Monday, June 27, 2011

Fiber Art Finds From Germany ~ Part IV

The last day of my European travels was spent in Munich. I had already spent a few days in Munich earlier on this vacation. This last day was a day of rest after spending time in Italy and before heading back to the United States.

I had kind of accepted that the closest thing to fiber art I was going to find in Munich was this sheep I bought at the Viktualienmarkt, a farmer's market. He's cute, but he isn't even covered in real wool.

It was Sunday and the square in front of the Glockenspiel at Marienplatz was being set up for a performance. There was a stage, lots of tables and the local brew houses were setting up tents. My family and I were just out for a walk, stretching our legs. The day was overcast and occasionally a rain cloud would treat us to some sprinkles.

I saw a few craft tents set up on a side street. Drawn to crafts of any kind, I headed in their direction. I walked by the first couple tents as they held nothing of interest. I craned my neck to see if it was even worth walking to the end of the street when something caught my eye. I felt certain that I saw something spin. I quickened my pace, my spidey senses tingling. Sure enough, in the very last tent, sat a little band of handspinners. They had baskets of wool and samples of yarn. Some sat at wheels while others used drop spindles. My people!

I took out one of my business cards which have a picture of a spinning wheel and sheep on them. I pointed to my name and in my best German said, "Dies ist mir." Which I'm sure you can guess means "this is me". Their faces lit up and we all smiled at each other. They each held up their projects for me to admire. One gentleman who was working a Turkish drop spindle, pulled out a stick and demonstrated spinning using nothing but a twig. I managed to share how Native American spinners sometimes use a long stick and spin it against their thigh. His response to this was to spin a little length of wool with his bare hands and present it to me as a gift.

Rain started to fall in earnest and I left to rejoin my family. My few minutes with the Handspinngilde of Munich left me feeling warm and fuzzy. It's heartwarming to know that there are others out there preserving and passing on this heritage. Even more, it's wonderful when a mutual love of spinning is enough to transcend language barriers and make you feel as though you are among friends!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fiber Art Finds From Germany ~ Part III

These fabulous felted wrist warmers were created by Berta Knab of the EigenArt collective in Uberlingen, Germany. I have seen a lot of nuno felt and I think that these are particularly well made. I love the crackling effect she's achieved with the colors. Also, I haven't seen this sort of "wrinkled look" for lack of better words. It takes the texture to another level and looks really cute the way it gathers around your wrist.

They're soft and very lightweight, just as you would expect nuno felt to be. They are also completely seamless which shows a real attention to detail. As a matter of fact, they are even reversible. The inside is a nice smooth slate grey.

I'm not the best hand model and it's challenging to take a pic of your own arm, but I wanted you to see how cute they look on.

You could also turn them around and have the cuff on the other end or no cuff at all. I love it when handmade items are versatile!

She had another pair where she had felted wild, curly locks on one end. I was so tempted, but in the end, these seemed a little more practical. Maybe next time I'm in Uberlingen I'll go wild!

Berta Knab's Website

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fiber Art Finds From Germany ~ Part II

A very special part of my family's time in Germany was a visit to Uberlingen. Uberlingen is in the south and actually just a three hour boat ride from Switzerland. It's a popular vacation and retirement spot because of it's warmer climate and location on Bodensee (Lake Constance). For my husband and I, it's where a friend from high school settled down, married and started a family.

Having my friend in Uberlingen meant I didn't have to wander the streets aimlessly and hope to stumble upon fiber art. She took me straight to the local yarn shop and then to a shop featuring the work of local artists. Oddly enough, this cute little flower girl is something I just happened to encounter along the way. She was sitting in the window of Odilia, a bookstore where some local crafts were featured. I thought she was sweet looking balancing that big red rose on her head.

So what kind of yarn did I find in Uberlingen? A lot of Lana Grossa which is Italian, but I did find one yarn that I believe is made in Germany. The brand is Skacel which is distributed here in the United States. The yarn I'm referring to the the sunset colored one on the right. It's called Zauberball or "Magic Ball" and it's a sock yarn.

I wish there was some way to show a lapse in time with words or symbols, because then you would know just how long I've been sidetracked while writing this post. First I was trying to find the name of the yarn shop in Uberlingen because I lost their business card. Then I started hunting down the company that makes the Zauberball yarn. The only reason I mention this is because I found a couple of interesting things along the way. My first discovery is another sock yarn also made by Skacel called Flying Saucer. It has to be some of the coolest sock yarn I've ever seen. If you like to knit or crochet socks, or if you just like to work with lighter weight yarn, Flying Saucer looks like loads of fun to make up. The link I've provided takes you to the Flying Saucer page where they also have a video.

