Let’s talk about local yarn stores. Have you ever noticed that local yarn stores don’t typically seem to carry independent yarns? I’ve been to many places all over the country, but it seems like many yarn stores carry a very specific set of manufacturers.
I think one of the main reasons the local yarn stores don’t carry independent yarns is because they’re too varied for the general customer. It’s a much smarter, from a business standpoint, to have a balanced variety of weights and fibers, in a series of popular colors. Beyond that, a large number of “big name” distributors have required minimum order amounts a retailer must buy in order to carry their yarn. And once you get into the indies, how can you really choose? There’s so many fiber blends and color combinations that it would be difficult to pick things that you know would sell.
On the other hand, as a frequent yarn store shopper, I find it very frustrating to go into a place that sells three major brands and not much else. I know what Rowan, Debblie Bliss, and Cascade have to offer. I also know that a sweater quantity of those yarns can be easily acquired online. Furthermore, I know that every other store in the general area is going to have something similar.
I’d love to go into a store that primarily sells varied types of yarn. Crazy color combinations, fun dyeing techniques or weird blends. I want to see brands I’ve never heard of before, with amazing blends that are softer and feel “more special” than the standard stuff. Why are “workhorse” yarns the focus in many local yarn stores? If I want a sweater quantity of Cascade 220, wouldn’t it make more sense to order it online and verify that I have matched dyelots?
The yarn above is one I bought at Loop, a gorgeous and near-perfect yarn shop in London. Near perfect only because it requires a bit of a trek for me to get there. Although they have some “regular” yarn, I find their collection to be more curated. There are maybe 5 colorways of a certain base instead of all 15. You may struggle to find the seven skeins of Yarn A that you needed, but, in my opinion, you gain so much more.
For one thing, a yarn shop with a ton of indie yarns supports the little guys who need the exposure. You know who Rowan is. You know what their yarns are like. You can see seventy projects done with a Rowan base on Ravelry. One the other hand, buying indie yarn online is a crapshoot. Sometimes you get amazing things and other times you get half-white, crunchy, scratchy skeins with five knots. A shop with a selection of great indie yarns gives me exposure to things I may have wondered about online and introduces me to new things I might like.
Second, a selection of indie yarn tells me a lot about the LYS owner and staff. Imagine walking into a shop with “Julie’s pick of the week” or having someone behind the counter telling you why Brand Q yarn is so awesome in a cowl they’re knitting. When you really like something, you get excited. You want to share it. But if everyone already knows it, you’re not able to share in that new experience with them.
Third, I strongly believe in the potential for yarn to “tell you” what it wants to be. If I love a yarn, and there’s only one skein of it available, I’m going to get that skein and find a pattern that fits it. Knitting is a tactile experience, and I’m not walking away from a good opportunity to play with some pretty string because there’s not enough to make the next thing on my queue. I tend to follow my desires and instincts in a slightly less rigid way.
Finally, a shop with a variety of indie yarns has more flexibility to change up the stock in the shop. Since you don’t have to reorder $750 worth of a brand, you can get a few skeins from one person, try a sampler from another, and get a solid stock of a third. Every time you visit the store, you’d want to stay and browse, because the products are always changing. Right now, when I walk into my LYS’s, aside from a few “seasonal” new things, there isn’t much that I haven’t already seen.
At the end of the day, I firmly believe in supporting the little guy. Especially when there are so many great indies who are breaking out and becoming mainstays in the industry- Madelinetosh and Cephalopod (pictured above) spring to mind immediately.
What does your ideal yarn store carry? What do you dislike about your current LYS? What indie dyers are your favorites? Tell me everything in the comments!