If you've been to our shop in uptown Mount Vernon, you've likely become acquainted with our Little Free Yarn Library (LFYL), not to be confused with the "mineral closet of hidden gems", or the "kids closet",or the more private "Room of Requirement" which you probably haven't ventured into at all (staff only!).
We have a lot of closets, and as we arranged the store prior to opening last year, we started to name them. It was easier than doing this all day:
"Where did you put *random object*?"
"In the closet."
"Yeah, great, which one?"
"The one in the Gathering Room"
"Yeah, great, which one?"
Closets should have a purpose, and so we gave them each one... Until we came to the last one and we sat with it for a few minutes, looked at each other and knew what needed to happen.
Here's the thing. As with so many crafts, we could make money selling people things to begin knitting, crocheting, embroidering, but we choose to take this slowly. Why? Because learning a new skill takes time and practice- but it also requires a person to be in the right frame of mind, the right space to learn. If they are short on time or space, then it's probably not the right time. If they've sunk money into it, they feel guilty for not being ready and then they feel shame- and shame is not a good way to begin a relationship of any variety.
So, we take a step back and let people experiment and build a relationship with a skill that will last the rest of their lives. And we give them support.
It's part of our business plan, and it works.
In doing a quick count of a sample of ten student customers this last year, 90% returned and purchased yarn, hooks, needles, etc. after an initial one or more trips to the LFYL.
And here's a marvelous side-effect: I no longer have an out of control yarn stash, and I'm not the only one.
Have too many partial skeins of things you loved, but don't need? Bring them in- someone WILL love them and make something out of them. Have a whole skein you bought and forgot what it was for and you're just not feeling it anymore? Someone else will give it a new purpose.
Another lovely job of the LFYL is that if you need just a tiny amount of a specific color, you're likely to find it there. Sometimes I make bear sweaters out of things I find in the library. Like the bears themselves, the yarn is being kept out of the landfill and put back out into a tangible item, ready to face the world again. It is not just for the beginner!
We are often asked about contributing to the LFYL. Our main requirement is that it not become a drop off for very large amounts of yarn- particularly fully acrylic yarn - and that the yarn brought in is clean and free of odors. Unfinished projects are also welcome.
Tools of the trade are a great addition- hooks, needles, darning needles, gauges, bags, etc.
The LFYL is not perfect, it will never have everything (hence the need for a shop), but it is a good starting point and occasional rescuer of even seasoned crafters.