Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Damnable Private Labels Again.....

Some years ago, some people who had been in the shop for a lace-knitting event complained that Artisan Knitworks had put "private labels" on yarn -- which, said one woman, indicated that we were fobbing off cut-rate yarn as our own. (!!!!)  Then, I confess through clenched teeth (I was FURIOUS), I carefully explained on Ravelry that the "private labels" were being used to make the skein labels uniform and to provide information required by law.  When you buy a skein of yarn from independent makers, say, at fiber festivals, you don't always have more than a toe-tag -- and you need (to be selling lawfully) to say what the fiber content is, how many yards or ounces, and whether it's imported.   So it was our practice to label everything -- name of maker, amount of yarn, fiber, etc etc.  We were even hand-carding all of our new and vintage buttons on special cards with sewing thread. 

It was too expensive to maintain.  Now, we use little plastic bags and wire to mount buttons on cards.  And the yarn -- well, we still use Artisan Knitworks ivory-colored yarn bands from time to time.

Suddenly, today, we heard the complaint again.  I just don't know why it MATTERS so much to people and, more to the point, why people assume that we must not be doing things for a good reason.  Must be something bad.  This time, the complaint seems to have been that we are depriving indie dyers of the right to use their own, expensively designed labels and using our own.

These people have never run a yarn shop that specializes in indie yarns -- so here is part of the rather complex situation.  I do wish people would ask ME, though.   And I am often made sick at heart by the rather nasty quality of these complaints.  Why not assume the BEST?  We are trying very hard to maintain a tone of optimism, joy, LOVE of fiber.  And this kind of nonsense seriously detracts.

I wonder if people think about how much this kind of irresponsible, fact-free criticism HURTS people, in both emotional and financial terms.  Fiber-lovers are generally good-hearted people, so what gives with this kind of thing?    

But.  Here are the conditions under which I might use an Artisan Knitworks band:

*  Often, yarn bands come off.  That is particularly true when Indie dyers, and some better known companies, use fairly cheap paper, put the bands on loosely, and so on.  The bands rip, or they come off and get lost when customers rough-house the yarn.  So we put on an intact band with all of the information on the original band.  The alternative is to have unidentified yarn. That's why some companies are using alternatives to bands -- e.g., Prism uses wonderful little labels that slip OVER a strand so they almost never come off.  Other companies have taken to using little pamphlets.  And so on -- the minute you use a BAND,  it can get lost.  And if it's put on with just a wee hunk of tape, it almost always comes off.   I sometimes wonder whether there ought to be some kind of packaging seminar so that people could avoid all of the loose bands, and also the infuriating half-bands that are stuck into the center of balls of machine-packaged yarn.  They almost always pop off and get lost.  I wonder if people realize how easy it is to end up with "mystery yarn," which means financial loss, when bands are gone on hand-painted yarn.  

*  Very often, people who only make a few skeins of handspun or hand-dye use only toe-tags.  When I buy the yarn at fiber festivals, I can't sell it that way.  LAW requires that I give fiber content, yards or ounces, and so on -- not to mention the name of the maker and whether imported.  So of course I have to re-label it.  What else would I do???  Name, amount of yarn, fiber, the same information.

* Sometimes, when I buy from a small company, they ask ME whether I want skeins that they will have to ship WITH labels or WITHOUT labels.  Notwithstanding romantic ideas to the contrary about indie dyers' love of their own labels, what they really need to do is to make money.  So if I want to do the labeling, some of them actually are relieved.  LESS COST.  This helps the dyer.  That's a good thing, not a bad thing.  This has never happened with a big company, but it's happened maybe a dozen times with small producers.

* Also sometimes, a dyer will ask me whether I want bands with prices or without.  I say without.  Once not long ago, the dyer had to send me unlabeled yarn because she was OUT of the labels without prices.  This happens most often when a dyer sells mostly at festivals and has a small wholesale trade.  Festival prices are not equivalent to wholesale or retail.  They're in between often.

*  I have been known to ask dyers if I COULD swap their flimsy or hard-to-find labels for ours.  If they say, no, then I leave it.  If they say, sure, then -- well, I re-label.  I always have a good reason for wanting to do this; usually, it's because the label is apt to come off.   But, in the case of early purchases of Ellen Minand's beautiful big hanks, it was because you couldn't SEE her labels.

I hope this beginning explanation helps.  And, next time, folks, please assume GOOD things, and ask me directly.  Let's get rid of ALL toxicity.  Thanks.

svb

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