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5 reasons to love your LYS

“I can order it online for cheaper”

Yup. It’s true.

In the internet age, where everything is available online for a discount, some people are wondering why it’s worth shopping at a local yarn store (LYS).

My suspicion is that many people feel this way because they haven’t yet discovered what an LYS truly offers. A good LYS is about way more than buying yarn: and once you know that, you’ll find it easy to support your favorite shop.

Why online shops can offer a discount

Don’t get me wrong: I shop online, too. Sometimes I’m looking for a yarn that my LYS doesn’t carry. Many online yarn retailers are also LYSs (like Jimmy Beans Wool and WEBS), so I’m in no way trying to convince you that online shopping is bad.

But there’s one unavoidable truth: you get what you pay for.

Why can online shops offer a discounted price on yarn? Because the costs of running an online shop are different than running a store front. An online shop has lower operating costs than a retail store, and they’re able to pass that savings onto the customer.

True, you may be able to buy that same yarn or book online for cheaper. But you’re missing out on all of the extra goodies that come with buying from an in-person shop.

What LYSs offer that online shops can’t

Besides the obvious plus of being able to see & touch a yarn in person (and who doesn’t want to do that?!?), there are some major benefits to shopping at a great LYS.

A good yarn store is the new town square. You know how in the old days, people used to gather in the town square to catch up on gossip and see their friends? That’s what a good yarn store is like. You can gather in a comfortable space, knit, chat with friends and get the newest yarn gossip from folks in the know.

A yarn-store owner is a curator. Have you heard of the paradox of choice? It’s the idea that selecting from 100 different yarns is daunting. A yarn store owner acts as a curator, stocking their shop with the loveliest in the land.

I can say this because I go to the annual trade show: there are a bewildering number of yarns out there! In a LYS, the owner has hand-picked a selection suited to the local market. Does the such-and-such brand have a bad rap for deteriorating in the wash? Your LYS owner knows about it and isn’t stocking that icky yarn… because they know that stocking a sub-par yarn would reflect poorly on their shop.

LYS employees are personal shoppers. How many stores can you go to where there is often an employee dedicated to helping you select the best fiber, thickness and color for the project you envision? That’s extraordinary service in most shops, but more or less standard at LYSs.

Samples. I don’t think I even need to say more! A typical LYS has samples of yarns worked up, so you can see an example of a finished product. No getting tricked by weird pooling. No getting fooled by how soft it’ll be.

Help when you need it. Don’t abuse this privilege (trust me, it just creates an awkward situation!), but most LYSs have the policy that if you bought the yarn/pattern in their shop, you can pop in for 5 minutes of free help. Most of the time, a touch of help from an expert looking at your work is enough to set you on the right path. Priceless.

What’s your stance?

Have you discovered an LYS that you love? What makes it great?

Do you have ‘a policy’ about when you shop online and when you visit a store?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

All photos in this blog post were taken in Knit New Haven, one of the shining examples of what a great yarn store should be.

To hear me chat more in depth about this topic, have a listen to my recent podcast episode.

23 Responses to “5 reasons to love your LYS”

  1. laura Hansen says:

    I agree entirely!! And I buy locally until my local merchant gets attitude, and a lot of shop owners have some strange attitude and, they can’t be bothered to be friendly. I have talked with many women about this , it’s like the shop owners need our money but they don’t want to deal with us. It’s part of doing business, come early and unpack your new stock, or do the book keeping . But when you unlock the door a big part of your business is being good to your customers. And thats why I often send my money to someone on the internet.

  2. Nazaniel says:

    I really don’t get my LYS. When I went in for the first time, I was expecting them to be really friendly – instead, I got nothing. In the approximately 10 trips I have made there, only once has someone asked me what I was planning to make. (You would think that would be a really easy friendly customer question to make small talk.) I made the mistake once of asking if they stocked eyes for amigurumi and the response sounded like I was some sort of idiot for even asking. It makes me wonder why I don’t just buy online.

    If anyone has a better experience of Romni Wools in Toronto (or a suggestion of a better store nearby) I’d be interested to hear them.

    • Stacey says:

      Oh, that’s such a bummer experience!
      And, it’s awful that they make you feel like an idiot for asking for amigurumi eyes… they’re something a lot of stores stock!
      Maybe someone will chime in with a better LYS for you :)

      Have you checked KnitMap? The stores on there have ratings!

  3. Justine says:

    I like my LYS but they are a 20 min drive each way and the only time they are open and I’m not working is Sat and they have just added Weds eve. I buy directly from certain indie dyers on Etsy, from Jimmy Beans for things they have that my LYS doesn’t, and from KnitPicks for inexpensive basics. Last time I was at my LYS my eye was caught by a shop sample and I ended up buying the yarn and knitting the project. Not sure if that is a reason to go there or a reason to stay away– I already have too many projects in my queue!

