Saturday, April 19, 2008

more of a primitive source of warmth

Knit wear is sufficiently popular and the climate sufficiently inclement in Copenhagen to sustain numerous boutiques specializing in sweaters and scarves. ecomodista found the Danish climate challenging, but coped, wearing a vintage Prada ski jacket worn under an Allegri, needless to say layered over an alpaca sweater and wool scarf. At home, Nanny Glerup's felted wool slippers are absolutely addictive and essential, and every yarn/knit store seems to stock her products. Sabine Poupinel boutique on Kronprinsensgade features hand knits from Gudrun og Gudrun (G & G) as well as machine knitted designs by p.feilberg and others. Helga Isager, daughter of famed knitter Marianne Isager, has opened Amimono on Jaegersborggade, once a working class neighborhood, now rapidly becoming gentrified with cafes--The Coffee Collective for instance--and hip boutiques.

Founded by Gudrun Ludvig (the designer) and Gudrun Rógvadótti, and located in the Faroe Islands, once a Danish dominion. G & G, debuted in 2007, presenting appealingly sophisticated sweaters and dresses that subvert knitting for warmth by their very transparency. Btw, while at the Poupinel boutique, we were advised that Bill Clinton bought two G & G sweaters recently while in Copenhagen. ecomodista should have explained that his purchase is not necessarily a fashion imprimatur, but in this case his choice is totally endorsed.

G & G is devoted to sustainability, using only waste products, wool and leather from sheep raised for mutton. Their colors are often limited to natural variety creating bold black and white motifs on sweaters based on historic Faeroe motifs. Double coated sheep on these islands are of ancient origin, probably wild sheep originally introduced by the Vikings over a 1000 years ago.G & G's knits are incredibly tempting, hand knit according to Fair Trade principles, from the softest wool, and chic design (black lace shoulders on a white sleeveless sweater banded at the hips with pale peach silk). Designer, Gudrun Ludvig is inspired by Norse mythology and the Viking technique that preceded the use of two needle knitting-- nålbinding, a looping technique, similar to knitting with two needles, involving a single, eyed, needle. Also known as netting without knots, nålbinding continued to be used until the innovation of working with two needles pervaded Denmark in the 16th century. The sheep are grown organically, a trend that appears to be increasing.

Remind ecomodista to report on organic wool production in New Mexico, since it is the largest in the US. The only other organic wool produced in Denmark, of which ecomodista is aware is Ruth Juul in Bakkegården, on the North Atlantic coast of Jutland. The shop on her farm features organic and naturally produced products such as Lambskin slippers, organic jams and natural dyed yarns from her own sheep.

Denmark's per capita consumption of organic food is one of the world's highest. and biologische restaurants abound. Consequently, ecomodista felt at home, not that we ate out. Peter and Anne, cooking with organic produce and ingredients made the most incredible meals. Organic restaurants that have been recommended are: Geranium, located in Kongens Have, the park surrounding Rosenborg Palace. Rasmus Kofoed and Søren Ledet are outstanding chefs.; Cap Horn which was one of the pioneers in organic restaurants; and Huksfluks,

Sustainable hotels include: AXEL Hotel Guldsmeden (,Betrams Hotel Guldsmeden, and Carlton Hotel Guldsmeden located in the trendy district of Vesterbro The breakfast buffet is 100 percent organic with homemade yogurt, French cheeses and rustic bread and pastry from Emmery's, a well know organic bakery.

And don't be intimidated by the Danish language, every Danish website seems to have a "Kontakt os" feature and if you can read this, you can grasp other phrases, although everyone in Denmark, except in the tiny tiny hamlets, speaks English.

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Friday, April 4, 2008

a primitive source of warmth

ecomodista spent a month this winter in Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Ribe (the oldest town in Denmark near the west coast of the Jutland) researching a primitive source of warmth--hand knitting--a great substitute for energy consumption. Sex also qualifies as a source of warmth, but one can't or shouldn't indulge in public, giving sweaters an edge. In the course of this research, we also experienced several new buildings in Hamburg, most notably, Europa-Passage, ( or arcade, designed by Hadi Teherani one of the largest inner-city shopping malls in Germany. Teherani has been quoted, "The economic and ecological prosaic construction technology in the background, is merely an indispensable precondition...Architecture is defined by atmosphere and not by reason." And the parabolic Europa-Passage is exciting, primarily illuminated by the clear ceiling, and an openess not often encountered in an arcade. Not that our friends, Brigitte and Ulrich were impressed, in terms of the quality of the boutiques, and horrors, a Starbucks! Considered to be spatially innovative, green aspects of the building are the norm in this country. The Germans have built numerous commercial passages, essentially strip malls indoors, sheltering one from the frigid winds off the North Sea, usually on the ground floor of commercial office buildings. Europa-Passage represents a new direction in material consumption modes for the Germans--the mall...

The Danes and Germans are incredibly energy conscious, despite rampant freezing temperatures. In fact, in Copenhagen, our hostess, Anne met us at the train station on her bicycle, and there were numerous cyclists on every street. ecomodista loves the fact that one can leave a bicycle on the street without security chains and locks. According to Anne, the only time one really needs to be concerned is New Year's Eve, when those in a drunken stupor might "borrow" one's bike to ride home.

Copenhagen is definitely the city for au courant knitwear, from hand knits to machine knits, everyone wears layers of sweaters and scarves. The best selection of scarves is found at the Tekstilgalleriet, Not only fashionable, knits continue to provide utility and warmth for which they were originally designed. In northern sea faring climates, fishermen relied on wool sweaters that retain body heat even when wet from the fiercest storms and sheets of rain, a tradition traced back to Vikings, who practiced a form of knitting, nälbinding, a looping technique involving a single needle.

Also known as netting without knots, nälbinding continued to be used until the innovation of knitting with two needles arrived, migrating north from what is now Germany. Knitting has become synonymous with Nordic countries, and while one might be more familiar with Norwegian Setesdal sweaters, Denmark is also home to internationally recognized knitters.  See for Marianne Isager's site, her daughter, Helga Isager, http://www. and Vivian Hoxbro,

From Hamburg, we took a train north to Ärhus, the second largest city in Denmark, a country which has a population of 5.5 million (ecomodista loves tiny tiny countries). Textile artist, Ruth Sørenson met us at the station, but had some difficulty recognizing us, having described myself as blond, and Wayne and I wearing black. You can imagine how many blonds there are in Denmark, not to mention everyone wears black. Fortunately, we had our comrade in arms, our faithful, but vicious pekingese, Tong Zhi, as an additional identifying factor. Ruth drove us to Ebeltoft, a small fishing village in Djursland, where she lives. I had made an appointment with Ruth to interview her and make photographs of her work, not on a model, unfortunately, that must wait until warm weather pervades the north, about July. Ruth kindly invited us to stay with her, but having a dog with a NYC bite number (two bites and you and your dog are out) we declined, concerned for her and her husband's safety. 

Ruth Sørenson studied textile design at Designskolen Kolding. Hand knitting was included in the curriculum. At the time, Ruth disdained knitting, preferring weaving, and other art forms. When her children left home, four years ago, she decided to research knitting and wool in the Faroe Islands and Shetland Islands, which has since inspired her designs. Working in the traditional stranding technique, her work is stunningly innovative yet simultaneously traditional. See

construction detail of michael reynolds earthship