What to stash this week: Join us for Indie Spotlight

An illustration of a bear wearing a teal sweater under spotlights.

For our next virtual event, Petrina and I decided to go back to the roots of IU and provide a platform for newer and super-indie yarntrepreneurs.

We’ll be showcasing nearly two dozen small businesses at Indie Spotlight, which runs from May 14-16!

Spotlight vendors launched their businesses in 2019 or later or have fewer than 10k Instagram followers. Register now for access to virtual vendor booths that will feature video introductions and tours, photo galleries, and access to special products and discounts. You’ll also be able to meet dyers and makers during interactive shopping sessions (if you miss any, they will be recorded) and schedule one-on-one shopping appointments, where you can get help choosing colorways and deciding on patterns.

There will also be snacks…

I hope you can join us!

Sunset over wetlands and skeins of pink, purple, gold and green speckled yarn.

Today’s the last day to preorder Kraeo’s Setting Sun colorway for Knitting Our National Parks, inspired by sunset at the Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, a peaceful place just a 45-minute drive from both Baltimore and Washington, DC. It’s available on Little Sister Fingering, a Superwash Merino single-ply fingering, and Mama Bear DK, a luxurious blend of 45% baby alpaca, 45% 19.5 Micron Merino and 10% silk.

Mini succulent charms.

Jillian’s recent love obsession with plants inspired these adorable succulent stitch markers now available in the WeeOnes shop, along with glow-in-the-dark aliens with a tiny spaceship and a set of knitting cats.

A long-haired woman in a wide-brim hat models a black and white colorwork sweater.

Who wouldn’t want to head off to Sheep Camp?! Dyer Meghan of Native Fibers, an Indie Spotlight vendor, is collaborating with designer Jennifer Berg of Native Knitter on the Sheep Camp Sweater KAL, which launches April 23.

Black mini skeins with pops of rainbow color.

Natalie of Fiberdog Fibers created her Rainbow Stars minis from raw Romney fleece that she washed, picked, carded, dyed and spun herself! Each set includes seven 20g minis.

Skeins of blue, orange, purple, green and yellow yarn.

Sharon of Garage Dyeworks also dyed up a different take on the rainbow. Be Yourself is now available on her 100% Superwash Merino. called Auto DK.

What to stash this week for your spring travels

A marshy area under a pink sunset, with pink, green and gold speckled yarn. Edit alt text

For the latest installment of Knitting Our National Parks, Kristin of KraeO, who has a background in painting, is bringing us along to Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, which is about a 40-minute drive from both Baltimore and Washington, DC. I can so appreciate this space that allows both wildlife and people to recharge, and photographer Ian Shive captured the kind of stunning sunset that would make any spot look magical.

Kristin’s Setting Sun colorway is available to preorder on Indie Untangled through Friday, April 16. She’s dyed it on two bases — Little Sister Fingering, a Superwash Merino single-ply fingering and Mama Bear DK, a luxurious blend of 45% baby alpaca, 45% Merino and 10% silk. The yarn will ship at the end of May. As always, 10% of sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation to help support these beautiful public lands.

Beaver charms with silver ring attachments with a green background.

Speaking of wildlife and springtime adventures, Jillian of WeeOnes is highlighting a few wild animal-inspired stitch markers. Her shop has a ton of creatures, including these cutie beavers, as well as robins and sea turtles. And this month’s surprise stitch marker theme is “babies,” so maybe… baby animals?!

Clear stitch markers with paper airplanes.

If your inner wanderlust is taking you a little further afield, bring these adorable stitch markers from Katy and the Katrinkles team along on your journey. There are only a dozen sets left in the shop!

A grey felt backpack with a black yarn ball.

If you don’t pack light (um, what yarn enthusiast does?) then you might need this bag that I’ve called The Woolpack. It was handcrafted by Rhinebeck-based maker Julia Hilrbrandt and features ample room for your projects and essentials, an inner and outer pocket and a screen-printed yarn ball surrounded by colorful felted dots. There are only a couple left in the world, so if you’re eyeing them, act fast.

