Lisa’s List: Questions You Should Never Ask a Yarn Shop Owner

It’s a Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting on the couch in my friend Michele’s yarn shop. I’m knitting, some shoppers are browsing, and Michele moves around the bright store, talking to people, straightening things, answering the phone. Within the next two hours, various people drift in the front door, stand there looking confused, and are greeted by Michele. And I overhear some of the STRANGEST dialogue. Based on my experiences and the experiences of my yarn shop friends, THESE are the questions you should never ask a yarn shop owner. But if you work in a yarn shop and you DO get asked these questions, I’ve supplied you with scripts for each inquiry, so you’ll be all set for your next day on the job.


Questions You Should Never Ask a Yarn Shop Owner

1.     WHERE’S THE BATHROOM? (from hurried person off the street who has no interest in yarn)

Reply: It’s in the back, but first you have to weave your own toilet paper on this rigid heddle loom. Let me demo it for you!

2.     What do you DO here?

Reply: Debate Kierkegaard, mostly.

yarn shop owner

When you can’t get to the yarn shop, Interweave online can help. Check out Lauren Riker’s Learn to Knit course!

3.     Omigosh, how cute?!! You just sit around knitting all day!

Reply: How cute? SUPER CUTE. Just like that Bangladeshi sweatshop sweater you’re wearing.

4.      Can you make a Christmas stocking like this with my daughter’s name on it by next Friday?
(Pulls 1986 intarsia relic out of her tote and A CIGARETTE BUTT LANDS ON THE FLOOR AND YOU BOTH JUST STAND THERE STARING AT IT.)

Reply: We only do Festivus motifs. And cats.

5.     I bought this yarn at Michael’s, but I don’t like the color. Do you have other colors? Can I exchange it?

Reply: Unfortunately for my healthcare options, we’re not part of the Michael’s corporation, but I would be happy to help you find yarn in a color you do like, and you can return the yarn to Michael’s.

6.     I like this sweater, but I don’t look good in yellow. Do you have patterns for blue sweaters?

Reply: Sorta like not buying a house cuz you didn’t like the paint color in the dining room, am I right?

yarn shop owner

Looking for an uber-chic V-neck pullover? Download the Michele Wang Collection for this pattern and two more great designs.

 

7.     WHY IS THIS SO EXPENSIVE??

Reply: Because people keep destroying our bathroom and the costs are adding up.

8.     How much is this hat? Oh, I don’t want to make one.

Reply: I’d be happy to sell you the finished hat, or take an order for one in another color, but it would be cheaper and more fulfilling if you knit it yourself. In this post-industrial trade-gap global economy, I really don’t think you’re prepared to pay what a handmade hat is actually worth.

9.     Why is the bathroom door locked?

Reply: DUDE.

10.  Where can I find this yarn online?

Reply: How does that make the sheep feel?

11.  Do you have any leftover yarn you give away for free?

Reply: This is not a bagel shop at 3 pm.

12.  Can you make a copy of this pattern?

Reply: Let me check with my contact at the Library of Congress.

13.  Would this color look good on my husband?

Reply: He looked great in the red shorts I made him last weekend.

14.  I’ve been knitting for 45 years and your pattern has SO many errors! It’s outrageous! Don’t you test knit every pattern you sell?

Reply: That’s a crochet pattern, hon.

15.  I need some help with my project. (Looks you up and down). I’ve been knitting longer than you’ve been alive—is there someone here who can help me?

Reply: I moderate one of the Ravelry Main 6 and I CAN HANDLE ANYTHING.

16.  I bought this yarn here and I knit this sweater for my dog and it shrank when I washed it! How could you sell me defective yarn??

Reply: Time for a smaller dog. Also, Google felting.

yarn shop owner

For the dog mama, a book of sweater patterns for pooches. Just buy superwash, k?

17.  Can you start having crochet classes? I really want to learn.

Reply: You said that 6 months ago and again 3 months ago and you never signed up for the crochet classes and we canceled them.

