Weaving together Stardust in Basin

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A red and yellow sunset through mountains and a weaving project that echoes the scene.

A few weeks ago, after Robin of Birch Hollow Fibers chose an inspiration photo for her installment of Knitting Our National Parks, I contacted the photographer to get permission to use the photo and send a use fee.

Through my text thread with Nina Mayer Ritchie — her husband, Eric, was the photographer for the Great Basin National Park photo that Robin picked, but they both take the stunning photos in her feed — I learned that there was a deeper connection to the fiber arts — and a fascinating story that the reporter in me had to tell.

Nina has been taking Navajo weaving lessons from Emily Malone of the Spider Rock Girls, a family that has been weaving rugs for four generations. Emily’s mother, Rose Yazzie, owns a Hogan, a traditional dwelling of the Navajo people, and has a flock of sheep that provides the wool for their pieces, which they sell (I’m planning to post an interview with Emily as well). Above is an in-progress rug that Nina is weaving inspired by a photo she took of sunset through the “Window” at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Nina and Eric also have an impressive track record in the national parks, having visited 48 out of 62, some with their two young children. Both Nina and Eric are MedsPeds physicians (dual board certified in internal medicine and pediatrics), and they have been working over the last several months in Chinle, Arizona, the geographic center of the Navajo Nation, which for a period of time had the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita in the country. Eric is the chief medical officer of the Indian Health Service (IHS) hospital there and Nina works with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health as a public health doctor.

I spoke with Nina about learning Navajo weaving, her family’s parks visits and about the public health response to the coronavirus in the Navajo Nation. In addition to supporting the parks, 10% from the sales of Robin’s colorway will be donated to the NDN Collective COVID-19 Response Project.

Weaving with raw fleece.

Emily Malone of the Spinder Rock Girls uses raw fleece for a weaving project.

Tell me about your weaving lessons. Have you done any other fiber crafts (knitting, crochet or spinning)?

I started taking weaving lessons from a local weaver in March 2018. She is part of a family of weavers called the Spider Rock Girls. Her mother weaves and taught her, and then she taught her daughters. They live near Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly. According to Navajo teachings, Spider Woman lives atop Spider Rock and bestowed the gift of weaving to the Navajo. The Spider Rock Girls keep their own herd of sheep and sheer them to spin the wool into yarn for weaving.

This weaver has been offering weaving lessons to a small group of us over the last few years. She made looms for all of us, and we would typically meet one to two times per month to weave and learn together. Now with COVID, that has been put on hold, but we each have our own loom at home and weave individually. I learned how to crochet with my Yiayia (grandmother) when I was a little girl, but weaving in the traditional Navajo way with a loom is completely different!

A Native American woman spinning cream-colored yarn.

Emily spinning yarn from her sheep before weaving.

It sounds like you and Eric are longtime hikers! When did you start visiting national parks?

We actually didn’t start “seriously” hiking until our honeymoon to Kauai in June 2008. After that, we immediately moved to Boston to start our residency training and found that during our off-time – without having access to a car – we would walk/hike the entire Boston area pretty regularly… roughly 11-12 miles on an average weekend day.

The first national park we visited together was the Grand Canyon, where we hiked North Rim to South Rim with my father during the last week of June 2009. It was the first time we had ever visited the Southwest, during record high temps, and we were smitten. It was one of the most formative experiences of our lives and we truly became enchanted with this part of the country. After that, we kept seeking ways to return to the Southwest to visit more national parks and to complete clinical rotations with the Indian Health Service.

We had always felt strongly about providing medical care to underserved populations and the Indian Health Service seemed like the best fit for us. As we visited more and more national parks, both out West and back East, we realized that our time spent in the parks was incredibly restorative and balancing especially while juxtaposed to our hectic schedules as medical doctors. We have visited 48 out of 62 national parks so far and it is our bucket list to visit them all together. As we started having children, our little boys visited the Grand Canyon as their first national park when they were each 2 weeks old. They have visited over 25 national parks each.

A mom and dad, each with a child on their back, pose in front of red rocks.

The Ritchies at Arches National Park in Utah.

Do you have a favorite national park?

This is the toughest question for us, and we get asked this all the time! I think we love different national parks for different reasons, and each could be considered a favorite in their own way. We are also very lucky to live close to so many of them, and we get to revisit these ones (roughly 15 of them) over and over again. Before spikes in visitation over recent years, I think we would easily say that Zion, Yosemite and Glacier were our top three, as these parks truly fill you with awe and wonder when you are immersed in them. However, as those parks have become more and more crowded, even during the “off season,” we have a new appreciation for the parks that are either off the beaten path or have enough space to really spread out. These include Death Valley and Big Bend.

A boy in front of a large tree.

James, the couple’s youngest son, in front of a Bristlecone Pine in Great Basin National Park.

What’s the story behind your photo of the tree at Great Basin?

