Friday, August 17, 2007

Knowing, needles, and an LYS

So I'm gonna make these socks, right? Right.

Wrong-yarn wrong-needles test? Check.

Run-through of the basic elements of the chart? Check.

Right yarn? Just arrived yesterday. Beautiful hand-dyed.

(As usual, poor quality of photos tells you how beautiful the yarn really is.)

Right needles? Still not in my possession.

Here's where my local yarn store (LYS) comes in.

The story I am about to tell you is from my perspective. Others who were there will tell you a different story, because that's how life is. And that's cool. Everybody's gonna have a different telling, but rest assured, my version will have the most flair.

Also, let it be known that I don't like to call people out. I really don't. But sometimes things are just too egregious to ignore.

Let me start by saying that my LYS is a complex place, made up of complex characters. It is very conveniently located around the corner from my house, so it's got that going for it. However, more often than not, my LYS has That Vibe rocking on full blast. Maybe it's because famous people shop there, maybe it's something else, but those ladies have somehow perfected the art of down-the-nose-vision. As I've said before about this, you're trying to sell yarn, no? You're not weeding the hacks out of the neurosurgery rotation. One day that gravitas is gonna kill a person.

OK. That's too strong. Sometimes they are perfectly cordial to me. Let's just dive in to what happened.

A few days ago, I decided I should just run into the store to buy the needles I needed for these fancy socks so that when the yarn arrived, I'd be ready. So, in the middle of the day I zipped over there. I was in a perfectly good mood, cheerful and friendly. Really. I would tell you if I'd been crabby. I promise you, I was at peace with the world.

There were three women in the store. One works there (the one who literally pushed me over once), one was a Regular who had come to knit for the afternoon. And the third was the Owner, who was sitting in a little knitting area across from the Regular. The latter two were knitting.

Me (to Owner, cheerfully): Hi! I need some needles.
Owner: OK.
Me: Just some double-pointed 1.5 US needles.
Owner (cocks her head to one side and squints a little. I get a little whiff of The Vibe): 1.5 US?
Me: Yep!
Owner: What are you making?
Me: Socks.
Owner and Regular together: OH!
Regular (knitting, not looking up): I've never understood why people make socks. You never see them!
Owner (to the Regular): Oh, there are people who love to make socks. Sockers.
She says "sockers" like someone might say "cancer" or "racists".
My inside voice: I'm standing right here.
My outside voice: I'm making some socks for a friend who asked me to make them for her. It's not that I really l-o-v-e to make socks.
Owner (to me): I've never heard of 1.5 US needles.
Me: Uhm.
Owner: There are 0. And 1. And 2. But no 1.5 US.
Me: Huh. That's what the pattern calls for.
Owner: Well, just because the pattern says it doesn't mean it's right.

At this point, I'm starting to get the sense that this isn't going well.

Employee: Let me show you what we have.
She disappears into the back.

The rest is a bit of a blur, a flurry of very awkward moments.

At one point the Owner tries to engage me with: You've been knitting this summer!
Me: A little, but I've actually been sewing quite a bit.
Owner: Me, too. But it's always with my knitting. What have you been sewing?
Me: I made the Purl Rabbit recently. From The Purl Bee?
Owner: Oh, yeah. She has a nice site. Do you shop from her store online? (very serious) Don't tell me you've bought yarn from her.
Me: I haven't. Cross my heart. I've bought fabric.
The Owner and Regular then get into a conversation about the "Yarn Shopper" and how savvy "they've" gotten, how they'll just look for the best deal online and buy their yarn there instead of in a store.
My inside voice: Again, I am standing right here. In. Your. Store.

