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Yarn Shopping in Istanbul – Tarihi Kürkçü Han

I didn’t want to interrupt my Knitting & Crochet Blog Week posts, so this has been a little delayed. As I mentioned, I went to Istanbul the weekend before last, and here’s how I found the yarn market…

First we took the tram to Çemberlitaş. The next stop says “Grand Bazaar” but the tram was so packed we couldn’t stand another stop. Don’t go on saturday afternoons!

At Çemberlitaş we asked for directions, and a shopkeeper told us to follow the mosque round until we got to Mahmutpaşa Street. Following the mosque around is fairly easy, but figuring out what street you’re on, is not. Your best bet, if you’re a foreigner, is to have “Kürkçü Han” written on a piece of paper, and show it to someone every few steps. According to my friend, it’s best not to take just one person’s word for it.

Walking down Vezirhan Street…

Passing Nuru Osmaniye Mosque on the left…

Turning left here…

Having entered Kapalı Çarşı by the Kürçüler entrance, we turned right, and this is the street we were on.

At the end of this street we turned right…

…and were finally on Mahmutpaşa. We asked directions again, and someone pointed out the tiny corner of red building in the distance. There it is!

So close…

…and yet so far.

Here at last. The entrance is right below the sign. You can see the Nako advertisement that everyone mentioned on the Ravelry forums. It’s actually an advert for one of the shops upstairs, which is where I ended up going.

Squuueeezing through the narrow entrance…

… and into the courtyard. We couldn’t see much yarn at first glance, so we headed upstairs.

A view from upstairs, with a lovely display of acrylic fun fur. Mmm…

Gülüm Yün was the first shop we came across when we went upstairs (after the acrylic fun fur), so I dove in. There wasn’t anything very different from what I get in Ankara, though there was more choice in colour. They did have some oddments of yarns which are produced in Turkey, such as King Cole, and some Lion Brand (not much Alpine about Alpine Wool, I’m afraid), but I doubt that will tempt tourists all that much. :) Here’s what I got (without duplicates):

Fridica wrote a fascinating post about Unitas yarns that are different but have the same label, and someone commented that they did the same thing in Turkey with the “export” label. You can see from my “haul” that I have 2 yarns that are “Ormo Export” but are completely different. I’ve also seen a “Nako Export” label. I think these are just surplus yarns that they package up and sell any-which-way. From left to right: Nako Saf Yün (pure wool), King Cole Riot (70% “premium” acrylic, 30% wool), Ormo Export (nothing on the label), & Ormo Export (85% wool, 15% acrylic). The unidentified Export yarn knits up very soft and has nice colour transitions. It’s similar to the Riot, which I also bought purely on account of its colours. It’s a bit like a cheap acrylic version of Rowan Tapestry. The turquoise yarn is actually very nice too, and about 4ply weight. I really look forward to knitting with it.

On the Map


Cemberlitas Tram Station to Mahmutpasa St

The red spot marks the “Kürçüler” entrance to Kapalı Çarşı (sounds about right!).


Down Mahmutpasa to the Kürkcu Han

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to go the way we did. If possible, avoid going at the weekend, too. As you can see, all the streets are very narrow. We were so tired of being jostled, that we didn’t look anywhere else. Unfortunately getting out of the Kapalı Çarşı area took us almost longer than getting in! It’s still a great experience though, and if you have the time & perseverance to look around, I’m sure you’ll grab many good bargains.

What to Buy in Turkey?

Cotton. Everyone says this & it’s true. There’s some really nice cotton around, though most of it is mercerised. A brand called Rozetti recently released an aran-weight natural cotton that is really nice (I used it for some potholders). I’ve noticed some nice bamboo yarn too, though I haven’t tried knitting with any.

Accessories. You’ll find some really cheap & colourful notions in Turkish yarn shops. Some of the local knitting needles & crochet hooks can be a bit rubbish, but there’s plenty of really nice, cute stuff. Surprisingly, I’ve also come across a lot of Clover products here!

