Sunday, 26 March 2017

Yarn World in Lower Manhattan

Last week I had the exquisite pleasure of spending  a couple of days walking around Greenwich Village and Lower Manhattan. This was to be just a visit and had nothing to do with knitting, fibre, yarn, design, and was indeed to be a break from my busy work life. It wasn't until I returned and was unpacking that I realized to what extent knitting has become part of my DNA, how its effect on me is a reflex rather than a choice.

First I had made sure to pack my latest WIP, the  Groovy Shawl (see it now on display at KnitTraders) to keep my hands busy during the train ride from Syracuse. But before we left I had to pick up some reading material; I was looking for a more general magazine but was thrilled with Vogue Knitting devoting much of this latest edition to Canada, particularly highlighting Canadian knitting gurus: The Yarn Harlot and Lucy Neatby. There is also a large section on the Cowichan Sweaters of the West Coast and Jerimina Robertson Colvin whose friendship with the Coast Salish knitters fostered the development of the style and beauty of these sweaters.

Next morning, after a first superb New York coffee and pastry, we set out to walk around the neighbourhood where we were staying. Within a half hour we came across these random examples of knitting/fibre art on display.
This cutie is a giant billboard obviously left over from the Women's March last January when so many women around the world joined, wearing their "Pussy Hats" of bright pink, to speak up for those who were not being heard.

Then a few blocks later we came upon this window display of intertwined giant I-cord, each strand of which would have been about 8 inches in circumference. It was eye catching to be sure, but I really couldn't figure out why it held such a place of prominence in the display window of an upscale Manhattan boutique. Beauty and design say much more than we can gauge at first view, I guess.

No trip to NYC would be complete without a visit to the Strand Bookstore, which boasts 18 miles of books on display. One of my goals for these days in Greenwich Village was to check out some of the places that my heroine, Patti Smith, haunted and wrote of at different points in her life. The one book of hers that the Strand had in stock that I didn't already own was a small book of poetry called Woolgathering. This book has several editions but I loved the one that I got, which features this lovely reproduction of Jean-Francois Millet's Sherperdess with Her Flock. The poems and writing in this book are neither about sheep nor the knitting shepherdess, but about the other meaning of "woolgathering" - indulging oneself with time for daydreaming. I love Patti Smith's writing, no matter what the subject.

Later on in the day, I made it to Purl SOHO. It would feel downright ridiculous to be in the neighbourhood and not to make a point of dropping in to one of North America's most recognized yarn stores and have a chat and a look. I was very happy to get this copy of the Knitted Cable Sourcebook by Norah Gaughan. It's in reprint in Canada and we are eagerly awaiting its arrival. Meanwhile, we now have a store copy that I can share with those who have been asking for it.

I was a bit rushed for time, and the store was quite busy so I promised myself a walk back the next day to look around more thoroughly. Unfortunately the next day was March 14th, the day of Winter Storm Stella. Severe blizzard warnings for the entire eastern seaboard meant closed schools, transportation lines, and unfortunately, Purl SOHO. Oh well, a good excuse to go back another time. 

It really was a shock to realize to what extent I find myself instinctively drawn to that which guide my working life. Are nurses on holiday looking up medical museums? Do lawyers pick up copies of a Law Review for light reading away from the office? Do woodworkers bring along their latest work in progress when getting away from it all?  I'm not complaining. I'm just a bit surprised to realize how the themes of my working life feel so comforting that they are both what enthuse me and bring me rest and relaxation. What more can one ask of life?

"Let your dreams bind your work to your play". 
Bob Franke.