MORE PROGRESS AND STORE CLOSURE RANT

Elder daughter’s Walker Learn to Knit book afghan continues to grow. She’s working in Cascade 220, in assorted greens gleaned from the orphan skein shelf at Wild & Woolly in Lexington (our local yarn shop).

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Her goal is to have enough finished by next fall to furnish herself with an off-to-college blanket. Younger daughter has decided that crochet is easier for her to handle than knitting, and armed with books from my library and yarn from my stash, is making a stab at a zig-zag blanket for her favorite stuffed animal. So the transmission of obsession is prospering here at String.

On my own knitting – I am making good albeit slow progress on the olive green tablecloth. The section I’m working now is rather spider-webby. It’s an eternity of rows alternating between [S2-k1-PSSO, (YO)2] and [K (K1,P1)] to make an infinitude of center double decrease columns with large eyelets between them. Given that the piece has something close to 1,200 stitches per round at this point, each row takes forever. Especially the double decrease row. The last thing I want to do is miss a loop. So progress is slow to accumulate, especially because I want this spider web area to be at least six to eight inches deep (yes I do have the play in the linking brides to accommodate the fixed stitch count of this patten and corresponding total diameter increase of the round cloth over the added depth).

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In other news, I heard that a local yarn source is closing. Not my favorite shop (thank goodness), but a two-outlet big-box store that focused mostly on fabric and decorating, that greatly expanded and then shrank its yarn department in response to the scarf knitting fad of a couple of years ago. I was always ambivalent about it. Although I did buy fabric there on occasion, didn’t buy their yarn because I wasn’t fond of that store’s effect on other area yarn shops. At one point they absorbed several of the better mid-range suppliers’ products, then using their volume purchase to engineer discounts from the makers, sold those yarns at prices significantly lower than smaller stores could manage. Doing this they cornered the market on (for example) Plymouth Lopi. Small knitshops could no longer afford to stock it and lost significant foot traffic as a result. Now the big box store is closing. No more yarn, no more fabric.

Now the reversal of yarn sales wasn’t the cause. I suspect rising rents (the mall in which it is located has expanded considerably in the past two years), the general decrease in discretionary spending (much of their revenue was from their home decoration department), and a decrease in interest in quilting and home sewing in general. Most of the times I hit the fabric department, I was the youngest person shopping, and being a Boomer, I’m no longer a sweet, young thing. Changes in the economy, changing customer demographics, crashes in the popularity of multiple hobbies, rising infrastructure costs all add up to the loss.

Now there’s a new problem. Where to buy fabric? What’s left in the inner/outer suburb belt here is woefully inadequate – shops that have scaled back their sewing departments in favor of scrapbooking and other low-investment/low skill hobbies. There are a couple of small stores scattered around, useful but with very limited stocks. I haven’t been downtown to what used to be the garment district in Boston in years. It used to be the home of several stores where bolts went to die – remnant shops and mill end type places. But that was long ago, and that neighborhood has gone upscale.

In the mean time, I note the store’s passing, plus the closing of a couple of the smaller yarn shops that opened up at the crest of the scarf knitting fad, and hope that retrenchment will leave us with local yarn stores. I for one need to see and feel yarn for inspiration – the texture, the drape, the weight, the loft, and most of all – the color. I can’t buy blind off the web, based on photos, descriptions, and reviews – even those on wiseNeedle. I value the expertise and help available at local shops, and am willing to pay a small surcharge per skein to support that help (rather than spending it on shipping). And most of all, I like the experience of seeing and evaluating alternatives in person, being able to take leaps of inspiration based on the stock of yarns and patterns at hand.

Perhaps the rise in Internet yarn shopping is part of the stampede towards sameness I see across many knitters’ projects reported on line. Someone knits something, and it turns out quite well. Other well-connected knitters see the success and want to duplicate it. So they too buy the same pattern and same yarn. Both being known entities, purchase sight-unseen is a viable option. Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing any of that, knitting up something that’s a proven winner, or using the exact yarns (or even colors) specified in a pattern or that someone else has used. It’s safe. It’s proven, and the chances of success are magnified. But it’s not the way I knit. And I’m guessing that there are other “bungie jumping” knitters out there that find the proliferation of the latest got-to-knit item stifling, and yearn for a wander through a warren of tactile and visual inspiration. If you’re out there, please speak up. And visit your local yarn shop before it’s gone, too.


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One response

  1. No help on the yarn side, but I chatted with the owner of Fabric Corner in Arlington last time I was in there, and he sounded very amenable to putting in orders of home decorating supplies (said box store had been the only place I’d found for Kirsch curtain rods for example). Fabric Corner is largely a quilting store, though.

    I will miss the silk dupion remnants, but I will not miss the sloppy cutting and price quibbling, when it comes to the fabric.

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