I was thinking this morning about what it is that makes a local yarn store (LYS) the place you want to go to, and return to, and look forward to going to, again and again and again. Is it the variety? The service? The ambience? The location?
I decided to research this question on Ravelry and other online knitting groups, and found some interesting commentary! Here’s a summary:
1. Sense of community. Most ardent defenders of the LYS (as opposed to supporting shopping from an online store) appreciated the value a LYS contributed to the local community.
2. Ability to touch, feel, smell, love… Yes, knitting is a tactile activity. It’s one thing to drool over an image. It’s quite another to pick the yarn up, admire the colour, give it a loving squeeze, sniff for that sheepy scent, stroke against your cheek (to test for scratchiness of course!), appraise it for fluffiness, drape, or whatever quality the yarn possesses that will enable you to start planning what it might be good for after you buy it and the day comes to finally haul it out from the hoard under the bed… That’s all part of the fun of course. Bringing the yarn store home, so one can admire one’s stash when in need of a bit of solace or colour therapy. I read of some knitters who travelled for hours, literally, to reach their closest yarn store (I won’t call it local) just to do this.
3. The excitement of finding the latest season’s yarn. You can’t really get that sense from an online store. It’s all in one place too! You don’t have to wander around multiple sites to try to find what you are looking for.
Negatives were mentioned too:
1. Price. It’s hard in today’s age of grasping landlords to make a living as a LYS. Wages, rent, insurance, it all adds up. But it does make it hard for the poor knitter who does spend a large proportion of her discretionary income on her craft. Indeed, this very factor made me begin the nationwide search for more cost-effective methods of supporting my habit.
2. Service. I am very sorry to say I agree that it is very rare to find a LYS assistant who makes me feel comfortable, welcome and respected. So I don’t look like I’ve been knitting for 50 years. But does that mean I should be treated as if I don’t know which end of the needles to start at!?
3. Knowledge. A personal one from me: I have always assumed that the people who work in LYS’s must love yarn just as much as I, and must possess an encyclopedic knowledge of the yarn in the store, what colours you can get it in, what it’s good for, what the tension is for that yarn, where it’s from, what it’s made of, etc., etc., etc. So it’s always a bit disappointing to get a blank look when I do pluck up the courage to actually talk to the assistant and ask a question.
4. “Exclusivity”. Maybe it’s just us Kiwis, but we feel shy about going into a LYS knitting evening holding a yarn that hasn’t been bought there. Let’s face it, we all shop around. But it does make you feel damn guilty!
My personal dream LYS would be:
1. A place I can feel welcome to go to and sit and knit in comfort for an hour or two when I can. Where I can meet fellow knitters who have also dropped in for an impromptu session. It’s hard to be fixed to a given meeting time. We’re all busy people with varied lives and fixed times do not suit all.
2. A place I can come to meet visiting yarn suppliers and learn more about their products (and not have the store manager hog the supplier for the entire time).
3. A place that I can learn – perhaps attend a masterclass or two.
4. A place I can go to ask questions about tricky patterns and not get ‘that look’.
5. A place that always has healthy levels of stock. I hate it when I go into my LYS and find the shelves threadbare. It either looks like the store is about to shut down, or that a sale has just happened and I didn’t know about it!
6. A place that has interesting yarn. The basics get boring after a while. Importantly, it must also support New Zealand yarn.
7. A place that communicates with me, and tells me what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s happening in the world of knitting. And let’s me know when something new is in store so I can be the first to check it out!
8. Lastly, but not least, a place that also allows me to feel that I can contribute to the community. Charity knits, fund-raising, volunteer teacher days. Something like that.
I think that’s about it. Not a hard ask is it? 😉