cool waters

Posted on Posted in Bare Naked Wools, book reviews/events, designing, food and garden, lace/shawls


are you hot? i am—the temperatures here have been pretty warm this summer, hitting the low 90s most days and compounded by super high humidity. fortunately i had a nice break from the heat when i taught knitting on an alaska cruise during the last week of july. i can’t even express how wonderful it was to be in a cooler climate for eight days! and then there was the landscape and the art and no access to internet all that time—heavenly.

so i got back over the weekend and it’s taken me several days to unearth myself from the depths of my email box and to sort through all the photos and impressions i amassed while traveling in the great white north. i have so much to show you and hopefully it will provide a cooling respite from your day.


for once i was all packed up with more than a day to spare; there was a lot to organize for this trip because once we were on the boat, that was the end of access to any tools, yarns, or samples we would need. i brought a small trunk show of garments and accessories, plus a tiny pop-up shop of yarns and ephemera.


i had managed to complete the front of the twill pullover showed you in my last post, but had not gotten as far on the back piece as i’d hoped, so i packed that up as one of my travel knitting projects


and left my three completed pieces at home, with copious notes on my pattern for matching the front to the back exactly.


having completed one sleeve of my design-in-progress dock and cabin cardigan, i cast on for one of the fronts and packed that along as well. i wanted to concentrate on getting as far as possible on those two garments, but just in case i also packed a project bag with all manner of sample yarn balls for a long list of swatching that i needed to do. for me, this was quite a conservative amount of knitting to pack and i was pleased with my choices, haha. i had a dark project in a bigger gauge and more mindless stitch pattern for daytime and socializing and a lighter colored project for nighttime knitting that was only slightly more involved, but fun to work, and swatching for those little bits of time when i needed a distraction.

(you might have guessed by now that i give almost no thought at all to the clothes i pack; they are basically the same for every trip, as long as they leave enough room for my knitting stuff).

our plans for my nephew to come along on this trip sadly fell through (we will have an adventure another time), so my good friend barb decided to join me. and it all kind of worked out after all—our trip out to seattle was fraught with issues as we fell victims to the southwest airlines systems debacle which was compounded by the republican convention taking place in cleveland at the same time as our departure.


our first flight was cancelled just as we pulled into the airport so we scrambled to get another flight, the result being that instead of arriving in seattle at 10 am with almost two full days to explore the city, we finally got there just a few hours before our ship was to sail and had not slept in all that time.

oh, and joy of joys, an eight-hour layover in the denver airport overnight—thank goodness we are knitters. by the way, you would not beLIEVE how many people are willing to lie down on the dirty airport carpet to get some sleep. we kept taking walks to wake up and would find these corpse-like figures at every turn and in the most unlikely places—it was positively creepy.


we were pretty bummed; both of us were really looking forward to having a couple of days in seattle. as it was, we got the 5¢ tour from the inside of the transfer bus, which at least offered some fun sights along the waterfront (hello pike place market; wish we could visit longer!). and after that initial problem, the rest of our journey went really, really well.


i guess we’ll just have to find an excuse to visit seattle to enjoy it on its own!


by the time we got to our ship we were absolutely giddy with hunger and silly with tiredness. we found our cabin, took a nap and had some lunch and soon enough we were feeling much better.


that afternoon and evening we settled in to enjoy wearing clean clothes and having some good knitting time. barb had just begun her frisée shawl—the pairings club knit for july—when we left home and had completed the biggest portion of it (the hem sections) during our travel to seattle. (btw, hannah will check in later this week with a bigger post about the first pairings club installment—don’t miss it.)


i continued work on my dock and cabin cardigan front, which i’d made excellent progress on as well. the stitch patterns really keep me engaged. they are fun to work and easy to remember, so i don’t have to check my chart or pattern at all, except when i know i’m coming up on some shaping. this is a longer, boyfriend-fit sweater in fingering yarn, so there is a lot of knitting involved, but the results are so worth it. i’m working with our stone soup fingering yarn in the pumice shade; it’s almost an exact stand-in for the original yarn which was also a natural color. i am SO excited to finally be replacing my old, beloved “bathrobe” cardigan—this past winter it finally gave out in one of the elbows and, what with the tattered cuffs and several other small holes that have opened up, the old friend is starting to be inappropriate for wearing in public (though at home, all’s fair in love and war!).


finally around 6 pm, we set sail—off we go!

i had never been on a cruise before or even on a large ship, so there was plenty to explore. after a good night’s sleep, i got up at the crack of dawn and headed out to the upper deck in search of the gym. i couldn’t find it that first morning but instead, took advantage of the running track to join a couple of other runners willing to brave the wind and what was turning into a cold gale.


the uppermost deck of the ship turned out to have a lawn—holy cow! i discovered it when i started diverting from the track to run up and down all the stairs between levels. by this time we were “at sea” and traveling through international waters.


our classes began the morning of that first day, and continued throughout the cruise during days when we did not leave the boat. this group chose to do a lace project workshop which incorporates all of the instruction from my advanced lace class as well as knit along supervision for the bee fields shawl project (a group can choose whatever project they’d like to focus on together).

we were not scheduled to dock at a port til the afternoon of the next day, so that gave us a good stretch of time to talk about preliminaries, get some stitches cast on, and then set up for working the first section of the pattern. it was a good day for all, i think . . .


the next day we arrived at ketchikan, promoted by locals as the salmon capital of the world (mmm, salmon).


we literally stumbled upon the local yarn shop (i’m serious!) almost as soon as we exited the ship; i guess we knitters really do have a built-in homing device for them. barb found some really nice shell buttons and bought a set for the oculus coat she planned to start during our trip. we also had a nice chat with the shop owner, but held off on buying yarn.


ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles; specimens range in age from very old and fragile to contemporary and are featured in many locations and parks throughout the city. this totem stands outside the tiny tongass historical museum, right near our port. when planning my trip, i looked for interesting things to do within walking distance of each docking, as i wanted to make the most of my time on shore. to be honest, most of the planned excursions were beyond my budget (though i would have loved to take the train trip into the yukon from skagway). barb was up for looking around on our own too, so we started right here at the historical museum, which came highly recommended in my research.


this little cultural center has just two or three display rooms, but we were immediately taken in and spent a good hour or so looking at everything; we really enjoyed this visit. through their well-chosen exhibits, they do an excellent job of presenting the history of the city through objects/crafts, documents, and photographs, while incorporating parallel aspects of modern ketchikan life and culture.


ketchikan has an extremely active community of artists and craftsmen, but also seems to have an avid lay audience eager to embrace their work and its relationship to their own lives. in fact, the museum appears to reach out and invite artists to emerge from the lay community by contributing to exhibits, participating in events, and offering skills for classes. i love that!


the place was infused with a sense of humor too—what’s not to love? the guy at the welcome desk offered to snap a photo of barb and me posing in one of the lobby vignettes. no matter how many times i’ve looked at it, i crack up when i see it again.


after the museum, we took a walk along the tongass creek to the totem heritage center. i had been looking forward to this all week—i was determined to visit and thankfully barb was game.


the totem heritage center is a museum and gallery of the living artistic traditions of the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples and serves as a sort of nursing home for antique totems that have fallen or become to frail to survive in the outdoors.


as soon as we crossed the threshold we were greeted by a cluster of immense poles that reached all the way to the thirty (or more) foot ceiling—and those were shortened by breakage, too.


i think this photo gives you a pretty good idea of the weight and dignity of such a piece.


my favorite view.

that’s another thing—visitors own both venues were encouraged to take photos and to share them; isn’t that cool?


this dimly lit area was lined with cases featuring examples of needlework and beading—all of which give completely new definition to the word “seed” beads—as in poppy seeds . . .

one adjoining gallery holds huge floor to ceiling horizontal vitrines in which lay the remains of preserved 19th-century poles rescued from abandoned village sites near Ketchikan. i took some photos but it was difficult to get a good angle in such close quarters and they don’t really impart the proper sense of magnitude i felt while viewing them.


the other adjoining wing includes displays of photographs, art, and objects from the 1800s through the present day. i love this pair of photos depicting people in native dress; i can’t help but be struck at the resemblance between the style of dress here and traditional mongolian dress.


i fell in love with native alaskan art during this trip. first, it is strikingly bold and graphic yet also lyrical and sensual—all curves and frank power.


and then, the striking consistency in imagery between all the art forms adds to its drama and impact


whether paintings, carvings, weaving, or needlework—more IS more. and when you experience it in the context of the landscape there, it’s just mind-blowing.

as we left the totem center, we asked for a recommendation to a gallery that showed authentic work by local artists and were directed to crazy wolf studio, owned by ken decker, a member of the totem center board. we were lucky to find ken and his wife monica in the shop and they were very generous is talking us through some of the techniques in traditional alaskan art and showing us work by some of their favorite artists. i saw a hand-carved alderwood “canoe” bowl that i could not afford, but am still dreaming about—it’s so vivid in my mind’s eye and in the memory of my hands that it feels like i did bring it home!


we ended our afternoon with a bowl of chowder and headed back to the ship, our heads swimming with beautiful pictures. we put our feet up and had some more knitting to contemplate the day.

oops, i’ve run on way too long once again and speaking of knitting, i really should go and do some now. i’ll continue our travels next time; hope you enjoy the tour so far!

11 thoughts on “cool waters

  1. Wow! I am so jealous. So many interesting things to see and learn about the history and culture. Looking forward to the next instalment! Did you find it confining at all on the ship? I’d quite like to visit the Norwegian fjords, but am concerned that I won’t like being on a ship for such a long time.

  2. A superb knitter and now a great travel writer. I really enjoyed your descriptions of what you saw. And whatever you do, plan a separate trip to Seattle for a few days. You will not be disappointed.

  3. What an amazing journey. I had to skim this post because of an early appointment–looking forward to actually reading about your Alaska and knitting journey!

  4. Loved al the colored markers. It’s the kind,of display that tempts maxing out the old credit card–smile!

  5. So sorry you were not able to spend more time in Seattle. Next time you’re out this way, please let me know!

  6. What an exciting trip! I’ve never been on a cruise either, and the only kind that I’d be interested in would be an Alaskan cruise. I can’t wait to hear more about your trip.

  7. I’ve been waiting for this post! I’m so glad you were able to really enjoy Ketchikan! Aren’t the totems amazing?!
    Looking forward to your next installment.

  8. What a wonderful trip! I particularly love your pictures of native art and your description of it as bold and graphic, yet lyrical and sensual. Curves and frank power! I also love the texture of the sweaters you are working on. Welcome back.

  9. How wonderful! I’m so glad the museum/galleries allowed photographs… the work is very powerful indeed.
    I am sorry that your flight was so bad. I’ve had long delays in terminals before and it truly sucks. Ugh. I just flew Southwest and had almost no trouble… maybe I was lucky.

  10. Loved reading about your adventures. Except for the trip out there it sounds great! I’m so glad you got to go. Enjoyed the pictures very much. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Iwas so looking forward to your post(s) a out the ruise…looks like you guys had an amazing trip!

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