Day #10 of self-isolation, but it feels like a month since I got back from my trip. It’s mind blowing how quickly things have changed from just a few weeks ago. If my trip had been scheduled just a few days later, I wouldn’t have gone. Like all my recent posts, I hope they don’t seem too strained in the frivolity of their subject matter. Maybe it’s a strange time to reflect on a vacation, but considering how much that vacation was about connection, this is really the perfect time to remember it.
Tuesday, March 10th
Tuesday was a travel day. I said goodbye to my hubby and kidlets, I had quiet flights, I had a four-hour layover in Winnipeg during which I edited my vlog. It was completely bizarre to hear my own thoughts for such a long stretch of time together.
Rachel picked me up from the Vancouver airport that evening. We had a nice hour in the car to get to know each other in person. I always forget that about being down south: all the car time! We had plenty of that, and it made for lots of great time to connect and discuss all our many ideas.
Wednesday, March 11th
Wednesday is the regular livestream day for Wool n’ Spinning, and Rachel had invited me to join her. It was amazing to see her studio from the other side; I felt very much like Alice, having stepped through a looking glass. I’ve only dabbled in podcasting myself – I don’t even have a functioning tripod at the moment – but I’ve done enough to have enormous respect for anyone who does this professionally. It takes a lot of work to do well.
The podcast was tons of fun, and you can watch the whole thing here.
Thursday, March 12
Thursday was our big outing day. It’s worth mentioning here that we had completely gorgeous weather during the entire trip. It was colder than usual, but a lot sunnier than usual. I didn’t mind the cold, of course, and the sun was delicious. There were cherry blossoms! Magnolias! Daffodils! Heather!
Our main stop was to Granville Island, which is not really an island, but is an artsy district of the city of Vancouver. There we met our friend Greta at the Public Market and enjoyed the view across the river.
Rachel and Greta took me to the supply store location of Maiwa, a fiber arts studio that specializes in natural dyes. I had to take a picture of the wall of gorgeous dyes that they have ready to go. I drooled a little.
Natural dyeing is more in my past than my present, so I resisted the dyestuffs, but I did go home with some lovely organic cotton napkins, which I hope to dye with avocado pits. Of course, we’d have to stop using them first. They also had some proper shibori thread, and since I’m all over the shibori stitching on my jeans, I had to snag some of that.
The other Granville Island destination was the Silk Weaving Studio. Apparently, this place is responsible for Rachel’s original inspiration to weave, and she’s responsible for my inspiration to weave, so you could call that a connection! You can see a 12-shaft louet loom peeking up behind that display of colorful silk scarves.
They had finished products for sale, but my favorite part was all the raw silk materials. I knew there were some types of silk, but there are far more than I realized. I found a sampler of different silks I can explore when we get to silk in the 51 Yarns Spin-Along.
Our last stop was up in Kitsilano, a different part of the city, where Greta’s husband Pedro runs a tea bar called o-five. I already wrote a little bit about this place, but man. It impressed my socks off. The other day I finally brewed a pot of the lovely Workhorse tea Pedro shared with me. It’s been keeping me going for the last couple of days.
It was a really special day. As Rachel and I were reflecting later, it was the last carefree day we had before things really hit the fan.
Rachel is a critical care nurse, and gets lots of emails when shifts are available or newsy things happen. She was out of touch while we were in the city, but soon after we got home, she realized things were serious just from the tone of the emails. When Thursday began, we thought this whole COVID 19 thing would blow over, that it was probably just a media circus. We parted with Greta saying, “See you Saturday!” By that night, we had the news that Fibres West was canceled.
Friday, March 13th
I was getting a cold by this point – just a cold, mind you – so it was a mercy to me to have a quiet morning. We needed the time to process what had happened. Looking back, we were adjusting to taking the whole thing seriously, to keeping up with the news, with hearing more hour by hour and day by days what the consequences and fallout would be.
But we were determined to stay positive. Rachel messaged one of her friends, Lynne, of West Coast Colour, to ask if we could visit while she was still in town. She was staying at a mutual friend’s house for the weekend. Lynne and her friend, Ann, decided together to have a pop-up sale at Ann’s house.
It was a treat to see Lynne’s colours in person. Rachel fell for some Pantone-blue Falkland, which she has already spun up (of course!) and I couldn’t resist a few BFL tops. Lynne’s earthy tones and random dyeing make for such nice spinning. She’s also a really fab human being, a former nurse herself, and it was very cool to get to know her a little bit.
Saturday, March 14th
Saturday we took another quiet morning. I finally remembered to give Rachel her gift – a belt woven at the Uqqurmiut Centre for Arts and Crafts in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, just north of where we used to live in Iqaluit. I couldn’t resist it when I saw one that was all the colors of the last color study! Katrina got one too; it’s the sort of thing that could be a belt or camera strap or purse strap.
That afternoon, we headed out to our friend Katrina‘s house.
Did I mention that the weather was beautiful? The amazing thing about driving around in the greater Vancouver area is that there are always beautiful mountains in the distance, at least if it’s a clear day.
