Hip and Chic Knitters Guide to Auckland and Queenstown

This New Zealand vacation is focused on the most popular destinations because I am accompanying my Mom and her friends on their first visit. We are dividing our time between Auckland and Queenstown.  You might be touching down in one of these two places and needing a yarn fix.

Close to cruise ships in Auckland's Central Business District
Close to cruise ships in Auckland’s Central Business District

The most convenient wool shop is at the Westfield shopping centre at the corner of Albert and Queen Streets right by the wharf: Masco Wool Shop. It is on the second floor in the corridor leading to the food court. It has a great selection of yarn including a large selection of wool made in New Zealand. This was my go to shop when I lived in St Heliers. I could get Debbie Bliss’ magazine here and all the basic supplies. If you arrived in Auckland on a cruise ship, this is an easy location to shop. Hours Monday through Friday 8-6; Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 10-5.

Pat at Woolly For You will help you find fashionable woolens
Pat at Woolly For You will help you find fashionable woolens

On my first visit to Auckland (after a Habitat for Humanity build in Wellington), I stayed at a hostel in Parnell and discovered Woolly For You at 237 Parnell Road in the part of Auckland called Parnell. It is not far from the wharf either and is an easy bus ride or quick taxi ride. You can also walk from the Central Business District if you have good walking shoes. This shop has a good selection of already made sweaters and a small selection of knitting wool too.  I bought a lovely lightweight Merino “jumper” at a more affordable price than you will find on Queen Street.

In Queenstown I walked around town and did not see any knitting wool. My Mom and friends said they saw a shop with knitting wool but could not remember the name. A Google search does not help to identify it. One of the challenges is the term “wool shop” can mean ready-made sweaters or knitting wool. Even “knitting wool” has led me astray. Then there are the disappointing yarn suppliers who carry mainly acrylics (see my blog from Dunedin).

41 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown
41 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown

The shop in nearby Arrowtown offers a variety of supplies for crafters including knitters and quilters. Offering my favorite “good buy” New Zealand wool by Naturally, you can pick up a new project. Quilters may not be able to resist special New Zealand prints for a project commemorating your New Zealand adventure. Anne Murchison at The Stitching Post does not have a website, but she recommends you check out these New Zealand yarn manufacturers and email her your requests: http://www.naturally.co.nz and http://www.countrywideyarns.co.nz. Anne’s email is info@thestitchingpost.co.nz and phone is 03 442 0448.

I have made little progress on the dog sweater project I brought along; maybe because it is summer in New Zealand or because I have had little down time. Fingers crossed I will get something like a sweater for wee Cooper knit on the Air New Zealand flight to SFO.


Travel While You Can

Three of the Crazy Eights: friends for 60 years since Aviation Club at Santa Rosa Junior College
Three of the Crazy Eights: friends for 60 years since Aviation Club at Santa Rosa Junior College

I am traveling for 10 days in New Zealand with my mom, Karen, and her two friends Lisa and Nancy. They have been friends for 60 years (since Junior College), so you do the math. It has been fun and challenging.  It is like traveling with teenagers (and I am the parent). We all agreed to meet at the ferry building at 4:00 p.m. and at 4:25 they were still not there and I was very concerned. Unwilling to take my phone I had no way of tracking them or for them to call me if they needed help. I had already called the hotel to check if there were any SOS calls. They show up laughing and enjoying themselves. When I say they had me worried they each tell a different story from “I didn’t remember that we agreed to 4:00” to “I knew we were to meet at 4:00 but I thought the ferry was faster.” I do not want to cramp their style, but I do want them to be safe.

I was telling my friend Steve this story and he looked at me incredulously. “Didn’t you think of taking them for a test drive? Like to the mall.” I couldn’t stop laughing. No, it never occurred to me. Nor did it occur to me that a hotel room on the third floor without a lift is not such a great idea. Or that getting a wheelchair at the airport is actually much more difficult and time consuming than it looks. Or that none of them realize how deaf they really are!  “What do you think those insects are making that racket? (roar of Cicadas in background) “What noise?”  Nevermind.