The topic returns to needles, and the Employee is now trying to give me some Lantern Moon Ebony needles.
Me: Oh, I've had a bad experience with those. They split.
Owner: You don't know that.
Me: Yeah. I had some that just split and ate my cashmere.
Owner: But these might not.
Me: I've heard from other people that they've had the same experience with that needle. So, I'd rather go with metal. Do you have any metal needles?
Owner: No.
Me: Oh.
Owner: What kind of metal needles would you use?
Me: I haven't used them, but I hear Knit Picks makes good ones.
Owner (fully sponsored by The Vibe): Knit Picks makes needles?
Me: Yeah. They're what the Yarn Harlot uses.
Regular: The Yarn Harlot?
Owner (to the Regular): She's this wildly popular online knitter. I'm telling you, you have to cater to these people, because there are a lot of them.

My inside voice: I. AM. RIGHT. FUCKING. HERE!

Owner (and I swear to God she said this to me with the Vibe-iest Vibe that ever Vibed): For someone who doesn't really make socks, how come you're so picky about your needles?

I tried to make the best of it. I really did. I even bought some needles I didn't really need. The cherry on the sundae? This final exchange as I was leaving:

Owner: You should bring your socks in and come knit with us sometime.
Me (with a smile and a playful tone): I don't know if I will. They are socks.
Owner (not playful. at all.): Oh. Now you've got an attitude!

This was absolutely the craziest display of crazy-making I've seen in a yarn store yet. If they'd been super busy or I'd been acting like a jerk, it would be more understandable. It wouldn't be the best way to treat a customer, but I'd understand. But this? All I can figure is that someone with knowledge they've acquired online has somehow become public enemy number one at this store.

I understand that brick-and-mortar stores are having it rough. I do. I want to support local business as much as humanly possible. But this store is not just having it rough because of The Online. It's saying something when there's a yarn store right around the corner from me, and I'm not in it every day of the week.


But here's a question: In the spirit of wanting a peaceful planet, should I take her up on her invitation and go knit with them? Try to better understand the situation?

No, right?


heather t said...

zoinks. You might go try it once. Personally, I would not be inclined. But you might be a better person than I.

kim said...

Pardon my French, but abso-fucking-lutely NOT! No.

You have touched upon a huge pet peeve of mine. Oh, and have you also noticed that the "in-store" knitters are rather possessive of the people who work in the shop? It's crazy!

Ashley said...

Oh my god, no.

Of course, I say that as someone who is to shy to go knit even at my very nice lys where everyone is super-kind and helpful. But still, NO.

Kind of a whole different issue, but they ONLY carry wooden needles at that store? WTF? And also, if you're going to be magic-looping it up, Hunt yourself down some Addi Lace needles. Worth your money and the wait if you can't get them local.

Stella said...

Good god. Some snobs really go above and beyond the call of ordinary snobbery, huh?

And to answer your question, NO. Sometimes wanting a peaceful planet means just the opposite: stay the hell away.

Michelle said...

Arghhhhh....That makes me sooooo mad... I have had that happen to me before, never went back. I'm all for supporting local stores but when I'm treated that way I'd much rather buy from a nice online store... I don't think I would have it in me to go knit there... Why can't people be nice?

Kim said...

It amazes me how people blame the Internet existing for people moving there. In the beginning people were really hesitant to, and the online businesses made a point of having great customer service. I think customer service is the key for LYSs- winding yarn, ordering things in, being knowledgable. I was just in a rather new LYS, and when I asked about certain yarn, she looked it up and allowed me to look at and touch the color card with the swatches of yarn on it. That's service. You bet if I choose that yarn, I'm going to order it from her!

BigAlice said...

I think I would not only answer "no" but "hell, no".

Unless you like being insulted and cold-shouldered.

Anonymous said...

This is SO CREEPY, because I was just calling Dr B this morning to ask her if she wanted to go to ANOTHER LYS because, I said, I am TOTALLY DONE with that very same lys. I can confirm that VIBE thing is totally rocking there and it just sucks the living soul right out of you.

Anonymous said...

Right, no. I almost never buy yarn in a LYS because service is crappy and I can get everything I want cheaper on line. The Vibe is alive and well, unfortunately, and all over the place!

On another note, I was just at the FiberFest in Santa Monica (at the Civic Auditorium) where Lisa Souza has a booth!

