I have been in Spain for a few weeks. This is a craft blog, not a travel blog, so I will not bore you with thousands of holiday snaps. Instead, I will tell you about the fun fabric and yarn shops I explored in Spain, between visits to Córdoba, Granada, Toledo and Sevilla.
One of my biggest packing decisions was which small project to take in my hand luggage to keep myself busy on the plane. I took the lace scarf I seem to have been knitting forever. Before I checked in for each flight, I showed the check-in desk and security people my circular knitting needle while it was still possible to transfer my knitting to my check-in suitcase before it disappeared on a conveyor belt. Each time, my circular needle was given the okay, but I suspect airports’ and airlines’ policies vary, so always check.
I flew with Qatar Airways, and was able to knit my way through four long flights and some downtime in Doha and Barcelona airports.
I took a small appliqué project too in case I finished my scarf, but this was wishful thinking. It never left my suitcase. Spain is full of attractions that kept me entertained, I am a slow knitter and I find I can only knit for the first half of a 24-hour journey. In the latter half I get so crazy-tired that I make mistakes that I only have to unpick and reknit later. I watched movies – varying from Oscar-nominated to French, Japanese and Bollywood films, as well as some lightweight comedies when I was the most tired – or tried to sleep instead.
So, here is a list of the craft shops I visited in Madrid and Barcelona. I did not take photos in the shops. I do not know why, but I always feel awkward asking for permission. To find out more and see photos of each shop, follow the links to each shop’s website. Many have English areas in their websites.
The first stop on my craft tour of Spain was Julián López, a fabric shop on Gran Vía, a busy Madrid thoroughfare. We walked past it by accident and spotted it because of its eye-catching window displays full of fabric and bicycles.
The shop had every type of fabric available, and the service by smartly suited men, who patiently answered my dodgy Spanish questions, was excellent. Their patchwork range included Italian- and Spanish-made fabrics that I was unfamiliar with, as well as the usual imports from Japan and the USA.
I was most impressed by the many colours of velvet they had. I love velvet, but it seems to be limited here in Australia; I suspect our climate is just a bit too warm for it.
I did not buy anything, but I blame that on the fact it was my first day in Spain and the store was a little overheated for me, who was dressed in my winter woollens. I found the Madrid shops’ tendency to heat inside to 25 degrees Celsius a little uncomfortable.
Before dinner one day, and while my travelling companion rested her tired feet after a day exploring Madrid, I took advantage of Spain’s extended shopping hours to walk from our hotel to Black Oveja, a cute little sewing and knitting boutique on Calle de Sagasta.
When I was there in the late afternoon, people were trickling in with food and wine to start a knitting group or class. The shop had a friendly, almost clubhouse atmosphere, with half of the small space allocated to a classroom.
They had a small but interesting selection of patchwork and craft fabrics, including many Japanese imports, and a gorgeous supply of yarns. I was tempted to buy some beautiful coral yarn to make myself a scarf, but the knowledge that I have a mountain of unknitted sock yarn at home held me back. I bought two fat quarters.
I was admiring the Spanish craft books and magazines and explaining that I do not read Spanish well enough to buy them. (My ability to read is still better than my ability to speak, so you can imagine how stilted all my Spanish conversations were.) The shop guy smiled a cheeky smile and said that he also had books in Japanese. I bet he did not expect me to answer that I can speak Japanese! His facial expression was priceless! It was interesting to see that the fashion for cute Japanese crafts is flourishing in Spain too.
FYI, oveja means sheep. You can see a little sheep in their logo.
Lanas El Gato Negro
Oooh! A knitter’s and crocheter’s dream! Lanas El Gato Negro has walls and walls of beautiful skeins (not balls) of yarn and everything a knitter or crocheter could want, and all in an easy-to-find location near the Plaza Mayor.
I was really cursing all those unknitted balls of sock yarn at home at this point.
Nunoya, on Carrer de la Palla in Barcelona’s Barri Gòtic district, has a thoroughly beautiful range of Japanese imported craft fabrics. I could not and did not resist temptation. The staff speak English, Spanish and Japanese and probably Catalan too, given that the shop is in Barcelona.
I bought five fat quarters of cute Japanese cotton drill weight fabrics and two small pieces of Liberty lawn to add to my collection. I did not buy the tanuki print I also loved, and I have been cursing myself since.
One day a week, the Mercat Gòtic pops up in the square outside Barcelona’s cathedral, Plaça de la Catedral. It is an antiques and collectibles market. I was the happiest little sewer when I found two thimbles that fit me in one of the stalls. I also learned a new Spanish word: dedal (thimble).
The stallholder reassured me they are silver. Frankly, I do not care. I like them.
Mercería Santa Ana
Also in the Barri Gòtic district, on Portal de L’Àngel, is Mercería Santa Ana. This place was a cultural experience; it was shopping the old-fashioned way. From what I could tell, the customers line up at the counter and the staff serve them. You do not just pick up what you want and take it to the counter to pay. For example, sample buttons are sorted on cards by colour and type, you chose the card with the button you want and then take it to the counter where the shop assistant pulls out your buttons from drawers. Other customers were being helped to choose fabrics from sample books at the counter. Little was on display.
It was all a bit confusing and overwhelming for someone with a tenuous grasp of the local language. The queue for service was long. I left with the impression that they have everything you could want in hidden storerooms, but it is not a shop for aimless browsing.
I did spot some very pretty buttons, hand-made in Catalonia.
Do not think that all I did was fabric shopping. Spain was wonderful. I saw amazing Roman ruins, cathedrals, mosques, synagogues, walled towns, art galleries and countryside. I ate great food and drank delicious wines. I tortured the friendly local people with my painful attempts at their language. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and hope I get the chance to go back.
I have to thank Kate of Tall Tales from Chiconia for her excellent tips and suggestions for things to see and do in Barcelona, especially her suggestion to visit Nunoya and La Boqueria (the place to go if you love food).
I also have to thank my patient travelling companion, my stepdaughter. She does not have a craft addiction but she humoured this craft addict by letting me spend time in craft shops between sightseeing excursions. She also talked me out of a flamenco outfit when we were surrounded by beautiful dresses in the many specialist shops in Sevilla. If only I had an occasion to wear one!