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site search is capitalism and sexism at its worst

Loose skeins of gray knitting yarn with rainbow speckles.

Loose skeins of gray yarn with rainbow speckles.

We’re used to most people underestimating the knitting community.

A perfect example of this is when non-knitters experience the Rhinebeck Trunk Show. They take in the extensive displays of indie dyed yarn, the range of handmade products for sale, the diverse shoppers wearing colorful sweaters and shawls that took months to design and hours to construct. They see those shoppers enthusiastically scoop up armloads of artisan skeins. I can tell by the looks on their faces that they’re thinking: Wow, I had no idea that knitting was like this!

So, when I learned about the two non-knitting men who purchased the domain for $80,000, looking to earn $7.5 million from it within four years, it seemed like the epitome of every person I’ve met who has no idea what knitting is actually about.

Except it’s even worse.

These serial entrepreneurs plan to fill the site with keyword-rich content, presumably knitting patterns and instruction from underpaid designers. They plan to use this content to sell their yet-to-be-revealed but supposedly “incredible” products. (Judging by their previous endeavors in off-roading and adult coloring books, this likely means slapping their own label on yarn and needles already being manufactured overseas.) And they actually refer to knitting tools as widgets in an episode of a podcast aimed at aspiring tech millionaires.

They want to swoop into a community they don’t even care about and take whatever they can.

Sexism and ageism in knitting

Of course, it didn’t take them long to invoke a tired, sexist and ageist knitting stereotype. They claimed on their podcast that current knitting content comes from either 10 large companies or other “unsophisticated competitors” like “grandma, who has a little blog that she’s run for the last 20 years.” Dudes, do you know how much valuable knitting knowledge grandmas have?

Unsophisticated? How would you know what sophisticated knitting content even is if you barely know how to knit?

Why would you insult the very customers you’re looking to reach before you even launch?

In another eye-opening segment of the podcast, they talked about China-based sellers on Amazon. Those sellers do a “terrible job” of creating knitting content because “you can’t really have Chinese models in your videos.”

The knitting community certainly needs to do more work to be truly inclusive. But these people think their business has an advantage because their content will only include “Western models.” Way to bake racism and xenophobia into your business from the start!

Support handmade knitting businesses

This duo certainly has no regard for the thousands of small business owners, most of them women, BIPOC, LGBTIQA+ and people with disabilities, who have spent years working in the knitting industry. The ones who raise sheep, dye yarn, design sweaters and socks, sew project bags, craft stitch markers and manufacture knitting needles. We buy these products because we want to support the people in our community. These two don’t care about us — except for the fact that they think there are millions to be made! Of course, those of us in the industry do this work because of our passion for knitting and yarn, not to make a quick buck.

For their market research, the pair apparently visited a big box craft store and browsed knitting products on Amazon. Michaels and JOANN in no way represent the vast array of knitting yarn and knitting tools out there. And many small yarn companies and local yarn shops supplement their revenue with Amazon storefronts.

Did they even think to visit their local yarn shop? You know, those “unsophisticated” business owners, who actually deserve the eight-figure revenues these two think they can earn in a few years? No mention of WEBS, whose owners snagged the coveted URL way back in 2003 (when keyword-focused URLs mattered much more)?

How we shop as knitters

Do they even know how knitters shop for yarn? When I’m ready to cast on a new project, or add to my ever-growing stash, I definitely don’t head to the search field on my browser. They may think they can influence crafters on social media, but they’ll need to spend a lot of money on Instagram and Facebook ads to make up for their clear lack of authenticity.

They probably hope this backlash will support their get-rich-quick scheme by bringing more traffic to their sites and increasing the possibly over-inflated value of the domain.

Welcome, new knitters!

So, if you came across this post as a new knitter — welcome! Maybe you’re looking for knitting instruction, or the best way to cast on, or the best knitting needles or yarn to buy. There’s a wonderful world of designers who turn knit and purl stitches into wearable works of art. There are yarn dyers who lean over steaming pots to create colors that make your heart flutter. And there are creative, knowledgeable knitters who won’t hesitate to recount why they love their interchangeable needle set. Indie Untangled brings together all these talented people. We’re so glad to have you as part of our community!


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29 Responses

  1. SHHH. Stop telling everything. You’re naming things and providing free market data for them. Let them figure it out and fail on their own.

    1. I’m pretty doubtful at this point that any free market data could make up for the complete and clear lack of authenticity from these guys.

  2. After digging into this, I need to go knit something to calm down. It appears most of the content has already been taken down (oh the irony).

        1. I ❤️ You.

          I hope this chaps their asses for a very long time. So much so that they never put it on their CVs and when they see a ball of yarn they get shivers.

          1. What makes it sweeter is they were going to use this venture to also generate their paid content called Secret Sauce. Who’s going to pay to get advice from middle age business men who paid 80k for a domain name and got bested by a group of grannies?

  3. I apologize that this is beside the point, but: I’m new to your blog, and the yarn shown at the top of this post is *beautiful*. Is it yours?

    1. It is! It’s yarn that I dyed (with the help of Geraldine from The Wandering Flock) for a holiday box a few years ago. I’m so glad you like it!

  4. Did you see the comment section on their YouTube video before they took it down because of the overwhelming slamback? It was a delightful read. Knitter after knitter handing two clueless dudes their cynical sexist, ageist, racist, sizeist, ableist asses. Glorious. I only wish we’d been able to do a GameStop on them so they lost as much money as they did thought they’d make.

  5. I just checked the site: it’s just a title card (or whatever the term is for a goes-nowhere-does-nothing page is) that says, “Something is happening!” Could that something be justice?

    1. That’s been up since they first announced it. It’ll be interesting to see what they decide to do given the response.

  6. I love that some lovely knitter in Twitterverse created handles on Twitter and Instagram that matches their magical domain name. They didn’t even do that when they spent all that money on the URL. And I’m just long time, retired ole lady.

    1. Apparently they were planning to make their brand name something else (probably some “clever” knitting pun), but I agree — definitely a major oversight!

  7. This is a great post. I’ve been following the controversy over on Twitter and it’s… astonishing what these two guys are trying to do. I’m new to your blog/website but it looks fantastic!

  8. Just became a subscriber because of this post. I’m so glad to find you. By coincidence I get updates from Econcrew (for non-knitting related book sales) and was stunned when I saw their original blog, which has now been taken down. You’ve said it all here! THANK YOU!

    1. Interesting article, thank you for sharing!

      First, they’re defending their racist statements about Chinese models by saying that they can’t be racist because they’re married to Chinese women? Seriously?

      Second, just because they made a hire within the industry does not necessarily make their business more legitimate. Why don’t they show us the actual product and content first?

    2. I bet the wives think otherwise about that racist comment and it damn well is racist. Also it sounds like they either never heard of Ravlery or are trying to recreate it

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