Posted on 3 Comments

The yarn world is changing – part 2

After the comments on yesterday’s blog, I feel I need to explain the concept of change, in a bit more detail. It is quite obvious that some people did not understand the blog in the way I intended it.

From the beginning of time the world has been constantly changing. And it will continue to change until the very end, whenever that may be. The change is always caused by something new, making something else obsolete, sometimes instantly, sometimes over a period of time. Let me give you some examples.

  • Pantihose were knitted by hand and it was a trade with which many men supported their families. With the invention of the knitting machine, those jobs became obsolete and many knitters took to the streets in violent protests as they were jobless and stuck in poverty. Many of those were relocated to the Cape Colony to start a new life here. My Hodgkinson ancestor was one of them.
  • When the cell phone was invented, land-lines were no longer a necessity. I cannot think of one friend or family member, who has a land-line in their house today.
  • I certainly did not grow up with a computer in the house. I purchased my first computer when I was in my 20s. Today, not having a computer of some sorts in a house is a serious drawback. Most people have smart phones, tablets and laptops!

The world changed, and we had to adapt.

With the invention of the internet came online shopping. That in turn is causing the need for physical shops to decline. Where I live, we don’t have a stationery shop anymore. We have only one small bookshop. Stationery shops and book shops were common 20 years ago. I can think of more examples, but I am sure you get the picture. Well hopefully.

Brick and mortar yarn shops are no exception. Some were more alert than others, and changed their way of doing business early on, offering online shopping as well as physical shopping. Other’s were, and still are, slow to change. In the suburb where I grew up, there were two big yarn shops we used to visit frequently. Today only one is left, and inside the shop is a whole lot of other stuff not related to yarn. Every time I go there, the yarn section is smaller than it was the previous time I visited.

As the internet became more user friendly, it became easier for people to create their own websites. Platforms like Shopify makes it even easier; a total newbie can build an online shop in no time. You don’t even need to have website development experience. It’s a few clicks and you have a functional online shop.

The world of yarn is changing, because the technology in the world is changing. We have to adapt.

Brick and mortar yarn shops are closing at an alarming rate because the owners were slow to pick up on the new technology. Those that still exist, mainly cater for the older generation not wanting to take part in the new way of buying, which is online shopping. How long will they still exist? I don’t know. But I don’t think we will see many physical yarn shops in 20 years.

Some entrepreneurs were fast to see a gap in the market and online yarn shops were born. For a while they were well supported. They actually still are. But they too are beginning to feel the pinch of a changing world. Suddenly they don’t have the wealth of products to choose from, that they used to have a few years ago. Indie dyers no longer need yarn shops to sell their goods. It is easy for anybody to become an indie dyer, and to create an online shop for it. And it is happening. Is it wrong? Certainly not. We live in a free market economy. Anybody can sell what they want. Any person can buy what they want. But there are consequences.

All I wanted to bring across yesterday is this: the world is changing. New inventions lead to old inventions becoming obsolete. New inventions lead to a change in the need of shoppers.

Yes, we can buy yarn online. And we do. I spend a lot of money every month buying yarn online with which to design. It is quick and easy. I order from the comfort of my home. But we are losing the warmth of a physical yarn shop. We are losing the wealth of knowledge and support for new crafters. Online shops cannot really offer that. There too is change. Nowadays people learn from online tutors. The need for tutoring is being met, but the physical interaction isn’t. The need for yarn to buy is being met, but the physical interaction isn’t. We are becoming isolated little boats just drifting by each other.

If I was an indie dyer, I would have done the same thing. I would have sold my products right here, on this website, that I built myself. I am not vilifying indie dyers. They are adapting to a changing world. Online yarn shops that do not belong to an indie dyer have to re-invent themselves now, or die. How they are going to do it, I honestly don’t know.

As a crafting community, we are smack bang in the middle of history being made.

No I am not selfish and short-sighted for stating the obvious, nor I am vilifying anybody. I am stating facts. The world is changing. The yarn world is changing. And we all have to adapt.