Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Dangers of Yarn Hunting

Ulla's cardigan
Originally uploaded by Asplund

Some five years ago I promised my friend and colleague Ulla a cardigan. There is a design in Solveig Hisdal’s “Poetry in Stitches” (Dikt i maskor) that I thought would suit her, except I wanted different colours and a slightly different shape. (The original design is in purple, pink, green, mustard and white; quite spectacular but not Ulla’s colours.) She liked the leaf pattern too, and we decided I'd go yarn hunting for something suitable.

Every time I saw a yarn shop I checked it out to see if the right yarn would be there waiting. I knew I would find it eventually, I just didn’t know when and where – but the sooner the better, of course!

One day in a town in Småland, a province in the southeast of Sweden, I came across a shop I hadn’t entered before. I went inside, saw there was nothing for me there (mostly fabrics, only one shelf of yarns and it didn't take much more than a glance to see they weren't what I was looking for). What would you have done? Well, I turned around, nodded to the woman behind the counter and was about to open the door to leave.

“Didn’t you find anything?” she asked in a tone of voice that wasn’t exactly friendly.
“No, afraid not,” I replied – kindly. “I’m looking for thin yarn, wool, 2-ply,” I added – still kindly, but to make it clear I wanted something that just wasn't available there.
“Does it have to be 2-ply wool?” she snapped. “Won’t bouclé do just as well?” (My question mark; it didn’t really sound like a question the way she said it.)
“No, I’m afraid not,” I replied – still kindly, but a bit surprised to say the least. Especially considering what pattern I intended to knit; I still find it extremely difficult to imagine that leaf pattern knitted with bouclé... “Sorry, but 2-ply wool was what I had in mind.”
“Well! That’s the worst kind of customer, those who know what they want before they enter!” That was news to me, but I couldn’t really think of anything to say. Besides, she might be joking.
“There was a woman in here before who wanted green fabric, and I showed her every single one I had, but nothing was good enough for her. It’s like that all the time: when I have striped fabrics everybody wants single-coloured, and when I have single-coloured they want checkered! ”

Why why why didn’t I think of saying something about the worst kind of salesperson, those who try to make customers buy things they don’t want, until after I had left? As far as I can remember, I didn't say anything but just left.

So, no yarn that day - but at least I got a good story and a useful quotation. Whenever someone who has heard it says something like “I’ve been looking for this or that but can’t find it,” the reply is obvious: “Won’t bouclé do just as well?” It still makes me laugh!

I don’t think Ulla minded she had to wait until I had been to my old reliable LYS "Yll o tyll" in Uppsala. Of course, I found what I wanted there, wonderful wool (a wool-silk blend if I remember correctly) that she was pleased with – and she enjoyed the story too.

For those who want to know the original Swedish words:

Måste det vara tvåtrådigt ullgarn? Går det inte lika bra med bouclé?


Unknown said...

Första kapitlet klart! Mycket bra! (Och du behöver väl inte hjälp med översättning till svenska?)

Karin said...

Det går lika bra med selleri... *L*
Kul historia, även om jag misstänker att det var rätt tråkigt då.
Ska minnas att boucle alltid funkar framöver.
//Karin i YlloTyll-staden

Asplund said...

Ha! Ja, om du tvekar pröva bouclé. Ett motto eller valspråk så gott som något!

Det stämmer att det inte var så roligt just då, men samtidigt var det så absurt att jag just inte kunde ta illa vid mig. Dessutom insåg jag att det skulle bli något att berätta. Fast det retar mig fortfarande att jag inte kom på något bra svar innan jag gick!

KiwiJames said...

I wouldn't have thought that rudeness was any way of encouraging customers to make a purchase. Listening to customers is the best way of learning what to stock your store with. I guess it also helps if you love what you sell... and I have to admit... I am partial to the odd bit of boucle myself.

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful sweater - workmanship, design, and colour. Did you knit it a la Fair Isle? If so, I see relatively long stretches of one colour. Did you bother to catch these or just let them float, hoping they would felt on the first washing?
Ron in Mexico

Asplund said...

Yes, it's Fair Isle style knitting - but I've figured out a way to catch the strands that is quick and easy, so there aren't any floats. Maybe I should write a post about that someday, with pictures. Here's a brief description:
I'm a "Continental" knitter and when I knit with two colours I keep both strands on my left index finger.
When I knit the strand closer to my fingertip I alternate between picking it above and below the other strand. This "locks" the strand closer to my knuckle. I usually change every 2-5 stitches depending on pattern and other factors.
I normally knit two-colour patterns where only one strand needs to be caught; this allows me to hold them the same way all the time. I remember they had to switch places at times when I knitted this pattern, because both strands needed to be caught at different times.
Oh, this must be a nightmare to read without pictures! Some day I'll make a proper post with photos.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I can see it all. Thanks for sharing. I can't imagine describing something like that in my second language. You are amazing.

OldRound said...

It is clear I don't have the right kind of friends nor am I the right kind of friend to my friends because no one is making me any Poetry and Stitches, nor am I doing so for them.

There is always room for improvement. You inspire!

Torhild Reidardatter said...

could you imagine "that" in a boucle`? Oh my!! I actually have this kit laying in a box- in the original colours of course... thats what suits me best..
good story- thanks..