I spent many months rambling the hillsides of New Zealand while studying abroad there for a year in 2007. Most Americans associate two things with New Zealand, as the place where The Lord of the Rings was filmed and there are lots of sheep. I also knew about New Zealand because my parents had honeymooned there, and I grew up sitting on various sheepskins they had brought back with them. Also, Xena was filmed there too. For me New Zealand was a place I had dreamed of and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to live in the land of sheep.
Exploring the town square of Palmerston North where I lived was much fun and although I don’t remember the exact moment I laid eyes on the yarn shop, I remember the place itself very well. It was full of yarns I had never known and I was enthralled. The kind ladies of the shop asked if I needed directions to somewhere else, as I guess I didn’t fit their bill as a knitter, but I assured them that there was no where else I would have rather been. Possum yarn! Possum and merino yarn! Egads! This was too excellent! I bought some immediately to send to my knitting friends at home. My friends were as astonished with the possum yarn as I was and thanked me for sending them New Zealand yarns. In return they asked if I would like any yarn sent to me. I requested and was granted some lovely black alpaca yarn with a touch so soft and supple it slipped through my fingers. I held onto the yarn for a while because I knew it deserved to be something special.
New Zealand is a largely agricultural country and indeed is covered in sheep. One weekend my college buddies and I heard of an agricultural fair, with livestock showings and carnival rides and horse shows. It sounded like it would be a very Kiwi day and all of us wanted to go. When we walked into the warehouse where the livestock were being shown I squeeled with excitement because, dear readers, we came on the day when the alpaca were being judged. I had never met an alpaca before and I simply loved them. I was so excited I didn’t know what to do with myself. I’m sure I embarrassed my friends. There was even a mother alpaca and her two little babies. I think I died from the cuteness. And then I saw that around on the edges of the room were booths with different things like hoof clippers and pig slop bins. I started walking around and found the booth I was looking for, a spinner with her yarns. I bought hank of gray merino wool hand spun with a light blue dyed alpaca. I have no idea how much was in the hank, but it was enough for a scarf and maybe a hat. I loved this yarn. It was so airy and soft and it sang in my hands. The blue and gray melded together really well. I’m really glad I bought it.
So these two yarns, the black alpaca and the blue/gray handspun whirled around in my stash for some time not really coming together. I contemplated making them into things, a blue scarf, or a black hat, but never really settled. And then I saw Keirn’s pattern. It is a lace pattern inspired by New Zealand’s braided rivers. These rivers are wide and often branch out around things before converging together again. Imagine an island, that is the diamond shape in the middle of the pattern. Then imagine the river flowing around that island, and that is the four streams of color running along either side of the diamond. So as the diamond tapers inward or outward, so do the color strands travel. I had the idea to knit this pattern with my black alpaca to mirror the black sand beaches made of the lava that created much of New Zealand and the blue/gray handspun for my river.
By the time I had found this pattern I had already returned home to California, and I missed the quiet calm of the countryside. This pairing of yarns and pattern just felt so right and helped me get through some of my homesick feelings for New Zealand. I had done two color work before, but not two color lace inspired work. The pattern was well written, and even though I never quite memorized the repeats, I was able to knit in meetings.
The colors in the handspun still make my heart skip a beat. The subtle changes in the handspun from greater amounts of gray to greater amounts of blue make the river look even more like it is rippling across the fabric. Even though I finished this scarf in the middle of summer, when I couldn’t really wear it, I am looking forward to the colder months with great anticipation. I can’t wait to wear my new scarf and to tell anyone that asks about the memories that are knit into it.