Friday, November 21, 2008

"Knitting Is Recession Proof" - Lion Brand CEO

I was checking my knitting-related email subscriptions, and while looking at a Lion Brand knit-along invite, I saw the link to a great article at the bottom of the page. Knitting Through A Downturn, published in the New York Times blog City Room, describes why Lion Brand is confident about opening a sophisticated yarn mega-outlet in Manhattan, the very first in the company's 140-year history.

I find it heartening that Lion Brand head David Blumenthal validates my feelings about knitting and knitting supplies. My favorite quotes:

“Knitting has always been recession-proof,” he explained. “In a recession, people are cocooning. So for $5 or $10 in yarn, you can have a great weekend and come away with a scarf that would cost $60 in a store."

"In this high-stress environment, people want to zone out with a skein of yarn,” he said. “Knitting reduces stress; it’s today’s yoga.”

So, so TRUE. For me, at least. Then I read the comments, which ranged from the snarky to the fuzzy ends of the spectrum. Yarn snobbery, like wine snobbery, is a funny thing. It adds stress to what was supposed to be a yoga thing.

Of course there are ideal yarns suggested for specific projects, but the price of yarns should not hamper creativity or the desire to learn. There are good reasons why these yarns are recommended for their qualities, which you want the finished product to express. If you spent USD 5-10 on an appropriate small project, or learning a new stitch in acrylic or other artificial fiber yarn, the pleasure of knitting alone makes that worth it. When you've gotten more experience and can afford higher-quality natural fiber yarns for specific projects, by all means invest. But there should always be something for the person who finds comfort in the activity of knitting, and the current financial situation weighs heavily on all knitters. I think companies like Lion Brand and similar value brands are doing the rest of us a favor by making knitting more accessible to and more affordable for everyone. Lion Brand itself would not have survived this long if it weren't doing something right.

You all know I buy online (auction ; websites) as well as from brick-and-mortar stores. I'm just so happy to have a CHOICE. And, ah, I choose not to be snarky, as my skills are not developed enough to survive a midnight raid from the Knitting Police. And also, taking oneself too seriously adds to one's anti-aging cream budget.

Thanksgiving is upon us, and as you contemplate the cost of your beautiful yarn, please send a blessing to show appreciation for all those people who breed the sheep, shear them, prep the fleece, plant and harvest and process the cotton/ flax/ soy/ bamboo, spin and dye the yarns, package them, market them, sell them, write patterns and books, create jobs and teach knitters/crocheters how to make all those wonderful, wearable and above all USEFUL gifts.

Relax. Enjoy. Spread the love. Elizabeth Zimmerman herself recommends that we "Knit on with confidence and hope, amid all crises."


Velvet said...

Yarn snobs can say all they want - knitting is knitting and you can knit with a piece of twine if that's all you have and come out with a treasure. I've seen enough $50-a-skein yarn in some yarn stores and I've seen enough of yarn snobs as well. Let them stay in their LYS - here in the US, those are the ones that are shutting their stores because yarn snobs themselves can't afford them anymore.

But Lion Brand yarn - you can't go wrong with a few inexpensive skeins and in a weekend come out with something beautiful. You can come out with something beautiful with a $50-a-skein yarn, but still, that's $50 out of your pocket compared to inexpensive ones that will cost you waaaaay less, but give you the same amount of fun and satisfaction - if not more :)

The Gravelcat said...

Lion Brand (and the much-maligned KnitPicks) do have a lot of inexpensive natural fiber yarns, so if it's an argument re natural vs. man made fiber, people can compare features and come away from the discussion having learned a lot. If yarns were priced out of knitters' reach fewer would be knitting and there would be a lot more shivering folk.

If one has a farm that produces a small quantity of high quality fiber, we all understand that the price just reflects the cost of labor, production and marketing. People will buy your yarn simply because it's beautiful, it's right for their project.

Outfits like Lion Brand and Knitpicks aren't in the market to put one's hypothetical farm out of business, but they are probably supporting fair trade elsewhere in the world. If prices are good for the average knitter/crocheter I don't see why they should turn their noses up. If they find bad quality, they can either return items, stop buying, or send feedback to help improve the product.

The Gravelcat said...

There was a thread in the Knitters Review Forums about people who love to knit but couldn't finish anything.

For some people it's the ACTIVITY of knitting, the MOTIONS, that they love, more than finishing something big. Right now we can knit a lot because we're young and don't have rheumatism or arthritis yet so we kind of take it for granted. Those who love to knit but suffer pain don't really have to finish entire sweaters like they did when they were younger. They just want to be knitting, so you don't really need expensive yarns for that.

Mimi said...

Well written, and I agree with you.
For me I don't mind the yarn price, if I could afford it and if I'm sure I want it...