Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly ~ The Decline of Local Yarn Shops


If you're reading this, chances are you are a lover of yarn.  If not, stop by sometime, let me introduce you and that will change quickly.

I consider myself to be one of the luckiest people in the world.  I have found my passion in life and have turned that passion into an occupation.  Along the way I have met extrodinary people, learned a WHOLE LOT about what it takes to run a business and have fallen more deeply in love with my industry.  The people who handcraft with fiber are some of the most generous, kind and incredible people you will ever meet and I can't imagine my life without having met this amazing community in my little corner of the world.

In the 3+ years that we have been in business we have yarn bombed a light post, a chair and an entire parking deck.  We've shared our successes at monthly PJ Parties, cheered on local ball teams at summertime Stitch n Pitches and created amazing trees for the Holiday Tree Festival.  Countless baby hats, chemo caps & warm clothing for those in need have passed through our shop.  

We've supported women in their march to make life a little better for one another and are currently working with an amazing fiber artist on an incredible crocheting project that celebrates strong, empowering women in US history.

And what is the common thread that runs through each and every one of these life events?  Yarn!  We are all drawn together by our mutual love of fiber.  The ability to take a string and a couple of sticks or a hook and perform magic.  Something to wear, snuggle under, cuddle or pet.  It's a huge part of our lives and we can't imagine life without it.  I know I can't!


I recently came across the '2017 Year End Report' by America's Knitting which is a directory of sorts for yarns shops in the US and they also do what they can to promote the uniqueness of shops with stories, information, photos, etc.

The results of the report were disheartening and unfortunately, not surprising. On January 1, 2017 there were 1,034 yarn shops throughout the US.  Fastforward to January 1, 2018 and the number has shrunk to just 970.  That's a loss of 64 shops in 12 months.  When they started keeping records back in 2007 there were 1,445 shops and the numbers have declined each year ever since.  I know that just in Northeast Ohio, since I opened for business in August of 2014, there have been 8 closings!

These numbers are staggering and terrifying.  Are yarn shops on their way out?  Will we soon all be making our yarn purchases from that big box store in the sky?  What about personalized service?  What about being able to feel the softness of the yarn prior to purchasing or having a place to hang out with your like-minded yarn enthusiasts?  Is there no longer value in these things?

When I opened I really felt that by offering classes and a place to go to for support would set me apart.  That offering a community meeting space within my shop and excellent customer service would ensure that I would be around forever!

But now I'm not so sure.


Yarn shops, and all small locally owned businesses for that matter, depend solely on the patronage of the community for their livelihood.  To pay the rent, to restock their shelves, to pay their employees, to keep the lights on...  we can't do it without our customers.  

Unlike big box stores, we miss you when you haven't been around for awhile.  We worry about you when you're going through tough times and celebrate with you when you come in with exciting news to share.  We really & truly care about you and are happy when you stop by, whether it's for inspiration for your next project or to pick up that extra skein to finish the one you're already working on. We want you to learn and grow in your chosen fiber craft and we provide instructors who encourage and applaud your success!

So what can you do?  Put down that mouse and get in your car and drive to your local yarn shop!  You may find that the blue yarn you were looking at on the computer screen is actually teal.  Make a purchase! Whatever it is that you were looking at online, you will most likely find it or something very similar at your LYS.  And if not, chances are they will be happy to order it in for you.  

The money you spend there goes back into the local economy, not to some corporate headquarters in another state... or another country.  You're appreciated and valued.  We know your name and chances are, we also know the names of your kids, dogs and husband.

So keep this in mind the next time you need yarn for a project.  Take the time to go out and shop locally.  You and your LYS owner will be so glad you did.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Gift-A-Long With Me

Gift-A-Long 2017 - An 'A' for Effort

Raise your hand if, at the beginning of each year you have great intentions of creating amazing hand-knit gifts for everyone you know.  Now keep your hand up if, by around October, you find yourself frantically searching Ravelry for quick, chunky hat patterns.  Yeah, me too.

So, at the end of 2016 I decided to see if I could devise a plan to map out my knitting for the next year.  I emailed all of my family to see if there were any hand-knit gifts they would like and I created a system for determining the number of hours available to knit per month.  Then I computed the number of hours it would take to knit each project to determine my ability to complete them all.  If you're guessing that my plan fell apart sometime around July, you would be correct.  But my husband, God love him, was quite amused by the bag of sweater yarn and the half-knit pair of socks he got for Christmas.  

I guess I should tell you that I didn't do this all on my own.  Oh no, I decided that I needed to share my brilliant plan with the Knitizens of my shop to see how many of them I could coerce into joining in on the fun!  So I called the program Harps & Thistles Yarn Emporium Gift-A-Long, created a Facebook page for sharing information and distributed the materials that were sure to keep everyone on track.  And I have to admit that there were a few successes...  OK, one.  But that was enough to give me encouragement that, with just a little tweaking, I might actually come up with something useful.

New & Improved Gift-A-Long 2018 - Thank You Ravelry!

Why did I fail last year?  Unexpected projects?  Yes!  2 baby gifts + 2 prayer shawls + lots of shop samples.  A little bit of attention deficite?  Well, who can resist casting on that new 'Hot Right Now' project that everyone is raving about?

So this year's plan is to STAY FOCUSED!  And also make allowances for some of the above derailings and distractions.  Plus, have you seen Ravelry's 2018 Project Challenge?  We were made for each other!

Here's how it works...

When you log into your Ravelry account you'll find it under 'my notebook' in 'projects.'  Just click on the tab in the top right corner of the screen...

To start you simply type in the number of projects that you want to complete this year.  No pressure!  You can go back and change it if you need to.

This page is fed by your queue so now is where you start adding items that you want to knit and prioritizing them.  Again, you can change them around or delete them, nothing is written in stone!  Just be sure you enter a deadline for completion of the project because that's what adds it to the Project Challenge page.

HINT:  If you add a deadline to something that you're already working on, it will be added to your challenge as well.  This sounds a little bit like cheating, but I'm OK with that.

Once you have them entered you simply click back into 'challenge' to find your queue all organized by the deadline date.  Then, when you mark that you've cast a project on, it will move from your queue to your 'projects' page and move up to WIP's on the 'challenge' page.  

The remainder of your queue will be at the bottom of the page in the 'Plans' section.

Easy Peasy!

I am still using my spreadsheet to plot out my gifts, shop, personal and charity knitting projects to help me plan things out.  And if you would like to give it a try you can download it HERE

Let me know how you're doing with it and if you're so inclined, join our Facebook Group so we can see how you're doing!  And feel free to email me if you have any question.  If you live locally, you can always sign up for one of our Ravelry Classes online!

In the meantime, I need to get going.  Those 20 projects aren't going to knit themselves!