The black sheep of yarn stores – Ovelha Negra in Porto

ovelhanegra1

A couple of months ago I made a recovery trip to Porto. Needless to say how wonderful this Portuguese city is, how is easy and enchanting… And how warm the people are over there!

It was one of those trips where I haven’t planned much ahead. I really wanted to have a coffee looking at the ocean, experience Casa da Musica, visit Serralves, and otherwise just live in the moment, no plans, no organization…

While in Porto, I heard about the famous Portuguese wool, which, as you would imagine, made me enter every yarn store I saw while walking around the city.

And then I discovered Ovelha Negra! It is the cosiest yarn store ever, tastefully decorated, offering a nice selection of high-quality yarns, tools, workshops and just good vibes.

The very nice owner of the store Joana answered my endless questions and let me take my time in enjoying her little yarn paradise.

ovelhanegra2

ovelhanegra3

I spent lots of time touching the wonderful yarns and imagining how they could be crocheted and knitted and what they could become. It just made me so happy…

Certainly, I couldn’t leave the store empty handed! I bought mostly Portuguese wool, despite the fact that I was there in May 🙂

My favorite is this handspun wool…

ovelhanegra4

… and this fine Portuguese wool that comes in many colors and is produced by Ovelha Negra.

ovelhanegra5

Back home, my lovely cat has performed a very serious quality control. And he loved it!

ovelhanegra6

I can’t wait to stat playing with these yarns, now that winter is coming 😉

Timeless inspiration

embroidery1

I can say with much certainty now – it is much easier to crochet than to write! It is particularly hard to write about things that are important, things that carry feelings and warmth… In the fear that the words chosen would be too dry, too simple…

While this post was sitting in drafts for several weeks, things happened around me that brought me closer and closer to it. I’ve been asked recently how and when did I learn to crochet, which brought me back to my childhood… On Alo BEBE (in Romanian) there is a beautiful new series of stories dedicated to mothers and grandmothers… The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded this year for “the art of memory”… In light of the latter, I reread what Aharon Appelfeld wrote about memory in The Story of a Life – “elusive and selective, it holds on to what it chooses to hold on to” bringing “pleasure and tranquility”…

embroidery2

Like many in my generation, we used to spend most of our summers in the countryside at our grandparents. I was no exception. And oh, was I spoiled! I never had to work. The only times I would be doing something in the garden, I would be eating fruits and berries directly from the plants. I could play the whole day long! There were however some “forced” activities – meals and midday naps – if I only knew back then how precious they would be years later 🙂

I was the first and, until the age of 5, the only grandchild. Given how busy life in the village is in summer, I was often left by myself. Even later, when my brother and my cousins came into the picture, I would still have plenty of time for my own activities. Now I understand how important it was that my grandparents didn’t ask me to help around the house and that I was left to my dreamy world, where I learned to “entertain” myself and discover my passions.

One of them was books. I guess I was lucky that both my grandparents were school teachers: there were plenty of books in the house that I could choose from. Though, now it feels that I kept rereading some of them over and over again – who knows? 🙂

And then I discovered crochet! In school, we used to have a class where girls would learn everything they need to be proper Soviet housewives 🙂 And one of the skills was crochet. The summer after that school year was really magical. I took some cotton yarn and my hook to my grandparents. Suddenly, their house looked different. I started to pay attention to all embroideries on the walls, the hand-woven towels, the crocheted lace of table clothes and bed sheets… So many… And everything was done by my grandmother!

My grandmother Dina was a teacher of Russian language and literature. She was not born in the village, like most of its inhabitants. When she was in teacher training, she met my grandfather, a primary school teacher, fell in love, and followed him. She was one of the most respected persons in the community – many would knock on her door for advise or consolation. And many women would come to borrow her handmade works, so they can replicate the pattern. Those were the times…

I am not sure whether the image I have of my grandmother working on her embroidery is memory or imagination, or the image of her sitting next to me showing me how to do a certain stitch, or many other images of her for that matter… But I am sure that spending all those summers surrounded by all her works, and receiving so much love and care, had let my passion for handicraft and my appreciation of handmade things become a part of me.

Years later, I moved to another country. Last time I was home, I asked my grandfather if I could look through my grandmother’s things and take something with me. He was so happy to open old cupboards and chests, accompanying this with our family stories, some of which I’ve heard so many times, but are so important to be told. So that we don’t forget, so that these stories stay with us, for long…

I took back with me these two embroideries for pillow cases. Pillow cases that remained unfinished. I framed them and hung them in my bedroom. So that they stay with me, for long…