I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Saturday
Mar252017

and next…

 (this is a continuation of the previous post here)

 

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I’d no knowledge whatsoever of Saurer before this morning, so I didn’t know that their principal products were vehicles. When we arrived in the museum and came immediately upon the embroidery machines, I wasn’t surprised.  But I’ll bet those who come looking for old vehicles are!

Towards the back of the museum were the vehicles then, including a lovely old Post Bus.

 

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As we pottered about here, a door opened and a woman appeared.  We were not alone!  But she walked briskly through the museum and out of the door we’d come through, wishing us a cheerful “Grüezi!” as she went.  We were alone again.

 

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I’d had so much fun amongst the sewing and embroidery, I was more than happy to browse the buses and lorries.  It was only fair…

 

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But I knew my Hero wasn’t that fussed about such things, in spite of his professional transport background, so we didn’t linger so long.

 

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Oh no, because both our attention was taken by further textile machinery!  Much more interesting Winking smile     Looking closely at this first machine, we recognised it as being similar to the bobbin winder – except it was for winding shuttles.

 

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OK.  We’re in the weaving department!  This huge loom was weaving terry towelling.

 

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I’d not seen such a thing before and was interested in the table of samples nearby.

 

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Next to it was another loom, this one with three placements for weaving narrow goods, such as twill tape.

 

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These machines were more modern, from the 1940s and 50s we thought.

 

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Similar, but finer machines were there too, for weaving silk ribbon.

 

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Alongside a larger loom was a machine for creating a punch card design from a drawing.  It being Switzerland, the design was of a cow.

 

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The card was made of plastic, more durable and less likely to be damaged with heavy use.

 

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The loom was set up to create twill fabric with a linen weft, suitable for traditional tea towels, we thought.

 

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The design was so cute!

 

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I liked the look of the warp, too, carefully wound with precision, most certainly by some kind of machine!

 

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Here spindles were loaded automatically into the shuttles, threaded automatically using what appeared to be a vacuum process too.

 

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There alongside, was another unrelated sample.  We had no idea why it was there, but thought it cute too.  After all, who couldn’t like the backside of a cow? Winking smile

 

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With a last look at the most modern (and least interesting, in our view) weaving machines, we took the door through to the last room.

The cafe/gift shop.  Except there was no-one there either.

 

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But on the counter was a small cardboard box with the word “geld”.

 

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There was a tea towel too, with the cow edging and the embroidered motif. 

And since there was a price list, you know what we did, don’t you?

 

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Well, who knows?  But you would have surely done the same, wouldn’t you?

 

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By the exit was a small display about Saurer today, most significantly, the aquisition in 2012 by the Jinsheng Group.  Though there are still Swiss connections the focus of manufacturing appears, as in so many similar companies, to have relocated to the Far East.

 

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I was glad to see that some aspects of the company remain in Arbon, though, including Melco, a name I recognised as a manufacturer of commercial embroidery software.  I googled to learn more about the company and spotted another of their locations…Seestrasse 161, Steckborn.

Now, where have I heard that address before?

Saturday
Mar252017

A wonderful discovery

 

We’ve explored this part of Switzerland pretty well during our several visits here – or so we thought.  Having picked up a leaflet in the Textile Museum with the title “Textilland” I visited the associated website and suggested to my Hero that we could use some of the suggestions for a little rundfahrt.  The next day, we set out and headed for Arbon, a town on Lake Constance.

 

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As soon as we arrived, it was clear that there was a rich history here.  The grand, Victorian mansions were richly decorated and there was a “resort” feel to the buildings overlooking the lake.

 

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Our satnav took us to the first place on our list and an adjacent car park, though we appeared to be in some kind of building site and were none too sure where the entrance to the museum was.

 

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We followed the sign and thought we’d found the way in but the map and the sign alongside with arrows pointing around the corner added to our confusion.  Eventually, we got it – we had to go and buy our tickets from the hotel next door and then come back here to gain entry.

 

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I liked the look of the electricity sub-station and became yet more curious about what was in the museum.

 

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It was to become a little stranger still.  We put our tokens in the turnstile and entered the museum, which appeared to be empty! 

