Sunday, February 04, 2007


Suffer the Little Children

I got an email today from a close friend who said that on one of her lists someone had posted about taking her child into a yarn store, and her child was treated "like vermin" for picking up cones of yarn and "putting them on his hands" and "touching" the books (his mother was quick to point out that "he wasn't tearing them or anything.")

I'm appalled. Dudes, this is string made from sheephair, it's not the handspun pubes of Jesus. If the kid has clean hands, his hands and mine are the same. All of it's going to be touched; we can't knit or crochet or spin or weave it without touching it.

I'm pleased to say that I don't subscribe to any of these lists; I have enough drama in my life.

I'm also pleased to say that my daughter has been welcomed with open arms in any store I've gone to. Specifically Birkeland Brothers. They welcome me and my child, equally. They let her go and look at the "big carder" (it fills a whole room!). One of the women who works there showed E where she used to stand as a child and feed fibre into the machine, and last time the owner took her by the hand (after checking if it was ok by me) and he took her back to where the carder was working and let her tear up some fleece and feed it through, so she could see how it worked. She was all "It was tangled and hard and it got fed through and went all soft! That's way bigger than your carder, mom!"

She goes, by invitation, to the open bins and bags of fleece in the back and plunges her arms in and picks up handfuls and smells it and runs the fibre through her fingers. She picks up bags of roving and sliver and smells them, she picks up balls of handspun and rubs them on her (clean) face and fondles them with her (clean) hands. They stand there and smile and let her explore as she wishes, while also making sure she doesn't fall into the carder or anything.

This is the way we pass on our skill. This is the heart of the "each one, teach one" philosophy. By loving and nurturing the little ones who already have it in their blood. By encouraging exploration and not stifling.

Dude, I was stifled until I was in my 40s. Let's not pass that on to our little ones, ok? The psychiatrists already make enough money.

I'll never forget the day I was at a spinning lesson and a boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old? Maybe as much as eleven, ran up onto the porch in between playing with the other kids and sat down and spun a bunch of laceweight on a Kiwi wheel. And then after discussing fibre and spinning with us intelligently for a few minutes he ran back out to kill aliens with the other kids. I just sat there, stunned, and thought "um dude, could you come back and teach me how to do that?" His spinning was WAY better than mine.

I've never EVER had anyone in a yarn store tell my daughter to put down a skein either, and it's not just Birkeland; I've taken her to many stores. It might be because they know I make sure her hands are clean first. I sometimes even send her to the loo to wash her hands before she can touch the yarn. But she's never been made to feel like a second-class citizen. It might be because I look like I'll punch them if they don't let my kid feel the wool, too, but really I'm not that scary.

Touching books? I touch them too. Kids learn that books are precious and they value them. E would no more damage or dirty a book than I would, and it's not just because of my teaching, it's from school and also from her own instinct. She prizes books highly.

Now certainly there are the kids who scream and tear things up, the ones who aren't socialized enough to take into such establishments, and the ones who the rest of us shouldn't be required to tolerate. I'm as fast as the next person to send The Look of Doom to a parent who can't or won't control their child.

I don't fault the child or even the parent (well that's not entirely true, inside my head I'm yelling "shut that little fucker up or get out!") it's just that this is an inappropriate place for that particular child, and quite frankly I'd be as happy as the next person to put that screamy grabby kid in a straight jacket and put them on the sidewalk and then ask the parent to take them right the fuck away from under my nose.

But to exclude all children, to automatically assume that they're there to damage or harm the almighty product ... well, that's just ass.

These are the fibre artists of the future. And sometimes of the present. Stand aside, dudes, there's wool that my kid needs to smell.

Very well said!

Especially the part about clean hands and dumping the screamers (and their parents) on the sidewalk.

Kids need to be socialized and they need to have limits. And we need to stick up for the ones who know those limits and heed them!
Hear, hear!

Perhaps those ignorant yarn store owners are the same ones that treat their adult customers like intruders, too?
{devil's advocate}

Maybe the kid had a snotty face and dirty hands? Some moms apparently don't see things like that.

{/devil's advocate}

I'm all for bringing in the kids and letting them do stuff. But there are a ton of parents out there that let their kids run riot.
There is a yarn store in Salmon Arm, BC that won't even let buying customers touch the yarn. I kid you not! You walk in the door and are confronted by a long counter that prevents access to the yarn. You have to TELL the employees what you are looking for and they go get it. Even then you are not expected to touch it unless you have committed to buying it.

