the bad and the good

Today I wanted to share with you an unpleasant experience I had a few days ago. I’ve been considering for a while whether to write about it or not, but in the end I think it needs out. Also, today I received some lovely news to counterbalance the bad taste in my mouth so I feel ok telling you about both! :)

The bad first. There is this yarn shop that I go to here in London. I had read about it and the cool events it organizes online almost a year before I came here. When I was packing my bags to come to London, I printed out three maps: from Heathrow to my residence, from my residence to school, and from my residence to this yarn shop. That’s how much I was looking forward to finally being able to go there. But now, after quite a few months of visiting, spending quite a bit of my money there and participating in a number of events, I can’t shake this off anymore: the people in the shop are just not friendly. They give off a vibe of a closed community and whoever new comes along, well, they aren’t interested. No matter how many times they say out loud “we love having new people” and “it’s so nice you’re here,” you can feel it. When you enter the shop during the day, no one pays attention to you. Of course, I like anyone else like to be left to myself to browse, compare, ponder (and pet) yarns. But there is something about the atmosphere in that shop, just not welcoming. For a long time I thought it just came from me being nervous about not knowing anyone or not knowing all that much about yarn and having to ask stupid questions, but I know now that it wasn’t just me. And a little ‘incident’ that occured a few days ago convinced me that I really didn’t have a desire to go back.

I was there to pick out some yarn for a new baby cardi (you’ll be hearing about it soon!) and to finally get my 2mm needle for sock knitting! As I came up to the needles, I wasn’t sure which cable length would be best for knitting socks on one circular, so I asked the shopkeeper. This person responded to my question on whether 60cm or 80cm would be better for socks by saying “You need a longer one. It’s called the Magic Loop method. You’ll have to learn it.” in a very condescending tone, as if just because I wasn’t sure about which length would be preferable I must be some person off the street who just decided 2 minutes ago that she was going to knit socks even though she had never held a pair of needles in her hands. Furthermore, the only needles available in the size I needed were Addi Lace Needles, which have very sharp points (seriously, these needles are weapons!), and when I inquired about whether it would be better to buy non-lace and non-supersharp needles for the purposes I needed, my question was utterly ignored, as the person was obviously interested in making the sale as soon as possible rather than helping me get exactly what I need. May I add at this point that the shop was completely empty, so it wasn’t like I was taking the person’s precious time that could’ve been devoted to five other customers. In the end, I bought the needles, I figured I might as well try them, and left as soon as possible. With a thought in my mind: there are plenty of other lovely yarn shops in London where I am not treated in this way. I won’t be going back there in a while.

On the other hand, today I received a message from Lota’s mommy! The EZ cardi and the tiny shoes have arrived, they are thrilled by the ‘handiwork’ (as they put it) and have promised photos. :) I LOVE it when my gifts arrive to their destinations! It puts a huge smile on my face for the whole day. :)

p.s. Please feel free to comment on this story, but keep in mind it is not meant as an attack on this particular yarn store, nor do I wish to give them bad press, which is why I tried to keep the description as neutral and unrevealing as possible. I’d love to hear your (bad and good) experiences with yarn shop atmospheres!

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About fridica

I started knitting completely by accident, when I was visiting my parents for a holiday in 2008. On a boring Sunday afternoon, I decided to dig through their stash of books to see if there was anything interesting to take back to my apartment. A knitting manual happened to be one of the books I found. I got curious, my mom immediately dug out her old needles and yarn stash (which she hadn’t used in a decade at least), and in a few minutes we were both casting on - she by memory, I by following the instructions from the book… :) Since I normally prefer learning from books, this was ideal.. I took the book home with me, and very very soon - I was an addict.

37 thoughts on “the bad and the good

  1. That is such a shame. I’m sorry you had such a disappointing experience.

    I’d definitely not to back there if I were you. As you say, there are plenty of excellent yarn shops in London – I hope you find a friendlier one and have lots of fun shopping there.

    It is such a mystery why some shops are like this. It isn’t like there is a load of money in yarn-shop-running. Why bother if you’re not going to enjoy talking about knitting, helping people and why scare off customers who would otherwise spend money..? I’ll never understand.

  2. Oh, and I’d get at least an 80cm cable for magic loop and I’d buy regular addi turbos. The lace ones really are quite ‘sticky’.

    Good luck with socks!

    • I ended up buying them, and did a little swatch, not sure I noticed any stickiness, but there was definitely something ‘different’. I’ll do some more experimenting and let you know! In any case, I always like having new tools, so not regretting that one! :)

  3. Sorry you had an off-putting experience. I think I can guess the shop you describe. If it’s the same one, I’ve felt exactly the same in there. The last time I went, I waited for ages at the counter to be served (and I was buying a lot of yarn) even though I was the only customer in the shop. The good news is, there are plenty of yarn shops where you are just waiting to be explored!

