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, 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!


At 5:01 PM, Blogger Jazz said...

The baby sweater is sooooooo cute!

At 11:39 PM, Blogger craftingchaos said...

There are some fabric stores in Switzerland, but most have expensive designer fabrics. I found this one http://www.fabrikladen-zieglbrugg.ch/ on the internet, I wasn't there (yet), they call it factory outlet, the prizes may be reasonable. There are 2 stores in Zürich I know of. They are on both sides of the Limmat in the old part of the town, one has really, really expensive haute couture fabric (the fabric you saw in St.Gallen), the other one isn't quite so expensive.
To find them go from the main station and follow the river, one is on the right side, directly at the river, behind the Heimatwerk. The other one is on the other side of the river, I always have to search myself. I just walk on the Limmatquai and look into every little street, it is some 100m into one of these, almost opposite the other one.
Basel had one fabric store in the city center at Freie Strasse, but I haven't been there for a year, this was pretty reasonable prized, but, beeing in Switzerland, not cheap, they even have a website http://www.stoffe.ch/stofftraum/so-finden-sie-uns.html
and also in Basel is this one http://www.esempio-tessuti.com/, they have moved since I was last there, so I can't really say what they have now. Some 10 years ago, there were more fabric stores, but they don't seem to make money and have to close. Oh yes and a fabric store needs space and real estate is really expensive in Switzerland, especially in the cities. Best bet is to look outside the big cities, like the first one I mentioned, which is outside of Zurich in the industrial area.


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