Hats By Katrinka

Kate Brown Pernia is a Milliner on sabbatical in Switzerland. She has been designing hats and teaching millinery under her Katrinka label since the 1980s. Kate is also the founder of Houston Hat Net. View Katrinka hats and hat patterns at www.hatsbykatrinka.com.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Swiss Adventure

Here I am in Switzerland and what a gorgeous place this is! I arrived about 6 weeks ago to join my husband who is on a working sabbatical here. Since we left family and great friends behind in Texas and elsewhere I hope to keep you posted on what we are doing and seeing in this midlife adventure.

We have an attic (they say penthouse!) flat in the Old Town section of St. Gallen in a wonderful old building just blocks from the Klosterhof. The Kathedral bells ring every quarter hour and no cars are allowed on the streets after noon. Window shopping is a treat but actual shopping is more of a challenge since we don't yet speak German. The Swiss are not part of the European Union so no Euros here. We use Swissfrancs (CHF). Clothing is very expensive so perhaps it's better to window shop anyway. We left our cars behind in the U.S. and walk or use public transportation which is excellent here. Did you know that if a Swiss train is 15 minutes late you get your money back for the fare? Our little town is a one-hour train ride from Zurich, Switzerland's largest city, and all of Switzerland is smaller than the State of Texas.

St. Gallen has been important in the textile industry, they say, for a thousand years. In the beginning it was linen production, then lace and embroidery. There is a very nice Textile Museum here with gorgeous samples of St. Gallen's past finery. You don't see much lace and embroidery in the stores here anymore but there are a number of fabric companies still producing exquisite fabrics used by Paris couturiers. When I spotted a tiny basket of Swiss lace at a knitting shop the Proprietress told me it had come from the factory where her mother used to work and that if I wanted to see Swiss lace I should go to Schaepfer. My new American pal Starr (fluent in German) and I went hunting. We wandered into a lace school and got directions to the boutique of Jakob Schaepfer where I saw the most beautiful fabrics and laces I have ever seen! The prices were out of sight too but they did have small sample pieces (mostly less than a meter) on sale from CHF20 to over CHF545. One gorgeous embroidered black silk taffeta sold for over CHF1000 per meter. We left with some tiny gorgeous silk swatches and the hope of going back with lots of Swissfrancs someday.

Well, I am in the right place! This is enough for starters. More to come.


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