Wednesday, September 28, 2011

International yarn shopping

I cannot believe September has nearly come and gone.  I had a lot of travel lined up for September, so I figured this would mean a scad of knitting time.  When I got a good start on my asymmetrical cables in early August, I figured I would easily meet goal.  Instead, there I was, well into the Labor day weekend, and still not finished with the second sock.  My travels this month have taken me to LA, San Diego, San Francsico, then Germany and Switzerland.  My first week was pretty swamped with work, work, and more work.  But my second week, in San Francisco, I found myself with a free afternoon so I visited my two favorite spots: Napa Valley, and A Verb for Keeping Warm, not necesarily in that order.

I discovered AVFKW when I downloaded the marvellous sock pattern "Sin Miedo" which featured AVFKW's sock yarn, Creating.  About six months ago, I found the Berkeley store and bought up a couple of skeins, one of which I used for my AC socks.  I decided to swing by and see if something else sang to me.  While I was sorely tempted by some Habu silk and some Shibui silk superwash, I decided to save myself (and my credit card) for NYSW, which is coming up in a few weeks.  I did splurge on some olive oils and a wonderful wasabi mustard in Napa, so all in all, a successful afternoon.  I also managed, during my week in SanFran to finish my second AC sock. This gave me a chance to start another project that has been sitting for a while--a pair of flip flop socks for my 15-year-old niece, Taylor.  Sock one was finished somewhere over the Atlantic, and I even got a good start on the second sock.  I have had this skein of Fortissima Mexiko, purchased last winter in a Berlin department store, in my computer bag for ages, and it was great to finally use it up.  The pattern is based on "Cable my big toe", but the truth is, I looked at the picture, glanced at the instructions, and recreated it from memory as best I could.  I am hoping the proportions of the big toe vs. the four little toes is correct.  It seems to fit me, so hopefully I improvised well enough.

Even though there is only one in the shot,
trust me, there are two
The next part of my travels tool me to Switzerland via Frankfurt.  Now, I have been puzzling about something for quite some time.  All of my favorite yarn brands--Lang, ONline, Lana Grossa, Zitron--are German.  Yet, I have never found a good yarn store in Germany though I know they exist.  Since yarn tourism--that is finding a LYS wherever I am and shopping for unique finds--is my favorite travel pasttime, I did some research in the mere 20 hours I had between trips and mapped out a walking tour of yarn stores in downtown Frankfurt.  So I set out from my hotel with five shops on my list, a free morning, and a handful of Google maps.

First on my list was Lana, which I found with little difficulty.  This is a great shop, though very tiny, and the owner, Katia Lejeune, is a real kick.  Every spare inch of space is utilized, and Katia is always wearing something fabulous that she knitted herself.  She had the largest selection I have ever seen of Noro sock yarns, but sadly, no Zitron Unisono (I am hunting for a colorway I could not find for sale in the states) or Lang Jawoll Aktion.

A shopping plaza just up the street from Lana
My beautiful new cashmere
I left with two beautiful skeins of Lang premium cashmere as a consolation prize, but I did not have that feeling of satisfaction that you get when you find something truly wonderful.  Katia had a beautiful tank top made of the same yarn hanging in her window, and I bought enough for a very nice scarf in dark grey.  My next stop was Wolle Rodel.  This seemed to be more of a chain store, and most of the yarns were Rodel's own brand.  Very nice utilitarian yarns, but nothing spoke to me so I left emptyhanded, and still feeling a little underwhelmed.  I got lost on my way to store number 3, and the GPS in my cell phone was not funtioning, so I finally gave up and strolled through beautiful downtown Frankfurt while finding my way slowing back to my hotel.  It was an unbelievably beautful fall day, and I enjoyed the sights of the city as I made my way to the train station to catch a train to Basel.


I hopped my train, but sadly, rather than knitting, I had to spend my time finishing my talk for the next day.  I I hate it when procrastination cuts into my knitting time :)  Sadly, my busy work schedule did not allow for any shopping in Switzerland. 

Three days and most of the second sock later, I made my way to Bremen in northern Germany.  I had about 2 free hours Friday afternoon, so I decided to set out for one last chance at shopping.  Now, I have been visiting Bremen for 2-3 times per year for the past 5 years, but I had never yet found a good yarn store.  In truth, it may have had something to do with the fact that I plugged 'wool' rather than 'wolle' into google.  But this time, with help for a website I recently discovered,, I found a list of yarn stores in the area, and one was listed a mere 1.8 km from the town center.

My new favorite store in Bremen!

The main cathedral, or Dom, in the city center of Bremen

It was a beautiful fall day, and as I set out away from the beaten path, I discovered part of the city I had never seen before.  It was bright and vibrant, full of shops, restaurants and museums, and tucked in a little corner was Wolle + Mode.  And there I finally found the treasures I had been seeking.  The first was some Regia yarn from their world color series, in the colors of the German flag.  Could there be a more perfect souvenir from Germany?  Then sitting on the shelf above it was Camino Alpaca by Bremont.  I fell in love with this yarn at first sight, but I loved it even more when the shop owner explained to me that Bremont was a combination of the names Bremen and (something I did not quite understand), and that the yarn was produced a mere hour or so from Bremen.  I got even more excited when I check Ravelry and found that the only knitters listing Bremont in their stashes or projects purchased it in Germany, Austria, Norway or Finland. 

I feel like the first person to bring it across the Atlantic (though I know I could never make such a claim).  I was so entranced with Bremont that I also bought some Sara de Luxe, a gorgeous alpaca, silk, and cashmere blend.  Of course I had to pick up a couple of skeins of Lang sock yarn for good measure as well, even if it was not my beloved Aktion.  My good shopping buzz was almost spoiled when my credit card would not go through--many of the smaller shops have machines that will only accept European Union chip cards--but I scraped through my wallet and pooled every last Euro I had, and it was just enough to cover my yarn purchase.  The sweet owner of the shop even insisted on giving me four Euro back so I would have tram fare back to the hotel.  All in all, the most perfect tourist yarn shopping experience ever.

I spend the next hour making my way slowly to downtown, enjoying the sights along the way, and marvelling that after five years I had finally discovered a new part of Bremen.

The flip flop socks were finished shortly into my flight home the next day, so I eagerly started September project 3.  A new pair of STR socks, that I decided to improvise in a leaf-lace pattern in honor of fall.  But more on that later.

No comments:

Post a Comment