I was just about to write to someone about how Artfibers never updates their website, when I thought I’d check (because I heard they were going to do that very thing in late summer). And wouldn’t you know it? There it is, updated, with new yarns and everything.
I’m glad they did it because now I can finally see the yarns that they’re actually selling, rather than the stuff they had in stock in early 2004, but unfortunately the website is flawed in a 90s-let’s-play-with-HTML kind of way (although with the Artfibers site, these flaws were achieved using Flash).
Each yarn is displayed on a single page, with a closeup, a colour listing and swatch photograph, and an illustration of a suitable project plus ordering fields and buttons. While all the information you want is there, it’s annoying to browse. First, there’s no central listing of all the yarns available, so you’re forced to cycle through pages of yarns before you find the one you want–and it’s actually a guess to figure out which arrow to click to move on to the next yarn: the arrow one in the close-up photo, or the one under the yarn description? And while browsing you’ll wind up seeing the same yarn multiple times, because the products are categorized according to fiber content; a silk/wool yarn, for example, will be viewed twice: once in the silk listing, and once in the wool listing.
The yarn colour viewer is cute but counterintuitive, and unfortunately there are no longer colour names. Graphics change with annoying fade gimmicks–you know, those fade outs that are the hallmark of cheesy, badly constructed, personal websites hosted for free by ISPs or Geocities-like services. I found that sometimes, the graphics for the colours, the swatch, and the closeup didn’t update at the same time; I’d be reading the description for one yarn, but looking at a swatch for something else. Trying to fix this problem by reloading the page didn’t work very well, because Flash just reset to the first yarn in the first category.
And I didn’t see any terms of service — or any explanation about shipping costs, what happens when I use the shopping cart feature, and most importantly, what happens when I type my credit card number in the form during checkout. This being Artfibers, I’m prepared to forgive a lot, because I always had good service from them when I called them to place an order. But if I don’t see any indication that my payment information is being encrypted, I tend not to place an order, and I can imagine that a lot of customers would simply give up at that point and not place a telephone order, either. (I started to place an order, but when I got to the dialog box that requested a credit card number I stopped because the encryption icon in my browser wasn’t in the encrypted state.)
In short, I liked the website a lot better circa 2001 when all you could do was look at the yarn and larger colour samples, then pick up the phone and call San Francisco. My expectations from the website were pretty simple, and they were satisfied. This new version of the site is clearly under construction since a lot of links lead to “coming soon” pages, but if the shopping cart function happens to be part of what’s still under construction, there should be some indication on the site somewhere.
Some comments on the yarn now offered for sale:
To pick up a thread from the last post, Artfibers Liana is a cotton gimp yarn, but it knits at worsted weight and has a wool binder rather than a cotton binder.
Steph told me about the wonder of Sherlock, and I can see what she means–it’s a tubular knit yarn of wool and silk, and some of the variegated shades look subtle enough for my liking. (Actually, when she told me about it, I was confused and started talking about some similar tubular yarn that Artfibers had previously sold with the same name–turns out, they did sell Sherlock as early as 2002. But I had also confused it with Shakespeare, another “vintage” Artfibers yarn that was a tubular knit pure merino wool.)
Kurusawa, which is a worsted weight silk/wool blend that gleams, looks just like a yarn they sold a few years ago called Genoa (although Genoa was listed for a gauge of 18 stitches over 4 inches, I would have knit it at the Kurusawa gauge anyway).
Fortunately for me, my stash is bursting, so I don’t feel a pressing need to buy anything (over the phone!) from Artfibers right now. But now I feel an urge to dig that Genoa out of my stash.