Monday, November 12, 2007

The lure of the sock club?

A couple of people have suggested to me that I start a Black Bunny Fibers Sock Club. I have seen sock clubs all over the place, more of them lately than in the past. When I first started knitting socks, there were fewer choices for sock clubs and they mostly featured commercially-dyed yarns rather than hand-dyes. I belonged to one for a while, but I pretty soon figured out that it wasn't a good fit for me. Every month I was sent a skein of yarn and a pattern. Sometimes I really liked the yarn or the pattern, but rarely did I really like both and some months I knew I'd never make anything with either. I figured I'd be better off just picking out the yarn and patterns myself.

Now I see that sock clubs by hand-dyers are hot. There are different variations on it, but most seem to be a set number of kits, say, every other month, that include a skein of sock yarn, a pattern, and "swag." Many of these clubs seem kind of expensive to me: for example, one costs $222 for six kits, which is $37 (!) for each pair of socks. Apparently you get "exclusive" colorways and patterns that aren't being sold to non-club members for a year, and some "swag," but wow, that's a lot of cash.

But after a very sweet email from a good customer urging me to start a sock club, I figured I'd get reader input on this. What is the lure of a sock club? And do you really think they are worth it? Would you be interested in signing up for one? Would anyone be interested in a scaled-down version: say, you get the yarn automatically sent to you but no pattern or other crap swag, and the price is not significantly more what you'd pay on my Etsy site? or is the pattern an integral part of the experience for you?

Thanks in advance for your input. Feel free to shoot me a private email through the sidebar link if you are shy about speaking in public.

36 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Personally, I don't get it. I'd rather pick my yarn and pick my pattern, especially if I'm paying a premium price.

It seems like a good deal for the vendor though: she gets to know ahead of time exactly how much of a run to make, she's got the money up front, and customers pay a premium price to sacrifice choice and to surrender their cash early.

Barb B. said...

I sent you an email with my thoughts.
I'd go for it if:
every 2 or 3 months
pattern included
no swag
pricing as you describe.

Why? Because every now and then I like to have all the decisions made for me. I'd join your club as I agree with your taste on most things, and like your colour choices. I've looked at some clubs and not liked the patterns or yarn they've had on past offerings.
Barb B.

Laurie said...

Hear ye, Hear ye, I agree with you, Carol and elizabeth. There isn't much allure for me in an overpriced sock and swag/crap club, but it sure makes sense for the vendor. Thank you Carol, for opening up this can o worms. Having said that, and having seen your yarn at Stitches, I would definitely be interested in "Sock Club Lite" - an automatic yarn-only kind of deal.

Liz K. said...

First, let me say unequivocally that anything that contributes to the success of Black Bunny Fibers in a way that works for you is a good idea in my book. If this model of delivery works well for you, I think you should take advantage of the trend and go for it.

But with that said, I will likely not be joining your club. They are usually really expensive to make it worth the dyer's time to put together a bunch of packages. I don't value "exclusive colorways" or club-only patterns enough to pay such a premium for them. Personally, I don't get paying a lot more NOT to be able to pick your own yarn.

Also, I like to dabble in sock yarn; I like to try different kinds, from commercially available ones to more indie-dyers. I like to spread my yarn dollar around a bit, rather than breaking the bank on one particular kind, no matter how much I love the yarn, colors, or dyer.

I applaud your desire to make it a more affordable option, but there has to be a reason that other dyers have priced it so that it is so much more expensive to join a sock club. I imagine that it's a lot more labor for the dyer. I would hate for you to underprice yourself. Perhaps you should talk with some of the other dyers and see how they came up with their price structure. If it is as simple as "some knitters will pay a lot of money for my yarn," then price what the market will bear. But don't undercut the market and lose out on your time.

Finally, and really, nothing against sock clubs per se, but I think they contribute to a certain consumerist bent that blogland sometimes encourages. You know, the desire for something rare or unique far outpacing the actual value of an item.

Wily Jeneric said...

