05 September 2005

The Perfect Yarn Store

I do yarn shop tourism. Partly this is because yarn shops in my immediate vicinity are scarce, and partly because it's just fun. So any time I travel, if I have the chance, I try to visit new fiber stores. You can read reviews from some of my visits here.

I have a (totally unrealistic) fantasy of owning my own LYS. As the new academic year begins, and I begin the thankless and unrewarding job of department chair, it's particularly tempting to lapse into this fantasy. So yesterday, as the family was driving home from a visit to the Railroad Museum in Old Sacramento (which entailed no yarn shopping), I gave my patient husband an oral dissertation on the Perfect Yarn Store. Here are some of the Perfect Yarn Store's characteristics.
  1. Naturally, it has an excellent selection of yarn. It is particularly strong on high-end basics, and it carries a wide selection of some of my frequent standbys, such as Lamb's Pride, Manos, and Noro. It also carries some novelty yarn, but it's stronger in basics.
  2. The staff is friendly and helpful, and yet allows people to shop without hovering over them. I like to feel like I can browse forever, unmolested, but also that assistance will be at my beck and call if needed.
  3. The store is sufficiently well-staffed that it's easy to find someone to help you, and you don't have to wait long to pay.
  4. The yarn is displayed in such a way that it's easy to find something specific. I prefer stores that organize by fiber weight and type, not by color or brand.
  5. Like Lint (in Portland, Oregon), yarn bins have tags that are color-coded by yarn weight. This makes it easy to find, for example, all the worsted yarns.
  6. The store is attractive and it is clear that the owners have given thought to its design.
  7. There are places to sit and browse patterns or, perhaps, just sit and knit.
  8. There's enough room in the store that it doesn't feel crowded, even when there are lots of shoppers inside.
  9. The lighting is good.
  10. There is an excellent and well-organized selection of patterns and notions.
  11. Each yarn is clearly tagged with price.
  12. Each yarn has at least a small swatch displayed nearby, so you can see what it looks like knitted up.
  13. There are lots of knitted up garments on display, each clearly marked as to pattern source and yarn tpe, amount, and cost.
  14. It's easy to reach the yarns (I'm 5 feet tall).
  15. It's kid friendly. Really, I prefer to shop unburdened by my offspring, but that's just not always possible. I love yarn stores that have a box of toys to occupy the kids. I also prefer if the staff does not give the evil eye to my generally well-behaved girls the moment we enter.
  16. There's a cafe in the yarn store (which also makes a good place to occupy children and spouses).
  17. It's easy to find the store, and parking or public transportation is convenient.
  18. The store also carries a nice selection of buttons, and maybe even other goodies like jewelry.
  19. There are other interesting shops and restaurants nearby. I often make a day's outing out of a yarn store trip, especially since many stores are located 2 hours or more from my house.
  20. The store is open long hours. I have a full-time job and two young kids; I can often only manage to shop on weekends or evenings.
  21. The store has a website with information about hours of operation, directions, and a list of yarns carried. News on upcoming events would be nice, too
  22. The store sponsors not just classes (which I have never taken) but also fun events. For example, I've seen shops that have book club/knitting nights, special knitting nights for moms, and knitting trips and camps. At one store, I recently saw a poster advertising a Knitting at the Movies night: a local theater would be showing March of the Penguins with the theater lights only part-way dimmed, so that people could knit and watch the movie.

I'm sure I can think of other things as well, but this is a good start! Of course, no single store can meet every one of these criteria, and some of the criteria are more important than others. If anyone thinks they've found the Perfect Yarn Store, I'd love to hear about it. In my next post, I'll list the closest contenders I've found so far, at least in Northern California and Oregon.

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