What to stash this week: ‘Say Anything’ with color

Marian of Marianated Yarns is collaborating with designer Katy Carroll of Katinka Designs on a multicolored cowl kit to celebrate ’80s movie icon John Cusak.

Lighting strikes Devils Tower and purple and green yarn.

Today’s the last day to preorder Terri of AT Haynes House Yarns’ Knitting Our National Parks colorway, called I Got One Just Like It In My Living Room (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), inspired by Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and a certain ’70s movie. It’s available on her sock and DK-weight bases. As always, this yarn supports the National Park Foundation.

Stephanie of SpaceCadet has released her first design! The D’aeki Wrap is designed to show off SpaceCadet’s mini skeins or any other collection of colors, with a herringbone pattern that shifts the color flow along the length of the piece and uses the Join As You Go method (no seaming!).

The Little Red Dress KAL from Knitting Hope tells the story of Judy Fleischer Kolb, who was born in the Shanghai Ghetto after her family fled Nazi Germany in 1939, and her her little red dress, which she donated to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. The dress was turned into a knitting pattern by designer Melissa Shinsato.

Katherine of K. MacColl Bags now has bags for smaller projects, which are a combination of drawstring and bucket bags.

The Bad Lux Designs Romantisch collection has swoon-worthy colors available on Bulky, DK and Fingering weights.

These new WeeOnes penguin stitch markers are appropriate for these Arctic temperatures! They come with one Adélie, one macaroni penguin, one chinstrap and one emperor with it’s baby.

These magnetic shawl pins from Michele of MAB Elements celebrate the Pantone colors of the Year for 2021.

Selena of Sweater Sisters is partnering with Erica Heusser on a kit release for her new pattern, Varia Mitts. They feature a Fair Isle pattern depicting an owl settled in on a branch with the silvery background.

Heather of Pumpkins and Wool has five cake- and five cupcake-themed sock kits available for preorder.

Augusta of adKnits has new tool cases handcrafted in collaboration with Aria & Barre to hold hold double-pointed needles and stitch markers.

Amy’s Trinket Shop is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with stitch markers that feature various shades of green, gold and white beads.

Crista Jaeckel’s first shop update of 2021 features bright spring colors: pink and orange, mauve and purple, brown and teal, toffee and white and a bit of gold.

Gothfarm Yarn’s new pencil roving, called Cirrus, is made from a blend of Jacob and Shetland sheep wool and can be using for knitting, spinning and felting.

Sign-ups are open for Wild Hair Studio’s 2021 Dune-inspired Fiber Club.

Enjoy 30% off everything in the Garage Dyeworks shop through February 28 with the code BEMINE.

Dragon Thistle Fibers is having a shop update.

What to stash this weekend: add this to your playlist

A pink lacy sweater.

Mary Annarella’s latest release is the perfect ear worm and perfect sweater. Ruby Tuesday is knit from the top-down with a strand of sock yarn and mohair laceweight held together to create an elegant lace design (and no finishing!). Get 30% off through Monday with the code hanganameonyou.

Skeins of speckled yarn.

Speaking of songs, Kate of McMullin Fiber Co is celebrating V-day by opening preorders Sunday for her collection of Valentine’s colorways inspired by love ballads and breakup songs.

Join the third installment in the second season of Holly Dyeworks’ Great British Baking Show Yarn Club. Celebrate Pudding Week with a fingering-weight skein of Holly’s MCN yarn and a progress keeper from Little Bitty Delights.

Lighting strikes Devils Tower and purple and green yarn.

You have another week to preorder Terri at AT Haynes House Yarns’ Devils Tower- and Close Encounters of the Third Kind-inspired colorway on her sock and DK-weight bases. As always, this yarn supports the National Park Foundation.

