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Subversive :: Yarn and yarn shops

Due to my involvement in a school fundraiser, I've been going to Michaels a lot lately. Each time I go, I stop by and look at the yarns and patterns -- and I'm no stranger to the needlecrafts aisles at my local Wal-Mart, Joann's, and Hobby Lobby either. In the last few weeks, it appears that Michaels has revamped their yarn section and decreased the selection of novelty yarns and increased the quantity of garment yarns in Lion Brand and Patons brands. This is a good thing, in my opinion, and demonstrates a responsive shift toward what knitters and crocheters want. I found quite a bit of fresh stock of Patons Classic Merino and since it's the 2nd most popular yarn on Ravelry and the only one of the top ten brands I hadn't tried yet, I threw caution to the wind and dropped less than $5 on a ball to try. I've since swatched it (that is, I'm knitting a hat with it) and it's awesome to knit with and delicious to the touch. It's slightly softer than Cascade 220.

Patons hat in progress
Basic 80-stitch hat, ready to start decreasing

So . . . I'm clearly happy with the yarn, the way it knits and the value. What I don't get is why some knitters and crocheters refuse to cross the threshold of a local yarn store in favor of ONLY shopping at a craft chain or Wal-Mart. I do understand bad service and unpleasant experiences at yarn stores, but I don't think they're the norm. Anybody can have an off day (and I know that I have had those days in the past and probably unintentionally alienated a few customers). But at Michaels (and the other stores I mentioned), I'm never greeted, never helped while I'm at the back of the store in the yarn section, and nobody ever looks me in the eye when I check out. Conversely, when I go to the yarn shop (as a customer, not an employee), I'm greeted, helped with my selection and sometimes get quick instruction with something I have on the needles. The modest amounts of money I spend at local yarn stores help local families and small businesses. THAT is value.

I understand there are many people for whom yarn shops are NOT local geographically and have no other options -- but when there ARE options, why do you not go and experience what a local business has to offer? Is there just a general desire to be anonymous, faceless and completely divorced from who benefits from your purchase? Do you think that if you darkened the door of a yarn shop, you'd be assaulted and forced to use your grocery money to buy cashmere? Do you not trust yourself in the face of friendly people and a variety of merchandise? Educate me! I don't get why there are still so many people who do not think it's worth their time and energy to patronize a local business.

If all I had was Michaels or online shopping, that's how I would buy yarn - and I'm VERY likely go back to Michaels someday to buy more Patons (in a sweater quantity IF they have matching dyelots) - but I'll never believe it's a delightful experience to walk in a shop unnoticed and navigate my way past plastic flowers to the back of the shop to look at yarn.

Oh holy cow!! Did I even need to see the new pattern books Patons has on their site? Top Down Classics looks awesome.


I'm laughing here - I completely get what you are saying, and yet more often than not, even tho I'm not a knitter, I fit the profile you're wanting to hear from... so I'll share. :-)

For me, it's probably a control issue and my 'fear' of confrontation. I don't like to hurt people's feelings, and so often when I'm in a specialty sort of a place, the salespeople are true believers and have great knowledge (and sometimes that's hard to distinguish from the gals who worked at C.R. Anthonys on commission and would try to tell me how wonderful I looked in poorly-fitting jeans, which is a whole 'nother deal...)...

Anyway... for me, more than a money issue, it's that it's hard for me to 'reject' someone to their face, and yet I like to make my own decisions. When in the position of being face to face with someone who is very committed to the benefits of a product and eager for me to commit to it, too, I feel something of an obligation *not* to hurt their feelings by passing on their advice. And then later, I resent that I felt cornered into taking it. Was that their intent? Most likely not. But it's how it *feels*.

If, however, I can just walk into a store and know I'll be able to come to my own conclusions and buy something without ever having to worry about rejecting anyone, well... that's a good experience for me.

That said, I do like to have someone with knowledge available to seek out with my questions. I just fear the "push"... so I avoid it when I can.

Thank you for weighing in, Brenda -- I can totally understand this point of view and the reasoning behind it.

I must have incredible sales resistance :-)

You also brought up a good point - I wonder if people know that we (my co-workers and I) don't work on commission but that our zealotry is genuine? HA!

Actually, I do, too! :) Have good sales resistance, that is! It was in my younger adult years that I harbored secret resentment over feeling coerced into purchases I didn't really want to make (usually at home 'parties' for home decor products! lol)

So... yeah. I can definitely resist buying these days. But even though I can resist, still hate the look of disappointment on the face of someone who thought they were about to make a sale, and so I tend to avoid situations that might lead to that.

Well it makes me wonder what would have happened if I had actually been IN the shop the day you stopped by on your way from (to?) the airport!

I'm kinda the opposite -- I'm much more likely to go to my LYS instead of to Michael's or Hobby Lobby . . . and it's certainly not because I'm independently wealthy nor a yarn snob! Hm, come to think of it, I may have had bad "checkout experiences" at both . . . last time I went to M's, I ended up getting out of line and putting all my stuff back before leaving the store empty handed.

Hmmm... I go to a variety of yarn shops as well as my local Joann's and Michaels. Sometimes I'm looking for advice and something new and different or luxurious -- then I head to the LYS. That said, there's something I like about just walking into a Michaels, finding a ball of plain blue merino (on sale!!!) for a hat, and heading out the door. It's kind of like how if I want good cheese for a party, I head to the cheese counter at Whole Foods; if I need some monterey jack for plain and simple tacos, I just pick up a block in the dairy section at the regular store.

