It would be remiss of me to talk about today’s trip to a craft shop without mentioning its absolutely beautiful surroundings. Today we’re going to take a trip to Split, in the Dalmatia region of Croatia and probably one of the most effortlessly beautiful places I have ever been.
Overlooking the majestic Adriatic sea, Split is a city with a wealth of architectural wonders, sat in a magnificent bit of landscape. Much like one of my other all-time favourite cities, Trieste, as you walk through the city you’re treated to a wealth of different architectural and cultural influences. From the Roman palace that has very much been absorbed into the city, to a dash of Austro-Hungarian spirit, there is plenty to keep the eyes entertained.
Not far from the Diocletian’s Palace is another small delight, Pozamanterija Venera, a small, unassuming store with a treasure trove of delights inside. It’s a general haberdashery, with fabrics, notions, threads and so forth, but it is so lovingly laid out. I really like how, instead of having one big soulless rack for all the machine embroidery threads, they were all placed in baskets of particular colour palettes. A very nice touch to give you a dash of inspiration.
It’s a small but gorgeous shop and I highly recommend devoting some time to going through their outstanding collection of trims. For the size of the shop, I think they almost do a good job of giving Britex a run for their money! There are plenty of cute buttons and embroidery thread (including a brand of stranded cotton floss I hadn’t seen before so I thought I’d get some to give it a try). They have a nice selection of ‘home textiles’ too, like finished table runners and aprons in some very nice fabrics. Nothing too ostentatious but some nice clean prints on sturdy materials. I think some of these are supposed to be traditional prints and designs and they certainly look like there’s some Slavic influence there, but unfortunately I don’t know enough about the history of fabrics in the area to be sure! Thankfully ignorance doesn’t impede something still being pretty!
In terms of crafts that Croatia is famous for, there is its huge lacemaking tradition. There are several styles of lacemaking that are recognised by UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, including the rather interesting Hvar agave lace which is actually made from the threads of the core of aloe leaves. Others include painting traditional wooden toys and gingerbread making elevated to a level of artistry you wouldn’t have thought possible.
Alongside the haberdashery bits and bobs there’s a reasonable selection of wools and some fabrics, but make sure you have a look at what’s under the glass counter so you don’t miss some of the goodies in the store. As it is a rather small shop, all the space has to be used very efficiently.
While I didn’t have a lot of luck finding many craft stores around the centre of Split, which is clearly a city struggling with the balance of the financial lure of tourism and preservation, the textile industry in Croatia is an extensive one and the country’s second largest employer. In the north, Zagreb now hosts its own Fashion Week twice a year, with many schemes to promote local designers and talent. There is also The Golden Needle, another sizeable event, more focused on promotion of the artisans behind all the wonderful creations. There’s an interesting-looking book on some of the modern evolution of the textile industry too.
Who couldn’t get inspired though looking at that very beautiful sea?
Vl. Ante Paić