Woolen and teal and pink hearts with the words Best Fiber Friend.

I’ve sent these fun accessories on to their new homes, and after a post office snafu I have tons of extras in the shop! Celebrate Galentine’s Day by giving a little love to your BFFs — best fiber friends. 

Skeins of gray and pink yarn.

Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks has listed 20 colors of her super soft Triton MCN DK in her shop, from earthy, rich tones to ethereal pinks and grays.

An aqua lacy triangle shawl.

Deb’s latest shawl design is called Arctic Ice, but it will keep you super warm! It’s also 25% off until February 28.

A cake box of brightly colored yarn balls.

Catch some fresh powder with Un Besito Fibers’ Rocking the Bunny Slope Snack Pack. Dana’s dozen 10g minis are inspired by a brightly colored ski jacket against the snow.

A silver shawl pin with a green stone on a cake of blue yarn.

Mark this weekend with the Crafty Flutterby Creations Colors of Love shawl pins, which celebrate romantic love, friendship, community and family. 

A basked of purple balls of yarn.

Eden Cottage Yarns has debuted Dusk, the newest color of their Milburn base, a blend of British Bluefaced Leicester and silk. 

The This Craft Or That March Color of the Month Club is based on St. Patrick’s Day. You’ll get a choice between fingering and DK.

Show your love of knitting with T-shirts from Ashleigh Wempe.

What to stash this week: Close-knit encounters

Lighting strikes Devils Tower and purple and green yarn.

When Terri of AT Haynes House Yarns chose the above photo, of a lightning storm at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, for her Knitting Our National Parks installment, I knew there was something familiar about it. Then when she sent me the photos of the yarn and told me the colorway name, I remembered its role in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Terri’s striking colorway, called I Got One Just Like It In My Living Room (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), is now available to preorder on Indie Untangled through February 19. You can order it on Bare Feet Sock and Community DK for your next close (knit) encounters. 

Skeins of pink and purple yarn.

Kate of McMullin Fiber Co is preparing for Valentine’s Day with a shop update full of new colorways and has opened just a few spots in her February Fiber Gallery Club, which will be inspired by the very cupid-day colors of John Singer Sargent’s painting Mrs. Hugh Hammersly.

Pink, green, blue and yellow conversation hearts with knitting instructions.

Jillian of WooOnes’ conversation heart stitch markers look good enough to eat, but they’re more appropriate for keeping track of your project’s instructions.

The Yarnover Truck’s Super Nerdy Yarn Club is once again open to new members until next Friday. This club, which includes yarn from Forbidden Fiber Co., takes inspiration from strong female nerdy characters across a variety of different fandoms. New members can also access previous club colors if they wish.

A fuchsia sweater with a bright green colorwork yoke.

You will be “constantly cozy” in Debra Gerhard’s latest sweater, which she knit up in Fully Spun’s colorful Postscript Aran yarn. This top-down oversized pullover has gentle waist shaping and Fair Isle patterning adorning the yoke and sleeves.

Skins of pink, purple speckled, green, beige and amber yarn.

Dawn of Fairy Tale Yarn Co has mini skein sets with a new twist: tweed! These tweedy DK-weight mini sets come with five minis — one tie-dyed, one speckle-dyed and three tonals — totaling 230 yards to add stripes of color to your next project.

A drawing of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Attention Buffy fans: Jilly & Kiddles has opened sign-ups for her Buffy the Vampire Slayer Mystery Yarn Club. This three-month club includes a skein of fingering weight yarn, a set of custom Buffy/Yarn-themed goodies by DKGraham and some other fun extras. Sign-ups close February 22.

A black, yellow and red striped shawl.

Erika of Liverpool Yarns has put together 100% Shetland wool yarn packs for Sarah Thornton’s Vaunt Shawl, featured in the Winter 2020 issue of Knitty.

Preorders are open for the Fiber Coven Full Moon Club, a witchy knitting kit from Lauren of Valkyrie Fibers and Emily of Kitty With A Cupcake themed to each month’s Full Moon for all of 2021.