This photo is from an incredible camping trip we took a few years ago to celebrate our youngest son’s first birthday… with the oldest living things on the planet: Bristlecone Pines in Great Basin National Park! This was his 17th national park visited during his first 12 months of life.

We had the coolest campsite up on Wheeler Peak, and spent an entire afternoon hiking around the impressive Bristlecone Pines, scouting out a favorable one to photograph later that night… My husband then hiked back out over a mile in the dark (while I stayed back, cozy with the kiddos in our camper) to reach this awesome tree and photograph it with the night sky. Such a fun memory!

How did you and Eric begin working for Native American healthcare organizations?

During our first year of residency, we attended a Grand Rounds held by two other married physicians that had completed our same residency program a few years prior. They had been working with the Indian Health Service in the middle of the Navajo Nation and everything they shared with us about their experiences truly spoke to us. We arranged to have two clinical rotations with the IHS, one in 2009 and the other in 2010, and fell in love with the communities we served. We decided to join the IHS in Chinle, AZ (the geographic center of the Navajo Nation) after completing our residencies in 2012 and have been here ever since. I transitioned into public health in 2014 with the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and Eric is still with the IHS.

Can you talk about how the COVID-19 crisis has hit the Navajo Nation and Native Americans particularly hard and what kind of work have you and your colleagues been doing to address this?

As many have probably seen in the news, the Navajo Nation had the highest rate of cases per capita in the country for a period of time. Contributing factors include remote and impoverished living conditions (difficulty accessing resources, such as medical care, grocery stores, etc.), lack of running water and electricity, multigenerational/overcrowded households where the virus can easily spread throughout the family, higher incidences of underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, and lung disease, limited access to broadband/internet, as well as difficulties with “staying home” when folks have to travel long distances to obtain supplies. With strict and comprehensive public health measures, such as universal masking, social distancing, limiting capacity in essential businesses, and curfews, the Navajo Nation decreased their case counts and have been flattening the curve. The mortality rate among Navajo is still the highest of any ethnic/racial group. Through our work, and collaborations with other philanthropic groups, we have been integrally involved in the public health responses here: increasing testing, increasing hospital capacity, increasing resources and securing PPE, developing and distributing educational materials, expanding contact tracing, supporting communities through delivery of goods and water to households, etc.

A snow-covered mountain reflected in water at sunset.

Oxbow Bend at Grant Teton National Park in Wyoming.

How has the pandemic impacted your travels? As physicians, do you have any advice for people looking to safely explore the country?

The biggest way the pandemic impacted our travels is that it prevented us from taking previously scheduled time off. With Navajo Nation weekend curfews and the increased workload, we needed to stay put and work. No more weekend camping trips for around three months straight, which is very atypical for us (we usually camp almost every weekend). As things have slowly improved on the Navajo Nation, we have been able to venture out a little more, but we are sticking to dispersed/boondock camping in more remote areas to remain physically distanced from others. We are now discovering some hidden gems.

I think the advice we would offer folks looking to safely travel during pandemic times is to think about their own risk tolerance and how that (and their actions) may affect others. Getting through this is going to take a “team” effort and we all need to do our part.

Outdoor spaces are generally the safest option for recreating, and getting there by personal vehicle is preferred. Identifying places that are not crowded is ideal.
I know we all love to visit our iconic national parks but these spaces are at risk of being “loved to death,” especially during these challenging times when everyone is looking to get outdoors and away from others. It’s getting harder to achieve this as our national parks get more and more congested. I would encourage travelers to look for hidden gems closer to home in other public lands that don’t normally get as much attention as our national parks.

Congrats to our Super Special KAL winners!

A collage of colorful knitted objects.

Back in March, I decided back to launch the Indie Untangled Super Special KAL so we’d have some fun knitting incentives. Not that we really need prizes, let alone a pandemic, to inspire our crafting mojo, but it is nice to have deadlines.

Over three months, there were 70 total entries, including 16 in the sock category and 15 in the sweater category (but only one in the new bralette category, which surprised me!). Last week, I selected 15 winners in eight categories via random number generator. Here are the winning FOs (please note that the links go to Ravelry).

Sweater

Knitting Our National Parks

Shawl

Cowl

Mitts

Socks

Bralette

Hat

Knitting Olympic National Park: From a crafty park ranger’s view

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A beach alongside mountains on a clear day.

Second Beach at La Push, Washington, Olympic National Park

[Ed.’s note: This post coincides with the release of the Knitting Our National Parks colorway from McMullin Fiber Co., inspired by Olympic National Park. It’s available to preorder through May 1, 2020.]

There’s nothing quite like knitting in peace and quiet. And it’s a tough thing to find in our bustling world. But at Olympic National Park, it exists. And it’s not just any peace and quiet.

It’s complete silence.

In fact, some would argue the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park takes the cake as the quietest place in the United States — in one square inch of rainforest.

