We’ve got too much of too much and it’s starting to itch…
Little trickles of guilt are seeping through our yarn stash. And at the same time we feel like ‘we’re worth it’. Sounds familiar? Read on.
I feel the weight of the ‘too much’ in my shop because people tell me about it all the time and I feel it too but I still need to sell more stuff to be able to earn a living and run my business. There’s a bit of antithesis here. I have been struggling with this thought and where to go with this and decided to stay close to my heart whilst staying focused on serving you and selling you things you need and that will last.
I get this questionable compliment almost on a daily basis and although I know it's meant well... It's like walking into a restaurant looking at all the plates on peoples tables and saying "Oh my god, this all smells absolutely divine but I can't order anything, my fridge is still so full." and then leaving. Imagine the look on the waiter's face.
And today I read this journal post from the Wool& brand that makes woolen dresses and dared a bunch of women to wear the same dress for 100 days. I loved that experiment!
Go on and read the whole piece, it's fun and fascinating. https://journal.wooland.com/
I have feelings and thoughts about all of this and I’ve had them for a while now.
The 'new wave of knitting' started about 15 years ago. During the last decade knitters around the world have acquired 'a-lot-of-yarn' better known as 'stash'. The enormous growth of knitting shows, festivals, fairs and even knitting tourism has added and added to our stashes without leaving us enough time in between to actually use some of those materials.
The stash as an entity is something of worth. Quite literal. I warn you: do not start calculating! It’s a force to be reckoned with. A stash tells so many stories, perfectly collected in Clara Parkes' book 'A Stash of One’s Own'. But even though I believe in the magic healing powers of stashes to a certain extent, I own a considerable one myself that I pet and love, and I believe they have a right to be here as an entity, I also think lots of us are heading towards a exploding yarn closet (or three) and it’s stopping us from functioning in a stitch by stitch way.
INSANE AND/OR ARROGANT?
Am I insane addressing this while I earn a living selling you guys more yarn? Yes! I might be digging my own grave. But the thing is... I wouldn't be able to do this job if it wasn't part of me. I choose to work with people I like, sometimes love even. I choose yarns and materials because they personally make me happy. I don't sell stitch counters or needle tip covers because I don't believe in them. I am stubborn when it comes to selling at fairs. I stopped selling cotton even though people ask for it every day. My shop is extremely personal, a room of my house on a different location. You are a visitor in my life, in my mind even. I choose your yarns for you in a way. I buy yarns I like and convince you (with good arguments) that I've made an excellent choice. Ha!
EVOLVING – EWOLVING?
My shop is doing really well, I am proud and happy and look back at 11 years of woolly entrepreneurship with feelings of love and fatigue (I've always be honest with you, not stopping here haha). Turning €300,- into a business in the middle of a crisis and make that business profitable within 3 years without any kind of loan or other sponsorship to date is something that I'm immensely proud of. But it doesn’t make me rich by a long shot. The most fun job in the world requires dedication and hard work and some sacrifices were made along the way. But it is still the most wonderful job I ever had and I still enjoy getting to work every single day.
All of this work, experience and hours of philosophizing will lead to a direction change for Ja, Wol over the next few year(s).
Although I need my business to grow I also need it to be as close to my heart as it can be. Or I might as well work for someone that can pay me a larger paycheck to follow their dreams and not mine.
So I've decided to, -instead of growing my collection by adding more and more new yarn brands, new tools, new books, and new kicks-, focus on building a clear and sustainable collection of yarns and tools that will suit this era, my personal views and the need of a lot of people I've talked to in the last years. This means skimming and choosing. Oh choices… choices…
Our own Ja, Wol GOODS will be at the center of all of this because offering things that are well made and that are GOOD for man, GOOD for animals, GOOD for the environment and GOOD for you is so much easier if I'm close to the source and process.
