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Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave in Search of Rare Yarn

A skein or two of the Yamabiko blend, just enough to finish a forgotten sweater, eventually is discovered on EBay.

January 03, 2002|KAREN KAPLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Knitting is apparently cool again.

Hipsters in their 20s and 30s have taken up their needles in search of relaxation and simple pleasures. They call it the "new yoga." With this in mind, I made the following New Year's resolution: Finish the sweater I started in 1997, when knitting was surely considered uncool.

I completed a little more than half of the back side before I burned out. Although I saved 10 skeins of yarn, my greatest fear is running out just as I'm about to finish the last sleeve. Without more yarn, all my efforts would be for naught.

Unfortunately, the shop where I bought it is out of business. Instead of traipsing all over Southern California, I decided to stay put and look for it online.

I didn't think it would be easy, but it turns out my yarn is more rare than I had imagined. It's a blend of wool, silk and mohair angora called Yamabiko, and it's made by a Japanese company, Eisaku Noro. A simple search on Yahoo (www.yahoo.com) led me to Noro's Web site, which in turn directed me to its sole U.S. distributor, Knitting Fever of Roosevelt, N.Y. None of the 17 yarns displayed at www.knittingfever.com is Yamabiko. When I called, I was told that Yamabiko had been discontinued.

Even so, I reasoned, there must be a stray skein or two in a knit shop or private stash somewhere in the world. If so, the Internet would lead me to it.

I began with the stores that Knitting Fever supplies. I typed in my ZIP Code and received a list of stores in and around Los Angeles. About one of three listings was linked to a Web site. None had Yamabiko in stock.

I went back to my original list of Yahoo results and found a bona fide reference to my exact yarn on the impressively extensive Yarn Review Index (people.ne .mediaone.net/kbsalazar/yindex.htm). The review was rather tepid. But the bigger disappointment was that the index couldn't direct me to a store.

Next, I went to Google (www .google.com) and searched for "Yamabiko." Most of the sites were in Japanese and a few were in German, but none seemed to have anything to do with yarn. Adding "yarn" to the search led me to Ewe-Nique Yarns of North St. Paul, Minn. Its site (www.ewe-nique yarns.com) makes reference to a catalog that includes Yamabiko yarn.

I called the number on the Web site, left a message and crossed my fingers.

Then I decided it was time to seek out experts. A site called Knitting on the Net (www.extremezone.com/~binky) led me to Knitting.About.com, home to three online bulletin boards. The main Knitting Forum is neatly divided into 10 categories such as "Needles," "Help With Pattern Instructions" and "How Do I ...?"

It took less than three minutes to sign up with About.com, which entitled me to post a question. I wrote a succinct plea for any skeins of my discontinued Yamabiko in the "About Yarn" section. It took a day to get my first response, from a helpful woman named Donna.

"Somebody was selling several bunches of Yamabiko on EBay last week," she wrote. "Search the knitting section for 'Noro' and it should come up if it's still active. If not, you can click 'Search' and then 'Search Completed Items' to find the old auctions; maybe the seller has more, or maybe they didn't sell the batches I saw. Good luck."

I went straight to EBay (www.ebay.com) and found 5,906 items up for auction under the Knitting category. Of those, 37 were Noro yarns, but none were Yamabiko. Donna was right: Someone sold 10 skeins of Yamabiko on Dec. 27, but it wasn't the color I need.

Then I noticed another auction that ended Dec. 24 with the sale of 10 skeins of Yamabiko for $79. Amazingly, it was the exact color--and even dye lot--I was seeking. I intended to send an e-mail to the winning bidder offering to buy a few of the 10 skeins. Then I noticed that the seller's write-up ended with, "I carry more of this yarn." Off went the e-mail to seal the deal. I wrote to her, but she was only willing to sell the yarn in blocks of 10--far more than I need.

As I was contemplating my next move, the phone rang. It was Juanita from Ewe-Nique Yarns calling to offer me the one skein of Yamabiko she had. At $6.75, it was $1.75 cheaper than what I paid five years ago. Even with $4 in shipping and handling charges, it was well worth it.

I may now have enough yarn, but I'll keep looking for one or two more skeins--just to be safe.

*

Karen Kaplan covers the Internet. She can be reached at karen.kaplan@latimes.com.

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