If you find yourself in Frankfurt for the Bookfair this year (Norway is the Guest country!), you may want to check out the Hannah Ryggen exhibition at the Frankfurt Schirn Kunsthalle. The exhibition runs til January 2020.
The Swedish-Norwegian artist Ryggen (1894-1970) lived on a self-sustaining farm in Norway, spun and dyed her own wool and taught herself to make huge collage-like tapestries. How cool is that?
Did I mention the Book Fair (October 16-20)? Yes, there’s books, calendars, cookbooks, posters, and just about everything book-related. Yes, there’s cosplay and cooking demos and giveaways and book prizes, but in addition to all that, folks, NORWAY.
As we all know, Norway isn’t just about fantastic nature and fjords, but also great writers – we love those crime thriller authors, Jo Nesbø, Karin Fossum, Åsne Seierstad and the polarizing Karl Ove Knausgård.
There’s plenty for knitters too: According to the programme, designer Wenche Roald, and Annemor Sundbø, the godmother of norwegian knitting will be in attendance, and there may even be a workshop on knitting selbu mittens.
Todd Gocken’s Norwegian Snowflake Scarf
Monica Værholm’s Eggwarmers
What, you ask, is selbu? It’s an eight-petalled flower design (often called the Selbu rose), used in traditional Norwegian stranded knitting. It’s actually older than Norway itself, according to The Atlantic, but has come to be associated with Selbu, a municipality in Northern Norway.
Fiber season is upon us again, as September has started and temperatures cool down. What a summer! I’m pretty sure it’s the hottest summer on record in Germany. Even hotter than last year. Not so good for the forests – the forester has been into the woods near us to remove some of the sun-damaged
At the moment, I have Petite Knit‘s Anker‘s Summer Shirt on the needles. I love the clear lines on this pullover, but I‘ve taken a break to ask the Internet what the pattern means with Marker stitches. I‘ll add an update when I figure it out.
I originally thought of pairing this fairly easy knit with easy-on-the-eye binge-watching, but as the German saying goes: things always go a little differently as planned. I cannot tear my eyes away from the screen to keep track of my needles. I‘ll have to work on that.
Bauhaus-A New Era /source:imdb.com
I‘m watching „Die Neue Zeit,“ (Bauhaus: A New Era) about the start of the Bauhaus movement. Yes, Bauhaus-Autumn has started, with a six part series. It’s got more content than the film „Lotte am Bauhaus“ (English: Bauhaus), which was ‚inspired‘ by the experiences of Bauhaus designer Alma Siedhof-Buscher.
Clip „Lotte am Bauhaus“
Arte promo for Bauhaus: A New Era
I am absolutely thrilled that these stories are being told from the perspective of female characters. That’s one way in which the #MeToo movement has affected Germany.
Already, I‘m one episode in (5 to go), and they get straight to the point: how could a movement so committed to overturning the old order, continued repressing women.
Speaking of old order, it‘s amazing to see the fashions on the different characters, 1890s, 1910s and pre-1920s, which position the female characters exactly.
The Weimar old guard, in the form of old school artist Hans Gros painting the Baroness von Freytag-Loringhofen’s portrait painted on her lawn. There are gardners in the background clipping shrubs. Her guest and political co-conspirator is drinking lemonade (I hope!) from a gold-rimmed glass, while she poses in a sunhat on a striking rattan chair). Interesting the power she yields because of her wealth and engagement in Weimar art circles.
In terms of art, they want to defend the old way of doing things. They believe they know everything they need to know, and resist any new ways of seeing or doing art. In terms of fashion, it absolutely fits that she’s ten years out of fashion, holding on to the past. Reminds me of the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet Crawley from Downton Abbey.
Then we have these two young students who at the start couldn’t be more different: Dörte Helm, who is still wearing corsets and 1900s skirt-suits, trying to please her father and all the professors. Gunta Stölzl, who is wearing a knit jacket over free flowing clothes sans corset and who isn’t afraid to answer back to a professor.
We get a fairly good idea of what Weimar student life looked like, but also the little details of what it meant to be a woman in this time of transition. On the one hand, Dörte is escorted to school by her father, and seems to dread getting married. On the other, Gunta comes into the train compartment and proceeds to cut off her (wartime Red Cross nurse uniform) dress sleeves because she‘s hot. In front of several strangers. She’s not afraid to shock folks.
Gunta and Dörte/ source: arte.tv
Gunta‘s weaving/ source: arte.tv
There‘s a scene where Gunta is doing some light evening weaving, and although they start talking about guys, the conversation shifts to crafts. Gunta asks Dörte if she knows how to do any handcrafts (knitting or weaving). Dörte shows her scarred hands and replies that she learned in her girls‘ school, where mistakes were punished. And I thought it was amazing how much was packed in there about class, wealth, women‘s education, handcrafts and even our ideas of creativity (pattern vs intuitive process).
So yes, passes the Bechdel test. I‘m looking forward to bingeing this at some point this month.
Sarah Wiener MEP, author, restaurant-owner and beekeeper.