Wow, some good points above. I'll add my two cents. I strongly considered joining a sock club this year, but after some figuring realized it was a waste of money. The allure for me is the present in the mail - the unexpected box (because I have a short memory, okay?) that contains the best gift: hand-dyed yarn. But I couldn't justify the price. Now if the price was more reasonable, maybe I would join. I don't need swag or patterns, but suggestions for some innovative uses of the yarn, well, that would be handy indeed.

Carol said...

Liz, are you talking about "Pink Chibi Syndrome"? (;

diane said...

If reasonably priced I would join another sock club. I did another one when a shorter version was offered (half a year?)... What I liked about it was getting yarn that I normally wouldn't pick for myself - but once knit I liked it.

What I didn't like - paying for a pattern that I didn't like. Don't need any swag either - or if there is some, just once is enough.

Sherry W said...

I joined that expensive sock club this year. I enjoyed it, but I won't be re-upping because really, I have enough of that brand of yarn in the stash for now. Actually, I think I have enough of BB not knit in the stash now to justify joining a BBF club too. I'd be temped though.

I do not think the price of the kit at $37 was that unreasonable.
Yarn: $19-$22 a skein
Pattern: $6
Priority Mail shipping they use: $8

The allure is that you get something a little out of your color/pattern preferences if your in a rut. I swapped with another clubber when one skein wasn't my thing. Otherwise I would have used it for gift knitting.

Sherry W said...

I meant to add: I don't need a pattern or swag. However, I really did enjoy the "Dyer's notes" that came with the shipment. It was more or less a letter that explained what had inspired the kit that was sent that month. That doesn't cost a lot to include, but I think that was my favorite extra.

Emma B. said...

I've never done a sock club, because I usually start with a pattern or an idea in my head and then choose the yarn. However, I have thought that a sock club might be fun to get me to try yarns I wouldn't necessarily have bought on sight.

I would not, however, care so much about the pattern, or find it worth paying for same. If anything, I'd appreciate suggestions for published patterns (free or not) which would work well with the yarn. Sometimes I look at hand-dyed yarns and can't visualize how they'd look knitted into patterns, and it sucks to swatch four or five times before hitting on the right pattern to use.

Lynne E. said...

Generally, I prefer to choose my own patterns and yarn, because I have strong likes and dislikes in everything. However, I just joined the pricey $222 club, because it's a way to cut down on my impulse yarn buying.

I belonged to a great roving club for a while--until I realized that I just didn't have time to spin at present--and (1) really enjoyed receiving the monthly package, and (2) didn't feel the slightest need to stock up on roving at Stitches West. So it saved money.

I tend to order patterns and yarn from the "sponsors" of the pricey club, at intervals, and the shipping charges add up. Also, I like most of the colorways and patterns. So if I get new patterns to try, and some pretty (or maybe not so pretty) yarn to look at, and buy fewer speculative online skeins (which also include added shipping charges and don't always live up to expectations), then I'm at least breaking even.

In sum, to join a club, I want patterns and yarn at two- or three-month intervals, and colorways that I'm pretty sure to like. (And I do like BBF colorways). A plus re a BBF sock club, would be that it would be unnecessary to compete for the Etsy Shop offerings. A minus for BBF, would be that I wouldn't be buying other BBF yarns.

Wendy said...

I belong to two sock clubs -- both send you a skein of yarn plus pattern and some extra stuff. I've actually knit up several of the sock club kits, more or less according to the pattern.

The allure of the sock club for me is getting colorways I might never consider buying but once I get them, I discover I really like them. I've yet to get a sock club yarn that I didn't like.

I'd love to see a BBF sock yarn club -- just the yarn, no pattern. Because, really I'm just in these clubs for the yarn. The patterns, not so much.

TheAmpuT said...

I belong to one of the pricey ones, and I like getting the pattern (because they are usually interesting), even if I dont pair it with that particular yarn. This club has some swag, and I like it, but I dont need it. What I'd prefer as swag, would be a coupon or some sort of discount on a future purchase.
I think the appeal is the excitement of getting a surprise package, which seems embarrassingly basic, but I guess it touches some warm fuzzy spot in me, one that apparently doesn't get surprised that often LOL.
I would love to see a seasonal shipment from a sock club (4x per year), with a seasonal pattern matching up with a yarns in the color of the season.
And yes. I would join any BBF club, as I adore your yarn ;-)

Sarah said...

Thank-you for the wonderful handdyed yarn :). I lurve it.

You can blogstalk my kitteh's anytime ;).

-Sarah

Donna said...

I feel like Elizabeth's comment hit the sock club allure on the nose; for popular vendors, it's a great way to create another reason to buy yarn, and an aura of exclusivity, which makes their yarn/brand more "valuable" overall. Plus, guaranteed cash flow has to be a plus.

If I had unlimited funds, I'd sure join a sock club, but I prefer to pick my own patterns. What I really want is a button I can push on my desk. Tough day? Push the button and sock yarn drops from the sky. ;)

Steph said...

The only sock yarn club I belonged to was Sundara's most recent offering. I joined because I love her yarns and they are annoyingly hard to get. The packages are very nicely wrapped & presented. The patterns to me are a nice bonus but not why I joined.

I have enough sock patterns I want to knit that I don't care to pay much extra for a new pattern unless I knew it was by a designer I liked -- for example I think there's a club out there pairing Cookie A's patterns w/ the sock yarn.

I do like getting packages in the mail -- I have to admit that's part of the fun.

I never joined STR just b/c I don't like a lot of the colorways knitted up (just MHO!) -- and I couldn't see ending up w/ a lot of sock yarn I'd just turn around and resell. That goes for most of the clubs.

All that said...I won't be joining anymore yarn clubs b/c my stash is too big. (Since I'm now spinning I joined a fiber club w/ exotic fibers but that doesn't count...righ? Anyway that particular club offered an option: fiber only or fiber plus the extras. I opted for the latter mostly out of curiousity.)

Barbara-Kay said...

I've bought Wendy Johnson's patterns and the corresponding yarn because she had figured a way to make hand-dyed yarn look good with a given pattern. It's always a big of a crap-shoot, don't cha know, to use a pattern on hand-dyed, and I do get tired of "just plain socks". So, yes, a pattern would be a plus.

I did sock clubs because there wasn't a local source of sock yarn. It's not so hard to get yarn now, but it still would be interesting to have hand-dyed.

Marin (AntiM) said...

Sock club pluses: yarn in the mail, schwag, discounts, the illusion of VIPness due to exclusivity.

Sock club minuses: no control over colours, sometimes for some reason pricier than just buying the damned yarn.

I see no point in joining a sock club that doesn't either offer a discount (i.e. -- I'm willing to pay for six skeins of yarn up front, so you're willing to waive the shipping fees) or pretty packaging and schwag (because that's much of the fun for me).

Without swag, I definitely wouldn't pay more than you charge on your Etsy site. Why would you charge more than what I could buy your yarn for at the website if you're not going to throw in anything extra?

I also really like the idea of the month-to-month clubs. Paying $20 a month is much more palatable than paying $200 up front... and I wouldn't expect as much from such a set-up.

Carol said...

I wasn't suggesting that I would charge more than I normally do -- my question was really more "are the extras you get worth the extra cost, or would you rather just get yarn at the normal price?"

The monthly price would have to reflect that different yarns cost different prices, too. E.g., if one month's yarn is $20 and another's $22, then you'd pay the average, $21 per month. Or if it were up front, it'd work itself out.

From my perspective, it wouldn't be worth it to me to charge less than what I charge on-line, and I am not sure how I'd feel about getting all that money up front. I would probably prefer to do what the club I belonged to did, which is charge/bill on a monthly basis. One advantage would be what the emailer said to me, i.e., the certainty of the yarn arriving each month instead of waiting for updates.

Of course, no matter what I do or don't do, not everyone will be happy....

Alison said...

I tried the expensive sock club but found that I mostly don't like the patterns, I just want the yarn. I signed up for a 3-times mini club with another hand-dyer (holidays - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) and I like it. In sum - I'd like a shorter (6 months/3 skeins) club without patterns or other stuff.

Tabitha said...

Will there be a secret handshake? That's all it would take to make me happy.

Carol said...

Yay, Tabitha. Yes, just for you. And hazing. I was (cough of embarrassment) in a sorority, you know...

bradyphrenia said...

i'd rather have a fiber club than a sock club. i'm just saying. :-)

i really like the way spunky eclectic does it. low cost--only the yarn/fiber, exclusive colorway, but you pay month to month without a year long commitment.

i don't give a rat's ass about patterns or swag.

turtlegirl76 said...

As a guaranteed way of getting my hands on your stuff before it sells out, yeah, I'd totally encourage you. But on the other hand, I'd say screw sock clubs - you need to do a fiber club! As you say, you're seeing sock clubs everywhere now. But how many dyers do you see doing fiber for us spinners? I'd sign up for that! No year long commitment, maybe 3 months at a time kinda thing.

Cheaky27 said...

a fiber club sounds great to me :)

mindy said...

We-ell- seeing as I'm such a BBF addict, I'll take it any way I can get it. (and no, we will not be discussing my stash)

It could be fun- how 'bout a yarn club instead- maybe one shipment would be sock yarn, another might be worsted- but no, people may really prefer just one kind (sorry, I'm thinking as I type). Fiber could be fun for the spinners, but you may run into trouble for you there because there is so much dif. in the price of different fibers.

It is frustrating having stuff yanked out of your shopping cart, so that's a plus for a club- but on the flip side, I'm always so happy when my boxes from you arrive it just doesn't matter what some other fiber fiend snatched from me...(not bitter, though)

There. Did I confuse the issue enough by not giving you a definitive answer either way? (truthfully, if you did a club, I would join- I wouldn't be able to resist) (oh, and patterns- take or leave. swag- take or leave. No help, huh?)

Jan Tucker said...

I belong to the expensive one, and re-upped after thinking about it a lot -- I like being challenged by yarn and patterns I wouldn't normally buy, and feel free to change the pattern ad lib -- enjoy the dyer's notes a lot -- is my "every other month" indulgence. One of the things I learned from a pattern made it into my generic sock pattern -- the "keeper" technique was worth the price of admission to me -- I would be interested in a BBF yarn club mainly because I can't ever seem to get the yarn from you I want -- by the time I get home from work it is long gone :-)

Anonymous said...

Carol,

I haven't joined any sock clubs -- I like knitting socks, but not that much. And I have a bunch of BBF I have yet to get to.

That said, I was intrigued by someone's idea above about a fiber/yarn club. I have had thoughts about doing some kind of wild afghan, and if I got different worsted/bulky weights in a club, that would be fun. No pattern necessary, just -- as others have said -- the ability to obtain it! Good luck!
-- Allison

bethoff said...

I'm skipping the sock clubs for at least next year. I was in that expensive one and one with a small indie hand-dyer. It was a good way to break out of a rut with color choices, but I discovered that I've gotten pretty good at doing that on my own without spending all that extra money for the privilege of being surprised by someone else's color selections. Don't need the swag either. And with STR? Really didn't like any of the patterns this year. Bottom line is that I could have bought a LOT more yarn with that money if I'd skipped the club. Apparently the appeal of having some exclusive colorway isn't enough, particularly given that those colorways will be available by the time I've knit down a bit of the stash.

Carol said...

I've joined 2 sock clubs but haven't re-joined either. Mainly because I don't make socks that fast and now have a huge stash of sock yarn. I also couldn't stomach the price of the big one and just bought some individual skeins I wanted. I did like getting packages, not choosing a color and being 'surprised', and getting a challenging pattern. Having said that, I haven't made a single one from either club. I would still join yours because I love the yarn. I'd like an exclusive colorway & pattern but no swag (unless it was a coupon).