  4. Gracey says:

    I kinda have made it a hobby to visit LYS. I have a page on my blog for CT ones…and other states (which is in progress) One of my criteria is, is it crochet-friendly? They are getting better, but I have been to some that are not…I have a small LYS in town that I frequent, but one of my faves is Madison Wool in Madison (have you been?) I went to Knit New Haven once, it’s a bit of a trip, plus the parking is crazy…I do make the trip to Madwool every other month or so…

  5. Kathleen says:

    I understand wanting to support LYS’s, but frankly I’ve received better customer service from Jimmy Beans Wool and Webs than from stores I have frequented. I enjoy the significant savings and wide variety offered online. Usually you get free or nominal shipping and no taxes! I like to visit LYS’s when traveling but I hardly ever visit the local stores where I live.

  6. Christine says:

    I love my local yarn store (Sew Good, Knit Too, Sanctuary Point NSW). I love chatting to the owner Alison ,who is a yarn addict. I’ve been going there for over 3 years and I now work there once a week! I also teach crochet lessons there and they also stock some of my beanies. Alison has encourage me in so many ways and has made be a better Hooker. When I’m working in the shop I love finding out what people are making and helping them with colours and new yarn types. I hate going to our local Spotlight (big box store) for yarn as there is no customer service. In saying all this I do buy online direct form one Australian manufacturer as I buy in bulk and I do purchase from CrochetAustralia.com.au because they have a lovely range of turkish cottons and there online customer service is fantastic.

  7. Sarah says:

    I have two lyss. One I get the feeling I’m intruding on somone’s private knit club. The other is new and the oner crochets. I would love to shop there more but I am so broke :(

  8. Justine says:

    @Nazaniel, have you ever been to Lettuce Knits in Toronto? They look really good but I didn’t find out about them (from a friend) until after I had visited the city.

  9. Sarah says:

    I have 5 kids and can’t afford nice yarn for a hobby. I also am not that impressed with the selection at my local LYSs… One of them barely carries anything and the other carries so much it’s overwhelming, and I never know how to pick something and no one has ever offered me help. :(

  10. Rae Haller says:

    I’m sorry to say this, but I’ve only had the non-friendly customer service at the two LYS I’ve gone to, also. In both cases, I’ve gone into the LYS and the clerks did not even come to see if I needed/wanted anything. When I did ask about a certain yarn, they pointed to where it was located, did not ask if I knew what project I wanted to use the yarn for, or anything. I finally just bought a skein I thought was gorgeous, some yarn markers, and left. I have been disappointed, since in my mind I see LYS as a very friendly informative place. One where people come to knit or crochet and visit. But I have not found a place like that yet. I am still hopeful.

  11. [...] Mr Ono buys from the same fish mongers because they know what quality he’s looking for. In many cases, he’s now purchasing from the sons and grandsons of his original suppliers. Our experts would be our local yarn stores and their owners. Find a store you like with staff you love. By building a relationship with them, not only are we helping them to grow, they’ll be able to guide us in finding the best materials for the right project within our budget. Fresh Stitches has a great post on patronizing your local yarn store. [...]

  12. Susan says:

    I got to my LYS’s whenever I can, but lately I’ve been ordering online from Eat.Sleep.Knit, specifically because of how friendly the owner is. The yarn isn’t that much cheaper than buying from a store, but she emails promptly, ALWAYS asks if its okay if the dye lots are mixed (and she sells exclusively hand dyed yarns, so I imagine that’s a lot of emails), has an outstanding loyalty program, and sends candy and a “yarn lotto” ticket in every order. She also has a store front which might be why she’s so friendly, but I’ve never had such a great yarn buying experience as with her. I fell like I’m an advertisement every time I talk about her, but I really can’t say enough good things!

    • Stacey says:

      @Susan-
      Thanks so much for pointing out her site!
      Customer service is so important… so when you find a good place, announce it to the world, I say! :)

  13. Rosa says:

    I find that at some of my LYS’s they look down on you once they figure out that you crochet and don’t knit. You get that “Oh” and then the look on their face which lets you know that they don’t care about what your making because knitting is superior. It’s kind of like those H.S cliques that once they have their little group, they don’t want to let any one else in. Oh well. I find it funny. My kids are my clique and at 41 I’m “too old” to worry or care about mean girls. By the way Stacey…I mad your cloth napkins/ paper towel and love them. We use them mostly as napkins at the table since my daughter was going through 3 paper napkins during dinner alone.

    • Stacey says:

      @Rosa- I know what you’re saying… can you believe that actually happens? I can’t! I mean, we’re in the shop prepared to spend money! Anyway, I say that those shops aren’t interested in our business, and we should search for somewhere that makes us feel welcome!
      So happy you like towels… they’re a mainstay in my house as well :)

      • Robin says:

        I heard an interview with Nathania Apple, co-owner of Purlescence Yarns in Sunnyvale, California, on a podcast called Fiber Hooligan.

        This may not be a help, but according to Nathania at Purlescence crochet is fine with them. You’re a fiber artist just as a knitter or a weaver or a spinner is.

  14. Robin says:

    I love seeing a color before buying a yarn. I’ve found colors on my computer monitor to be very deceiving. Having a lys close by is great because I can see and feel yarns.

    Also I love hearing from clerks about what yarns they recommend. Often it’s a yarn I might not have thought of myself.

    Meeting my friends there is absolutely wonderful too.

    Only sometimes when I know there are 50 or so colors of a yarn I like, and know the lys can carry only a half dozen of those… ack… it’s painful.

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