(a fiber arts edition)
We enjoy making things around here and this past winter, I was struck by the desire to start knitting again after a multiple year (and three kids) break. At a local yarn store (LYS), I decided to tackle socks. This obsession also led me to staring at images of gorgeous yarn on Instagram. Did you know there is like an entire world of #yarnporn out there? It’s crazy. And alluring. I noticed one particular brand that, at least on line, seemed to have beautiful yarns, but they were pricey so I didn’t start piling them into my virtual shopping cart right away (thankfully). I wanted to get into the swing of things with knitting again first before spending too much. But, of course, I followed that yarn purveyor’s Instagram account. And several others.
In the meantime, I purchased a weaving loom for my daughter for her birthday, which falls right after the Christmas holidays. I ordered the loom and made note of when the expected shipping and arrival date was. Both dates came and went and no loom. I contacted the seller, who responded with “we have to be patient.” Huh, I thought. Ok? Eventually, the loom arrived, a month late and well past my daughter’s birthday.
I painstakingly placed an on-line order at another yarn company, slightly less expensive than the Instagram one I mentioned in the first paragraph, but still expensive by my standards. But I was lured in by some beautiful images and a specific pattern that would be a challenge for me but not impossible. But my credit card kept getting declined. Or the website said there was a problem with my postal code. I tried unloading and re-loading the cart several times. I called my bank. No problems on that end. Eventually, I called the company and left a voicemail. I tried to email them and contact them via Instagram. I really wanted this yarn and pattern and it felt like I had already invested so much into the decision and trying to get the website to work. Finally, the company emailed me back. They had some suggestions for me to try involving clearing caches and whatnot. Nothing seemed to work. This had already taken the better part of a day and so now it started to feel like it would *really* be a waste if I didn’t buy the yarn. In for a penny, in for a pound. By the end of the day, it worked. I was able to make my purchase and a few days later the neatly wrapped package arrived. I even took pictures.
I still had my eye on the beautiful and expensive Instagram yarn mentioned above. One day, as I scrolled through the feed, I noticed that one of their posts contained a racial slur. It was a typo (and one that any yarn-buyer can probably guess at). But still, in that moment: it dawned on me. I am a grown woman spending my grown woman money. I don’t care how beautiful the yarn is, why on earth would I spend hard-earned cash on a company that is in too much of a hurry to post on Instagram that they don’t even notice a racial slur? Unfollow.
I suspect the Holy Spirit was leading me away. God seemed to be saying “woah, ease up on the covetousness.” I’ve been asking him on the regular, after all, to lead me not into temptation.
And suddenly, the difficulties with the shipping and the check out experience on the other website with the other companies didn’t seem like such a big deal.
My daughter was learning her way around her new loom, which had finally arrived, and we were running out of scraps for her to practice with. So we decided to look around for a real project for her to start. We came across this project at Gist Yarn. It was expensive, especially for a new weaver and as much as she loved it, the price gave us pause. So we looked around a bit more. But she kept coming back to the beautiful blue scarf. She still had some Christmas and Lunar New Year money plus some of her allowance. I told her we could split the cost and I would pay for the shipping. “Ok. Can you please order it for me?” she asked, smiling excitedly.
The pattern arrived via email and a short time later the package of yarn arrived. It was neatly packaged, but nothing special: no extra tissue paper or stickers or frills. Which, actually, I appreciated. It felt practical. Not flashy. Just get the order to the customer so she can start weaving.
Ms10yo started balling her yarn right away. It’s a painstaking process, but somehow soothing. After I showed her how to cut the small yarn ties that hold the skein together, she turned on some podcasts to listen to while shaping a “butterfly” between her fingers and then rhythmically winding the ball. She was on the last skein when I heard the dreaded words, “Mom, can you help me get this knot out.”
This would not be the first time that I had to un-knot some yarn or string or a ribbon. In fact, just early in the week, I sat at the dining room table and de-tangled this green mess while praying to Mary Undoer of Knots.
Mary, Undoer of Knots….
pray for us!
But, well, this wasn’t a knot. It was a proper, felted clump. And in the process of trying to see if it was un-doable, I noticed that there were a few ends of yarn hanging out, meaning that the skein had been cut in a few places already. It was a mess that even with Mary’s intervention, would stay a mess.
The company we had ordered from had an easy “chat” option on their website, so I went to that and started sending them a few images of what was going on. It was one of those things where, given the option of either having to repackage it and go to the post office to send it back, or making do with what we had with some well-placed snips and thoughtful weaving, I would go with the latter.
A note at the top of the chat stated that the customer service person was away, but if we left an email address, they would get back to us as soon as possible. It was after business hours and I told Ms10yo we would just have to wait and see. If no one got back to us, we could just continue with the project, making do.
A few days passed without any word and I went to follow up on the chat. This time, someone was there. I asked if they could see the message I had left the other night, as I didn’t really feel like re-typing it all. The other person found the chat and explained that somehow it had ended up with a colleague and she hadn’t seen it.
And then, and I am not making this up, she offered to send me a new skein, which she double-checked before packing it up right then and there. She also asked if there were any other problems with the other skeins. We chatted for a moment about how we had never seen a skein with this problem and she said she would also contact the yarn maker and tell them about the mistake. And she also told me just to keep the problematic one and that hopefully we would figure out something to make with it. And then (again! I’m not making this up!) she apologized for not seeing the chat I had started a few days ago and for not getting back to me right away. It was lovely.
When I told Ms10yo that a new skein was on its way, she sighed and her shoulders visibly loosened: “Wow. That’s a relief!” she exclaimed. I could see that the weight of trying to figure out how to use this yarn had been on her shoulders.
About a week later, the new yarn arrived. And, there was no frilly packaging (utterly practical, which I mean as a good thing), but there were two little notebooks, just enough for Ms10yo to keep one for herself and share the other one with her little sister. Again, I’m not making this up. Evidence follows:
Yarn and these other things are wants, not needs. And I have the freedom to spend my money where I want to. There are so many great companies and makers and small businesses out there selling beautiful things. And there are also ones who are careful and thoughtful, who genuinely appreciate their customers and even have relationships with them beyond just making money. There are even those who are actively anti-racist. And there are ones who notice when a customer is actually going out of their way to help them, to point out problems and to share their experiences so that they can improve their business. Gist Yarn managed to not only do all these things, but to renew my faith in humanity. Thanks, Gist!