28 November 2016

Woolens far and wide ~ by guest blogger WillyG


Warning: buckle in. This is a long post. Enjoy!

Jeff and I recently traveled to visit friends near the German border in Switzerland. Of course, I decided I would take along a couple KAL items for the long hours at the airports and in the plane. I'm happy to say that I completed my Ludlow somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean - with the caveat that I only worked it for two thirds of the length.  
One of the first things I did once I got settled in Switzerland was to take a photo of my new FO!
Having a couple biggish wrappy things, I wanted something I could wear more as a scarf with my recently completed Timberline sweater (also a BrooklynTweed design -- and probably my favorite). The full length just wouldn't work well with the generous collar on the sweater. Omitting the third pattern repeat gave me a length I liked and could work with.

I figured out a way to fold it in half lengthwise, wrap it once for delicious height to block out the chill, then open each end inside my sweater so that it added a layer of insulation in front and back. It's a bit tricky to get the back to lay flat, but it served me well in the cold spell they were experiencing.

Blocked Ludlow
I had knit the Timberline sweater once previously and had a little gauge problem that turned out to make an excellent gift. I don't regret that error one bit, as I absolutely love seeing such a gorgeous sweater on this handsome guy - he wears it so well!  But now I have my own - it just took bumping the needle size down. I actually really enjoyed returning to this pattern.

Wearing my Ludlow felt appropriate; I noticed a lot of Swiss people wearing voluminous scarves, such as the one my stylish friend is sporting in this picture. She loaned us her darling baby through the week, and he kept us grounded through a challenging election week. (Yes, we were biting our nails and watching things from afar.) There's nothing like a baby to give one a bit of perspective.

Everywhere we went was beautiful. One of the stops was Schloss Wildegg - a baroque castle that has a sort of nature preserve on its property. 

We went on a perfect day for wool lovers because it was the annual wool pool. Farmers brought in their newly shorn wool, laid it out in long piles, and drove over it with a baler to pack it up for industrial use.

It was pretty much just farmers there; I think they were wondering who the heck this weirdo was that was gawking at the wool...

"Inside is the new outside!"
Jeff and I got not a few curious looks when we knit in the train or cafes. Sadly, handknitting in Switzerland seems to have been largely replaced by the machine industry, and male knitters are not particularly prominent in the area we visited.  I did find this advertisement in Germany, however - trying to butch up knitting with the hipster lumberjack image.

Machine knitting may have taken over the industry, but they do know how to advertise wool sweaters...
More of the wool advertisements were for finished wool products, but at perhaps the most wonderful fall festival in the world (?), there were still a few fiber artists, including felt artists, Spycher handwerk (from whom we bought lovely felted slippers), and a couple silk dyers. Interestingly, the one corner of the handknitting market that seems to be profitable for hand dyers is in the realm of silk. The overall aesthetic in Switzerland seems to be for very soft yarns, not necessarily the rustic yarns I hoped I would find.

Felted gnomes at one of the many booths at the Basel Herbst-Messe. What a delightful fall festival!

Ooh, look! A perfect knitting nook on the Rhine!

Laufenburg, Switzerland as seen from Laufenburg, Germany

I discovered the Prisma app as I began the trip... I couldn't resist playing with these photos!

If you ever make it to northern Switzerland, the best yarn shop is Ain's Yarn Design -- which happened to be located within walking distance of our home base in Frick during our stay! I was pleasantly surprised -- or overwhemed -- by this shop.

In a country where knitting tastes resulted in shops filled with fashion yarns and soft but lackluster, mechanized merino yarns, here was a treasure trove of color, filled with beautiful handdyes and special yarn blends that I have come to love in the US. We are truly spoiled here! 

Baa ram ewe's breed-specific blends were a wonderful sight to behold

A Stephen West knitalong required some people to help each other with translating the instructions from English to German, then to Italian (because the Brazilian does not speak German)... I felt right at home with these lovely people! I rediscovered how much I love being exposed to different languages.

Handspinning still perhaps needs a revival in Switzerland, but Ain speaks that language as well, and makes sure there's a bit of something for everyone.

The thing to notice here is that you don't just have a few colors in any particular line of a beautiful yarn. Color is very special to Ain, and it shows. She seemed to only have room to display one or two skeins of any given colorway, because she stocks a full palette of colors. Even in America, this is not something I've seen too often.

with Ain and her charming son, just returned from a day's hard labor at school

Ain always invited us into the back room to share coffee and something sweet to nibble while we chatted and knitted. Yes. Because we visited three times in one week. And you should, too, if you possibly can. A conversation with her gives new meaning to the phrase "knitting therapy." I think I found a kindred spirit. 

Not pictured is the Stonecrop I brought on the plane and continue to work on between other projects. I really have taken the "no deadline" part of the KALs seriously, haha!  

May your holiday season be filled moments of love and warmth and colors that feed your soul...