Sunday, September 30, 2007

Keepin' on...

Fall is packing a wallop, I tell ya! I didn't think that working 18 hours a week was going to be such a big deal, but after not working away from home for the past three years, it's a bit of an adjustment. I am constantly tired but don't ever feel like going to bed early. It doesn't help that I have things going on nearly every night during the week and both days on the weekend. I've been fighting a scratchy throat and itchy nose all day, and I'm terribly afraid it's going to win...

It's a very interesting thing, working in a yarn shop. I get a whole different perspective on the world of knitting than I did as a customer. It's also very interesting to read all the reviews of shops and why people like certain shops and don't like others. It seems that people have very high expectations of shops. It also continues to confirm my suspicions that viewing the whole world of knitting based on the online world of knitters leaves one viewing it through a very narrow lens.

I think the online knitting world is fantastic. But I also think that there are some things that the community expects that aren't necessarily realistic. For example, there's a discussion going on Ravelry about why people like (or don't like) their LYS. There are some folks who are frustrated with yarn shop employees' lack of knowledge about what's happening in the online world. While I think this point is somewhat valid on the one hand (it's always good to be educated about what your customers want), I also think that it's a bit unrealistic to expect yarn shop owners to be totally plugged in to what's happening online when in reality, a very small portion of their customers are going to walk in, start talking about the latest Knitty and expect the person helping them to jump right into the conversation. There's a language in the blogosphere that's rife with lingo and expecting everyone to know all about that is a bit, how do I put this, cliquey? I think it also gives people a skewed perspective about how skilled the average knitter is. I'm really seeing this as I work in the shop - there are still plenty of scarf knitters out there, and there's nothing wrong with that!

Knitting (and crafty/artistic pursuits in general) is a very personality-driven business. I really, really love working in the shop and talking to people about knitting all day, but I also am finding that there are a gazillion different comfort levels with talking about knitting. For instance, I was talking to a customer about Magic Loop the other day. I spent some time chatting with her about what needle length would be best for her to try, and then she mentioned she liked cables. I got all excited and dragged her over to look at Janet Szabo's Cables: Volume 1 book (which is INCREDIBLE, BTW). She got this kind of trapped look in her eye like I was giving her the tough sell, and then wasn't all that interested in the book because it didn't have any patterns in it. I really have to remember that these aren't my knitting friends coming in to chat. I need to be sensitive to people's comfort level with being helped and with having things suggested to them. I also need to really work on not taking it personally when they're not interested in what I have to show them (I don't take it personally, but sometimes I feel like I make the person I'm helping think that I am...if that makes any sense at all).

It's also kind of hard to divine how much (or little) assistance each person needs. I want to make sure I'm available to help, but I don't want to hover. It's hard to figure out how to let people know that it's okay to ask for help if they need it. There are so many stories of people who think they're being ignored by the staff of their LYS, and I want to make sure I'm not doing that! There are so many expectations that it's a little bit nerve-wracking being on the other side of the counter. I'm sure I'll continue to feel more and more comfortable as I get used to the job.

Oh, yeah, and I've been knitting up a storm. Here's a sneak peek at some of the things that are currently on-deck for the TNNA show in January:

And currently blocking, a top using the coolest lace pattern ever:

As if that wasn't enough to keep me totally occupied, Bill decided that we should try making some bread today. Here's the result:

Yummy! There is nothing better than bread fresh out of the oven. I found a great recipe that uses the food processor to mix up the ingredients followed by a couple minutes of hand kneading. Our oven has a bread-rising setting, so the whole process was ridiculously easy. I might have to do it again sometime! Even the kids liked it (which is great for me, since I despised my mom's homemade bread growing up - I was an unappreciative little brat!).

And because I couldn't let the post end without at least one picture of a kid holding a chicken, here are the latest. These are new and unusual because Rhoda (the red chicken) doesn't like to be picked up, and none of the chickens like being picked up by Owen! I was so surprised to find them like this the other day.

Of course, halfway through the photo session, Rhoda freaked out and went flapping off, clucking madly, Owen hot on her heels in pursuit. Sydney kept ahold of Ruttager, and we won't talk about the poop on the cushion that Rhoda deposited as she made her escape... It's almost time to clean them and put them away for the winter anyway, right?

At least the poo didn't land on a kid (this time around, anyway). I would've shot you down cold if you would've suggested five years ago the number of poop references I'd be making per day just a few years later...


Anonymous mk said...

Retail is an interesting way to interact with the public, isn't it?

I've had a few people email me regarding my yarn shop reviews on the blog, asking me which shop is my favorite. Apparently my relatively neutral review style doesn't do it for them, although I don't know what difference it would make if I did have a favorite or not - my preferences may not be their preferences, y'know?

