Yarn shops in Berlin

This is by no means a comprehensive survey – Berlin has yarn shops coming out of its whatsit. It suited us, for reasons that will become evident, to go to two areas of Berlin for our explorations of the town.

(1)Kreuzberg Bermannkiez area.

It was an education coming from Geneva. Here, with one exception, all the yarn shops are the same, they keep exactly the same labels and even exactly the same yarns from each label. In Berlin, it seems every shop has its own character. Die WollLust has a stress on lace knitting and not necessarily at fine gauge either. They have lots of samples knitted up and suggestions for patterns. A large variety of labels which were new to me, very friendly staff, a wife and husband, the latter speaking good English should you happen to need it. They had a winder set up and so I wound the skeins of silk/cashmere I bought on the spot.

There is a table set up where one could sit and knit.

Needles and Pins is only a few minutes walk from Die WollLust and has entirely different stock. We were actually lucky to stumble on this one as somehow it had escaped my pre-trip research. It has a wonderful selection of high quality yarns which had me wanting to buy more than just a little something to remind me of Berlin. This shop suited me the best of these two, I confess I’m dying to go back. One of the things I liked about it was that it had Lang yarns which I can’t get in Geneva. Given that Lang is Swiss, I find this most mysterious. Lang make lovely yarns you can buy in France or Germany, but not, apparently, in Geneva! But the range here is plentiferous, many labels, angora, cashmere, beautiful tweeds, interesting specialty accent yarns as well as good quality straightforward knitting yarns. English is spoken! Here I took away two balls of angora and a ball of tweed wool I’m hoping will look good together.

I don’t recall a place to knit downstairs here, but there is a table on the street level outside the shop where it would be very pleasant to knit on a nice day.

(2)The other yarn shop area we went to was Mitte Kollwitzkiez Prenzlauer Berg.

We went first to handmadeBerlin. Another splendid shop, quite different again in stock. This shop specialises in Handmaiden and Ito, so we are talking high end here. There are samples knitted up, bits and bobs, of course and facility to sit and knit. I was torn here too, so much I wanted to buy. I came away with some Handmaiden sock yarn, plush in feel, a lovely red. Really looking forward to knitting it.

There is a knitting shop very near here that I didn’t get to: Knit Knit Love Wool Instead we took a very pleasant – this area is really very nice – stroll to Loops.

Loops has a vast array of stock over two rooms. Again very helpful staff who speak English. There is a strong accent on German yarns here and not as high end as the other shops, so if you want more basic workman yarns, I’d say this is the place. But nonetheless I managed to come out with a couple of balls of Annie Blatt super angora. This is one of my very favourite yarns for winter and it was a great price, about half the cost of the same yarn in Switzerland. Bargain!

We loved Berlin and will certainly be going back, so I hope to visit some of the other shops – and revist these – soon. I will report.

What they think of us: Indian women on the West

Unravel. How India Recasts the Clothes the West Throws Away.

There is a trend these days for Western knitters to use recycled yarn. One of those things that makes them feel good about themselves. Take a long haul trip somewhere and make it ok by knitting a ball of recycled yarn along the way.

I’d never really thought about the source of that yarn, which is, of course, us. We discard perfectly good clothing all the time and it ends up in India to be recycled into yarn we use to make…perfectly good clothes.

This is a short film made about the women who do that work of fixing the good clothes we don’t want into yarn we can use to make more clothes…we probably don’t really want either. But we’ll feel good using all that recycled yarn, right?

The movie is about what the Indian women who do this work for us, think of us. Great for anybody who would simply like to know how the yarn is made, as well as for anybody who wants to know more about the carbon footprint of throwing away clothes in order to get yarn to make more clothes.

And however deeply embarrassing it must be for us in the West, it is nonetheless charming.

YarnSub.com

I saw a pattern today for a bag I want to knit – an old-fashioned stringbag in Quince’s Sparrow, which is a linen.

I have Euroflax Sport by Louet and at first glance figured it was probably going to be a good substitute.

This is where YarnSub.com comes into play.

I went to their page on Euroflax and quickly established that it was an excellent substitute for Sparrow. It gave details of the primary yarn and then of over twenty possible substitutes, rating them and describing the various points of comparison and divergence.

