Right now I am preparing and packing for my trip to Tamil Nadu, in India. I will be visiting the company Knit One, Change One to show them Fair Isle knitting techniques, help them to increase their speed and give them some tips on finishing garments once they are knitted.
Danielle Chiel, owner of KOCO has invited me as a Fair Isle teacher to work with the ladies employed by the company. The ladies are from rural villages of Tamil Nadu and are already good hand knitters. As part of their employment they also learn reading and mathematics.
My role while there will be to pass on some of my skills in Fair Isle knitting to help them gain more opportunities for work, to help them work more efficiently and to earn more for their time.
This is my first time travelling out of Europe and I am not quite sure what ti expect. I have been so lucky to have received advice from people in the Shetland community who have been to the area I am travelling to and loved travelling so much.
I have been warned that I will fall in love with the place, so watch this space! I will be posting updates as regularly as I can.
I leave Shetland early on Friday the 11th of October. Check back after then for more updates.
I'm officially on my way! I've been dropped off at the airport and I'm waiting for my first flight. Still a little tired from Wool Week but hoping I get some rest on the flights. The first one will be quite familiar, then it's all new to me from there. Wish me luck!
Without a doubt this is the most new experiences I have ever manage do to fit into 24 hours. From Glasgow I took a 7.5 hour flight to Dubai. My first time on a longer flight and out of Europe. The flight felt long but I watched a couple of films and tried to rest, but I just just too engrossed in everything's that was going on. On the flight I was sat next to a lovely Scottish lady who was on her way to a cycling trip to the north of India. We spoke a bit about our trips and she had some really helpful advice for me, we even hugged goodbye when we parted ways in the Dubai airport. How sweet!
The airport in Dubai was great. Easy to get around and beautiful. I had only an hour and a half before boarding the next flight to Chennai, this time 4.5 hours. Again I tried to rest but it wasn't so easy while thinking about how I'd soon be arriving in India! Again I was sat next to two nice people. Both travelling home to Chennai after working abroad. They were interested and amused about how I would manage the temperature after I said I was from a Scottish Island.
When we landed in Chennai it was around 8am and the sun was coming out, but I still hadn't slept! After spending a time waiting in line to get through immigration and being delighted to see my bag waiting for me, I started to make my way to turn door. This is when the busyness of Chennai hit. I carefully searched for the piece of paper with my name on it amongst all the drivers waiting outside and finally met Natarajan in person. We had been in touch before hand to confirm my arrival time so I was glad to finally talk with him. He has worked for KOCO for 6 years picking up visitors from the airport and he gave me a warm welcome. As did the 32 degree heat that hit me as soon as I stepped outside.
It was a 3 hour drive to the village of Auroville where we are staying and Natarajan kindly pointed out a few of the sights on the way. There was maximum security in Chennai today as they are hosting an official visit from the Prime Minister of India and the President of China. We passed through the city which was full of people getting around as well as the people working in the smaller towns and countryside we passed through. Whether they were working in fields, roadside shops or driving from place to place, every area was busy for the entire 3 hour drive, something I'm not used to in Shetland! The road is shared with every kind of vehicle as well as the animals belonging to the families near by, I made sure to get a good picture of a cow to show my Dad! Part way through the drive we stopped to stretch our legs and it get some chai tea and a chilled bottle of water.
When we arrived in Auroville I met with the two ladies who work for KOCO and who I will be staying with while I'm here. Anita who is the project manager here in Tamil Nadu, and Raewyn who has come over from Australia to accompany me here. We're staying in a lovely house and the ladies are so kind already, lots of nice conversation and they helped me with the AC in my bedroom. Much appreciated!
After a great nights sleep we headed out to one of the hubs to sort out yarn and needles for classes starting tomorrow. The building is beautiful with a gate further out front.
From there we went to the local visitor centre and looked through the shops before eating lunch. After lunch we went into Pondicherry to buy some food, then went to look through some shops in Auroville. I didn't buy a hammock this time!
Now we are back at the house catching up on some work and preparing for classes tomorrow. The view from my room is lovely.
