Always on the lookout for knitted and unique, we discovered this GIANT adorable knit cat. Her official name is Splash the Cat, but we call her Gatita (little kitten). Gatita is three feet tall and 100% lovable. She is so fun to hug and curl up with for a nap. And how can one resist the cute ballet outfit?
Gatita came to us from blabla which is owned by two women entrepreneurs. Blabla has a flagship store in Atlanta but I found Gatita online. Gatita comes in several sizes – a 12-inch mini, 18-inch regular, and giant 3-foot version. Her friends include Harmony (a mermaid), Pierre (a floppy eared rabbit), and Socks (the fox), among others. Blabla also carries knit blankets, knit finger puppets, knit rattles and pretty cotton sheets. The dolls are knitted and handmade by women in Peru in 100% of the softest cotton.
While researching for this post, I discovered another small business with a similar product. Cuddle + Kind also sells fair trade dolls handcrafted in Peru. This small business run by a family in Ontario pitched their concept on Indiegogo and raised over $445,000 USD to launch their venture. Part of Cuddle + Kind’s value proposition is that they donate 10 meals per doll sold to feed children in need.
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.
Nothing was wasted. The curly fleece could be found on bags, pillows, clothing, seat cushions and phone cases.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the front room, they stock all sorts of whimsical pretty things, like these mice in their cigar box bed – complete with knitted blanket!
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.
Of course, my attention went straight to the beautiful yarn displays.
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.
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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!
I call this one, “yarn among the leaves.”
Walking around the gardens scouting good places for the photo shoot, there was this lovely sheep statue next to a fallen tree.
Also on the grounds are the ruins of S:t Olaf’s Kyrka.
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.
I call this series, “yarn among the ruins.” (LOL)
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.
You didn’t think I would pass up an opportunity to visit a yarn store, did you? Besides the beauty of gold, emeralds, textiles, art and salt mines, there was yarn.
When I entered La Casa Rosada (The Pink House) I thought I was in the yarn candy store of my dreams. The proprietress opened the shop for me and let me ogle and touch to my heart’s content. I had the place all to myself.
I found out about this jewel from an online search and from Classy Crochet’s blog. The shop is located in what looks like a residential street. It’s easy to spot, just look for the bright pink facade.
La Casa Rosada sells yarns made from natural fibers including cumare (a native palm tree), yute (jute, a vegetable fiber), cabuya ripiw (a natural fiber from the leaves of the fique plant, similar to hemp), pita (fiber from agave plants), bamboo, and strips of leather.
They carry wool and cotton in many weights, both dyed and in natural hues. Those large rolls are woven out of sisal and the barely visible sign below reads “fibra de plátano” on a basket filled with yarn spun out of banana leaf fibers.
They spin their own yarn at La Casa Rosada, so all you see are natural homespun fibers turned into gigantic skeins of yarn. The diameters range from 2, 3, 4, and 8 millimeters up to 3 centimeters for bulkier yarn.
They hand weave tapestries and hammocks. I was tempted to get one, they were so impressive, but somehow didn’t think it would fit in my carry-on.
Prices are based on weight. They have a large scale on the floor where they plopped my selections. The rate was roughly $1.500 Colombian pesos per kilogram. The scale read 1.20 kilograms for a total of $175.000 pesos (about $89 USD). Given the massive quantities of beautiful, natural, hand spun yarn, I thought it was a fair price.
I would go to La Casa Rosada again in a heartbeat. Next time, I’m bringing an empty suitcase.
While walking along the endless mazes of the Christmas Markets, we stopped at one booth and watched as a craftsman made beautiful hand blown glass ornaments. These sparkling ornaments now adorn our tree. If you want to see how they are made, this post has more information.
This is my second year attending the annual Artisan’s Market presented by the Contemporary Handweavers of Houston (CHH). The market runs from September 6 – 8 so if you are near Houston, you still have Saturday to stop by.
I am so glad that I went on their opening night. I did my usual walk around the rooms to look at all the displays. I then picked up a small plastic basket from the front so I could begin collecting the beautiful handwoven textiles, baskets, handmade jewelry, handspun yarn, and felted ornaments that I had singled out. I was too slow. Those ladies are fierce! Several items I had on my mental checklist were gone! Nonetheless, I had a great time looking, touching and taking pictures.
I saw beautiful handwoven textiles.
There were felted bracelets, handmade cards, woven rugs and artwork.
There were felted baskets, silk baskets and other sculptured baskets.
