Anytime I travel, besides booking a room and mapping out my route, I always look up local yarn stores. On our girl’s weekend to Fredericksburg, I found two listings that looked promising but turned into dead ends. Stonehill Spinning simply wasn’t there. In its place was a vitamin shop. I have nothing against vitamins but it was disappointing. The next shop, Things in a Room, was there on Main Street but no longer carried yarn.
But our adventure didn’t end in Fredericksburg. On our way back, we took US 87 south toward Interstate 10, which took us through Comfort, Texas. There, on a balmy Sunday afternoon, was The Tinsmith’s Wife.
Located in the historic downtown, The Tinsmith’s Wife fills six large rooms with beautiful, colorful, exquisite yarn. There is one room with a large table for sitting and knitting. Other sitting areas are scattered throughout. This one was my favorite. Can you imagine sitting there, knitting in comfort and feeling the warmth of the sun on your face?
Then there was the yarn.
Feeling light-headed yet?
You should have seen my mother and my aunt. They behaved like giddy school girls trying on the sample knits and choosing the yarns they wanted so that I could knit shawls, scarves and sweaters for them. Clearly they forgot that I actually do have a day job and do not, as much as I would like, spend all my days knitting.
Wendy, the owner, was lovely and helpful. She let me know that The Tinsmith’s Wife is a stop along the 2014 Hill Country Yarn Crawl. The dates are already on my calendar.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In Burgos, he had a clear view of the magnificent 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.
From Ezcaray, arriving precisely on my birthday, he shipped this exquisite blanket woven with 73% mohair and 27% wool from 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.
We hope our boys make this journey some day. Perhaps my pilgrim and I will travel it together.
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.
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.
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.
Now I really have to knit it down rather than risk losing any more of it. Yarn protection suggestions are welcome.
Remember this yarn that I picked up almost one and a half years ago at Yarnivore in San Antonio, Texas?
It didn’t have a good beginning. My attempt to wind it into a ball became a tangled mess. But I finally finished it after a few plane rides. I followed the Sakkie Knit Ruffle Scarf pattern written by the yarn store owner. This is how it looked fresh off the needles.
Some blocking was definitely in order to lay out the ruffles.
It straightened out quite nicely. Here are front and back views.
My mom picked the pattern. I plan to take it to her when I see her for Thanksgiving. Hope she likes it!
China just celebrated a national holiday, the founding of the PRC on October 1, 1949. Our offices were closed so I took the opportunity to visit Hong Kong. There are 7 million people living on a land mass of 426 square miles. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most densely populated areas in the world, and I believe it.
I stayed at a cozy little apartment in Kowloon. The apartment had a small living area and bedroom just large enough for a double bed. The kitchen took up one short wall of the living room and had 1 burner, a sink, and a washing machine under the counter. The dorm sized fridge served as a tv stand in the living room. Overall it was roughly 14×16 feet, including three feet of counter space. However tiny, it was cozy, clean, safe, located in the heart of Tsim Sua Tsui, and close to the Jordan MTR station.
While I made it to some of the popular tourist markets, I also explored local markets to get a feel for everyday life. One of my favorites was the Mong Kok Flower Market. There were several streets lined with fresh flower stalls.
Orchids of all shapes and sizes were blooming.
The cacti reminded me of home.
I would have loved to get some plants or an orchid.
Immediately next to the Flower Market was the Yuen Po Street Bird Garden. The garden was a little oasis in the middle of the city.
Old men walked along with their song birds in wooden cages. I did feel a little sad about all those caged birds. Then I spotted this bird freely sitting at a stall. He was lunching on that cardboard box.
After enjoying the smells and sounds of the flowers and birds, it was time to exercise the sense of touch. I had mapped out several yarn stores near the markets. All were within walking distance of each other.
Double Knit Yarn & Co. is located at 179-181 Fa Yuen Street on the 1st Floor (which means you go up to the first floor from the ground floor). It’s near the Mong Kok MTR. The shop had wall to wall wools and some synthetic yarns from Italy, France and Japan. The staff spoke little English but were very helpful.
As my favorite color is purple, I picked up three balls of this 100% extra fine merino superwash by Zara Chinè.
My next find was Filo Kilo located on the ground floor at 167 Sai Yee Street. The shop is very nicely laid out, all the yarn is neatly labelled, and the staff was very helpful. They even had a sale! I took five balls of this exquisite Cashmere Queen yarn. The fiber contents are 35% cashmere, 45% merino wool, and 20% silk. Scrumptious!
The two shades of green perk up the smooth beige.
I also had to have this wispy orangey-yellow mohair. The brand is BBB and is made in Italy. It’s 70% kid mohair, 30% polyamide.
My last stop was Knitting World located in the Prosper Commercial Building at 9 Yin Chong Street, 3rd floor. There is a fresh food market on Yin Chong which distracted me with salted and fresh fish, meats, and vegetables.
The shop is rather small and has a limited selection but I liked that two customers were sitting there knitting. Thankfully, one of them spoke English and helped me communicate with the sales lady. Since I had already purchased yarn at the two other shops, I only took these two balls for a hat.
The solid is Cashmere Soft by Lana Liza. It’s 65% Cashmere, 35% bamboo and made in Turkey. The multicolor ball is Bambu Color by Nako with the same fiber content.
Below are snapshots of the business cards: top left is Double Knit Yarn & Co., the vertical card is Filo Kilo, the bottom left is Knitting World.
These blog posts from fellow fiber enthusiasts were of great help in locating these yarn stores: