After three amazing weeks in Germany, I’m back in the store and working on hitting my stride. Over the final week of the trip I had an unofficial tour of Mey in Albstadt and I met with the owners of Rohrspatz & Wollmeise in Pfaffenhofen (Ilm). Both were wonderful experiences.
My cousin and I were born 10 days apart. I was born in Canada, she was born in Germany. When I lived with my aunt in Bavaria, we met for the first time. We hit it off and became good friends. Every opportunity, my aunt would make sure we had the chance to spend time together. Even heading into the mountains to learn to ski… that’s a story for another day though. Each time I was in Germany, she was one of the first people I sought out to visit. She even managed to come to Canada for a while.
We each developed a passion for nature, music and fibre arts. Fast forward and here’s me, running a yarn and sewing/alterations/repairs shop in a small town in the mountains, and she is part of the administration office that oversees the cutting department in a clothing/intimates factory (in the mountains) in Germany. Both of us ended up working with textiles, but on opposite ends of the spectrum. While in Germany, she graciously gave me an unofficial tour of the Mey factory where she works. Obviously, taking any photos was out of the question. It was exciting to be able to see the huge knitting machines that they employ to generate the exquisitely fine fabrics for use in their intimates line. So fine, they are like a second skin. There were machines that manipulate the fabric to prepare it for cutting and machines that cut out the pieces in various ways. They had some robotic stations where several machines are overseen by one individual and other stations where sewists operated stations in a form of production line. The machines were set up with specialized jigs that made the work fast and effortless. It’s a far cry from they type of work I do.
As much as it was truly interesting and exciting for me to see, it’s not the way I want to relate to textiles and fibres. But it sure works for my cousin. And really, that’s the important thing.
In my shop, I have 7 industrial sewing machines that each do a specialized type of operation. Over the years I have collected them as I encountered work that I wanted to be able to do, but that my existing machines wouldn’t allow me to do very easily. I plan to purchase one more in the near future as I find myself, one again, faced with jobs that are very difficult to complete with the equipment I have. I can do them, but with the new machine, it will make doing them easy and fun compared to what I have to do now.
When people come into the store for the first time, they are often quite surprised at my work station area and the number of machines I have set up. I’m often asked how many people I have sewing. When I tell them it’s only me, they’re pretty shocked. The thing is that industrial machines are not like domestic ones that home sewists use. They are designed to do one task, at speed, perpetually at high volume. The motors are almost as big as an entire home sewing machine. It’s a good thing too, I’m very hard on my machines. I ask a lot of them. When I’m working on industrial goods for helicopters, or heavy packs and gear, the machines have to be able to take it. And the ones I have, can and do. They are my work-horses.
But of course, sewing isn’t all that my shop is about. It’s also about fibre crafts and yarn. Over the almost five years that my shop has been open, my inventory of yarn has grown to meet the needs of my customers.
Hard to believe that I started with one type of yarn in 11 colours.
But you have to start somewhere. Over time, little by little I have brought in new yarns based on what my customers were requesting. I don’t even know how many different yarns I carry any more. Lots.
Over the past couple years I’ve seen a significant increase in the number of people looking for high quality hand-dyed yarns. Many want natural fibres and as earth friendly a product as possible. I tentatively started out with some items from Sweet Paprika Yarns out of Ontario. Many people insisted they wanted something more “local”. Last year I added Black Cat Custom Yarn to the mix. This line was embraced enthusiastically. Of course, small independent dyers are not necessarily able to keep up with demand until their businesses mature and ordering from them has its own learning curve. This fall I’ll be bringing in hand dyed yarn from Ancient Arts out of Calgary. They have a number of gorgeous colourways that were inspired by Revelstoke and our direct surrounding area. I’m thrilled to build a relationship with this company!
And now, a big reason for my trip to Germany was to meet with Rohrspatz & Wollmeise to discuss bringing their absolutely gorgeous hand-dyed yarns into my shop. They put so much care and attention into everything they do. Meeting them was a joy. What sets them apart is that they only use natural food-related products to get their vibrant colour-fast colours. They don’t use any chemical products. You can’t get any more earth friendly than what these people do. Claudia and Andreas are lovely people. It’s clear when you meet them and their staff that the company has a warm and caring atmosphere. I’m very excited and very proud to be able to provide their exceptional products to my customers. It will likely be the middle of October before they’ll start showing up in my shop. I can hardly wait!