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.