It is hugely satisfying to give them the opportunity to see this beautiful country. They love meeting my friends and seeing my favorite places in Auckland. And now we are in Queenstown staying at the Rees Hotel thanks to Lisa’s experience as a travel agent. Today is my day for writing and they are off on a lake cruise and BBQ at a sheep station. Tomorrow we all go to Milford Sound.

But some of the best memories have been unplanned. Like listening to my Mom and Lisa cutting up whilst trying to answer the trivia questions on the Air New Zealand flight to Queenstown. The Boxer Rebellion occurred in which country? “South Africa!” they cry in unison with confidence. “China” I mumble looking up from my book. They just laugh.  Then they joke that the airline could give them the same questions on the return trip to Auckland and they won’t necessarily do any better!

Or laughing hysterically at a silly car racing competition inside a supermarket on the show Top Gear. Mom and I were watching in our bedroom at the Rees Hotel and laughing so hard that Lisa and Nancy came in to see what they were missing.

Mom, Lisa and Nancy are taking joy from a motto one of the parishioners offered as we were leaving St Philips Anglican Church on Sunday:

Travel before your medicine bottles outweigh your luggage.

Ready, Set: Tickets for World of Wearable Art on Sale

WOW red dressTickets for the World of Wearable Art go on sale today. You might have written February 1 on your calendar, but if you are in the US or Europe, New Zealand is a day ahead and should go on-line today for the best selection. One show per evening is scheduled from September 25-October 12 (Monday and Tuesday off) in Wellington. Make it the highlight of your visit to New Zealand.

The World of Wearable Art is an inspiring entertainment event if you are interested in fashion, art, or textiles. If you are a crafter you will marvel at the techniques. If you appreciate beauty you will find yourself saying “Wow!” over and over throughout the evening. I loved it!

There are tickets at a variety of price points from NZ$50-165. Also VIP tables for dinner at stage-side seats are available. A discount is available if you order with your American Express.

Attending Storylines Conference, GW

Quakers of old said “God willing” after stating plans as a reminder to the speaker and listener that we do not control the future–it is in God’s hands. Bringing it up to date…GW in social media parlance.  I recently made reservations for two big events in February and I am looking forward to both, GW.

The view from St Heliers Bay in Auckland, New Zealand
The view from St Heliers Bay in Auckland, New Zealand

First, I am traveling with my mom and her friends to New Zealand. I do not want to tell you their age, but I am happy to admit I am 51, so you can do the math. It is a great honor to share my favorite people and places in New Zealand with my mom and her crazy (in a good way) friends, and to see new places. As soon as I hit the tarmac in San Francisco, I will drive them home and then meet my daughter at the airport to fly to San Diego for another kind of adventure.

Sarah Harriet and I are registered for Donald Miller’s Storyline conference at Point Loma College in San Diego. I am excited because if Air New Zealand is on time, and Southwest Airlines are faithful, then I will be sharing dinner with Donald Miller and Anne Lamott.  My daughter is looking forward to the Ben Rector concert on Friday (guess I will learn about a new artist).

I first enjoyed Donald Miller’s blog, then his personal growth tool, Storyline 2.0.  I have also tried his time management tool, and that has not been so helpful. All the same, I am looking forward to recovering from my jet lag in this high energy, positive spirit-filled conference, GW.

Swatch: Diamond Lace Mitts in NZ Wool

I was given a skein of “Cocoon Amethyst” by Rare Yarns of New Zealand when I was in Dunedin in September. (Remember the lovely ladies of Twisted Stitch?)  I left New Zealand without a pattern, so recently, as I looked at the gaps on my Christmas gift list, I logged onto Ravelry website and found a pretty project for my young friend Grace Julie.  It is called “Diamond Lace Mitts” and can be found in a Rare Yarns publication and only requires one skein. I could not find the book, so I emailed Rare Yarns and they sent me the pattern–complimentary.

Wool and pattern from Rare Yarns, NZ
Wool and pattern from Rare Yarns, NZ

These mitts are relatively easy and fast to knit. I made these up in two evenings of knitting while lounging with the family immersed in Thanksgiving holiday conversation.  I sewed them in about 20 minutes on the plane trip home using my Auntie’s small hands as my model. I like how they turned out and they will keep Gracie’s wrists and hands warm during her German winter. The yarn is delightful to work with and quite strong and the overall effect is very pretty.

