Friday, July 28, 2006

Yarn Heaven

Thanks for the comments to my last post. They were a lot of fun reading them and I got to know just a little bit more about you guys. I'll be posting such questions like that from time to time, but don't hold your breathe for them! They'll come when I feel it right.

Why Argentina's the best place to buy yarn?

So a lot of you have shown interest in my travels in South America. I think that instead of boring you with the whole story at once, I could share with you small portions of it from time to time. I will try my best to incorporate knitting in those future post if at all possible.

As you already know, I've lived in Argentina for 9 months learning Spanish. I absolutely love the people and the friends I've made there but there are 2 things that I will definetely go back for ever so often. First it is the beef (sorry vegetarians) which I have to say is the best beef I've ever tasted. This is because they let their cows be cows. They roam free in the plains, eating grass. When the meat is cooked, the only seasoning on it is salt (yeah, I couldn't believe it myself). The meat is so soft and flavorful, nothing like it's tough, mediocre American counterpart, which I rarely eat.

The second thing is yarn. In Argentina, knitting is not some passing trend/fad like it is in North America. It is something that is taught in grade school and stitched into the cultural fabric of the country (sorry, had to use that form of speech). Now you're not going to see many teenagers or 20 somethings knitting in public or even in private but many older women, most with children or grand children to clothe do knit regularly.

Because so many people knit down there, finding a local yarn store is effortless. In fact after traveling around the country, I realized that there is at least 1 yarn store in every town in Argentina, even in the desert and rainforest areas of the north! This makes yarn and knitting a profitable business. The two most important newspaper publications, Clairín and La Nación, do yearly 12 week long series on knitting and offer patterns printed in separate magazines. Collectivley, the magazines are all one big book of knitting patterns chopped up into smaller magazines based on topic like "Women" "Teenagers" "Men" "Kids" Accesories", etc. set in magazine format. I like to knit things that I could actually wear so I appreciate that most of the patterns are chic, classic designs with a new twist that makes it interesting enough to knit and wear.

This type of categorization can also be found in the way many South American cities are set up. There is usually only one major comercial center that everyone goes to for shopping. If you want a mattress for you bed, all the mattress stores are in one place. If you're looking for shoes, all the shoe stores are in one place. It is the same with the yarn stores. There is a street in Buenos Aires that I call "Yarn Heaven". Within a 5 block stretch, there are over 12 yarn stores, some of them being next door neighbors. The stores look like chic clothing boutiques and when fall rolls around (April/May) they are always filled all the time. I say filled as in you are tripping over people and pushing your way through the crowd for some bright jade alpaca! The yarn itself is gorgeous and good quality. Many of it is acrylic but most of it is all natural fibers (wools, alpaca, silk, cotton, mohair, angora, llama). I've never seen cashmere down there but that doesn't mean it isn't available to those who would like some.

Which brings me to my last point. The prices in Argentina are excellent if you are from the USA or any other country with a stronger economy.I've been there several times and I have always left with more than what I intended but I still don't break the bank because the exchange rate in Argentina is $3 ARG pesos to every $1 USD With the exchange rate being 3 to 1 it insures that I will always be returning to Argentina for stash stocking. The last time I was there in June, I purchased $200 ARG pesos or $60 USD worth of yarn on this one street. I was like a mad women going from store to store, checking out what I liked and what I didn't, making sure that my purchases were things I had a project in mind for. I went back to my hotel with 5 kilos (or 11 pounds) of yarn, enough to make 3 adult sweaters, several hats and scarves, a pair of socks, and whatever else I could put my knitterly mind to. That's more yarn than I could ever get at this place.

So there you have it. My reasons for buying yarn in Argentina. I'm not sure if you can buy any of the yarn online, but I insist that you visit this beautiful country if you plan on buying yarn. The experience is incredible, whether you're a knitter or not.


Saun said...

Wow! I've been looking for an interesting place to go for a vacation. I could go to a new place and get my fiber fix too. Thanks for the review.

gray la gran said...

a gasp of envy escapes my throat ..... thanks for sharing, again. i was not an avid knitter when i visited that hemisphere, and the exchange was not in my favor, at least not in argentina. then, the exchange was 1 peso = 1 US dollar. sucked! but, that's okay, because i would had shopped to death :)
have a great weekend!

noblinknits said...

I'm a bit worried about all this - surely now i will have to add argentina to my round the world trip!!!

Sarah said...

Who knew that there was so much yarn to be bought in Argentina???

del said...

I'm not surprised to hear about your yarn escapades, after reading Andean Folk Knits. It's a great book about knitting in South America. I'm glad you had such a great time!

Mrs. Herbie said...

Share, share, share

I keep reading about "Yarn Heaven" but I don't know where in BA it is.
I have just recently moved to BA from Texas and would love the info.
Mrs. Herbie

Betsy O said...

I am leaving for Argentina in a week. Where is Yarn Heaven? If you know the street and/or neighborhood, that would be great. I am visiting my recent college grad daughter who is living there. I am so excited to think I might find some great yarn shops.

carole said...

My dh is from argentina and since I've learned to knit, whenever one of his family comes to visit, they know to bring me yarn :-) We haven't been back since I've learned but next time we do, I'll be taking a suitcase down empty to be filled with yarn for the return trip. Their merino is lucious and the cotton is unmatched here.

louloux said...

Wow, I wish I'd know this earlier ! A friend of mind is staying in BA and she asked me if there's someting in particular I would like her to bring me back... Could you share the name of this street ?

Andrea said...

I just came back from Argentina and found this amazing spot of yarn shops! It's at the intersection of Scalabrini Ortiz and Cordoba, right on the border of the Palermo and Almagro neighborhoods. It's amazing and I got three shopping bags full of yarn for about $28US dollars. I could not fit anymore in my suitcase!

autophobia said...

Hey! I just stumbled upon this post. I'm a knitter and crocheter from Argentina, most specifically Buenos Aires.
I love when foreigners come here and get to know our culture, it clears a lot of myths that may be going around the world.
Being Argentinian is not easy to buy yarn, plus I'm 19 years old and I don't have a job right now so I only buy yarn when I can afford it (you know, it cost you three times less but for me the price is still the same!).
The Yarn Heaven that you were talking about is where all the major distributors of yarn are settled, so that's why you found so many stores. I haven't been there yet, though it's not far from home.
I hope you enjoyed your stay :)

Anonymous said...

hello, i am adriana and i am from argentina. i've been leaving in us for 9 years and god wish i could go back and buy all the yarn i want....i know is and all the womens in her family were knitters.
i got some online but not cheap...but its from my country ha ha
love how you describe argentina

badfrog89 said...

This is to the Argentinian knitters who posted here recently. I'm looking for experienced knitters to help me create a few prototypes for a business I'm starting here in the U.S. I'm looking for some real experienced crafters who can create from my designs, primarily shawls. I would of course compensate you for you work. My husband is an international airline pilot for Delta so I can also easily make a trip to BA. email me at if you could help.