The summer I worked as a park ranger, I was told about this One Square Inch (and instructed to warn people to stay on trail if they were headed to find it). So naturally, I sought it out as a prime knitting spot.

The park is, without a doubt, the epitome of peace. Walking through the Hall of Mosses feels like sneaking through an empty home. And yet, there’s a buzz around you. A feeling of abundant life just beyond the boundaries of your senses.

And it’s a gorgeous destination for knitting. Later, I’ll list my favorite knitting spots around the park. But the one I visited most was just alongside the Hoh River. This was my chosen sanctuary for elk-watching, solitude, simply being — and of course, sneaking in a little crafting.

A tree arches over a forest trail.

Hall of Mosses Trail, Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park. Photo by Amira Umphres

Living and Working as a Crafty Park Ranger

Working as a ranger came with feelings of great responsibility, pride and passion for untamed wilderness. It also came with a lot of time alone in a very small entrance booth facing the same two trees for hours at a time.

Eventually, I got to know and love those two trees (which turned out to be red alders). I started to notice little details, like their adorably tiny pine cones. Soon, I was reading about them. Apparently, after a wildfire, red alder trees are among the first to courageously repopulate the area, making way for new life. And the knitter in me was excited to learn that their bark could be used to create a natural, rusty red dye.

Suddenly, my nameless tree companions became a life form I was emotionally invested in.

This mirrored my experience as I got to know the park. Every lichen, wasp, bird and stone became a source of fascination until this place I called my “office” took root inside of me. And though I no longer work and live on the Olympic Peninsula, it’s part of who I am.

And it continues to inspire the patterns, colors and textures I choose for knitting.

A green handknit sweater and hat.

I often choose deep greens as I did for this Tin Can Knits Flax Sweater (left), or forest motifs like this Boyland Knitworks’ Faller’s Cap (right). Photos by Amira Umphres

The first time I saw Olympic National Park was the summer of 2013. It got under my skin and never left. Its enchanting landscape has a habit of taking hold of your heart. I dreamed of being a part of it.

I’d volunteered for the San Antonio Missions National Park, majored in anthropology as an undergraduate and worked for UT Austin’s computed-tomography lab in the Geosciences school. You could say I was a little obsessed with science, history and natural heritage.

But it wasn’t until I saw a documentary on national parks where an African American park ranger was interviewed that I actually felt I could take the leap. Seeing someone who looked like me in ranger uniform somehow melted away a lot of the doubts I’d had about becoming a ranger myself.

With this thought floating in the back of my head, and some helpful tips from a friend who’d worked as a park ranger, in the spring of 2015, I sent out applications to almost every national park in the U.S.

I only got one reply.

It was from Olympic. They had a spot for me at the Hoh Rainforest.

I said yes immediately and drove 1,900 miles from my home in Iowa with my family in tow. We rented a one-bedroom house connected to an old surf shop in Forks (the town of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books fame) and settled in for the summer.

Snow-covered mountains, an African American woman in a park ranger uniform holds a baby, purple flowers by a body of water.

From left to right: Hurricane Ridge, My daughter, Nora and I, Flowers in the park. Photos by Amira Umphres

Olympic National Park is an unparalleled protected wilderness. Not a single road crosses through the park. To get from one end of the peninsula to the other, you have to go the long way around (or, I suppose, you could hike!).

The peninsula has a population of around 378,000, spread out over 3,600 square miles. My fellow rangers were a tight-knit bunch. There’s not much choice when you’re living in such a remote place.

Though I was stationed at the Hoh, part of my job was to explore the rest of the park. We had work days dedicated to getting up close and personal with as many areas of the park as we could. It’s a very, very big park.

Life on the Olympic Peninsula

Not only is the park large in size, it’s large in biodiversity.

Olympic shelters an impressive range of flora and fauna. There’s a swift elevation change between the snowy mountain peaks and the sweeping coastal forests and beaches. These changes create precious and varied habitats. Olympic also houses the last stand of old growth temperate rainforest in the lower 48 states.

Like the landscape, the weather varies wildly. Olympic’s intense beauty is carved out by landslides, floods, wind storms, avalanches, heavy snows and wildfires.

Black bears, beaver, salmon, cougars, mink, whales, deer, marmots and otters (among many others) call the park home. And so does the largest herd of wild Roosevelt elk in the country.

Actually, the Roosevelt elk were the first to greet me on my first day at work. The Upper Hoh Road stretches roughly 18 miles from the main highway to the park entrance. It curves and bumps through towering hemlock, spruce and cedar trees, taking you around blind corners and sharp curves.

It was around one of these corners that I was welcomed — and stopped — by a herd of elk that had chosen the road as a spot for a nap.

I honked my horn. Nothing. Honked again. Got a few stares.

So I waited. No one was coming or going on the road that time of morning. I had no cell service.

After a couple of lazy minutes, they decided to move on. Slowly. I was late to work. And I learned to live a little more slowly in this place. Slowly, and far more connected to (and at the mercy of) nature than I’d ever been.