My pile of reading
Yes, I do have a summer reading list. This year, my friends have gifted me a couple of bee-related books, so they will be going along on holiday next week.
Sarah Wiener’s book Bienenleben (Beelife), which may have helped her ride the wave of concern about bees and insectlife into the European Parliament in the recent elections.
I first found out about her because she had a cooking show on ARTE, where she travelled around mainland Europe, the UK and Asia, cooking with local chefs, and looking at where the food we eat comes from.
She has written several interesting foodie books like „“Zukunftsmenü“ (Future menu: What is our food worth) from 2017, with table talk transcripts with well- and lesser known food activists, a vet, a chef, research Professors and nutrition experts. It‘s fascinating how food and eating well, healthily, and mindfully could be so politically charged.
In 2015, she wrote a book called „Wohlfühlmaschen“ (Feelgood stitches) with cute designs for inside (homewares), outside and just relaxing on the sofa. She has star appeal, name recognition and has amazing energy and authenticity that folks in German-speaking Europe just love.
She‘s one of those rare people, who without finishing trade school or going to University, has been quite naturally successful. It‘s her bubbly personality that is quite understandable that if she says she’s cooking with quality regional ingredients is the thing, everyone raves. When she loves wool and crafting one year, then it’s great. Next year she says she has become a beekeeper, and that’s fine too.
So I‘m looking forward to sitting in the shade by the pool and digging into how and why she got into bees.
I looked her up on Ravelry, sadly her book patterns aren’t listed, but I found this, that I know she‘d a kick out of Sarah H. Arnold‘s Wiener Dog hat!
Also on my list:
Minimal Fashion by Anna Bronowski and Juliana Holtzheimer of eco fashion label Jan ´n June out of Hamburg.
Winterbienen by Norbert Scheuer. It sounds like his last book about a juxtaposition of war and nature. Or an escape from war into nature. Not sure yet, but I‘ll let you know. Hopefully before it‘s translated into English.
Leiden by Natalie Selles in the summer stripes issue of PomPom Quarterly and the crochet Coco Boxy Sweater by Cecilia Losada bring the Bauhaus to mind, with their clear lines, use of bright colour, contrast and graphic shapes.
Irina Poludnenko’s Bauhaus Sweater brings to mind the work of Anni Albers and Gunda Stölzl, two talented artists who basically got shunted over to the weaving department. Although this move was motivated by the Bauhaus director‘s desire to reserve the ‚hard‘ disciplines for men, this restriction inspired a blossoming of creativity in both production and philosophy as evidenced in Albers‘ seminal works On Designing and On Weaving. Both works are highly recommended not just for weavers, but textile artists in general.
If you happen to be in Germany later this year (2019), I hope you won’t miss the Bauhaus centennial celebrations. The design school founded in Weimar in 1919, shortly after the first World War, has had an amazing and far-reaching influence on design worldwide from architecture to fashion, product design and graphic design.
I will be revisiting Bauhaus but here are a few links to whet your appetite::
The permanent collection of the new Bauhaus Museum in Weimar is definitely worth a look-see. I hope they put up an English website soon. But not to worry, 100 Years of Bauhaus as an extensive English website of everything Bauhaus and -related for this year.
Susan Sonntag wrote an essay in 1964 called Notes on Camp. Trying to circle in and corner a definition of camp, and what it is, or is not. Some people say her essay is legendary, perhaps it is because she made a solid attempt to define something not quite defineable. Still, I’m not sure she succeeded.
La Lupe, Flash Gordon Comics… just over the top.
Lady Gaga, Harry Styles, Serena Williams, Alessandro Michele the creative director of Gucci (the sponsor)… even the number of cohosts is slightly over the top.
Serena Williams 2014 Australian Open
Harry Styles 8n Rolling Stone Magazine
Harry Styles and Lady Gaga were easy to understand as cohosts for this theme. I was wondering about Serena Williams, until I dipped back into the glorious Internet archives and found this photo of the tennis superstar ‚going to work‘ in her tennis blazer at the Australian Open back in 2014. and she is certainly no stranger to playing with fashion both on and off the court.
So, I got to thinking about camp in knitting and crochet. Can yarncraft be camp or just campy? And then I found this sadly discontinued YouKnitWhat?! blog… that I had to laugh out loud and share it here.
Isn’t this knit camp perfection? Have a great weekend full of crafting goodness!
Looking at the work of Avantgarde Designers like Rei Kawakubo is a little bit like reading a science fiction book in one gulp. It’s not the same Thing as looking up what trend forecasters are saying or projecting for the next Season (or several Seasons in advance) – although that can be fun too.
German edition /source: Diogenes.ch
My Book Club is looking at science fiction novels, and I had the distinct pleasure of reading prolific author Ray Bradbury’s ‘There will come Soft Rains‘ from “The Martian Chronicles” at our Christmas Party. It’s amazing how stories published in 1950s are still relevant and gripping today.
This month, we’re moving on from “Blade Runner” to Cixin Liu’s “The Three Body Problem.” It’s a challenge, to choose books for people who know nothing about science fiction and claim not to be interested in anything ‘Star Warsy’ (even though Star Wars is turning out to be more space opera/space fantasy than scifi, and that’s ok too).
