Lisa’s List: 14 Trip Ideas for Yarnies
About this time each year, as I find myself abandoning pants altogether (the waistbands are just too tight) and worrying about my holiday spending (mostly the rounds I keep buying at the bar because “it’s so good to see you guys!!!!”), I flail and search for something inspiring to focus on. And it’s not the second sock for my best friend that I didn’t get to, I’ll tell you what.
This time of year, I like to plan my next trip. So to help distract you from your diet resolutions, your in-laws, and all those questionable new kitchen gadgets you received, here’s a list of 14 global destinations relevant to your yarnie interests—and all your interests as a living breathing wandering magical being. Go!
1. Asheville, North Carolina
An underrated gem of a fiber festival, SAFF occurs in late October in scenic and recreation-packed western North Carolina. I may be biased as a Carolina girl, but skip that northern fiber fest this year and check out SAFF and nearby Asheville, a fun beer and foodie town in the gorgeous Blue Ridge mountains, a stone’s throw from Great Smoky National Park.
2. New Zealand
There are more sheep per square mile here than there are people. After visiting the Hobbiton set, created for the filming of Lord of the Rings, visit Zealana on the North Island and learn about that OTHER essential New Zealand fiber—possum. Then head south and see where Ashford spinning wheels are made.
The birthplace of Aran sweaters, Clones lace, Waterford crystal, and Guinness! For a sampling of all the country’s handmade wonders and historic sites, sign up for a tour with Irish Tourism.
4. Loveland, Colorado
This idyllic little town an hour north of Denver was once a thriving railroad stop on the way to the Rocky Mountains, and in 1975 it was the birthplace of a small craft publishing company called Interweave. Come explore the yarn frontier at Interweave Yarn Fest in March 2017.
Located in remote and mountainous Central Asia, this former Soviet state sits along the historic route of the Silk Road, and is currently the site of a revitalized cashmere-raising industry, thanks in part to yarn company June Cashmere. Read their story here. Sy Belohlavek, who manages the company’s operations within Kyrgyzstan, is happy to help out travelers looking for tips and recommendations.
6. Harrisville, New Hampshire
Homebase for Harrisville Designs, a historic mill serving weavers and knitters, this little milltown in scenic New England has a rich history. In their words: “Woolen yarn has been spun in the water powered, brick mill town of Harrisville since 1794. This small village is nestled in the Monadnock Highlands of southwestern New Hampshire and is the only industrial community of the early 19th Century that still survives in America in its original form.” Go visit!
I visited Delhi and Jaipur in 2013 and it was the trip of a lifetime. What does this part of the world have to do with yarn? Well, hook and needle manufacturer Knitter’s Pride (LINK: http://www.knitterspride.com/) is based there, and they invited me to visit their country, their factory, and the school they founded in a remote village. India makes for an incredible trip—just pack extra needles because security within country is tight (they took my needles a couple times). For a guided fiber tour of India, sign up for a trip with Wild Fibers magazine and intrepid fiber-seeking adventurer Linda Cortright. She helped found the Cashmere Center in the Himalayas in 2015.
8. Yorkshire, England
Once a booming mill town, York and its surrounds are seeing renewed yarn manufacturing in recent years, and one lovable little yarn company serving knitters is based there—baa ram ewe. If you can’t make it to England this year, their Dovestone yarn features local British breeds Wensleydale and Masham and is to die for!
[see the bottom of this post for corrected information on Yorkshire]
9. South Africa
The world capital of mohair and birthplace of Be Sweet Yarns, which supports job-creation efforts in the country and produces gorgeous unique yarns, including a fabulous curly boucle mohair.
Leave the planning to the professionals and take a knitting cruise around Alaska! The Musk Ox and Glaciers trip is one of Craft Cruises’ most popular, and includes an optional visit to Denali! Check out the itinerary here.
Every hipster (ahem, knitter) worth her salt has to make a pilgrimage to Iceland. My dream trip? Combine a knitting itinerary with guided hikes in the wilderness. Helene Magnusson offers just that!
12. Buffalo, Wyoming
First of all, what name could be more American-sounding than Buffalo, Wyoming? And when it comes to yarn, this windswept spot on the northern plains is pretty cool—it is the home of Mountain Meadow Wool, a family-owned mill supporting local ranchers, making awesome yarns, and putting domestic wool back on the map. They welcome visitors and people rave about the tours. Check them out here. Buffalo is east of Yellowstone on I-90, so hellllo summer roadtrip.
13. Madison, Wisconsin
Home to the world’s largest knitting guild, lovely yarn shops, great breweries, and some of the nicest people I’ve met in my travels, this is a winning little city that deserves a visit. And a drive through the surrounding countryside, it’s beautiful and barn-flecked. Check out nearby Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mills.
I’ve been eyeing organized trips to Patagonia for the past few weeks, considering my 2017 travel options. You can spend a few nights in Buenos Aires and then head into that incredible wilderness at the bottom of the world, known for its glaciers and peaks and penguins and miles and miles of supreme hiking…and for its merino sheep. Woolfolk, a fledgling yarn company seeing big gains in 2016, sources its Ovis 21 Ultimate Merino in Patagonia. I gifted my mom some of this yarn for Christmas, and she hasn’t stopped petting it yet.
There are so many amazing yarn destinations in the world—places such as Peru, Scandinavia, Italy, Uruguay, Turkey, Scotland, Australia, and more. Where would you like to go? And where have you been that others should know about?
As a new year descends and a new political era begins, remember this: it is a small world, especially for knitters. Reach out, connect, explore, and shop thoughtfully—your yarn and your needles come from somewhere on this little planet. Make a point to go find one of those sources in 2017, even if it’s around the corner. It could be the trip of a lifetime.
We ran an article about Yorkshire, England in Interweave Knits Fall 2015, and I was pulling from my notes on that piece when I wrote my Lisa’s List, so I apologize that the Yorkshire entry is not more precise! According to the research we did for this article and the sources we talked to, the Yorkshire area was known for textile and yarn manufacturing in the early 20th century, but that waned in the latter half of the 20th century.
Two firms still producing yarn there are West Yorkshire Spinners and Laxtons, each of whom contribute to the production of baa ram ewe’s yarn Dovestone DK. baa ram ewe is both a yarn brand and a yarn shop, both based in Yorkshire. The retail shop is located in the town of Leeds. West Yorkshire not only processes yarns for other brands, but also has their own eponymous line.
I misleadingly credited the city of York, which is the capital of Yorkshire, as the epicenter of historic textile manufacturing there, calling it a “once-booming milltown” in my blog post. It is more accurate to say the area has a history of textile manufacturing that evolved in the 20th century, and there are still mills producing yarn there today.
Download Interweave Knits Fall 2015 to read the whole feature article about Yorkshire and the knitting community there, including some of the companies mentioned here.