Leah Stickle does not want you to feel guilty about your stash. In fact, she’s here to help you buy even more yarn.
Stickle is the founder of Tinkknit, an online shop that specializes in selling mint condition yarn that knitters and crocheters no longer want. The launch of Tinkknit was full of obstacles, but Stickle is optimistic about the future of this site that filled a hole in the online yarn marketplace.
As a yarn store owner and a knitter, Stickle already knew customers were sometimes hesitant to buy more yarn. “The first thing any person says when they walk into a yarn store is, ‘If you could see my stash!’ I got to a point where I was like, okay, I get it everyone. You have a yarn stash!” An idea began to form in Stickle’s mind, but it didn’t take shape right away.
Stickle, right, with Kristy Glass.
Photo courtesy of Tinkknit.
Stickle photographs hanks of yarn to post on Tinkknit.
Photo courtesy of Tinkknit.
Several years ago, Stickle began to suffer from chronic health issues and spent a lot of time at home. “Sometimes when you spend a lot of time by yourself at home, your brain starts percolating. I’m always looking at something saying, ‘That would be a great business,'” she says.
Stickle saw ads for Poshmark, a site that helps people sell used name-brand clothes in good condition. She wondered if there was a similar site for people to sell yarn they no longer wanted, but after researching she couldn’t find anything comparable.
“If you want to sell your yarn, you only have eBay, which has a stigma of getting something cheap, or there’s the Ravelry threads. If you are savvy, you can set up an Etsy shop, but it’s so saturated with other items, it’s easy to get lost,” Stickle points out. Tinkknit, an online marketplace specializing in helping people sell yarn from their stash, was born.
Stickle had a good idea of what she wanted Tinkknit to look like but wasn’t sure how to execute it. She wasn’t ready to make the financial commitment of building a website from scratch, so she chose to launch the site on WordPress. Unfortunately, things quickly began to unravel.
“I kept running into roadblocks – just little things that kept becoming problematic, and I couldn’t solve them,” Stickle says. “One of the biggest complaints was that people wanted to buy yarn, but they couldn’t contact the seller. That feature wasn’t available.”
In addition to technical troubleshooting and fielding emails from customers, Stickle had to complete many tasks manually. Shipping costs, for example, weren’t divided between sellers when a customer purchased from multiple vendors. Stickle had to make sure each seller received the proper shipping fees, ultimately costing Stickle her own money—and a lot of time.
It wasn’t just shipping that caused problems. “I was trying to create a pop-up to join the email list and I could not do it,” she says. “I needed another plugin.” WordPress just wasn’t the best platform to provide the functionality she wanted.
At the same time, Stickle was also preparing for New York Sheep & Wool Festival held in her hometown of Rhinebeck. Tinkknit was partnering with fiber artist and well-known YouTuber Kristy Glass to host the first annual Rhinebeck Yarn Bazaar, but Stickle did not want to advertise Tinkknit with all the tech issues. She started researching again and decided to move to the Shopify platform, where the vendor and seller features were much more user-friendly.
The move to Shopify
Tinkknit has been at its new Shopify home for about two months now. “[The site] is completely what I always dreamed it was going to be,” Stickle says. “I’m really happy, but it meant that three weeks before Sheep & Wool, I was completely rebuilding my website. I learned a lot.”
With Shopify, it was easier for people who were selling, easier for people who were shopping, and easier for Stickle to manage. While customers and vendors overall are much happier with Shopify, many vendors did have to recreate their accounts and listings. But as the dust settles, Stickle thinks everyone will be happier.
In addition to customers listing and selling their stash, Stickle also plans to bring back a consignment option. Customers who don’t want to list their items can send them to Stickle, and for an extra commission she will list the items and take care of shipping. Right now the consignment feature is on hold as she figures out the best way to organize the process.
Most vendors sell their yarn at what they paid or just a few dollars less. “We’re not looking for scalpers,” Stickle says. She wouldn’t encourage knitters to buy an exclusive colorway, for example, then resell it for double the price.
In fact, the point is not to make lots of money. “We want everyone to be able to afford to make the stuff that they want to make,” says Stickle. “You can sell your stash, you can knit what you want. There are no barriers. Everyone can come to the party.”
“We are just enabling,” Stickle laughs. “We’re providing a place for people who want to sell their stash, and then if they want they can have money to buy more yarn.”
Tinkknit sells more than just yarn. Vendors can sell knitting needles, crochet hooks, magazines, project bags, and other miscellaneous accessories.
Tinkknit also gives customers access to hard-to-find yarns. “One person emailed me that they’ve never had the opportunity to buy a certain yarn brand,” she says. “They now had access to it. And hearing that they had access to something that they’d wanted for a long time was pretty amazing.”
Soon, The Knitting Garage and the five-and-dime store will be one business. The back of the five-and-dime, where The Knitting Garage is now, will become an office for Tinkknit where Stickle can handle administrative tasks and store merchandise for the consignment side of the business.
Stickle is planning to turn Tinkknit into much more than just a marketplace. She wants it to be a community where people can share stories and interact. “If you stop growing, you’re done,” she says. “We’re always going to be changing.”
She also plans to eventually extend the merchandise into fabric so that sewers can join in on the destashing. “I’m trying to grow a little empire for all of us,” Stickle says. “To see this dream of mine really come to life – it’s pretty magical.”
Ashley Little is a craft writer and editor living in Asheville, North Carolina. She has given up on reducing her yarn stash and refuses to feel guilty about it. You can see more of her work at thefeistyredhead.com.