Thursday, December 27, 2007

silver lining (and gold rim)!

The only downside of my job is that there is no "little girls' room." (NB. This IS legal, long story...) There are some "public" facilities nearby and (needless to say) I'll wend my way there once or twice a day. When I got there today I was greeted by an annoying sign saying "closed for cleaning", so I decided to spend 5 minutes browsing in the Oxfam shop across the road. When I went back, the loos were still closed (worse, they were still closed 3 hours later, so I had to use the expensive ones at Park St car park).

But, it is true: every cloud has a silver lining (and, in this case, a gold rim, too) because LOOK WHAT I SCORED IN THE OXFAM SHOP. (I make no apology for shouting).
OK, so I'm a stepmother, as opposed to a mother, but that still puts me in the "mothers" category (and it gives me more time for knitting than genuine motherhood would, but I digress). Maybe this out-of-focus saucer might give you some idea as to why a non-tea drinker falls in love with a cup.
Needles and yarn, thimble and thread, killer heels... And on the back of the cup, a woman reading by a blazing fire (that's me that is, though I don't have quite such a shapely figure).
And on the front of the mug: yay! She's been caught knitting...
The cup is an oversize one of the "breakfast cup" type, the manufacturer is Fieldings Crown Devon, the pattern number 5599. Fieldings ceased trading in 1982, but I can't find any info online as to what date this might be from. Maybe 1950s?
I couldn't believe my eyes. I couldn't believe the price (and went and double-checked it with the manager) and the woman queueing behind me was very, very envious. Sorry the pictures are so poor, but I won't be at home during daylight until 1 Jan and I wanted to show it off now!

Monday, December 24, 2007

(Christmas) Windows on Vienna

How much is that doggie in the (Kunsthaus) window?

I was so busy snapping this rather wonderful window display (the bear is about 8 feet tall) that I failed to notice what the shop actually sells...

And finally, Father Christmas fails to find a chimney so has to clamber up the side of the building!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Take the N Tram

Whilst I spent most of my time in Vienna with Tamy, she had to stay at home on the morning of her brother's graduation, so I set off on a quest of my own...

Here's tram N, at Schwedenplatz, ready to take me in search of the works of perhaps my favourite artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the man who inspired an Opal sock yarn range (NB the link is given merely for the picture, this isn't a company I've used). I travelled as far as Hetzgasse (where I dived into a supermarket for an Almdudler, an Austrian soft drink (allegedly a herbal lemonade, but it tastes rather like ginger ale blended with lucozade) which I actually prefer to "cola light"! A few steps later I found the first object of the morning's quest: the Hundertwasserhaus
The House is a block of flats that was given the Hundertwasser treatment (no straight lines, trees growing on rooftops and balconies) etc. Really, since he was an artist, not an arhitect, he has merely desinged the cladding. But it is so exhilarating! (What the residents think, though, I'm not sure: the street outside crawls with tourists and school groups). Somewhere near here is, apparently, a house designed by a philosopher, Wittgenstein (the Wittgensteinhaus). The Rough Guide recoomends that you visit the Hundertwasserhaus and give the Wittgensteinhaus a miss. The MAK guide, however (the MAK is Vienna's museum of applied design, which manages the increidble feat of being welcoming, cutting edge and shcolarly in equal measure) lists the Wittgensteinhaus as an architectural must-see and mysteriously fails to mention the Hundertwasserhaus... I did not go to see the Wittgensteinhaus but I have visited one of the houses he lived in whilst in Cambridge: it's where Tamy lived when she was studying for her PhD! After I'd browsed round the Kalke (Hundertwasser shopping arcade) I turned left and (following the instructions in the Rough Guide) "headed 4 blocks North" to reach the Kunsthaus Wien (Vienna Arthouse), another Hundertwasser conversion which houses a fabulous collection of his art. This was one of the highlights of my last trip to Vienna and I almost didn't go back. First, it made such an impression on me during my first visit that I can actually replay my time there like a video. And, secondly, I was concerned that the second visit would be anticlimactic.
I needn't have worried! From the moment the lady at the ticket desk flicked through the tickets to find me the most interesting one (they actually form a jigsaw of a painting of the Kunsthaus which, as you will see above, is decorated rather like a jigsaw) till the moment I left I just drank in the colour, the undulations (be warned, such is Hundertwasser's dislike of straight lines that even the floors curve up and down), the sheer exuberance. And I did spot a couple of things thta I overlooked last time, including a model of the power station which Hundertwasser "made over". Id seen the power station from the S-bahn when travelling from the airport to the hotel but I saw a very unexpected feature on the model: the top of one of the chimneys is clad in a replica of Hundertwasser's flamboyant, velvet, oversized, hippy cap. And, as I took the S-bahn back to the airport the following day, there I saw it: one mad hat with snow and steam swirling round it.

