One of the things I've done while living here is manage to accumulate an amazing collection of German fabrics, ribbons and buttons. Not only have I combed the flea market stalls, but I've had great luck by simply letting the women of the local charity shop know what I'm looking for.
The second-hand store "Brauchbar" is run by long-term unemployed people. Brauchbar literally means "usable." Often I get a loud resounding groan when I tell Germans how much I hang out there. I've been lectured how these people "don't want to work" but "still want to receive" government money. I don't fully understand the whole German social system so I just shrug my shoulders and say that I've never met anybody who wanted to be on assistance. Compassion first peeps. (TJ shakes head).
All I can share is that for the past five years I've had nothing but positive experiences with the four locations I peruse and I can think of at least 7 people who I've come to know and have enjoyed my countless transactions with them. Goods donated to Brauchbar are resold and the money you spend there goes back into the social charity system. Everybody is a winner, especially me - the one who happens to love ratty old German crap!
For a time, I was buying items and then destroying them in order to bring them to their next life as a new creation. Everytime I did this I felt a little bit guilty that I was wrecking a wearable garment. I knew in my heart that Brauchbar had to be recieving a lot of donated goods that were damaged and no longer "useable" in the traditional sense. It was after I brought in my set of three German Christmas stockings that two of the women really understood what I was doing with my purchases. Ever since, I've had my own VIP box tucked in back where the ladies have laid everything to the side that they were going to throw away due to holes, cigarette burns and stains.
What is Loden?
Loden is a very special and rare type of wool used in traditional clothing in Germany and Austria. Since it's already been shrunk down and felted, it's one of the most warm and rugged outdoor materials imaginable. Normally green or grey in color, it's very heavy and a cultural classic here in Germany. Buying Loden by the meter off the bolt is not for the faint of heart. I just checked here and noticed that 1.5 meters is priced at 59.99 euros (that's about 86.00 USD).
One of the problems with traditional clothing is that it tends to be worn and owned by much older people. And sadly, often these garments are stored improperly, or have been long forgotten. Loden, (like any wool) can be a moth magnet. If you learn anything here today, remember to always have your wool garments properly cleaned before storing them in boxes or closets. Pack everything with scented cedar or lavender as natural pest deterrents.
When the two ladies started salvaging on my behalf, I knew I had to make them a small token of my appreciation before I left. I managed to get a couple lavendar-filled sachets sewn up for them, complete with traditional antler buttons. And although I'm sad that I'm leaving my secret source, I'm pretty sure I've hoarded enough stuff to keep me busy for years to come. I'm so grateful for these kind ladies who took the time to "get it" and made the effort to save so much for me.
Sachets made from alpine curtains, a man's jacket and scraps of Loden - finished off with traditional rick-rack and antler buttons attached with red thread.
Want a walk down memory lane? Here's proof that one German's junk is a foreign woman's treasure!
Other Brauchbar-related posts:
My Collection of German Easter Ornaments