18.  What kind of yarn would Elvis like?

Reply: Listen, that’s so weird that I kind of like you. Let’s look at the suede ribbon, over here.

19.  This place is so nice; I love being here. Can I move in?

Reply: I really appreciate that; I just wish you’d stop trashing the bathroom and would buy something once in a while.


This post goes out to all my friends who own and work, and have worked in, yarn shops. It is work that doesn’t pay much, but requires a lot of passion, patience, and knowledge. And it goes out to all of you who shop in yarn shops and who ask the questions—silly, difficult, honest, and everything in between. Of course you don’t know something until you ask, and when you’re new to the knitting world, yarn shops can be intimidating.

Yarn shop owners are there to serve you—try asking them one they HAVEN’T heard before 😉

What have you overheard going down at your LYS? Feel free to share in the comments!

You’re all pretty neat. Stay weird,

—Lisa


Just got back from binge shopping at your LYS?
Organize that stash!

 

24 Comments

  1. Sharmeen I at 2:10 pm March 2, 2017

    Did you really need to drag Bangladesh into this???

    • Mary B at 12:46 am March 3, 2017

      Yes! But only the sweatshops. Not all the cool weavers and spinners I’ve met and supported when traveling there who work in the fantastic places that pay a living wage. For example, check out Tripty.com!

    • Kincade D at 4:47 pm March 3, 2017

      Sorry you had to endure such a nasty racist/culturalist slur whilst reading an article on a knitting website. And no apology when it was pointed out. hmm…

      • Suet L at 10:24 am March 6, 2017

        I agree that the Bangladesh reference was stupid. Sweat shops exist all over the world, even in the US. People make lousy wages not because they want to. It’s the manufacturers who set the cost of what they are willing to pay the facory.

  2. Julie H at 3:08 pm March 2, 2017

    As a LYS owner I frequently get this one.
    “Oh, my {sister/mother/aunt] has the same name as you. Can I take a photo of you next to your store sign to send to them?”

  3. Maria L at 3:24 pm March 2, 2017

    Someone asked the LYS manager at a shop I go to if she could look up a book for sale at the store on Amazon to see if it was cheaper online.

  4. Lindy W at 5:32 pm March 2, 2017

    As a past owner of a LYS, I had ONE OF THOSE people who liked to hang out, have tea, use the restroom, never buy a single skein, and have me print off a free pattern from online after I helped her find what she was looking for. My thanks? She would stand at the counter and inform my paying customer that the item she was handing me cash for was $3 cheaper at Walmart.(a 25 mile away drive). I admit I got a tad bit testy with that one.
    Loved your list. Made me chuckle.

  5. Carol L at 8:05 pm March 2, 2017

    2 females, shopping within one area, chatting between each other appearing to be enjoying themselves for almost two hours a periodic question. When they approach the checkout, they state in unison, we are ready, NOW what is our discount?

  6. Pam G at 9:08 pm March 2, 2017

    I traveled with my hubby two hours from my home to a yarn shop because I saw that they carried a yarn that I needed for a sweater that I wanted to make. Needless to say my husband hates to stop once we start driving & I had several cups of coffee in me & had to go to the bathroom real bad. We got to the yarn shop & I was practically running in the front door asking if she had a bathroom that I could use. She looked at me real funny trying to decide if she was going to let me use her bathroom. I said to her “I am here to buy yarn but I just rode two hours to get here with a husband who hates to stop”. I got to use her bathroom & she got an $80 sale…lol

  7. Loose Ends F at 11:38 pm March 2, 2017

    A young gal and her boyfriend came into my shop, she looked around and asked “Do you have any REAL yarn?”
    The boyfriend commented “Judging by the look on her face, that was NOT the right question…”
    I smiled sweetly and said “I believe the REAL yarn you are looking for is across town at Wal-Mart.”
    She turns to leave and says “oh yeah, thanks!”

