Friday, August 31, 2007

Youngest Brother reveals freakish grasp of fabric industry

With all the shuffling about this summer—that is, the move from Philadelphia to California, with a vacation in Berlin and stops in London (Heathrow and Gatwick!), Atlanta, and Phoenix—I've seen more than enough airports and missed making any mention of Middle Brother's wedding in St Louis.

the family goes fabric shopping

The wedding brought nearly every relation I have out of the woodwork (one wonders what was left of the woodwork, in fact), but more relevant to the topic at hand was the Mother and I dragging Middle and Youngest Brother to a quilt shop while waiting for the Other's plane. It was a pretty good shop, with 15% off their vast array of cottons.

While I stacked bolts under my arm, Youngest Brother proved that I am not the only male in the family to have developed an appreciation of fabric. The Mother was on the hunt for pre-Civil War reproduction prints, a new territory for her, and Youngest Brother spotted one he thought she would like. “It looks like the Jane Austen Collection,” he suggested, and the Mother and I burst into laughter at the thought that he was even aware of there being specific fabric lines, much less that he could name one, much less that he could aesthetically categorize a stray fat quarter. We unfurled the chunk to discover that, yes, in fact, he had accurately identified the fabric. We were stunned. As one of the Mother’s quilting buddies said about my appliqué stitches, it must be genetic.

But he's not just watching the needle arts from afar. I've mentioned Youngest Brother's sock creatures before, and he e-mailed while we were in Berlin to say he'd made this one for me. Rather impressive, eh? I especially like the stripes, oblong head, and dangly ear things.

sock creature

However, the promised creature has yet to arrive. Where be it, boy? I mean, you've only just started college, and I can't imagine what could be more pressing than shipping it off to yours truly.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Fichu: if you want it, he's got it

Fichu vintage fabric shop in Berlin

The other day I reaped the rewards of fabric tourism as the Other’s friend Lydia introduced me to Fichu, which she claimed was the best fabric shop in Berlin. It's not only that; it's like a parallel universe where no fabric ever dies—floor to ceiling stacks of vintage fabric from any period you could imagine, many still on the bolt and available in whatever amount you need. (And in this parallel universe, there must not be fire marshals.) A cotton avalanche seemed imminent and in place of aisles there were a couple paths carved through the stacks, so browsing was a little tricky. Instead, you just had to let the shopkeeper know what you were looking for, and chances are he could unearth it from whatever magic rabbit hole he had at the back of the shop.

He was what really made the stop worthwhile. He’s been selling textiles for many moons, and seemed to know just about everything about them (the Berlin office of Christie’s uses him as an expert). I thought I was being clever by asking of a large-scale Finnish print was Marimekko—“Everyone knows only Marimekko,” he sighed somewhat jokingly. Keep thy cleverness to thyself, Feed Dog.

I was of course mostly looking for midcentury fabric; he noted that it’s almost always people from English-speaking countries who are looking for retro prints. Australians in particular, he said; their population didn’t boom until the Fifties, so they don’t have much native midcentury design. Germans, he said, like Op-Art and Seventies design theoretically, but “for someone else” rather than in their own homes.

It was a shame I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, because I’m sure it would have been there. I ended up buying half a metre of two fabrics—an indulgence, but worth it for the experience, which was more like visiting a museum than shopping.

Update: Here's the fabric I bought (click to zoom).

vintage fabric from Fichu vintage fabric from Fichu

I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with them, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Greetings from Germany

vintage Bavarian tea towel

Hello from Berlin, where the Other and I are staying with a very generous friend of his. So generous, in fact, that she gave us these lovely vintage Bavarian tea towels.

vintage Bavarian tea towels

They’re 100 percent linen and she reckons they’re from the mid-1960s, though they were fresh out of the original package yesterday. The colours are splendid—very vibrant, since the towels haven’t been used—and pink and orange is a particular favourite of the Other. Could make for quite a nice appliqué design, eh?

Fabric shopping in Berlin has so far yielded little; the impressive craft section at KaDeWe had a decent amount of quilting fabric (though we'd been explicitly told by someone upstairs that there was no patchwork fabric to be had in the whole store), but most was imported from America and thus 1) nothing new, and 2) inflated in price, even without figuring in exchange rates. There was, however, a flurry of childlike excitement when we discovered some German quilting magazines (from earlier this year—still looking for more current issues). I’m looking at the pictures and marking pages for the Other to translate—it was only a matter of time before I inducted him into my quilting sweatshop somehow. Bwa ha ha!

In the continuing adventures of Manquilter Misunderstood by World at Large, we also stopped by Knopfloch (“buttonhole”), a pretty basic craft shop in Alexanderplatz. When told I was looking for quilting fabric, a woman working in the shop proceeded to gesture at the bits of fabric in some sample quilts to describe to me what patchwork was. It was a valiant attempt at education and at English, but there’s just something a little silly about someone straining their communicative faculties to express what someone else already knows. I guess in any language male + quilting = clueless. And to be fair, the level of my German puts my cluefulness rather in question.

More shops further afield, so stay tuned.