With a LYS like that a person might as well buy online. I wonder if the store will survive? I'm guessing it will only be around if they happen to also have a booming online business.
I love this post, love it!
E is such a lucky little girl to have you for her mom, and I'm terribly envious of her experiences in that fibre store, there's no such thing around here, at all.
I'll be taking GD (she just turned 4) to the lys soon, and yes with clean hands and face, because she loves my different fibres and it'll be a real treat for her, I'll also see how those lys peeps respond....I've never, ever seen in child in that store....
I'm with you on the poor kids who are allowed by their parents to run wild....
I'm with you on how lys folks need to nurture these budding fibre artists....customers in the making!
Thanks ever so much!
My four year old is one of those kids you can't take into the yarn stores, although I do still do it once in awhile, because otherwise how will she learn how to conduct herself there? She is the one who will pull the bottom ball from the pile and send the rest tumbling; she is the one unravelling a skein of yarn because she saw the loose tail; she is the one haranguing the staff with ceaseless questions about nothing.

I don't take her often because it does not make for an enjoyable, yarn-fondling experience for me - I end up breathing down her neck the entire time and pretty much don't stop the continual nagging. Some stores are okay for the type of kid she is (such as Chapters because I could care less what they think anyway), but other stores you catch the vibe from the sales staff right away and then I pretty much grab what I went in for and leave.

Believe me, I am the first to shoot the Look of Doom myself, but on the other end of the spectrum, if I am the recipient of such a look when I am already tailing my kid and making life generally miserable for her - there will not be a favorable response from me for such looks or comments. This has happened to me lots. Hey, if I'm not noticing, definitely say something to me or my kid, but if you can see I'm already parenting my kid to death, leave me alone and then tell yourself that I have EARNED some time away from home with this child!

What the store clerks should learn too, is that if they tolerate my kid for just a little while (mere moments in their entire day), I'm gonna be spending a WHOLE LOT more there than if I do a grab and dash. If I have time to look around, I can usually drop $100 or more in a store no problem. You'll be lucky to get $10 out of me if I have to leave quickly.

Okay, there's my rant at the general public. (Whew - where did that come from?)

Thanks for this post, Rabbitch - I'm defnitely going to take her to Birkeland Bros. soon!
I'll second that Amen. The owner of my favorite LYS is a single mom with two kids and kids are welcome in her store. So are child-like adults, which is probably why I like going there.
Sympathizing with the Look of Doom in public places:

I was ready to give the Look of Doom the other night to two mothers and their two children at the next table at a restaurant. Seems the moms wanted to talk and to ignore their kids so they set up a portable DVD player on their table. This became a major distraction for our 4 year old - we had to keep reminding her that it is rude to watch a movie at the table in a restaurant and to eat her dinner. Those two moms just kept yakking and ignoring their two kids that were sliding off the chairs and being disruptive.
Um, Marlene, I ordered some yarn from a store in Salmon Arm BC once. I hope it wasn't the place you're talking about, because if it was I don't think I'll order from them again.
After reading about the handspun pubes of Jesus, I'm afraid I wasn't able to read the rest of the post for another 10 minutes. It took me a while to wipe the tears from my eyes and had to run to the potty. hehehe

Here in my neck of the woods, we don't have any LYSs. Even in Hobby Lobby and Michaels my son knows better than to pick up any of the yarn. He learned that quick after he unwound a skein of yarn here at the house. I was not pleased. heh
You were stifled?
Heather said what I was gonna say anyway -- I work in a LYS and I've been known to lead parades around the store (for Jack and Ryan, who are regulars with their moms and they seriously need to move all the time), glue spare yarn into yarn pics, teach to finger knit, color, ... Whatever it takes for the mom to feel comfortable and ... ahem ... spend money. It's in my own best interest to be welcoming and fun -- in fact, Jack and Ryan ask to come to the yarn shop. We make flags out of sickers and warped needles to wave and everything. We rock.
There's nothing left to say - you said it all, and you said it well!
Ab-so-friggin-lutely! And, just think, do those sales people have ANY idea where some adults put their hands???
Yep. In the LYS where I work, we have a bin of toys. The kids who are "regulars" run straight to the back of the store and usually have the toys out before their Moms have even started shopping. Plus we have "bored-husband" chairs. Because you wouldn't believe how ill-behaved the grown-up shopping companions can get. I know, Please forgive the generalizations Dads and non-knitting partners who aren't husbands.

I guess I always thought you were supposed to touch the yarn in a yarn shop, and that's not age-related.
I know the feeling despite not having, nor being, a child. I've been in a LYS where every little move I make is watched. Yes, I'm under 25 and might even be carrying a dreaded backpack, but shockingly, I do knit, I'm not a degenerate and for crying out loud I'm sure massive granny-bags would be much more convenient for shop-lifting.

