LYS Day: Thoughts from behind the counter

Last time you went to your regular grocery store, favorite little clothing boutique, or handy hardware store, did you chat with the staff about your triumphs, struggles, or families? Do they know you and your kids or partner by name? Know what your favorite type of lettuce is or whether you prefer stainless steel or galvanized? Are you aware that the staffer who is showing you the perfect shirt to match those pants has just found out she will be a grandmother soon, or that a treasured pet has just passed away? No? Me neither. No matter how often I frequent most businesses, small or big-box, I don't really have any kind of relationship with the folks at work there beyond the polite service-oriented exchange of currency for goods. Why then, is the experience so very different at a LYS? 

Of course, I can only speak from my side of the LYS relationship. However, based upon my experience from the customer-side at other establishments, I believe I can speak with confidence when I say that the dynamics of the customer/proprietor or staff relationships within the walls of a yarn shop are unique and rather special. I imagine one might also find a similar experience at a favorite quilting or other craft/hobby shop as well. Why are we so comfortable sharing intimate details of daily life or important milestones with each other when surrounded by yarn? I can't even begin to count the number of times I have just met someone from behind the counter, and within minutes am sharing tears of sympathy or smiles of joy with a virtual stranger whom I know will soon be a regular visitor.

The most obvious answer is, obviously, shared interest in yarn and all the glorious things one can do with it. We yarn fanatics are all knit or crocheted of the same odd substance; fibers of various compositions twisted together to form a material with which we can create useful or fantastical items to spark joy or simply keep us warm. I believe most humans have a drive to create and to express themselves artistically, and making unique items to wear or display out of fiber is a grand outlet for that impulse. Oddly, many of our customers do not see themselves as "creative". People often dismiss their knit or crochet work as "just following a pattern", or say things to us like, "I wish I were actually creative and not just making what everyone else is". To that I say, nonsense. The very definition of creative (from is "having the power to bring something new into being, as a creature, or to evolve something original from one’s own thought or imagination...." Every time you decide on a pattern and choose your own favorite colors or fibers with which to make it, you are fulfilling the exact definition of creativity, whether it is your own original design idea or a sweater that 56,997 other people have already made. You are a creative yarny superhero manifesting that power and bringing something new into existence, and you really like spending time with other superheroes wearing their own handmade capes. Your LYS is the obvious headquarters to find others of your kind and get to know them.

Beyond creativity, the characteristics I see frequently in our customers are kindness, empathy, generosity, and curiosity. I am often touched by interactions I see between total strangers while they are shopping; whether it be a kind word of encouragement for someone struggling with a skill, an exclamation of admiration for a completed project, or simply an expression of empathy for a person struggling with body image. I love watching people talk together about what they are working on, and I discover something new almost daily about a yarn or pattern I am not familiar with, so I benefit just as much as my customers from their curiosity about what others are making. Our customers are happy to be in a yarn shop, and their happy attitudes make our daily work a joy rather than a job.  It is very rare that we have a grumpy or unhappy customer.

Similarly, I think it takes a person of a particular disposition to be a yarn shop owner.....we do far more any given day than just sell yarn or offer tips on knitting. I think someone who opens a yarn shop with the intention of knitting, selling yarn and nothing more may not last long in the industry without realizing and embracing that there is so much more to it than that. (Sadly, we rarely get to knit at work. We always get a little giggle when people say they are jealous of our "dream job of knitting all day.") Besides the mechanics of running a business, we tend to be therapists of a sort, offering sympathetic ears and hearts to customers who might need a safe space to process whatever is happening in their lives. Sometimes people will apologize for sharing upset or other emotions, but I always feel quite honored that our shop feels like a safe space to be. Stix is a place where one can not only satisfy the drive to create, but also to find people with whom to build satisfying relationships. 