Your store is the PERFECT store for even the incognito shopper like me. The woman who approached me probably sensed my apprehension because said the magic words: If you need any help, please let me know and I'll be happy to answer your questions! Your store totally wowed me, the non-knitter! :) Ya'll obviously provide a true service to knitters in a way that a box store never, ever could.

Mostly, it's appliances, cars, and furniture that I like to shop for in anonimity. :-)

Hear, Hear. Supporting small business is the way to go. Smaller stores are more responsive and in the case of yarn store,often most are owned by women...I am strong believer in supporting 'the sisterhood' in business as much as possible.

For me, it's a matter of convenience. Unless it's Sunday and the LYS is closed, that's where I'll go because they're more convenient to get to. Our new "super" WalMart that's five minutes from my house doesn't even have a fabrics/yarn dept.!

I have bought yarn from Michaels several times, in fact, I knitted the Irish Hiking Scarf out of the same gray Patons that you are using for your hat/swatch. I really like that yarn, it felts great too. But I have to agree, the service that a yarn store can offer you is extremely valuable and we should support our local stores. I know that my LYO has never cringed or berated me for buying Patons or the like from a craft store. In fact they all have chatted and compared the projects that they have made in the past with "A Pound of Love" Red Heart yarn! Equal balances people, find a balance!

It's so hard sometimes. I personally want the best value for my money. I don't usually buy yarn in my LYS unless I need it right away or if there is a sale. I do buy my books and needles there most of the time tho. I can't justify $80 worth of yarn for a sweater as much as I would like to. I can be daunting going into a LYS, picking up a ball of Rowan or GGH yarn and seeing a price tag of $9-$12 for a hundred yarns of cotton/acrylic blend.

a visual image of Janet, tip toeing past the plastic flowers and other sundry stuff that Michael's sells... it's LYS and on line for me... truth be told I have never walked in to a Michael's, or a Wal Mart for that matter... so maybe I am the oddity

Beautiful Blog!

I have to say, I much prefer the LYS experience over "big chain stores". I've never once felt pressured into buying yarn at TY and you ladies have always been fantastic whenever I have a question about a specific project or yarn subs. Show me a big chain store that can do that!

First, thanks for the link to the pattern book! Wow!!

One thing about Paton's, it pills fast! I made the miter blanket from MDK out of it. I travel for work & I needed a yarn that I could get in "Backwoods" Ohio. Paton's is a decent wool, so why not?! At first it was great & then with more use, the Pills came to play. I thought it was because someone in the house was always cuddled up with it. So I made a sweater out of the same color as you hat & the same thing happened. I haven't found that Cascade 220 does that. I could be wrong.

as i get older i like the idea of supporting independent business owners.

While I don't go to the LYS in our area very often, it's not that I'm oppossed to it. It's more that I'm overwhelmed with the prospect, and going into one of the chain stores I know where I'm going, what I'm getting, and the selection isn't as great. LOL I don't kow if that says less for my or the stores, or the most for the LYS's! LOL

I am much more likely to go to my LYS, Knitch, than I am to Michaels. There is never pressure and when I need help I get great help.

The only time I remember going to Michaels or Hobby Lobby is when I need acrylic yarn for baby stuff or Peaches and Creme for Mason Dixon stuff.

Then there is the whole supporting independent business owners since I am married to one.

I hate to sound harsh about this...but those who have options and refuse to check out a LYS in my opinion are just ignorant!! Ugh! That urks me!

And don't get me wrong I love me some AC Moores, Hobby Lobby and Michael's ;op But you are definitely right about the complete different experience in a LYS...I remember my 1st visit like it was yesterday and it was like I found the gold pot at the end of the rainbow!! :oD

GURL!!! Why!! Why! Why! Did you show me that pattern book!

I am lovin' Carmela's Cardi!!

Goodness, I haven't stepped into a craft store in ages. I've been able to resist the call of the new yarns at my LYS too though - I'm trying to find peace with the stash I already have and work through that first. It is hard though, very hard...

Glad to read about Michael's on a knitting blog. When I first learned to knit I bought all my yarn at the Michael's in the San Fernando Valley, California. I also need to walk to the back of the Michael's store, past flowers and kid crafts in the middle, to get to the yarn shelves. It's true at an LYS I get treated as a friend, "What are you working on, need any help" and at Michael's there's no conversation.

(weighing in on an old post, sorry, but I wanted to share my own view.)

This may be a regional linguistic quirk, but I use the word wool to mean 'anything I knit with' whether is it wool, acrylic, cotton, whatever.

I buy from two different places depending on my needs. The little local wool shop in my local town is for ogling new fibres, buying 'nice' balls of wool, picking up patterns and talking to the ladies in the shop to check what I want is within my abilities. When I need several balls of man-made fibres to knit up something for my friends who are allergic to washing things according to the instructions I go to my local open-air market, chat to the stall owner and get my acrylic/nylon wool there.

In both cases I like to support local businesses, the market stall is more old-fashioned, whereas the LYS is more part of the modern 'arty' crafts movement. It's what's appropriate to the environment. And I always go to either place with a clear idea of what I want to avoid feeling coerced into buying something. I'm there to buy something specific, I ask for it and if given advice I can change my mind but both I and the shop-keeper know what sort of fibre and price-range I'm looking at.