Incidentally, the KunstHaus's giftshop sells the Hudnertwasser Opal sock yarn, but at a premium. And, since my next stop was to be the yarn shop on Josefstadterstr. (tram N, tram 1, tram J...I did feel adventurous!) I gave the Opal a miss. (Probably just as well, I got to the yarn shop at 12.25 and it closed from 12.30 to 2.30 for lunch. As a sales assistant myself, I must say that I remain quite bemused by the brevity of Austrian shop opening hours).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum...

As I sit here trying to sort my thoughts about (and pictures of ) Vienna into order, I'm listening to Frohe Weihnacht, a wonderful selection of carols and classical music that I discovered in Vienna. Hearing "O Tannenbaum" ("O, Christmas Tree") gave me the inspiration I was looking for: here is a selection of trees, ranging from the cunning (my parents' use of their weeping fig), to the altogether shocking (the "altogether" being a clue!). Apologies in advance for the picture quality, these are definately snapshots!

First, my parents' tree. We had hoped they would come and spend Christmas with us, but Ma isn't feeling well enough, so we visited them yesterday. I'd forgotten my father's cunning take on Christmas trees (he started doing this about 5 or 6 years ago). Far from traditional, but --swathed in tiny white lights and decked out with red wooden pears, knitted santa and angel, felt stars and a few other traditional favourites--it fits beautifully into their sitting room.

Next, a stunningly beautiful tree in Freyung, a Viennese shopping arcade. Tamara is in front, clutching a bottle of diet coke (or "cola lite" as I learned to call it in Austria! The infamous straw --see Weds 19--is stowed safelyinside the bottle...) Many people say that our modern-day Father Christmases and Santa Clauses are dressed in red solely because of a coca cola advertising campaign that ousted the traditional green.

And now... this is the window of BluMax on Mariahilferstrasse, Vienna's main shopping street.
At first glance, just an ordinary tree, swathed in net, feathers and angels. But let's take a closer look...these certainly ain't angels!
Some may have been wearing scanty panties, but others were in the altogether, their modesty protected merely by the afore-mentioned feathers and net...
Yes, what can only be described as a Burlesque Christmas tree, in all its glory!

I have to confess to having been a little shocked by this but Tamy was more disturbed by the gingerbread nativity scene that we saw in one of the booths at the Christmas market in Freyung Square. We assume that it was for display only, and not for consumption...

Viennese Whirl Scarves

Recipe: yarn shops in a favourite city, focussing on luscious textures and colours.
2.let rip with crochet hooks (size according to personal whim)

I sold both scarves on Thursday. The one on the right is off to New Zealand!

from the backblog: a wonderful prize

Look at this most gorgeous yarn:

It is 2 x 50g skeins of Angels & Elephants Shetland 2-ply, Candy Floss colourway. It arrived when my parents were here for lunch. Mum asked if she could take a closer look, and, believe me, I had a tough job getting it back again...
It arrived courtesy of Isabella (and her daughter), after I entered a competition on her blog. Do take a look at the tempting offer Isabella has just discovered!

the secret's out!

On my return from Vienna last week, before I'd even got my coat off, Graham thrust the most enormous package into my hands. It was a squidgy, lime green jiffy bag that had been sent from Germany. "I think it is from your secret pal" said G (who gets as excited about these things as I do!). And sure enough, as well as these lovely goodies:

(the yarn is composed of several strands of differing, but all scrumptiously soft, textures) there was a note revealing that my upstream pal is QuiltKarin. Many, many thanks Karin, for all the delights you've sent me (and apologies for my dreadful German!). This is the first time, in 3 rounds of SP, that I've not managed to "catch" my upstream pal before she's revealed herself to me. Meanwhile, in Estonia, my downstream pal decided to play at being Sherlock Holmes and tracked me down via Ravelry: Siret, you were an absolute joy to spoil and I adore reading your blog!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Viennese Whirls!

Not only am I back safely from Vienna, I've also managed to convert much of the yarn that I bought there into curly whirly scarves. A proper post (featuring photos of Xmas markets and some rather varied window displays) should follow by the weekend. Here, however, is one of the more urgent items: the yarn report!

Nicole asked about the yarn stores. In a word: "Wow!". I didn't get to visit all the ones recommended by The Austrian Addicts group on Ravelry but the three that I found within 10-15 minutes walk of each other (and my hotel) were fabulous. More details of those anon.

