If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see you at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

The Warm Heart of Georgia

Dear Kay,
Our Senior Fiber Arts Correspondent in Soviet Georgia, my sister-in-law Mary Neal, has resurfaced after a week or so of political protests and fervent singing of “Mshtylia Nino Bleevya” (“We Shall Overcome” or “Kumbaya” or “It’s a Small World” or something). Why she and my brother would choose this garden spot for a six-month sojourn continues to stump those of us over here with reliable electricity and access to the Gap.
But she is really bringin’ home the bacon with her yarn-buying travelogues, and for those of us in the blog business, she sure makes life easy. Here is her latest report: a yarn crawl in downtown Tbilisi. (Here’s a map in case you were thinking Tbilisi is a whole-grain salad).
Mary Neal Writes . . .
Dear Ann,
First of all, I really love it when an individual instance of something represents a general societal problem. Knitting supplies in Tbilisi is one of those instances.
The yarn stores, which also sell beads and buttons, but which don’t necessarily sell knitting needles (!?), are all located in a few places. And those are really savory: the underground passageways that pedestrians use to get from one side of Rustaveli or Baratashvili Street to the other. I first saw this merchandising phenomenon in Moscow, where it makes sense, fer cryin’ out loud. It’s COLD there and it snows, so underground shopping in the moral equivalent of strip shopping centers is a good idea. However, in Tbilisi, where it’s hot for at least five months a year, these places are infernal.
The entrance to the underground shopping/walkway urinitarium. If you can see, there is a graffiti rendering of Red Hot Chili P . . . Well, they ran out of room, but using English, even Latin characters, is so cool; it’s like Let’s Active.
Clif points out that if you ever find yourself in need of a bathroom break while crossing the street, you are SET. Just pee in the passageway, everyone else does, or so it smells. So, anyway, one of my favorite underground spots connects three different streets. It has a circular structure in the middle–filled with housewares shops–and three corridors of small shops. One whole corridor is mostly yarn. One is shoes and socks. One is more housewares.
What, in the name of God, is the logic for putting all these stores together, considering that they carry pretty much the same merchandise at pretty much the same price?
So anyway, Wilson and I scoped out the yarn shops. I walked out of one when I didn’t see any needles. I was NOT going to make more than one stop. So we went into a third one and had the complete inattention of the staff (which suited me fine–I could grab balls of yarn and feel and read labels without embarrassing myself with my linguistic inability).
The nice man helps by guessing what it is you want when you draw a picture of a knitting needle. The first time I went in this store, he had just knocked down every ball on the wall behind him.
What I bought was something called Ayda Gold DK in the 100g/350m ball, 75% wool 25% acrylic and slightly fuzzy. The label is in Russian and International Inglish. It is produced for Shampion & Co. ltd. For Germany.
This is another fact of life in Georgia. Everything is labeled for another country. Wilson’s Gameboy Advance Special Edition was labeled FOR SINGAPORE ONLY–ANY OTHER USE PROHIBITED.
I got two balls of dk cotton also, because Wilson loved the color, a really dark teal. I’ll probably make him a hat or something.
I also bought five (?) dp needles in size 2 or so. I got the pattern from one of the free online sites. It comes from one of those 1950s books when people believed in knitting tiny stitches. I think I will put lace at the cuff (is that what you call it?) instead of 4 inches of K3 P3 ribbing.
Because I am so clueless about knitting something this tiny, I am actually going to swatch it and adapt the pattern. It will probably take 2 weeks to swatch it. I don’t usually swatch, and I hardly ever use patterns. June Hemmons Hiatt gave me the tools and the courage to strike out on my own and make what I wanted to make. But with gussets and fingers, I figured I needed some direction.
The total tab for this: 13 laris ($6.00 or so).
Mary Neal




  1. Mary Neal, when you get back, on your next trip to New York, you will feel right at home at my pal Lis’s favorite bargain yarn haunt, P & S Fabrics, right in the tacky, dusty, neglected heart of LoBro. OK, it doesn’t smell like pee there. But that’s about the extent of the lavish customer-pampering at P & S. After a morning pawing through the bins with all of your questions helpfully answered by a (1) guy (2) who doesn’t knit (3) in an enthusiastic blend of English & Brooklynese, you can refresh yourself with a bubble tea and some Go Go Dim Sum in nearby Chinatown, a neighborhood that has much to offer the smell-deprived.
    My question is, can Ann not send you some yarn? Would that be against your rules of engagement? Ann’s got plenty to spare, and it all smells good. She can throw in something for the Gameboy that won’t get confiscated by InterPol. Let us know. Love, Kay
    P.S. I have been enjoying reading about your adventures but am getting a bit nervous for you.

  2. Thanks, Kay, but there’s no mail here. I’m not kidding. The electric bill gets tucked in the door, and the gas bill? Well, the little man with the cane and the well-worn ledger and pencil comes to the apartment and sits in the kitchen until you come up with the money to pay what you owe. If you want to send something via DHL, it’s $125 for up to one pound and it takes six days. I appreciate the thought, though.

  3. Mary Neal and your brother have my admiration. I would have been out of there within a WEEK. Well, maybe a month. I once camped out in a yurt [sp?] next to a pen full of goats in the middle of Montana. Ever heard goats singing together in a group at 5 in the morning? Moreover, ever been exposed to the smell goats give off when they’re in a group? So maybe I have more endurance than I think I do.

  4. Are we becoming the smell blog?
    And, yurts in Montana?
    Poor Mary Neal with no hope of a care package. Phone home!!!

  5. Mary Neal: I didn’t realize the mail was THAT bad–I just figured that the postal service would pilfer any and all natural fibers shipped in your direction. SHOCKING!
    Becky: A yurt? Fer real? Were you on a Downward Bound trip or something?
    And Kay: All I can say is, it’s a merciful thing that blogs DON’T smell. As two people with mortal fear of TTSB (Things That Smell Bad), we’re lucky to inhabit this scentless universe.

  6. Hi Mary Neal,
    In Europe (except UK) dpn’s come in sets of 5. You CO on 4 and knit with the fifth. Perfectly normal for us Continentals, perfectly puzzling for the Anglos. Just think of it as a spare, should you loose one.


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