One of the biggest complaints I hear from my knitting and crocheting students is that they hate going into yarn shops because the workers are unfriendly and unhelpful. The women behind the counters barely look up from their knitting to acknowledge they entered the store, much less help them find some yarn or answer a question.
I’ve had my fair share of run ins with angry shop owners. Loopy Yarns in the South Loop blacklisted me after an unfortunate, ‘No, take that back and tell them you don’t want to spend $22 on rosewood needles or $70 on three skeins of yarn for a baby sweater” incident. Final price of materials after return? $44.
Another student of mine went to Loopy when they were hiring and after she told them she learned to knit at The Sweatshop they told her she knit incorrectly.
When I first started teaching classes a yarn shop owner who will remain nameless sent me an email after seeing my ad on craigslist telling me that I have no business advertising that I can teach people to knit in two hours. I should advertise that I’m teaching a crash course in knitting and not the skill. If I wanted to see how a real beginner knitting class worked I could go to her shop and check it out, for $120.
I work above a knitting shop (‘work’ is the 4 hours of office assistance I put in every morning), so sometimes when I’m feeling lazy I stroll in and see if they can save me a trip to Joann.
Today it was warm and kinda stormy so I thought I’d try to save myself a hot bike ride. I walk in. Three women sitting at the work table in the middle of the store don’t look over. I need materials for one of my students in beginner knitting class, so I start looking around.
‘Can I help you?’ the youngest of the three woman asks me, getting up, leaving the other women to talk at the table.
‘Yeah, I’m just looking for some cheep acrylic yarn for a beginner.’ I say. Her face goes from uninterested to dead.
‘We don’t have any acrylic yarn,’ she says, looking at me like I just told her to suck it. She walks over to a wall of yarn and pulls out a skein. ‘When we teach beginners we give them this. It’s wool.’
I take it from her, fingering its rough fibers. ‘It doesn’t split? I don’t like giving beginners wool because of its tendency to split.’
‘Oh,’ she says, taking it back. ‘Well I’ve got an acrylic cotton blend over here,’ she moves to another section of the store. She hands me an 80 yard skein.
‘Well, it isn’t very big,’ I say. 80 yards? Come on.
‘Right, well I’ve got an acrylic wool blend here that is bigger,’ she reaches for another skein. ‘But it’s $9.’
‘Yeah, that isn’t going to cut it.’ I say, handing it back to her. ‘I guess I’ll just have to bike over to Joann.’
‘Well I’ve got this acrylic yarn here,’ she says quickly, up and over to a new corner of the store so fast I lose her in the boxes and crates laying everywhere. She pulls out another ball, more what I’m looking for, simple and acrylic, but on the small side. ‘That is $4.’
The price was right, but I knew that we would have to go through this fiasco again when I wanted cheap straight needles, no rosewood, please, so I hand it back, ‘Thanks for your help! But I need something bigger.’
I run out of the store, past the women still busy chatting at the table. I can only imagine what they said to each other about me after I left. It is probably the same story I’ve told here, only with an emphasis on how I’m stupid for wanting acrylic when I could have gotten the wool. Probably with a few, ‘And she said she is a teacher?’s thrown in.
I’m cool with it. I biked over to Joann and got the beginner materials I needed for $6.52. $1.48 mark up to make up for a sweaty bike ride? I’d say that is a deal.