When a Knitting Crisis Hits, App Finds Nearby Stores

Tool offers help finding knitting supplies far from home.

I’m spending the holiday weekend in Ohio with my in-laws. Which means 14 hours of round-trip driving. Which, for me, means a whole lot of time to knit in the car.

Was it overkill to throw three half-finished projects in my knitting bag? Probably. But better safe than sorry, for a knitter. And with that mantra in mind, I decided to check out the Knitting and Yarn Shop Locator app. Because what if I arrived in Ohio and forgot my size 3 circular needles or grabbed the wrong size crochet hook? The horror!

The app, which costs $2.99, lets you type in a location or opt to use your phone’s GPS device to tell you where the nearest knit shops are. Much like Yelp, it links to the store’s website, phone and email, and can get you directions there. There’s also a spot where readers can leave reviews and storeowners can add a description. 

I tried it out based on my locale in central Ohio. It pointed me to 10 within about an hour’s drive. By contrast, Yelp located only 7. And there wasn’t total overlap, so each had some the other didn’t. I tapped on a whole bunch in the locator app, and couldn’t find a single review, whereas most of the Yelp ones had them. I would never head to a knit store in need of yarn or a new project without fully vetting it. But in an emergency situation where I needed a specific needle, the lack of reviews wouldn’t deter me.

To do a more controlled study, I looked at the north suburbs to see how the app and Yelp stacked up. Yelp won.

The app listed many of the best spots, like in Northbrook and in Des Plaines. But it missed Stitch(es) in Winnetka, which Yelp had. Then again, Yelp had some red herrings in there, such as listing in Evanston, presumably because of its regular knitting nights.

Having remembered an unpleasant experience of being in desperate need of a tapestry needle in Perth, Australia, I checked out the app’s international listings. It had nothing on the whole continent, but in scanning the world map I spotted one that claims to be the “coolest yarn shop in Israel.” I got excited when I spotted another icon in what looked like Casablanca, but it turned out to be a misplaced dot for a store belonging in Tucson, AZ.

The bottom line: while I admire the app’s goal, it’s not quite there yet. All but the most fanatical of knitters who need multiple sources of yarn info at their fingertips are better off saving the $2.99 and sticking with Yelp

Jessica December 25, 2011 at 04:52 PM
If you have an iPhone, I suggest trying Yarnphone.com. It's a fairly decent yarn store locator although it couldn't locate Betsy's Tea and Yarn shop in Lockport when I was in need of directions. However, it is free!
Emily Stone December 25, 2011 at 06:04 PM
Thanks for the tip, Jessica!
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