View Full Version : new to forum: imported yarn question

05-22-2009, 06:08 PM
I'm new to the forum and sort of new to knitting. I'm wondering how unaware I am or perhaps, as a customer, just feeling slighted.

When my Chilean daughter-in-law went back to visit her family, she brought back as a gift for me two balls of yarn spun by the Chilean Mapuche. She bought it from a market that specialized in skilled artisan products and it's beautiful. It passed through through customs when she returned to the United States.

I'm not skilled enough to know how far yarn will go in a project. I wanted someone to advise me what I could do with it and what size needles I should use. So I took it to a yarn shop.

The first thing the woman asked was "has it been quarantined?" Her manner of asking made me feel a little put out, but I figured, well, she knows more about yarn than I do. We discussed a few project ideas and then, because I had more shopping to do, I asked if she would feel more comfortable if I took the yarn back out to my car. In the same less-than-pleasant tone she said "Please do. We don't want bugs all over the store."

I can understand her concern to a point, but I didn't feel I warranted such an attitude. I felt like I was in fourth grade and had cooties.

Is this a legitimate problem? When knitting clutches bring their projects into such a store, are their yarns also cause for concern?

Jan in CA
05-22-2009, 06:23 PM
Shame on her! :fingerwag:

I don't know if it's a valid concern, but there's no reason she had to act so superior about it. She could have told you in a nice way that there is a always a possibility of bugs in imported yarn and she'd recommend that you quarantine your yarn for a period of time. She could also have asked nicely if you'd take it to your car before browsing. I don't know how stores like that stay in business.

As to your other question, I've never had them ask about yarn at our knit nights. I think most people have bought yarn there or in another LYS so maybe it's never come up. I am going tonight so I'll ask the manager if it is a valid concern.

OH!... and welcome to Knitting Help!!:yay:

05-22-2009, 06:31 PM
:hug:Welcome to KH!

I agree with Jan...she shouldn't have responded that way even if she was worried...she should still have been professional. I know some yarn stores do not want other yarns brought in, they only want the yarn they sale, while others don't care.

05-23-2009, 07:41 AM
This is not exactly the same situation, but similar and a better response:

I was in a yarn store while on vacation a couple of years ago. A customer brought in an old Christmas stocking to find some yarn to match in order to repair a few holes. She pulled the stocking out to show the owner. The owner took one look and very politely asked the customer to walk outside with her and she would explain what needed to be done. After a short conversation, the customer left. The owner came back in the store and said that the sock had what appeared to be insect damage. The customer came back into the store about 10 minutes later without the stocking. The owner apologize (again it seemed like) for hustling the customer out of the store earlier. The customer thanked her for letting her know what the problem likely was, and then they continued talking about how to combat yarn chomping insects. I thought it was all handled very well.

But really, is the yarn that is imported from South America quarantined prior to distribution? Is there more of a risk of bugs in imported yarn than say in Lamb's Pride coming from the heart of America?

05-23-2009, 08:47 AM
It does seem that a lot of the more moderately priced yarns come from South America or the middle east. At least some of the yarn from Knit Picks comes from Peru and the sock yarn I purchased from Elann came from Turkey.
It sounds more like the store owner had a problem with yarn purchased elsewhere rather than her store.

05-23-2009, 09:17 AM
Nearly all yarns distributed by US companies are made in Turkey. That includes Hobby Lobby's brand and other.

05-23-2009, 09:45 AM
A few thoughts--

1. The shop owner was a bit of jerk.

2. The best way to get bugs in your yarn is to let it sit for long periods in dark places-- moths love that for laying eggs.

3. I once picked up some yarn at Michael's to look at it and it was very chewed up-- mice. The store manager didn't seem terrible surprised.:hmm:

4. My instinct would be to put it in a ziploc bag with all the air squeezed out and then put it in the freezer for a week. But that's just my instinct, I'm not saying it's a good idea.

5. Things come in and out of foreign countries all the time without a problem. I think if it passed customs, that's probably a reasonable indication that it's okay.

6. Having said that, coming from a factory vs a village are 2 different things.

7. I would call the biology dept. of the largest university in your area and ask them. They live for this stuff.

Jan in CA
05-23-2009, 11:06 AM
I asked the LYS manager last night and she said that it could be a problem, but she wouldn't have been concerned if the person had brought it in for just a few minutes like that to ask questions.

She also said to put it in a ziploc in the freezer for a few weeks and it would probably be fine.

05-23-2009, 11:40 AM
I agree with Plantgoddess: the LYS owner was probably miffed at being asked to discuss a project with yarn that you didn't buy from her. I can sort of understand her feelings if you are not a regular customer, but she acted rudely and unprofessionally.

That said, there can be serious issues with foreign insects and plant life being brought from one country into another. I know someone who sent some yarn to a customer in Australia and included a bag of potpourri. The yarn passed Customs but the potpourri was confiscated because it might have included plant seeds and insect life that could have affected the local environment. U.S. Customs once confiscated a plant cutting that my mother had removed from her grandmother's grave in Brazil.
However, I've never heard of processed yarn being quarantined at a U.S. point of entry. I buy yarn from Chile as well as Europe, Canada and Australia and have never had it delayed by Customs. The thinking must be that all the washing and processing that yarn goes through ensures cleanliness.

ETA: Chilean handspun is gorgeous stuff. Enjoy it!

05-23-2009, 11:56 AM
Wool that has been knitted into a garment and left folded for a while is just as likely to have moths in it as yarn that has been washed, spun and wound into skeins, and they don't confiscate or quarantine your clothes when you come back from holiday do they!
I once found a HUGE dead moth in my old clothes drawer, the drawer where I keep old t-shirts that I wear when doing dirty work. It was wrapped up in a t-shirt but there were no munch holes. It probably hatched in there and died.

05-24-2009, 07:19 PM
Thanks to everyone for their reassuring posts. I feel better knowing I didn't do a major faux pas in the yarn world.

Yes, the yarn is beautiful (and there's no sign of infestation). Mapuche are an indigenous people from Chile and Argentina, and their artisan products are valued the same as we do our Native American products. South American handcrafted products of any kind are often sold in the U.S. for reasonable prices - reasonable for us but enough to enable the artisans a means of living. The internet has been great for such marketing.

My very sweet daughter-in-law is of Mapuche heritage and the yarn is representative of her. I think that's why I felt a bit put out.

As customers, we all like to feel special, yes? I guess had I been the salesperson and felt protective of the store, I would have complimented the yarn and discussed project ideas (there are lots of sales to be made with books and needles, and I was certainly there to buy). Perhaps THEN I would have handled the situation like kaityddd suggested.

Ah, well, life's too short to fret. On to my knitting!

05-24-2009, 07:50 PM
I don't understand shops that have that kind of an attitude. I also don't understand shops that don't want to help with a project is using a pattern or yarn that was purchased there. That even means that I can't ask about a pattern that maybe my grandmother wrote with yarn that I'm getting there. To me it would make more sense to help everyone as much as you can. I mean I have found a store that is over an hour away and the owner and all the employees have always been so nice and helpful. That I will drive PAST 2 other shops and make the long trip to go there. Now I know that is not going to happen with everyone, but being nice and helpful is what gets customers.