Today I posted a sentiment on social media that, along with receiving lots of great responses, also garnered a few ruffled feathers. That means, it’s the perfect time to talk about this subject in greater detail.
In my post, I was dismissive of the quality of the products at a certain Big Box craft store. Somehow, that was read as a put-down of the people who don’t know any better than to (or prefer to) shop there. How those two ideas are the same escapes me, but let me lay this out as clearly as I can:
The purpose of the DFW Yarn Crawl is to support our Local Yarn Shops, Independent Artists (mostly yarn dyers) and knit/crochet designers. We do that by engaging the yarn community and giving yarnies tons of incentive to patronize these shops and indies. That, almost by definition, means steering people away from the national chains and steering them to our hometown small businesses.
DFW has lost three local yarn shops in less than a year, since the last Yarn Crawl, and we lost another three brick and mortar shops in the few years before that. Brick and mortar shops must push massively hard every day to stay ahead of overhead expenses and competition from online platforms and behemoth corporations. That’s where the Crawl comes in–we do our part to keep excitement high through games and contests, get-togethers and promotions from late winter through the Crawl itself in early fall, encouraging yarnies to enjoy their yarns and enticing them to stay stocked up. And we do it by reminding yarnies about their talented friends right here in the DFW area.
But why slam a big craft chain? Why put down the Behemoths?
Because Big Box Stores are bad for the Yarn Community. Here’s how:
1. You can’t become part of a community at Michael’s. There’s no table for you to pull up a chair, spread out your project and pick up amazing techniques from the people around you. You are as likely to get help with patterns or get answers about different fibers at Hobby Lobby as you are to be struck by lightning. No matter how many times you wander down the yarn aisle at Walmart, you will not develop friends who share your challenges and celebrate your successes. Brand new knitters or crocheters looking for this kind of community anywhere but a bona fide LYS might easily get discouraged and quit altogether. All these stores are great for other things — but not for yarn.
2. Big Box stores are abbreviating their yarn selections. The choices are fewer and fewer: few colors, few fibers, few weights. Getting sweater or afghan quantities can be challenging. Sure, there are legitimate reasons for buying Red Heart — yarnbombing the town park, a granny square baby blanket for that cousin you hardly ever see, God’s eye weaving for summer camp craft time. But just because you need strong, durable, affordable, easy care yarn does not mean you have to go to Walmart. Your LYS very likely carries a good affordable workhorse yarn in all the colors of the wind. Michael’s means cheap, but an LYS does NOT necessarily mean expensive, and it doesn’t make you a yarn snob to check out what they have. And notions? Good luck finding anything vaguely unusual, like size 2 metal double points or lace blocking wires.
3. Shopping for yarn online takes money out of the local small business economy. We’ve already talked about the tough challenges your local boutique yarn shops face, but let’s flesh it out a bit more. That amazing shop with the faint coffee smell, great lighting, and a place to take a load off takes time and work to keep it that inviting. The shop owner is the one who has to sweep the floor, clean the bathroom, wash the windows, unpack the boxes, tally up the till, pay the insurance and taxes, maintain the social media accounts, keep the shelves full and tidy, look happy when you come through the door (no matter how bad her day has been) and help you feed your love of the craft. That’s why the yarn might cost a little more. But not as much more as you might fear. As we’ve said, most shops have a full range of price points, so don’t get intimidated before you even check it out. And if you come in more than a couple of times, I bet that shop owner starts to recognize you and light up when you stop by. You can’t put a price tag on that.
So let me recap: we do not hate Walmart, JoAnn, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or Amazon. They are all good at other things. Just not yarn. And we do not look down on people who shop for yarn at those stores. We just plead with them to give local a chance, and see the difference. Trade up, and enjoy the treasure you will find.
The DFW Yarn Crawl – August 17-26 – is the absolute best opportunity to see what our area shops and indie artists have to offer. Your life will be immeasurably enriched.
DFW Yarn Crawl Founder
and Head Wrangler