A Yarn Barn…Only in Texas

Where else would one find a barn full of yarn but in Texas? In actuality, the Yarn Barn is housed in a sweet cottage with a porch and old wooden floors. You walk through the various rooms realizing that this was someone’s home once upon a time. It is a quaint cottage full of beautiful yarn.

Yarn Barn 1

Yarn Barn 2

Today’s Yarn Barn is under new ownership. When I lived in San Antonio, the old Yarn Barn was my LYS. I remember when they were closing – their lease was up and they would have to find a new location – so the owners decided to retire. I was so worried that the Yarn Barn would cease to exist! But not to worry. Enid came to the rescue and kept its doors open.

Yarn Barn 3

Yarn Barn 4

The new Yarn Barn has a wonderful selection of yarns in all fibers and colors.

Yarn Barn 5

The Yarn Barn also caters to needlework beyond knitting and crocheting and has an extensive selection of canvasses and threads for needlepoint, cross stitch kits and some weaving supplies.

Yarn Barn 6

Yarn Barn 7

The Yarn Barn is located at 1615 McCullough Avenue in San Antonio, Texas. Parking is a challenge, especially if you park out front, but they do have overflow parking across the street. The location is a bit off the beaten path – not much retail around it – but accessible from IH35 and the McAllister Freeway (U.S. 281).

Sock Therapy (or How I Made It through the Holiday Blues)

I’ve been furiously knitting socks lately. As soon as I weave in the ends of one, I immediately cast on another.

Simple Skyp Sock #1 in progress

I have always found knitting to be soothing. As I knit, I can feel worries and angst slowly evaporate. Mostly, focusing on knitting helps me drown everything else out. For those moments, I am in a state of calm.

Turning the Heel

Lately, a sadness has enveloped me. Nothing has happened. On the contrary, I am living a blessed life surrounded by people whom I love and who love me. I want for little. I am very fortunate. But I am sad. Often.

Monkey Sock #1 in progress

It comes and goes. At this moment, all is joyous and warm. But some days, just getting out of bed and dressing seems like an insurmountable challenge. Maybe it was a case of the holiday blues. Maybe it’s hormones. Maybe it’s just life.

Monkey Sock #2 in progress

The one activity that helped me through the holidays was knitting. Knits, purls, yarn overs and slipped stitches forced me to focus. The rhythmic motions of my hands on the needles soothed me. I was creating something and in that process of creation I found peace.

Knit Coffee Mug

I have read articles (like this one and this one) where experts share results of research studies on the positive effects that crafts like knitting have. They serve to reinforce what I already knew – knitting is like “chicken soup for the soul.” Knitting to me is comforting. And it snaps me out of my doldrums. A simple pair of socks is a victory to celebrate.

Self-Striping Yarn Sock #1 in progress

There is something incredibly special and satisfying about making something with my own hands. I am reminded of a few lines from one of my favorite poems:

And in time, I plant geraniums

I tie up my hair into loose braids,

And trust only what I have built

with my own hands.

From Beneath the Shadow of the Freeway by Lorna Dee Cervantes

The last sock that I knit fit perfectly. Now to cast on the second. A warmth fills my heart and a smile lights up my face as I reach for the yarn and needles.

Stockholm Yarn Crawl

For our holiday in Stockholm, we found the most adorable apartment through Airbnb. Monica’s apartment had everything we could possibly need – a comfy living room, narrow but incredibly well-organized and stocked kitchen, and a fold-down bed that didn’t take up much space. The lift to the third floor was one of those old-fashioned ones that just fit two people and had a metal accordion door. The apartment was located only one long block from the metro. The SoFo (South of Folkungagatan) neighborhood was very eclectic and bohemian with antique stores and fab pubs nearby. My husband and I wanted to just take up residence in Monica’s apartment forever, but we figured she needed it back eventually.

It’s impossible to visit Sweden and not run across yarn shops. Yet another reason why I ❤️ Sweden. I had a list on the ready for our forays around town. Our first stop was Stick it Up, located in SoFo only a brisk 15 minute walk from Monica’s apartment.

Stick It Up - Exterior

Stick it Up is a small shop with a nice selection of yarn in natural and man-made fibers. The owner was kind and friendly and explained the sources of the various yarns. I narrowed my selection to these 100% wool skeins intended for Lovikka mittens, which the owner explained were traditional in Sweden. Once home, I looked up the history and found a nice summary about the origin of the mittens on the Heart of Lovikka website. I brought home two skeins of a lovely green (not pictured here). Stick it Up is located at Ringvägen 64, 118 61 Stockholm, tel. 08-642 00 13.