Just as in science fiction, avantgarde fashion asks us ‘What if?’ In her Spring Summer Pret à Porter collection, I think Kawakubo is posing the question of what it would look like if we were to seriously recycle what we have, now that we are at peak stuff? Through the lense of clothes? One answer may very well be a profuse collage of textiles, colours and prints.
Which leads me to ask myself: what would it look like through the lense of knitting?
If China’s going to be taking less of our waste on, then we have to start to seriously look at how to produce less waste. In all aspects of our lives. This is some serious world-changing, so I am on tenterhooks. What will happen next? Will we make the Change we want to see happen? Will it take?
All the same, these things tend to do well when we start one step at a time.
As makers, we’re in a unique position to do something practical. This week, December 2-10 is Make Something Week, to turn our thoughts away from necessarily buying something in gift-giving season, but towards how we can take time to consider our own wardrobe needs, or the people we want to give a gift.
Even a small step is a start, and as German poet Herman Hesse wrote:
In every new beginning lives a special magic,
protecting us and helping us to live…
It’s on my to-do list every year, to have a look in at the Brigitte magazine’s Knit Feature in autumn. This year it’s quite lovely. Twenty-one very wearable and very knittable designs styled with designer (and non-designer clothing).
Knit edition/ Brigitte.de
fotosource: Brigitte magazine
These are my absolute favourites (including the rainbow pullover on the cover). Oversized pieces, relaxed silhouettes, drop shoulders, snuggly hygge-inspired. And yet each piece has a little something to make it extra special – yarn embroidery, colour-blocking, ends left hanging as tassels, contrast colour edgings.
It’s shaping up to be a very snuggly (the German word is kuschelig) knit-season this year.
It occurred to me, that I hadn’t listed every yarn I knew of from Germany, so here are some more:
Is a bit more on the luxurious end of the market. They have yarns with fibre blends including Yak and Silk. They often are advertised as being produced to Oeko-Tex Standard 100, Productclass 1, however, this just means that there aren’t any harmful chemicals in the product. There are actually much higher categories/ labels (such as Standard 100plus, Standard 1000, Made in Green and STeP, the last two being an organic label and a sustainable textile production label). So Oeko-Tex100 is kind of a basic, if you ask me.
Here we’ve got the famous Zauberballs (Ann from MasonDixonKnitting has actually pulled one apart). I’m told they’re addictive. And I do not doubt it. Although they are originally made for socks with about 25% nylon, they make just about any project into a lovely explosion of colour. I’m particularly keen on trying out El Linio (next year, maybe).
If you’re in the area of the Swabian Alb (that’s southwest Germany), this yarn company also produces the Albmerino line made from local merino sheep in collaboration with a local shepherding company. The way I understand this, is that the majority of sheep are kept in Germany for the meat. So Schäferei Stotz produces lamb meat for sale directly to consumers and also to high-end restaurants like Traube Tonbach (three Michelin stars for a hotel restaurant tucked away in a tiny Black Forest village: the food is melt-in-your-mouth-good-then-look-for-postcard-to-write-home-about-it!). They also sell warm lamb and sheep fleeces, woolen duvets and pillows and the like. But rarely do they produce yarn.
It’s a fairly big deal then, that Schoppel is going back to locally-raised sheep.
Of course, once I wrote ‘rarely’, an exception popped into mind. That’s Finkhof. They started out in the 1970s as an alternative commune project which evolved into the Shepherding collective it is today. Their catalog is thick. Not like telephone book thick (unless you live in a very small under 3,000 soul village), but a substantial hommage to all the things one can do with sheep – from mattresses to blankets, wool, footwarmers, backwarmers, wools for weaving, spinning, fabric … The wool is organic, has a rustic feel. Definitely worth a look in. They have a Ravelry group.
from left: wool-silk mix onesie, felted wool sleepsack and merino fleece in background; right: Finkhof does two sizes of yarn: Thick (Aran) and Thin (sport) / Source: finkhof.de
*word of the day: This baby is goldig. That’s the German word for ‘too cute for words’.
Rosy Green Wool
This is just the last (for now), but by no means the least. Rosy and Patrick have managed to start a new yarn company in what may have seemed a fairly saturated market. They prove that there is always room at the top. Especially for an organic (GOTS certified) high quality wool for a fair price. Admittedly, the wool is sourced and spun in England. I’m hoping this will expand some day to German wools. Still, I cannot fault them on their work with working to protect rare sheep breeds via developing, promoting and selling limited runs of their yarns.
They’re on Ravelry, but I won’t lie: it was a sad day when they discontinued their blog. It’s worth getting onto their newsletter list, as the more popular colours and the limited edition yarns (great if you have a yarn bucketlist) sell out fast! Like Finkhof, they mostly do Aran and Sport Weights, while their rare breeds yarns are in fingering weight. (I’m holding back here, because a review is coming) They also do yarns for dying. Which is the perfect place to pause.
Do you know of any other German yarns that I still haven’t mentioned? Let me know. I’m trying to build up a Directory of German, and hopefully eventually European yarns.