Glimpse of Yarn Shopping in 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.
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.
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