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!

How Cashmere Is Made

Awhile ago, I did a post about why yarn is more expensive in a yarn store than in chain stores. There is so much hand work involved in handspun and hand-dyed yarn. Dyers who produce handpainted yarn literally do take the time to handpaint their skeins. I think of buying these sorts of yarns as my luxury in life, since I can’t afford to buy haute couture clothing.

This article about the process of making cashmere is closely related, and makes the price of cashmere much more understandable. I didn’t realize that the hairs aren’t even sheared – they are hand-combed. It also explains how to know when you’re buying good-quality cashmere (or not). As usual, you pay for what you get, but being educated helps you appreciate the luxuries you choose to indulge in and helps you avoid overspending on something that doesn’t measure up to true quality.