I use Crystal Palace bamboo needles to knit socks. They make a US1.5 (2.5mm). Check the mm size when looking for needles - some are called US1 and they are 2.5mm. (Crystal Palace US1 needles are 2.25mm)

Oh, and hi. I came over here via yarnival. Having a great time visiting your blog! ~Tigger's Mom

Nia said...

No. They would probably pitch a fit anyway for knitting something with yarn you did not buy there.

jane said...

Oh my goodness....I just wish I could be there and go to that store with you! Together we could show them some vibe! We could talk about yarns and needles etc. that don't even exist and act like we just can't believe it that they've never heard of them What fun we could have!!! "OH do you carry the new Abrigailly yarn...NO? you're kidding me!..everyone is using it, it's all the rage. It's alll the Yarn Harlot talks about now! What kind of yarn DO you have if you don't carry Abrigailly!" Oh my, I crack me up!

Nora said...

I'm going to say YES! Go and knit with them, Dr B. Go, go, gooooo... because I want to read another hilarious post like this one!
So, go.
Go, now.

Nano said...

OK, first of all, I'm alive and well, thanks for the concern.

Second, no, No, NO! Don't go knit there, don't even give them your business anymore. A situation with my lys has stopped me from going there at all. (but I do miss being able to see and touch all that fiber). I'm an online shopper mostly, but I would go to the lys for things I couldn't wait for or just to browse. The last time I went in, I was literally treated as though I was invisible. So now I am. At least in that store.

I have Crystal Palace bamboo 1.5's. Love them! Lightweight and shorties too. Worked great for my gloves and on socks. Maybe that yarn shop owner should do some "online" research and then be able to stock the store with items that DO exist.

Bought my needles online from

Ordered them on a Friday night, received them on Monday. Now that's service!

RobynR said...

Oooooooooh. My God. No. Do not return there ever. They clearly wish to suck all of your joy in knitting from your marrow. To sit there and try to work on anything would result in a)an ulcer. b)large tooth-shaped holes in your tongue (maybe) and c)gauge so tight that your item would be both water and wind proof.

Carol said...

I would totally go knit there one night. With yarn and needles I bought online and loudly proclaim it every minute or so. But I am well known to be vindictive...

Stacey said...

geez. I don't know if I could stand sitting there and knitting with them! I say you tried to make a purchase in there - that was their chance!

annika said...

I absolutely do not believe in supporting snotty yarn stores anymore. The sad thing is that snotty yarn stores believe that the reason no one shops there is because they all shop on-line…the seem to miss the fact that no one wants to shop in a snotty yarn store, although I confess to buying my fair share of needles at snotty yarn stores because I feel bad that I don’t like them.
With that sad try Brittany needles- they make 1.5 and they don’t split-promise. They also get lovely with the oil from your hands AND Brittany has a lifetime replacement program so if you break one (which usually happens with small needles and socks) they will send you a new one no questions asked.

Leslie said...

Wow, I don't understand anything about that encounter! What an uncomfortable experience. I'd have to think long and hard before returning there to shop.

Dr. B. said...

Annika - It's amazing how The Vibe can be so strong as to make *us* feel bad! Crazy! Also, thank you for the tip about the Brittany needles. I have one pair of theirs, and they are actually the very first pair of knitting needles I ever owned. So they have a soft spot in my heart. Thanks for reminding me about them.

Dr. B. said...

Tigger's Mom - Thank you so much for that information! It's been really, really helpful!

Vicky in Vancouver said...

I agree that the regulars do seem possessive of the owners/staff at most LYS, and give off the vibe that you're disturbing them when you enter.
I have never understood why people who make their living from retail sales do the snooty thing. Hey, I'm in your store, I have my method of payment, I may have questions for you that will result in me purchasing more of your stock. I don't get, why they don't get it.

I'll buy yarn or fabric (I also quilt) online if it's something unique or a particularly good buy, but I prefer to be able to handle textiles before I buy them. You'd think the retailers would want to exploit that.

