When you live in a place that only has a few sparse hours of daylight during the fall and winter months, it is only natural to pick up an indoor hobby or two. For people in Alaska, these activities vary from the intensely practical to the sublimely creative. Sometimes one activity encompasses both intentions: knitting!
While in Ketchikan, I visited two local yarn stores (both with the same owner) to see what type of local/regional wares I could find. I had of course heard about qiviut (pronounced kiv-ee-yut), a musk ox fiber, and was interested to feel some for myself. As Wikipedia says, ” Qiviut is stronger and eight times warmer than sheep’s wool, and softer than cashmere or vicuña wool.” That would explain its high price tag! Looking at the beastly musk ox, I couldn’t help but wonder: how in the world could that be soft?
photo courtesy of Lexic.us
As the owner of the Forget-Me-Not sweater shop told me, the desirable fiber comes from the undercoat which is shed naturally each spring. She had knitwear from different native villages made from qiviut and explained that each village has its own lace pattern. You could tell precisely where a lacy scarf had come from just by looking at the lace motif! I love that idea.
Anyway, back to the LYS experience. The first location I chose to visit was Mission Street Arts & Fibers. This is part yarn shop, part gallery, and all fun. I think they have the best selection of sock yarn and Noro that I have ever seen, all arranged impeccably. The manager is an effusive woman named Nancy, who was immediately friendly and interested in what I knit. She showed me everything she had on the needles (a lizard-ridge-inspired sock and a Kauni sweater are sticking in my mind), and then set to telling me about the local yarn. There was qiviut, of course, as well as a few yarns spun and/or dyed in Canada. She told me that in order to find a truly locally dyed yarn I would have to visit the other location. Twist my arm, why don’t you?
So I headed over to The Bead & Yarn Shoppe to scope out the local sock yarn. As the name promises, this store had a beautiful array of both beads and yarn. And the knitting accessories were insane at both locations: Lantern Moon, Addi turbo, Fiber Trends, and more. Truly the good stuff.
The locally dyed sock yarn did not disappoint. It is called Pink Carrot Creations and is dyed by a Ketchikan woman named Cheryll. There were a variety of intense, saturated colors of superwash merino to choose from. I was drawn to an almost neon combination of yellow, orange, and fuscia, but in the end decided to go with something more representative of Alaska.
Do those colors remind you of anything? Besides Christmas, I mean. Here, maybe this will help:
There were innumerable temptations for me at both yarn shops, not to mention a new curiosity about beading and making my own stitch markers. But in the end I decided that one skein of sock yarn, one delicious, vacation-themed skein of sock yarn, was enough. I know that when the time comes to make a pair of socks with it I will be reminded of this trip, of time spent with my family, and of reconnecting with my past. And that is priceless.