  8. Mary B at 12:49 am March 3, 2017

    Absolutely wonderful list! Had me ROFL! As a shop owner, you really TRY to be polite and answer the questions, but sometimes I find myself standing there with nothing to say because the question is truly so ridiculous and/or insulting.

  9. Andrea V at 8:57 am March 3, 2017

    And this is why I don’t work in a job that serves the general public …

  10. Alison K at 9:12 am March 3, 2017

    I’m shopping at my FLYS and two confused-looking young ladies holding a few skeins of yarn come up to me and ask, “Does this place have those sticks?”
    I had to think for a moment before replying, “Do you mean knitting needles?”
    “Oh yeah, needles! That’s what they’re called! We’re getting a gift for a friend who knits, we don’t know what kind to get her.”
    “What are they for?”
    [Blank stares.] “Um…knitting?”
    “Right, but what item is she making, using what weight of yarn? Do you have the pattern?”
    [Blank stares.]
    “You should probably get your friend a gift card.”

  11. Carol P at 9:36 am March 3, 2017

    Your entire post made me laugh.

    I have one suggestion … I’m from a different generation, we usually said “better value” instead of using “cheap, cheaper”. We usually used ‘cheap’ for less quality.

  12. Kincade D at 10:11 am March 3, 2017

    How about an article by customer’s of all the LYS shop owners who are sullen, hostile, sluggish asocial Loners who advise you wrong about patterns and yarns and you have some more orphan yarn in your stash? Who don’t know much? Who don’t stock much? Who are out of business in less than 2 years. Prissy little things all peoprietary anout their lousy restrooms. Oh please–always 2 sides!!!

    • Juti W at 11:07 am March 3, 2017

      Oooh, I could tell you a few stories. I live three blocks from a well-stocked yarn store and I’d rather drive a hundred miles to get to the next one where everyone greets me with a smile. Here’s an actual exchange from the first time I went in to see what they had.

      “Hi, do you have the book that goes with that sample you have hanging on the wall?”
      “Yes, but those patterns aren’t made for women of your age and size.”

    • Stacey B at 2:55 pm March 3, 2017

      Amen!

    • Kathryn M at 10:47 am March 4, 2017

      How about NO! Just NO! Why do some people have to take everything written on a blog and twist it around ass backwards and make it about them.

      There are plenty of other places to write about “bad” LYSs. That’s not what this post is about.

  13. Sandra J at 12:44 pm March 3, 2017

    Thanks for the laugh. Here is something I saw last year:
    I saw a clerk in a very nice yarn store let a sale get away. The customer wanted help choosing a pattern for a man’s vest, and the clerk shut her down almost right away because the store doesn’t sell patterns. She just kept telling the woman to “look on Ravelry.” The customer just stood there for a few seconds, then walked out. It was too bad; a few minutes spent on a tablet with the customer could have been an easy sweater-quantity’s sale. I wanted to chase the woman and help her myself!

  14. Polly D at 4:32 pm March 3, 2017

    I’ve got to admit that I’ve walked into my not-so-LYS and asked immediately for the bathroom, but, in my defense, I was accompanied by a not-quite-potty-trained toddler.

  15. Kimberley E at 11:22 pm March 3, 2017

    My first question when I enter a new-to-me yarn store: Where can I wash my hands before I touch your yarn?
    Never fails to get a smile and as much assistance as I want.

    • Kathryn M at 10:49 am March 4, 2017

      Oooh! Brilliant!

  16. Stacey B at 11:15 am March 5, 2017

    I think this article is in poor taste. As a customer, I really don’t care about your problems regarding dealing with unruly customers. That’s part of your job. I understand your frustration, but some light-hearted article “instructing” customers how to act, is a pretty poor way to vent your frustrations. I’ll never know if I’m the “right” kind of customer to you and the shop you featured, so I’ll make sure that I take my business to someone who actually wants it. And shame on you, Interweave, is this the message you want to send to YOUR potential customers?

  17. Suet L at 10:27 am March 6, 2017

    Snarky article. I would have preferred some adult responses, especially to those questions from newbie knitters.