A Place of Connection

Knitting so often comes from a place of love and connection to the things we deeply care for. And Olympic is a living, breathing reminder of connection. I’ll share just one, small piece of that connection here.

Large tree roots.

A fallen tree showing its roots, Olympic National Park. Photo by Amira Umphres.

During one of those quiet times working the entrance booth, I came across a brief paragraph in a book. It was about the shallow roots of the rainforest’s trees.

With approximately 140 inches of annual rainfall, they have no reason to go far, which made sense to me. But I hadn’t thought about how these shallow roots played a role in the grand scheme of things.

Washington’s wind storms are notorious for blowing down massive trees, and the trees fall easily because of their shallow roots. And when they fall across a river, they create shelters — shelters where salmon can safely spawn, and where their tiny fry can grow and flourish. Once they’re old enough, after living in the safety of the fallen tree, they swim downriver, following it to the distant ocean, where they remain for several years.

But once they’re ready, they remember. They find their river. And not just any river — their home river. They swim with all their strength to get back. They jump as they go, fighting against the currents.

They don’t just return to the same river — they return to the exact place, the shelter, where they were born. And there they spawn… and die.

Their bodies become part of the soil, bringing rich nutrients from the ocean. Nutrients needed by — you guessed it — the trees that helped bring them safely into the world. They give back to the trees with their lives.

I’d sit alongside these rivers, watching the trees and, later in the fall, watching the salmon return. It was my favorite place to knit, because knitting for me is a way to connect, to make something I could use to give back to those who nurtured me with their love and kindness. Like trees and salmon.

A beach and a lake in clouds and fog.

Second Beach on a cloudy day (left) and Lake Crescent in fog (right). Photos by Amira Umphres

5 favorite knitting spots in Olympic

Second Beach at La Push: Second Beach doesn’t require a ton of hiking to get to the coast — which meant I could haul plenty of yarn. The beach is breathtaking and rarely overwhelmed with people. Driftwood from massive trees make perfect natural seating for crafting.

Lake Crescent: Lake Crescent is downright dreamy with crystal waters encased by mountains. One of my favorite knitting moments on Lake Crescent was watching a bald eagle float through the sky, then dive for fish.

Hoh River: It’s no surprise that the Hoh River was one of my favorite knitting spots. There was silence, beauty and serenity beyond compare.

Kalaloch Lodge: Kalaloch’s Creekside Restaurant — there’s no better place to catch a sunset. And no place better for public knitting than while watching the Pacific do its thing from an elegant dining room.

Ruby Beach: Low tide at Ruby Beach is an absolute must-see. And tide pools were the perfect place to have my kiddo entertained, searching for starfish and sea urchins while I kicked back on a beach blanket with my latest WIP.

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Olympic National Park is a stunning palette of colors — from pristine snow to blue glaciers, brilliant emeralds and deep mossy greens, dusky sand beaches and steely ocean skies, purple starfish and white foamy waves, slick black sea stacks and peach sunsets. I can’t think of a better place to knit — and to reflect on the people, places and moments that inspire us to keep creating.

Join the Indie Untangled Super Special KAL!

A woman poses in a navy speckled sweater

I’ve been taking immense comfort in my knitting these last few weeks, treating myself to afternoons and evenings on the sofa, accompanied by special snacks. It’s the perfect time to share that knitting, so I decided to launch a super special KAL on April 1. It also happens to coincide with the sixth birthday of Indie Untangled (where does the time go?)!

The entry form with all the rules and a list of the amazing prizes can be found here.

There’s also a Ravelry thread where you can share what you’re working on!

Pictured above is one of the prizes for the sweater category, a Gabrielle Sweater Kit from designer Geraldine Yang of The Wandering Flock.

Here’s a peek at what else you can win:

Pink yarn.

Three skeins of hand-dyed yarn from Lanivendole

An aqua and orange bag and yarn.

A Koi Pond kit from Murky Depths Dyeworks and Knitspinquilt

A woman models a red cabled cowl.

A pattern of the winner’s choice from Vanessa Smith

Skeins of peach yarn.

Two skeins of LolaBean Yarn Co. Wax Bean in Georgia Peach

A multicolored, bright rectangular wrap.

A pattern of the winner’s choice from Casapinka

Blue yarn on a natural cotton tote bag with a mermaid.

Yarn Pirate Booty from Treasure Goddess Yarn: Three skeins of Treasured DK Luxe yarn, a cotton mermaid tote bag, a holographic pirate sheep vinyl sticker/decal, a white pirate sheep enamel pin and an orange pirate sheep keychain

A woman models a red and gray hat with a geometric pattern.

A pattern of the winner’s choice from Woolly Wormhead

Purple and pink mini skeins.

A Tiny popper miniskein bundle and one full skein of coordinating yarn from Sew Happy Jane

A woman models a blue and gray striped and lace shawl.

Two patterns of the winner’s choice from MK Nance

Purple yarn.