I also like Mindy's idea of different weights of yarn. Skein of worsted around Autumn with a hat pattern, mini lace skein with stole pattern in Spring, socks in between?

Don't be embarrassed about the sorority. I joined one at University JUST for the privilege of making fun of them. I felt I was doing a disservice in ridiculing something I didn't really know about. Now I do and have no problem saying they're vacuous wastes of time.

Penny said...

I've joined two different clubs. I dropped the first one, because the quality of the yarn just wasn't very good (in that case it was the patterns being offered that held appeal). I'm currently in the expensive one. I love the yarns - even the colorways I wouldn't have thought to try had I been choosing myself, but will not be rejoining because I need to buy and extra skein of each offering if I want to be able to make socks for my large (size 10) feet that have cuffs that extend over my ankles. That makes for a very expensive pair of socks! These two experiences combined with my embarrassingly large stash will probably keep me out of future clubs. With that said, I think you still might have a successful venture with a club, because there is something very nice about coming home and finding a package of yarn and a nice pattern waiting for you.

crystal said...

For me, just the yarn with nothing else would be ideal. Patterns are what Ravelry is for! ;)

ZippyZinnia said...

I'm a sock club right now. I've enjoyed receiving yarns from indie dyers that I otherwise might not have purchased. But, I don't think I will be rejoining or joining another. I'm not an impulsive shopper and tend to stick to conservative semi-solid shades. So I might only fit a small portion of the big world of sock knitters.

If I were to entertain the notion again, I would be looking at a club that offered only yarn. I have so many patterns and books that it will take a lifetime to knit each and every one. I also don't think that it would be unfair of you to charge slightly more for your yarn. This is your time and yes, we would buying it when we buy your yarn.

I'm a first-time poster and I (hiding head) haven't bought any yarn from you. But I look! It's that practical side coming out again.

Pat said...

I've never subscribed to one of these, because I make mainly knee socks, for hiking and winter wear, from my own pattern, which I can do completely on autopilot. That means that the patterns would be superfluous, and I surely don't need or want more extras.

And all of the existing would permit me to make about a sock and a quarter to a sock and a half, which is useless.

I'm beguiled by the ingenious marketing gimmick for these. They are not, of course, clubs, in any real sense, though that idea appeals to a substantial group of knitters. They are subscription to a series of sock kits. The "club" idea makes it feel exclusive, and, sure enough, at these prices they surely exclude many knitters.

In fact this is a subscription based on the magazine model. Period. No matter what you call it or how you slice it.

For the vendor, the subscription model surely carries the same advantages (money in front) and risks to the vendor that magazine subscriptions do, which is that it costs to obtain and service subscriptions, and that if subscribers don't consistently like what you're sending them, month in and month out, they will not resubscribe and you will need new subscribers.

I think the existing clubs would retain subscribers at higher rates if there were some way to permit the buyers to express preferences for a family or families of colorways. No one ever walked into a yarn shop and asked for two balls of yarn, and let the shop select the color.

I'm giggling, here, because one of my LYS's is owned by someone whose color preferences run to citruses and pinks, which I don't use. Citrus-colored hiking socks don't seem to me to be an idea whose time has come.

Barb B said...

Well Pat that was well put. But I gotta disagree on the citrus hiking socks. My favourite ones are a blend of hot pink, peach and orange (and I am not a pink kind of person) I wear pretty conservative colours, so one of the lures of sock knitting for me is going nuts with the colours on my feet

Deborah C. said...

I belong to the pricey sock club, and I don't think I'll be renewing. I didn't like most of the patterns, and the skeins don't contain enough yarn to knit my favorite sock pattern, "Here There Be Dragons." BBF skeins do! Also, I don't see any point in sock yarn that I can't machine-wash. I would like a BBF subscription because that way I wouldn't be battling the other fans for skeins of yarn. I would like other weights of yarn, such as laceweight, as well. Swag isn't that important - it's the yarn that I want. Payment per month would be a lot easier on the wallet than upfront, but that would be your choice; upfront payment would probably be easier for you.