30 March 2007


I know it is a cheesy post title, but I don't know what else to say! I was just invited by the microenterprise project manager here in our Peru office to accompany him on a survey of our microfinance clients in and around Cusco. While cool no matter what they do with our money, this is an especially cool opportunity because SOME OF THEM SPIN ALPACA! I know. You hate me. I promise I'll take pictures, maybe video if you're lucky, and I'll definitely buy buy buy.
This is a great breakthrough for my not-so-secret alpaca and wool marketing project idea. Just imagine -- fair trade alpaca and wool, just like fair trade coffee and chocolate. Now, I'm not usually the biggest fan of fair trade stuff (really, I could go on for hours), but if we can actually do it in a fair way, or at least work with the producers to get them to be able to enhance their role in the value chain or enter a specialty value chain, I will feel like I can retire in peace.

The graphic below is a copy of the drawing our microenterprise guy put on my whiteboard to show me how the value chain for yarn works. Our clients are in the 1-3% group. The graphic shows the percentage of the final sale price (the price you pay in the yarn shop) goes to each group. We know that almost all yarn shop owners are honest brokers, so take that into consideration:

I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to concentrate for the rest of the day.

14 March 2007

Notice on flying in Bolivia

BTW: If you fly domestically in Bolivia or out of Bolivia, do not take your needles in your carry-on. They are very strict about it.

11 March 2007

Get Yarn in La Paz

While also not as easy as you would imagine it to be, it is possible to find alpaca and sheep's wool yarn in La Paz, Bolivia. On Calle Sagarnaga, where there are a ton of touristy souvenir shops (some of which sell great stuff), there is a store in a random shopping center where you can buy yarn in skeins, and two stores where you can buy very very very (light fingering, laceweight) yarn on cones. Even the yarn I bought (seen resting on my seedum at right), four 250-gram skeins in black and dark grey, are very light weight. Each skein cost a rather expensive 75 Bolivianos, or almost $10. I thought that it would be cheaper. In fact, the high price made me angry enough that if I knew of another place to buy, I would have gone there.

If you think about it, what are the chances of all $10 of those dollars, or even $9 of them, going to the women who washed, carded, spun and dyed that yarn? Very very low. The guy who sold it clearly wasn't a yarn expert, so he surely didn't earn whatever cut he was getting. Thus, I'm even more committed to figuring out the whole wool industry here in the Andes, and from that finding a way to get better prices to the producers.

If you want to buy yarn on cones (probably cheaper, and you can double it, but it was too awkward for me to carry back this time), or if you want to go and bother the other guy, the places are on Sagarnaga, below San Francisco by 1/2 a block on the left hand side. The shopping center is called the Galeria Palace Center, and is in the bottom of the Eva Palace Hotel. The stores are on the upper level once you go inside.

Some pics for you:
1) The FINISHED Afghan that I made for a friend as a wedding gift (shhh), using Cascade Superwash (which is AWESOME):

2) A finished scarf for hubbo, k2p2 rib with a 100% wool called Pecora from LHO that I bought at Manos de Hada. The yarn is a single that is wonderfully slubby, and makes a great show:

3) A silk rayon blend being made into the back of a sweater based on MDK's "Perfect Sweater" (losely based on), yarn also from LHO. You really can't tell, but the colorway has such great gradations of color and is really lovely:

05 March 2007

A Knitting Afternoon

Much thanks to Risa, who invited me to knit with some other superfab ladies yesterday afternoon here in Quito. There were eight or nine of us there, with good food and lots of yarn. The new knitters learned to cast on, and the rest of us worked on projects. It was very fun, and I'm so glad to have met cool knitters here. Thanks, ladies, for welcoming me!

01 March 2007

Yarn at Megamaxi

I can't find the reciept from the store to let you know the name, but there is a store in the Megamaxi on 6 de Diciembre (parking garage side, by the tailor) that sells yarn. Unfortunately, they only sell acrylic. They do have some novelty yarns, though, for those of you who like that sort of thing. The woman working there was unable to tell me why they didn't carry wool. If I go back and see someone else there, I'll ask again. This aversion to the most fantasic commonly available fiber for textiles is a mystery to me.

They also carry embroidery floss, thread, and other things you need for sewing, including a limited selection of patterns.

Hojasdegracia -- I see your comments, and will check out the places you mention when I get a chance.