“Hello?” (spoken in my best Hull accent)

“Hallo?”  (better speak German, just in case Winking smile )

The mannequin wasn’t saying anything, so we just went in…

 

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The first small room set the scene.  “Franz Saurer was born in a turbulent time.  Napoleon continued his conquest of Europe and England prepared itself for regular construction fever following James Watts invention of the steam engine…  The industrialisation starting gun fired and Franz Saurer would soon be sucked into it all”

 

 

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We didn’t really know what to expect and this first orientation scene didn’t bode so well.  Underneath the caption about the first railway engines (dated 1830) was this small toy train – from a century after that, said my Hero.  Not so impressive!  Here’s hoping the rest of the museum would get such details correct, otherwise we were going to be irritated…

We opened the door into the museum proper.

 

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Ooo!

A huge warehouse-type space was filled with assorted machinery, but the first thing which caught my eye?

 

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Samples of a variety of machine-embellished fabrics cleverly displayed on light fittings.  From left to right, Soutache (I’d say couching), Superpose, Tullestickerei and Atzstickerei (also known as “guipure”)

 

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Four more were set at right angles to the first group: Locherstickerei, rather similar to Broderie Anglaise, Abzeichen (badges or patches) and Allover .   

 

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Nearby was a sample book as we’d seen in the textile museum yesterday and some larger, more contemporary fabrics alongside.

 

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These were all examples of the kinds of products created using the Saurer machines in the museum and rather than linger longer here, we went right in to see what’s what.

 

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The machines were arranged in a kind of timeline, with the oldest, manually operated embroidery machine right there opposite the samples.  4 or 5 metres in length, the operator sat at one end, facing the pattern which was pinned on the board in front of him/her.

 

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This pattern had been precisely drawn to scale and was linked to a pantograph, moved by the operator’s left hand.  At the same time, the feet operated the machine in the same way as our mothers used the treadle) and the right hand turned the wheel to lift the needle up and down. 

Multitasking?  Oh yes.

As the single tracing was made, twenty four patterns were embroidered on the frame.  In this case, each was an individual motif, though I imagine the design could easily be manipulated to form a continuous row or edging.

 

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The tools of the trade were close on hand too, the tray looking remarkably like my own sewing machine kit.

 

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My Hero and I both love the engineering, the heavy moving parts which are made to move smoothly and precisely to create the fine end result.

 

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Across the way was a slightly newer machine which was set to create a continuous pattern.  this one showed the schiffli  - the bobbin which contains the lower thread.  I’d heard the term schiffli used in relation to machine embroidery but until now had not made the Swiss connection (in Swiss-German, the suffix –li is used instead of the High German –chen or –lein to form a diminutive)  So, the word for a bobbin, schiffli is literally, a little ship.

 

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A machine like this was operating twenty four needles or more, each one with a schiffli underneath carrying the bobbin thread.

 

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So the next machines to be developed were needlethreaders…

 

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Note the bottom line of the explanation which states that in twenty years, Saurer sold 6600 of these machines.  This was big business, wouldn’t you say?

 

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The needles were threaded and delivered in a line, ready for use.  What a time saver!

 

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No surprise that another development was a bobbin winder then.

 

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By 1907, these machines could wind at a rate of 3500 – 4000 turns a minute. 

 

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Better have a good supply of schiffli on hand, then!

 

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So at the same time as developing the embroidery machines, Saurer was designing and manufacturing the supplementary products, applying their technical knowhow and engineering skills to enable textile manufacturing to develop at incredible speed.

 

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Patterns were transferred from scale drawings to punchcards and yes, here were the machines to do just that.

 

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Further automation and larger frames followed.

 

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I would have liked to know how long it takes to set up such a machine but we were still alone here, with no other person in sight!

 

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We were working out how everything worked then and actually rather enjoying the puzzle.  Is this a device for creating a punch card from a scale drawing?

 

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And we understood the need for precision in those drawings, so high quality technical drawing and pattern making tools were needed such as these wheels which created dots/holes at regular intervals.

 

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But what was the difference between the sets with different coloured handles?  We couldn’t see any, and yet…

 

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Aha!  Here was something I did recognise.  This machine was creating a broderie anglaise edging.

 

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And just like my Bernina machine, there’s both a needle and a blade, cutting fabric as well as embroidering it.  Fascinating to see the similarities here.

 

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Alongside was a panel with photographs of the modern equivalents of these machines and a sample of contemporary fabric, much like the samples we’d seen in the museum in St Gallen.

