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February 10, 2005

Veuve Cliquot taste on a Colt 45 budget

Apparently my material snobbery issues extend not only to furniture and design, but also to yarn. And knitting needles.

After spending $120 on supplies this week alone, I decided I needed to calm the fuck down on yarn spending. However, I'm totally obsessed with knitting and jonesing to practice my purl stitch skills and rib stitch and drop-stitch oh my.

So I decided to purchase some more yarn. BECAUSE THAT SOLVES THE PROBLEM. But I decided to purchase practice yarn and by "practice yarn" I mean a skein of something cheap and easy ... not the $25 hank of feathery mohair I purchased, not the Crystal Palace fuzzies in my bag, not the skein of Noro I was eying on my way out of class on Saturday. No. I need plain, bulky wool that is inexpensive and easy to work with.

In just the past few weeks I have managed to visit and patronize a rather startling number of local yarn shops. For someone who has yet to successfully cast off a single project this might be a melding of craft love + retail therapy, who can say for sure.

All I know is that if I visit another local yarn shop I'll go nutty and end up with a bag of mohair and alpaca and god only knows what novelty crap. Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

To prevent financial bloodletting, I have to remove myself from the environment of money suckage (i.e. upscale shops with a good selection) in order to buy a nice, plain practice yarn. This method of shopping is how I handle my Bloomingdale's problem. For example, if I want a simple T-shirt and I go to Bloomie's for it, I'll end up spending $72 on a white cotton T-shirt which is INSANE, and I am immediately embarrassed by my lack of self control and common sense. Plus my credit cards begin to vibrate in a bad way. To control myself, I must go to a place where the uppermost cap on T-shirt spending is a reasonable $30-40. That way I feel judiciously prudent with my $25 plain white T-shirt.

The things we do.

Back to yarn. I really had no idea where to go for the plain, wool practice yarn of my dreams. Unlike T-shirts, there is no Gap of yarn. So I went to Michael's in Encino.

It was crowded. And damp. And a ketchup-covered child was running hog wild touching everything within reach of his grimy little paws. There was not a natural fiber in the entire store. I would pick up a skein of this or that, hold it between my fingers, and feel it squeak. Some of it kind of crunched. And some of it was glazed with ketchup from hog wild kid.

As soon as I arrived in the yarn aisle I realized that I had become a yarn snob, and I was exhibiting snobbery -- something I detest to do in the presence of snobbery-free folks -- and I still couldn't stop myself. I wanted to be one with the people, the Glasnost Girl of acrylics, the Cumbaya of faux wool, but I was unable to get past myself. And the people! Ladies were swarming in there! Seriously. It was like the Soviet bread line of yarn, with people prodding and pushing, grabbing skeins out of near-empty shelves, tussling over some burgundy Red Heart.

It's not like I have never been to a Michael's before. I've clipped the 50% OFF ONE ITEM! coupon many a time for a tub of gesso, or a boar-bristle brush, a tube of titanium white. I've bought pre-stretched canvas there. Sure, I prefer to hand-stretch my own, but I also prefer the smell of home-baked bread to a microwaved tortilla and how many nights do you think I bake my own freakin' bread, people? Not too many, I'll tell you that much. I am lazy. And I am democratic with paint surfaces. I mean, if Picasso could paint on a slab of wood, I think I can handle a Michael's pre-stretched canvas. I'll paint on anything. Cardboard, masonite, wood, concrete. I'd paint on you if you'd stand still long enough.

Yet, I've never really wandered outside the painting supplies aisle of a Michael's. I don't scrapbook. I don't do fake flowers, or cake pans shaped like Timba, or year-round Easter baskets. I buy all my sewing supplies in the garment district. My beads and bobbles and such come from Bohemian Crystal or one of the other bazillion notions shops in downtown Los Angeles. I thought maybe the problem was the store. Like Target or Ralph's or Rite-Aid, sometimes location makes all the difference. Right?

So I drove to Burbank to the newer, much larger Michael's where the larger, more plentiful yarn aisles were equally as crowded as the Encino Michael's, but certainly cleaner. I searched aisle to aisle for any natural-fiber yarn. I like novelty yarn and fun fur and acrylic just fine. For some reason, however, I had 100% pure wool bulky yarn on the brain, and I wanted it cheap, and I wanted it now. Michael's is a perfectly fine store, once you get past the ketchup-covered, parentless children. Really. It is.

Finally, I located a Michael's salesperson (do you have any idea how hard that was or how long it took to find a person in a red smock who had worked there for longer than one hour and had any knowledge of the store's stock? Oh. My. God.) and I asked said salesperson if they stocked any 100% wool yarn.

"Well, we have one, but it's been discontinued, so what's here is all we have, and we won't be getting more."

It was a perfectly lovely, soft, classic bulky wool, Patons Up Country in deep charcoal grey.


"Why are you discontinuing this?" I asked. "It's so nice!"

"It's just too expensive," she said.

I looked at the price on the bin. $7.99/skein (100g). That's too expensive? And then my old pre-knitting brain kicked in and reminded me that mere months ago I would have been astonished to find that any human being on planet earth would willingly pay more than two dollars for yarn. Good Lord. I must be sucked into some netherworld of yarn snobbery whose depths are unbeknownst even to me. Maybe I've grown so accustomed to being ripped off, I just think it's natural to fork over $25 for a skein of yarn. Remember me, the dumbass? I was happy with my starter yarn, $12 for a tee-tiny ball of Filatura di Crosa.

So this is how it's gonna be, I guess. It's my hobby after all, not the makings of a scarf sweatshop. Why not indulge myself? I have so few hobbies that I love these days. I'm too depressed and love-hating to finish my novel, I don't have a studio any more to paint in, and if you give me enough time I will think of some other dramatical reason to add to this list.

It's been a rough few months. I need this hobby. I love this hobby. So, if I want to be a high-end yarn ho, then dammit, a-ho'ing I will go.

Posted by laurie at February 10, 2005 9:01 AM