No Looks of Doom though... :)
Ugh! You said it all! I went into a LYS and was quite dissatisfied at several things, one of them being the way they treated my kids. I walked in the store, and immediately they want to know what I'm doing, and what they can get for me. Then they tell my kids to be sure not to touch the yarn. First of all, I like to browse. I don't like to be hounded the second I walk in the store. And sometimes I'm not there for a specific yarn. Sometimes I just have to feed my addiction, you know? But to tell my kids, who are quite well behaved in public, not to touch anything? I could see if we were coming in covered in mud and glue. But we weren't, we were well groomed. Needless to say, I've not returned to that LYS, nor will I. If my whole family isn't welcome there, they don't need my business. I'm on your side with that one.
Right. On.
Recently, my daughter and I, after a hard day , looking disheveled and a bit crazed , ( she had a physical, and a bunch of physical fitness tests for a scholarship and I , well I rolled outta bed at 0 dark thirty, drove 2 hours, and we stopped in a LYS on our way home to try and relax and as we don't have one where we are )both of us were dismissed and she, at 17 , was asked, please don't touch the books, please don't touch the yarn, I was glared at ( I was in sweats and looked probably as if I wouldnt spend money ) . So we left, and I took her pic and she mine, and we came back a few days later ( had to go for optical testing ) and she was in her uniform, with all her ribbons, medals and what not, and I was in a right smart pair of slacks and a cashmere aran I made, an dont you know, the tripped over themselves to help us. I broke out my wallet and showed them the 300$ in it, said I allocate this for yarn in a month, then showed them the pics on my camera and said, to bad it won't be in your place, and we left
After several LYSs where you can either not touch the yarn or not breathe without someone haranguing you about your yarn choices, my city finally has an LYS where the owner actually feeds my kid chocolate and trusts that she's not going to smear it on the yarn.

I LOVE my new LYS. It's totally about passing it on.
OMG, I had to stop reading after the "handspun pubes of Jesus" too. Made DH suffer through hearing the post. I absolutely love how you turn a phrase. God if I only had your wicked tongue. :)

I have a 2.5 YO and have taken her to the yarn store once. She did SO well -- she was interested and intrigued but kept to herself while under the glaring gaze of the LYS owner. I feel bad, now, after reading your post that I didn't let her feel the yarn. She has full reign at home -- even has her own needles and ball. Next time, I'll let her explore. I'm with the other posters, too: each extra minute I'm in the store adds up to another dollar I'll spend. Ca-ching!
Sorry guys, I don't know about this one, although the pubes of Jesus about had me choked to death on my coffee. I saw a lot of "un-parented" kids come into the LYS where I used to work. I know with the price of yarn these days its tough to make a living running a LYS, and a messed up skein is an unpurchased skein and money lost. I dont disagree with all that's been said here, but there's another side to the story. I suppose the LYS owner might feel differently if she knew that the parents would buy any unsaleable yarn resulting from their children's enjoyment? Apparently that doesnt happen very often, hence the cringes and LOD.
Hey Rabbitch, just thought I'd share my two cents...

Being someone who used to work in a yarn shop I have experience with both types of children (and by extension, parents). I agree that it's imperitive to pass on the love of fibre arts to children, BUT...

Even the most well behaved children, having missed a nap or snack, can quickly become the most obnoxious little f*ckers on the face of the planet. There is nothing more irritating to me than having some woman (or man, lets be fair) stand talking to me about which kind of yarn for this project, while her snot-nosed little brat pulls apart a $40 skein of collinette behind her (or his) back.

And as for the post that was made by the child's mother, I have noticed that sometimes mothers are not the most unbiased judges of their children's behaviour. While it's entirely possible that the store employees were in reality treating her and her child unfairly, more likely is that the "adorable" behaviour of her "precious" child was in fact creating a pile/mess that would need to be cleaned up after the child was removed. Spending the next hour cleaning up and rewinding yarn from one unruly child is not the best/most productive way to spend the afternoon in a yarn shop.
One of the best moments I've had working at my LYS (employee, not owner) was with some non-knitting parents and their young daughter (I'd guess she was 3-4ish?)

They came in the store because they lived in the area, and had noticed the beautiful colours of all the yarn displayed in shelves on the wall and baskets in the window and on the tables, and they wanted to look closer.

The only non-staff knitter in the store was sitting on a couch in the back, working on her project, so I was free to spend some time with these people.

I got to lead them around the store, get them to touch EVERYTHING "Here, put your hands and wrists in this bowl of alpaca" "This is angora, from bunnies" "this is mohair, from goats" "this is from sheep" "this is from the blooms of cotton plants, like cotton balls" "here, smell this.. this is silk..." etc, etc... the parents asked questions about where stuff came from, the little girl was quiet but quickly put her hands up every time I brought out a new ball to touch... and it was GREAT! Made my day/week/month... and after they left, the knitter in the back said that she enjoyed listening to the tour, too!