  4. There are a couple of yarn shops here that are like that. And yes, you can just feel it in the air. It’s not as much a sense of a closed community (because none of them have any community) but more as if they can’t wait for you to leave.

    But try to look at it in a more positive way: (1) there are plenty of other shops in London (and that’s where you’re lucky!), which I am sure are equally good but friendlier, (2) you won’t be any worse for not going there – it’s them who will be affected by you shopping elsewhere.

    • Yes, I’m becoming painfully aware that the luxury of so many yarn shops (with so much wonderful and diverse yarn) that I have here is soon going to be history… I’m probably going to be leaving London in a few months and the idea of not having stores that even try to establish some form of community or that have nothing else but one German yarn and many Croatian ones reeally depresses me… But look on the bright side – I know at least one yarn shop in Zagreb where they hold sewing courses, perhaps they would be interested in helping me organize a knitting group! You never know what you might discover… :)

  5. Hm. I won’t name names either. I heard about a London yarn shop once that a friend took other friends to who felt like taking up knitting again after a long break. So in they went on the look-out for a) patterns, b) needles and c) yarn. Or, to be more accurate: c) LOTS of yarn! Not sure if the condescending member of staff was staff or even an owner but my friend ending up shoving the entire armload of yarns back at that person and walked out. With the friends who also didn’t feel like buying anything. The extremely unfortunate result of this was that neither friend picked up knitting again.
    I wonder if it could be the same shop, and I have a strong feeling that it is. What a shame.

    • So glad your friend did that, I’m so sad that I’m not more assertive in these situations! It would really be such a thrill to do it sometimes!
      I’m sorry to hear that the friends gave up on knitting though…

  6. I’ve been to only one yarn shop in London and I know it is the one you’re talking about. Frankly, after visiting it, I never knew what the fuss is about. Forget them and find a shop that likes you as much as you like it. :)
    As to magic loop, I think you have to discover the length you’re comfortable working with. I use 60cm ones and am happy with them. :)

    • That’s the thing, I ALWAYS forget to check something before I leave home to go to the shop. This time I actually brought my pattern book because by the time I get to the store I always forget what weight yarn the pattern was calling for and how many grams. So I had that covered this time. But then of course, I didn’t remember what was the length of the circular I used for my test sock – I had been perfectly fine using it so if I had remember to measure it I wouldn’t have had to ask. Sometimes I feel like I should bring ALL my knitting supplies with me when I go to the shop, just to be safe (I also tend to forget which size needles I already have and which not). :P

      • I’m with you on the needle stash! I keep buying the same size one over again.
        Have you discovered the needles page on Ravelry? It allows you to list all your knitting needles and crochet hooks with a field for comments. So if you like you could put a comment of what WIP you are using them for right now, or which storage place you put them in, alternatively their colour or make.
        It is really useful (if only I’d keep mine updated!)

      • Oops, forgot the most important thing: you can print the result onto one A4 sheet of paper: handy-dandy for taking along!

  7. Oh, I worked in a yarn shop until a couple of weeks ago (you know which one) and I was always trying to get people to try Magic Loop! Especially since we often had very low stocks of small-diameter needles (for doing socks on one circ without using magic loop). The Addi Lace needles, being designed for lace and not socks, don’t come in small diameters. The normal Addis do, but sometimes we were out of stock in the popular sizes.

    I certainly tried to make people feel welcome in the shop though, and tried to talk to everyone who came in! From the point of view of someone who has worked in a shop, sometimes it can be hard to be stocking the shelves in one part of the shop, and keeping an eye on the counter (especially if someone’s been hanging around there for a while as it can look as though they’re just looking at stuff near the counter). I also think sometimes the other customers can be less than welcoming to people they don’t know very well… it can be a hard thing for the staff to keep an eye on and try to balance.

    FWIW I always recommend 80cm for magic loop. I know what you mean about addi lace needles being weapons! It doesn’t bother me too much but sometimes I get a sore finger from stabbing myself too much.

    I have had similar “vibes” from one yarn store in London, which was then completely different when one day I visited with a friend of the owners. It’s weird isn’t it? I haven’t been there in a while, I’m going to go again soon and see if things are any different.

    • Of course, I appreciate that working in a store has its own issues that customers don’t always appreciate… That’s why I gave this one so so many opportunities, but this just tips the glass for me.

