A Yarn Well Traveled

A knitting style travel adventure.

Flashback to 1999. I’ve just graduated from college. I’m spending the summer living in Oaxaca, Mexico with my friend Ginny. We’re both young, on fire, and generally out to save the world. Literally. Like we really think we can do it.

And we knit. Yet somehow we have ended up in Mexico without yarn with which to knit. Poor planning, being young and impulsive and all that.

We’ve traipsed the cobbled streets of Oaxaca searching for a LYS that offers WOOL yarn, but all we can find are shops that sell bags and bags and bags of acrylic yarn.  We’d wander in, wipe our brow (it’s hot!), politely and hopefully inquire for hilo de lana in our very best Spanish, and then try to hide our surprise and disappointment when the shopkeeper would kindly explain she didn’t sell any wool yarn…would we like acrylic yarn?

I guess natural fibers hadn’t yet caught on in Mexico. Perhaps by now, it’s all the rage. I would be curious to know.

At some point we give up trying to find a shop that sells wool yarn, and we hatch a new plan altogether.

We know of a village just outside of Oaxaca called Teotitlan that is famous for weaving rugs. I don’t remember how we knew (oh, how I don’t remember so many things from way back then), but we knew. So we hop on a bus, transfer to another bus, and then, miraculously hop off on the side of the highway near a sign pointing to our destination, several kilometers away.

We are in the middle of nowhere. We start walking. For miles. Did I already mention it was hot? At some point, we may have caught another bus or hitchhiked or something…I’m not quite sure. I just remember a long walk without shade. Two white ladies walking down the desolate road toward the indigenous village.

Of course.

Eventually, we made it. So proud of ourselves. We ventured from rug shop to shop and eventually found a few that would sell just the yarn. Everyone else wanted us to buy the whole rug. But we didn’t want any rugs…Just the yarn. Lovely, wool yarn. Great colors. A little itchy, but at the time, I paid no notice to texture. I was just so pleased with myself for having trekked to a village in the middle of nowhere to finally, at long last, procure actual wool yarn in Oaxaca, Mexico.

I must have bought half a dozen large skeins that day. Mostly a vibrant red and some hues of blue. I don’t recall the cost. I doubt it was much.

We reversed our journey home. In the heat. And started knitting.

All these years later, I still have much of this yarn I my stash. At one point, some of the red became a sweater I made up on the fly without having a pattern. I started it that very summer. It was the first sweater I’d knit. As you might imagine, it didn’t turn out very well. My grandma was kind enough to seam it for me anyway.

In the time that has passed, I have become more selective about my wool. I don’t like it itchy. And golly, that Oaxaca yarn itches. There’s even bits of sticks and hay in the mix. It’s rough stuff. But I can’t part with it. I remember that day, and that summer…being young, full of promise, nothing could stand in my way.

I’ve taken to knitting with the Oaxaca yarn of late. Mostly bags and pouches. A sack for my circular needles. Nothing to wear. All the same, it seems better to finally knit up what remains of that adventure than allow it to continue to lie in wait in the hall closet, wound in balls for sixteen years.

I look forward to some future day when I can embark on a new travel adventure in search of yarn in some remote village in a far off land. Until then, I knit happily at home.

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