30 July 2010

The west wind has lifted a scarf

Classic Elite Yarns suckered me in with one of their patterns:

the Lace Scarf Cardi from the Spring 2010 Gallery -- and I wanted to buy the booklet.

Usually, when a pattern comes in you-must-buy-a-booklet form only, I don't buy it. Sometimes I don't have a local yarn store near me that carries it, and it's hard to mail order, or sometimes I look at it and think 'that's nice, but I don't want to pay $15 for a booklet when I only want the one pattern.' In the case of this pattern, however, I saw it on Ravelry, favourited it, went on to other things, and thought no more about it until I logged into WoW for my regularly scheduled raid. A WoW friend who is also a Rav friend, and has even also met me in Real Life, immediately whispered me, saying approximately this:

'OMG! Are you going to make that? You have to make that! It would look so good on you!'

I have all kinds of things queued and faved on Ravelry, but none of them has ever elicited that sort of enthusiasm from anyone. So the next day, I looked at the pattern again, and thought, you know, she's right, that would look good on me, and furthermore it looks like an easy knit and hey, it calls for dk yarn, of which I have something like 20 balls in bottle green merino looking for a project.

So I toddled over to the Classic Elite website, steeling myself for the hunt through an out-of-date list of retailers for a shop that might carry it and be near enough to me, or might at least do mail-order. I appreciate that yarn companies like to support the small brick-and-mortar yarn shops, but most of them make it hard to buy their products if you aren't near a yarn shop that carries their line.

That's when the cool things happened. The first thing I noticed was that I could order the booklet right there on CE's website and not have to waste hours trying to find a retailer. Tappity-type, click click, order placed. Hurrah.

Then I learned the second, even cooler thing. CE doesn't maintain a warehouse somewhere and fulfill the orders themselves. Instead, they farm out the fulfillment to local yarn shops. In fact, if the shop is close enough to you, you have the option of selecting in-store pickup rather than paying postage.

Genius. The brick-and-mortar shops get a share of the internet sales without having to maintain online stores of their own; people like me can get the things we want easily; the option of free in-store pickup helps drive foot traffic.

In short, everyone wins.

In my case, the nearest participating shop (Aylin's Woolgatherer in Falls Church) was not really close enough for me to use the pickup option. However, shipping was not that expensive, just the cost of priority postage. I ordered the pattern book on the 21st. It was in my mailbox on the 23rd and included a handwritten note from the shop owner, thanking me for the order and inviting me to visit sometime.

Awesome all over. Why can't all e-commerce be so nice?

Amy Lowell

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