Ah, yarn. I have such mad love for the stuff. I don't even have to knit with it; sometimes just looking at it makes me happy. If you are a knitter/crocheter/fiber artist, it doesn't take long for you to figure out that there is yarn, and then there is yarn. I try not to be a yarn snob, but the honest truth is that the beautiful, often hand crafted, hand dyed, hand loved, variety that you'll find in your local yarn shop, (holla Knit One, Purl Two!) is just a joy to work with and, I think in most cases, worth the money. For me, anything that says Malabrigo on it NEEDS to come home in any and all colors.
I mean, come on.....look at that.......sigh. As knitters, we often find our "niche" yarn, though I am always open to try something new.
To be fair, places like Michaels, Joann, and that other craft supply store that will not be named, have stepped up their yarn game. Lion Brand, specifically, has begun to offer some lovely alternatives to the higher priced, not mass produced varieties, and I've knit with many of them. For kids things that will only be worn for a short time, you really can't go wrong with the chain store offerings, as long as you're ok with the fact that much of it is made outside the USA. You'll often find a great coupon for extra savings and if you get it home and it isn't quite right, you can just bring it back. You will not, however, benefit from the experience of the shop workers or the camaraderie found there.
So begins my story about a good yarn company that (in my opinion) created a not so good yarn and the trail of tears it created. I'm going to go ahead and name names here. I am reminded of the Anne Lamott quote "You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better." I'm going to try and be honest without being nasty, but it's not going to be warm and fuzzy.
One happy day my friend Trina and I decide to drive up to Madison to The Knitting Tree who was sponsoring a Prism trunk show. Both Trina and I have had previous less than positive experiences at The Knitting Tree, but they had recently moved to a new location and Prism always makes incredible yarn, so we took a chance. The Knitting Tree is a lovely store with a pretty good selection of yarns. I haven't found that they have large numbers of skeins of any one thing, though they are more than willing to order for you.(I have a pet peeve regarding this issue. I want my yarn and I want it now. If I wanted to order it I'd give WEBS my business and I do, frequently.) I feel like they cater to a somewhat high end client. I saw a knitting bag for $295 which is just insane for a cloth bag. It should have been crafted from troll mined gold and unicorn fur to charge that much. Anyway, it's not the high price of pretties that bothers me, it's the attitude of the staff there. I have never had an experience there when I was not made to feel like I was inconveniencing the staff. That is some bad customer service and it went from bad to worse.
I purchased 3 skeins of some sock yarn and they asked if I wanted it wound. ( A quick word about winding; if a store winds your yarn for you, it cannot be returned and I understand why. However, I think that important piece of information ought to be offered to the customer before winding. Buyer beware.) I can easily do the winding myself, but they weren't really busy and Trina was still shopping, so why not? Five minutes in the person winding had created such a mess that they were going to cut the ball loose (WTF) and start over. After I kindly asked that the sharp objects be set aside, another person gave it a go and just made it worse. I finally stopped them and told them I'd do it at home. As someone who has worked at a yarn store, there is no excuse for this. No apologies were made.
It is not my experience, but Trina's that is the real star of the show here. Trina found a knitted garment diplayed with the trunk show that she really loved and wanted to knit for herself. It was using a Prism yarn called Delicato and it was beautiful.
It was this pink/purple color and the fiber itself is tencel. Personally, I prefer to knit with wool based yarns, but the drape of this garment could not have been achieved with anything other than the tencel. Of course, they did not have enough skeins to make the garment and offered to order it for Trina, which she agreed to. Her card was immediately charged and she waited weeks, at least 3 if not longer, for the order to arrive. Not The Knitting Trees fault (I don't think). When it finally came she joyfully wound it and cast on. After knitting for a bit she called me in complete frustration. The yarn was splitting and looping in odd places. Any suggestions? I told her to bring it to me and I'd have a go, and I did. Let me tell you, this is the yarn from hell. It split like crazy, slipped, looped, you name it. I tried different needles, different size needles, every trick I knew and It was horrible. No yarn should be this difficult to work with I don't care who produced it or what it cost. I handed it back to Trina with apologies. At the suggestion of some other knitters, Trina took the project into Knit One, Purl Two and asked one of their experienced knitters if she would knit the project for her and the agreed on a price. Less than a week later the knitter contacted Trina and said the project was so time consuming that she would have to charge her twice the first agreed upon fee. I don't blame her. That stuff is evil.
So, Trina decides to try and return it. We both knew her chances were slim since it was already wound and a special order, but we drove back to The Knitting Tree and gave it a go. The woman that was working there, who I believe was the owner, tried knitting with it, proclaimed it very workable and basically accused Trina of not having enough knitting experience. She tried to sell her a lace needle, which, btw, they did not have in stock, and again, offered no apologies or even empathy for the problem. I will not be visiting the store again. My perception is my reality and yours may be very different, but I do not wish to spend my money in a place that treats me like I am less than intelligent. Rude is still rude, even wrapped up in pretty fiber.
My question to you fine consumers is, should Trina be somehow compensated for this fiber (it was a $100 purchase) and if so, by whom, retailer or manufacturer? I feel that any retailer of yarn or otherwise, ought to stand behind their products and that Trina should have been able to return it to the place she purchased it for compensation, at the very least, store credit. Even a little sympathetic understanding would have been nice. I understand that a brick and mortar yarn store trying to stay competitive in an internet world certainly doesn't want to open the door for knitters to return yarn on any whim and I don't think that often happens, but is there a happy medium here? Are we stuck with poorly manufactured yarn simply because it is yarn?