Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Swiss German problems

I've talked a bit on this blog about how challenging I find Swiss German, which is basically an oral language with no written rules. But even that definition is an oversimplification. Swiss German is actually a language group - but even that term can't be properly defined due to the wide variation in the local dialects.

That's right - Swiss German doesn't actually exist, technically speaking. As Wikipedia puts it, "Linguistically, Swiss German forms no unity." You're telling me.

It truly fascinates me that such a small country with only 8 million residents already has four official languages, but even that doesn't begin to cover the breadth of linguistic variation. I'm not a linguist, nor have I been around Swiss German enough to try to explain any of the differences, but if you want to know more, the above article makes for interesting reading (even if I don't know the difference between Low, High, and Highest Alemannic).

As a demonstration of the mind-boggling variation, I present this video that a friend posted on facebook. Zurich, as you may know, is located in north central Switzerland, while Valais (German: Wallis) is a canton in the southwest and is bilingual - the western part speaks French, which the eastern speaks German. The two areas are separated by well under 200 km/125 miles (Zurich to Zermatt is 161 km/100 miles).

I mean, seriously - Ausländers don't even stand a chance, do we?

(Also note: I'm not fluent in any of these languages other than English, but I will say that I've never heard anyone say "Guten Tag" - in any accent - as "hello" in Switzerland. They say "Grüezi." The point of the video is to show different accents, I suppose, but just sayin'). UPDATE: A Swiss friend informs me that Guten Tag is used in Switzerland for some informal situations. Apparently I have never been in an informal situation in Swiss German (true dat, I have not).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Local yarn shop in Zurich

By far the most popular post on my blog is the one discussing yarn stores in Zurich - likely because, as I discovered when I first searched for such information, there isn't much available (and what does exist tends to be in German).

So I am happy to have another LYS (local yarn store, for those of you unfamiliar with crafting lingo) to report. This one is close to where I live and I was thrilled to discover it a few months ago, but last week was the first time that I managed to walk by when it was open.

The name is lana e più ("yarn and more" in Italian, according to Google Translate), and it's located a short walk from the Morgental tram/bus stop (for map and address, see info at the end of this post). Super convenient for me, and not hard to get to for others - the 7 tram stops there as well as the 72, 66, and 70 buses.

The only thing that is slightly inconvenient is the hours of the shop. It is open Monday thru Saturday, but for limited hours each day (see info at the end of this post for exact times), which is why I'd been walking by it for several months without ever going in.

The stuffed bear out front means that it's open!
The reason for these limited hours became apparent, as the lady owner said the shop was a one-woman show. I was a bit nervous before going in, as it is a small shop and I didn't think I could hide my inability in German. Unfortunately, I was right - the owner was lovely and chatty, and after a few sentences I had to 'fess up that I couldn't speak (Swiss) German. She didn't blink an eye, offering English or French, the former of which I gratefully accepted. (I suspect she may also speak other languages - I just don't look like someone you would offer Italian as an option).

The shop is small and not stuffed to the brim, but I still found a good variety. Be aware that not all yarns are on display in the front - apparently she keeps the 'boring' colors in the back room, as she likes the bright ones to be on display - so you may have to ask her for a complete palette.

Overall, this shop was one of the most enjoyable yarn-buying experiences I've had in Switzerland. What made it wonderful was the owner was so knowledgeable - since she does everything, she is familiar with every single yarn in the store. I told her I was looking for yarn appropriate for a baby blanket in non-traditional colors and she had several suggestions. I finally chose a rather thick cotton yarn and she had a blanket she had crocheted (she crochets and knits, very jealous) from that exact yarn to demonstrate the size/number of skeins she had used. How very convenient!

