Northern towns are stitched together by train tracks. Close-knit communities are made even closer by fellowship, shared experience and yarns - in both senses of that powerful word.
Be it story or be it spun wool, it is hard to resist the charms of yarn, and when it's yarn on a train, rolling across our northern landscape, it becomes outright intoxicating. Later this month, scores of Prince George knitters will drink this double shot of creative colour. They will be all aboard the Knitting Train from P.G. to Smithers and back.
"We talk a lot and think a lot as people about sense of belonging, and community spirit, and being stronger together. That happens when you get like-minded people together for shared activities. Knitting is very much like that," said Darlene Shatford, the co-proprietor of Top Drawer Yarn Studio.
She was the primary organizer of the Knitting Train. Not that it took much organizing, in the end. It sold out in two garters and a purl.
"We have a Thursday night knitters' group, and we also have a regular get-together among some knitter friends. I put it out to them, first, and between the two it was more than half sold out before we even discussed it publicly," said Shatford. "And then I put it out on Facebook and the remaining spaces were sold by the end of the first day."
Participants paid $200 to get a ticket on Via Rail from Prince George to Smithers, return, plus have access on the train to personal commentary about the landscape thanks to Carol Whetter, some onboard yoga by Jaylene Pfiefer, some technique instruction and yarn appreciation talks, and a whole knitting program that will roll out as casually as the ride itself.
"Who doesn't love train travel? This is the best way to enjoy our spectacular home landscape and knit at the same time," said Shatford. "Think about the tickety-tickety-tickety rhythm you get from the wheels on the rails, and you get the same thing from the knitting needles. It's meant to go together."
The time of year was deliberately chosen, she said, to coincide with the holiday aftermath. Knitters tend to pour themselves into Christmas present projects through November and December, she explained, so mid-January is when knitters need rest and relaxation, and to turn their attention to personal project, not items for others.
"The knitters on the train have to be prepared. It's at least six hours each way, there can be delays, there's the overnight part of the trip (the participants are all responsible for their own accommodations the one night they're in Smithers, with most taking advantage of a group rate at the Stork Nest Inn), so you have to have the yarn you need to fill that time," Shatford said. "But of course, if you just want to do a bit of knitting and a lot of socializing or gazing out the windows or sleeping or whatever, that is totally up to you. This is informal and there is no pressure. It's just fun to hang out together."
Based on the success of this first Knitting Train experience, Shatford anticipates the knitters won't be binding off this excursion experience. She was already contemplating dealing with Via Rail about potential trips to Prince Rupert or Jasper, or any number of towns along the breathtaking rail route across the breadth of northern B.C.