One of the perks of being the Chicago Knitting Examiner is that I have the chance to form great relationships with small businesses close to my topic, and help them share information and resources with both each other and their customers. Today, as the designer of the exclusive free pattern offered at Knot Just Knits in Oak Park during the Chicago Yarn Crawl, I had the chance to be an honorary employee.
Renee Jones, fellow employee and owner of Carolina Fiber Company, was there helping customers when I arrived. Two pairs of customers were shopping, and one pair was contemplating what color yarn to purchase in order to make the pattern I designed. I always have that initial fear of, "What if everyone but me thinks my pattern is ugly?" so even if everyone after them hated my pattern, I relaxed instantly. I immediately put my bag down and got into salesperson mode, asking if anyone needed help.
Knot Just Knits was the starting point for more than a dozen people on the first day of the Chicago Yarn Crawl, so I had the chance to explain the passport process, raffle prizes, and the ten percent discount at the stores. Other people were handing in their raffle tickets from the back of their passport, as Knot Just Knits was their fifth and even tenth store of the day. I had a moment where I thought about all of the non-knitters I know, who must think it is odd to have over thirty stores in the Chicago area dedicated to yarn.
Two kids, probably about ten and twelve years old, parked their bikes outside the store and walked inside. The boy said, "I have a question," and pulled out a garter stitch square, still on a needle. He said, "How do I fix the parts that aren't, like, as good as the other parts?" I said that from what I could see, he was doing a great job, and getting it wet would even out the bumpy parts. Then he said, "How do I make, like, patterns and stuff?" I told him he would probably need to learn how to purl for that. "Can you teach me?" he said. I got out a ball of scrap yarn and some spare needles, and he was a fluent purler in under five minutes.
I told a customer who watched what transpired, "I taught him to purl! My work here is done." We had a laugh, and then the young girl approached me and said, "Can you, like, umm, how much would it cost to teach me to knit?" I told her it was $25 for an hour, and she said, "What about, like, a half hour?" I told her that was only $15, and she walked away with a pensive look on her face. The customer in front of me said, "Let me pay for her lesson." I brought the girl over to the register and told her excitedly that the customer wanted to pay for a knitting lesson for her. Another five minutes went by, and Jasmine, as it turns out was her name, was scheduled to learn to knit. The customer told me, "The world can always use another knitter. Alright, Jasmine. Good luck!"
Some customers were from as far away as Rockford, taking a field trip into the greater Chicago area for the Yarn Crawl. A few people had no idea what the Yarn Crawl was, as they were either from out of town or not interested enough in social media to follow their favorite stores on facebook and Ravelry. But everyone who came through the door was in a good mood, and even the final customers who entered the store twenty minutes after closing time were eager to share their adventures from other stores.
Most Yarn Crawlers were either coming from the west or coming from the north, starting in Chicago and working their way down and out of the city. Two customers in particular were commuting, one by Metra and the other by CTA, hitting as many stores by public transportation as they could. Another two customers were taking the mile-long walk to Knit Nirvana, a yarn shop in Forest Park, before continuing to their cars. The weather today was just too nice to drive everywhere.
Nobody complained of heavy traffic, crabby sales associates, or how this store is better than that store. It was one of very few examples of small businesses putting their competitive tendencies aside to share the attitude of "We have some great items, but go see what other stores have, too!" with their customers. The day flew by, and other than convincing Renee that I was better at winding yarn than ringing customers up at the register, I felt at home. Knitters, no matter where they are from or what their personal lives encompass, are good people.
(Click "Subscribe" to have the Chicago Knitting Examiner's articles emailed directly to your inbox.)