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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rainy Day Project Redux

Our first day back after the Helsinki trip it was raining all day again. I helped Jazz finish her skirt in time to wear to her new school next week. Hemming those ruffles was no easy task for her but she persevered, braving the zig zag on my Bernette, and she did a fine job. Jazz picked the hardest skirt on the pattern but that was the one she wanted. So any other skirt will be easy for her now. Doesn’t she look terrific?
K Q:-)

A Trip to Helsinki

This past week Sherman had a little business to do in Finland so we flew to Helsinki for a few days to explore. On arrival, I was surprised to find that the weather was warmer than here in St. Gallen (due, I suppose, to the lower altitude). Much of this country is still wild and the population is only about 5 million total (less than NYC!). They have a well developed high tech industry here and we were told it is the most productive of European countries. Education and medical care are completely paid for with high taxes and they have no poverty. We found it clean and friendly and everyone we encountered in Helsinki spoke English. Most also speak Finnish and Swedish.

The architecture was not so old or interesting as in Switzerland tho’ they do have some wonderful churches including a Russian Orthodox cathedral that I hope to explore next time. We did get into this church which is one of the tourist highlights of the city.

Our host Kostas made sure we tasted both traditional and modern Finnish foods and I must say that we ate well. We began with a selection of pastries at the popular Café Strindberg. Sherman and I were sipping our coffee while our host selected pastries inside and we spotted a tall pretty girl walking about the Esplanade searching for someone (we thought). Suddenly she spotted us and pirouetted into a spontaneous little dance. She finished as quickly as she began, bowed gracefully saying, ‘Just for you!’ in English. Then she disappeared around the corner. No solicitation for money and too quick for me to even grab my camera! Just serendipity. I guess we really look like American tourists!

After a little strolling and sightseeing we dined at Lapin Kulta, a traditional restaurant in the style of a Laplander hut. Sherman ordered Char, a delicious kind of salmon which arrived on a bed of barley. I ate reindeer steak with liggonberries, pickled onions and potatoes. Very tasty! We were staying at a very nice Holiday Inn near the train station which also had a fabulous breakfast buffet including fruit and berries, pickled herring (yum!) and a rich mildly smoked salmon. Did I say we ate well?

Our second day Sherman had a meeting so I shopped in Stockmann’s, a very large and tempting department store owned by an old Swedish family in Finland. I had a hard time making choices as they had so many beautiful things at reasonable prices. The textiles were particularly tempting and I bought both a scarf and a handwoven shawl. The hosiery department displayed a mind boggling selection of socks, tights and leggings in various sizes, differing also in how tightly they hug the leg, not to mention the colors, argyles, prints etc. I stocked up. The millinery department was also fun to explore with various sizes (no one-size-fits-all here) and prices ranging from fleece lined military style cotton caps to knitted hoods rimmed with fox fur and lots of creative and fun felt hats. I SO wanted to take some photos but have learned that stores generally don’t appreciate that. I did get a picture of this booth down by the harbor later that day where we shopped for souvenirs and ate more salmon at a fast food stand for lunch.

We both decided that our trip was too short and we’d like to go again. They have a glass museum to explore, I want to search out more of the lovely textiles and I understand the overnight cruise to Stockholm from the harbor is a reasonable luxury in the summer months. The harbor is frozen in winter and one can walk across to one of the hundreds of small islands. With my hats, my new sock collection and my L. L. Bean down coat I’d even brave the winter weather (they get only 4 hours of daylight mid-winter). But they also have tango dancing under the midnight sun in July!
K Q:-)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A Project for a Rainy Day

Well, we certainly seem to be making up for our hot dry July with a chilly and rainy August. No complaints...just an observation. Here’s what we are seeing lots of lately. By the way, summer is over here and the kids are back in school. All except Jasmine who will be starting first week of September at a beautiful private school.

Thinking about school clothes, we went shopping yesterday and Jazz picked out some cotton to make a skirt. She’d admired my tripled tiered skirt and decided to try her hand at making one. She tried on mine, we took her measurements, and I figured out how much we had to reduce my pattern to fit her lithe figure. We made a muslin for fitting and pre-shrunk her fabric yesterday. Then today we set out to make it into a skirt. Jazz is doing almost all of the work with some supervision by me. She took to it immediately and has already completed the base skirt and the first of three ruffles. We’ll post a picture of the finished product when it is complete.

I’m back to teaching. Yay Hurray! K Q:-)

P.S. That's Squeegee pinch hitting as pattern weight and stitching supervisor.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Busy Day

Yesterday was a day of contrasts. Early in the day John picked us up to drive us out to the castle to meet John Travis, his new baby boy, whom he is very proud of. Can you tell? After a champagne toast and visit with the happy family, John drove us back to town. We bought some sandwiches and stopped off for a picnic at the Botanical Garden. Lots of Pflanzen were pretty burned up by our July heat but I love this garden and will definitely go back often - especially in the Spring when the wisteria and narcissus are blooming. There’s a beautiful church nearby that warrants exploration too. Doesn’t my hubby look handsome in his Italian fedora (a Guerra)?