Stick It Up - Yarn

Content with my purchases, we headed over to Gamla Stan to explore the old town center. As we meandered through the cobblestone streets, I spotted this in a dark window – yarn!

Makeri 14 - Window Shopping

Alas, as I got closer, the shop was closed. All I could do was cup my hands against the window and look longingly at the baskets full of yarn. The shop was tiny, meant only to walk in, buy and leave. Makeri 14 is located at Köpmangatan 14, 111 31 Stockholm.

Makeri 14 - Exterior

The next yarn shop was located near a statue of St. George slaying the dragon. I easily spotted it because this was hanging outside the door.

Anntorps Väv on Österlånggatan 11

Anntorps Väv was also somewhat small but had a luscious collection of yarn in natural fibers. Just look at these 100% silk beauties in the window! The proprietress spoke a little bit of English and I spoke not a bit of Swedish but we managed to point and understand each other perfectly. The silk is spun for the store and she hand dyes it in these jewel-tones.

Anntorps Väv - Window Shopping

The other reason the shop is small is because this large loom takes up most of the space. When we walked in, the proprietress was weaving on it. In the store were large fluffy blankets she had woven on the loom. Anntorps Väv is located at Österlånggatan 11, 111 31 Stockholm, tel. 0046(0)8 676 00 23. It’s a few doors down from Stockholms Gästabud Bar and Bistro where we had those fabulous Swedish meatballs (pictured in previous post).

Anntorps Väv - Loom

Window shopping in Gamla Stan is heavenly when you spot things like these skeins.

Galleri Yamanashi - Window Shopping

Galleri Yamanashi is located in a largish space in a busy corner with large windows facing the street. The gallery is very nicely laid out inside with plenty of room to look around. Throughout the space, there are examples of tools used in the spinning of yarn.

Galleri Yamanashi at 1 Köpmantorget

Their selection of yarns was nicely curated and presented. There were natural skeins of wool in burlap sacks and dyed skeins in large baskets. A large wall cubby housed skeins in various weights and colors.

Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Bag
Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Basket
Galleri Yamanashi - Yarn Cubbies

During my visit, the shop had a special exhibition showcasing entries from the 2015 Wålstedts Textile Art Contest. The contest is a knitting and weaving competition between Sweden and Japan using Wålstedts yarns. To see the other winning entries in both weaving and knitting categories, go to galleri-yamanashi.se.

Wålstedts Textile Art Contest 2015 - 2
Left: Wålstedts Textile Art banner. Right: The chapell Notre-du-Haut by Ayako Murota.
Wålstedts Textile Art Contest 2015 - 1
Top Left: Weaver-Jyuri Nagayo. Top Right: Praying reconstruction and rebirth of eastern Japan by Mieko Sano. Bottom Left: Received Excellence Award, tomato by Weaver-Kaoru Yoneda. Bottom Right: Weaver-Maki Kimimori.

I was curious about Wålstedts yarns. According to the gallery’s website, the Wålstedts spinneri is one of the oldest spinning mills in Sweden dating back to 1934. Their fibers are sourced from Swedish sheep and have been cleaned, spun and dyed by four generations of the Wålstedts family. The following video from the Wålstedts Textilverkstad website depicts gorgeous Swedish country landscapes and the process the family uses to make this beautiful yarn.

There were several bags full of wool fibers from the Wålstedts factory dyed in rich colors around the gallery. Galleri Yamanashi is located at Köpmantorget 1, 111 31 Stockholm.

Galleri Yamanashi - Pink Fleece

Galleri Yamanashi - Blue Fleece

The final yarn shop I visited was Sticka, also located in Gamla Stan. At the entry, I was greeted by this ferocious ceramic bulldog – too cute!

Sticka at 37 Österlånggatan

The interior of Sticka looks more like a clothing shop than a yarn store. Displayed on racks throughout the space were beautiful, airy knitted items for purchase, such as shawls and sweaters. They had a small but nice selection of yarns from various countries but not too many local yarns. Sticka is located at Österlånggatan 37, 111 31 Stockholm, tel. +46 8 23 37 37. For some reason, the website will not display but here is a link to their Facebook page.

That concludes my Swedish yarn crawl. I know there were many more yarn shops that I could not possibly visit during my stay. Good enough reason to return one day!

Garn on Gotland

Botanical Gardens - Yllet Yarn Close-up

Visiting an island with such a rich history and with its very own breed of sheep, yarn was unquestionably on the itinerary. Everywhere we walked in the old town of Visby, there were statues of sheep in recognition of the role that sheep have played in the island’s history. Farmers kept sheep and used their fleece to make clothing to keep warm during the snow-covered winters.

Sheep Statue on Visby

Nothing was wasted. The curly fleece could be found on bags, pillows, clothing, seat cushions and phone cases.

