Episode 139 - Snowflake Angles, Gingerbread & a Swiss Woollen Mill

Episode 139 – Snowflake Angles, Gingerbread & a Swiss Woollen Mill

Episode 139 has a strong Christmas atmosphere. It’s all about snowflake angels and gingerbread, and we have two feature interviews, which are both small family businesses: The Swiss woolen mill “Wollspinnerei Vetsch” and the German gingerbread bakery Hatzel! I like family businesses because they can contribute to the local economies and help create a sense of identity and belonging. Their survival depends on delivering high-quality products and providing good personal service. Both Wollspinnerei Vetsch and the gingerbread bakery Hatzel do this.

Wollspinnerei Vetsch – Swiss Woollen Mill

Our feature interview with Wollspinnerei Vetsch, which translates to “Wool Spinning Mill Vetsch.” Christoph Vetsch is the 4th generation in his family to run the mill. It’s located in a tiny town in the Swiss mountains. All their employees live in the same village. The mill produces top-quality Swiss yarns using Swiss wool, silk, and cotton.

While the textile industry used to be crucial in Switzerland, most production has now moved to countries with lower wages. Surviving as a mill in Switzerland is really tough. And so, this small mill specializes in producing very high-quality Swiss yarn.

They offer a range of yarns, including a rugged woolen spun yarn from local Swiss sheep, perfect for outerwear or hiking socks. They also collaborate with two other old Swiss spinning mills to create luxurious blends of wool with silk and cotton, each being an entirely Swiss product.

Finding Wollspinnerei Vetsch

Patron Discount – Wollspinnerei Vetsch

Christoph Vetsch is generously giving a 15% discount to Fruity Knitting Patrons on everything in their online store. This includes their lovely yarns, roving for spinning and felting, kits, and accessories, like Chiagoo needles (which I personally love). A big thank you to Christoph for this generous offer. Patrons can find all discount details here.

Makers – Gingerbread Bakery Hatzel

Because this is a special Christmas episode, we wanted to share the German Christmas tradition of eating gingerbread with you. The German word for gingerbread is Lebkuchen. Kuchen means cake, and Leb is thought to derive from Laib, which means “a loaf of bread.”

We traveled to the Fichtel mountains near the German-Czech border to interview Michael Hatzel, who runs a gingerbread bakery with his brother, Christian!

It started with their grandfather, who opened the bakery in 1928 after learning to make Lebkuchen in Nürnberg. The Hatzel bakery specializes in Elisenlebkuchen, which originated in Nürnberg and is considered one of the highest forms of Lebkuchen. Elisenlebkuchen has an exceptionally high percentage of nuts and almonds along with a minimal amount of flour.

In the interview, you’ll see Mr Hatzel pour egg white into the mixture because it binds all the ingredients together. They then use an old machine from his grandfather to press the dough onto wafers.

Then, the Lebkuchen are placed on wooden trays where they “sleep” for 8 hours before going into the oven. The trays are made from wood to prevent the wafers from burning in the oven. Once baked, some of the Lebkuchen is covered in dark chocolate! Yum scrum!

Mr Hatzel gifted us a tin of their delicious Lebkuchen, and we each enjoyed one on the couch. They are so popular that they were all sold out before we even filmed this episode. So, if you would like to buy some next year, make sure to order it early enough. This is definitely the tastiest Lebkuchen we’ve tried so far!

Lebkuchen was developed in Germany during the Middle Ages by monks living in monasteries. It was the power snack of the Middle Ages, and its long shelf-life helped people survive the winter months!

Finding Lebkuchen-Konditorei Hatzel

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Bring and Brag

Christmas Snowflake Angel – Alan Dart

I’ve finished my beautiful Christmas Snowflake Angel by Alan Dart (interview in Episode 118), and I love her! Madeleine and I have been invited to spend Christmas with a family in northern Germany. I made this as a gift to the family. She stands at around 38 cm tall without her halo.