I really like Rare Yarns, yet there is only one yarn shop in Maryland (USA) that sells their wool. So I guess I will need to stock up when I am in New Zealand in February.

Sport in Dunedin

Dunedin is sometimes referred to the Edinburgh of New Zealand because of its Scottish roots. It is also a university town, with most NZ doctors trained at the medical college here. It seems redundant to say it is a beautiful location as everywhere in New Zealand is in different ways.  I really enjoyed the central business district with the interesting railway station and the Octogon in the center of town.  Dunedin is also one of many cities in NZ that prides itself on its gardens (Christchurch, Wellington to name others).  My main purpose was to see the penguins but if it had not poured rain I would have also gone to the Dunedin Botanic Garden or the more recently planted Dunedin Chinese Garden.  There also was not time to go to the only castle in NZ–Larnach Castle and gardens.  All give me reasons to return.

selfie in front of Dunedin Railway Station
selfie in front of Dunedin Railway Station

New Zealanders are also known for their love of sports of all sorts.  Rugby is king, and Dunedin’s skyline is dominated in the harbor area by Forsyth Barr Stadium, built for the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The All Blacks beat the Springboks (South Africa) in Auckland on September 14, as part of the Investec Rugby Championship and they were facing Argentina in a few days in La Plata.  The sports commentators were buzzing about this and that to do with rugby, but the eyes of the nation were firmly fixed on the America’s Cup.

When I arrived in Auckland the race was being broadcast on every television in the Auckland airport.  I had already been “educated” by Kiwis on my flight who were returning from watching the race in San Francisco.  I already knew that the average Kiwi was way more passionate about the race than 10 Americans put together. And I learned quickly not to argue with people who clearly knew way more about the competition and sailing than I will ever know.  So I asked questions like, “Oh, how did the American’s cheat?” When I commented that I hope the Cup returns to NZ so I can watch it in Auckland, they would nod vigorously and launch into a detailed explanation of how NZ will change the rules to make it more competitive.  As one fan pointed out to me, when they hosted the America’s Cup in 2003 there were many more nations participating and some women-only teams.

By the time I arrived in Dunedin (after my time in Oamaru) the American team had roared back to tie up the series and there was just one race left–sudden death.  Bad time to be “American Julie” in New Zealand.

Coincidentally I decided to see if the railway station was as lovely inside as it is outside and stumbled upon the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame.  (It is.) The admission is just $5NZ, and the friendly older gentleman who was at reception was enthusiastic about all sports. For a country of 4.4 million, they have a remarkable number of world-class athletes. You might think the Hall of Fame is dominated by rugby, actually, there are terrific athletes in a wide variety of sports, including sailing. There were several handouts provided including one confirming that the All Blacks got their name from their “sable and unrelieved costume” as early as 1893. And they have performed the pre-match haka as early as 1888, but did not become a ritual until the first World Cup in 1987.

NZ Sports Hall of Fame entrance on e floor off ground
NZ Sports Hall of Fame entrance one floor off ground

My host pointed out that the Americans had done a remarkable job recovering from the NZ team’s 8-1 lead in the America’s Cup and I could feel the sting in his voice. So later when I saw a list at the exhibit for Sir Edmund Hillary of the most important sportsman of the 20th Century (as voted by American sportswriters), and I saw that the great mountaineer and inductee was 9th, and I saw that Lance Armstrong was 2nd, I crossed out Lance’s name and showed him that Hillary was actually 8th. We had a lovely chat about sports and sportsmanship.

It made me think about the sporting paradoxes in the USA: we love an underdog, and everyone loves to hate a team (like the Yankees) when we feel that they “bought” their championships, and yet, people are lined up to buy a team and spend billions to have a championship too.  We have many gracious sportsmen/women, and we tend to forgive some very bad behavior, like John McEnroe and Tiger Woods because of their sports prowess. And we tend to turn a blind eye to cheating if everyone is making money, and then express outrage when the person gets caught.

