By "normal people," I of course mean "people who are weird in ways other than a love for the fiber arts."
Guess what it turns out Buenos Aires has?
a) Really cheap and enormous skeins of yarn.
b) The most incredible concentration of yarn stores I have ever seen ever.
c) Three less cheap and enormous skeins of yarn than it used to have, which I can't show you pictures of because some of them are PRESENTS.
The correct answer is ALL OF THEM, but the first two are what I'm going to talk about right now.
Thanks to the knitting blogosphere, particularly a post by Boo over at Craft, Eat, Travel, Sleep.....Repeat and another by Drew at drew-o-rama, I became aware that the 800 and 900 blocks of Scalabrini Ortiz are the unofficial yarn district of Buenos Aires. They each talked about a couple of shops, so when I set out I was thinking there would be perhaps two or three. I counted seven on one block, on one side of the street, and gave up counting. It was incredible. I've experienced the yarn-choosing problem many a time, but I've never had trouble choosing which yarn shop to walk into.
With additional thanks to the knitting blogosphere, I was prepared for the different setup of Argentine yarn stores. Apparently, it's fairly normal for there to be counters stretching all around the room. You might take a number from the deli-number-taking thing by the door, and then wait for your number to come up. Then you go talk to one of the attendants behind the counters, who will pull skeins for you and tell you what they're all made of and everything, since none of the skeins have any labels attached to them. Then you bring what you want to be weighed (prices are per kilogram), and you pay. This seems a little nuts to me, since you have to have a conversation with somebody in order to be able to touch anything or even know what type of fiber it is, but okay. We'll try.
There were stores of varying levels of chique-ness, and I walked into and looked around inside about five of them. Moussa was very nice, and looked by far the fanciest, but Yanabey was the one that won me over. It was definitely a step down from Moussa in terms of fancy-pants yarniness, although both Moussa and Yanabey seemed to stock only their own lines of yarn! Can you believe that? That would be like going into a Cascade store. Or a Malabrigo store. These things may exist, but they are beyond the bounds of my imagination.
Yanabey, however was the only store I went into that had any labels other than the names the company had given to those particular yarns, which were all useless and uninformative things like "Spring Flame." But Yanabey was awesome! They were all arranged all over the walls by type of fiber, and at the bottom of each column they had a helpful sign saying what the yarn was made out of, its price per kilogram, its average price per skein, the recommended needle size, and how many grams you'd probably need to make a sweater. All of this without having to talk to anyone! And the way the counters were arranged, you could touch the yarn! You could pull skeins off the shelves yourself! Ideal for an indecisive minimal speaker of Spanish. The employees were super friendly, though, so if you can speak Spanish, you should talk to them! They were very willing to help, but also seemed to understand the knitter-looking-at-yarn thing. They had a pretty good selection too - a lot of acrylic, a very respectable selection of wool, a lot of cotton, and even silk and other weird things like that. They actually seemed to have done things with acrylic that I had never encountered before - they had a lot of "artisan" thick-thin acrylics. It was confusing. All in all, yay for Yanabey!
So in addition to how awesome and plug-worthy Yanabey was, it was awesome to see that at least right there in that shop, knitting culture was pretty much the same here as at home. There were people walking around holding mountainous armfuls of yarn, saying "It's so hard to decide!" I felt right at home.
Also, how cheap was that yarn? It was 30 pesos, or about 7 dollars, for TWO HUNDRED GRAMS OF YARN. Knitting friends, how unreal is that? A skein of Malabrigo worsted is ONE hundred grams, and it costs like ten dollars. I would have bought so much more if I wasn't already having suitcase struggs to the maximum.
(Also, it has just become my birthday! Yay!)