A set of five 10g mini skeins from My Mama Knits

A gray bag with a bear wearing an aqua sweater.

A project bag from Rose and the Wren

Tote bag, yarn and s'more pin collage.

A skein of Duck Duck Wool DK Limited in Glaciers and Wildflowers, a Knitting Our National Parks tote bag and a I Want S’more Yarn enamel pin from Indie Untangled

Knitting in the time of COVID-19

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A rust and cream colorwork sweater.

Amira’s latest WIP is Ghost Horses by Caitlin Hunter, using Malabrigo Worsted.

Ed.’s note: I’m excited to welcome a new contributor to Indie Untangled, Amira Umphres! Amira’s first blog post was set to debut next month as part of another project, but I thought in this period of social distancing, there was an opportunity to “widen the circle” and introduce a new perspective to our virtual community.

It’s no secret that our worlds were turned upside down seemingly overnight. Lives have been disrupted, some of us working from home, working overtime — or out of work entirely.

My partner works at a grocery store and we’re never quite sure when he’ll be going to work or coming home now. His shifts have gone from eight hours to anywhere between 10 and 12.

Like so many others, I suddenly live in a world where my kids are no longer in school. And I’m faced with the reality of attempting to provide childcare and at-home schooling, all while still trying to generate an income.

With so little in the scope of our control, I’ve been searching in and out for things I can do to cope.

It might feel a bit ludicrous, but one small thing I’ve decided to do for myself? Keep knitting (and crocheting).

There are several reasons why. And I’ve got a few tips and ideas for staying crafty if you’ve also found yourself suddenly in the company of kids who are normally in school during the day.

Purple, aqua and orange crocheted squares.

One of Amira’s latest WIPs. “I’ve been crocheting more, which is a brand new skill for me.”

The Importance of Knitting for Well-Being

Anxiety skyrocketed for me this week. Facing a global pandemic has left me feeling entirely out of control.

Luckily, knitting can function as a coping mechanism while adjusting to the temporary “new normal.” Not only has research shown that knitting contributes to stress relief and feelings of calm, knitting also fuels our sense of community.

And if knitting is a part of your routine and something you look forward to, don’t let it go.

Participate in virtual knitting groups if you can. My favorite LYS, West 7th Wool in Fort Worth, Texas, is closed to the public until further notice, but they’ve shifted their weekly Thursday knit nights to a virtual meeting room in Zoom. The first one is tonight, and I’ll be attending like always.

Knitting with Little Ones Around

Many of us are perfectly aware of the benefits of knitting (and definitely want to keep doing it while we’re navigating tough feelings and disrupted lifestyles). But… once I got word that my kids would be home for the foreseeable future, I found myself in a bit of a pickle.

How can I possibly keep knitting with kids at home, and little to no help or childcare?

I homeschooled my daughters for a few years and routine was the one thing that kept us sane. Building predictability into my day not only helps my kids feel less anxious about the state of things, it also gives me the opportunity to carve out some time for self-care and crafting.

I tend to knit while my kids play in the yard, watch a movie, or play a video game. And I accept that when they’re awake, I won’t get as much knitting done as I’d like. I might be able to do a few rows, but interruptions are inevitable. I really dig into a project, and save things that take more focus, for when they’re asleep.

I’ve also started to learn to finger knit alongside my oldest daughter, who’s 8. I’ve made good use out of my scrap yarn this way. And it’s an activity that holds her attention for 10 to 15 minutes. I’ve been surprised by how many projects we’ve made: bracelets, flowers, and headbands, to name a few.

A girl holds a felted duck in green, blue and red.

My kids and I also enjoy wet felting together. It’s warm here in Texas, so we do this outdoors with wool roving and a bucket of soapy water. You can collect rocks to cover with felt, make felt eggs, felt bowls, and felt balls to turn into jewelry or anything you can dream up.

And since hand washing is at the top of everyone’s minds, one of my favorite felting projects to do with my kids is to make felted soap. It’s super fun — and a simple way I’ve been able to get my girls to wash their hands regularly.

Stay safe everyone, and happy knitting!

What to stash this week: Colors from nature

Pale blue and green yarn.

Caroline of The Noble Thread has caught the natural dyeing bug and recently released her first collection of entirely naturally-dyed yarns. As she’s based in North Carolina, the collection is locally inspired by the colors of the coastal Southeast: pinky-peach azaleas (swoon) and sea-foam blues and greens. 

Fantastic Socks over a black and white skein of yarn.

Here’s where to find some fantastic socks: Sign-ups open March for AnnieDot Creative’s new yarn club, inspired by Newt Scamander (the fictional English wizard and author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). The year-long club starts shipping in April.

Neon speckled yarn.

Aimee of Pancake and Lulu has been having regular mini shop updates. The most recent one included colorways called Funfetti, Dark Fairy and Raspberry Truffle.

A blue and green lacy shawl with a silver shawl pin.