Then one link led to another and I found myself watching this video on ArtFelting by Knitting Daily which features Karin Skacel the president of the Skacel company:

I thought the felters out there might find that interesting.

Okay, let me turn my focus back to my original post. The other yarn in the picture above, the soft purple one, has become one of my new favorite yarns to work with. It is made by Lana Grossa and it's part of the Linea Pura Verde line. The reason I have so little of this yarn left, is because I actually made it all up into a new design that I'll be sharing soon. All I'll say for now is that it's a scarf inspired by my time in Europe and I'll be writing up a crochet pattern to sell at Wind Rose.

The Linea Pura Verde is 75% Organic Virgin Wool (Merino extrafine) and 25% Alpaca. I love the quality that the Alpaca lends to this yarn and the little nubs give it such a great texture. One of the first things I did when I got back to the states, was to look to see where I could buy more. It's not the easiest yarn to find, but I ended up placing an order at Hot Yarns and the service was great. In just a couple days I received my supply of Linea Pura Verde in a selection of colors.

Well I have one more item to share from Uberlingen, but I'm worn out from writing this post. Let me take a little break and I'll be back tomorrow to show you an awesome pair of felted wrist warmers from the local art shop I mentioned earlier. See you tomorrow.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fiber Art Finds From Germany ~ Part I

When I travel, I'm always on the lookout for fiber art. Not just fiber art to tell the truth, any art. More specifically, I'm always hoping to find evidence of local artisans. It's like locating the heartbeat of a place and it makes me feel at home.

On this particular holiday, I was coming up dry until a day trip to Regensburg, Germany. Regensburg is a beautiful little town on the Danube River. It's first settlements date back to the Stone Age. Today it's a thriving city and home to the University of Regensburg.

As I and my family wandered up and down the streets, I came across a cute little shop with hand crafted items in the window. *Happy Dance* I turned to my husband and informed him that I would need a few minutes. He gave me a knowing look and headed off with the boys. What a good husband!

I headed into the shop named Kuss which a visit to Google Translate tells me means "Kiss". Cute! The full name is Kuss- Künstlerhaus or Kiss-House Artists, a collective of local artisans. I found myself surrounded by beautiful nuno felt, paper art, knit and crochet, glass and wire. It was awesome! It was like an energy boost to be around so much creativity and it's so what I needed halfway through my long European journey.

I was fully prepared to treat myself to a few pieces, but it was hard to choose. There were these really cool felted wrist warmers and handbags and jewelry. I couldn't pick. "I'll take one of everything!" I shouted. No, just kidding, but their stuff was really that wonderful. Instead, I selected this nuno felted scarf. Nuno felt is lightweight enough for me to wear even in the desert where I live. Plus, we were having some nippy days in Germany and I was envying the other women and their cozy scarves. I love the bold poppies against the black. I wear a lot of white and black and a splash of red is always a good thing.

Next, in keeping with my poppy theme, I chose this felted necklace. The artist behind these works in felt is Anita Auer. She happened to be working in the shop that day and we exchanged cards. You can see more of her creations on the store's website.

The other art that kept grabbing my attention was the paper work of Ina Zeller-Bleil. Here's a link to a gallery of her art. She makes jewelry and sculputres and they are just so striking. I picked out this bracelet as a keepsake. The bells are sculpted paper attached to a crocheted wire base. I love her style which seems to range from whimsical to truly captivating.

I was so thrilled to discover the Kiss-House Artisans. What a wonderful collective and
collection of extraordinary crafts!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

La Griglia ~ The Perfect Italian Dining Experience!

Before I get back to my fiber arts, I have to share one more special place from my trip to Italy.

My oldest son Jens loves pasta and so we were determined to experience some great Italian food. Our initial strategy was to visit a different restaurant for each meal in the hopes of finding some truly wonderful dishes.

Verona, like any city, has all sorts of eateries. There's the strip of cafés lining the Piazza Bra. They seem to exist just to cater to the tourists. We tried one of these places and it was good, but sort of like the "Outback Steakhouse" of Italian cuisine.

Then we hit the side streets and found pizza that can only be described as scrumptious. The tomato sauce was so fresh and the crust so light and crispy. To me the crust was the real difference in the Italian pizza versus the pizza in the states. It has an airiness to it that seems to bring out the flavors of the toppings.

Finally, we went out for dinner one night intent on finding some serious pasta. We walked to the right of the Arena, passing the set construction for the opening night of the opera. We hung a left on Leoncino and there we found La Griglia. The menu looked wonderful. It had pasta dishes for me and Jens and steaks for my husband and my other son who are the carnivores of the family. Perfect!