I give the following as an example, but please note that on the site this information is more nicely laid out!

Euroflax Sport Weight
Yardage varies

Weight: Sport
Texture: Plied
Fiber: Linen (100%)
Needles: 2.75mm (2 US) (12 UK)
3.5mm (4 US) ( UK)
Gauge: 24 sts / 10cm (4″)
Balls: (Varies)
Care: Machine wash (30C)
Styles: Solid colors
Price: $$$$$

Suggested substitutes
QUINCE AND CO
Sparrow (97% match) $$$$$
Good news! The texture of this yarn is a close match.
Good news! The gauge is an exact match, but you should always swatch.
Good news! The fiber content matches exactly.
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.

LA DROGUERIE
Lin (92% match)
Good news! The texture of this yarn is a close match.
Good news! The fiber content matches exactly.
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.
Information This yarn is more dense. Your garment will weigh more than with the original yarn.
Information The gauge almost matches, but you may need to use smaller needles. Swatch to check gauge.

and towards the end of the list:

CLASSIC ELITE YARNS
Bella Lino (70% match)
Good news! The qualities of the fibers in this yarn (elasticity, drape, warmth etc.) are a very close match.
Information This yarn also has a regular, smooth texture, but it is plied with a loose twist rather than plied. It is still a good match, but the ply structure of yarn has an effect on the finished fabric and what it’s best used for.
Information This yarn is more dense. Your garment will weigh more than with the original yarn.
Information The gauge almost matches, but you may need to use smaller needles. Swatch to check gauge.
Information The fiber content is different. This yarn contains: Linen (58%), Viscose (26%) and Cotton (16%)

As well as being a database of yarn substitution for the major and also, the site states, for lots of smaller, companies, it discusses how to make the choices.

This is a wonderful site I’ll be coming back to again and again. It has hundreds of companies listed, including discontinued yarns, which can be so hard to find substitutes for.

Everyday Cardigan II

A followup to this post where I discussed the various versions of this I made. This one is in Sapphire Jade cashmere-silk two ply, and was ordered as red, but is clearly quite orange. Never mind, I like it. It is super-fragile yarn and I’ve done it no favours knitting it at a very loose gauge. But while it holds up, I love it. The original pattern is from Taiga Hilliard Designs

Manny took some pictures today. This is Geneva in early October. Beautiful!

Everyday cardi in Jade Sapphire  (14)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (10)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (9)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (8)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (7)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (6)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (5)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (4)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (2)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (1)
Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (13)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (12)

Everyday cardi inJade Sapphire  (11)

A review of knitting publications and the impact of the internet. Part one.

What did I buy at Loop on a recent visit, Sonia asked. Books. It struck me that they represented such different types of publishing that it was worth discussing in some detail.

Quirky by Kim Hargreaves
Quirky by Kim Hargreaves

Quirky by Kim Hargreaves.
Kim is as traditional as it gets. Her knitting is famous for its fine detail, its finishing, its sophistication, often within the constraint of being simple and classic in look. Her books are as classic as her knitting. Everything is generously photographed. She appreciates the aesthetics of blank space, in which her series luxuriates. She’s the very opposite of the idea that every teensy bit of space must have something on it. If I never knitted a pattern of hers, I would still be happy to buy her books for the sheer pleasure of looking at things like this:

Lyle
Lyle

Observe the exquisite tailoring. You can see the designs online at her site, but she has stuck to the idea of books-only printing, at least for now.

I’m a huge fan of the printed book and pray circumstances never force me to purchase a machine for the containing and reading of books. Nonetheless, technology obvious has its place, and knitting has certainly made it work in many ways, one of which is in printing. The advantages of the soft copy knitting patterns will be discussed another time, but for now I wish to make the point that real books have joined forces with the electronic book to create the best of both worlds, which brings me to my next purchase.

Knit With Me

Knit with Me by Gudrun Johnston
This couldn’t be more different in style from Quirky, being a small collection of pieces in what I might call an American style of casualness. The hard copy is nicely photographed and laid out with non-professional models.

