Tuesday, March 06, 2012

 More from Tutto: the Opal Factory
...for my yarn-addicted friends!

Here are more pictures from our visit to the Opal yarn factory and shop in Hechingen, Germany.
I've discovered through my email correspondence with Henrike Zwerger that Felix, our factory tour guide, is her brother, her mother is the lovely storybook lady who helped us in  the factory store, and her father, Wolfgang Zwerger, and other brother, Frederik Zwerger, are the two faces that appear on Opal yarn ball bands.  Tutto is a small, family-run organization, and they make my favorite sock yarn. Here are pictures from inside the factory:

This machine converted the yarn from hanks to cones, and has a special attachment on certain sections for waxing yarn to be used directly from the cones by machine-knitters.

This machine is the 'steamer'.  It's purpose, according to Felix, is to help the yarn 'relax'. : D  just like a sauna does for us.  The yarn comes from the cones and is wound into spirals on a continuously-moving conveyer belt that takes the spirals of yarn through a steam bath.  I suspect the steam also helps to make the dyes colorfast and set the twist.
From this machine, the spirals of yarn are laid onto the the big 'cake' spools that I showed in the picture of me with Felix. 
From the cakes, the yarn is taken into the machine that winds it into balls and applies the ball band. A worker inspects every ball band, makes sure the adhesive is applied correctly so that the band won't come off, and packs the finished balls into clear plastic bags. You can see the balling machine behind us here.

In the factory store, here is the Vincent van Gogh collection.  Michelle and I both bought yarn from this group...I only wish I'd bought more of these lovely colors!

A view of a small part of the factory store. It was truly a sock knitter's heaven in this room!  Opal sock yarns as low as 19.90 euro for a bag of six balls of Unicolor (around $26.50 American) and individual balls for as little as 3.99 euro!

The contents of the Big Bag O Yarn that Felix gave me.  There is every imaginable color of sock yarn here.  The pile you see stretches nearly all the way from one end to the other of my extra-long twin-sized bed at Michelle's apartment.  The ball of black-and-white yarn at the left of the picture measures about five inches across, for reference. 
I used the packing skills I've learned as a motorcycle traveler to pack for my trip, and came to Germany with just one carry-on bag that fit in the overhead compartment, and one tote bag for my purse and knitting, an extra sweater, a book to read (Teacher Man by Frank McCourt), my laptop computer, and various and sundry small items that wouldn't fit in the carry-on.  Michelle was amazed that I came to Europe for two weeks with only one small bag and a tote.  I was able to use Michelle's washer and dryer, and never had to have more clothes than I needed for up to five days.  I left all my  regular toiletries and hair-care tools at home, which meant that my hair was pretty much a total mess for the entire trip, though.
This meant that I could borrow a large suitcase from Michelle that I was able to check in for free on my flight home (the first checked bag is free on Delta).  I packed the contents of the Big Bag O Yarn into two vacuum bags, and placed them in the suitcase, so no charge to ship the mess back to the USA!  I carried one gallon-sized zip-top bag with me on the flight, filled with all one color of yarn, and spent most of the flight home untangling it and winding it into balls.

Here are the contents of the Big Bag O Yarn sorted by color and weight on the floor at home.  The pile on the right, resting on the red plastic bag, is all six-ply, or roughly DK-weight yarn, and all the rest is fingering-weight, or sock yarn.

And here is all the yarn, bagged and ready to be untangled and wound, and knit into socks and mitts and all manner of fibery goodness.
Much of this will end up as MonsterSocks and MonsterMitts.  There is no way possible that one could knit exactly-matching socks or mitts from this, as the lengths are uneven and many.

These are the full balls and hanks that Michelle and I bought at the factory store.  The three balls at top left are hers, and I'll use them to knit socks for the BEST friend EVER!
The lovely Frau Zwerger gave each of us a mini-skein of Opal with our purchases.  I think I'll use them to knit tiny sock ornaments for Michelle's and my Christmas trees.

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