As much fun as I was having, I had a date with penguins that evening, so I drove to the Hotel St. Clair in the beach suburb St. Clair. I found it on Trip Advisor and this hotel property is terrific. My room had a great view of the sea and a television.  In the morning I was able to watch the final America’s Cup race at 9 a.m. before checking out. If you saw the race then you know that after the first turn the result was never in doubt. The NZ sports announcers grumbled a fair bit about the technological advantage and about “Herbie” the hydraulic system that helped the Oracle boat get on its foils more quickly. (I read later that this was greatly exaggerated.) As the American team celebrated their victory, one announcer made a snarky comment that since Brit Ben Ainslie was on the team, Britain would no doubt say they won.

I expected people to be disappointed and Kiwis were really demoralized. They would hear my accent and they would congratulate me on the American team’s win.  I realized from previous conversations that it did not help to point out that people in the US were not nearly as caught up in the America’s Cup as they are in NZ.  I had my own “shock and awe” at how much faster the American boat was in the last 9 races, so I nodded when they talked about the technological advantage. I also tried to point out that there were Kiwis on every team, so really they could not lose, but that fell on deaf ears.  

One woman I met was still holding her “lucky bear” she got when New Zealand won the cup in 1995. She was near tears when she talked about the loss earlier in the day.  On Friday when I walked with the American women, one of them shared that she read in the paper that psychologists are concerned that Kiwis over-identify with sports teams confusing their own self-esteem with how well their team plays.  Hey, I used to be on that emotional roller coaster when I followed USC’s football team more closely.  In a country where most of the population lives very close to the sea, and most people have a rudimentary understanding of sailing, and a heritage of sailing (whether you harken to the amazing Polynesian/Maori traditions or the British Navy), so sailing is probably always going to matter more to most New Zealanders.

I was glad when I got to Auckland that people were recovering and celebrating the achievement of fielding a terrific team and coming close to winning.  There was mostly praise for the Captain Baaaahker (Barker with a NZ accent).  The Auckland Museum honored the team by lighting the museum with their team colors for 3 consecutive nights. And hundreds of people greeted the team at the airport.

The New Zealand Herald is still covering the post-race “news”, but the All Blacks win over the Pumas in Argentina helped to soothe the national psyche.

Swatch: Fashionable Possum

I was planning to do a yarn crawl in Dunedin. I researched several yarn shops in advance.  On my first day in Dunedin I had a little bit of time, so I went to the first couple of wool shoppes on my list.  The first was unfortunately typical of New Zealand.  Here I am in the land of the best wool in the world and the yarn and patterns are all targeted to Grandma.  It is shocking how the fashion knitting craze has completely evaded NZ thus far.

Seriously TwistedThe name of the next shop held some promise: Seriously Twisted!  I walked up to the Octogon and found the shop. At first I thought it was only ready made knit wear, albeit of good quality. Then I spotted Janene Weir working on a project in the rear of the shop.  She was weaving what looked like luxurious fur into a crocheted scarf.  It was lovely.  I quickly learned that the shop owner and knit wear designer Linzi Irving created a way to take the pesky possum and treat the fur to make it look remarkably like mink.

Possum were introduced in NZ by some demented person years ago and now threatens native bird and bush species. You can feel good about wearing this fur as you are doing something for the environment.  It is a hollow fibre so it holds the heat and provides warmth. It can be combined with merino wool for the warmest gloves I’ve ever owned.  Or used as a fur trim as Linzi does.

At first I was focused on the beautiful scarves, and then Janene showed me a beautiful wrap. I tried it on and it was so light, and soft, I did not want to take it off.  After wearing it around the shop to look at their lovely NZ yarn selection, and other sweaters, I realized that it was the perfect topper for my World of Wearable Art outfit.

Linzi arrived about now and the three of us had a fun conversation about the status of knitwear design in NZ, the World of Wearable Art, my blog, and a dozen other topics.  It is amazing how knitting can foster kindred spirits. I left the shop quite pleased with my purchases and happy to have made two new Kiwi friends.

P.S. I did find a couple more yarn stores and they were all like the first–too much acrylic! and too many designs from 1980.

Linzi Irving original designs at Seriously Twisted
Linzi Irving original designs at Seriously Twisted