After lunch we headed back to town where the St. Galler Fest was in full swing. This is a two day party with food booths, live music and serious partying in the streets. It went on all afternoon Friday late into the night and then all day Saturday until 2:30 a.m. this morning. We enjoyed sampling the various ethnic foods and the music which varied from Munich beer garden music to Dixieland jazz and cool blues - really good! Our gal, Jazz had a lot of fun with her green glow-in-the-dark glasses and had some Swiss girls begging for tastes of her strawberry cotton candy. We cruised by Pipi Strello's Bar to visit our Sicilian pals Pipi and Mario of Timebridge (rock band) who were pleased to pose for us.

As you see, it’s not all yodeling and ooompah music over here (tho’ there IS some of that too!).
K Q:-)

Thursday, August 17, 2006


We have houseguests again. They are an American attorney, Carrie, who is joining hubby in law firm here and her adorable 11 year old daughter Jazz. Since the lawyers are so busy I’ve been spending time with Jazz comparing notes on our theatre exploits and teaching her to knit (which I too am learning). She’s a real joy to have around - lots of FUN!

Today we took the Mühleggbahn up to St. Georgen and hiked all the way around Drei Weieren (three swimming ponds) then up into the woods at Freudenbergwald. It was one of two lovely days we’ve had in the past rainy 2 weeks so we took full advantage enjoying the Wanderwegs in the forest and the garden and pond views. By the time we made full circle we headed for Vogel where I had a Klosterbrau and Jazz had a Coupe Danemark. Jasmine’s response to the hot fudge was priceless! K Q:-)

P.S. Check out Jazz's new blog at http://Swissjazz.blogspot.com/

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Working and Reworking

My first week in St. Gallen I went to explore the Textile Museum on Vadianstrasse. The museum houses a gorgeous collection of St. Galler lace, books of lace samples, and an extensive library which I have yet to fully explore. In addition, they host exhibits of textile art and display examples of St. Gallen couture fabrics from the Paris Vision shows. These lush (and expensive!) fabrics combine traditional with high tech manufacturing techniques and are like none I had seen before. After my initial tour I asked a docent where the fabric stores are in St. Gallen. She shook her head, smiling sadly, and told me that there are only a few fabric stores left here. What a disappointment for this fabric-aholic! I have since found these few stores with limited selections and high prices and, as I have written before, have also found a factory outlet or three with a limited range of fabrics at more reasonable prices. It is clear, however, that Stoff is no longer at the center of St. Gallen business.

Faced with a limited supply of my usual working materials I jumped into something that was more readily available. I’d told my friends in Houston that I was going to learn to knit in Switzerland (I LOVE sweaters). There are more knitting shops here than fabric stores and I have accumulated a few knitting books and magazines for inspiration. My friend Starr and I have embarked on teaching ourselves to knit, with the occasional help and advice of Maya, who owns our favorite knitting shop Wolligx on Englegasse (Angel Street).

When one of my husband’s colleagues announced that she was pregnant I decided to try this beautiful baby sweater pattern given to me by lovely Diane in Houston. I figured it looked a bit complicated but is so small (using only 2 balls of yarn) I stood to lose very little if I couldn’t figure it out. It began simply with a garter stitch yoke. Then I became entangled in knitting instructions. With the help of http://www.knittinghelp.com/, Maya and my pal Starr I worked my way through this project, making mistakes, ripping out and starting over a total of 10 times! Did I say this was a learning venture? I did learn a lot in the process. I learned to keep notes on where I was in my knitting pattern, to rewrite the pattern in shorthand on a cribsheet so I could have it at a glance. I learned that with a complex pattern it is easier to start over than to try to recover a half row of stitches that have slipped off a knitting needle that has separated itself from the cable (very small size circular needle), to test and retest knitting gauge for size, and finally to practice what I preach which is not to be discouraged by mistakes (learning opportunities). Persistence pays!

Here it is and I am so pleased with the results that I may have to knit one for myself in this pattern someday. Next, however, I will try some of those spiral socks and a sweater sampler from Jackie Fee’s The Sweater Workshop. She has already been nice enough to answer an email query about knitting instructions. K Q:-)

P.S. I now have an 11 year old houseguest and student (more to come on Jazz later). How delightful it is to see a new generation taking an interest in Handwerk!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Book Club

The first Friday of each month I hop a train to Zurich, along with my friend Starr, to the American Women’s Club where our Book Club meets. These ladies are the best! In July and August the AWC is closed so we meet in a member’s home rather than skip the summer months. It’s just too much fun to miss. This month our club read The City of Falling Angels by John Berendt, a delightful tale about Venice and her characters. In a reversal of the usual trip, Starr hosted the meeting at her home here in St. Gallen and her charming husband Holger took the day off work to fix us a delicious Venetian cold lunch. Feast your eyes! After lunch, we had a guided tour (in English) of historic highlights of St. Gallen. Before today, I didn't know that we have the oldest church bell on the continent of Europe, brought from Ireland by Gallus in the year 612!

Tho’ it was chilly and rainy (What a difference a week makes - 14 C. here today!) it didn’t dampen our spirits one bit. Bravissimo, Starr & Holger, for a great day!
K Q:-)