Small Business Versus Big Box Postcard Canva

Small Business Versus Big Box Stores

When it comes to buying yarn deciding on small business versus big box stores can be difficult. But I definitely have a preference.

Yarn – Small Business Versus Big Box

First of all, what is considered a “big box” store when it comes to yarn?

Hobbii? KnitPicks? Yes, almost assuredly those two. But what about WEBS?

I guess it really depends on the purpose of defining a yarn company as a big box store. Is it because they monopolize and hold too much sway in the retail yarn sales arena? Or perhaps because they exclude small business? Maybe they go against your ideas about buying more locally.

For me, it’s really about whether I feel I have a personal relationship with the company/vendor.

Yes, I’ve ordered yarn from both Hobbii and KnitPicks. And I get very friendly e-mails from them. But I still don’t feel like I have any connection with either of them. Whereas, WEBS…I’ve been to their brick and mortar store. They personally wrote notes on my orders. I’ve corresponded with the owners.

Which is Better?

Big Box

Pros: I know exactly what I’m purchasing at big box yarn stores. Their prices are inexpensive. The quality of their product is consistently okay.

Cons: But my purchases there do take away from my purchasing dollars toward smaller businesses. In fact, it’s often the goal of big-box-yarn to eliminate the competition. Yarn is shipped from far and wide around the World with no consideration for social costs (which are extensive). I have no sense about how employees or suppliers are treated. Are all paid a fair wage for their work? And as noted above, I have no personal relationship with these businesses.

Smaller Businesses

Pros: Smaller businesses sell some amazing yarns. Yarns of fantastic fiber content. Fantastically well-dyed yarns. Unique yarns that give my knitting a personality that can rarely be found in less personal companies (see my latest stash discovery in Current Knitting below). My purchases support many local businesses. Dollars spent there usually go directly to the local yarn stores, farmers, spinning mills and/or independent dyers. And I have a much more personal relationship with these small businesses. Most of them I get to meet in-person at fiber festivals or on roadtrips at the Men’s Knitting Retreats.

Cons: Buying from smaller companies requires a bit more effort on my part. Quantity, consistency and availability can all be varying. Usually more expensive for the types of yarn I’m buying (if you take quality out of the equation). I’m also required to put more thought and imagination in how to best use these yarns. Ravelry isn’t going to have a library of uses for many of these small-company yarns.

All-in-all, I think I will stop buying from big-box-yarn stores. The pros of big-box seem to be far outweighed by the pros of smaller business. And the cons of big-box weigh a bit more heavily on my conscience than I’m comfortable with. While I know that I don’t have to limit myself to either or, I’m going to see how it works out putting all my eggs in the small business basket for a while.

I’m interested in what others think about this.

Current Knitting

A friend asked me to make a pair of fingerless mitts for her mother-in-law. I figured with all of my half-finger glove experience, these would be easy to design and knit on the fly.

She wanted them in a neutral or natural color wool, so I took a quick stash dive and found this yarn.

Rose Fingerless Mitts 11-26-21 Yarn 01

This is Autumn Leaves by Running Wild Yarns in Broadus, MT. I don’t have a working web site for them, and I have no idea where I got this amazing yarn. It’s a cormo/alpaca blend sport-weight yarn that was sold by the ounce. I can only guess I bought it in Colorado. But it wasn’t very expensive (about $12 for 320 yards).

It will DEFINITELY have me looking for more cormo yarns in the future.

They made a soft, warm and simply beautiful fingerless mitt.

Rose Fingerless Mitts 11-26-21 01

Rose Fingerless Mitts 11-26-21 02

I have four hanks of this yarn, and I think they will all become fingerless mitts.

Below is a second pair with a Plymouth alpaca yarn called Indiecita that I just started.

Rose Fingerless Mitts 11-26-21 03

I will finish this pair, but they are anywhere near as nice as the cormo/alpaca ones. I’ll keep you updated!

2 comments on “Small Business Versus Big Box Stores

  1. I try to only buy yarn from a LYS or small dyer. One pro is that if I bought the yarn from a LYS and have an issue with a pattern, my experience is that they are happy to help you with it. This service alone is worth a slightly higher price than big box stores.

  2. Where I buy yarn depends on what I am knitting. Most of my charity knitting is done with either closeout yarn from Webs in washable fibers, or with leftover skein ends from other projects. When knitting for myself or loved ones, most of that yarn comes from my local yarn stores which carry local dyers, or directly from Indie dyers (like Savvy Skeins or Bad Sheep Yarn).

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