The only time I've tried to change how a child was behaving when our ball winder was being over-cranked and I was worried about it breaking, and then some spinning fibre was getting pretty mauled... but then I realized that the child was autistic (or something that looks similar), and Mom had been doing an amazingly brilliant job of being patient and loving (as she must be, 24/7) while trying to create some time for herself to look at yarn, and I felt like crap.

I enjoy how kid-friendly our store is, and look forward to the next time I can give another tour, or teach a kid to use the swift and ball-winder to help roll up the skeins that will be going home with them... or play with the store baby when she's trying to help me unpack yarn!
Handspun pubes of Jesus!! What a hoot! I agree let the people touch! Children are people, Teach them the rules and let them touch. Those who "misbehave", teach them they don't know the rules!
The last time I took the Bug into my LYS, I held him the entire time (15 months was too little to trust around all the pretty colors) and when it came time to write my check, I was struggling. I'd intended to put him down and hold his hand, but the LYS owner came round the counter, said, "Let's see if I can show him something neat" and proceeded to whisk him around the store, pointing to colors, helping other customers, showing him the Fibertrends hedgehogs (gotta knit him one of those). She was very calm and wonderful, and as a result I had a nice visit and will definitely be back. In the meantime I'm teaching him to pet the yarn, rather than his natural instinct to rip the balls apart...
I completely sympathize with the LYS owners' concern about damage. And yet when staff (owners? not sure) at one local store chided my 10-year-old, quiet and well behaved, for carefully looking at the *tags* on some yarn to figure out which was which... I spend my money elsewhere. Interestingly that was the one local store that has had no charitable events going -- no odd-ball contributions, or bins to accept FOs, charity hat/mitten patterns, etc.
I definately see both sides of this issue. I know that as a parent, I can be blind to my child's faults. I also know his limitations and mine.

When we first moved to our current residence (in a new metro area), I was checking out the local shops.

One is in a ritzy part of the city and is spacious, well-lit and impecably organized with great product. The prices aren't excessive and I can find things there that aren't available in the other local shops. However, I will NEVER spend another dime in that shop. I would rather not knit.

Their service is lousy. The staff is rude and they can't be bothered to have the correct store hours posted.

For me, the kicker is that when I have taken my son I get the LOD. The first time he was about 2-1/2. Young, but certainly able to maintain self-control. We sat on the couch and looked at a magazine for a specific pattern and while he chatted, he did not touch a thing.

He has NEVER once pulled a ball of yarn from a shelf, or from my knitting basket for that matter.

The entire time we were in the shop, I was given the evil eye. In this case, the poor kid was walking around with his hands in his pockets. (Not easy for a toddler...)

On the other hand, at my LYS, my friends (yes, I am there that much) pull him into the work room to sit down an color with him. To me it is just business smarts. I will gladly spend my money where I am welcome.
A. Men.
You are so cool! (And right) My daughter in a yarn store makes the owner very nervous, I can tell, but she doesn't say. one. word. Good for her, I spend money there, more when I see how she overcomes her urge to sweep my (clean) child away from the wool. And I don't let the little darlin touch hardly anything =) I love your truth preachin - keep on.
So right!
Man, when I was a kid I wasn't allowed to touch anything ever for the fear of 'being snatched bald headed'. Mind you, I was a pretty good kid. I asked, was polite and didn't run around wreaking havoc. I swear, that was my brother. He was a complete tool.
Oh, and he still is.
You've struck a chord for kids in yarn stores everywhere! I would, however, like something made from the handspun pubes of Jesus. Can you help a girl out?
Pubes of Jesus!!! LMFAO-ROFLMAO even! O-M-G...can't....stop....laughing....BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHhhhhaaaaaaa!
Forgot to mention....I am like a kid in a candy store in yarn stores...I must touch all the yarn...and ooooo and aaaaaahhhh over what I like. MInd you I may not buy anything or much of anything because I cannot afford most yarn shop yarns! But I touch and feel too! I like to feeeeeeeeel the yaaaaaaaarn....go kiddo-GO!
Snicker....pubes of jesus....BAAaaaaaaa!!!
Wonder if Lady Wyvern has seen the old movie "Pretty Woman." Similar principle: Julia Roberts in slutty clothes is denied service in a fancy Rodeo Drive store. Cleans herself up, re-visits same store, points out to unctuous staff that they wouldn't wait on her before, tho she had same million buck credit card she has now. "Mistake. Huge, huge mistake."

I *love* that scene.
I am currently boycotting a local coffee house because the owner over reacted when my friend's children 'misbehaved' in his shop when her hubby brought them after a knit gathering we had there. The kids were not bothering anyone, being loud, or harming his property, and were there for five minutes before he came over to us. They were merely wandering and being curious. He was a jerk about it so we left. I've told all my friends about it and I'll never return. Word travels in this town and many people are supporting my action.
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