I make no secret of the fact that I have a (probably unhealthy) obsession with yarn. I have totes and totes of it in my basement, in my living room, and stuffed into closets. It's come to the point where I don't even know what yarn I have and what I don't.
However, when stay-at-home orders first came across in March in the US, that stash of yarn really came in handy and I was able to still have a wide variety of fiber choices to make new Luvvies with. Once I started to feel comfortable that there was limited risk in ordering yarn, I began replenishing (and then some) my stash.
For all the shades and types of yarn that I have, even I sometimes have a legitimate need for a yarn - a color or a particular brand - but, I'm finding it is more and more difficult to find these options. Some of my go to online sites have been sold out for weeks of the colorways or types of yarn that I need, and that can be the difference in a project.
While I am always up front that I experiement with yarn and with colors and that not all shades will match with what is pictured on my Web site identicially, there are certain hues that are an absolute must when I am working on a specific project. For example, when I am working on some of my dolls, if they are light skinned, I prefer to use the color vanilla cream from Paintbox. Likewise, if I am working on a moose (or a squoose), I like the body to be soft fudge from Paintbox. But, these shades are out of stock from my go to supplier, and they have been for at least three to four weeks.
As I looked for potential alternatives to these shades, I started poking around some of my other go-to online retailers and noticed similar trends. Many companies had large ranges of colorways completely sold out and were not replenishing. Some lines went from offering 50 different shades to having five in stock and the other colors not returning.
This led me to start to wonder: Are we having a yarn shortage?
Once I got my panic somewhat under control, I really started to think about what I was seeing. I even tried Tweeting some of the companies directly to see what their response would be (I didn't get answers, sadly). But, after trying to think through things logically, I came up with a few thoughts that all came back to the same basic conclusion: There is a yarn shortage, in a sense.
What do I mean by that?
When I started really thinking about this, I realized there was a perfect storm of things happening in the crafting community. Quarantine and mandatory stay-at-home orders lead to more people having time to be at home with their crafting, which meant some people were using their stash, but some people were stocking up on yarns and other fiber related tools. This meant that the demand for yarn was going up.
Additionally, because most stores were closed for a period, more people were buying from online retailers, which was increasing the demand and reducing the supply faster than the companies probably were able to keep up with. What's more, many of the retailers in the US had the additional demand, but then were met by new challenges of not being able to import some of the yarns and materials they needed from overseas vendors, which meant that the amount of yarn available in the US went down.
Even though strict quarantine procedures have now been relaxed, the distribution companies haven't been able to replenish their supplies. In some cases, I have found it to be easier to purchase my yarn direct from overseas companies (even with the added shipping that comes with it) than trying to find the option from a US purveyor.
I know that the US distributors are doing what they can to restock, but it can be frustrating when there is a project you want to work on and it requires a specific yarn type, weight, or colorway and you aren't able to get that option because it is out of stock and has been out of stock for a while. For example, when I do causcausian style dolls (e.g., Wonder Woman, or Captain America), I have found through trial and error the tone I like best is Vanilla Cream from Paintbox. Paintbox already is a tricky yarn to get (for a US customer like me) because it is a UK based company with few distrbutors in the States: The largest distributor is Love Crafts. However, for the past five weeks I have been obsessively stalking the Love Crafts Web site for this color, only to be disappointed daily because it is out of stock.
Other companies, such as Yarnspirations, also have been seeing more of their colors and brands go out of stock and are waiting for replenishing. Some of their more popular lines like Red Heart Super Saver and Caron Simply Soft have only a few color options available becuase the stock is so picked over.
I also have heard from fellow fiber artists who have been to brick and mortar Joann's, Michael's, and even Wal-Mart that the shelves are relatively bare and new stock is not coming quickly.
Add to everything we already have discussed, and then add yarn collectors (like myself) who see this happening and they want to make sure they have the yarns they need to complete projects, so people start to buy and hoard yarn - similar to what happened at the beginning of the pandemic with toilet paper only with a smaller population of people. All of these factors together lead to the fact that, yes, there is a yarn shortage.
As we are seeing with the toilet paper shortage, given time production can catch up and rebound: That's not to say it is going to be quick - yarn production probably won't be given the same level of urgency that toilet paper received, but it will recover. In the meantime, for those of us who have them, we have to dig into our stashes and start seeing what we can work with, and use some different colors from what we might have wanted to/are used to. For those without stashes of reserve yarn, there are groups on Facebook that offer yarn swaps that you can join. Another option is Ravelry allows members to share their stash publicly and show what they are willing to sell or give away. Another option is Etsy or eBay; I have seen several people selling their yarn through these sites, and the majority of that yarn is brand new with labels, so you won't be buying a partially used skein of yarn.
Hopefully with these options available, the stores will start to have yarn back in stock before we know it and we can plump our stashes and find that "perfect" shade once again.
Hugs and cuddles,