Cream yarn with pops of red.

Monica of Gothfarm Yarn often uses alpaca fleece to add a pop of color to her natural yarns. Current blends include Arkose, a Cinnamon red alpaca and White Rambouillet Merino wool pictured above.

A pink robot stitch marker.

Amy has a line of Valentine’s trinkets up in her shop! Grab them and add some love to your knitting.

A box of colorful buttons.

Sandy of A Flame of Color creates designer buttons, closures and beads for fiber artists with copper and enamel.

Take a road trip with the Sedona Sunrise shawl from Ashleigh Wempe Designs.

What to stash this week: Peak yarn

A golden mountain reflected in a lake, and light blue yarn speckled with gold and purple.

For the latest installment of Knitting Our National Parks, Rachel of Six and Seven Fiber takes us to Grand Teton National Park, which I was lucky to visit in May of 2019 (which seems like ages ago). Her Jenny Lake colorway was inspired by the above photo taken by photographer Brian Johns.

This lightly speckled neutral is available to preorder on Indie Untangled through December 27 on three bases: Alfalfa, a luxurious 80/10/10 Superwash Merino/Cashmere/nylon heavy fingering-weight yarn, Amaranth, a toothy but soft non-Superwash Merino fingering (this one is my personal favorite) and Soybean, a non-Superwash Merino DK. Alfalfa would make amazing winter accessories, while the latter two are the perfect sweater yarns.

A woman holds a white fur pom-pom over a purple knit hat.

Speaking of non-Superwash yarns, designer Mary Annarella used Julie Asselin’s Nurtured yarn in the special Indie Untangled Leaf Pile colorway to design not just one but two new hats! The one above, with the zig zag purl pattern, is called Swipe Right (which means, in the world of Tinder dating, that you’re interested).

Mary’s other hat, called Take a Bough, has an elegant cable pattern reminiscent of pine trees and is a perfect match for the colorway, which is indeed like jumping into a leaf pile. The links above will take you to kits for the hat featuring this exclusive colorway, and they are discounted through Monday, December 14, no coupon code needed.

I also invite you to explore this incredible yarn further…

Skeins of gray, white, pink and gold yarn.

When I first learned about Julie Asselin’s Nurtured yarn — a rustic but soft blend of Rambouillet, Targhee and Merino that is hand dyed “in the wool” prior to being mill spun at Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont — it was love at first sight… through my computer monitor. Fortunately, when I finally got a chance to see it in person at a yarn festival, I was even more smitten — enough to ask Julie and her partner Jean-François to create a special colorway for Indie Untangled. 

Since we don’t have the ability to feel yarn in person at festivals, and I want everyone to discover the joy of knitting with Nurtured, I’m excited to collaborate with Julie and Jean-François on Nurtured Mini Boxes. These sets will allow you to try out this woolly Aran-weight yarn and see the incredible heathered colors in real life.

The boxes are available to preorder on Indie Untangled through January 8 and will ship in mid-March, allowing time for Julie and Jean-François to create mini skeins to order and for cross-border shipping.

Six knitted sweater designs on a diverse group of models.

I was so excited to see that Abbye and Selena of the design duo Wool & Pine, who I enjoyed learning more about during Indie Untangled Everywhere in October, had published their first pattern collection. I’m even more thrilled to be a stockist of this special new book! Featuring Wool & Pine’s first six garments, this softcover book is filled with beautiful images and size-inclusive patterns with written and charted directions. It also includes a digital download code and access to detailed video tutorials to help you knit your perfect sweater.

Blue and white speckled yarn.

The cold whether inspired Lanivendole’s Winter Mood palette, which will be available in Giulia and Stefania’s online shop today starting at 6 p.m. CET. There will also be limited edition handmade stitch markers from their friend Carla of @laboratorioindie.

