A Yarn Addict Without a Dealer: What’s Next?

It’s been officially announced.  Yarn Rhapsody, the home away from home, the place where I’ve met people who have become family and close friends, and the host site for my classes and knitalongs is closing.

I walked into Yarn Rhapsody early in 2015, and bought two skeins of deep purple Malabrigo sock weight.  I was on the verge of a knitting binge of epic proportions and finding a yarn shop in my own backyard was a blessing in more ways than one. When I needed a sense of community the most it was there.  It sounds cheesy but this little store on Dawsonville Highway changed my life.

Over the years watching others create beautiful projects one stitch at a time encouraged me to challenge myself with harder and harder projects.  It was Claudia (the owner) who encouraged me to begin teaching.  Without her, this ongoing project of mine would not exist.

It’s been heartbreaking to see customers fall away as shop hours became unpredictable last summer/ fall while Claudia was going through cancer treatment.  Even though she’s regained her health, the customer base didn’t come back despite efforts to pull people back in. Small business can not afford to lose momentum.

I’m deeply concerned for my friend (and German big sister), she’s loosing her livelihood and her dream job.  She’s a survivor in more ways than one, isn’t the type to wallow in self pity, and she’ll land on her feet and continue to move forward to her next chapter, but this type of transition is never easy for anyone.  So please, wish her well, and help her with her biggest request as the store wraps up its last days, empty it.  She would like to close the doors on the last day with nothing left to pack up.

I’m horrible at eulogizing Yarn Rhapsody, but this is a bitter loss, a blow to the local crafting community, the small business community, and Claudia.

Despite the resurgence of knitting and crocheting, local yarn stores are struggling.  Like most brick and mortar stores they battle online retailers that offer the same products for a buck or two cheaper with free delivery.  There’s also competition heating up between yarn stores and commercial chain craft stores, with the resurgence of yarnwork these retailers are slowly getting better yarns on their shelves at better prices, Red Heart even has a 100% merino wool line now. Everyone knows Red Heart, especially their super saver line with it’s scratchy plastic feel, known for decades for their 100% acrylic yarns.  How many millions of  blankets have been made out of it though? Are these yarns the quality you would see at most local yarn shops? No.  They certainly are tempting for some project types though, like the quick gift for the questionably knit worthy friend or family member, or for those that are ready to start knitting/crocheting larger and more difficult projects but are worried about the financial commitment.   All of this sends yarn stores a little further down the specialty store rabbit hole when lines like Encore Worsted and Cascade 220 have competitors readily available at Michael’s and JoAnn’s.

So what happens with Coffee and Wool now? Simply put, things are evolving.

First, let me make clear, that Claudia and I have discussed a lot of what I’m about to type out, even now, I have no intention on stepping on her toes.  She’s been a knitting mentor and a very good friend for several years now, if she decides she wants to teach and offer other project based services after the shop closes, I have no intention of doing anything to aggressively compete with her.  We have similar abilities, know what our individual strengths are, and have somewhat different teaching styles.  I can still see us working together on quite a few levels to make sure the educational/project help/repair needs of the local knitting/crochet community are still met after the dust settles and Claudia lands on her feet again.

Of course little of the blog side will change.  I’ll write posts, and share what information I can about the crafts we commonly love.  I’m still in search of people, places, and products that make yarnwork more interesting.

Locations for classes and craftalongs will change.  There may not be one single location in the end, and I won’t offer as many options per month.  I’m hoping to have the location issues worked out by mid-month and begin offering classes and craftalongs again beginning in May.

There will not be the convenience of a yarn store at the fingertips, so there will be need to be  better pre-planning and communication with students and participants to make sure every one has what they need before sessions begin. Options for a reservation/booking system and pre-payment are being researched. The duration of individual sessions and the number of sessions for each class/knitalong will likely change.  The current plan is longer sessions of 2-3 hours each with 1-2 meetings per class instead of one hour sessions. Craftalongs will more than likely remain at one hour each for a designated number of sessions.

I am working on creating a dedicated space in my home to serve some of the needs that the shop used to fill.  This will be space for finishing and repair services, that I intend to keep as pet free as possible.  It has always been a concern of mine when bringing home a client’s project to keep my cats (and their fluff) as far away as possible, both for the protection of project and reducing allergens.  Living in an historic small home, this is an interesting challenge but one well under way with some planning and rearranging.

I will continue to work with my private students and will happily take on more.  Individual classes will be offered at my home from time to time, a local coffee-house (the most likely option), or if the student is comfortable with the idea, I can travel to their home.  Unfortunately, my home isn’t well suited for group sessions, but I can work with a single student easily.

