In a couple of months the city of Rotterdam, with 629.606 inhabitants, will have only a few yarn shops left. In the last year, two shops, that I know of, have closed their doors. And a third luckily found someone to take over the shop. It was close to closing after being in business for over 125 years!!
At this point I can count only 3 yarn shops in Rotterdam that will fit my definition (more on that later) and I've heard that a city like Berlin has more than 20 yarn shops.... shocking isn't it?!
You might think that I would be happy about this, more customers for me, YAY! But no... first off all I know how I would feel if I had to close the doors to my home-away-from-home, but even if it was a decision that was made for more positive reasons, even then I'm not chuffed about the idea of being a wool island in a sea of acrylics. This is not a post on the merits of wool and natural fibres, but I'm talking about Yarn shops here, not the HEMA, Zeeman, Wibra or other department stores where you can load a ball of yarn into your basket, have no idea what to do with it but will figure it out for the cost of a euro. Again, this is exaggerated I know there's great acrylic out there or sublime mixes. But still. You know...
I am talking about shops that have your back. Shops where experts will help you pick your yarn and help you find that matching pattern. Shops that host Knit Nights, Stitch 'n Bitch gatherings and are a warm community where you meet like minded fluff nerds to whom you can express yourself in a language that will make muggles dazzle. Shops that provide you with workshops and lessons to teach you skills in the most fun and efficient way, using a learning curve to get you to advanced status swiftly, guiding you and comforting you like no you tube film could ever. Shops where you can talk about your sick dog, your new boyfriend, your move, your divorce, your views on the social economic behaviour of peers and, let's be honest... men. And all this while serving hot tea, coffee and biscuits.
I have a couple of sentiments when it comes to these closing doors and I've been pondering on this blogpost for months now. It's so hard to find the right tone, we're talking sensitive issues here, you know how it is... It was easy to have an opinion as a blog writer but since I own a shop I have customers and I've become a little less outspoken. Still I decided to give it a go.
Why it hurts when yarn shops close their doors:
1. It's bad for business!
Yes, it is! Bad for MY business. Imagine if you've always bought your dark brown sock yarn at your favorite LYS and now you'll have to buy hand dyed blue faced leicester. I know some of you (including me) believe that's a step up, but who are we to judge? What if you really want brown simple sock yarn? Or what if you simply don't have the budget for fancyschmancy yarns? [added: while typing this story someone called me with literally this issue and quote-unquote stated; 'No way! My husband isn't worth that kind of money!'.] And what if you are crafty but not all that creative (and there's no judgement there). What if you need a pattern magazine with matching yarns in a colour that matches the picture in the magazine?
These are just two, but very realistic, problems that knitters from other shops might have to overcome if they come to mine. I am working on finding ways to find overlap with my personal beliefs and philosophies to facilitate the community and, let's be fair, get some of the business my way. But until that day I'll have to disappoint some people and that can't be good for business... We need all the shops that facilitate all the different types of crafters! One shop can't be all things to all people. And more so I don't want to run a shop like that. I have ideas, I have... well... a vision, don't laugh... I do!
2. Most shops close because they just don't make it.
We can argue that there are a number of reasons why a shop isn't able to keep their doors open, but let's just go with the obvious one; they haven't been able to sell enough yarn. Was the yarn too expensive? Was the personnel not nice enough? Was the location ineffective? Was the choice limited? I want to say something about the later. Choice of yarns is extremely grand these days. And so are the ways to get it. Your local yarn store, yarn shops you encounter by accident (...) while traveling, festivals, fairs and web shops and all of them in vast numbers. We are bombarded by brands, designers, patterns and ideas inspired to the point it won't fit in our heads. There is Ravelry, Pinterest, Instagram. We have friends all over the world in our Ravelry friends group. And all these choices are very accessible.
We live in a made-to-measure world and when we handcraft items we expect to be able to make it exactly how we'd like it. We browse around Zalando and bol.com until we find the perfect pair of boots for the lowest possible price. So why would we buy yarn any other way? So we can find that tomato red alpaca/merino blend in woolen spun dk because we know how to find it. We google and we conquer! But when it turns out that the yarn is more brick red than tomato red, that the alpaca/merino sheep was probably sick or elderly by the touch of the yarn, when it turns out we should have picked another type of ply for the intended project because the sweater has draped lovely... to our ankles... then I would like to make a case for your LYS.
And this is where it becomes prickly (pun intended). I own a LYS. Of course I would make a case for you to buy your yarn here. Yes, it's that simple and, no, it isn't.
In all honesty I'll give you a view in my stash... I buy yarn e-ve-ry-where. Literally. London. Shetland. Sweden. Denmark. At festivals and fairs. I'm not even 100% loyal to my own shop. I buy yarns to test if I want to sell them in my shop, I buy yarns as a souvenir, I mostly buy yarns to support the shops that I visit and I've bought yarn from a shop that was going through a difficult time. I call yarns that aren't from my shop 'bastard yarns' so I do have some self-knowledge and I'm not telling you to buy all your yarn from your LYS (or me) I know that's not fair. I really, passionately and wholeheartedly want to let you in on the fact that is is not only nice but critical to support your LYS in the ways that are suitable for you. I know that a lot of people just don't think about the fact that running a wool shop is hard work and costs a lot. (It's also the best job in the world!) and so because they don't know they don't understand why support is so important. It is. It really is. Us woolly shops need you to exist is really that simple.
I am just gently nudging you to give it an extra second of though next time you buy yarn, or book a workshop. If your LYS sells it, go local! If you want to shop local in the future, you'll have to keep it there.
And again... I'm not telling you what to do, just informing you. Buy that souvenir yarn. Get that one-of-a-kind indie dyer treasure at the festival. Love and enjoy yarn and crafting! I'm talking about ALL the local yarn shops, not just mine. And to make this point, I've made a list....
So here's yarny Rotterdam. I didn't include the hobby shops where you can find a couple of balls of cotton and I didn't include the aforementioned acrylic shops. These are shops that give you some choice. Some give you expert advice, others will show you were to find the yarn in the shop and let you get to it. Some will offer amazing workshops, others will help you out if you have a simple question. Some will offer you a place to hang out, others will just help you pic what you need. But they are local and if not many, I think everyone can find what they need.
Het Garenrijk (vanaf februari 2017)
Jonker Fransstraat 101a
Zwaanshals 283 a
Groene Zoom 281b
Gouwstraat 56c Rotterdam
Eversdijckstraat 34a Rotterdam
If you know of a shop that's not mentioned here and fits my idea of an LYS (described in the text) please let me know and I'll add it to the list.
Thank you for the nice reminder of how important it is to shop local. Not speaking Dutch – but living in the Netherlands I must admit I take the easy option of ordering online but you have inspired me to take the trip north to visit your city and do a bit of shopping :)