Kvinnfolki - Wool Items

One place to get all sorts of sheepish goodies was at Kvinnfolki. The items at Kvinnfolki are the handiwork of a women’s collective. They make everything by hand in their homes or studios, such as casting pottery and spinning their own yarn. They are located on Donners Plats, Visby’s town square.

Kvinnfolki - Yarn and Cuffs Display

These sheep pelts were oh-so-soft to touch and so warm! They even smelled sheepish. And see those fluffy slippers to the left? I brought Mom a pair. She says she puts them on as soon as she gets home every day and loves how they keep her feet warm and cozy.

Kvinnfolki - Sheep Pelt

Before moving on to the next shop, we required sustenance. At an adorable little place called Ett Rum För Resande Café (Room for Traveler’s Café), I had the Gotland island specialty – saffranspannkaka, a saffron pancake with red berries and cream. Paired with a cappuccino to warm up my bones, it was the perfect afternoon snack. The chef/owner of the tiny café was so down to earth. Customers of all ages would come in and catch up on the latest news. He must know everyone in town! We spent a while talking with him – he prepares and cooks everything himself using fresh ingredients. He always had some very cool music on and he made a killer pasta dish when we returned the next day for lunch.

Ett Rum For Resande Cafe - Saffron Dessert

Right across the cobblestone street from the café is an antiques store named Akantus. The middle and back rooms of Akantus are filled with wonderful antiques that included furniture, glassware, pottery, paintings and other decorative items.

Akantus - Antiques

In the front room, they stock all sorts of whimsical pretty things, like these mice in their cigar box bed – complete with knitted blanket!

Akantus - Mice in Cigar Box

Further down the street, there are no less than three yarn shops next to each other. One of them was closed for the season but fear not because the other two were open for business. The first stop was at Design & Hantverk Gotland which features yarn and many other hand crafted items from local artisans such as ceramics and glassware. The owners themselves design and make items in pewter, iron and wood.

Design & Hantverk Gotland - Storefront

Of course, my attention went straight to the beautiful yarn displays.

Design & Hantverk Gotland - Yarn Display 1

The owner told me that she hand knit all of these socks! They were thick and colorful and showcased the sock yarn in her shop.

Design & Hantverk Gotland - Knitted Socks

Immediately across the street was Yllet.

Yllet - Storefront

The owner, Frida, is a lovely young woman who inherited her love of yarn from her mother. Her mother used to export yarn spun from Gotland sheep. Now Frida is at the helm. She sources the fleece locally on the island and has it spun in Finland. She explained that the fleece of the Gotland sheep is very fine, more similar to mohair than wool. She found a spinnery in Finland with the right equipment for spinning the long, delicate fleece. She personally selects the dyes and sells the yarn under her own Yllet label. She is living the life I imagine!!

Yllet - Yarn Display 1

In addition to fabulous yarn for hand knitting, she has the yarn machine-knit into sweaters and other clothing. Local women assemble the machine-knit pieces. My husband liked a simple sweater with clean lines but they did not have his size available in the dark gray color he preferred. Frida made a phone call and a local seamstress assembled the sweater in his size and color of choice. It was ready the following day.

Yllet - Yarn Display 2

Toward the end of our stay, I decided to photograph my purchases in Gotland rather than waiting until I got home. Across the street from our hotel were the Botanical Gardens. Even in the Fall, the gardens were lush and verdant.

Botanical Gardens - Gazebo
Gazebo built in 1863.

The gardens had their own particular history.

In 1814 a few young men gathered to bathe in the sea, drink punch and socialize. They decided to form the Society of the Bathing Friends (DBW). After a short time they wanted to combine pleasure with usefulness… (Sign posted by the Friends of the Botanic Garden)

Among its contributions, the Society established a school for poor boys in 1815, a savings bank in 1830, and the Botanic Garden in 1855.

Botanical Gardens - Dáhlia
Dáhlia – Happy Single Wink
Crócus - Oxonian.
Crócus – Oxonian.
Rósa - Leonardo da vinci.
Rósa – Leonardo da vinci.

Botanical Gardens - White Dáhlia

What better place than the botanical gardens for a photo shoot? I took my yarn lovelies to the gardens and arranged them in various poses for the camera. We had so much fun!

Botanical Gardens - Yllet Yarn Close-up

I call this one, “yarn among the leaves.”

Botanical Gardens - Yllet Yarn

Walking around the gardens scouting good places for the photo shoot, there was this lovely sheep statue next to a fallen tree.

Botanical Gardens - Sheep

Also on the grounds are the ruins of S:t Olaf’s Kyrka.