 

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Reminiscent of that exquisite piece of whitework embroidery with the medals, this piece of work was no less impressive and required a similarly high level of skills, albeit rather different ones!

I think it’s clear how much we were both enjoying this small, deserted museum and we were not even half way around it.  I loved the insight into the development of sewing machines, knowing that my favourite Bernina is located just a few miles along the lake in Steckborn.  No accident, that – we are in Textilland, after all!

So, what else was in the museum then?  All will be revealed in the next post.

Thursday
Mar232017

A rich textile heritage

 

This area of Switzerland has a long history of textile design and manufacture and the story is wonderfully recorded in the Textile Museum in St Gallen.  I’d noted what promised to be an interesting exhibition on the website and opening the curtains on a rainy Saturday morning we lost no time in making our way there.

 

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Of course, the tickets are made of fabric.

We headed straight to the top of the building, with the intention of working our way down through the exhibits.  The first exhibition was Fast Fashion.

 

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The term “fast fashion” denotes a corporate strategy which aims to bring new fashion into the shops at ever shorter intervals. Classic fashion segments such as haute couture, ready-to-wear and medium-priced off-the-peg clothes limit themselves to two collections a year, whereas cheap labels launch up to twelve collections within the same period of time. These companies aim to draw the media’s attention to themselves, to lure primarily young customers into the shops and to animate them to make purchases.
If consumers and commerce profit from the masses of fashion articles put on the market at bargain prices, many of those involved in the production process have to pay a high price: long working days with minimum wages determine the lives of the textile workers who produce cheap fashion under sometimes disastrous conditions. They have no social security and educational opportunities. Health problems and environmental pollution are the consequences of a corporate policy that is ruthlessly geared to profit maximisation.

It was indeed a thought provoking and rather troubling exhibition and the true cost of cheap clothing was set out clearly in no uncertain terms.  I made notes on some aspects to follow up later, in particular the role of young people using social media to post their “haul videos”.  I’d not come across such things before, but foresee an interesting if rather shocking evening’s viewing.

 

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The contrast with my parents’ generation of thrift and make do could not have been better explained than the case of ideas for making a new dress from two old ones.  It also highlighted the high level of technical skills which have been lost in the meantime: I’m not sure I would have the confidence to create some of those alterations!

 

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The exhibit was indeed interesting and presented some good points, but possibly overstated the general issue: we soon got the message and were ready to move on.  But as ever in such places, I was as interested in the mechanics and design of the exhibition itself, in this instance, how the information and examples were shown in two languages (English on this side, German on the other) and hung in a kind of production line setting.  Very clever.

 

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Down one floor, there was a more general exhibit entitled “dreams and realisation”.  Here was more than half a millennium of textile heritage.

 

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Pieces from the Middle Ages were so well preserved and began the story which continued on a kind of timeline, through the introduction of turkey red dye

 

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to printed patterns and detailed designs.

 

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The motifs were accurate and precise and right from these early stages, it was clear that the strengths of the Swiss textile industry were precision and quality.

 

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The samples were so well documented and archived, creating a marvellous resource for contemporary designers.

 

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Displayed in large glass cabinets, one could spend days here, just looking, marvelling and imagining the technical skills and tenacity that went into creating these masterpieces of hand work.

 

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One cabinet was devoted to a single piece of exquisite whitework, approximately one metre square.

 

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I’m not sure that I could have listed all the specific embroidery techniques which were evident in that one piece of work alone

 

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and clearly I was not the first to marvel at and appreciate the skills involved, for the gold medals awarded to the maker were also on display in the cabinet, including three gold medals from Parisian Exhibitions of the 1870s and a mere bronze from London.

 

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Such high quality workmanship was valued worldwide, as evidenced by account books showing exports to the USA

 

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and bills of sale, including one for 32 embroidery designs, 32 sketches and 32 card copies of such, totalling 169.60 SFr. 

 

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The exhibition continued to the present day, with fascinating and very typical samples from the 1960s and 70s.

 

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Shown alongside were pattern cards and pictures of modern industrial embroidery machines creating the high tech fabrics the area specialises in today.

 

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Metal fabrics and laser cut designs, specialist and technically precise, for whilst the industry here has capitalised on the heritage it has also moved with the times and remains a world class centre for high quality, innovative textiles.