A textured cowl in shades of blue.

Rebecca of WildWestDye, a natural dyer based in Canada, has lots of new kits uniquely dyed using indigo, including CabooseWay, a three-color, three-texture indigo kit launched with a new collection of worsted weight yarn.

A lacy gold shawl pin.

The Crafty Flutterby Creations seasonal Victorian Christmas Collection features shawl pins or vegan leather shawl cuffs with sophisticated lace designs. Michelle also has limited edition sparkly holiday end minders, which help keep your ends neat and tidy while you work. All orders placed by Monday will ship in time for Christmas within the U.S.

Multicolored skeins of yarn and faux fur pom-poms.

Megan of Megs & Co has curated a collection of hand-dyed hat kits to get you ready for the cold weather. Kits include a skein of Folk Song Aran paired with one skein of Head in the Clouds mohair and silk laceweight, plus a hand-stuffed faux fur pom-pom.

A teal textured hat.

Speaking of hats, all Softyarn Designs hat patterns are 25% off through Wednesday, December 16, with the code Hatknitting on Ravelry and Etsy. Lena’s Pebble Street Hat, pictured above, is a quick knit using Aran-weight yarn and a slip-stitch pattern.

Dragon Thistle Fibers has Merino/Angora in sets of four 50-gram skeins.

What to stash this week in addition to Indie Untangled Everywhere

A green to plum gradient yarn.

Scarlet of Huckleberry Knits is dyeing a second colorway for Knitting Our National Parks called Nostalgia, inspired by a fall photo of Acadia National Park.

“I grew up in Massachusetts, and the first national park I ever went to was the only one in New England, Acadia,” Scarlet says. “When I was a kid, our family vacations usually involved the seashore, but our trip to Acadia added in dramatic rocky outcrops and thick forests that seemed to spring forth from the ocean, unlike anything I’d seen before. Every autumn I miss New England, and Nostalgia reflects those rich colors that say ‘home’ to me.”⁣

Nostalgia will be dyed on Scarlet’s Gradient Fingering base, a blend of 75% Superwash Merino and 25% nylon with a generous 463 yards per skein. It’s available as a sock blank or wound into a center-pull cake. Preorder it on Indie Untangled through next week only.

A sewing machine illustration that reads #vote2020 and #warmtheline

Warm the Line is a grassroots effort of crafters encouraging those in our community to send hats, scarves and other warm items to voters waiting on long lines to vote in cold swing states. Along with contributing to this campaign with your craft, you can also buy an item — a T-shirt, sweatshirt, tote bag or hat — to commemorate the project with a hand-drawn logo by an emerging artist.

Bright yarn.

Shelby of Hardware City Yarn is a new indie dyer paying homage to the rich industrial history of her home city of New Britain, Connecticut.

Gold and teal yarn.

Heather of Pumpkins and Wool has gone plaid for fall! This means Colors like reds and browns, black and grays with shades of whites throughout.

Green, mint and cream yarn.

Over the last few weeks, Eden Cottage Yarns has had updates of: Rosedale 4ply, Pendle Chunky and Keld Fingering, and there’s more to come!

A collections of bags with sheep.

Crista is having a shop update this Sunday, October 18th at 8 p.m. EDT with many sizes and shapes of handmade project bags available.

Aqua and green flower stitch markers.

Amanda of Doodle Dew Designs makes these colorful stitch markers with a colorful, lightweight resin.

What to stash this week: Going to the Sun

A collage with a lake and pink and teal yarn.

Scarlet of Huckleberry Knits is helping us with the transition to fall through her stunning Knitting Our National Parks colorway. It’s called Going to the Sun after its inspiration photo of Lake McDonald, along Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, taken by Colorado-based photographer Mallory Wilson. This colorway will be dyed on Scarlet’s Willow sock base, 80% Superwash Blue-Faced Leicester and 20% nylon, with 420 yards per skein, and available to preorder on Indie Untangled through Sunday, October 18. 

