Follow-Up: What You Can Expect From Your Yarn Shop

Over the weekend, one of my previous posts went viral, relatively-speaking, and I’m so surprised to see all the attention it got. Thank you all for reading, commenting, and sharing your views. Most of you were very positive, and I’m glad, but I would like to address the few negative things that came in.

First of all, I encourage everyone to take my post in the spirit it was written, which was a cheat sheet, of sorts, about why all yarn is not the same and therefore differs drastically in price. This is not a judgment on anyone for having a budget nor a judgment on anyone for where they choose to buy yarn. It is simply a statement of fact about why certain yarns cost more, and also a little ribbing at the few people I used to encounter when working in the shop who seemed to expect fine cashmere for the price of Red Heart. I think with any project, you should choose yarn that is appropriate for the project and how it will be used. No one in their right mind is going to make baby blankets out of fine cashmere – at least, that is not anything I would have advised a customer to do.

I’d also like to address the main complaint I saw in the comments, which was that many people felt yarn stores were snobby or unfriendly. Speaking as someone who used to work in a store, I can tell you that retail is extremely difficult and you should definitely give a shop more than one try before you give up, as you may have just caught the employee in a bad moment after a particularly rude or demanding customer. But as a customer myself, I also understand not wanting to drop money in a place that is snobby, unfriendly or otherwise unpleasant. As a customer, you certainly do have the right to be treated respectfully and to receive friendly service. I was fortunate enough to work in a store that was very friendly, had a wide variety of yarn, and a boss who was usually laid back about people coming in to knit, regardless of where they bought their yarn. Alot of yarn stores are not as open, but in my opinion, there are some basics you should be able to expect in any shop, and if you don’t receive these, I would keep looking.

  1. A friendly hello and readiness to help you when you come in. This was something we were very diligent about in our shop – saying hello and welcome to anyone who walked in. Of course, you may need to be understanding if there is only one person working and they are answering the phone or in the middle of teaching a class, although if you need assistance, someone should take the time to assist you.
  2. A willingness to help you find the right yarn for your project. As mentioned above, cashmere is lovely, but not appropriate for everything. The store should be concerned about helping crocheters and knitters find the right yarn for their project. Of course, you as the customer, need to be honest and say what your budget is, or allergies, etc., because it is ultimately your choice what yarn to buy, not the store’s. People who buy yarn, use half of it and come back later to complain about it don’t usually get much sympathy. But neither does a shop that pushes certain yarns for everything instead of tailoring their recommendations to the customer’s needs.
  3. Prices on everything so you can browse and make decisions at will. The only shop I’ve ever walked in and right back out of was the one where you had to stand in a long line at the register to find out the price of everything. Our shop had a price tag on everything, and I realize that not all shops do this, but I highly disagree with the ones that make it hard for customers to figure out what they’re spending. You hardly ever walk into any retail store, whether Walmart or Saks, and not have access to the price of the item you’re interested in. Knowing the price of what you’re looking at is a reasonable expectation.
  4. Project support – when you’ve bought the yarn, pattern, and supplies at the shop. As long as we weren’t busy, our shop would usually help anyone who walked in the door, but of course, no shop is obligated to provide customer service to you unless you support them. Some yarn shops are less open about this than ours was, and sometimes that decision is made based on whether you’re a first time customer or if you make a habit out of buying somewhere else and then coming in to get free tutoring. But, if you are a regular customer at a shop, you should be able to go in and get help with a project if you get stuck.
  5. Services like ball winding and a willingness to help you locate an extra ball of yarn if you’re short, etc. Just to be honest though, please have reasonable expectations in regard to these services. I had a lady come in one day with 50, (yes, 50!) skeins she wanted wound right then and there. I was the only person working, the phone was ringing, I was helping other customers, working the cash register, etc. Of course, I didn’t mind winding her yarn, but it was unreasonable to expect to walk in with that many and expect one person to take care of the whole shop at the same time. Another lady came in with yarn she’d purchased out of state, but needed wound right before she hopped on a flight. Of course, I was happy to help both of them, but the lady with the 50 skeins would have been better off bringing it in a few days prior so it could have been wound at a less busy time without her having to wait a few hours in the shop for it. As for locating extra balls or finding discontinued yarns, you can certainly ask for these services at your shop and expect them to make an effort, but do so with the understanding that sometimes the items you’re requesting just aren’t anywhere to be found.

Many thanks again for taking the time to read my posts and leave your comments and feedback. I hope this post helps answer some of the questions raised in my last one. The world would be a sad place for knitters and crocheters if there were no yarn shops. I am happy to have a dialogue from the two different points of view since us crafters need our shops and the shops need us customers!