We as a consumer crowd have been so spoilt with choice, made-to-measure sneakers, in our favorite colour with our initials embroidered on the heels.... We are spoilt rotten. And then we look at where all these things are made. And how they are made. And we care. We all care don't we? We just find it so difficult to not give into the kicks and the thrills of the hunt. The word 'need' has become something to avoid because we all know that needing looks more like this:
This is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
but recently this one has been getting my attention:
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
So I really need to address this and share it with you, my dear followers and customers. Because it’s so close to my heart. And I believe the Buyer Hierarchy of Needs has nailed it. And I have thought it trough. There is a middle ground and there is a solution to this feeling of 'too much of too much' while I can still be the expert in all of it and of valuable service to you. And it's not about minimalism.
Wait for it....
- We start valuing the worth of things a little more:
The time indie yarn dyers spent dyeing those pretty skeins, the hours spend making a wooden crochet needle. Cutting leather offcuts to sew them into pouches. All done by local and independent makers. These people are earning their living and the price of the products should reflect this. Don’t compare these type of products to the bulk prices of other types of products. Spend the money if you want the quality.
- We start knowing more about the yarns and tools we buy:
We can learn about their specific properties (again... Clara Parkes has some pretty insane amounts of knowledge stuffed in her books) and choose the right yarns for the right project. Get this info from your LYS (local yarn shop) or online. At Ja, Wol we help you choose the right materials for your projects so they will last longer. Don’t buy tools you don’t need and spend your money on better tools and accessories that last. This is why you go to a LYS in my opinion, to make use of their knowledge.
- We start learning to use what we have and adding stuff where we need it:
We will start offering workshops that will teach you how to choose what you need. Define your needs. How to work with materials you already have. We are always willing to help you get the information you need. The missing link in your project, be it a perfect pattern for your stash or a base yarn to tie your idea together. All of this doesn’t take up any room and it will help you focus and be more at ease in your craft.
- We start choosing better:
From the harvest not from the seeds. It's strawberry season, we're having strawberries! Good restaurants only serve what’s in season and we’re perfectly happy choosing from this menu/collection. Don’t order out of season. I would urge you to go into a yarn shop and be surprised by the menu. I’ve had people come in to look for ‘the colour of dirty sheep’ and showing me one speckle from a speckled skein, asking for that particular colour. ‘The shade of pink that pulls up from white’. Open your heart and choose from what is present. Be in the moment and make it easier for yourself. And, yes, for us yarnshop people too, let’s be fair.
Taking a good hard and honest look at your needs is interesting. And let's be honest. Sometimes you really do 'need' that shade of lipstick or a full on, full out movie night with snacks and too much soda.
I am not here to tell you what you want or need. We are all creatives with plans and wishes. I am however going to offer you a clearer view and a way to shop for your craft that offers more of less and less of more. And in all of it I think we can return to the reason why most of us started crafting in the first place. A place of quiet and time for ourselves. And less of instagramming-while-knitting-adding-more-and-more-to-our-wannahaves-and-wannamakes list-oh-wait-where-was-I-in-the-pattern….
My shop will not be empty by a long shot. Just better curated. Even better. ;-) And, let this not be unmentioned, the collection will still offer good and affordable yarns and tools as well as the more luxurious stuff. The latter will still be fairly priced but higher because of a handmade process or a more expensive fiber. We will have more room to go into the depth of a product, it’s story and it’s uses. Connect better. Stop overwhelming you.
And it is an ongoing process. This might mean that some of you will miss the feeling of ‘the latest new thing’ but in all honesty, as a shop there is no way to keep up with all of it lately. You'll buy from the next new brand's own website or at a show or a festival long before a shop can get all of it on their shelves. And if they do it’s impossible to offer all the colours of all the brands so the consumer goes straight to the source for more choice. And while it’s still on the shelves, the next new thing comes along. The fastness of fashion has also creeped into knitting and I don’t like it. There it is.
