Spinning to see the world

These symbols painted on a wall told me I'd arrived at the textile destination I sought: the silk factory.

Using this low-tech equipment, workers reel silk from cocoons.

The spinners, knitters, and weavers of the Andes come to life in the first issue of SpinKnit, now available on DVD.

Traveling for textiles

Spinning and knitting change the way we travel.

I don't just mean packing a knitting project for long car trips or a spindle and fiber in your bag. I mean the truly amazing locations to which spinning and knitting can take us.

I did have a sock on bamboo needles as I traveled in the very back of the bus from Shanghai to Wuzhen, China, but the bus was so cramped that I didn't pull it out. Instead I consulted my itinerary and looked at the one Mandarin character I'd been sure to copy down: the one for silk.

By this point in my trip, I'd learned about six words in Mandarin. I'd also burst excitedly into a yarn store on the busy shopping street Nanjing Lu, pulled out my sock-in-progress, and showed the gathered knitters and staff. (They were nonplussed, as though I had burst in and demonstrated that I, too, drink water.) It was through luck and the kindness of strangers that I found the bus to Wuzhen, purchased the last seat available, and eventually arrived in the water town by means of a bicycle rickshaw.

Wuzhen is a lovely town, but I only had eyes for the silk factory, brocade factory, and the lengths of indigo-dyed calico hanging outside the dye workshop. I spent hours watching the workers process the silk and weave it into extraordinary tapestries. The Winter 2011 issue of SpinKnit shares videos and images of the silk workers, which I found captivating.

A few days later, I made my way to Suzhou, famous for its silk factories and museum. The traveler's luck that carried me through the rest of China faltered in Suzhou; with an inadequate map, I missed the silk museum by an hour and a mile. Instead, I walked along the city's canals and stumbled into a yarn shop. Unable to read the labels, I chose a dark teal skein of laceweight yarn and carried it to the counter, where I proceeded to draw a sheep on a scrap of paper and baa at the clerk. Between my poor drawing skills and apparent insanity, it took her a minute to confirm that it was indeed wool. My Chinese souvenir yarn is currently awaiting a project.

Visit the World of Fiber

In our first three issues, SpinKnit has taken you to amazing fiber, spinning, knitting, and other textile destinations around the world. The first issue, now available on DVD, brings spinning and weaving in the Peruvian highlands up close and personal, with video of indigenous spindle spinners and shepherds at work. The Fall 2011 issue visits Chiapas, Mexico; North Ronaldsay, Great Britain; and Forks, Washington. Get a taste of textile travels from these eMags—or let them whet your appetite for your own fiber journeys.


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