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?