I shop for yarn a lot. Not because I have to or I need more yarn. It's part of the crochet/knit hobby. I go to local yarn shops to wander around and see what piques my interest and I almost always find a yarn shop when I travel. To my husband’s unbelief, I also almost always buy something. In considering my shopping experiences (some good, some not-so-good) and chatting with other yarn-ie friends, I’ve come up with a simple, 5-skein rating of yarn shops. Shop owners – take note.
We’ll start with the basics. Neat, clean, bright – without that, we’re not even getting to the rest. The yarn – it’s got to be yarn-snob worthy. No 100% acrylic, scratchy, I could pick this up at my local craft shop in the aisle over from the paint and glue (although, I have picked up some nice yarns there, too, but that's not what we're looking for in the LYS.) This is pretty much the low bar of entry to even be considered a yarn shop worth rating. I.e. this is my house and my yarn stash if I could get a retail license for my basement. Now, what’s it take to actually get some skeins for my local yarn shop rating?
1 skein – Shops get 1 skein for saying “hi, welcome to my shop, can I help you?”
Doesn’t seem hard right? Given that most shops are only a couple hundred feet square with the check-out desk in eye-sight of the front door, the owner or some key employee generally sees everybody who walks in the place. And usually, there is not a big crowd in the shop. Greeting a shop visitor doesn’t seem too much to expect. You’d think. I’ve been in shops where this doesn’t happen. The owner sees me come in, says nothing, and keeps on stitching or putting up inventory or drinking her tea or whatever. I can tell you how many skeins I have bought when someone, shop owner or employee, has not spoken to me: zero.
1 skein – Shops get 1 skein for being nice to crocheters and having crochet tools.
No skeins are awarded for knitting needles and row counters, nope. Why? Because, pretty much every yarn shop is designed for knitters. So for this skein on the rating scale, a shop has to stretch and reach out to crocheters. And having that one ole 1977 Red Heart granny-square, fringed poncho pattern does not count; there’s got to be the newest Interweave Crochet or patterns that have been written within the last year. Even free patterns for a simple scarf, printed really nice with suggested yarn. I’ll take that. And have some crochet hooks and row counters. And don’t roll your eyes when I say I “crochet.”
1 skein – LYS get 1 skein for having other interesting yarn-related stuff.
Some shops have unique buttons or cute knitting/crochet tote bags, scarf pins or needle cases. I don’t generally buy all that stuff, but every now and then I need a button or a scarf pin. Well, I don’t actually need one, but if there’s a pretty one, I’ll buy it and another skein of yarn to go with it to make a pretty scarf or sweater.
1 skein – Shops get 1 skein for paying some attention to the customers.
This is a different point than the “speak to me when I enter” skein. When I ask a question, I expect that the shop owner acts like they would like for me to buy some yarn. Perhaps they are doing so well that they really don’t care if I by anything or not, but they could at least pretend like they care. When I ask what’s this variegated yarn look like when stitched, don’t tell me to look it up on Ravelry. When I ask how to do a particular stitch, in a shop with “ask us for help” signs all over the place, don’t tell me to look it up on YouTube. I can tell you how many skeins of yarn I have bought from shop owners who did not offer any assistance: zero.
1skein – Shops get 1 skein for having a snack or beverage, coffee or wine, I’m not picky.
There aren’t too many yarn shops who would get this point, but I’m holding out. I did go to one shop in London that served wine – there was a cooler in the back of the yarn shop and you could select whichever wine went with your knitting or crocheting project. I’ve never seen this in the U.S., I guess we have some different kind of alcohol license thing that they don’t grant to yarn shops. I also don’t know that I’ve been to any that serve coffee. Most don’t seem to mind when you wander around with your own cup, but I would probably stick around longer if there was a fresh pot brewing.
There – 5 skeins. That doesn’t seem so hard, does it? I mean, even in my own basement, I can score a couple of those skeins (I do have wine and coffee), so surely a local yarn shop can do as well as me piddlin’ in my yarn stash.
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