Long-time friends and skilled knitting aficionados, Spence Hill of Tom’s Touring Service and Marney Mitchell of Knit Now & Folknits, joined together to create a “different” sort of tour.
The tour was designed to bring knitters of all abilities together to enjoy the richness of the Yukon and sharpen their skills with the highly prized and expensive musk ox undercoat – quiviuq.
The wool was just one of the draws, as knitters from the south also signed up to experience other genuine Whitehorse entertainments such as the Takhini Hot Springs, Yukon Wildlife Preserve, Yukon Artists at Work and Copper Moon Gallery.
Some also ventured forth to view a show at the Yukon Arts Centre. The tour ran the weekend of March 26 to 28.
“We are hoping that this weekend excursion will become a regular trip,” says Spence Hill of the new tour. According to Hill, knitting tours are a regular occurrence for fibre/textile enthusiasts. It may seem odd or unique to those outside the fibrework realm, but Hill assures me the Yukon tour knitting idea is one among many, albeit the first of its kind for the Yukon.
“If you are in the fibres world, you read about llama knitting tours, or alpaca knitting tours in Peru. It’s not out of the ordinary, and we thought it was about time we offered something special out of the Yukon,” she says.
And what did the eager knitters experience? A knitting session with quiviuq led by Wendy Chambers, local Whitehorse fibre artist and experienced handler of the delicate musk ox wool.
The lesson took place at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve in the administrative building, overlooking the musk ox paddock. It was a very picturesque moment for the knitters, to have the opportunity to closely view the very animals from which they knit.
Hill laughs when she mentions it: “The musk ox pen is the only one with double fencing, they can get quite agitated and charge vehicles,” so the closest interaction the knitters had was with the animal’s wool.
The knitters created quiviuq hand warmers, a pattern which was “quite accessible” according to Hill. Beginners came away with a new-found knowledge of an expensive and luxurious fibre, and experienced knitters left with an appreciation of all the Yukon has to offer in fibres.
Having a knitting tour in Whitehorse also gave the local economy a healthy boost, as fibre enthusiasts were also quite impressed with the fibre artwork by local artists. “Yukon Artists at Work gave our tour a warm welcome, and our knitters were wowed by the quality and skill displayed by the Yukon fibre workers,” mentions Hill.
For Spence Hill and Marney Mitchell, offering another knitting tour isn’t an ‘if,’ it’s a ‘when.’ Hill says, “The response we got was extremely positive, and we are definitely going to be offering it to southern residents again, not every weekend, but we are certainly considering a few tours a year.”
For more information on tours or other local fibre events, check out the Folknits website, at www.folknits.com/tours-home.html.