Happy flying, mountains, and qivuit

Way above the cloudsHere’s the thing: I know I don’t travel well. I always overpack. My penchant for shopping means that my suitcase will be overweight on the way home (it was, by 19 pounds). And I hate, hate, hate flying (to put it mildly).

Some things, like the whole overpacking deal, will change when I start bringing a second, empty suitcase on every trip…or a suitcase just for my shoes. Other things, I deal with. The Happy Flying Pills worked wonderfully, and I was a happy-little panic-free traveler the whole time. Other things, however, there’s just no avoiding. I made a big show of drinking orange juice and choking down Airborne before I left, but it wasn’t meant to be. The airport gods had other plans for me.

The 10.5 hours travel time on the way out turned into 18 hours (thank you Northwest Airlines, that communications collapse in Tennessee, and runway construction in Minneapolis). By about hour 8, it became clear that this little sniffle that had cropped up was more like a raging sinus infection.

By the time I reached my final destination, I thought my head…and notably my left A beautiful sighteardrum…had in fact exploded. I was part right, actually, and I was miserable. Getting into a hotel never felt so good, and hotel food never tasted so good. When my room-serviced chicken noodle soup showed up, I damn near cried. It was so beautiful.

Day 1 in Anchorage was supposed to be Weaselmomma’s Alaskan Excursion Day. Didn’t work out that way. Instead, it became Find a Doctor Covered by Your Insurance Day (thank you Emily from the insurance company!!!!) and Take Multiple Expensive Taxies To the Hospital and Pharmacy Day, followed closely by Go Away Housekeeping I’m Sacking in this Hotel Room Day. A ruptured eardrum and a sinus infection kinda ruin plans.

By Day 3, I emerged from my typhoid-laced room and began to function normally. Plus, the conference began. I registered and got waitlisted for the seminar on Hatcher Pass that I really, really wanted to go on. My week was crashing down around me. I won’t lie; the I-wanna-go-home manifested more than once.

The Chugach Mountains, as experienced from Hatcher PassBut the in-house sessions were great. And the wait list opened up and I got to go to Hatcher Pass. And I was feeling better! And I got to try some Alaskan salmon (one-word: Awesome). And it actually turned into a really great trip, despite the rocky start.

And while there weren’t any excursions to knitting shops due to the destruction of Day 1 and 2 plans, I did manage to get to the Oomingmak, which was well-worth the visit.

The Oomingmak is a cooperative that works with a musk ox farm in Palmer, about an The Oomingmak in Anchoragehour outside of Anchorage, to collect qivuit, the soft undercoat that the oxen shed once per year. The co-op has the qivuit spun and the yarn is given to native women across the interior and on the islands…in the tribal areas. The women, in turn, knit absolutely beautiful lace scarves, stoles, and snoods, and knit Fair Isle hats. Each tribe has its own patterns, and the money raised from selling the knit goods goes to the knitters and back into the co-op.

At the Oomingmak in Anchorage, tribal members bring or send their finished pieces to be washed and blocked and offered for sale. Like many buildings in Anchorage, the Oomingmak is covered in murals and flowers. (Anchorage is known as the “City of Flowers” and is just gorgeous in the summertime; while most were gone when I got there, the Oomingmak was still covered in flowers. Also, 1 percent of every public construction budget must be used for art….so there’s art everywhere in the city, especially some incredible building-side murals.)

A blocking qivuit stole

Inside the Oomingmak are the blocking boards, many of which are occupied, bowls of raw qivuit fiber to fondle, and descriptions of the different regional patterns.  The Oomingmak only sells the finished pieces, not the fiber.

I never made it to the Palmer  co-op farm, but a number of other private entities farm qivuit in Alaska as well, like the commercial Windy Valley which is also in the Matanuska River Valley in Palmer.

Qivuit, among the rarer fibers, has a reputation for being non-irritating to the skin, so of course I was eager to see if was the cure to my forced animal-fiber avoidance. No dice. While I didn’t find the qivuit as itchy as alpaca or merino around my neck, there was the definite feeling of little needles jabbing into my skin. A hat, though, might work for me. No neckwear, however; but I can see where many people would probably have no problem wearing qivuit.

Qivuit hats at the Oomingmak

And it is a very, very pretty fiber all knitted up.

While I didn’t make it to any Alaskan yarn shops, I did manage to get a bit of knitting done myself. Plane rides are good for that, as are days laid-up in a hotel room a few thousand miles from home with a TV and little else.

My original hope was to have this pair of Corazon done before I made it to Hatcher Pass….mostly because I forgot to pack gloves. That didn’t happen though, and I actually finished them on the flight home last night.

Black and blue all overFamiliar color scheme? Looks a bit like Fake Isle? Well, the same SWS and Red Heart Soft made it all the way to Alaska and back, and turned into a cute pair of mittens on the way.

I like these a lot, and all the stranding made them very warm, but I think they’re destined for gift-dom. Sweetie already teases me about the sheer number of knit gloves and mitts that clog up my car, and another pair probably isn’t warranted. They need a good washing and blocking first, but some lucky holiday gift receiver will get these babies. I dug the pattern, too. I knit the smallest size on US5 dpns for mitts that fit really well. Nice charts, and I like afterthought thumbs anyway. Solid pattern, and great for the plane.

So, while the trip wasn’t all great, it wasn’t all bad either. Alaska is a beautiful place…

Cook Inlet and Mount Susinita

…but it’s always great to come home to the ones who miss you most…

Madori, happy that Momma is home