Yarn Shopping in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires has a span of a few blocks, not too far from the Malabia metro station* where there are many yarn shops, I counted 15, and went into 11 of them before I had to stop. The shops are on Ave. Scalabrini Ortiz just southwest of Ave. Cordoba, towards Ave. Correintes. The Malabia metro station is on the corner of Correintes and Scalabrini Ortiz, which is 1 km away from the corner of Cordoba and Corrientes, and about half that until you see your first yarn shop. There was a small bit of yarn bombing between two of the stores:

Yarn shopping in Buenos Aires is quite different from what I’m used to in the States. The stores all look like this:

The yarn is beautiful, and well-organized, but there’s no signs as to what the yarn is made up of, how much it costs nor the gauge of the yarn. In addition, you’re not supposed to take the yarn out of the bins. If you look at the bottom right of that picture, you’ll see some white yarn and blue yarn that is actually sitting on top of a counter. That counter separates you from the wall, and there are people behind the counter who can help you get what you want.

So it’s very different from the experience I’m used to. I got the feeling that a lot of people knew exactly what they wanted to buy, or walked in and would say “do you have anything made of wool?” I was feeling a bit shy due to the language barrier, so I picked up a Spanish phrase: “solamente mirando” – it means “Just looking”. The people are friendly and willing to help, but I like the yarn buying process to be a solo activity.

There were 2 exceptions to the fact that most stores don’t give any information about their items.: Milana hilados and Yanabey. Milana hilados had tags like this near most of their yarn:

Note that that’s in Argentinian pesos, and at the time, this was less than USD $10 per 100g. Another thing to note is the price is per 100g, not per hank of yarn. You’d ask a sales associate to take the yarn down for you and they’d weigh it and ask you if that was OK (kind of like at the deli counter). Then they give you a slip of paper and you take it to a cash register, where you’re usually helped by someone else. Another interesting thing is that the stores seemed to be staffed by about half men, half women, which is very different from yarn stores in the States, which are probably about 90% staffed by women.

I bought 3 hanks of yarn there, for about $25:

Yanabey had signs like this:

These prices are still in Argentinian pesos, but they’re in kilos. So these prices are $171 for 1 kilo, which is $17.10 for 100g. This is a wall of “seda vegetal”, or “vegetable silk“. By the way, that’s about USD $35 per kilo. So I bought 6 skeins, which was just over a kilo, because the tree which this comes from (ceiba speciosa, or “silk floss tree”) is native to South America, and I haven’t seen “vegetable silk” in the US.

A lot of the stores have the recycled t-shirt yarn, and I bought some at Arte Natural:

BUTTONS!!!

I was thinking I might make a purse from the yarn, like this:

That purse is crocheted, but I’m sure I can come up with a knitted version.

Here’s what I bought from that store:

Here’s a Spanish primer for some important words:
cachemira – cashmere
acrílico – acrylic
lana – wool
seda – silk
alpaca – alpaca
hilo – yarn (plural: hilados)
Also, I found out that cashmerillo is just an acrylic yarn that’s very soft. Don’t be fooled by price, some of the acrylic yarns are *very* expensive, even more expensive than the wool.

I was very excited by the prospect of all these yarn stores, and after these three purchases I was done, and passed by 4 other yarn stores that I didn’t even walk into. In addition, there were at least 2 weaving stores, and another 2 fabric stores. Only one of the yarn stores had fiber to spin, and it looked like combed top, and was somewhat expensive (by US standards).

All in all, I was extremely satisfied by taking a few hours to shop for yarn, but I found the experience quite different from what I’m used to.

* I was instructed by a friend who had visited Buenos Aires to take a taxi to the corner of X and Y. However, I enjoy walking around and public transit, so I noticed the subway stop was not far, and decided to walk a few blocks. To those who are considering what to do, a taxi would have cost about 20 pesos (about USD $5) each way. The subway costs $5 for two rides, but of course is not door to door. Another thing to note about the subway is that it is not the most modern system:

And you will get plenty of people trying to make money – some play music, which you may be used to from other subway systems. Others will go around a subway car, handing out products, and then go around and either collect the product back or collect money. I was handed tissues and Disney books – or at least, they attempted to hand stuff to me, and I refused. It helped that I had knitting in my hands, but I saw them just place stuff on people’s laps if their hands were busy, so don’t just look away, make sure you actually refuse by shaking your head.

Note: I hope this article is helpful! Due to spam reasons, all articles on this site have comments disabled after a short time. If you want to leave feedback, you can tweet @sheeri or e-mail me at awfief at gmail dot com. (replace “at” with @ and “dot com” with .com to get the real e-mail address).

1 Comment

  1. Anna

     /  July 10, 2012

    Great post Sheeri! Especially the last bit about riding the subway. Definitely good to know. :)