Now, to the less interesting business-end of a LYS. We know that the quality materials and tools we offer are not always inexpensive. Yarn made from durable, quality fibers will wear and last better and longer, and luxury fibers or hand-dyed yarns are not cheap. We believe that if one is going to invest the time and effort to make something, the quality of the materials you use should honor your investment of time and also be pleasurable in your hands. Well-made tools make a positive difference in your crafting experience, and we take that seriously when deciding which to carry.  Stix is deeply committed to supporting local Montana yarn producers, and the work and love which goes into each of those skeins also reflect a well-deserved premium price. You wont't find big-box prices at Stix, but you will find quality, knowledge and support, and community. 

We are ALWAYS happy to answer questions or help with any project, regardless of whether or not you bought your supplies from us. Encouraging and supporting your yarn habit is our pleasure! We ourselves sometimes use yarn that is not from our shop; maybe we just can't resist using something different than we see every day, or we want to see if a yarn will be a good fit for the shop before we bring it in. We used to feel a little guilty about making or wearing things made with "contraband" yarn, but we are trying to adjust our attitude about that. We can always find something similar for you to use if you want to make what we are wearing, and we  love to shop for yarn just as much as you do, so why limit ourselves to only using yarn we sell? So, please be assured that we are happy to see and assist you with whatever you are working on no matter where you got it. We realize that not every person has unlimited funds to indulge their favorite hobby, and we respect and support that. We obviously would love for you to buy your yarn here, but very much want you to make what you like with the yarn you are comfortable purchasing.

LYS Day brings all of this home. This is a nationally (globally?) designated day which comes once a year, with the purpose of celebrating the Local Yarn Store and everything it means to a community.  This year it is on Saturday, April 27th. We encourage you to consider what your LYS means to you and what your life of making and creating would be if you didn't have one available to you. There are so many ways you can support us so that we can continue to support you, even if a $300 sweater project is not in your budget. Here are a few great ways you can support your LYS:

  • Ask if the pattern you want to purchase on Ravelry is available to purchase through Stix. Many patterns can be purchased through Stix and placed in your Ravelry library. The cost is the same to you, but Stix gets a little cut of the selling price. We are happy to print it for you as well!
  • Take a class from us. We try to keep the cost of our instruction as low as we can. We know our instruction is valuable and shouldn't be free, but we also want to encourage as many as possible to attend. 
  • Follow and interact with stixyarn on social media (Facebook and Instagram). Share our posts and tag us in yours.  This won't cost you a thing, but means so much to us! Screaming into the social media void is a ton of work, but the more people we reach the better and longer we can serve you.
  • Please purchase your essential needles or hooks and notions for your projects from us. Even if you have found amazing yarn on sale elsewhere, when you buy your tools here it makes a big difference to us!
  • Subscribe to our emails and forward them to friends you think might be interested in their content. Word of mouth is powerful advertising, and we very much appreciate it when you share Stix with a friend!
  • Knit, crochet, or otherwise craft in public if you're comfortable doing so. This will generate interest, and then you can direct those interested our way to take classes or shop with us. More friends to share the love!
  • Leave us a positive review on Google, Yelp, or wherever the kids gossip about businesses these days. This will just take a moment of your time but will help folks from out of town find our website or our shop when they visit Bozeman. 
    Cameron and I are so incredibly grateful and honored to be a part of all of your lives, even if only by providing the materials or instruction needed for you to satiate your need to create, or by filling our shop with inspiration to spark your imagination. We love teaching you new skills and making new yarns available to you. We know the internet makes it easy to shop for things quickly and often at better prices than we are able to offer you, so we deeply appreciate the support you give us which allows us to keep our doors open. Stix is coming up on our 20th anniversary this November, and we could never have achieved this milestone without you! We strive to make it easy and pleasurable to learn and shop with us, and we hope to be able to do it for years to come. Thank you all so much for reading and for being a part of our very vibrant yarn community. If you can think of anything else we can do to support your habit, please let us know! We appreciate each and every one of you and hope to see you soon or hear from you in the comments below if you are too far away to shop in person. Happy LYS Day!


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