Craft, stitchin' and sustainable living

Monday, August 29, 2011

Antique Antwerp

Vrijdagmarkt (Friday Market) in Antwerp
Antwerp, Belgium, is antique city!  And I'm not saying that it's old, I mean that this city is Mecca for antique hunters and vintage shoppers alike.  There are streets lined with antique shops and every hotel room has business cards from antique dealers.  I can only imagine this is where the Anthrolopology shoppers come when they have a new store to decorate!  If you really love antiques and vintage finds, the streets around Kloosterstraat will keep you very happy.  It's also worth checking out the Friday Market (Vrijdagmarkt) even just for novelty value alone.  The Friday Market is a live auction every Friday where you can buy whatever junk the auctioneers seem to have gathered that week.  I almost accidently put a bid on this fishing rod (above) when I put my arms up to take this photo.  Thankfully someone else bid, and were the lucky new owners of a fishing rod for 2 Euro.

If you're into vintage and second hand clothes shopping, Antwerp also has some great places to shop.  The Think Twice (T2) stores have great collections, and I was able to put a new outfit together for 8 Euro.  Episode is another one worth sifting through, and there were many more that I didn't go near because I was already experiencing suitcase overflow.

Stitchybritt checks out a toy horse at the Antwerp Design Centre
Antwerp is a very relaxed city and it also has a 'designy' feel.  There are lots of galleries and art centres to check out, including the Antwerp Design Centre.  While they house a whole building of designy folk, the sections open to the public are generally the cafe, the exhibit hall, and the gift shop.

Comics on Belgian walls
Comics on walls are not unique to Antwerp; you'll find them all over Belgium.  The Belgians are quite proud of their comic history, and have used lively scenes like this to brighten up walls around the cities.

Some of the collectables at the beautiful B&B we stayed in
The place we stayed in Antwerp, another brilliant Airbnb find, was full of interesting art and collected antiques.  Yes, that's a saddle hanging over the handrail!

Meanwhile, the sock knitting continued.  I started knitting the gusset, and unfortunately, this is where I encountered by first problem.  I started decreasing according to the pattern, but soon realised that the decreases were not starting from the 'corner' (see the uspide down v where the two sides meet?) and they should have. I ended up unravelling this section and starting again, adjusting the pattern to suit.  As you can see below, I finally got back on track and decreased the gusset successfully.  Nearly there!

Next post I'll tell you about the knitting history exhibit that I stumbled across by accident!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Creative Cologne

Cologne Cathedral
Cologne is one impressive city.  Following Berlin, we visited Nuremberg and Bamberg (and yes, many a beer was sampled) then caught the train to Cologne.  The first impression that you get when you step off the train is the Cologne Cathedral, shown in all its majesty above.  With this amazing landmark as inspiration, it's no wonder the town is full of creative people.

Crafty shopfront displays
As we walked the streets around our accommodation in Ehrenfeld (which we booked on Airbnb, and was fantastic), it became apparent to us that this was actually a very creative neighbourhood.  There were crafty displays in shop windows, as shown above.  The cafe where we ate breakfast also hosts poetry and wine evenings.  We also noticed many cute little theatres and vintage shops.  People from Cologne obviously have an eye for the handmade touch, and we found little hidden decorated spots around every corner.  Someone had even gone to the trouble of pretty-ing up this heating grill on the outside of a building.

Detail on the streets
I also noticed a fair bit of art (street and sanctioned) around the city.  Peeking through this gate I saw what looked like an abandoned building covered in posters and graffiti, but a closer inspection revealed that it was actually a working theatre.

Abandoned building?  No!  Uber cool theatre.
Cologne is a wonderful city to visit, perhaps a little bit Melbourney?  There's also a huge array of bars where you can drink the city's signature beer, kolsh, or sample many other fine ales.  We found a great brew-pub called Braustelle (below) in the trendy area near Leyendeckerstrasse.  This area is full of rock'n'roll types enjoying the region's many bars (I could have sworn that I walked past the Northcote Social Club).

Braustelle brew-pub
Meanwhile, the sock knitting was coming along well, especially with the train time that I had up my sleeve whilst travelling between German cities.  By this stage I had successfully turned my first heel!  Three cheers for me!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Brilliant Berlin

One of the many, many cafes in Berlin's Kreuzberg
I'm going to start my travel stories with one of my most favourite cities - Berlin.  After four days in Amsterdam, which I admit was very nice, we flew to Berlin, which is nothing short of awesome.  Berlin is a city that offers something for everyone - choices in food, choices in shopping, choices in art, choices in shows, choices in just about everything, and you can have those choices on a small budget.  Berlin has always been a nucleus for ideas.  It's where an amazing, and still very visible, history meets the young, trendy and interesting.

The East Side Gallery - art on the old Berlin Wall
Berliners know how to refashion on a large scale - they have an old airport that they turned into a public park, a beautiful forest mountain which was actually made from all the WWII rubble from around the city, and parts of the Berlin wall that used to divide the city is now - what else? - an art gallery.

Art at the East Side Gallery
A huge mix of art to be seen
Art students flock to Berlin and it's easy to see why - there is great art everywhere.  Street art, public art, galleries and exhibitions.  There's also cheap rent and one of the best public transport systems I have experienced - and I'm assuming very good art courses at their universities, hence the focus on art in the city.  But that's not all...

Flohmarkt at Mauerpark

Crafty, stitchy and vintage-loving peeps will enjoy areas like Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Prenzlauerberg and Hackescher Markt (don't let that limit you though, there is so much of this city to explore).  Above is the Flea Market (Flohmarkt) at Mauerpark, on every Sunday.  It's filled with loads of vintage and second hand clothes and homewares, as well as crafts and lots of yummy snacks.  If you get a chance to go, don't miss the karaoke that is on from 3pm every Sunday.

Also worth visiting is the market at Maybackufer, Neukolln on Saturdays.  It has a great mix of fabrics for 2 or 3 Euros per metre, crafty stalls, and delicatessen goods.

This is just a small snapshot of a truly wonderful city.  You could spend months exploring Berlin and still come across totally new things.  Meanwhile, of course, I was just getting started on the socks that I decided to knit for boyfriend whilst we were away.  As you can see, I had finished the cuff and was working on the leg of the sock... more updates next post!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

I'm back!

Hello lovely peeps! Thanks for being so patient. I'm now back from my travels through West Europe and boy, do I have some stories to tell you. Art galleries in Berlin, cozy bars in Cologne and antique shopping in Antwerp - it was all so wonderful. Over the next few weeks I hope to share with you some of my holiday snaps and best recommendations for crafty people wanting to visit these parts of the world (because it can be so tricky to find what you want when you google 'yarn shops in Brussels'). I'll also share with you my trials and tribulations as I attempted to knit a pair of socks as we travelled. Did I finish them? Did I have to rip hours of knitting? Did I misjudge the size of boyfriend's foot? You will just have to wait and see... I know, the suspense! (insert sarcasm here). Stay tuned... : )