Get 25% off individual patterns or the ebook for Michelle’s Go Anywhere collection, inspired by Reading Rainbow, with the code INDIELOVE.

Fiber festival flavor: Barcelona Knits 2019 and Stitches West 2020

Crowds at fiber festivals.

One of the things I love most about traveling to fiber festivals around the world — and I’m privileged to consider this part of my work — is getting to experience joining the local fiber community, if only for a few days. I’m very lucky to be part of an active and vibrant knitting community in New York City, and while many events have become destinations in and of themselves (the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, the New York Sheep & Wool Festival and even Vogue Knitting Live NYC), they each have a feel that’s all their own.

Posing with Bellota magazine.

At Barcelona Knits this past November, many of the vendors were from Spain or elsewhere in Europe. Some of my favorite finds were El Robledal de la Santa, run by Jackson and David, who breed Angora goats in Extremadura, in Southwest Spain, Lanivendole, run by Stefania and Giula, who hand dye Italian fibers, and the Spain-based knitting magazine Bellota.

Rosa Pomar in the booth for Retrosaria Rosa Pomar.

I also finally got to meet Rosa Pomar of Lisbon, Portugal LYS Retrosaria Rosa Pomar and designer of several patterns, including the Arbusto sweater from Issue 6 of Laine magazine, and project bag maker and designer Sara Maternini La Cave à Laine.

Bright speckled yarn.

The venue, the WTC in Barcelona, was at the end of the famous Ramblas, a pedestrian mall lined with outdoor cafes and street performers. The night before the show, wristbands for attendees who had already bought tickets were handed out at Barcelona LYS Lalanalú, with another gathering at a nearby LYS, Miss Kits, which provided a window into the local yarn community. Miss Kits was jam packed with indie-dyed yarn, including local brands that were also at the show, such as Catalonia-based Sóc una troca (and it was a short tip to the most delicious ham at Reserva Ibérica).

Sparkly letters spell out Makery.

Stitches West, which I attended last week in Santa Clara, California, is a massive show spanning a huge convention floor, but still manages to retain that local flavor. This is most apparent in the {Among Friends} Neighborhood, which for the last few years has been comprised of vendors who have gotten to know each other at shows. This year, that included Indie Untangled vendors Sarah of The Dye Project, which specializes in non-Superwash yarns, and Thao of Nerd Bird Makery, which creates enamel pins, T-shirts and other accessories that represents our diverse crafting community.

Gold jewelry.

Although I would have traveled “off campus” if I’d had a car, I didn’t even have to leave the convention center to visit Northern California LYSes like Firebird Yarns, which brought a large selection of yarn from Virginia-based IU vendor Brooke of Fully Spun as well as new indie yarn discoveries. I also found beautiful jewelry from a Vallejo maker named Casey of Aquacherry.

And though the show was huge — I’ve told friends it was like Rhinebeck and VKL NYC rolled into one — you were still able to feel a sense of community by sitting in the bar of the Hilton attached to the convention center, which we yarn folks of course took over (plus, it’s down the street from the most incredible ramen). I also was excited to finally meet Jasmin and Gigi from the Knitmore Girls podcast, which was one of the first knitting podcasts I started listening to years ago!

Of course, the knitting community feels like “home” no matter where you are.

What to stash this week, from VKL NYC or home

A woman models an oversized gray sweater.

Selena of Sweater Sisters is going to be at the Marriott Marquis for VKL NYC this weekend debuting a bunch of new products. Among them are new alpaca, alpaca blend and extra fine untreated Merino bases available both hand dyed by Selena in Wyoming and au naturale.

Selena also offers kits featuring yarns from other small businesses and patterns from indie designers. Pictured above is the Fluffy Bell Sweater by Tiam Safari in Fleece Artist Wisp, a blend of mohair, wool and nylon. And if you want to dye your own sweater quantity, Selena is also bringing dye kits with of Landscape Dyes of Australia (she’s one of only two licensed retailers in the U.S.

Skeins of blue, purple and yellow yarn.

Julia of Pandia’s Jewels debuted 2020 with preorders of a new colorway called Moonlight Maze. You have the option of ordering this color on a variety of bases from fingering to worsted through this Sunday, January 19.

Skeins of pink, purple, green and orange yarn in front of a painting with the same colors.

Lisa The Knitting Artist also has a new colorway. Beneath Wandering Thoughts is inspired by a bright pink and green painting of the same name, with pops of purple and yellow to help you dream of spring.

Skeins of brown variegated yarn.

Kate of McMullin Fiber Co. is celebrating 2020 with lots of new colorways. Monthly and three-month subscriptions to her La Societe D’Orsay club have also opened up. IU subscribers — that’s you! — enjoy a special 15% discount off everything in the shop with the coupon code IUNewYear.

Lambstrings Yarn has opened sign-ups for the Gothic Color of the Month Club.