McIntosh from Knit With Me
McIntosh from Knit With Me

Kim Hargreaves uses young models with model bodies. Gudrun has chosen, from friends, real people with normal bodies. No make-up. This is all a big plus for me and I note that this does not detract at all from the attractiveness of the models, the garments or the photography. I love all three here in such photos. By making each design suitable for teenagers as well as adults, Johnston immediately permits a comparison of a look on different body types, nice to be able to do that in a thematic way.

But the big difference for me, is that this book comes in a hard and electronic copy, the latter being complimentary with the purchase of the former. There are various advantages to this, but most notably one can get updates of the electronic version as errors are discovered by the knitting community at large. It turns out that the author is so far not aware of any errors. I’m impressed by that. One can imagine how hard it is to proofread knitting patterns.

Kim Hargreaves used to be Rowan’s premier designer before going out on her own. I don’t know if the yarn label’s pattern support has ever recovered from her move to independence. She still exclusively uses their yarns, but it’s been a long time since I’ve wanted to purchase a Rowan magazine. As you will see from the cover of Knit With Me, it is a book brought out in association with Quince yarn and using their yarns.

The issue of pattern support is the ongoing battle of yarn companies. I would speculate that there is a direct link between success of a yarn company and their capacity to provide good pattern support. There are some major differences in the practice of this since the advent of the internet. One is that the process is much simpler for the yarn company as well as for the customer. Another is that the designer has become a far more important aspect of the design. Instead of getting a book of patterns to go with a yarn, with no indication as to the origin of the pattern, this has become pre-eminent. Designers are able to have a much higher profile due to the internet and are not dependent upon yarn companies to sell their patterns in the old way. The tables have, I imagine, fairly turned in this regard.

Quince uses independent designers, as does St Denis, a Canadian label under the auspices of Veronik Avery.

St Denis magazine
St Denis magazine

Look online and you’d be forgiven for thinking they’ve closed down. So I’ve thought every time I’ve dropped in to have a look until earlier this month when a blog post – the first for two years – appeared. Nonetheless, since the post had nothing to do with St Denis yarns or patterns, I am no wiser as to whether the label exists. When it first appeared, a few years ago now, it planned to support its yarn brand via a magazine of patterns to appear twice yearly. Again, this plan seems simply to have been abandoned with no explanation. Still, back in 2011, I was struck by a Robin Melanson pattern Woodward Cardigan.

Woodward Cardigan
Woodward Cardigan

I couldn’t believe my luck when I discovered a hard copy of the magazine at Loop. Designers (and pattern publishers) vary in their level of communicability. Some of them seem to sit on line and welcome even the dumbest of queries. Others are almost impossible to talk to, even if it would be in their interest. I’m afraid to say that Avery and St Denis are right down the rankings in this regard. Although Melanson had rights to her pattern, whatever signoff was needed from Avery was, I understand, never undertaken, so I’d well and truly given up on the idea of a pdf version, much as that should have been easy to obtain.

St Denis is an example of the whole process failing. I’m not sure how much this is their fault and how much it is simply the fickle-mindedness of the customers who decide on the successes and the failures. But it may be no coincidence that the online aspect of their venture is rather poor compared with the others discussed so far. It doesn’t fill a potential customer with confidence to see a blog last updated years ago, or a statement that a magazine comes out twice-yearly combined with it not having come out for some years. These things take minutes to update, so there isn’t really any excuse for the lack of feedback for the potential customer. The Ravelry comments for their yarns never elicit a response, including one of some months ago now that says the yarns are now discontinued, though St Denis’s Ravelry page has not been updated to reflect this.

Meanwhile, there are patterns like Woodward Cardigan, which almost nobody has knitted simply because getting hold of it is nigh on impossible. Pity!

Everyday cardie – aka how I spent my summer

There is more on this in another post here.

Everyday cardi in Louet linen-wool
Everyday cardi in Louet linen-wool

I came back from Australia this year with a lot of rather garish (by my standards, at least) print dresses. It prompted me into doing something I’d been thinking about for ages. Using bits and pieces of left over yarn to make small, light shoulder-coverers. It just goes to show what sort of summer it’s been here that I’ve had the time to knit seven of them.

My everyday cardigan collection.
My everyday cardigan collection.

