Yarns of Italy

I never dreamed of revitalizing a worn out villa in Tuscany or skiing in the Alps. Rome isn’t my idea of romance. Italy just wasn’t on my bucket list. But do I complain when I’m knitting the Alps during the first snowfall of the season or eating the saltless Tuscan bread in Tuscany? No way. At least... not much.

I've spent most of my career taking very short, very nearby vacations, so it was quite difficult for Alex to convince me to come to Italy. I'm not afraid of flying, and I've even lived abroad before. I just didn't think I could spend time so far away from my congregation. Alex, as usual, was able to change my mind with offers to walk through yarn warehouses and factories.

I don't get a lot of time to sightsee when we're in Italy together. So even though I spent four weeks in Italy over the course of 2011 and saw several cities, I haven't yet been in an Italian museum.

Instead, I've spent many evenings with Santo and Paola, Alex's parents. I've met his friends, attended a truffle festival (not the highlight of my life), and eaten Italy's version of Indian food. I've met interesting people, seen lots of churches, and even spent time in an Italian emergency room (also not the highlight of my life). 

Although I've spent most evenings in Italy curled up on the couch next to Alex's mom, I've spent most of my days in the Italian yarn industry. Alex quickly learned of what my mom has always called my "shut down mode" when too many producers in too few days led to an inability to process any more information. There's also an issue with sense of touch. On the first trip, my hands became a little sensitized from touching so many yarns, and it became difficult to know if things really were soft anymore. It makes my hands hurt to think about it. On our second buying trip, Alex limited the number of visits and spread them out over a number of days, and we fared a lot better. He also told one of our producers to not even show me any mohair because there was no way I'd touch it. If you wondered why we don't carry mohair, that's one of the reasons. We stick to baby Alpaca for our fuzzy yarns.

I spend little time knitting or crocheting when I'm in Italy. I knit or crochet on our long car rides to out-of-the-way producers, and I knit sometimes on the couch with Paola. She took the needles from me one evening, moved the yarn into her right hand, knit a few stitches, shrugged, and handed it back to me. Although there are great knitted accessories and clothes on the streets of Italy, handknitting is not fashionable. It's weird, because there are lots of knitting publications, but I've only seen one other person knitting in Italy... and I was in a yarn shop. It was a real, honest-to-God yarn shop instead of a merceria that carried yarn. I bought souvenir yarn while Alex and his friends rolled their eyes. There were already boxes of yarn piling up in the hallway of the flat, and I was buying yarn? 

It was in a couple of knit shops and markets that we were able to find some of our favorite yarns. The knit shops we saw, though, are not at all like knit shops in the US. There weren't a lot of options and there wasn't a lot of help. One shop even had signs prohibiting touching the yarns. Seriously. I secretly dream (I guess not so secretly now) of opening a flagship Yarns of Italy store in Torino and making knitting fashionable again.

Fruit at the Open Market

I almost always have a ball of yarn and needles or hook on me. You never know when you're going to be bored, and I like to have something to do. People chuckle in the US when I follow Alex around Lowe's crocheting with a ball of yarn in my pocket, but people openly stare when I knit in public in Italy. In the middle of a rather tense first meeting with a producer we were considering, I pulled out my knitting. Alex gave me a look, but if you can't knit at a yarn production facility, where can you knit? The producer watched me like a hawk and gradually relaxed. You could see his shoulders drop and his breathing slow down. He told Alex, "She knits like my wife."

The producers love to hear about American yarn shops, and they are amazed at what American knitters know. We taught a producer about the "burn test" to see if something was what it claimed to be and ended up on Ravelry, letting them see finished projects made from one of their yarns distributed throughout Europe. They're so happy to have found this market and people who really love their yarns.

Much to the dismay of Alex’s mom, I haven’t seen the Tower of Pisa, the artwork of Florence, or Mount Aetna of Sicily. She laments, “You’ve seen Italian yarn, but you haven’t seen ITALY.” Lucky for me, I’ll get to go to Italy again, and I am marrying a man who brings Italy into my every day. I’m learning to talk with my hands, how to argue, and how to take life a little more slowly.

I never dreamed of going to Italy, but I love every trip and every day with my Italian. Oh yeah, and the yarn. Love the yarn. - Kim

Written by Alessandro De Luca — March 24, 2012

Comments

Geri:

I would LOVE to open a yarn shop in Rome. I would put it in the center of the city, and make it so inviting that people would want to stop by, knit a little, and perhaps have a cup of espresso. Let me know if you want a partner!!

April 09 2012 at 04:04 PM

Sally W.:

I just stumbled onto your website tonight, and I can’t leave! I know I must have had something else I was supposed to do, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what. I tried knitting for a while years ago, but found crochet last year, and I don’t know what I ever did without it. My husband and I are traveling to Italy this summer to celebrate our anniversary, and reading your website has got me bouncing – yarn AND Italy?? swoon I’m looking forward to making my first purchase from you soon. Thanks!

April 10 2012 at 09:04 PM

Gilda:

I love Crocheting ever since I was in grade school. I just discovered your website through Facebook. I think I will order tonight a bag of yarn from you, YOI . . I just love the colors, texture of your yarn and I have already a lot of patterns and projects in mind.

April 13 2012 at 10:04 PM

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