I came across this crazy sparkle yarn called Creative Bubble from Rico Design. It glitters like light shining on snowflakes. So, I thought it would be brilliant to use on her skirt and the edging of her bodice. The effect looks fantastic, but the yarn was challenging to work with. It’s quite elastic, meaning the fabric just keeps stretching when you stuff it. So, I had to find the right balance to ensure she was stable enough but also didn’t look like a round snowball.

I really like how the wings look. They are sewn flat and then seamed together along this edge. Then, once they are stuffed, you backstitch two seams to create three sections of feathers. I love all these little details. Alan always makes interesting poses for his characters.

My next project will be Alan’s “Romeo and Juliet” which I would like to make in time for Valentine’s day!

Gladden – Kim Hargreaves

Madeleine has been working on her Gladden by Kim Hargreaves for the past months alongside her other projects. It’s a simple lace pattern knitted in pieces and then sewn together. For the yarn, she’s combining the PEI Northern Roots by Cabin Boy Knits with the Mohair-Silk blend by “Mohair by Canard.”

This is her first jumper that has oversized sleeves. You start with the cuff, and as you knit upwards, you increase every few rows by doing a yarn-over. This creates little holes, which not only look pretty but are really helpful! When her sleeves got really long, and she wanted to know how many more increases were left to do, she only needed to count the number of holes to know where she was up to in the pattern.

Madeleine was excited about finishing this jumper, but when she tried it on, she thought the sleeves were way too big compared to the rest of the jumper, which was very fitted. Madeleine was really disappointed because she didn’t know how to fix it without ripping back both sleeves and half of the front and back. But she blocked it anyway, and this loosened the body, making everything more proportionate. Now she’s back to being thrilled with her Gladden… Phew!

Under Construction

Christmas Balls – Arne and Carlos

Madeleine has also been making Christmas decorations. Every year, Arne and Carlos design a set of Christmas balls that you can hang off your Christmas tree. We have so many left-over yarns in our stash; this is the perfect project to use up some of it!

She chose the Christmas balls from 2020 because the images are adorable. But she’s only making three balls: The “Gingerbread” Ball using a mustard yarn for the gingerbread men and a red wine for the background; the “Ice Skating” ball using green for the background and white for the skates; and finally, the “Winter Wonderland” Christmas ball using white for the snow and motifs and green for the sky.

For most of these Christmas balls, you repeat the motif four times. But the “Winter Wonderland” ball has a different picture each quarter. This was fun to make but definitely not suitable for television knitting as every row is different.

Andrea’s Barbroe Blouse – Knitting For Olive

Madeleine has been working on the Barbroe Blouse, which she discussed in great detail in the last episode. Inspired by Madeleine, I decided to start my version of the Barbroe Blouse and see if I could finish it before Christmas. Since our gauges are similar, it saved me some time. The pattern comes in various sizes, and I couldn’t recall the size I wore during the interview, but I guessed it was the 2nd (small). So, I cast on and began.

I knitted the body in the round until the armholes, then divided to knit the front and back separately. I thought I was making good progress until I tried it on and realized there might be a problem: The top is too large for me and doesn’t have negative ease when I wear it. You can see that the fit looks OK, and I could get away with it, but it isn’t brilliant. It’s a bit loose around the lower body and waist, and the shell pattern isn’t seen clearly. Above is what the shell pattern should look like.

Because I am so excited about this design and know exactly how I want it to look, I have made the tough decision to start again and knit the smaller size, which will be XS. I have knitted around half of the design already using a different colour called “Dusty Aqua”. So, I won’t get to wear it for Christmas, but that’s still OK. It’s better to have the top fit me perfectly.

What we are wearing

Andrea is wearing the Samphrey by Marie Wallin in the interview with Wollspinnerei Vetsch and her Wild Apple by Bohus Stickning on the couch. Madeleine is wearing her Gladden by Kim Hargreaves on the couch and her Catherine Parr by Alice Starmore in the interview with the Lebkuchen bakery Hatzel.

Credits