

I was interested to learn about 67 Blankets for Mandela and looked them up online. It turns out that in April of this year, volunteer knitters, crocheters and quilters covered 3133 square meters with handmade blankets and broke a Guinness World Record for the largest area covered by a blanket. The meaning behind the number is a call to devote 67 minutes to community service in honor of Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of service to South Africa. (Source)

(Source)

As the story unfolded, I became even more excited to learn about The Yarn Tree. The selection of yarn is carefully curated by Adrienne, Kelly and Anne-Marie with an eye toward eco-friendly materials sourced in South Africa. With Kelly’s help, my husband brought me some yarn called Eco-Fusion, a 50% cotton, 50% bamboo blend by Nurturing FibresNurturing Fibres is an eco-friendly yarn brand, hand dyed near Cape Town.

Eco-Fusion Yarn 1

Nurturing fibres strives to conserve as much energy and water during their production process. They make use of borehole water which is heated by solar power for the dye baths. After dyeing, the PH levels in the dye-baths are neutralized and the water is then used to irrigate an olive grove near the dye studio. (Source: Placard at The Yarn Tree)

Eco-Fusion Yarn 2

The next gift was also specially curated for women who have had mastectomies. With the Knitted Knockers kit, you can knit a prosthetic breast for mastectomy patients. The kit contains a 50 gram ball of organically grown cotton yarn by ColourSpun and 25 grams of pure merino for the filling. Each skein is hand wound and hand dyed.

Knitted Knockers

Even though I was unable to visit in person, I learned a tremendous amount about these mission-driven ladies and their beautiful shop. You can follow The Yarn Tree on Facebook or contact them at theyarntree (@) yahoo (dot) com. The Yarn Tree hosts Charity Afternoons on Mondays and a Coffee Club on Friday mornings. They also have various workshops including a Knitting for Knockers Charity Day. Look them up if you are in Johannesburg. I know I will!

December FO: Chimborazo Textured Hat

This year, my niece Victoria started college. She is an exceptional student who finished in the top 5% of her class. (It’s my blog so I am taking editorial license to be a proud aunt). She is a scholar-athlete who competed in both individual and team sports and even broke a track record. She received scholarships and grants but it was still a stretch to cover all those college costs. I honestly don’t know how regular middle-class Americans can afford to send their kids to college. So, she is living with us and commuting to school every day. We emptied the guest room, picked up a great daybed from IKEA that pulls out into a full-size bed for guests. We also got her a desk and a really cool chair and let her decorate the rest of her “dorm” room. She has black-and-white posters of Marilyn and Audrey and the New York skyline on her walls and small LED lights around the perimeter. It has been a delight to have her in our home. We have two boys so she is the daughter we never had.

As the weather started turning a bit cold, I decided to knit her a hat. I found this pattern which she promptly approved of with the request that it be in a white or cream color. I found this off-white bulky yarn at the fiber festival. It was half off and perfect for the hat. It’s Yearling by Juniper Moon Farm, a wonderful blend of 60% merino wool and 40% cotton, and it has been discontinued. I love this yarn! I already have several skeins of it in bright colors in my stash. It’s a great yarn for knitting in Texas because the wool brings warmth but the cotton tempers it a bit.

Juniper Moon Farm Yearling Color 01

Once I got past the brim, the basket weave texture started to show itself.

Chimborazo On the Needles

I love the look of it! My niece loved it too.

Chimborazo Back View

I topped it off with a big pompom.

Chimborazo Full View

Chimborazo Side View

Now she can keep her head warm as she goes from class to class.

Three Days in Bogotá – Día Uno

This was our first visit to Colombia and now I know where all the beautiful people come from. The capitol is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. The vegetation is rich and green and vibrant with colorful flowers. The people are charming and open and beautiful inside and out. Here is a recap of three wonderful days in Bogotá.

Day One

We walked through the cobblestoned streets of the historic La Calendaria district. At its center is Plaza Bolívar anchored at one end by the Cathedral of Bogotá. The Cathedral was built in the early 1800s (source) and has seen better days. But the church and the plaza were still the heart of the city pulsing with people and activity.

