Herefordshire is a pretty, muddy, green English county snuggled up against the edge of Wales, its lush hills gazing at the neighbouring Welsh mountains. My parents live there in peace, tidyness, and rural tranquility, or at least they do until my battered old car screeches to a halt in their driveway, instantly wiping £10 000 off local house prices until we leave again. The car engine is switched off or possibly stalls, and out stagger the Toddler Twinnage, hungry and over-tired after the tedious drive from Oxfordshire. I follow them, struggling under the sacks of yarn I’ve brought with me because we’re here for five whole days, and obviously the very first thing that needs to be unpacked from the car is the yarn. You understand that, right? Right? My parents smile with remarkable tolerance as we burst through their front door and donate clods of fresh Oxfordshire mud to their floor.
It’s beautiful here.
Herefordshire is known for its production of apples (and cider), potatoes, and – in my mind at least – for its complete and utter lack of arctic musk ox. Being in the mood to knit some qiviut, I had to bring my own musk ox tummy-fluff. I’ve been a bit quiet about the pure qiviut lately, because having exhausted my precious 29g skein, I had to wait for more to arrive from the frozen wilds of Northern Canada. Let’s just pretend that I waited with the dignified patience you’d expect of a grown woman, OK? Anyway it’s here now, I’ve stopped squealing, and the adventure in some of the world’s softest, warmest yarn begins again.
I knew already about how qiviut yarn starts soft and, after handling and washing, becomes so soft that it approaches downright heavenly. Well it’s true. Even across the rounds of knitting in the photo above, you can see perhaps the degree of floaty softness that the early stitches have achieved, whilst the recent rounds still look a little more like yarn. BUT, part of the reason for the progression you can see above is because pure qiviut yarn, though gorgeous, is a tad fond of knotting itself and attaching to itself at every available opportunity, and I have spent so many hours unknotting the beast that this yarn has had a lot of handling already. Let me say that again: a lot. But at least the knitting is soft.
Makes me wonder how tricky it is for the musk ox to keep his/her tummy-fluff smooth and combed, because given the notorious grumpiness of these beasts, I don’t imagine anyone else is going to do it for them. Knitting with qiviut really is like knitting
slightly knotty gossamer threads formed by angels. And I thank my father-in-law, the Gregarious Grandfather, for giving me the chance to do this, just once in my otherwise ordinary life.
Anyway, enough about the qiviut for now.
Every family has its little quirks and traditions, and ours is no exception. My parents, for example, have this eccentric tradition that knitting must occasionally be put down in favour of activities like chatting to each other and going for walks in the glorious winter sunshine. (I know, I know: do try not to judge.) It is properly lovely round here, though, and we found snowdrops – the very first flowers of the year, hinting at spring’s approach:-
And deep amongst the weeds of my parents’ wildlife pond, we discovered this rather beautiful smooth newt. Isn’t he gorgeous, if a little disgruntled at being disturbed? Unfortunately you can’t see his violently orange belly in this photo. I spent hours and hours of my childhood poking about in ponds and streams, seeing what critters I could find, damming the polluted tiny stream at the bottom of the garden, and even constructing complex graphs of water temperature gradients in my parents’ pond. (We always had a pond, at all the houses we passed through.) Looook:-
But back to the subject of yarn. Stylecraft Special DK in fact – that colourful stash-staple of knitters and crocheters everywhere. I’m whispering this because it’s a teeny bit top-secret for a few more days so I can’t reveal details, but the folks at Stylecraft are teaming up with the souls at Let’s Knit magazine, and there’s going to be an especially cool competition. Seriously, people: look out for it. And the reason I’m telling you this now is because I – as well as Lucy from Attic24 – are involved in this competition in a way that promises to be rather stupendously fun. Watch this space, and get ready to try and win a humungous prize.