REVIEW – YARN MANUFACTURER WEBSITES VI

First, a recap. I’ve covered these sites so far:

  • YMW I – Berroco, Knitting Fever
  • YMW II – Karabella, Adriafil
  • YMW III – Rowan, Spinrite/Bernat
  • YMW IV – Cascade, Classic Elite
  • YMW V – Patons, Lion Brand

Today we hop over and look at websites maintained by Debbie Bliss Knitwear, and Estelle.

Debbie Bliss Knitwear

The Debbie Bliss website is divided into three main sections – patterns, yarns, and information. It also has a retail section for direct orders. Starting with the yarns page we find a complete listing of the yarn lines and colors available this season. However, yarn information is rudimentary at best – listing only fiber content. There is no gauge info, no wash info, no recommended needle size, no ball weight or yardage indicated. There are no photos of retail put-ups, labels or swatches, but color is shown by a small chip style photo of the yarn, so you can kind of see the texture of the yarn. Sort of, because the chips are small. In the yarn section are also listings of retail sources. Looking up US sources generates a bounce over to the Knitting Fever website, where there’s a proximity to zip code search function (difficult to spot, in the upper left of the page).

The patterns section is a bit better enabled. Each current book is displayed. Most but not all have a link to view selected contents. These detail pages show a few of the designs from the book. A few of them go on to list the size options, the yarn used and the number of balls needed for each size. Even on pages with additional info, not every item shown is completely detailed. There are no links between the pattern and yarn pages. The patterns section also offers up an errata page with corrections offered for Baby Knits and earlier books. There’s also a free pattern for a button-finished pillow.

The information section provides contact info is listed for the major overseas contributors, but there is no eMail or ground address provided for Debbie Bliss Knitwear itself. (There’s also the caution that DBK is unable to provide help with individual patterns over the Internet.) Other offerings under "information" are pretty cursory. The newsletter mentions a trade show that happened two months ago, and the workshops listing shows classes that were held back in September. I did not attempt a retail purchase.

Overall this site is easy to use, but is sorely lacking yarn info. My guess is that this is done on purpose – to ensure that people making DB patterns use DB yarns and only DB yarns. Still, not offering up so much as care guidance for the yarn lines is an oversight. Major points are taken away for lack of basic yarn info. Some are earned back by having easily found pattern corrections, and for the half-hearted attempt to provide yarn use specs for a minority of the designs in the various books. More points are taken away for lack of direct contact info (What happens if you bought yarn direct from the site, and it was defective? While this is uncommon it can happen. To whom do you then report the problem?) Debbie Bliss Knitwear’s site gets a C-, especially considering that it offers retail capability and as such should be of more help to customers. There’s no way I’d buy anything from it without more complete information.

Estelle Designs and Sales

Estelle is another of the omnibus importer/distributors like Knitting Fever. They’re Canadian, and handle Estelle, Lang, King Cole, GGH, Dale, Tivoli, and Scheepjeswol yarns, plus Rebecca Magazine. Registered and pre-approved retailers can place orders through the website, but I don’t believe that they sell directly to end-user consumers. The site is divided into sections for yarns, books, contact info, a shop finder, and free patterns. Yarn shops have their own section (Customer area).

The yarns section is divided by maker line. Under each maker is a list of current and about-to-be-current yarns. Clicking on items in each maker’s list will pull up a detail page. The data contained on the detail pages varies from yarn maker to yarn maker. Estelle’s include fiber content; yardage/weight; suggested needle size; and suggested stitch and row gauge. There’s a large close-up shot showing the yarn’s appearance, plus color chips of each color and (for some yarns) a close-up photo of a knitted swatch. Each page is dated (a nice touch that provides assurance that the colors listed are current). Wash info is not provided for Estelle yarns. King Cole and the Scheepjeswol pages list fiber content, yardage, suggested gauge/needle size and wash info. All have color chips, but only a few have yarn close-ups. No King Cole pages show swatches. Lang has fiber content, gauge/needle size, yarn close-up and color chips (some of these show link broken); plus wash info for some but not all yarns. Dale is similar, with fiber content, suggested gauge/needle size, wash info, yarn close-up, label graphics, and color cards. GGH’s list is the most cursory. There’s a long roster of names, fiber content, yardage, and suggested needle size. No photos of the yarn or available colors, gauge or wash info.

No yarns on the site are shown in retail put-up, nor is there info on historical products. Yarn info pages list that makers’ booklets for some but not all of the lines.

The Knitting Books section shows covers of the various leaflets and books distributed by Estelle. Except for photo lists for Estelle’s own line of patterns, no effort is made to show the contents of any other book or leaflet, pictured either here or under the individual manufacturer pages. The Estelle pattern lists show leaflet contents. Each design names the yarn used to make it. No info on sizes or yarn quantities is offered. No links are provided back to the yarns themselves. Amusingly, all the Estelle projects (including the blankets) are shown modeled by the same woman, and there don’t appear to be any patterns for children, babies, or men.

The contact page includes eMail, telephone and ground addresses. The free patterns page offers up mostly scarves, but has a smattering of other projects, too. Few of them however are illustrated. (Note: the presence/absence/quality of free patterns do not affect my grade of the site). There’s a shop finder that provides shop names, towns, phone numbers and (if available) web links, but not street addresses. There’s also a "what’s new" page that describes the latest additions to the website.

Estelle has clearly aimed its website at shop owners as its primary customers. End user knitters are given thought in the free patterns and shop finder areas, but those services are secondary. Points are awarded for the availability of current yarn info. Points are taken away for the unevenness and partial completeness of that info, lack of info about the patterns, lack of historical info, and lack of pattern errata. I’ll factor the shop-owner focus into the grading here, as the thing isn’t intended to be a retail site. Even so Estelle emerges with a C+. If the yarn pages were more uniform in info content and included wash instructions, and if a list of historical info was provided I’d bump it up to a B-.

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