Cathedral of Bogotá

The plaza was taken over by pigeons, hundreds of them. People were buying dried kernels of corn from the street vendors and feeding them. For a moment, I had the sensation that I was in the middle of a Hitchcock movie.

Birds at Plaza de Bolívar

And what’s a plaza without llamas!

Llamas at Plaza de Bolívar

Close to Plaza Bolívar is a very small restaurant called “La Puerta Falsa” (The Fake Door) that has been around since 1816 (source). The first thing that draws you in is the window featuring trays full of these.

Dulces de Colombia

The ones on top are cocadas de arequipe con cacahuates y cocadas blancas (coconut with dulce de leche and peanuts and sugared coconut). The goodies at the bottom are called Marquesas. They are filled with fruits such as guanábana and moro (sour sop and mulberries).

Inside the tiny restaurant, we had a typical Colombian meal of tamales and ajiaco. The tamale was filled with a delicious mixture of cornmeal, chicken, chick peas and carrots all wrapped and tied inside large green banana leaves. To accompany it I had a glass of fresh mulberry juice. My husband had the Ajiaco Santafereño, a thick soup of chicken, yellow potatoes and corn. It was accompanied by rice, avocado slices, crema fresca (fresh cream) and capers.

Tamale Santafereño

Ajiaco Santafereńo

It so happens that “La Puerta Falsa” was featured in an episode of Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain. Watch Anthony enjoy a steaming tamale.


Our next stop was el Cerro Monserrate, a mountain in the center of the city. One can hike up or take either a train or cable car. We chose the teleférico (cable car). The cable car took us over the funicular rails below.

Ruta de Funicular

Once up the mountain, from 3,170 meters above sea level, there was this incredible view of Bogotá. The city stretched farther than I could see, possibly due to the smog. According to Colombia’s Official Travel Guide, the city has over 10 million people.

Bogotá from Monserrate Peak

Bell at Monserrate Peak

The Museo de Oro (Gold Museum) featured pre-Colombian art hammered out of gold.

Museo de Oro - Gold Funeral Mask

Gold funeral masks…made of the sacred metal…immortalized the chieftains with their symbolic power.

Museo de Oro - Gold Ceremonial Ornaments

During ceremonies, the hanging plates on ornaments twinkled in the light and gave off metallic sounds…

Museo de Oro - Circular Symbol of Time

Time was conceived as being cyclical or like a spiral…

As I turned a corner to the next exhibit room, I saw this.

Museo de Oro - Spinning Exhibit

Museo de Oro - Spindle Whorl 1

The spindle whorls that were used for spinning were fitted to the end of the stick which the cotton thread was rolled around. Fabrics from this region were noted for their fine quality.

Museo de Oro - Spindle Whorl 2

Museo de Oro - Spindle Whorl 3

Museo de Oro - Spindle Whorl 4

Like a metaphor, the weave notion can be seen in the filigree work in earrings…and in other objects… [200 a.C – 1000 d.C]

Museo de Oro - Woven Net

Museo de Oro - Filigree Earring Detail

Cotton and sisal were spun using spindles that were driven by engraved stone whorls…

Museo de Oro - Engraved Stone Whorls

Museo de Oro - Spun Cotton

…and the resulting thread was used for making blankets, caps, bags and nets. [600 d.C – 1600 d.C]

Museo de Oro - Crochet Bag

We ended Day One with a fantastic dinner at Andrés Carne de Res. We went to the city center location; the original is in the suburb of Chia. I can’t tell you more about it because no retelling will do it justice. It’s the sort of place you simply have to experience, like Bogotá.

T-Shirt Yarn

This is what I have been up to lately. Rather than toss out old t-shirts or convert them to rags, I decided to give t-shirt yarn a try.

The white, blue and gray ones are my husband’s old t-shirts.

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This colorful yarn came from a tie-dye t-shirt my son made in summer camp and never wore. He thought it was pretty cool that I made yarn from it.

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The plan is to crochet a round cotton throw rug. I don’t have quite enough yarn but I’m getting there.

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There are many how-to videos on the web for making yarn out of t-shirts. I liked these step-by-step instructions the best from Let Birds Fly. This video tutorial from Knit Picks shows you how to join the ends of t-shirt yarn.