 

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Now, I’d already thought I could spend a whole day here, possibly just in that one exhibition alone.  To explore the next part fully, I’d need at least a week, for on the ground floor is the library.  I mentioned it in passing in my previous post when we were last here, but today I had a little more time to look around.

 

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The open pattern books on the counter are just a clue to what lies behind those glass doors in the cabinets which line the walls of the room.

 

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Each sample, carefully referenced and labelled, each drawing or sketch a small masterpiece in itself.

 

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Flicking through the books, each page invites us to linger and marvel at the beauty.  Could this one really be better than the last?  Or the next?  My Hero and I were both captivated by each page in the book and couldn’t decide whether to spend longer looking at this amazing catalogue or move on to the next…

 

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Because there were more.  Hundreds more.

 

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Contemporary magazines too.  Every one concerning fashion and textiles you could think of, from all over the world, in every language.

 

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Plenty to demonstrate that I’m not as au fait with British textile magazines as I thought I was, too.  PomPom was a new one for me.

 

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I was now going to investigate around the corner, but as I passed by, I couldn’t resist another look at that catalogue of edgings.

 

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and my Hero wanted to know the difference between this lace and this lace – a subject about which I know not very much at all!

 

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Though I’m sure the answer isn’t far away…

 

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Much as I’d have loved to have taken the time to research the answer to his question more fully than I could explain from my own knowledge and experience, I don’t think he was really *that* interested and anyway, there were further distractions.

 

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Shelves and shelves of books I recognise from my own collection alongside many I don’t.

 

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Some, I’d like to read more closely and yes, possibly chat as well,

 

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but then I discovered the accessories section, with details of gloves, shoes and buttons.

 

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I’m sorry, I didn’t have time to explore upstairs as well.

 

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The library was so beautifully organised with everything in place and on each shelf was a small plan of the sections together with the advice “please don’t replace the books yourself, you can leave them here”  (ie don’t mess up our system by putting a book back somewhere that we’ll never find it again!)

 

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We couldn’t leave the museum without a peek in the other ground floor room, but sadly, the embroidery machine wasn’t in operation today, unlike on our last visit.  Never mind, there were a few more things of interest around,

 

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like samples of couture fabrics for the Autumn Winter 2017 collections,

 

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one of which was rather interesting.

 

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Further couture samples and a video of a catwalk show from AKRIS which we sat and watched, recognising that were we to sit there any longer, we might not feel much like getting up and moving again!

 

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So we gathered up our bags and belongings from the cloakroom, leaving the cute tailcoat with the St Gallen tailor’s label hanging there.

At the end of April, the museum will stage an exhibition as part of a wider, regional textile project which looks remarkably interesting.  The fun continues here and though we will probably be back in Switzerland in the Autumn, whether we will have a chance to see it remains to be seen.  For now, I am thankful for a marvellous morning here!

Wednesday
Mar222017

Wood.

 

No accident that my Hero found this in his Christmas stocking this year, because actually, we take pleasure from our small woodstack.  Or, possibly more accurately, I take the pleasure and enjoy the warmth of his labour in stacking it all.

 

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Only last week, we took delivery of a load of fresh logs, ready to be stacked and seasoned over the year.  There’s a similar quantity of seasoned logs stacked and drying in the garage ready for use, every one lifted and placed carefully, for there is a satisfaction in such things, don’t you agree?

But we are not in the same league as some, as witnessed over the weekend.

 

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Of course, if one has to heat the whole house for the winter, then a larger stack is needed.  But my hero’s critical eye was cast over this one, lacking somewhat in the rotation, we thought.

 

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This being a farm, then perhaps heating would be needed in the barns and cowsheds too? 

 

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Plenty of room for new supplies here, though.  What a fine woodstore,with a clean, tiled back to it.  Having said that, the open design of ours allows the wind and rain to blow through from front to back, seasoning the wood nicely.

 

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At least when the wood is stacked around the house, there’s the benefit of insulation too.  As you can tell, driving around we take note of such things and from time to time, one of us will “ooooo!” and spot a particularly fine example and admire the skill and sheer hard work involved in creating it.

 

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On Sunday, though, we spotted the best woodstack ever.  Really.