We felt a little self conscious because the restaurant was empty. It was only 7:15 which is early by Italian standards. We knew this, but after walking all over the city, we were hungry, so in we went.

The Tuscan decor was warm and inviting. They lit the fire in the fireplace for us and put a candle on our table. They brought us grilled bread and we ordered a bottle of wine. We were off to a great start.

Jens ordered the tortelloni and I had gnocchi with truffles. One bite of my gnocchi and I was in heaven. The grated truffle was earthy and rich. I looked over at Jens and his face registered his own bliss. My husband ordered a filet of beef that came with a little cup full of coarse salt and a side salad. That too was wonderful. Wes, my youngest, who had been afraid to order anything, happily savored as much of his dad's steak as he could get. The service was impeccable. The chef and owner came to our table and chatted with us. We left that night full and content.

We were so happy with La Griglia that we broke with our plan and went back for one more visit on our last night in Verona. The chef recognized us right away and treated us like visiting family. Jens and I couldn't resist ordering the exact same dishes. They were just that good. Wes got his own steak this time and cleaned his plate. We paced ourselves and saved room for desert and espresso. After we had already paid the bill and were saying our goodbyes, the chef insisted we try some of his homemade limoncello. It was amazing and my cheeks became warm and tingly from the intensity of it.

La Griglia is exactly the sort of restaurant we had hoped to find. The food was exceptional and the atmosphere warm and intimate. It was the ultimate Italian dining experience. If you are ever in Verona and in search of a truly sublime meal, I wholeheartedly recommend La Griglia.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


After Germany, we traveled on to Verona, Italy. My oldest son is a lover of all things pasta, so we just had to try out some real Italian cooking. We chose Verona as it is a northern city and my hope was that it would have some charm.

Verona did not disappoint and as you can see, I found many gorgeous sights at which to aim my lens. I know it's a lot to take in, but if you click on individual pictures, you should be able to view a larger image. I'll walk through them briefly from left to right and top to bottom.

The first picture is from our first morning in Verona. We headed downtown under the arches to the Piazza Bra when the ancient Roman arena stands. Then we traveled on to the downtown market which is where the next three images were taken. After lunch we walked around this 14th century castle. The 4th through the 14th pictures are all taken from the castle. The castle bridge provided wonderful views of downtown Verona through which the Adige river winds. We were also able to climb to greater heights which gave me some almost aerial shots.

The next day we walked all the way through the downtown to another point where the Adige river runs. Standing on one of the bridges gave me another gorgeous view of the surrounding city. I was taken by surprise by a collection of locks and keys that were hanging from a string crossing the river close to my spot on the bridge. I thought perhaps they represented sweethearts and a little research on my computer later confirmed this to be true.

Of course the architecture in Verona is stunning as well. I particularly like the building where two different shades of brick create stripes. I also had to have a peek at the famed balcony of Juliet Capulet. I was thrilled to capture a picture of the bronze statue of Juliet without it being surrounded by tourists. That's no easy task, let me tell you!

The last three pictures are actually of stage props. It's the beginning of opera season at the Arena. It was so cool to see the trucks pull up carrying enormous sets for the different operas being performed this summer. The Egyptian themes are for Aida and those fantastic roses with the Arena in the background are for The Barber of Seville.

Oh, and if you're wondering if we found some good Italian food, we sure did! As a matter of fact, our little family now has a favorite restaurant in Verona. I'll tell you more about it in my next post. It was so wonderful, I want it to have a post all it's own!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meersburg, Germany ~ A Medieval Experience

Yesterday we took the kids to the medieval town of Meersburg to tour a castle built in the 7th century.

Here you can see us approaching Meersburg from our ferry. The castle tower is in the middle of the photo just to the left of the clock tower.

Even with grey skies above, the town is colorful and bright. I'll go through the pictures below starting in the upper left and then taking it left to right and row by row. If you click on and individual photo, you should be able to view a larger image.

So the first picture shows the lower downtown. I took a pic of the castle from that viewpoint, but before climbing the stairs to the castle, the kids played in the castle playground. Next you see the bridge we crossed to enter the castle and a view of the castle from higher up. One of the first rooms was the knight room. The plaque on the wall shows how far back the castle dates, 630. As medieval castles were dark places, the metal surrounding the locks was embossed to help guide the key to the lock. I thought that was interesting. The well you see in the next picture was added in 1336. At one point this castle withstood a siege for up to six weeks in part because they had this water source and their allies were able to sail food supplies up the lake. At last our tour group reached the top of the tower which allowed me to take a couple nice shots of the town below.

I've always wanted to take the kids to a real castle. They are the center of so many childhood tales. How fun to be able to say we climbed a real castle tower!