Just received a package in the mail from the Netherlands. Three balls of Opal 6-ply self-patterning sock wool for about half the price they sell for in Australia (yes, even taking into account postage). Such is the cost of imported yarn in Australia. Even if we are one of the major wool producers in the world.
Of course after I placed my order I found another international site selling the yarn even cheaper. But there is a certain confidence, possibly ill-founded, in buying via EBay and PayPal from a seller with a good feedback score. And I am not yet quite confident enough to order from a site which is nearly entirely in German, even if it does seem to be very reputable and has a good rap from another Australian blogger.
I haven't yet succeeded in knitting a pair of socks and find 4-ply just a bit too thin to cope with at this stage. But the 6-ply yarn is a good compromise and very good for hats and beanies, which I am extremely addicted to making at the moment. If you want a pattern for an easy hat knitted in the round, I have to recommend the new Southern Cross Knitting site http://www.scknitting.com/spring2005/rolled-brim.html
It took me quite a few goes (and a few broken plastic double-pointed needles) to master "knitting in the round" but the time save knitting virtually exclusively in knit stitch plus not having to sew up seams is invaluable. It also produces a far more professional result.
If you want to try knitting in the round don't be like me and try to start with 4-ply socks. Start with the roll-brim hat and buy a 40-cm 4mm circular needle to get things started with. As you reduce stitches you'll have to move onto the double-pointed needles but it is much easier to maneuver them once you have a bit of knitting base to start with.
But back to the Opal wool. I am a child at heart and love the way the pattern almost magically appears as you knit. It really gives you the incentive to keep on knitting "just one more round" or "until the next colour change".
I am blogging at the moment as I have come to a bit of a standstill with (one of) my current projects - a knitted lace cardigan for a friend's daughter. The knitting was far easier than I expected (so if you are apprehensive about trying lace, find a simple pattern in 8-ply yarn). But I'm hitting a brick wall with the "making up", sewing the front bands and knitting the neckband. My front bands appear to be about 25 percent short and the explanation of how to knit from them and create a neckband in the Patons pattern is not helping. I generally do not find Patons patterns the most user-friendly but I dropped my guard over this one because it explained the lace knitting so well.
I guess I'll have to find a granny somewhere to help me out. My mum was a great knitter but she passed away in 2003 - and I didn't really start knitting properly until after her death.