Embellishments. Turkish haberdasheries are wonderful. Buttons, ribbons, lace, and loads more is to be found in profusion. I recommend you fill your boots. :)

Other things to do in Istanbul

Have mint gelato on Istiklal Street.
mint choc chip gelato

Have a late breakfast at the weekend. This was at Savoy in Cihangir. We also went to Midpoint on Istiklal which had a beautiful view, and unlimited tea.
breakfast at the savoy

I hope this post was helpful, and that you’ll visit Istanbul soon. If you know of any other good yarn shopping destinations, let me know in the comments!

10th April, 2011  // Travel, Yarn // tags: , , , , .

A Tale of Two Yarns

It’s difficult to find good yarn in Turkey. This might surprise a lot of knitters, especially when it’s so commonplace to see “Made in Turkey” printed on ball-bands, but it’s true. It’s a recent innovation – no doubt fuelled by the demands of the new generation of knitters – to have yarns that are 100% wool, and 4ply has only been available for a season or two. I’ve been able to find some sock yarn, imported from Germany and available in uninspiring muted hues, or garish leftover colourways, but nothing that would sate most knitters these days. You can’t imagine the envy I feel at seeing all the delicious hand-dyed yarns that appear in my Ravelry friend stream every day.

Nako Lüks Moher
Nako Vintage Yarn

You might think that Turkey (especially Ankara) would be rich in angora, being famous for its angora goats, but even that comes plied with acrylic, or polyamide, or nylon. I was amused when I found this ball of “vintage” Nako yarn when we were moving a few months ago. Mum thinks it’s left over from a slipover she knit in the 70s. The label says “Lüks Moher” (Luxury Mohair), which is funny because, as you can see, the yarn is 15% angora & 85% acrylic. “Tiftik”, from what I can gather, is technically the term for angora mohair, but can also be used to denote any fuzzy wool; “kalın” means “thick”. Nako is probably the largest yarn manufacturer in Turkey, and you will be comforted to learn that it is still keeping up this tradition of misleading yarn naming; they currently have a yarn called “Süper Angora”, which is made up of 35% Mohair & 65% Acrylic, while their regular “Angora” is 50% mohair & 50% acrylic. Even worse, their so-called “Ankara Tiftik” has only 20% mohair.

I have to say, I still like Nako yarns though. For all their inconsistency, their 50% wool, 50% acrylic “Nakolen” is my go-to yarn (last time I used it for my Parasol Stole), because it feels nice, doesn’t pill, and comes in a wide range of colours. It’s common in Turkish to spell out foreign words phonetically, so I’m assuming the “-len” here is a transliteration of “laine”, again, not entirely accurate. Their “Merino”, though, you will be glad to hear, is in fact 100% merino (I used it for my pink hottie cover). And not to be too harsh on Nako, even our beloved Rowan isn’t above wily naming tricks. Their “Cashsoft” collection is a little short on “cashmere”, and high on “cash” for my liking.

Nako Süper Inci

As my second yarn, I thought I would choose a contemporary yarn that shows the “modern face of knitting” in Turkey. This is “Derya’s Choice”. Not only mine, but my namesake, Derya Baykal’s. Quoted on the ball-band she says “I’m certain you’ll enjoy knitting as much as I do, with this yarn.” This “Super Pearl” certainly isn’t a bad yarn, and I love the colours that are available. I can’t help wondering how many colours were available when Mum was knitting her slipover in the 70s. I’m sure there was nothing like this on TV back then:

Nako website

“‘Derya’s World’ from 14 March onwards, every weekday from 3pm – 6pm”! She looks rather sedate in the ball-band photo in comparison, doesn’t she? Her daily TV program (which has been going for years) is a whirlwind of crafts, cooking, and discussion, and is probably partly responsible for the rising popularity of knitting and crochet in Turkey. And consequently the growing variety in yarns. Personally, I’m looking forward to more wool. Thanks, Derya! :)

Note: This post is part of Knitting & Crochet Blog Week 2011.

28th March, 2011  // Yarn // tags: , , , , .

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