She packed me off with advice on washing and as a bonus, gave me a single-size laundry detergent for free, which will be perfect for passing on to the expectant parents. She also offered that if I didn't end up using some of the skeins, I could return them to the store, which I thought was a generous offer (and brilliant, frankly - there's nothing worse than running out of a specific dye lot of a yarn before you're done with a project, so with that offer, I don't have to worry about 'underbuying' - a term I just created. Oh, and there are many worse things, actually - famine, war, disease. But hyperboles make a point. What was I saying?).

You do have to ask about yarn prices, as they are not posted, but the yarn I bought was just under 5 CHF/skein, which I felt was completely reasonable.

From my limited experience, it seemed that the shop is doing well - I was the only customer in the shop at the time,  but I ran into other customers both while entering and leaving - but I do hope others will seek it out, especially as a place to look for yarn for a specific project/pattern.

Lana e più  information:

Location: Albistrasse 58, 8038 Zurich

Opening Hours:
Monday: 14:00-18:00 (2 pm to 6 pm)
Tuesday: 9:00 - 11:45, 14:00 - 18:00
Wednesday: 9:00 - 11:45
Thursday: 9:00 - 11:45, 14:00 - 18:00
Friday: 9:00 - 11:45, 14:00 - 18:00
Saturday: 9:00 - 14:00

Note: The store accepts cash, Maestro and Post cards, but not credit cards.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baby blanket bingo

It seems that everybody I know is getting ready to welcome a new life into the world. So over the past month, I've had to step up my crochet game. Last year, I finished one blanket and it turned out lovely, but the color switching really slowed me down. With due dates each approximately one month apart, I don't have that kind of time this year. So, I chose...efficiently (last year, I chose...poorly. Anyone else been re-watching Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade?)

Choosing simpler patterns is good news for my friends, who will hopefully each get the blankets within one month of birth (I figure if people have up to a year to give a wedding gift, a month  is acceptable for a baby gift). It's bad news for my yarn stash, which hasn't shrunk at all due to the fact that I am terrible at buying enough single-color yarn to make anything of reasonable size (usually I buy yarn that's on clearance - aka, not much of it - plus I am a magpie, so I am easily distracted by crazy-colored variegated yarn).

For the first blanket, which I finished last week (for the record: four days before the due date and two days before the actual birth - which would be perfect except it needed to be shipped to the US), I chose a lovely bright green yarn by Lang Yarns that is a mixture of silk, rayon, and nylon. So soft. And it can be machine washed (delicate cycle). I chose a white border and then, because I have issues, bought a multicolor yarn to spruce up the edging. I used this pretty, super easy pattern and modified the border to widen it some and incorporate the third color.

I may have delayed sending it off because I entertained thoughts of keeping it for myself (despite the lack of babies in our house).
 I was worried it would be boring, but I think it turned out absolutely lovely, although I didn't manage to finish an owl motif I originally wanted to put on it. I'm so pleased - my crocheting has definitely improved since the last blanket, so I didn't have to use the border to hide any issues.

Close-up of the border. I might finally be learning how to make colors work together!
I'm now working on another blanket that I hope to accompany with an adorable amigurumi elephant (my first attempt at amigurumi, so the blanket may have to stand on its own if things go south). I'm using this lovely, very simple pattern. The yarn is also another silk blend (with cotton & viscose) - this time made by Maddison, a yarn company that seems to mainly do yarns for the Swiss department store Manor, which - unfortunately - means that most of their yarns are not on Ravelry.

Silver for the blanket border (and elephant), maroon for the body (and elephant ears).

Does that look like an elephant body? No? Trunk is forthcoming, that should help.
As you can see, I haven't been opting for traditional baby colors - both mothers don't seem very big on the blue/pink dichotomy, but I also figure that they can pick up a blanket in those colors easily if they so desire, so I wanted to make something a bit different.

It's not really this pink, I promise.
So far, so good - I've been toting the blanket everywhere with me and crocheting on the tram, while waiting for (and sometimes during) meetings, even during lunch. I may look crazy to those around me, but I'm halfway through my third (out of 5) yarn balls for the body, and I still have 17 days before the baby shower!