Dr. B. said...

Vicky in Vancouver - Well put! Why have a store if you don't want customers?!

vt said...

Hey - awesome post. Love the story. I can picture it. Perfectly. The upside is that no one knocked you down. And you should never go knit there. Unless I go w/ you and then we can make fun of everyone together. Then it just might be worth it. Maybe.

Jean said...

Oh, honey. That's completely outrageous. I stopped going to that particular LYS a long time ago. I stopped going for far less serious reasons but after hearing this story, I feel totally vindicated for having been turned off. There are plenty of other LYS's in our area who deserve my business loads more. I shop at all the ones who are nice to me *and* I shop online. I'd be seriously ticked if any of them gave me any flack for that. To feel the sock knitting love, Compatto in Santa Monica and A Mano Yarn Center on Venice are the tops. On this side of town, Knitters Studio (3rd & Crescent Heights) has reliably excellent customer service. For US 1.5 dpn's, Knit Picks is where it's at. You can even borrow mine, if you want.

tiennie said...

Oh.My.God! What do you think they'd think of me and all of my sock knitting?! I find it incredibly rude to insult customers - just b/c they've never heard of something doesn't mean that it doesn't exist and they should never discount anyone's perception or force someone to purchase very expensive and unwanted needles. I for one do not go back to a place that is rude to me. I spend a lot of money and won't be giving it to those places!

Mary-Heather said...

Yeesh. May I ask which LA LYS? You can email me (rainydaygoods at gmail dot com). I think it is quite tasteful that you didn't say the name online, but still, I live here... and I like to go where there are nice, knowledgeable people. I do have a guess... sigh. What is up with LYS attitude? I used to manage a yarn store here in LA, and it's not that hard to be nice. Really, it's not. Also, it's not hard for shop owners to, say, learn about different needle sizes. Just sayin'.

Mary-Heather said...

P.S. Lantern Moon needles do split. Especially in the sock sizes. I freaking LOVE the feel and look of them but won't buy them anymore. Sniffle.

Christine said...

Man, am I ever grateful that my LYS *gets* the whole Yarn Harlot thing. The owners don't knit socks often, but because of all of us ONLINE knitters that do, they have a ton of fantastic sock yarn. They brought in Nancy Bush. When the Yarn Harlot's publicist asked me about Houston yarn stores, I sent her to them, because they are that wonderful. I'm especially thankful for them tonight!

Dr. B. said...

Mary-Heather - Let it be known that you are quite easily one of the nicest people I've ever met who worked at a yarn store. You were always very helpful and kind, and your presence is greatly missed.

Anonymous said...

HELL NO! I am so tired of going into stores and even small stores with the owner treating people like dirt!!!! I mean, when I order online, sometimes I get a magnet, a little something or even just a nice hand written note telling me that my business is appreciated. When I walk into a bead shop where the owner is always there, she acts like she can't stand for me to bother her! She is always chatting with her friends or her sister which is the co-owner. I have spent HUNDREDS of dollars in her store. Yet, she always looks at me like I am trash! I have no clue why! She does it to everyone. But I have stopped going there. I have missed bead shopping, and now, another store has finally opened up. It is about 20 miles out of my way, but I will go there instead. To heck with the extra gas money! I am tired of people in the stores being so darn rude. If they are losing business, maybe they should wake up and realize why! Don't buy anything from them! No matter what! Whew, you set me off!

Dr. B. said...

Anonymous - Preach it! You make such a good point about online vendors and the sweet little extras they include as tokens of gratitude. It's a whole other mentality. I hope your comment was as cathartic for you as it was validating for me!

linda said...

I'm new to your blog -- but I just have to guess. Knitterie Parisienne?

I used to drive cross town to shop there when a specific yarn called, but it just wasn't worth it. Too much attitude, no service. Nothing like opening the door and hearing those "somebody's here" bells jingling, only to have all eyes turn, look you up and down and then dismiss you. Nobody's here, I guess.