Chartreuse Knits

Where a college student learns--and struggles with--the zen of knitting. It's the process, not the product, though the product is much more fun to wear!


Viva Espana!

Summer looks like it's coming to a close....I just got in from Madrid last night, after a long day of traveling, and although it's great to be back home in the States, sleeping in a bed that's actually my size, I did love my visit to Spain. The summer camp was fabulous, despite the chaos and the ungodly hours (It really is 24-7, since kids will be kids no matter what time of night it is), the fact I got sick with a bad fever and heat exhaustion after camping out under the stars and hiking 22 kilometers, and despite the fact that the day I left, the camp's director underpaid me by 300 Euro. I was a little irritated by this, since I was expecting those 300 Euro, but I remained cheerful and optimistic about my experience.

Camping under the stars, sans tent, was breathtaking. When you can see the entire firmament, with the best-known constellations being obscured by the sheer billions of other stars whose light doesn't make it to our eyes on less-clear nights, you can really appreciate a spectacular view many people don't get to see. Hiking was not quite as lovely, but when you have to keep kids energetic whilst climbing up and down a mountain, you get creative, and end up having quite a good time. Despite being underpaid, I was cheerful as I left, and I departed wanting to repeat it next summer. When I got back from Salamanca that night, the director called and said she needed my mom's bank account number, so she could transfer the 300 Euro she had forgotten to pay me! A pleasant end to an equally pleasant month.

The day after I got back from my camp, we had to go to La Manga to pick up my siblings, who were at a windsurfing camp. A 7 hour drive from Talavera to the Mediterranean coast later, my sibs were chatting up a storm about the great time they had. Then we drove to Ronda, a city encircled by mountains in the region of Andalucia. And guess what? They had a yarn store. Not a fabric and sewing notion store with a room in the back that contained a selection of yarn.... an actual yarn store, called "La Casa de Las Lanas" or, "The House of Wool." It was small, run by an elderly woman and her son. They sold lots of acrylic and acrylic blend wools from the brand Lanas Stop, but they also had some merino and yarn from Valeria di Roma. I snagged some of this in colors to knit myself a Burberry style scarf.

While in Andalucia, we went to Granada, where we toured the Alhambra, to Gibraltar, where the British wouldn't let us get to the rock/island, since we'd forgotten our passports (despite all but my dad being Spanish citizens), and other places around the Costa del Sol.

When we got back to Madrid, one of the first orders of business was shopping. El Corte Ingles (Major department store in Spain), and other shops around the Plaza Mayor and Calle Preciados (Preciados Street) were fair game. My sister got a pair of gorgeous heeled slip-on mules, and I got.... yarn. First we went to a shop which sold all sorts of textile/embroidery/knitting goods. There, for 1.50 Euro per skein, I got 27 skeins total of 100% merino in a light blue and forest green. The blue is for a Clapotis for my sister, and the green is for a cardigan I saw in the Spring issue of Interweave Knits. Next, we went to one of Madrid's oldest and most established yarn shops: El Gato Negro (The Black Cat). As I walked in, I could not suppress the gasps of joy and awe as I saw shelves upon shelves of fiber and yarn. Every color under the sun, in every weight of yarn was there. And although they sold some yarns in skeins from large manufacturers, almost everything was in large hanks on shelves that stretched around the store, behind counters where experienced women would weigh out yarn for you. That's right. They sold yarn by the KILO! Everything from silk to alpaca to wool to angora, in dozens of shades, that they dye themselves. I ended up getting 600 grams each of a glorious blue alpaca and a scrumptious pale pink for some yet-to-be-planned sweaters. Over a kilogram of yarn, 100 percent wool and alpaca no less, for just over 50 Euro. I got 200 grams of alpaca at the yarn store in Austin for 30 dollars, and 600 grams of alpaca in Spain for just about the same price! When I go back next year, I'm going to buy loads of angora for a scarf and mittens, since 30 gram balls at El Gato Negro cost 4.50 Euros apiece, whereas 25 gram balls at the LYS cost 10 dollars. A bargain, really. Some of my paycheck from the camp this summer went to the yarn, I must admit.

For any knitter venturing to Madrid in the near future, go to El Gato Negro. You will not be sorry. It's right outside one of the entrances to the Plaza Mayor, and if you ask a non-tourist-looking passerby, "Donde Esta 'El Gato Negro'?" they can probably point you to the right entrance.

Well, I still have to upload the pictures from this summer to my desktop and unpack the suitcases, so I will leave you with promises of pictures of the (greatly-enhanced) yarn stash, as well as the considerable progress I made on the hourglass sweater this summer.