Ahhh, Rhinebeck. The annual October pilgrimage that yarn and fiber lovers across the east coast yearn and scheme to take. While we desperately wanted to make the trip, it seemed that one thing or another just wasn’t going to work in our favor this year. Some people were renovating homes. Some were out of town or running marathons. And some of us were just a tad scant on money and a touch large on indecision. In the end, we waited too long to find anywhere to stay, so we finally had to accept the hard realization we simply weren’t going to Rhinebeck. But that didn’t stop some of us from sitting in our houses sulking come Friday evening, not sure how we were going to manage avoiding the Twitterstream for two whole days while everyone else had fun without us.

So we hatched a plan to absolve us of our misery. If we couldn’t manage the scratch for yarnporn AND accommodations, we’d just focus on acquiring the yarnporn. Saturday morning, Audrey and I tucked Ingrid into her car seat and set off for Pittsburgh and yarn a bit closer to home. It was a much more relaxed journey, since we knew we weren’t going to be facing stiff competition for our yarn. We spent a few hours at one of our favorite shops there, kibbitzing and sharing with other knitters who had to stay back and man the shop. Of course, being bitter together was some comfort, because we could laugh and still share companionship with the knitting community. And you know what? That was okay. I think it’s really the friendship that’s important here. Being with people you trust as friends, sharing new ideas and patterns with others like you, and training young blood in the art of fibers, just makes things right with the world. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to come home with some new nommy goodness too. Just, you know, for the pain.


I’m pretty happy with my haul; it wasn’t extravagant, but most of it is actually for Christmas gifts, which I’m now hard at work on. That’s what I call responsible shopping, and I can totally rationalize that. It made the weekend of not Rhinebeck bearable, and that was a blessing. I can even look at Westknit’s Facebook page of festival fun and frolic without shedding (many) tears. And it seems absence makes the heart grow fonder (and smarter); we’re all hard at work researching accomodations for next year’s pilgrimage. There’s just no way in hell we’re missing this twice in a row.

Sometimes, you just have to scratch that itch and share the joy.

Last week I had a conference in Milwaukee to attend. Things had been a little hectic leading up to it and, come Thursday evening, I suddenly realized I hadn’t bought a plane ticket. Oy! Two days before you’re supposed to leave isn’t the best time to realize you still need transportation, because that $325 ticket two months ago has more than doubled in price. No dice. I could drive, but the thought of an 11+ hour drive just felt exhausting — if not on the way there, definitely on the way back. Trying to decide between the lesser of two evils, I suddenly realized there was a third option: Amtrak. With a station only 30 minutes away, I found I could book a three-leg round trip for the same price of that original plane ticket I never got around to buying. A 20 hour trip with a couple 2 – 3 hr layovers is longer than I usually like to travel, but the price was right and I was ready for an adventure. All aboard!

Let me tell you, that train ride was fabulous. On my way there I worked on my presentation, read a book, and knit — and on the way back? I knit and knit and knit some more. I was able to finish two projects completely, and get the third one almost to completion. What a glorious feeling! The trip was incredibly relaxing — I was out of the office, out of the house, couldn’t do anything for anyone except for me. (Hooray!) I had plenty of legroom, a comfortable seat, a huge window to took out, a reading light that actually could be aimed where I needed it, a table that moved where I wanted it; and, the trifecta of a tech geek: wifi, plugs, and coffee. Yessssssssss. So much more comfortable than a packed flight, and I could get up, move around, have food in the dining car, work in the lounge car, or sit in my seat, almost fully reclined, with headphones in my ears and a movie on the laptop. Pure heaven.

I gotta say, I’m so impressed with Amtrak. You’d be surprised how many people take the train cross country, and I can see why. It might take longer than air, but it’s a helluva lot more relaxing, and definitely easier on the  psyche. I’m reinvigorated by the thought of how many places I can get to just with a 30 minute drive from my home. It seems to me that, with gas at these prices, any trips in a 6 hour radius is really better left to Amtrak.

Training couldn’t get any easier.

I’ve discovered that, as a knitter, it doesn’t take very long in a new place before you start wondering where the local yarn stores are. Where can I pick up some darning needles? A new project bag? Where can I fondle some yarnporn? I was looking to expand my stash with some sea silk, and knew there would be ample selection in the chic downtown Portland stores — Knit Purl, Happy Knits, and Twisted (a few personal favorites) — but my sister lives in the Tigard/Beaverton portion of Portland, and I wondered if there were any stores local to her that were worthwhile.

For future reference, there are some questions that are just too silly to ask.

The first stop was proof that I’d become a yarn snob. Half of the store was a selection of acrylic yarns, and specialty yarns (eyelash, boucle, and things that you can apparently knit into necklaces. I didn’t want to know more). Wool and wool blends were stored along one wall and I realized there wasn’t anything there that I was excited about trying. A conversation with the saleswoman didn’t prove terribly fruitful, and the only place to sit down was at a small, cramped table. I’d hate to take classes there. Sea silk? Not an option. I bought a project bag and we moved on.

