Baadeck Yarns
A rambling by Katie Knapp

Some people are lucky enough during the Festival to be admitted into the Holy Ground of Celtic Music, the green room. This is where the great pantheon of talent eats chips and dip, and fights over the last Coke, the hottest commodity (get there early, or do without).

It would be sufficient entertainment just to sit and stare, especially as the casual sessions between the musicians are picked up, with an ever-changing circle as people go onstage and return. Several collaborations have had their formation here, some only providing a brief thrill as they join each other on the festival stage, and some actually forming entirely new bands that endure beyond.

As exciting as it is at first, the night can get long (usually winding up around dawn). And I do sometimes struggle against the exhaustion that creeps up.

This year I had a project. I had found a beautiful skein of yarn at Baadeck Yarns, in the nearby village of Baddeck where my husband and I had a room. This is the best yarn source I've ever seen, with products for beginners on, as well as classes in the winter time. It's a cozy store, with great friendly people, and I love to spend time in there whenever I can. One of their local sources had created a line just for the 2005 festival, and I couldn't resist the rich orange loopy-loop yarn.

I'm no skilled knitter, but I find it soothing. So I took the little yarn project around the circuit with me, landing around midnight back in the green room. There I met one of the drivers (alas, I've lost his name!) who kindly told me I was doing it all wrong. He, along with just about every other man on the Cape, had been in his youth a fine help to the women of his family. Many hours were sat, he told me, while holding skeins wrapped round his arms. They must be wrapped into good tight balls before the knitting can even begin, I found out, which resulted in quite a few hours of my worked being ripped out, and the project postponed until I wrapped what all the gathered men approved of as a proper ball.

Normally this delay might be frustrating, but instead it provided me one of my best festival memories yet. It was that rare opportunity to just sit and talk, that can be so hard to find during the hectic week. Normally I meet many interesting people, briefly. But my driver friend and I had a good long few hours to chat, not not only did I find out much about him and his family, but also about the soul of this land, which I visit so briefly each year. It's coal country, long winters, hard work, low employment. In fact, it reminds me a lot of my native Eastern Pennsylvania. Underlying this hardship, though is a culture with vast resources of creativity, kindness, and community. I feel so lucky that they created this incredible place, and that they are so willing to share pieces of it with me each year.

P.S. Grandma loved the scarf!

by Katie Knapp
7 October 2006