I totally failed to take any pictures at Katrina’s house. Most of what we did was visit – process the loss of Fibres West, talk about what’s next, and knit. Katrina made us cheese biscuits. The visual highlight, of course, was shopping Katrina’s basement. There were bins and bins and bins of fiber and yarn that had been all set up for the festival – no lie, it was heartbreaking to see all that work that wouldn’t be shared, at least not for a while. Katrina let me paw through them, and despite the circumstances, I was a pig in mud. Absent other photographic record, I’ll show you, ahem, some of what I bought….
That evening Rachel’s mum hosted us for dinner. She made us a fabulous chickpea curry, so delicious that I literally went to the store and bought the cookbook. Of course, it’s the cook more than the book that makes the food, but still. Inspiration, you get the point.
Sunday, March 15th
After much debate, we decided to go to church on Sunday. That was the last Sunday that many churches had services, I think. The chairs were spread apart and the attendance was small, but the service was thoughtful and beautiful, as were the people. I’m glad we went. It was shortly after this that our own Canadian house of bishops met and decreed no more church services for a while. That was also the moment we realized our family’s Winnipeg vacation would have to be canceled.
During a quiet afternoon we recorded a radio episode and Rachel dyed a sweater. It came out so nice it made me want to dye things again. Not, like, a lot, but some.
It was just good to be together. These ladies were incredibly kind to include me in their friendship, especially in a moment that required a lot of mutual support. Again, this was probably the last night we would have gone out to eat anyway, as the news continued to grow worse.
Monday, March 16th
For a last full day together, Rachel’s family took me to a local spot called Fort Langley. It’s just a lovely little town, nice for moseying and shopping. Lots of people were outside, giving each other a wide berth.
I learned more about the region, with its many bridges and ferries and islands and rivers. I thought Pittsburgh had a lot, but the Vancouver area has tons. I got Jared some chocolate – he really deserves a medal, but he probably appreciated the chocolate more – and a few treats for the kids during our upcoming isolation-palooza.
I had a lot of fun with Rachel’s kiddos during the week as well. They’re a little older than mine, and enjoying them made me miss and appreciate my kids – after all, how often do you get devoted one-on-one time out of the house with your own kids when you have three of them? Her youngest is right in between Stringbean and Mini-Mighty’s ages, and she’s a complete sweetheart. I know they’d all be fast friends, and wish they could meet one day.
Monday night we got one last quiet evening together. The kids pulled out their knitting, and we all spun and knit together for a while. It was just sweet.
Tuesday, March 17th
It was St. Patrick’s Day, but it didn’t register at all. It was my leaving day, and a day we were trying to pack in a last few fun things on the way to the airport.
The first was a stop at Heidi’s house. Heidi is a friend of Rachel’s, and is also the force behind Vegan Yarn. I had been counting on her to supply me with the cellulose fibres I would need for that portion of the 51 Yarns study. I could have still ordered online, of course, but she said it was fine for us to just stop by. I didn’t really want to post pictures of her house online (even though it was adorable and a beautiful blue), but here’s some of the beautiful natural-colored cotton she hooked me up with.
Our last stop was Sweet Georgia Yarns.
It was so kind of Felicia to meet us there. This was just as it was being announced that schools were closing – after this day, they closed their storefront. But Rachel and Felicia didn’t want me to miss out on my visit, so I honored their kindness by not letting the cloud hanging over us rain on my joy at seeing Felicia’s people at work.
They will soon be moving to a larger space, allowing them to spread out and do more, but they have a very efficient setup with what they have. I watched one dyer hard at work…
And another showed me his ingenious method for quickly twisting large numbers of skeins by hand. No electronic skein winders here. I mean, I know how to twist a skein neatly, but this was several levels up.
Maybe the most interesting thing about seeing these dyers’ work in person was seeing how they are different. Lynne’s work had an overall earthy feel, even though she had plenty of brights. Katrina dyes all colours of the rainbow, but has a special skill for blues and other cool colours, inspired by nature. Sweet Georgia dyes all kinds of colours, but their overall palette has a purple feel. (There was also a giant fuscia wall, but I think my observation stands.)
It was no surprise, after all I’d seen of her company over the years, that Felicia has a team of dedicated artists who do really gorgeous work. What I got to see under these circumstances was how they are also lovely humans and kind friends.
From that last stop, it was straight to the airport. I’m not an emotive person, but I got a little weepy when I left. I know I was influenced by general tiredness, desire to get home to my family, the sight of so many people in masks at the airport, and the continuously worsening news. But I had also made deeper connections than I could have hoped for, and it’s hard to leave that behind.
One more beautiful day carried me over the mountains, where I saw from above all the mountains I had seen while on the road. They were stunning.
And while we flew, I cast on a handspun sock. Rachel had given me the assurance I needed that my yarn – which I had spun from Katrina’s fibre, in a colorway inspired by a photo I had taken in Iqaluit – would knit into fine socks.
It was a suitable bookend to an amazing trip.
Now everything is closed down. The responsible thing to do, it is now clear, is to stay at home. I have been fortified with inspiration, materials, and encouragement to last me a long while. For one who is used to socializing at a distance, I feel very connected. I just hope I can share that inspiration and connection with others, so we can keep each other going through this difficult season.