From left to right:

Bouton D’or Caraibes Turquoise
Sandnes Garn Mini Duett 55% cotton 45% wool
Rowan Glace Red
Louet MerLin Sports Weight Goldilocks
Handmaiden Cashmere silk Purple
Jade Sapphire cashmere silk bought as red, clearly orange
Rowan Calmer green

Pattern: All Year Cardigan by Taiga Hilliard.
Yarn See above.
Modifications The pattern is my template, but that is, indeed, the point of the designer, so modifications are not only in order, but positively expected. I haven’t done anything very adventurous with those I’ve so far finished, but since they were prompted by busy prints, I thought simple was best. I’ve finish off the edges in garter stitch, 3/2 rib, 1/1 rib, stocking stitch. All of them have a gauge of about 19 st/4 inches; in the case of most of the yarns this means they make a nice drapey fabric. The major exception is Rowan Calmer, which was knitted exactly to gauge and is a much tighter fabric.
Thoughts I thoroughly recommend the pattern, if you are looking for a template rather than a precise specific look, such as Wispy. I’m not suggesting this lacks as a pattern, only that it permits you to take it wherever you like. I’ve worn all of these a lot, which I guess means the idea works. I can pack several of them in a suitcase and they weigh all of a few hundred grams between them. Needless to say, these can be knitted as long as short as you like, and being constructed top down means little fretting about amounts of yarn. The least yarn I had was about 360m of the Handmaiden.

Everyday cardigan in Jade Sappphire cashmere/silk.
Everyday cardigan in Jade Sappphire cashmere/silk.

More on the yarns.

(1) I hate knitting with pure cotton, being yet to find one that’s nice to the touch. The Bouton D’or was discontinued and it’s easy to understand why. Glace is no fun to knit but at least the end result is okay to wear.
(2) I picked up the Sandnes Garn Mini Duett in Stockholm a couple of months ago. It was a pleasure to knit with – I guess it is pretty much the same as Rowan’s Wool Cotton. I’m hoping it wears well, but it feels too nice and soft to have such expectations.
(3) I love MerLin, it is such a shame Louet discontinued it. The combination of wool and linen works really well. This is the only one of the seven versions of this that has my unconditional enthusiasm.
(4) The Handmaiden cashmere silk is going to look awful soon, but a delight to knit. I hate the striped effect, I might add. Exactly why I steer clear of hand dyed less than solid effects.
(5) The Jade Sapphire is solid in colour, also a joy to knit and wear. It looks like it might be a little more robust than the Handmaiden, but it hasn’t been taken out as much, so it’s a bit early to tell.

Everyday cardie in Rowan Glace
Everyday cardie in Rowan Glace

Yarn shops in Stockholm

It’s been a long time since a post about knitting on this blog that has morphed, somehow, away from that subject as a rule. It will come as no great surprise that there are knitting shops in abundance in Stockholm. I managed to get to three and pick up a sampling of Scandinavian yarn from each.

The first was Ekens Garn . Here I bought some stretchy cotton and some wool cotton, having in mind my continuing affair with All Year Cardigan. Permit me to call it my Everyday Cardigan instead. So, a couple of blue ones coming up.

Next up, two in Gamla Stan. I was a bit put off Gamla Stan to begin with, thinking it would be the uber touristy part of town, meaning high prices, bad food, tacky tourist Stuff. Well, there is a bit of all of that, I dare say, but it’s a bit like Venice. It’s all on a couple of the main streets. Just go left or right off them, start wandering and you get to nice shops, cafes, restaurants, things to look at.

Sticka contains quite a range of items that are made of wool, but not necessarily knitted as well as a large stock of handknitted items which handily serve as examples of yarns in practise for those, like me, who aren’t familiar with the local brands. I decided in the end on a tweedy sort of tussah silk in a dull black. Really looking forward to knitting this up for…ermmm….an Everyday Cardigan.

Finally, on the same street as Sticka, is another slightly eccentric yarn shop, again including a variety of handknits called Anntorps The local wool is too harsh for my skin, though I appreciate it must be just the thing for the Swedish winter, so again I went for silk. I think this is also Tussah silk, a lovely ruby colour dyed by Ann herself. Luckily enough I could pick up just the right amount for – YES, you guessed it! An Everyday Cardigan.

I’m loving this pattern. So far I’ve knitted it five times, with several Swedish ones to come.