Thursday, June 24, 2010

Of Sock Needles and Snobbery

Looking at my calendar today, I noted that my lunch hour was entirely free. And so, like so many young-ish and lustful men in Seattle, I set about to find something to do. But alas, the Lusty Lady is apparently closing. Seeing as how I’ve taken it upon myself to decrease in stature, heading to the Pike Place Market to sample various delicacies seemed also to be ill-advised.

And so I decided to visit a shop. And not just any shop, but what I’ve been told is a premier yarn shop: Tricoter – located in the picturesque and highbrow neighborhood of Seattle known as Madison Park.

I embarked on this junket not in a search for yarn. No, I was instead searching for needles. But not just any needles. Very special needles with which to craft the socks from Hell. The project is well underway, but as the current needles are very small and made from bamboo (and I tend to hold them with some ahem tenacity) they’re beginning to take on quite a graceful curve. So much so, in fact, that when I view them from a certain angle, I find myself regrettably remembering certain impeachment testimony about the shape of our 42nd President’s . . . needle. Clearly, something needed to be done.

The needles I sought are made by a company called Signature Needle Arts and have what is known as a Stiletto Point. A friend has a set, and I was very impressed by their construction and functionality. I knew that they were not sold at my local (and favorite) shop, and but saw on the SNA website that they were available at Tricoter. I set off.

On arriving at Tricoter, I was immediately struck by the difference between this shop and my local shop. Whereas my local shop is quite welcoming – the atmosphere in Tricoter was somewhat different. I began to browse, trying to get my bearings for the organization of the shop, when I heard a voice behind me:

“Do you need something?”

An odd and somewhat accusatory greeting perhaps, but to the point. I turned around, and explained that I was looking for double-point Signature Needles, and that I understood they carried the brand.

Heavy Sigh. “Well, we have some, but not many. We can’t buy them wholesale and don’t make any money off of them, and they’re expensive, so we really don’t keep many around.”

She showed me to a small container on the desk and pulled out a single set of double-points.

“This is all we’ve got. They’re $60.”

I admired the needles just long enough to note that they were size US 2. Unfortunately, I’m looking for US 1, so I explained that they wouldn’t work for my project.

“I do have one other thing you might try.”

She wandered to the back of the store and pulled out a set of Addi double-points – size US 1. They were the shortest needles I’d ever seen. About 4 inches or so in length.  I love Addi Turbo Lace circular needles, and asked if I could try out these diminutive double-points.

“Sure. Do you know how to knit?”

I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond to this one. After all, I’d already explained to her that I was looking for a particular type of needle. I’d even mentioned it was for a sock project I was working on and that my bamboo needles were starting to bend. I decided not to answer her specific question, and instead answered that I had the project in my bag.

I walked over to an empty table in the front of the store, pulled out the first of the socks from Hell, and began to try the lilliputian needles. Immediately, the buzz that had been present in the store came to an abrupt halt. All eyes were on me. It was as if they’d never seen anyone simultaneously knit and own a penis. In fact, by their expression, you would have thought that I was actually attempting to knit with mine. I looked up and met the curious gaze, and they turned away – seemingly realizing that they were staring.  One other employee said: "It sure is nice to see you knitting over there."

I knit a single row with the Addi needles, before realizing that despite the fact I very much liked their texture, they were simply too short for me. I knit a second row, replacing the Addi needles with my original bamboo set, and placed the Addis back in their case.

I walked up to the clerk, handed her the Addis, and thanked her for the chance to try them out. I explained that they were too small.

“I thought they would be.”

I wandered idly through their yarn, looking for something exceptional. I didn’t find anything, although in fairness there may have been treasures lurking – I didn’t spend a lot of time. Making my way back to the front door, I exited. No one in the shop seemed to notice I’d gone.

So I’m still looking for my Signature Needles – and although I can buy them online (for $15 less than the Tricoter price) I’d really like to try a pair before I buy. Not sure where I’ll find them. But I know this much. I’m probably not going back to Tricoter again. And that’s a shame.



  1. I have a set of Signature straights that I bought at the MD Sheep and Wool but I can't say I'm wowwed by them...

    The needles that I am currently very curious about are the Blackthorns... They look pretty cool.

  2. It sounds so much like my former LYS!And it is in a total different Country to yours!! And I am stunned that they let you 'try before you buy'!!! I think I need to start looking at better YarnShops! BTW not that I find it odd or am surprised that you knit but for some strange reason the Photo of your Sock yarn on your Pinstriped trouser made me giggle...sorry...I am a bit...erm.....odd at times!

  3. If you're ever in Kent, try out Renaisance Yarns....we specialize in not being snobby! :)

  4. I had a very similar experience at this shop during the LYS Tour in May. I couldn't figure out why on earth they were participating. Nobody could even be bothered to show me their free pattern or featured yarn. I got my passport stamped & got out of there! There plenty of great, welcoming shops (like Renaissance!)in the area, so you know I won't be going back.

  5. What a frustrating experience. Here in Manhattan there are quite a few yarn stores that have male knitting groups, which seems simultaneously very nice and a little bit weird. Of course, as a girl, I've never had a gender-biased negative reaction in a knitting store (though back in my days of having a shaved head, I did get some double-takes!). But even here in Manhattan there are a couple yarn shops I avoid like the plague due to their snobby silence when non-store-initiates enter looking for something.

    I hope you find your needles soon!

  6. Just remember... there is a difference between too short and too small. ;-)