I am currently not interested in being a shop teacher at a single location again like I was with Yarn Rhapsody, at least not right now.  I have greater interest in possibly traveling for a half or full day group class with focus on a single project type or technique.  I am beginning to develop these type of classes and hope to roll them out late summer or early fall, more likely winter.

I would like to seriously begin designing more.  In fact, there’s a design project looming for a close friend that will be hilarious and adorable at the same time.

There it is, change is inevitable and rolling with the punches is necessary.  At a minimum I would love to stay in contact with the amazing people I have met through the shop since walking in the doors for the first time in 2015, and those that have waltzed through the shop doors since then.  The yarn craft community in northeast Georgia is special.

For those that aren’t local to northeast Georgia, its too late to save this local yarn store in Gainesville, but please, shop at your own local yarn stores for your crafting needs whenever possible.  These  business are ran by a lot of love and fairly small profit margins, no one is going to get rich selling yarn, but they are invaluable resources to the crafting community.  Too many of them have shuttered their doors over the years and we’re loosing another great one.

Shop small, shop local.

The War on Wool

This week, the trending topic in several knitting groups has been the discussion of a 3 year old, graphic video produced by PETA, of sheep being abused during sheering. There is no disagreement with the fact that the sheep featured in this video are being horribly abused by those handling them, most of the video shows one individual, that I hope is no longer working with any type of animal. However, I will argue against PETA’s claims that the actions of a few in this video do not represent the actions of the many.

I have a personal objection to PETA, and their tactics. Animals should never be cruelly treated, but I refuse to consider the opinion of an organization that publicly claims to protect animals on one hand, but has documented, and convincing evidence of abuse and unwarranted euthanization of animals on the other. I have no intention of further discussing the merits/faults of PETA any further. I’m also not interested in discussing the vegan lifestyles vs. those that use/consume animal products.

That said, let’s remove PETA from the rest of this post.

There is no doubt, that no matter the animal industry, there is a chance an animal will be treated badly by an ill-educated, frustrated, careless, or flat out cruel individual. It is the responsibility of us as consumers to research our purchases to verify that they come from providers with excellent track records concerning animal welfare. If companies can’t provide information on their sources, we as consumers, should be demanding that information become public, or simply purchase from providers that are open with information. Change can be slow, but look at what has happened in the beef, pork, and poultry industries over the past 20-years when individuals demanded better treatment of these animals. Those industries are still far from perfect but there is continued improvement.

There is no doubt, that sheep farmers are out to be profitable, but having poorly cared for animals that are neglected, starved, over crowded, stressed or abused is like a store owner smashing all of their inventory and attempting to sell it. From an economic standpoint it makes absolutely no sense to mistreat livestock. Stressed sheep will not grow a good fleece and a bloody fleece also impacts its value. A single video is not representative of a massive, worldwide industry. I am also not naive to the fact that once an animal can no longer grow a quality fleece it will often be sent to slaughter for its meat. Livestock, no matter the type do not have retirement plans, but as living beings should be treated with respect.

I’ve seen my share of fleece providing animals sheered, and all of those experiences have been very similar. The animal is lightly restrained but standing, or placed on its side, the sheering itself is quick and as soon as that’s over, the animal is released and off it goes a few pounds lighter. The animals don’t seem overly stressed but there has been the occasional animal that doesn’t want to cooperate. Those animals have been held more firmly but once again, nothing I would consider abusive. The recent comparison that wool collection is as evil as the fur industry are simply incorrect. Sheering, done correctly, does not harm the animal. The animal is free to go, live its life and grow more wool. The fur industry requires the death of an animal for its entire skin.

This is also one of those topics were the “shop local” mindset goes a long way. There is no doubt in my mind that small family farms will always treat an animal with more care than a large corporate entities.

What those that claim wool collection is abusive tend to forget is most sheep herds are not “natural” breeds. Like most types of livestock they have been bred to produce a consumable resource be it meat or fleece. Most sheep require sheering or they will overheat, risk skin infections, and maggot infestations. What do these groups expect to do with these millions of animals if wool collection was immediately outlawed? Allow them to suffer and then die in pasture? It is our responsibility as the humans that have modified these animals from their natural state to care for them ethically, and in this case, that requires sheering performed correctly and appropriate times of the year. Wool, as far as fiber goes, is a 100% natural, renewable, and biodegradable material. Many of the alternative fibers, such as acrylics, are not environmentally responsible.

I encourage everyone to do their own research and form their own opinions, but I will continue to use, wear, and knit wool.