A box with a photo of a yellow tote and straw hat.

Sara of La Cave à Laine is introducing Happy Knitting Boxes: four different boxes with a selection of handcrafted fiber accessories made in France or Europe, including hand-dyed or hand-printed project bags, stitch markers, wool soap and knitting patterns.

Green, purple and orange yarn.

Sarah of Superfine Yarn has been playing around with one-of-a-kind dye batches. If you fall in love with any of her experiments, be sure to use code FALL10 to get 10% off and free shipping.

Pale pink speckled yarn.

Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns had a shop update yesterday with Keld Fingering, a new-to-ECY blend of Superwash extrafine Merino with linen.

A hot pink cowl with a gray interior.

Marny’s Reversible Trellis Cowl is just what it sounds like, a fun accessory that can be made in any two colorways.

Red, blue and orange and black and purple yarn.

Kristen of KS Fiber Arts has a limited number of skeins of these colorways inspired by Jack Skellington and Ragdoll Sally of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Dark brown and green dyed yarn.

Annie Dot Creative’s Fantastic Socks yarn club is inspired by Newt Scamander and his magical creatures. There’s still time to join in the fun.

A brown knitted square with a circle of gray.

Who says un-dyed yarn has to be boring? Monica of Gothfarm Yarn has four color palette ideas to make striking knits.

What to stash this week: time flies

A rainbow of yarn above a book featuring Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Time has flown for Barbara of Spencer Hill Naturally Dyed Yarn, whose unique yarns are inspired by the authors or literary characters who inspire us. She’s about to celebrate 10 years in business. To mark the festivals and events where she’s gotten to meet many of her customers, she was planning to have an anniversary sale at her fall shows. Instead, she’s taking the sale online. Starting today and running through August 28, you’ll get 10% off every purchase in her shop and free shipping on purchases of $100 or more. 

A gnarled tree under stars and purple speckled yarn.

I’m extending preorders of Birch Hollow Fibers’ ethereal Stardust In Basin colorway through this Sunday. The yarn, available on Sylvia Sock and Phillis DK, is inspired by a photo taken by Eric Ritchie at Great Basin National Park in Nevada. 20% of sales will be donated equally to the National Park Foundation and the NDN COVID-19 Response Project (the NDN is an Indigenous-led organization dedicated to building Indigenous power).

A lightly speckled cabled cowl and lightly speckled yarn.

The other day, I was reminded of Mina Philipp of Knitting Expat Designs’ Roadwipping Cowl, designed for the 2019 Where We Knit Yarn Club with Rebecca of Fuse Fiber Studio. Sadly, Rebecca is no longer dyeing, but the May 2020 colorway from Shani of Bleu Poussière, created with natural dyes, would be perfect for this one-skein design. The yarn is available to preorder on Indie Untangled only through this Sunday.

A woman wearing a pink short sleeved cardigan.

Mary Annarella’s latest design pays homage to the cute cardigans worn by the character of Bernadette in The Big Bang Theory. You can get the fingering-weight pattern at 30% off on Ravelry or Payhip with the code “feelthebern” now through Sunday.

A bakery box with colorful yarn inside.

Sample Dana’s yarn with the Un Besito Snack Pack. The packs come with a dozen 10g yarn balls of Smooches Fingering Weight Merino/nylon yarn peeking through the window of a fun bakery box. Many of these sets are limited editions, so grab them while you can!

A pink to purple gradient lace scarf.

Robynn’s Concrete Jungle is a simple lace knit that will help keep away the upcoming small chill. It’s available for 20% off until Sunday on Ravelry and Payhip.

A closeup of gray rustic yarn.

Monica of Gothfarm Yarn is all about the gray, from a blend of Jacob Sheep wool and black mohair to Nebelung, a matte-steel blend of carbonized bamboo and Coopworth sheep locks.

Knit a tam from Sheepscot Harbor Yarns.

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.