Again, I had to take a picture for my dad - a tractor!
I’ve not been able to update you for a few days, the rainy season has started and the rain causes problems with signal so the network is not great. I am now updating you from the hub I am teaching in. The views from here are also great!
Classes started on Monday, we cast on and started practicing holding two strands of yarn, one in each hand. They usually knit continental style so we just needed to add the same technique but in the right hand. It has taken a lot of practice but the knitters are getting into the swing of it.
I did have to take some time this week to adjust to the heat properly. I was starting to feel really unwell so I took some time to rest and started on some electrolyte supplements. I perked up within a couple of days and was back to teaching by the Thursday. I prepared some practice for the ladies to do on the days I was resting and was welcomed back so warmly when I got into the hub. These women are so caring and now they are always checking I've had breakfast and I'm drinking my water, just lovely people.
Since I've been feeling better we've been going into Pondicherry in the evenings, one night to go to the mall to have a look around the shops and the other night to pick up some bits and pieces from the shops along side the street. Anita has been great at making sure we have lovely food during the days. I've enjoyed all of it, she isn't keen on food with a lot of spices so I've managed just fine!
Today is Friday and although the ladies also work on a Saturday, we had party this morning at one of the hubs! The ladies can bring their children to work with them if they need to, there has been one little boy in my class this week (he's adorable!) and it was his birthday today! His sister was also there and we had cake, balloons and sweeties before work to celebrate 🎈🎉
The end of the week was lovely, on Saturday morning the ladies brought me flowers and clips to put in my hair, and in the afternoon I was presented with the most beautiful wedding invitation! Unfortunately I am not here for the wedding but the invite itself is amazing, I was so touched!
We had a very quiet Sunday at the house, washing clothes and relaxing under the air conditioner and now we are back into knitting.
For the second week we made sure all of our practice swatches were even, which they were, evenness was a huge focus for these women. They strive for perfection!
We also practised sewing in ends, as this would be the inevitable result of knitting Fair Isle! These women knit the garment from start to finish so they were keen to get this just right.
Although knitting was a huge part of this trip, I really enjoyed spending time with everyone and hearing about their families and home lives.
We discussed the interests of their children, what they like to cook for their families and their daily routines. It was so nice to hear about their plans for Diwali as well!
Over the last weekend I was there we went out to one of the hubs I hadn't managed to visit yet. We ended up staying for a Diwali briyani, it was so much fun. Together the women from the hub cooked and served the meal. Some of their children were around that day too, so I got to meet the whole family. I loved learning some tamil from the very friendly group 10 year old girls in the village.
I was so honoured when they told us they wanted to include us in their plans on the day of Diwali. Two new friends, Krithika and Revathi took over some of the food they had prepared for us to try. It was all delicious. I didn't find anything I didn't like when trying the cooking.
We dressed up nice and had a lovely meal together. How nice of them to include us in the festivities! Here I am with Krithika after our lovely Diwali meal.
It's common for the women to buy a new sari for the festival season and they also picked out one they thought would suit me, and showed me how it could be worn. It was so much fun, they brought so many accessories for me to try at the same time and we spoke about the meaning behind each item. I bought the sari and have taken it home as a keepsake!
As well as Diwali, we also celebrated Anita's birthday! Anita truly made my trip. We laughed and had fun, she helped me a lot when I wasn't well, and she made sure the work got done while also taking me to see all the sights.
Anita's job was to oversee all of the hubs, project managing every order and keeping overseas team members in the loop.
Thank you Anita, for everything you did to help me make the most of my trip.
I must admit, even though its been 3 weeks since I arrived back home, I am still processing everything I experienced on this trip. I met some lovely people who's lives were different from mine in so many ways. They taught me a lot and I definitely think about things differently since I've come home.
The scenery was nothing like I've ever seen before, the weather, the wildlife and the plant were spectacular. The food as well.
Of course the attitude to work, their excitement to learn, and willingness to help each other get the most out of every experience. I hope I have given them tuition that will help them in their careers, they took it all in so well. I got so much out of the experience and I would like to thank everyone I spent time with during the trip for that.