Casa de Labores: Century of history in every thread

May 4, 2013
By

Casa de Labores, or Eskulanen Etxea in the Basque language, has an unassuming window display of
yarn and knitted baby clothes that entice knitting fanatics inside. The Aldalur sisters, Marga, Inés and
Gotzone, and their mother Kontxi, own the store and are proud of the rich heritage of Casa de Labores.
In a side office, there hangs a photograph depicting women wearing floor-length dresses, cross-stitching
in the store 100 years earlier.

The store opened in 1903 as a workshop and thrived on selling wool, as it does currently. Casa de
Labores has a variety of items for many different crafts, including yarn, buttons, thread, clasps, needles
and even wooden boxes to hold all of the supplies.

Marga said she grew up in the store. She was always in the shop as a child, playing and asking customers
what they wanted.

“I remember stretching elastic as a kid,” Marga said. “The customer wanted two meters, but I stretched
a little bit until it was two meters.”

Marga said the clientele are generally older women. However, the knitting population is evolving, as
Marga admits.

“The style of clothes is changing,” Marga said. “Young people want to create it now.”

Stepping off the train in San Sebastián, one might notice the row of colorful “yarn-bombed” trees on
Paseo de Bizkaia. The trees are wrapped in knitted sweaters, displaying many different types of yarn and
stitching techniques.

A local knitting club, Donosti, is the instigator in the knitted trees. Donostia is the name of San Sebastián
in the Basque language. The club is an open group of people who knit or want to learn to knit. About 30
women meet once a month in different places to connect through this common interest.

“There is a great boom with knitting, and I’m happy about that,” said Silvia Vaqueriza, who created the
club in 2012. “My mother and grandmother knitted, but I wasn’t interested in knitting before. Now I am,
and I think it’s a great thing to keep this cultural knowledge.”

Vaqueriza said she has knitters as young as 10 years old in her group. The tie between Donosti Knit and
Casa de Labores is strong – many members of Donosti buy their yarn at the store.

“Casa de Labores is one of the last traditional yarn shops in the area,” Vaqueriza said. “I think the ones
that existed disappeared because the owners were too old, and their families didn’t want to continue
with the business.”

Patricia Martínez has been knitting with Donosti for almost a year and said she is proud of her
involvement in the group. She has been buying at Casa de Labores for years, just as her grandmother
did.

“Inés and the other women who work in the store are very patient,” Martínez said. “They know what
they are talking about and that’s very important when you start in the wonderful world of making your
own project.”

Inés’s intricate beige sweater vest is almost completed, and she said she makes a lot of her own clothes.
Her mother grew up learning at Casa de Labores, as did she.

“Many years ago, it was very hard work, and the women worked a lot,” Ines said. “Now, it is very
modern.”

Martínez said what she loves most about Casa de Labores is the tradition and that a strong sense of
history is infused in every thread.

“I can feel how during generations, many women have learnt how and bought all the stuff to knit, like
my grandma did,” Martínez said.