A Response To Vogue Knitting

I received the latest issue of Vogue Knitting magazine last week, as I am a subscriber.  As I opened it up to take a gander, I came upon the Editors Letter entitled Does Size Really Matter…. so of course I had to read it HAHAHA!

Trisha Malcolm states that Classic Elite Yarns is closing down it’s operation, and ‘the knitting world is in a state of disruption’ right now.  She questions the size of companies; what constitutes an indie business and a big business.  She wants everyone to work together so businesses of all sizes can succeed!

I’ve been knitting since 1986, and have had America’s Knitting since 2007!  As a business woman myself and an entrepreneur, I have watched these changes occur and process all of it continually.  Since 2007, America’s Knitting has been tracking the status of the local yarn shop, and I have numbers that I will share at the end of this blog post.

I was shocked to hear Classic Elite was calling it quits, but really not surprised.  I want to start off by saying up front, there is NO bad guy here….there are simply changes.  I would like to break it down a little bit:

  • All businesses start off small…if they succeed, they grow
  • Magazines provide patterns and offer up advertisements so knitters know what’s new
  • The internet comes alive in our community and Ravelry is born, giving independent designers a fabulous platform for the growth of their creativity (magazines suffer)
  • YouTube videos are available for how to’s and bloggers are our new best friends
  • Amazon sells everything from needles to pom poms, and you can join the indie yarn of the month club
  • Huge venues come to town with every kind of vendor known to man and offer classes with the stars
  • Craftsy selling online classes and kits to be delivered to your doorstep
  • Designers have their own line of yarn selling direct to the masses

Where does the yarn shop fit into the new order of things?  At America’s Knitting we have an affinity for the small business of the local yarn shop.  I would agree with Trisha, there is a disruption going on inside the knitting world, and the changes have been steady with the local yarn shops AND our knitting magazines feeling those changes the most.

Typically speaking, the local yarn shop carries known brands just like Classic Elite Yarns, Cascade Yarns, Berroco, Rowan, Plymouth and the like.  The small batch indie yarns have hit the market in a major way, and along with a steady stream of yarn shop closures, these known brands have suffered.  Some continue to grow and expand their lines, Cascade Yarns is an example of that, others like Rowan have reorganized their business and brand.  Indie, as Trisha calls it, is not just yarn, but the independent designers as well. With the independent designers going solo, the magazines have suffered, and book sales are down.  Knitters don’t really have to buy a magazine or a book, because they can purchase the pattern they want right then on Ravelry.  The strength of ‘indie’ isn’t just yarn — most of the popular ‘have to knit’ patterns have been designed with these ‘indie’ special yarns.

Times they are a changing!  But you know what….fear not!  We are having this conversation and the indie dyers and the indie designers don’t want yarn shops to go anywhere.  They are now doing pop up shops inside of yarn shops, and yarn shops are getting together and having yarn crawls.  The yarn shops are now designing too and some are even dying yarn.  They are partnering with Ravelry to sell you patterns right there in the store, adding these patterns to your Ravelry library and printing them out for you in store.  Designers are showing up to launch new patterns right at the yarn shop where you can meet them.  A fair number of yarn shops have a store front and a strong online presence; I want to see more of that.  We’re not quite there yet, but we’re getting there.  I’m sure things will work themselves out, because the knitting community is a great group of loving and caring people.

Whether or not Classic Elite Yarns was a big company or a small business is either here nor there, they were a yarn company who’s yarn was purchased at the yarn shop!!  If yarn shops close, our major brands suffer!  Now for the numbers —

2008 1,444 yarn shops in total
2009 1,443 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 1
2010 1,442 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 1
2011  1,441 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 1
2012 1,387 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 54
2013 1,314 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 73
2014 1,177 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 137
2015 1,089 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 88
2016 1,034 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 55
2017 970 citing after yarn shops close and new ones open, down 64

This year isn’t over, but as of today, the US has 984 yarn shops, so it appears we are up by 14 shops.  I do a mailer every year out to all the yarn shops in September (they fly out tomorrow).  If a yarn shop has closed, my mailer gets returned to me and I investigate to make sure that they haven’t moved.  The 984 number will be adjusted during this time.

As for Classic Elite Yarns — I remember them well and fondly.  They were one of the big dogs.  What I remember was the amazing pattern support that went in concert with their lovely yarns, in all the perfect shades of the season.  They were quality, and yes, they will be missed, as are all the yarn shops that have closed their doors!