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10 thoughts on “Follow-Up: What You Can Expect From Your Yarn Shop

  1. Linda

    I understand coming into a yarn store for inspiration and maybe you just cannot afford the high quality yarn at this time. But rude is rude. Now I have not bought a fiber because it is out of my price range that month and I have gone in to a lys and bought nothing because I am broke. But I do make rude comments. But I have stopped shopping at lys where I am looked down at because I sometimes just come in yo look feel and smell. I expect the same curtisies from the staff as they expect from me. I am a yarn snob I do not by from chain stores but if it came down to knitting or not knitting I would lower myself to the cheaper yarns. I love the independent shop owner and many stores do offer incentives. Oh I could go on and on. I wish you well and happy buying customers.

    1. Of course! Personally, I did not have any problem with people coming in to look and not always buying. I think everyone does that, and not just in yarn shops. And again, it’s up to each person where they shop and how much they want to spend. I just think all of us also need to be realistic, because there is a reason some things are more expensive than others. We buy what we can afford.

  2. I have a local yarn shop that is a bit expensive, but I do completely understand why. The yarns are of wonderful quality and the colors are phenomenal. I am attending my nieces wedding in a few months and was on the look out for just a special color yarn in the violet-purple range. AND it needed to be something that would not make me itch. I thought I had found my yarn at a craft store but it didn’t WOW me, so I kept looking. I stopped into my local shop to look around. Just as I was going to give in and buy the other stuff, there it was, 700 yards of the most beautful, soft, and lilacish yarn I could have ever wished for. I had seen NOTHING else like it anywhere, and trust me, I have spent HOURS AND HOURS, scouring site upon site. MINE! Didn’t care about the price, my shawl, wrap, shrug, whatever, that ends up going around my shoulders, is going to be perfect!! The folks there wound it for me, and said if I needed any help on working with it, (it’s a lightweight) come on in and they would help. I might just take them up on it, I don’t want to take any chances on messing this up!

  3. I appreciate both this article and the one about yarn. I do take issue, though, with your point #4, about project support. I do agree that a knitter or crocheter should buy the yarn from the shop if they expect to get help there. But, the yarn, pattern, AND supplies? A pattern may have been purchased many years before from a different location, or directly from the designer, or even through Ravelry. And the supplies? A knitter who has made more than a few projects will likely have most of the needles and notions she needs already in her stash.
    I have heard of yarn shops that will only allow knitters to participate in their knit nights if the project they’re working on is with yarn from their shop. I think that’s a good way to alienate future customers.

    1. I get what you mean – and perhaps I should have worded it differently. We certainly didn’t expect people to buy needles every time they were in the shop, and that was not what I meant to imply. I only wanted to point out that when people come into a shop looking for one-on-one tutoring, the shop doesn’t owe them that if they don’t support the business. Our shop did try to be very welcoming and helpful, regardless of where a person’s yarn came from, but obviously, our loyal customers received priority over the people who came in wanting a full afternoon of help with stuff they bought somewhere else. And I do think if you are a loyal customer, you should definitely be able to expect that. 🙂

      1. I definitely agree with you! And if I owned a yarn shop, that would probably be one of my biggest frustrations – people wanting something without actually being patrons of the shop. And I guess it could be said that if someone received help with their project, even if they bought the yarn at Walmart and had never actually bought anything at the store, that they might look favorably on the store and be more likely to purchase in the future. But then again, maybe not. Some people just want something for free. I would imagine it’s a hard balance to strike – being friendly, welcoming, and helpful to potential future customers without giving away advice and time for free all the time.

    2. I get what you mean – and perhaps I should have worded it differently. We certainly didn’t expect people to buy needles every time they were in the shop, and that was not what I meant to imply. I only wanted to point out that when people come into a shop looking for one-on-one tutoring, the shop doesn’t owe them that if they don’t support the business. Our shop did try to be very welcoming and helpful, regardless of where a person’s yarn came from, but obviously, our loyal customers received priority over the people who came in wanting a full afternoon of help with stuff they bought somewhere else. And I do think if you are a loyal customer, you should definitely be able to expect that. 🙂

  4. Carole Mordue

    There are many reasons for hoping customers will work on yarn from your store when they visit. I hosted a knit night a while back and realized after a few months that many people brought their big box yarn projects every time. Yarn stores must make a profit to stay open–this requires a certain amount of support from the public. Bringing your yarn from another store or online and raving about it in my shop really undermines my business. We help with projects from wherever but did finally tell one woman who brought big box yarn in for help, not once, but repeatedly, that we would be happy to schedule a class for her.

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