I love that lace pattern. I tried swatching it up years ago for a pair of stockings, and it looked great, but I never got around to using it.

11:09 PM  
Blogger strikkegal said...

It's hard to actually talk to people about something you love when they're not interested, isn't it? I'm a mathteacher now, discovering that I'm unusual since I love maths...

Btw. the SAM3 prize showed up in the mail last week, just wanted to let you know I absolutely loved it! Posted a picture on my blog yesterday :)

1:48 AM  
Blogger clumberknits said...

Very interesting post. I'd love to hear more about your LYS experience. I'm guilty of wishing that my LYS owner and/or staff would be a bit more plugged in to the knitters on the internet, but I know that most of her customers are not. Still, I wonder if maybe she doesn't get the "plugged in" customers because she's *not* plugged in. But maybe, really, there just aren't that many out there.

I look forward to reading more!

3:25 AM  
Blogger Jocelyn said...

I also work at an LYS and have been following that thread on Ravelry with interest. (There's also an LYS employee group, btw.) It's very hard to know how to please some people. The downside of the internet is that the most inocuous conversation (at least to the employee) can become a slam in a review. It's so hard to know what really happened without any context.

The other thing is that if someone is new to the shop, I ask them where they usually shop for yarn (out of curiosity). Turns out that most people have a complaint about every shop. That Ravelry thread certainly proves that out.

5:02 AM  
Blogger Donna said...

Very interesting post. I think it was a brilliant move for you to start working in a shop so you can get another perspective.

Of course, the part I most identified with was the poop talk! It is a common topic at our house too. When I met my husband 10 years ago, I NEVER would have guessed it was going to become a topic of normal everyday conversation for us.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Ashley said...

You know... I really don't care if my LYS knows anything about the online world or not. As long as they have good yarns and a friendly atmosphere that's all I ask for. The friendly atmosphere though is something I don't find at my LYS. On the 5 occasions I've gone inside I've never seen anyone smile. It just makes me feel unwelcomed to see them standintg with absolutely no expression watching me. They always ask if I need help, but a smile would be nice. I've also tried to start conversations with some of the employees in the past and I'm only given one word answers. For me the friendly atmosphere is key. If I don't feel welcomed why should my money be spent there? Maybe it's me.

The bread you made looks wonderful! I've been wanting to try baking bread for awhile I just can't seem to find the time.

9:18 AM  
Blogger yarnlot said...

Really interesting post...working in a yarnstore must be quite different because of the commercial connection.
As for the internet, I cannot imagine knitting without it anymore, it brings me in contact with so many people and new things...but there are a lot of knitters less interested in it, not in the least because it takes time, internetting and blogging are nearly hobbies on their own. But for me, it really widens my horizon.
Lovely blog, the children especially.

9:59 AM  
Blogger msubulldog said...

The yarn shop talk is really interesting--I can't wait to hear more about it. I typically like the "let me know if I can help/there's anything you're looking for" comment possibly followed later by a "so, what are you working on right now?" or "yes, isn't that a beautiful color?" type of comment to show me that the employee realizes I'm still there and she's still interested in helping me. :)
Love, LOVE the picture of the kids with the chickens!
And I sympathize with the poop comments. I just started Everett on the g-diapers and am constantly regaling my friend with personal reviews of how they stand up to blowouts. *grin*

10:22 PM  
Anonymous Anastasia said...

I've found that I've been completely colored by the online knitting community. I taught myself to knit and have just these past couple of months joined real-life knitting groups, expecting to find someone who is a goddess at lace or cables or sweaters, or at least someone who's a more adventurous/experienced knitter than me. And I didn't find any. In three places I've been to, there's only the LYS owners and one other lady that's interested in pushing her knitting to the limit and trying everything.

I realized that most real life knitters aren't like the online ones - and to just relax and knit when I'm around them.

Love the Lace Rib Raglan so far, finally cast on yesterday and I'm slightly past the initial rib and into the stockinette.

4:39 PM  
Blogger kimberly said...

Oh how interesting to hear about a yarn shop from another perspective. I'm of the old belief that if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all. Not always but most of the time. I've had bad yarn shop experiences but they don't get on the blog-the blog world should be a positive place and that's what my reviews are. Oh and you're right, you can't please them all. I'm sure you're doing a fabulous job!!! OH and I know how it is to go back to work after taking a break with kids-not easy! I took 5 years off to have my kids and now I'm back teaching. Last year was my first year back and it was a bit rough but it does get easier. Hugs from Berlin, Germany!!

10:30 PM  

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