Spring Blooms

For Easter weekend, our family congregated at my sister’s home in San Antonio, Texas. It is a three-hour monotonous drive between Houston and San Antonio on Interstate 10. As I was traveling alone, I decided to make the trip a bit more interesting. I took a detour north on State Highway 71 headed to La Grange, Texas – population just under 5,000 and home of the Texas Quilt Museum.

There were three exhibits on display that were particularly impressive. The first, “Modern Quilt Guild at the Texas Quilt Museum” showcased the guild’s first juried quilt show. Photography is not allowed inside the museum but you can see photos at the Modern Quilt Guild’s blog. Here is one sample.

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Source: MQG Blog

Also on display were the Magna Carta Quilts from the UK. There are a total of eight quilts. According to the Magna Carta Quilt website:

…four Medieval Quilts will tell the story of the Magna Carta in a graphic novel style… The story starts with the death of Richard the Lionheart, which lead to the ascension of his brother John to the throne of England, runs through the events leading up to the sealing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede… The Magna Carta was the first document ever imposed upon a King of England…by a group of his subjects, the feudal barons, in an attempt to limit his powers by law and protect their rights. The four Legacy Quilts…will be the shields of the 25 feudal barons who drew up the terms of the Magna Carta…

The detail of these quilts was mind-boggling. The figures depicted all had singular expressions, carried different items in their hands and wore varied medieval clothing according to their rank.

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Medieval Quilt IV (Source: Magna Carta Quilt)

The third exhibit of note was called “Wild Fabrications” sponsored by the Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA). You can view the entire exhibit online at the SAQA website in a slide show format. I highly recommend viewing it in full screen mode. My favorite was the polar bear.

larrea-NowYouSeeHim-Full-2nd
Now You See Him by Cat Larrea (Source: SAQA)

Wild Fabrications celebrates a world of animals both real and fantastical. The theme not only lends itself particularly to bold colors and whimsical imagery, but also to beautiful realism, and humor that can be ebullient or dark.

On the exterior side wall of the building that houses The Quilt Museum is this stunning mural that depicts traditional 19th century quilts.

Quilt Museum Exterior

The mural serves as a backdrop to Grandmother’s Flower Garden.

Many quilt makers…are also gardeners, and many quilt patterns were inspired by flowers, plants, trees, and nature in general. We named the garden for a beloved Depression-era quilt pattern, “Grandmother’s Flower Garden.”

Grandmother's Flower Garden 1

Grandmother's Flower Garden 2

Grandmother's Flower Garden 3

And if that isn’t enough to tempt you to visit, next door to The Quilt Museum is a fabric and YARN store called The Quilted Skein.

The Quilted Skein

There were four rooms of fabrics in all colors and patterns. And WALLS OF YARN.

The Quilted Skein - Yarn Wall

The staff was busily climbing ladders to hang up beautiful new quilt displays. They were having a good time making sure no one toppled off ladders and took time to assist me as I perused the yarn and picked out some fabric squares.

The Quilted Skein - Sock Yarn

It was time to get back on I-10 and continue my trip to San Antonio. From La Grange, I took a leisurely drive on Farm to Market Road 609. The countryside was littered with bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes – picture-perfect scenery.

Bluebonnets on FM 609

Indian Paintbrushes on FM 609

Back on I-10, I made another stop in Seguin, Texas, the pecan capital of the world – so-called because of the large production of pecans in the area. Seguin has a quaint downtown historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places. My destination was You’re So Crafty, a crafts store for making pottery, painting, beadwork, knitting and spinning. One could spend weeks here and not run out of crafty things to do.

You're So Crafty - Spinning Tools

This display was full of yarn spun from locally produced fibers. These skeins are from Windmill Crest Farms, a small alpaca farm of about 50 animals located in Seguin.

You're So Crafty Local Yarn

Content with the day’s discoveries, it was time to make the rest of the trip to my sister’s house. Both my brothers from back home and my mom and aunt were there, plus some neighbors. Between all of us, there were 25+ kids and adults hitting piñatas and cracking cascarones on each others’ heads – brightly colored confetti everywhere! After the meal, the older kids (teens and college students) gathered at the dining room table for a fierce game of Monopoly. As my siblings and I sat outside, we reminisced about how once upon a time, it was us running around the yard and competing at board games. Now we sat around comparing what medications and maladies we had in common. We had good laughs and good food surrounded by family. It was a glorious weekend full of spring blooms.

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).

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

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 Houston Fiber Festival

This past summer, the Knit at Night Guild (KANG) organized the first ever Houston Fiber Fest. The event took place the weekend of July 17-19, 2015. That very weekend, I was on my way out-of-town on business to South Africa and almost missed it. On Friday after work, I raced over to the Berry Center located in a suburb of Houston for about an hour before they closed. The exhibit area was large but very doable. Many yarn shops from the greater Houston area were there with their wares.

At Little Monkey’s Stitch and Spin, they had hand dyed two-stranded sock flats (those little bags hanging from the sides of the display). Each flat is already knitted together from 80% merino and 20% nylon. As you knit up your socks, you are basically, unraveling the flat. The result is two socks or mittens whose stripes or color patterns will match perfectly – very clever! You can find this shop on Etsy.

Little Monkey's Stitch and Spin

I thought the booth for The Barbed Dragon was a lot of fun. According to their website, the shop is “a Texan’s flight of fancy into the fiber arts.” The dragon motif carries through to the names of their gorgeous hand-dyed fibers and yarns such as Dragon’s Indulgence and Dragon’s Treasure. They are located in Burleson, Texas (had never heard of it) but you can find them online. I think this shop partnered with another called Brazen Stitchery because they had this wonderful sparkly yarn in the booth. The names of these yarns were also so creative like a sparkly hank of Zombie American Princess variegated sock yarn.

The Barbed Dragon

The Purl & Loop booth featured needlecraft kits by yet another Texan. I love Angela’s (the owner’s) story. As a career woman, she had little spare time to devote to crafting and would order kits that had all the materials needed to complete a project. Out of that need, she launched her shop primarily devoted to kits for the busy modern person who wants to create but has little time. She even features how-to videos on her website for weaving and needle felting.

Purl & Loop

Park Avenue Yarns lived up to its name with tastefully curated yarns and these lovely silk braids. The sheen is gorgeous and they are oh-so-wonderful to touch. They also carried packets of precut quilting squares in fabrics with modern designs and vibrant colors.

Park Avenue Yarns

Finally, the members of the KANG yarn-bombed the area outside the conference center with smile-inducing knitting and crochet. Trees, benches and even trash cans were covered in yarn! I particularly liked the crocheted mandalas hanging off the trees like ornaments. And no yarn-bombing in Texas is complete without a crocheted Texas flag!

HFF Yarn Bomb 1

HFF Yarn Bomb 2

HFF Yarn Bomb 3

HFF Yarn Bomb 4

HFF Yarn Bomb 5

It was one of the most delightful hours I’ve had. A bit rushed but very much worth the effort. Kudos to the KANG for a wonderful festival. The 2016 Houston Fiber Fest is scheduled for June 24-25, 2016. Mark you calendars!

HFF-LesterLogo

(Source)