Monday, March 17, 2008

South America – Many Sheep, Not Much Yarn

We spent two weeks recently on a wonderful cruise in South America. We started in Valparaiso, Chile, sailed along the coast of Chile through the starkly beautiful fjords, continued down to Tierra del Fuego and throught the Straits of Magellan, and up the east coast of Argentina to Buenos Aires with additional visits to the Falkland Islands and Montevideo, Uruguay). All of these areas are major sheep-grazing regions, with mile after mile of Patagonia devoted to grazing sheep and, in some areas, the occasional herd of alpacas. And yet... NOWHERE* was I able to find a place to buy yarn! Since much of the commercially available yarn in the U.S. comes from South America, this was a real surprise.

The only yarn that came home with me were two hanks of roughly processed undyed wool that I bought in Coyhaique, Chile, a town that seems pretty far from anywhere else. When I asked our charming young guide if there was a place in town to buy yarn, she told me that her Grandma might have some in the market. Indeed, as we walked through the plaza to the market I spotted two women winding yarn, and the woman on the right was Grandma. She knits sweaters, hats, and ponchos and sells them in her small shop. I bought two hanks of yarn from her

though I am not sure what to do with it. It is too rough to wear close to the skin, but might work for a poncho if there is enough yarn. Our guide was so bright and enthusiastic, and I was feeling so yarn-deprived, that I just wanted to buy something there.

The other irony of this situation was that Michelle, the aforementioned guide, told us that the main industry of this region (near Puerto Chacabuco and Puerto Aisen) is salmon fisheries. The salmon is raised on farms and shipped directly to Japan. None of the fish is available to residents of the area, unless it comes back from Japan in a can. (An interesting discussion of the ecological problem with these fisheries can be found here.)

Perhaps the yarn produced in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru (where I failed to find yarn last year) has the same problem... It originates here in large quantities but is produced only for export. So back to buying high-quality wool and Alpaca on line!
*There are several yarn shops in Buenos Aires, but our "tour" between the ship and the airport didn't take us to that area.


TracyKM said...

My SIL travelled to Peru a few years ago and brought me back some alpaca. She said she had to really search for it, and it was only in bags of 10, so she bought several with a tourmate and split them. Funny thing is, it's a brand/name that's available in yarn stores here!

bathmate said...

I liked it.

Andrea said...

The yarn is in Buenos Aires! I found about 8 yarn shops at Scalabrini Ortiz and Cordoba, right on the border of Palermo and Almagro neighborhoods. The had an excellent selection and price by the kilo. I was able to get three shopping bags full of yarn for $28US. Hope this helps!