There were ghosts and goblins and catnip wrapped like mice for the upcoming Autumn holidays.
Even Saint Nicolas’ helpers offered their wares for the yuletide season.
Of course, there was yarn.
A huge round of applause to all of the fiber artists who produced these beautiful handmade items. By the crowds and the long line at check out, I am pleased to say that Houstonians truly appreciate the handcrafted arts.
If you want to see more lovely items like these, this is the post I wrote about last year’s event.
This past weekend, I attended a weaving demonstration sponsored by the Houston Arts Alliance. Weaving Home: Textile Traditions from Houston’s Karenni Community showcases the weaving process and textiles created by women refugees from Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). For the Karenni, weaving is both a tradition from their homeland and a means of providing financial support for their families.
I had not fully appreciated that Houston is home to several refugee communities from across the globe. These men, women, and children flee their countries as a result of armed conflicts and other conditions difficult to imagine. A local organization, The Community Cloth, supports these refugee communities. Through seed grants, The Community Cloth empowers refugee women to create and sell their handmade crafts.
The live demonstration featured a Karenni weaver using a back strap loom. With her permission, I captured some shots of her at her craft. I found the movement of her hands to be almost poetic.
Click on any photo for a large-screen view.
The rest of the exhibition featured displays of beautiful woven textiles. Items included traditional clothing and bags, and more modern items such as table runners and scarves.
The craftsmanship was evident in the patterns and lively colors. I was able to touch the textiles and appreciate the delicacy of the fine threads. The materials varied but were mostly made of cotton and some synthetic blends.
The purchase of this incredibly soft woven scarf was my little contribution to the Karenni microenterprise.
The Houston Arts Alliance website has a section devoted to the Weaving Home exhibit which I highly encourage you to read. You can learn more about and sponsor a seed grant for women artisans at The Community Cloth.
Some time ago, I discovered the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) located in Houston’s Museum District. The HCCC focuses on arts and crafts made from clay, fiber, glass, metal, wood or found/recycled materials. In addition to a variety of exhibitions, they have an Artist Residency program. When you visit the museum, you can see that each artist has their own workspace for perfecting their craft.
When I visited the museum, the Contemporary Handweavers of Houston (CHH) was holding its Artisan Market. Occupying the large display rooms were booths of textiles, jewelry, rugs, clothing and yarn. Weavers were working on large looms and spinners with their whirring wheels were scattered around the rooms.
I had to bring this small guest towel home only because it was handwoven and embroidered by 104 year old Tilly Marchwinski. Mrs. Marchwinski was not present but it seemed that everyone there knew her. They told me that she never missed the show but was a little under the weather that day.
This next item was the perfect sunglasses case. I loved both the vibrant colors and the texture produced by the swirling pattern.
This large basket was filled with handspun, hand dyed yarns.
This hank of yarn was handspun by Peggy Barnette of Sky Loom Weavers. Fiber contents – 80% BFL Wool, 20% Silk, 2 ply.
Normally I am drawn to rich, vibrant colors but I couldn’t resist the sheen of this soft brown yarn called “Chocolate Mint.” It is a 2 ply yarn spun from 50% Alpaca, 50% Bamboo by Penny Nelson also of Sky Loom Weavers.
Follow these links to learn more about the HCCC and the CHH. According to their website, the next CHH Artisan Market will be held on September 6-8, 2012 at the HCCC.
I was struck by the artistry in these cross-stitched magazine covers and newspapers. Another instance of finding threads in unexpected places. The artist, Inge Jacobsen, has taken an everyday disposable item that displays one-dimensional images of beauty and fashion and converted it into a unique piece of art. I learned about this artist from an article in Design Milk, Stitched Magazines by Inge Jacobsen | Design Milk. Here are a few cross-stitched images from her website at Inge Jacobsen.
The embroidered images on newspaper is surprising and refreshing. The image of the woman almost floats over the page.
I like this last one in particular because we see violent images like this repeated in the media so often that we become anesthetized to them and stop seeing them. The artist has taken a hazy picture of a violent scene and forced us to take a closer look.
Visit Inge Jacobsen’s website to read about the philosophy behind her art and see more of her handiwork.
From the first time I ran across this Knit Chair by Claire-Ann O’Brien, I fell in love with it and her designs. I love the way she takes the knit stitch puts it under a magnifying glass and makes it functional as well as engaging to look at. Design Milk just ran an article on her knit stools. You can also see her work on her website and blog.