Arthur’s Seat, 2012
This is going to be a post about yarn, but first I need to tell you a story. In my early twenties, I did a lot of solo travel on a shoestring budget, and one of the ideal ways to go about that is to couchsurf. Kind people offer up their couches (or their guest beds) to travelers and in return they sometimes host travelers at their own home. Admittedly I did more traveling than hosting, but it’s a great way to meet like-minded or interesting people in new places. (For those of you feeling freaked out by this concept: don’t worry, it was safe and secure, but I’m not going to go into those details here because that’s not really the point of this story.)
Several years ago, when I was living in Hungary, I decided to take a trip to Edinburgh. I didn’t know when I booked my trip, but in Edinburgh I was going to meet the best couchsurfing host I ever had. I lined up a host for my first few nights, and her name was Sylvie. Sylvie went above and beyond when it came to hospitality – she even picked me up at the airport! And when we got into town, we stopped by her flat where she put a thermos and a container of cake in her bag, and then she walked me up to Arthur’s Seat, where we watched the sun set over Edinburgh with tea and cake in hand. Is that not the most perfect thing you’ve ever heard? Part of what makes Sylvie such an incredible host is that she’s a globetrotter herself – and who knows better what a lone traveler needs? And on top of all of that, it turned out that Sylvie was a knitter, too. Needless to say, we wound up friends and have kept in touch.
Sylvie lives in York now, and she recently started up her own hand-dyed yarn business, Phileas Yarns. I was ecstatic when she got in touch and asked me if I wanted to try it out. She dyes five different bases, all with names based on that wanderlust we so keenly feel: Wanderer, Wanderlust, Globetrotter, Escapism, and Explorer. I decided I wanted to try one of her British Blue Faced Leicester bases, either Wanderer aran or Wanderlust DK. Her BFL comes from Yorkshire, so it’s local to Phileas as well, which I found very appealing. So Sylvie popped a skein of Wanderer aran into the post (along with a few extra treats – thank you, Sylvie!) and I was so excited to receive it I got it wound and ready to knit right away.
I don’t usually go for reds, but this one I couldn’t resist. It positively glows! The colorway is St Expedit, named for Expeditus, the Christian martyr who has a significant folk following on Réunion, an island off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Altars to St. Expedit on Réunion are always painted bright red. (Browsing the listings for the different Phileas colorways is like a history and geography lesson in one, I swear.)
I wanted to knit something simple that would show off the subtle variegation of the semi-solid rather than compete with it, and since we live in the Arctic and my husband Chris didn’t have a pair of hand knit mittens to his name (the cobbler’s children have no shoes, as they say), I decided to use the yarn for a pair of Arched Gusset Mittens. It’s a beautifully elegant and simple pattern, but the arched gusset makes it a bit more interesting than a traditional plain mitten.
The end result is a beautiful and practical pair of mittens. I worked the cuff in a 2×1 rib, because I thought the rolled edge might be a bit annoying when it comes to staying tucked into coat sleeves, but otherwise made no modifications. These have been getting regular use every since they were finished! And though we do live in the Arctic, Tromsø actually has a sub-Arctic climate thanks to the gulf stream, so the BFL wool is completely appropriate for our +1/-1ºC temperatures at this time of year. BFL is truly one of my favorite fibers. When I asked Chris to describe it he said it was very comfortable to wear and “soft but not too soft,” and pointed out how overly soft yarns can actually be distracting, particularly when it comes to workhorse knits like mittens.
Photographing reds is notoriously difficult, and made even more challenging by the low light at this time of year. The light tends to be very blue (especially in outdoor photos, as in the one above), but hopefully the photos still give you a sense of the beauty of this yarn.
If you fancy trying out Phileas for yourself, head on over to the Phileas Yarns Etsy shop. Sylvie’s currently offering free shipping on orders through December 21st; just use the code YARNTRAVELSFORFREE at checkout. You can also find Sylvie on Instagram, where you’ll see a lot of photos of wool, but also travel photos and photos of her cat Miette. Thank you, Sylvie!