All That Yarn - Yarn Shops
Ah, the good old days....
I had a request to make a scarf with Mist Green and White. Well, it’s a good thing I have a stash of yarn since I did manage to have 2 skeins of that particular green. I heard from a friend who had the same request and could not find that color anywhere in town. Another friend had the same problem but went online and ordered some. That got me to thinking about how limited our choices are for finding yarn in this town.
I made this pattern
My scrap afghan was made from the pattern in the Paton's book. Here's a square from that afghan.
You can see more pictures of squares from this afghan in my blog on scrap afghans.
Only one yarn shop left.
First, we have ONE yarn shop left open, but who knows for how long. It is the last of three that were open over the past 25 years. Since she only carries high end yarns, I know that I can’t find my favorite acrylics there.
It is hard to keep a yarn shop open now that the internet is full of places to purchase yarn of all kinds, from all over the world. We had a local yarn shop [LYS] that changed from a "brick and mortar" store front to only online and through Facebook. Another one opened in a small location since she felt it was time to have another "hands on" location for yarn other than the big box stores.
Yarn is sort of subjective as most people want to touch it and put colors together side by side rather than guess if the computer screen colors are correct (usually not) and get things sight unseen and untouched until delivered in the mail.
The yarn shops that seem to last a long time have a faithful group of customers, and adjust their business model to accommodate new ideas or programs (like weaving or spinning as well as knitting and crochet). The shop may offer a knit or crochet night or afternoon for people to gather and work together. A lot of people like gathering to just sit and stitch with others who are also yarn-minded people.
Second, the “hobby” shops don’t carry much of what I use either. The local Hobby Lobby and Michael's doesn’t carry a lot of major name brands, just mostly their own brands. The local Walmart has yarn, but only their brand names now, not the selection of Lion Brand and Red Heart that they used to carry on their shelves.
I remember when I was in grade school and junior high there was a store called Gibson’s (which later was bought out and became Pamida before closing). I could get a skein of Aunt Lillian’s Rug Yarn for just twenty-five cents. I had a small allowance so that was all I could afford to get and was only what I could work with for several years.
Yarn, yarn available everywhere!
Also, selling yarn back in the 1960s and 1970s up to the early 1980s were other places that quit doing it. Safeway (a grocery store) had their own brand/label yarns. Kmart had it’s own label as well as other yarns.
Wolco/Woolworth had yarn sections to feed my habit. In fact, Wolco had Pounder skeins of yarn that when un-skeined and rolled up was the size of a basketball. It was cheaper and plentiful. Ben Franklin stores were another source of Red Heart yarns and other obscure brands that are no longer available like Bear Brand. Red Heart was also under the Coats & Clark Wintuck Red Heart label which I have a few in my stash.
Old Yarn LabelsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Almost a job...
Even JC Penney’s and Sears had yarn in their houseware departments in their store basements. I even had a brief job with JC Penney’s when the guy in the office wanted to promote their yarn sales by offering classes. I was set up to teach a beginning knitting class once a week for a set of weeks.
When I went to my first day, and there was nothing set up for me (no table, no chairs, etc.), I went to see him about it. He informed me that no one had signed up for the class and he had forgotten to call and let me know not to come in. The only thing I got out of that was the employee discount on the instruction book, yarn and knitting needles he let me pick out to do my samples for the class. I didn’t get paid since there was no class after all.
Small town...big choices.
My grandmother’s small town had the Yellowstone Mercantile which had a basement with a whole section devoted to knitting, crochet, tatting, and embroidery as well as other crafts. They had knitting needles and crochet hooks that were still marked with the original prices that were much lower than anything I had at home. Another great thing about the Yellowstone Basement was that they could also order large quantities of yarn for people who wanted more skeins than what was in stock.
My grandmother had boxes (Red Heart boxes, not regular boxes) of Red Heart Wool yarn in each of the 9 colors that she used to make each of us girls’ afghans. I didn’t know about it until after she was gone and we had to go through her things to sort out everything. Since I don’t like working with wools, I didn’t take the boxes of wool yarn and I kind of wish that I had put them in my stash.
A local yarn shop that I used to frequent before it closed had a variety of affordable yarns for people to buy. They weren’t the brand labels like Red Heart and Lion Brand, but they weren’t all wools or wool blends or expensive types. I found some funky light purple cotton with a little of a boucle style. I made one of my teddy bears with it and thought it turned out rather cuddly. I found that yarn in the bargain bin and bought all of it. She didn’t care what yarn we brought in to work on in the Thursday evening group or the Friday afternoon group, just that we showed up and had a nice time together. She had to close since the business was costing more to run than it was making, but she had a loyal following of customers who still miss her and that shop. (I named my blog in memory of that shop "All That Yarn".)
Another shop, another closing.
There was also, for a brief time, a yarn and embroidery shop at the Eastridge Mall. It was run by a mother and daughter. I like going there but it also closed due to costing her more to run than it was taking in from sales. She had kept her leftover stock in her basement after closing the shop and would do “by appointment” openings for people she knew who wanted certain items she might still have in the boxes in her basement. I went there maybe a few months after the shop was closed and got some crochet thread in colors I could not get anywhere else in town. This was all before the internet and online shopping, so getting it from somewhere else without making phone calls all over the state and surrounding states was my only option.
I ran across the daughter a couple years ago at a Knit in the Park day. She was planning to move out of town but still had leftover yarns and accessories from the store. She had a garage sale going on that weekend so she asked me to drop by and see if there was anything I wanted while she still had some yarn on hand. I did go and got some bulky yarn that is no longer available, and stocked up on crochet hooks and knitting needles for the classes I teach.
I do miss the bargain hunts.
I miss the many odd shops that carried their odd ball yarn brands and variety of acrylics. The “craft phase” of the 1980s pretty much wiped out a lot of the little stashes that different stores tried to have on hand. It came and went and so did the yarn.
Businesses came and went as well, leaving me with only old labels and pattern books of yarns that “used to be” available almost everywhere. Like a lot of businesses, small shops can’t keep going because people can go online and get it cheaper (but not always faster) and have it delivered to their door. The only small shops left tend to go to specialty yarns that are produced in smaller quantities…or 'locally grown’ companies. Places like eBay still have the occasional find of older yarns in lots for sale from estates.
The yarn places I remember are long gone, but remembered fondly. I still recall the joy of finding a bargain at the small town shops and going nuts with buying up stuff that I couldn’t find at home or at least not at those very low pre-printed-on-the-package prices.
Seeing (and feeling) is believing.
Touching and handling the yarns is a big part of deciding on what to make from it. Putting skeins next to each other at the store to see what goes together is more fun than guessing what will work. Colors are better “in person” than on a computer screen or in a catalog. Vintage patterns and yarns still pop up from time to time on the internet. Even the 1970s books that I have are now considered “antique” and are hard to find. I cherish my patterns, my old yarn labels (and a few projects I have with old yarns), and my memories of the by-gone yarn from shops that used to be handy.