Oh, but the second stop! Less than five miles from TheProgrammer’s house, and we struck gold. A beautiful shop called For Yarn’s Sake that carries hand-dyed yarns from local northwest artists. Perfect! Light, airy, and packed to the gills with natural fibers with lovely specialty luxury fibers as well. Comfortable couches and chairs made it clear knitters were welcome to sit and knit (obviously they were set up for a weekly knitting group!). A long table and chairs proved they were serious about offering classes, too. Oh, and the yarn — a fabulous selection, with beautiful samples to inspect and love. I found three patterns that I will be adding to my collection. It was a shame we only had an hour there. The thing I liked the most? Being able to have an intelligent conversation with the salesperson, because she could tell me things I didn’t know. Sea silk? Certainly; four different types, and when I got to the counter? Oh my. This was where I discovered qiviut.

Have you ever heard of qiviut (“kiv-ee-ute”)? Yeah, I hadn’t either. Here’s the skinny:

Qiviut is truly an amazing fiber. It is the delicate underwool of the Arctic muskox. It is one of the most sought after fibers in the world because of its rarity, softness and warmth. Qiviut is softer than cashmere and is light as a feather. It’s an insulating fiber and is comfortable to wear in any climate.

Qiviut is eight times warmer than sheep wool. 100% qiviut is non-shrinkable, non-felting and safe for people who suffer from sheep wool allergies. Unlike wool, qiviut is not scratchy. The more you handle and wash qiviut, the softer it feels.

ZOMG. The feel is amazing, and I was hooked. I was trying to decide on a couple of colors, and as I bent down for one more look through the glass, I saw a sign with a number on it. 142. What was that — a dye lot? No, that was the price. ONE HUNDRED FORTY-TWO DOLLARS. *blanch* Yeah, I couldn’t believe it either. And I couldn’t put it away fast enough. Holy shit. $142. For a skein. OF YARN. Yes, it was laceweight, and yes, it was 437 yards. But dear god. It must be collected from the ballsack of the muskox and spun with gold and fairy wings.

Now, to be fair, I was looking for an upscale yarn shop, and I definitely found it. And they also have an amazing selection of — well, just about everything. And, while I actually did spend that much in the store, I really couldn’t justify it all on one single skein of luxury. Instead, I got a number of new things I’ve never worked with before: two skeins of sea silk, differing weights (one that was custom dyed for the shop, a delicious concoction of champagne, silver and gold), a skein of malabrigo rios, a spontaneous impulse buy of madtosh prairie, and some baby lace weight dream in a gorgeous exclusive club dyed periwinkle-gray that came with a lovely hat-scarf-cowl-mitts pattern. I really think it’s fabulous, and sadly, now I’m enrolled in the monthly Dream In Color option. Because, you know, I need people to make it EVEN EASIER for me to buy yarnporn. Dammit.

On the bright side, my sister has decided to take a class here to get her past the cast on curse that she’s encountered. I’m hopeful for her, because a class gives you the support you need to make progress. It also means she can make her own stuff, rather than stealing mine. (Okay, so I offered my Rose Red to her, but how can you say no to “Can I have this?”) I’m not sure it will take the place of her quilting, but it is definitely more portable. And perhaps I’ll take another peek at that qiviut the next time I’m there.

From 40 feet away.

Just got back from a lovely two week stay in Oregon with TheCop. While he had plans to hike and explore Mt. Hood, I was set to spend time catching up with my sister in Portland, taking day trips to locales of interest (read: wine, food, beach, yarn). This is one of the reasons the pacific northwest is so appealing to us — we can both do things together and apart that appeal to our varied interests. I love that. Our first day trip: to drop TheCop off at Mt. Hood for a five day hike along the Timberline Trail.

After we left TheCop at the trail head, we wandered a bit as we headed back toward Portland. Outside Hood River we found fruit orchards, wineries, and Cascade Alpacas of Oregon, an alpaca farm where we stopped to feed the alpacas and browse Foothills Yarn & Fiber, their yarn shop (yarn! in the middle of nowhere! have I got mad skills or what??!!). Alpacas are a funny bunch; very friendly, not a little shy, and more than a little hungry. My sister TheProgrammer was not completely convinced that alpacas are harmless, but it was a hoot.

I have to admit, alpaca farming in the shadow of Mt. Hood seems to be a pretty fantastic way to spend your days. More than a little picturesque nestled there in the mountains, isn’t it? And freshly shorn alpaca with that topknot mop of hair is just cuter than cute. Not to be outdone, the yarn shop was chock full of — you guessed it — yards and yards of fabulous alpaca. I tried like hell, but ended up not buying any alpaca to bring home and add to the stash; instead, I bought a crochet hook (!!!) to fix some dropped stitches on my Clapotis scarf. Oh yes, just call me Big Spender.

Nonetheless, this was, quite possibly, the best day of back country wandering I’ve ever had. Beautiful weather. Beautiful scenery. Beautiful alpacas. All less than two hours away from culture and city life. Why do I live in Pennsylvania when there’s such beauty here?

Alpaca think on that one awhile.