Friday, 20 April 2012

Helsinki knitting

The main reason to visit Helsinki was for the yarn, not for the architecture and design. I did my research in advance and put together a little google map with all the most centrally located yarn shops (I learned my lesson from our unsuccessful search for one yarn shop in Brussels, and did a virtual stroll-by in street view).

Even so, Sypressi-Neule*, the first shop we tried to locate, was decidedly NOT where google earth (and other internet resources) said it was. I expect it must have moved - the street it was supposed to be on, Union street, leads up to the Lutheran cathedral, and the other shopping in the area seemed rather upscale - in fact, we later determined it had been replaced by a boutique jewelry shop.

Fortunately we did manage to find the next shop on my list, Menita, which turned out to be the best shop we visited, and was also conveniently located  near a church (the handsome St John's, which we popped into to warm up and listen in on a rehearsal of St John's Passion).

Menita has a wide selection of yarns, including some very affordable Finnish yarns. I was tempted by the Icelandic Léttlopi yarn in a range of scrumptious colours, but really, on a yarn holiday one is almost obliged to buy local yarns, so I selected some teetee Kamena and Pirkanmaan kotityö Ohut Pirkkalanka instead (isn't Finnish great?!)

Kamena in a lovely deep green shade

Ohut Pirkkalanka in an unusual mossy green

I bought piles of the stuff because the price was so good, but also because it comes in an awkward 3-ply weight - too light to knit garments single ply - so I'll have to double up the strands.

Next we visited Fiina Neule. By this time my yarn yearnings had slackened, and as I couldn't find anything uniquely Finnish in the shop, I actually left without buying anything! They have a very nice selection of European yarns though, and I was quite tempted by some Italian cashmere-wool blends, and by the Anny Blatt angora (mmmm, angora).

But we were not done, so onward and upward. Very far upward! The next shop was quite a slog away, past the Parliament, past the Finnish Museum of National History and Finlandia Hall, past the National Opera, even past the Olympic stadium! We should really have taken the tram, which seems to serve every corner of Helsinki. But then you risk missing out on the sights (and window shopping), so I generally prefer to explore on foot. After our very long walk we finally arrived at Kirstikki. My heart sank seeing the limited selection of yarn competing with sewing machines and notions - this is a multi-purpose craft shop. But we were well rewarded for our efforts, because I made what must certainly be my best yarn find to date.

Kipu Apu

Kipu Apu is a 70% hand-washed Finnish wool & 30% raw silk handspun. The store proprietor informed me that it has therapeutic properties, specifically helping to reduce pain in the part of the body where it is worn. The website says that the wool's springy and curly fibre stimulates the skin capillaries, bringing nutrients to the extremities and carrying away waste products, and the silk contains sericin which has a therapeutic effect on skin problems, alleviating pain, reducing perspiration and helping with insomnia. Who could resist that? My husband insisted I buy a skein to knit him a pair of socks for his foot pain.

My only real yarn disappointment was that I was unable to find any Riihivilla yarn. This is a small family-run business producing natural dyed Finnish yarn. They have a stall in the Kauppatori Market by the harbour, but only starting in the spring, and it was most definitely not spring when we went to Helsinki. Fortunately they do have an online shop, so I might just have to order one of the mitten kits.

Cloudberry mitten kit

* Should have done a more thorough job with my internet research. Someone has posted on Knitmap that Sypressi-neule has moved one block away to 4 Katriinankatu, in a group of shops called "Bockin Talo".