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Back in Vogue: Knitting takes center stage at Imperial Ranch event and in yarn bombs around town 

Knitting is taking over Bend with yarn bombing and Vogue Knitting.

click to enlarge culture-imperial-yarn.jpg
According to Jeanne Carver, Imperial Stock Ranch is 90 miles and 100 years from Bend.

This working ranch is a National Historic District where over the past 141 years, owners have raised cattle, sheep, grain and hay using bio-diverse and sustainable ranching practices.

You may recognize the name from locally-sourced restaurant menus across Central Oregon such as Crave Restaurant in Redmond or Jackson’s Corner in Bend, both of which carry their lamb meat. But it is their lambs’ wool that has caught the attention of the premiere knitting magazine in America, Vogue Knitting.

The magazine is hosting its first ever Vogue Knitting LIVE! Destination Experience at Imperial Stock Ranch May 18-21, where approximately 25 women from around the country, including central Oregon, will collectively geek-out on yarn production and knitting lessons—not that knitting is reserved for the socially inept or older folks. In fact, knitting has become quite popular across all social spectrums. In Bend, groups of women meet several times a week to knit and a group of men has even been spotted knitting regularly at 10 Barrel Brewing Company.

In town, yarn bombing has also become a hilarious and mysterious pastime. Knitters in the dead of night stake out their target and Bam! the deer in the Simpson round-about suddenly have sweaters!

"It's kind of like graffitti, so you can't tell who did it," said Elizabeth Alexander, owner of Gossamer Knitting Place, a yarn shop on Galveston Avenue.

The Vogue Knitting event at Imperial Stock Ranch will be quite a bit more professional than the BYOB crowd in Bend—that stands for Bombing Yarn Over Bend, by the way. The event, in fact. grew out of a networking connection Carver made with the Vogue Knitting's staff at a trade conference.

“We were fascinated with the story of the ranch and the yarn,” said Doreen Connors, Vogue Knitting Director of Advertising Sales.

Carver invited the Vogue out to the ranch. It went well and the knitting destination experience was born.

“It is remarkably unique in everything it has to offer,” said Connors, of the ranch.

With registration fees reportedly ranging from $1,200 to $1,950, and space for just twenty-five knitters, the exclusive event is sold out.

The fortunate few who registered early and could afford the knitting weekend will explore the property on a heritage tour and take lessons from a rockstar of the knitting world, knitwear designer and best-selling author Nicky Epstein.

“I’ve just heard so much about the ranch and am looking forward to the heritage tour and learning new techniques,” said Bend knitter, 69-year-old Hilary Rothert—one of the lucky Bendites attending the event.

She also simply loves the yarns, which look exceptionally luxurious, but are minimally processed. Skeins are relatively affordable, too, starting at $14. Colors of, like, Denim Dusk, a greyish blue; Wild Rye, a burnt yellow; Juniper Green; and Natural, a color that looks so pure and soothing it begs to be next to your body are all available around town.

“I love the fibers and want to know how they began,” said Rothert, who hosts knit-alongs in town. “Spending a day tromping about and seeing where something begins is a truly amazing thing.”

Rothert learned of the event at Gossamer, where Alexander has carried Imperial Stock Yarn for over ten years.

“I love the fibers and have enjoyed watching [Imperial Stock Yarn] become what they are today,” said Gossamer owner Elizabeth Alexander. “The yarn is very organic and has a natural look and feel to it that is so different from any other commercially produced yarn.”

Imperial is also the only commercial yarn company in America that owns the yarn from soil to finished good; it is completely traceable, just like their meats.

“As people are recognizing the importance of sourcing food locally for the health of ourselves and this planet, preserving, nurturing, and teaching traditional skills are just as important to this culture and this country,” said Carver.

Even though Imperial Stock Ranch is not being paid to host the Vogue Knitting event, Carver is thrilled with the chance to expand her message and knitting as an art that's here to stay.

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