I've wanted some self-striping or self-patterning sock wool since I first saw it in Germany a few months after I started knitting. I didn't pick some up then because for some silly reason I thought I didn't need more sock yarn, at least not until I knitted a successful pair of socks.
Then I came home, and suddenly realised what a mistake it was that I didn't bring home a suitcase full of it. Self-patterning sock wool costs about €6 ($7.76 or £4.84) in Germany, and comes in a huge range of colours, even in the tiniest of wool shops. In Ireland however, I struggled to find a shop which stocks it, and of the two I've found, both of them had only two balls of a single colourway. Oh, and it costs €11 here ($14.22/£8.87).
So I've been putting off buying it for a while. Instead, I just had a look around the only LYS in the city. The shop is called This is Knit, and it's a very pretty shop in a gorgeous little shopping centre. It's run by a very friendly mother-daughter team, which adds to its charm. I feel bad going in when I know I can't afford anything there, so I haven't been very often.
And then one of my Knit-Pro (same as KnitPicks for you Americans) needles broke. This is Knit is the only shop I know of which stocks them so, lucky for me, I could get it replaced without any huge effort on my part. And the lady there was so helpful. When she realised I would be without a needle until the order arrived, she let me borrow one of her own.
I picked up my new needle this week. I felt I should buy something small to show them my gratitude so I picked up a ball of Opal Fairies and Elves in a navy and blue colourway. I was so excited to get started on a pair of quick-to-knit, plain stockinette socks that the next day I went to buy some circular needles. (All of mine already have a WIP on them, oops!) I went to two shops near my house, the type that sells mostly acrylic yarn, but neither of them sold circs smaller than 3.75mm!
I didn't make it to This is Knit to see if they had them (I'm sure they do); instead I went home and put a pair of socks in time out to free up the needles. And now I have the beginnings of what are hopefully going to be a speedy pair of socks:
I really love the wool, I love how the colours change, and I love the prospect of these socks lasting forever because they're made with Opal yarn. And I've come to the conclusion that sometimes I will be so much happier paying a bit more for wool that I'm excited about knitting with.
This whole experience has taught me that sock wool and sock-sized circular needles are extremely hard to come by in Ireland, even in the capital city. Why is it that Irish people don't like to knit socks? My mum has told me of her stressful experiences as a little girl being taught how to knit in primary school, when she struggled to learn how to turn the heel. I'm glad I was never forced to knit in school, and that I only learned when I really wanted to. Maybe the entire nation had traumatic sock-knitting experiences back when knitting was a compulsory subject (for girls).
Or maybe Ireland is just slow to catch up with the advances in knitting. Circular needles and magic loop make sock knitting easier and more portable (at least compared to my own experience with DPNs), and we have a ton of information on the internet which makes sock-knitting less daunting. I'm knitting these socks using Knitty.com's Sock-Building Template, and the whole process is so straightforward. I hope Ireland catches on to a sock revolution some time soon, but in the meantime I'll probably have to make do with finding my sock supplies online.