First, I must tell you about the one I decided to give a miss. Some of you may know that I was a wee bit anxious about the salubriousness of the area I was going to be staying in. (Note to self: next time you book dirt cheap hotel room, do read reviews of hotel before booking, not after. Or maybe just ignore them completely: many reviews panned the hotel but I found very clean and very comfortable). The "problem" was that it was just off the Gurtel (main ring road round Vienna) long stretches of which are used for soliciting, "erotic shops" and the like... I soon discovered that the short stretch I had to walk along (from Alser Strasse tube station to the street I was staying in) had only a drive-in MacDonalds on one side of the road and a parade of abandoned shops on the other. But one of the shops, whilst dingy and dirty, dusty and abandoned-looking, did appear to be open, albeit only on Mondays and Tuesdays. The window was full of tapestry kits and yarn (mostly brown, all very dusty). I gave it a miss, assuming that it was probably a front for a drug dealer. But, yes, I suspect my imagination had run away with me again. And a fleeting glance in daylight on Friday morning revealed that it stocked Austermann yarns. Ah well...

So that was the one that got away. The three I visited (and fell in love with) were:
Glatt & Verkehrt
Alser Strasse (towards the Gurtel end of the road), tram 44
Sells mainly Gedifra plus Regia sock yarns. It also sells OTT light-up needles and hooks. It was here that I attempted my most adventurous-ever foray into speaking German (which I did not get the chance to learn at school, boo): "Sechs batterien fur halke needlen, bitte". (Apologies for not typing in the accents, I'd probably get those wildly wrong). I ruined it not only by (a) pronouncing everything wrong but also (b) saying "pour" instead of "fur". (Yes, French is my second language, and the one I automatically find myself using whenever overseas. I have bumped into people in Stockholm, Vienna and San Diego and baffled them by saying "Oh, pardon Monsieuer/Madame". I think that it must be a reflex reaction triggered when I see cars driving on the right.)
But I digress! The amazing lady in the shop understood what I wanted (I was able to point at the hooks/needles as I spoke, which could be what gave her the clue) and I now have plenty of spare batteries (anyone nearby who'd like one, just let me know!)
Wollboutique Balder
Alserstrasse 21 (at the junction with Langegasse) trams 43/44. Pingouin sign outside.
I'd been here before (when I was in Vienna for Tamy's wedding about 3 years ago) and found it even better than last time. It is very well-organised and packed full of Lana Grosse (inclduing several covetable yarns on incredibly good special offer, plus some Rowan Tapestry and Opal and Regia for socks. I was struck by how many mroe variegated yarns are available than back in the UK and also lots of boucle yarns, too. Lots of rich, winter colours and almost every yarn has a sample knitted up and yardage/stithces to 10cm. I made 3 trips here (once to browse, twice to buy)and the shop was full of customers each time I went. (You can fit about 5 in at once!) My first purchase was some worsted-weight merino (variegated, greens and bright pinks and oranges) and a fluffy microfibre/merino/mohair blend that is as soft and alluring as a marmalade cat. These have been combined into a curly whirly scarf. I also got a couple of odd balls to work into other projects. And on my last morning treated myself to co-ordinating boucle and smooth yarns for a warm hat. That was a special outing: it was finally snowing, the last of my Euros were burning a hole in my pocket and I spotted a young woman knitting on the tram).
Last, but by no means least:
Josefstadterstrasse 14 tram J (at the Rathaus end of the street)
Again, one I've been to before. Bursting at the seams with beautiful knitted items (look out for the conical, welted, Noro hats
with pony tail holes at the top!) and sumptuous yarns from all over the globe. Yarns stocked include Noro, Anny Blatt, Rowan, Lang, some gorgeous shetland in hanks, and many, many other distractions. But (with rather dodgy timing) I had arrived at 12.25 and she closes for lunch from 12.30-2.30. So I quickly swept my eyes round the shop and made a snap decision. Using the virtually foolproof method of pointing, I requested "drei" of some Lang Mille Colori (now transformed into a scarf) and "ein" of something for someone who reads this blog...
Buoyed up by this success, I went to a newspaper kiosk and (pointing) requested "Anna Weinachts" (Anna Christmas Special). Unfortunately I pronounced it as "Wien nachts" (Anna Vienna Nights special) which made the kiosk man roar the correct pronunciation back at me... One learns!

The yarns I bought were probably about 20% cheaper than I would have paid for comparable things in the UK, but Rowan is far more expensive in Austria.

Hope this is helpful, Nicole, (though you certainly didn't need to know about my dodgy German). And you should have seen me in a bakery, miming a "can my friend have a straw,please?"!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

hibernating until 15/12

off on my travels (first a wedding, then Vienna). back soon!