      And I certainly don’t have to be convinced to do Magic Loop, I’m like the biggest fan of it in the world :))))

  8. I get that feeling a lot in yarn shops, one of my regular places has an amazing owner but the most snooty condescending assistant (I could of had that job if I’d got to it faster, grr) and she has made me not want to go back if I know she’s working.
    Also my brother went into a well known London shop (one that I would really like to visit someday, it may be the same one you’re talking about) and he got shunned because he was a man, wanting to buy wool, nice expensive wool to knit for his girlfriend. It’s talk of these bad experiences in shops that make me want to open my own most amazingly nice and open and friendly shop.

  9. :-( I hate that you’ve had this experience. The bright side, though (and I’m just assuming here) is that you have other choices.

    • Yes, luckily there is decent choice in London. If this had happened back home, it would be miserable, because there isn’t much choice there. But then again, I haven’t really come across a yarn shop back home that even tries to be anything else than a shop, maybe I’ll just have to open one… ;)

  10. I’m so sorry to hear about your experience! Magic Loop is my favorite way to do socks, so I hope you like it! I agree with the above comment that the lace needles are more sticky. I use 40″ needles, which I guess are about 100 centimeters.

    On another note: The Ultimate Knitting Bible looks like a great book! Thanks for the rec!

  11. It’s funny I feel the same way about my LYS. I just don’t like going there, they are not friendly nor helpful :-( Make me feel like utter beginner who knows nothing about knitting and does not deserve to be among the real knitters. For this reason only I prefer to go to J.Lewis, even though they are much more expensive… The ladies there are just nicer.

    Maybe it’s because Ravelry/online knitting world makes us feel like we are one big family and we expect to be treated like one of the family even in the real life? I don’t know.

    • I find the ladies at J. Lewis to be really nice as well! I neer really expect it, I guess because I expect a cold corporative atmosphere (and also because the store similar to J. Lewis in Croatia has the most customer-unfriendly sales people in the world), so it’s always a pleasant surprize. :)

  12. There are certainly lots of us who have had exactly the same experience as you in exactly the same shop. There isn’t even a need to mention the name!

    Are you moving back to Zagreb soon? I’ve only ever spent a few days there, but it’s a cute place. I’d love to hear about your adventures in setting up a knitting group in the LYS!

    • Not sure what my future is yet, but Zagreb is definitely the fall-back option. :)
      Wherever I end up, you can be sure there will be plenty of knitting adventures to report on :)

  13. I can totally relate to your story. I had bad service from a lady at my LYS and this was after spending about $400 on two sets of Addi interchangables. I haven’t been back since and prefer to shop online or travel two hours to get to another yarn store. Such a shame.

  14. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Here in Portland, OR there are soooo many yarn shops that the ones that aren’t friendly end up closing their doors after a short while.

    FWIW, I like the Addi lace needles…a little sticky but I keep a jewelry cloth in my bag to polish them up when it gets too bad. They’re weapons, indeedy, but nothing beats them when doing cables without a cable needle! :)

    Happy sock knitting!! :) :)

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  16. Good on ya! It’s needed saying. There’s the printed word version of friendliness and then there’s the real life contact version … and with this store we’re talking around, the two versions couldn’t be further apart on the spectrum. … with a barge pole! I had a jaw-dropping mark-up-in-price experience there a few months ago which was the final straw. Again, the spectrum: there’s covering your overheads and there’s massive profit. Wow! I never realised just how much I needed to vent on this.

  17. Oh my Goodness! I must be the only person in London who doesn’t know which shop you mean, since I only know Loop , not our competition.
    The worst thing you could say to me is that I was rude, snooty or unfriendly to a customer! (That’s not to say that it hasn’t been said by the occasional disgruntled, misunderstanding customer, but I try really hard to be friendly and welcoming to everyone).
    Hope to see you more often at Loop. Also I hope you finish your massive scarf and move on to something more weather appropriate soon.

    • Thanks! I’ve almost finished the scarf, but I’m not much into summer-appropriate knitting, so something else wintery will be coming along… :)

  18. Ugh. I don’t know which shop you mean but the bad experience I had in one London knitting shop was because I found they were selling ‘golly’ doll knitting patterns. I couldn’t believe a trendy young shop was selling that old racist stuff. I emailed the owner about it and he was totally rude. He seemed to think they weren’t offensive as long as they were called ‘gollies’ and not ‘golliwogs’. I’m not going there again. Luckily Loop is nearer to me anyway!

    • I think the important thing is that we become aware of the fact that we are *cutomers* and that we do have a right to complain, and the right to vote with our feet. I’m glad we’re doing both! :)

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