Yesterday I finally received the December (yes, December!) installment of the Tour of DC Sock Club yarn from Neighborhood Fiber Company. It is well over a month late and included no fiber content or gauge estimate. Nor was there the expected link for the pattern and the promised virtual tour of a DC site.
Late delivery and having to find my own pattern and gauge I can live with. However, lack of notification of expected later delivery after a promised (still late) date, and failure to respond to e-mail queries and discussion on the Ravelry board set up by the supplier specifically for this club is inexcusable.
The conversation around this lack of integrity by a vendor has gotten me thinking about the whole issue of quality and service in the world of crafts and fiber arts. Over the many years that I have been purchasing supplies for quiltmaking, knitting, and needlework, I have more often than not found that people who open shops, and now on-line business, because they love the craft, frequently do not have good business sense.
I understand the allure. I’ve often thought about, and many people have tried to talk me into, opening a business around my love of fibers and textiles. It sounds great, until my practical side kicks in and I remember that I am (1) not an entrepreneur, and (2) that while I love playing with fibers, etc., running a business is an entirely different ball of wax (or yarn, as the case may be).
Which brings me to my concerns. So often shop owners and workers are more interested in their own projects and friends than serving their customers. I can not tell you how many times I have gone into shops and been ignored or treated as if I was bothering them. It was a breath of fresh air to walk into A Frayed Knot in Rocky Mount, NC last week and receive wonderful service and attention. I find that to be more and more rare.
Then there are the online yarn suppliers. Yarn dyers, in my experience over the past year, have “eyes bigger than their stomachs” and think they can supply more than demand allows. Thus, the problems, I suspect, with the Neighborhood Fiber Company and those other suppliers out there who send out e-mails saying they have yarn, but seemingly sell out before anyone can get to it.
I finally had to ask one supplier to stop sending me e-mails about the beautiful yarn she dyes and I would love to buy, because even if I responded immediately, her website would say it was all gone. There are enough wonderful suppliers out there that we do not have to be sitting at our computers waiting to jump as soon as a supplier says boo!
I have decided to stick to one or two “middle woman” suppliers that I have found to provide consistent good service, like The Loopy Ewe. Maybe I pay a bit more, but I think it’s worth it. My knitting and crafting time is limited and I don’t want to be worrying about whether I will get that $30 skein of yarn or not, or if I’m going to have to file a complaint.
The other issue which I’ve run up against this week is quality. When I shop for materials for my hand work I try to buy from shops and businesses that I know offer high quality. And I try to patronize small local shops when I can find them. Again, if I’m going to use the precious quantity of time, I want to use good materials.
That’s why I was extremely disappointed when the fabric I purchased from GStreet Fabrics (not a small shop) a couple weeks ago turned out to have several major flaws in it. Fortunately I happened to purchase enough yardage to work around them, but I did not see them when the fabric was being cut and I guess the person waiting on me didn’t either. At least she didn’t say anything. Sadly, the store is too far away for me to take it back.
I made a special effort to go out of my way to go to GStreet because the quality of their fabrics is usually high. While they do have some tables of end cuts, I thought by the price I paid for my fabric that I would be getting first quality. Not so in this case.
I know that a lot of people sew and craft to save money and they don’t seem to mind flawed and lower quality materials, but for those of us who are wanting to use our time and talents to create heirlooms, or at least items that will take and give a lot of joy and wear, high quality is a must.
I fear that the WalMart mentality rules too much of the marketplace. Quality, service, and integrity are almost completely missing.
Chef Kurt Michael Friese, in his book Slow Food in the Heartland defines “slow food” as food that “is raised with care, prepared with passion, and served with love.”
In thinking about integrity, quality, and service in regard to fiber and textile arts and crafts and the discussion some of us engaged in last year around “slow cloth”, I would say something similar. The passion, love, and time with which we work with materials to create items that will last and be enjoyed for more than just a season, demand quality in materials, service from vendors, and integrity of both.
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