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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

LYS Review: Newbury Yarns in Boston, MA

Local yarn stores are a treasure. Without the help of patient clerks, owners, and fellow knitters who gathered at knitting circles I would never have become the knitter I am today. When I travel I love to drop in on a LYS and pick up something cool – a unique yarn, a locally produced hand-dyed skein – to make a project that commemorates my trip. My last trip to Pittsburgh I dropped in on Kid Ewe Knot and had a wonderful experience. Two weekends ago I took a trip to Boston and found my way to Newbury Yarns and had a different experience.

It was, hands down, the oddest yarn store I’ve ever visited. Given the precarious position of independent stores I always hesitate to leave negative reviews, but this isn’t a negative review per see. It’s an utterly befuddled one.

First, Newbury Yarns was down some very slippery brick stairs just off Newbury street. The store was oddly laid out – upon entering there was a table for knitting groups to the left and a table with knitted projects on the right. But then there were some odd bolts of fabric and a small selection of patterns. The owner had left a large open space between the two walls of cubbies that contained yarn, with a bare floor. No cute braided rugs, no knitted rugs, no chairs. No tables piled high with yarn spilling out of baskets, or the like, nothing to browse. It was very austere and unwelcoming.

The yarn itself had no organization system that I could tell, not by weight, or fiber, or anything. There were no tags on the cubbies to identify the yarn, its weight or fiber. Many of the cubbies were empty or had only one or two skeins. If you’d come here to pick up enough yarn to knit a sweater or larger project you’d have been out of luck – there simply wasn’t enough of any one yarn to do it, even if you could pick any weight/color. There did seem to be a lot of fingering weight yarn, so perhaps the store caters to sock knitters. Oddest of all – there were no prices tags on anything! Like I said, no tags on the cubbies, so the price wasn’t listed there, nothing on the skeins. Utterly bizarre.

The woman behind the counter was somewhat helpful but not friendly. She found a set of DPN I needed when I asked, retrieving them from a cardboard box behind the cash wrap desk. That’s right, not all of the needles were hanging or accessible. But she wasn’t a good salesclerk in that I gave her several openings to engage me in conversation that she didn’t take. I mentioned that I’d forgotten my set and was traveling, she could have asked where I was from/why I was in town, and then directed me to the locally hand-dyed yarn that they had that isn’t available elsewhere and increased the sale. Nothing. She could have asked if I liked knitting hats (as that was the project I mentioned) and directed me to a great yarn/new pattern for hats. She was more interested in casting on the project she’d just started.

Given her lack of interest I didn’t feel comfortable approaching her to ask the price of any of the yarn that interested me, I felt like I’d be bothering her. Which is another reason I find the absence of price tags so odd – it forces the shopper to constantly approach a salesclerk and ask “how much is this?” which is awkward when they’re already just standing behind a counter giving off the impression of being disengaged.

Given the lack of stock and complete lack of any attempt to sell, or make the space welcoming, I do wonder if the store is unfortunately going out of business. The whole space gave off the impression of a lack of pride and an “I don’t care anymore” attitude from the owner or person in charge.

I left without buying any yarn – an absolute first for me - and feeling vaguely uncomfortable. If you’re in town for a visit, and looking to drop in on a LYS, I’m afraid I can’t recommend going out of your way to stop by Newbury Yarns. If you forgot needles and need to pick up a set, by all means make a trip, and it is centrally located and just off the green line. Otherwise, I’m willing to bet there are better yarn stores in town.

- Dena (and if you're the owner - are you closing? selling? Satisfy by curiosity?)

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