Baba Marta Comes to Oakland

The Calm Before the Stitches Reading Baba Marta Comes to Oakland 4 minutes Next New Tsuru Fabrics

Any fears we had of empty shelves were put to rest last week, with the arrival of a long-anticipated shipment from Madelinetosh. The brick-and-mortar shop is now well-stocked in Madelinetosh Chunky, Vintage, Pashmina Worsted, Tosh DK, Tosh Sock, and single-ply lace-weight Prairie. 


All the colorful new yarn in the store is inspiring lots of project and class planning, but lately I've been grooving on the more humble Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift. Loosely spun, and in a ton of colors, Shetland Spindrift is the classic go-to for stranded colorwork, like this sample I've been knitting of Hello Yarn's Mushroom Pulsewarmers

We're also making these little guys in my class this Saturday morning. There are still a few open spaces, so if you've ever wanted to experiment with colorwork and steeking, now's your chance. We've got lots of great classes on the schedule this month, so be sure to check them all out. 

Shetland Spindrift's color selection and lovely, lofty wooliness made it an obvious choice for my other project this week: martenitsi

martenitsi makings!

Made of red and white wool, martenitsi are little charms, usually bracelets, that are exchanged to celebrate the Bulgarian holiday of Baba Marta. Baba Marta happens on the 1st of March, and is one of the oldest pre-Christian traditions still practiced in Europe today. There are several stories about Baba Marta, and what the colors red and white symbolize, but everyone seems to agree that Baba Marta is a tempestuous old woman who storms in on the first of March, and dictates the unpredictable early-spring weather. To appease the moody baba, everyone wears red and white martenitsi on their wrists until they're sure spring has finally come to stay. Once someone sees a blossoming tree, or one of the storks that migrates to Bulgaria to nest, she can tie her martenitsa to a tree and make a wish. Bulgarians are especially fond of holidays, and Baba Marta was one of my personal favorites during my two years living there. Even though Baba Marta seems plenty appeased here in the Bay, I managed to convince some Californians to welcome spring with me and make martenitsi

You can make them, too! All you need is red and white wool (remember, natural fibers are biodegradable, which comes in handy when you tie them to trees!) and your two hands. Cut a 15" long piece of each color and knot them together at one end. Again, I used Shetland Spindrift, which twists really nicely and comes in handy little 25gram balls. Hold the free ends in your hand, with the knot in the middle. 

twisting your martenitsa

Twist each end, in the same direction the yarn is already spun. As you twist, the yarn will feel more taut and try to curl in on itself. Once you've twisted them good and tight, grab the knot in the middle with your teeth, and bring the two ends together. 

The red and white will naturally spin together. Run your fingers along the work to smooth out any curls or kinks, and tie off the other end.

Tie one end to the other with a slip-knot so you can slip it on and off your wrist easily. Think about what your wish will be and get ready for spring.

Since they are super-quick and require no tools, making martenitsi is a great way to gets kids and non-knitters hooked on yarn (just look at how much fun the bearded model is having in the photos!). I myself made tons of extras, so if you stop by the store on Fridays or Saturdays and ask me about them during the month of March, I might even have one to share with you...Hope to see you soon! -HD