Ja, Wol's collection has always been for everyone that is interested in natural and quality yarns. I have a target group in mind (I am a business and a marketer after all) but at the same time working in this industry has thought me that the Ja, Wol customer is hard to pinpoint. It's actually up to you to decide if you are a Ja, Wol customer. I can just aim and I'll see who picks up the arrows from the sky, retrieve the arrow and start a conversation with the catcher.
And while I’ve spend hours trying to put all of this into words over the last weeks, months even, most of the customers at Ja, Wol won’t even notice a difference. In the triangle of our customers the bottom half is mostly still learning why not all wool itches and will read this with big eyes and a dropped jaw. Only the top of the customer triangle will understand what all of this is about.
I hope you will follow Ja, Wol while it E-Wol-ves into a place where you are able to find what you need with more of less and less of more. Knowing the worth of things, learning about the right materials for the right projects, deciding what we need in addition to what we have and using all of this to choose better resulting in a calmer and (here she goes..) more mindful and focussed relationship with our projects.
Yours in Yarn,
(teacher, yarn philosopher, educater/ annoyer and busy business maker)
Hi Saskia, YES YES YES! I am so excited about this post and that you are bringing all those things even more into the Ja, Wol shops and philosophy then you were already doing. This is why I love your shop so much, because it always surprises me and makes me stop and think. And goes with everything I find important. Dream big, don’t apologise, you’re doing great. Looking forward to see your plans unfold.
Liefs uit Leiden,
I LOVE YARN! That being said, not all yarn is created equal, in every sense of the word. There’s a thing, important.
I also love my yarn stash, which is considerable because it forms about 98% of the materials I use for the products of my home based business…
Your thoughts and your descriptions are oh so recognizable – when I’m in my stand at a festival with my very personal selection of goods, I’m selling my mission, my designs and my handcraft, all in each and every item. 3 different kinds of reactions really:
Dank je voor het delen Saskia. Ik kan je woorden geheel onderschrijven maar had het zelf nooit zo mooi kunnen verwoorden.
Ik ben blij dat ik bij jou mooie, fairtrade en vooral diervriendelijke wol kan kopen.
Dear Saskia, the yarn philosopher. Thank you for this thoughtful post. It is spot on, in so many ways. How do we celebrate the fiber arts and support the dyers and other fiber businesses without simply becoming curators of an overgrown collection that we will leave unknit when we pass?
Zo is het maar net!!!
Buy less, buy better make it last.
Als meer mensen plezier van een zelf gemaakt product zouden ervaren, zou er duurzamer geleefd worden.
In our over-consuming society we make two huge mistakes and we let them lead us into doing this: pretending to be new, where it is only more of the same. Do I need to explain?
And second, only I do not know how to translate this: de nieuwe kleren van de Keizer. This happens almost every week. There is nothing new anymore. Add a pretty face to a product (marketing!!!) and everybody thinks its unique, but in fact it isn’t. You need better messages to products, and that’s what makes it unique. Not the new face, nor the new label, but what’s behind it. Your little girl dyeing the yarns because she loves to do it. Gathering wool that would have been unused and turning it into a product in such way that the people who make it, can make a living out of it. Using and developing knowledge from ages and use this knowledge to make a fair and good product. You do not need to sell every new product just because it’s new, but you need to offer possibilities and choices for people and you do not extend them because you can add pink to the collection for instance, because that would be the fashion of the moment. I would for instance love to see that old capacities, still around in our country, would be used again to work our own materials from the sheep into good and honest yarns, instead of shipping them to Asia and having to buy them back, resulting in enormous carbonated footsteps, where we have plenty of people, knowledge and capacity to turn it into a fair and honest product in our own country. Which is only to benefit our own people. This would be not a question of creating a need, but recreating of possibilities.
Thank you Saskia for sharing your personal thoughts and decision in our wool-loving community. Your pledge for embracing sustainability will effect us in our behavior. I worked in a quiltshop, so i know the tension between wanting more and having enough
Gathering up an armful of those arrows, and agreeing with all of this so much…