community yarn fund

there’s been a lot of discussion over the past year about various kinds of exclusion in the knitting & making community – whether that be because of race/ethnicity, sexuality, size, or disability (to name but a few).  one of the things that came up as well was financial accessibility, which is quite a tricky topic.

i’ve definitely been in a position in my life where i couldn’t afford things – i’ve had times where i could barely pay for the necessities (rent, food, transport) and although i’m in a position now where the basics are fairly secure, there are still a lot of things that i just don’t have the budget for.

money is always something that people have a hard time talking about, and that’s one of the reasons that financial accessibility within the making community is a tricky topic.  the materials we need to create things are often seen as a luxury; i’m sure there are folks in our community who would say that if people can’t afford the nicest hand-dyed yarns or the more expensive patterns then they just shouldn’t buy them.  added to that is the idea that those of us who make and supply things like yarns and patterns are somehow part of the financial elite (totally wrong, by the way!!), and that we shouldn’t be pricing our items so highly in the first place.

i can’t speak for everyone, but i’m happy to share a little bit of how things work for me financially.  i’m extremely fortunate that my partner is able to work full-time in a salaried job; her income is by no means enormous, but it does mean that she’s able to take on more than 50% of our household costs, which balances out the fact that i usually can’t pay “my share” of the bills.  also, because of my disability (autism) it’s incredibly difficult for me to have a “normal” job – my ability to function fluctuates wildly, and traditional workplaces just aren’t feasible for me, which is a huge reason why i do what i do.  we don’t have a lot of spare cash, but we make it work for us because there isn’t an alternative that would allow me to keep my sanity.

for me, this means that financial accessibility for lower-income folks needs to be carefully balanced with the financial needs of those of us who create & supply the materials for making – quite a lot of us are also in that lower-income bracket, and speaking for myself, i just can’t afford to give away or discount yarn or lower my prices.

that being said, i’m really on board with the idea of trying to make hand-dyed yarns more financially accessible to those of us on lower incomes or on benefits.  i know firsthand how important creativity is to mental health – to be able to make something beautiful can take you out of your day-to-day stress, even if it’s just for a moment, and give you some breathing space.  and i also know firsthand how lack of income and constant money worries can wear you down, and how just one small thing to look forward to now and then can give you such a lift.

i know some dyers already operate yarn scholarships or community yarn funds, so i’m hoping to follow their example and set up something similar for Old Maiden Aunt Yarns.  my autism means i need to balance my workload carefully, and i’m a bit worried about the extra admin this might add to my workdays, so i’m planning to trial it for a few months and see how it goes.

here’s how it will work if you want to contribute to the yarn fund:

  • i’ve set up a product listing in the web shop called “community yarn fund”; you can find it here.  it’s available in varying amounts; if you’re in a financial position to contribute to the yarn fund, just purchase whatever amount you want to be added to the fund, and this money will be set aside.
  • every bit of the money from the community yarn fund will be used towards yarn and postage costs for those who need to access it; i’ll cover any admin fees from paypal or shopify.

and here’s how it will work if you want to access the yarn fund:

  • send an email to me at info@oldmaidenaunt.com with the subject line “Community Yarn Fund”.
  • in the body of the email, let me know what you need, and be specific.  would you like a discount for a larger quantity of yarn for a test knit?  do you want to cover the full price of a single skein for a treat to lift your spirits?  let me know what specific yarn or specific amount you’d like to access.
  • please don’t tell me why you need to access the fund.  i can’t stress this point enough!!!  i don’t want anyone to feel like they need to justify why they need help; this needs to work on trust.  if you feel that you need to access the fund, then i believe you.  also, my autism means that i don’t always respond “appropriately” to emotional stress – i’m not sure i can handle knowing the details of other people’s hardships, and need to protect myself from that if i can (i’m sorry if that sounds harsh).
  • at the end of each month, i’ll look at the requests that have been sent in and tally the money available, and randomly select who can access the fund for that month.  this will depend entirely on what’s available in the fund and how many requests come in.  if you aren’t chosen to access the fund that month then please don’t feel disappointed, just try again next time.
  • i haven’t set any “rules” as to how often you can request to access the fund, or for what amount.  but in the interests of being able to allocate available funds as fairly as possible, i would ask that you try to be respectful; for example don’t expect to be able to receive community-funded yarn every single month, or have requests for larger quantities of yarn fully funded multiple times.  generally, the fund is used to provide smaller quantities of yarn (1-2 skeins) so that i can grant as many requests as possible; i’m happy to fully fund the cost of a larger quantity of yarn on occasion but if you are able to cover the cost of even a small part of a larger request it’s hugely appreciated as it means i can fund more requests for more people each month.
  • each month i’ll put up a post either here or on instagram detailing what came in and what was allocated, just in the interests of financial transparency.  your details will never be given out to anyone; access to the fund will remain confidential.
  • if you’re selected to access the fund, i’ll send you an email at the end of the month and let you know, and we can work out how to get you what you need!  if you’re not selected, you won’t receive an email (so if you don’t hear from me, it means you haven’t been chosen this time).  if that’s the case, please email me again the following month as i won’t roll over requests and will delete all info month to month.

i think that covers everything, but if you have any questions please let me know!!  i’m really hoping this works out, and that i can keep it going. i think it could potentially be really great – it means that my yarns might be reaching customers who wouldn’t normally be able to enjoy them, and that’s a lovely thought. and it also means that can happen while still providing me with an income, which is also a lovely thought (and a practical necessity!). fingers crossed….

3 Responses to community yarn fund

  1. Linda 08/01/2020 at 3:29 pm #

    What a wonderfully kind gesture. As someone who will probably apply to the fund once I have all my current wip’s finished, thank you. I am currently knitting with synthetic yarns as they are charity makes but every now and then I like to work with nice yarn and make something for myself. With 6 grandchildren I often have a long list of knitting requests so I don’t get to the top of the list often.

  2. Kristina 09/01/2020 at 8:27 pm #

    This is a wonderful effort. Can’t wait to see how it goes! Our setup here and why I do my job is similar to your story, and I love how you explained it. Good luck w this!

  3. Susan Sharpe 05/04/2020 at 1:57 am #

    What an awesome idea. I will try to make a donation to the fund just as soon as I finish my current WIP’s. I feel the need to do this as a retired special needs teacher who specialized in students with ASD.

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