The Indie Untangled Guide To VKL NYC 2020

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Brooklyn Bridge

New York City is what I like to think of as a big little town, where it’s not that surprising to run into people you know in the most random places. This weekend, you can think of Times Square as a big little fiber festival, as fiber folks will be taking over the area for the 10th anniversary of Vogue Knitting Live NYC.

To help you prepare for the marketplace, which is so epic that it spills outside of the hotel’s two ballrooms, here’s a guide to several Indie Untangled vendors and a sneak peek at what they’ll be bringing.

Asylum Fibers collage

Asylum Fibers

Fifth floor, Booth 411-413

Asylum Fibers brings you versatile and luxurious yarns, hand dyed in New York City. The brand is best known for bold, unapologetic colorways and tongue-in-cheek inspiration. For 2020, AF is bringing 20 brand new colors and a batch of handmade project bags created by the dyer’s mother. Progress keepers by Samantha Decarlo and a new sweater pattern by Casapinka will also be featured. This year, the entire booth is inspired by Wonderland.

A collage of yarn.

Birch Hollow Fibers

Fifth Floor, Launch Pad Booth

Birch Hollow Fibers is a small batch hand dyed yarn company located in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Our yarn is inspired by nature, books and the whimsical moments in life.

Pictured are the colorways Moss Matched, San’layn, Dahlia and Dryad.

Knit stitch jewelry collage

Birdie Parker Designs

Fifth Floor, Booth 118

Birdie Parker Designs offers knit and crochet inspired jewelry and accessories to complement handcrafted garments. Our items are small and they aren’t yarn, so they don’t count as stash!

Yarn collage from Destination Yarn

Destination Yarn

Fifth floor, Booth 214

Destination Yarn is an independent, hand dyed yarn company located in Cleveland, Ohio. Founded by a former architect, we believe in the power of place to inspire creativity in all forms. Through a passion for travel, color, and the fiber arts we create unique & vibrant colorways just for you.

For our third year at Vogue Knitting Live we will be bringing our brand new Italy Collection – 5 tonals, and 4 variegated colorways designed to work together and inspired by Italy. We will also have with us our very popular New York colorways including last year’s huge hit Brooklyn, along with Grand Central Terminal.

Spun yarn collage.

Fully Spun

Fifth Floor, Booth 407

My mission with Fully Spun is to encourage and enable people to express themselves through color. We are featuring our new DK weight base, Sock Fingering and a sweater surprise!

Collage of dark yarn.

Fuse Fiber Studio

Fifth Floor, Booth 120

Fuse Fiber Studio is all about creating colors to spark your creativity! We are a boutique yarn dyeing company focusing on carefully curated, ethically sourced bases and one-of-a-kind colors. I keep my batches small so that I can explore unique and unexpected color combinations and treat each skein of yarn like its own work of art. You can count on every skein being dyed with care and attention to detail from start to finish My goal as a dyer is to create wearable colors that look as beautiful in the skein as they do in your finished projects.

My VKL 2020 collection is one big love letter to New York City! I’ve created tons of new colorways celebrating the city and all of its glorious contradictions, from elegant tonals on luxury bases to the more complex and moody speckles. Don’t miss our signature event colorway — Central Park and our new Comfort DK, locally sourced and spun New York state!

Collage of speckled yarn

Fuzz Family by KraeO

Fifth Floor, Booth 1000

KraeO’s Fuzz Family is a line of yarn hand dyed with love, in Chicago. They create beautiful colorways with complex neutrals and a color pallet that is both vivid and wearable.

Collage of bright yarn

Hellomello Handspun

Sixth Floor, Booth 1015

Hellomello Handspun’s limited-edition, small batch mill spun yarns are created seasonally using the highest quality hand-selected fine wool fleeces. Cleaning, carding and spinning is done at a family owned and operated mill located in New York State. Each skein is lovingly dyed by hand at our studio in Brooklyn, NY.

In addition to Hellomello Handspun’s signature neon colorways and seasonal mill-spun yarns, our first booth at VKL will feature beautiful Shibori and eco-dyed silk scarves, mending kits and luxury handspun.

Shoppers can help us raise money for those affected by the bushfires in Austrailia. For every skein of undyed “naked sheep” yarn or preorder of our Kangas and Koalas colorway purchased during the event, we will donate $10 to @blazeaid (an organization that helps Australian farmers recover from natural disaster) or @wildlifevictoria (a non-profit wildlife emergency response organization based in Victoria, AU).

Selection of Katrinkles

Katrinkles

Fifth Floor, Booth 100

Katrinkles makes buttons, wearable accessories, and tools for fiber artists out of durable and sustainable wood. Each piece is lovingly designed, carefully crafted and hand-finished in Providence, RI. Our products are made in house on our studio’s four laser-cutting machines. Katrinkles makes tools for knitting, crocheting, spinning, weaving, embroidery and needlepoint as well as stitchable ornaments and buttons to decorate your work. Pictured are our new Adjustable Mitten Blockers and some items from our Vogue Exclusive collection.

