I remember with vivid clarity the first time I drove into Blacksburg, Virginia. I was a senior in college and Bryan and I were a little over one month into our dating relationship. It was the weekend of his birthday, and I climbed into my car at 8pm on a Thursday to begin the 9 hour drive from my college dorm to his apartment complex. He knew I was coming to visit, but I couldn’t wait a minute longer and started the trip a day before he was expecting me.
The flat, endless highways of Ohio gave way to the twisty mountain roads of West Virginia. Not long after the border into Virginia, 460 East snakes through tiny towns; old, ramshackle buildings and shaky structures that look like they’ve been around forever. You can’t help but wonder “who lives here? where do they even buy their groceries?” You feel like you’re in the middle of a deep, dense forest, and all of a sudden the GPS says to turn left. There’a a sign: Welcome to Blacksburg. Are you sure?
I know now that that 460 turnoff really is the very edge of things. As you drive south down Main Street, you see that there really is a thriving town there. It is quaint, to be sure, but it is also vibrant– a bit of an enigma as you consider the state of its surrounding communities. Blacksburg thrives because of the presence of Virginia Tech. The university and the town proper are divisible by green lawns and regal, limestone buildings, but the air, the economy, the sounds of Lane Stadium cheers echoing down into the valley… they link the two like a marriage, symbiosis. Individuals, but each not themselves without the other.
I experience life in Blacksburg so differently than that first visit, of course. We still frequent the donut shop we did on college gamedays. We walk the same paved trails and wear our maroon and orange proudly. But we grew up here. We had babies. We bought our first home. What felt like a mapdot actually feels big and knowable to me now. I’m keenly aware that we live in a small town, but the avenues I see for investing and the individual people to love are more than one girl could possibly need in a lifetime. We started out here thinking Blacksburg was a temporary assignment. Now I pray it would be our forever home.
It was easy to choose this chapter of my life to be my first project for My Cedar Chest Knits because it is fresh in my mind and heart. I remembered some of my favorite memories in our first home, the days we sat on our front porch swing watching the maple leaves blanket our front lawn on McBryde Lane. I pictured myself pushing the stroller along the Huckleberry trail on a cold morning with the women from my MOPS group. I thought of the college women I’ve invested my years into, walking across the drillfield and discussing their next hike up McAffe’s Knob. This hat would need to be mostly rustic, still charming and a nod to the love of outdoors. I wanted to use Virginia-grown and processed wool: a tribute to Blacksburg’s thriving movement to buy, eat, and live local. I wanted to feel that putting this hat on my head was like covering myself in autumn, in falling leaves.
The McBryde hat is my attempt at all of those things. Knit in the completely lovable, sheepy goodness produced by Cestari Sheep & Wool, rustic and chunky but feminine in its leafy lace. Like the local townie I totally aspire to be… chickens in my backyard, vegetables in the garden, farmer’s markets on Saturday mornings. Proud to provide for myself, but only so I can have enough to share with others. Black bean burgers at Gillie’s and bavarian cream donuts from Carol Lee. Sunday morning worship with small town people who somehow love the whole world. The friends who inevitably move away, and the ones who might never leave (please, never leave). Bulk beans and Taproot Magazine from Eats, an iced lavender latte at Mill Mountain. I don’t know if a hat can really mean all those things, but if it could, it’s the one I’d want to wear. The life I want to live. The home I want to build.
You can knit your own McBryde hat, pattern available on Ravelry here. I hope you will make it, and I hope you will share it with me when you do… because if I can give the feeling of this little mountain town away to anyone, I have truly earned something.