St. Olof's Church - West Tower

In its day, St. Olof’s Church was among the biggest and most sumptuous churches in Visby. It dates from the early years of the 13th century. The church was named after the canonised king of Norway, Olof Haraldsson.

This church was a basilica, i.e. had a tall nave and lower north and south aisles. Parts of the west tower are all that now remains. The walls of the church were demolished after the Middle Ages and the stone was used for buildings in Visby.

Behind the church, the sun was filtering in through the trees.

Botanical Gardens - Undyed Wool 2

Botanical Gardens - Undyed Wool 1

I call this series, “yarn among the ruins.” (LOL)

Botanical Gardens - Angora Yarn

Just a few meters outside the medieval wall surrounding the gardens was the icy Baltic Sea. Even though the air was cool, the sun was shining on a magnificent day.

Ducks

A Few Hours on Fårö

Fårö is sparsely populated. The summer tourists were gone and the locals were not to be seen. We had the narrow roads all to ourselves.

Windmill on Fårö

I was on a quest to find Gotland sheep and Fårö satisfied. Along an empty road, behind a fence on a large pasture of land, I spotted them.

Gotland Sheep - Fårö

This fella’ (or gal) on the left was quite curious and walked over to me. Meanwhile, the two behind him were playing around butting heads.

Gotland Sheep playing on Fårö

As he got closer, I found his eyes to be quite interesting. Rather than round pupils, his were like horizontal slits. I had never noticed! Apparently this is quite typical for sheep. From a little research on the web, I found an article that explains how the shape of an animals’ pupils affects how well they can control light entering the eye.

Gotland Sheep eyes (Fårö)

… horizontally elongated pupils are nearly always found in grazing animals, which have eyes on the sides of their heads. They are also very likely to be prey animals such as sheep and goats. (Source)

Gotland Sheep grazing on Fårö

As we continued driving along, we pulled over to take a look at a Gotland farm. This farmhouse at Bondans was built in 1783. There was a visitor’s stand that provided the history of the farm. I snapped a picture of it so that I would remember the details and have transcribed parts of it here.

Bondans Farm

In bygone days, farms were largely self-sufficient. Stone was used to build houses and fences. The forests provided firewood and timber. Clothes were made from wool and linen. The people on the farm lived off their fields and animals, hunting and fishing.

The farmhouse is a ‘parhus’ – a traditional laterally inverted structure with a hall mid-front, backed by a small parlor, both flanked by a large room on each side. Other farm buildings include a cow-shed thatched with sedge, a barn with a threshing mill, a row of outhouses, a store with a goose shed, a cellar and flax-drying shed, where there is a kiln used to roast malt for beer. (Sign posted by the County Administrative Board of Gotland)

Stone structure and wall on Fårö

Even back then, these farmers were planting green roofs, which help with insulation.

Nature takes over.

When wood became scarce in the eighteenth century, the state granted twenty years’ tax relief to those who built houses of stone. In the stone houses that were subsequently built, the walls were no longer of finely hewn stone but of dry-walled stone, plastered both inside and outside. (Sign posted by the County Administrative Board of Gotland)

I found this little structure to be so quaint and wondered what it would look like in black and white.

Stone structure on Fårö in black x white

On the Langhammar Nature Preserve, before we reached the rock-covered beaches and giant rauks, we crossed an area with lush green vegetation.

Windmill at Langhammars

The vegetation at Langhammar and in the areas to the south have been strongly affected by long-term sheep-grazing. The south end of the reserve could almost be described as “discontinuous savanna”; pine groves alternate with barren, heath-like tracts of alvar, and smaller areas of somewhat more luxuriant wet meadows. In the central part of Langhammar, the rocky ground is largely covered by low, crouching juniper bushes, which have been stunted by sheep and the wind. (Sign at Langhammars Nature Reserve posted by the County Administrative Board of Gotland)

The Helgumannen fishing village is located on the Digerhuvud Nature Reserve. The cottages were all shuttered for the coming winter.

Fishing cabins at Helgumannen, Fårö

Near the Gamla Hamn Nature Reserve, we followed signs pointing to S:t Olof’s Kyrka. Instead of a building, we found only the foundation of the church which dates back to the Medieval period.

S:T Olof's Kyrka

According to tradition, Gotland was converted to Christianity by the saintly Norwegian King Olof. In front of you there are the foundations of a small wooden chapel called St. Olof’s Church. The chapel is surrounded by a circular churchyard. (Sign posted by the County Administrative Board of Gotland)

We didn’t see them but near the shore there is apparently a burial ground with various graves dating back to Medieval times. From the endless gray skies and chill from the wind, I can only imagine what it might have been like during the Ice Age, or to see Viking ships arriving at the harbor. We were only on Fårö for a few hours but I will remember it forever.