A yellow sweater.

Knit Collage

Fifth Floor, Booth 527

Here at Knit Collage, we create unique yarns to inspire your creativity and to get your needles humming!

After about seven months in the making, finally we releasing the Shakespeare in the Park pattern, here at Knit Collage. This design is a dramatic yet easy to knit colorwork sweater, designed by one of our most favorite designers, Park Williams. Check out the kits in our booth at Vogue Knitting Live! The pattern comes free with yarn purchase through VKL weekend only.

A selection of pastel yarn and buttons.

Little Fox Yarn

5th Floor, Booth 522

Aimee and Brian are the dyers of Little Fox Yarn, based just outside of Richmond, Virginia. Their beautiful, wearable colorways are inspired by the Blue Ridge Mountains where Aimee grew up.

We will have our usual favorites: Little Mo (lace), Vixen (fingering), Linea (sport), Bōsa and Vulpine (DK). We will also be introducing our new Bulky Base, Tod, and we will have new buttons and shawl pins (in wood, clay and antler) by Idlewild Pottery & Notions.

A selection of knitting patterns

mYak

Sixth Floor, Booths 1009-1013

A natural fiber unique in the world. Born in one of the world’s most extreme locations. Made with Italian artisanal quality. This is mYak: Born in Tibet, Crafted in Italy.

This year, we will bring our new Tibetan Cloud DK line as well as our Baby Yak with many new wonderful designs, kits and bundles.

We are thrilled to host Jonna and Sini of Laine magazine, Jennifer Steingass, Olga Buraya Kefelian, Kirsten Kapur, Thea Colman and Susanne Sommers at our booth throughout the weekend.

Portnerness, with her amazing line of jewelry, will joining us as a guest brand and for the first time we will bring an incredible selection of Temaricious embroidery and crafting floss, naturally dyed in Japan. We will also offer Laine magazine’s Knitting Journal and pins, and Indie Untangled Fiber Friends pins.

Bright yarn and two shawls.

Sweater Sisters

Fifth Floor, Booth 208

Sweater Sisters out of Alta, Wyoming offers kits, yarns hand-dyed in the Tetons and professional Landscape Dyes from Australia. They’re dedicated to offering luxury fibers to elevate your crafting experience.

Pictured are the Crystal Meadows Shawl and Ramalina by Susanne Visch.

A collage from TreLiz

TreLiz

Fifth Floor, Booth 111

TreLiz hand-dyed yarns are here to remind you that: Color is Power, Fiber is our Weapon.

Hands hold up pastel skeins of yarn.

The Wandering Flock

Sixth Floor, Booth 1101-1103

Drawing from my experience in fashion, I approach dyeing with a lot of intention, and focus on the final product your creations. While a skein of yarn is where my process ends, I think about what you will make with it. My hope is to create a line of yarn and classic, yet contemporary, knitwear patterns that will fit into your everyday wardrobe.

I will be presenting my line of yarn and patterns, including the Arete sweater I designed for Pom Pom Quarterly’s Winter 2019 issue.

A selection of blue and gold yarn.

Zen Yarn Garden

Sixth Floor, Booth 1006

Zen Yarn Garden’s dye studio is based is Ontario, Canada. Our yarn is special. We take pride in providing the most luxurious fibres and dyeing them in a range of beautiful semi-solid, splatter and one-of-a-kind colourways. 

Our booth will be filled with NY-themed colourways available exclusively at Vogue NY. We will also have hand-dyed, ready-to-wear scarves in our custom colours.

Food guide

When you find time to tear yourself away from the marketplace, or if you need sustenance between classes, here are a few of my favorite food recommendations in the Times Square area.

If you want…

A quick bite, head to City Kitchen, a gourmet food court with a selection that includes Luke’s Lobster and Dough donuts.

To relax with a pint, try Beer Culture, a cozy bar with a rotating selection of craft beers on tap and fridges filled with microbrews. They also serve wine and whiskey if beer’s not your thing, along with a menu of creative pub food.

Dinner with a small group of friends, I highly recommend The Marshal, a farm-to-table restaurant with a brick oven.

A bistro brunch, hit up BXL Cafe, a low-key place with great egg dishes and delicious Belgian waffles.

2019 Year In Review: Indie Untangled KAL

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A lilac sweater with a lacy yoke.

The 2019 Indie Untangled Rhinebeck Trunk Show seems like it was ages ago, and also like it was just yesterday. For the second time, we organized a massive KAL with eight separate categories, which brought in more than 200 entries! I thought it was appropriate to share the randomly-selected winners as part of a Year In Review post. Hopefully some of these FOs will inspire your 2020 projects.

Pictured above is KnitCosette’s Love Note by tincanknits, which was one of the winners in the sweater category.

Shawl

Hat

Cowl

Poncho

Cables

Socks

Mitts/mittens/gloves