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.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

In Like a Lion

My mother used to tell us, "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb." In other words, you’ll get an early Spring. We got our lion last weekend when St. Gallen in the valley was hit with a rekord Schneefall. We got 25+ inches of snow on Saturday after it had rained all the night before. In the hills they had all snow so they accumulated much more. Here is a picture of my Sweetie on Sunday morning in our pretty little town. What was amazing to see next was how efficient the Swiss are at coping with snow. Within hours the main roads were cleared so that public transportation could go on as usual. In the Old Town, where we live, they’d plowed the streets in time for people to make it to church. In the next couple of days the small mountains of plowed snow were removed by construction equipment and dump trucks. I wonder where they take it? Meanwhile, lots of kids were heading for the train station with skis and snowboards.

A few days into the week the weather warmed up and the great melting began. We live at the top of our building so could hear the great mass of accumulated snow begin to loose and slide down the steep roof. Roofs here have little fences along the edges to keep the snow from causing avalanches on the streets below but the fences are small and can only do so much. Special crews came in to rope off areas of the street while daredevils shovel snow off the steep roofs before it nails someone 6 stories below. How would you like to have this guy’s job? Don’t worry. He’s wearing a harness in case his foot slips. Now, it’s mostly all gone but it’s snowing again today (Saturday) so who knows? We could be in for a very early Spring.
K Q:-)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Mehr Stickerei und Stoff!

Well, I’ve found my new favorite fabric store! Had heard from several people about Bischoff, a major textile manufacturing company in St. Gallen. Their retail shop, however, is only open two half-days a week so I hadn’t gotten over there until this afternoon. What a treat! Bischoff is known for their lace and embroidery work. You can hear the machines working above as you browse the bins of Stoff (fabric) being sold by the piece or by the kilo and the wall of laces. These pretty lace pieces sold for only 4 CHF a piece. A bargain! They have other walls filled with bolts of wonderful fabrics - some as low as 2 CHF per meter. My pal Starr bought 25 meters of a peachy brocade like damask to make next year’s Carnevale costumes with lace to match. This gorgeous grey piece was sold by weight and I have enough to make an interesting skirt or even a pair of my favorite Pucci pants for less than the cost of denim in other fabric stores here. I’ll be back. This is my kind of treasure!
K Q:-)

Sunday, March 05, 2006


Switzerland was once known for its beautiful lace (Stickerie) and St. Gallen was for many years the center of the Swiss lace industry. Since I arrived here I’ve been on the lookout for lace and was surprised to see that it simply was not evident. There are a few lace souvenirs scattered about but new industries have long ago replaced the once booming lace trade here. Considering what passes for fashionable dress these days I guess it’s not surprising that really good lace is a bit more difficult to find.

I have kept my eyes open tho’ and have discovered a few treasures along my way. One day, while poking around a knit shop, I spied a small basket of beautiful cotton lace trim. The proprietress explained that the lace came from a factory where her mother had worked before the factory closed its doors. This weekend we tramped on foot through a blizzard to the Olma where an annual antiques fair was in progress. While browsing through the Swiss clocks, cowbells, jewelry and vintage junk I spotted several vendors selling antique Swiss lace. I couldn’t resist this beautiful piece which the seller explained is over 100 years old. It is probably a collar or a yoke intended for lingerie. I’m sure I will hoard it for awhile before I find the perfect use for it.

Another vendor had a beautiful silk, hand embroidered bonnet with a wired black lace brim peeking out of a hatbox. When I asked if she would show it to me she was happy to oblige. The bonnet was part of a folk costume she had that was originally worn in the area of Lucerne. Not all the pieces of the costume were left but she showed me a book displaying the full costume. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture of that bonnet as we chatted! I purchased from this lady the sweet little floral pin (perfect for a hat) made up of St. Gallen lace leaves. Yes, I think I’m beginning to find the St. Gallen lace trail!

K Q:-)