 

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It stretched three sides around the boundary of the Karthause Ittingen and contained more wood than we’ve ever seen, all neatly stacked in evenly sized and well built stores.  We’d met our Swiss friends for Sunday lunch in Frauenfeld at the marvellous Goldenes Kreuz (Goethe war da!) and on a lovely, Spring afternoon, their suggestion of a walk in the country was spot on.

 

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The woodstacks were remarkable in the way they were sorted: some stacks contained smaller, kindling sized pieces and these variations in texture and pattern were very attractive.  I was also rather taken with the small drifts of what I assumed to be a variety of willow.

 

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My favourite, perhaps, was the stack of dry vines, each one covered in lichen and in spite of being oddly twisted and contorted, was just as neatly stacked as all the others.

 

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A grand sight to lift the spirits.

 

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Formerly a Carthusian monastery, Karthause Ittingen is now a venue for concerts, weddings and suchlike.  There’s an hotel here, a good restaurant, a gallery and a spa.  We enjoyed looking around the reconstructed residence of the monks and soon realised why so much wood was needed.

 

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A kachelofen in every room would have required regular feeding throughout the winter months.

 

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And oh my, what beautiful kachelöfen they are too!

 

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This one dated back to 1677, though it had been restored in the 1990s.

 

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A silent order, the Carthusians must have savoured such a wealth of visual treasures.

 

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I mean, the refectory is rather pretty too, isn’t it?

 

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As for the chapel.  Well.

 

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Altogether breathtaking.

 

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After a spot of tea and a short stop in the lovely monastery shop we made our way back to our cars.

 

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What a lovely day we’d had.  What great company our friends are!

 

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And for sure, those Carthusians chose a great site for their monastery, even if they did need a fair quantity of fuel to get them through the chilly times.  Whether the concept is attributed to Thoreau or Ford, wood does indeed warm at least twice; once when cutting and once whilst burning.  When stacking is included, then my Hero definitely gets an extra boost.

Wednesday
Mar222017

In die Schweiz

 

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We are just home from a few days in Switzerland.  We flew to Zurich on Friday lunchtime, arriving in the late afternoon and feeling very happy to be there again.

 

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It’s always been a favourite, ever since our first visit as a couple in the summer following our wedding in 1980.  Driving past a road sign to Effretikon just a few miles from the airport brought back happy memories of that first trip, when the generosity of lovely Swiss friends of my family enabled us to discover the character of a country which enchants us both.

 

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Even though the weather forecast didn’t sound too promising, the late afternoon sunshine highlighted the Alpstein nicely to greet us and the clouds revealed Säntis there on the horizon.

 

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We left the laptop at home this time, so there are still a few stories to tell and a lot of details to share.

 

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We stayed in St Gallen, where the peach and grey building holds a treasure trove of riches to interest me.  What better place to spend a rainy Saturday morning?

 

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For sadly, the sun doesn’t shine continually and those green fields need a drop or two of rain to keep them looking lovely.  Saturday was especially wet and driving to a concert in Winterthur in the afternoon we made sure we had umbrellas and raincoats with us.

 

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My Hero will surely be reporting on this grand occasion, when the highlights of the programme were works by Joachim Raff, bringing Swiss, German and British Rafficionados together to share enthusiasm, research and friendship throughout the weekend.

 

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We might have enjoyed a few “white angels” lovingly created in the brewery next door to our hotel, the oldest brewery in Switzerland, no less.

 

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At this time of the year, there are not so many visitors around, so we enjoyed peaceful times by the lake.

 

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We were the only visitors – the only people – in the museum where the cloakroom is imaginative and utterly charming.  That was a fantastic place to visit!

 

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When the weather brightened, we drove out and up into the mountains to new places and old favourites.

 

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Sadly, the aroma of a Swiss cheese shop simply cannot be effectively communicated.  You simply have to be there.

 

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The Gold Bunny on top of the car park was a reminder of something else on the shopping list.

 

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Finally, with a couple of hours to spare before returning to the airport, we never have a problem simply sitting in a favourite place and watching the world go by.

 

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So, the next few posts will surely be about our glorious weekend.  I’ll try not to forget to share the story of the Zuger Kirschtorte too. Textiles, transport, music, landscape, Weissbier, chocolate, cheese, rösti, friends, mountains, lakes and fun.  We love it all.

Oh, and there’s this, too.

 

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Wood.  (I’ll explain later)