Webs. This Massachusetts-based Internet store always has what I need and at a cheaper price, too - even with shipping. (As an aside, when I was in Woolwinders last week, I noticed a knitter leafing through the new Webs catalog - right at the store's main table!)
Jared Flood would be giving three workshops in May. Woo hoo! I emailed right away to say that I wanted to sign up for the sweater workshop - and was right away rejected. "Registration doesn't open until March 8." Okay. Irritating, but I'll deal. I made myself a note in Outlook and started at 9:00 AM Monday trying to register. Nothing on the site. Went back at 9:30. Nothing on the site. Went back at 10:30. REGISTRATION CLOSED, class is full, go to hell. Dammit! So frustrating. I sent a complaint and asked to be put on the waiting list. I'm second in line apparently - which means I'm not going to get to take this class despite making multiple attempts to register. Needless to say, I won't be hiking to Alexandria anytime soon nor spending any of my hard-earned dollars at Fibre Space.
There are a couple of other yarn stores about a half hour from me. One is filled to the brim with novelty yarn that I almost uniformly hate. The other is a filthy mess with mismatched skeins of yarn strewn everywhere. In both cases, they carry very few natural fiber staples like Cascade 220, and of what they do carry, they only have two skeins of each color. "We'll be happy to special order this yarn for you," they say. Never mind. I can do that myself - and get the 20-25% discount from Webs, too.
Two final complaints about LYSs. One, the knitting classes are uniformly too elementary for me. I guess yarn shop owners think they need to attract newbies to sell yarn. I disagree. LYSs should be attracting diehards like you and me. I'm the one who has a monthly knitting budget, for God's sake! I'm not in there buying two skeins and a set of size 10 needles so I can make my first scarf. I'm buying 2500 yards of the good stuff! The first rule of business is to go where the money is. Why don't LYSs work on attracting knitting devotees like me?
And two, I wish the drop-in knitting events were friendlier and more inclusive. Most stores near me offer such events - although the one across the street charges a fee, believe it or not! The other stores offer free knitting circles, but when I go I feel like the proverbial miserable high school wallflower. The women already know each other, and like the school cliques I remember so well, aren't open or friendly to newcomers. I knit in silence, counting the minutes until I can get up and leave - never to return again.
All this being said, owning and running a yarn store is incredibly difficult work, especially in this economy. I know how much it costs me just to buy yarn for just one sweater; the overhead must be astronomical. And after my short teenage career in retail, I can promise you I'll never do it again. But I wish I could find just one LYS that worked for me. I persevere; I have shops in Hagerstown, Frederick, and Baltimore I intend to visit.
But I suspect I will return again and again to Webs. Recently I told my old friend and college roommate, Chris, that I would love to visit to Webs when I next vacation in New England. She replied that she'd been to the retail outlet and wasn't impressed - it was just another local yarn store.
Wow. Maybe I shouldn't visit after all. I don't want to be disappointed in my tried and true. Maybe I should just keep happily shopping online, getting Webs' great discounts, and keep my perfect LYS fantasies to myself.