Search the Site

Bank Cracks Down on Wily Yarn Merchant

This story sounds too weird to be true, and yet I have a feeling it is true.

It concerns knitting. It seems that knitting has become an increasingly popular hobby among a large slice of middle- and upper-class American women. We here at Freakonomics are not unfamiliar with this phenomenon: Levitt’s sister runs Yarnzilla, an online and brick-and-mortar knitting emporium; and my wife has recently become a knitting zealot enthusiast. (I am always intrigued that so many people have embraced menial tasks — knitting, cooking, gardening, e.g. — as high-end hobbies, but that is a whole ‘nother story.)

So when the following e-mail arrived, I read it with interest. To summarize: a yarn company gets so successful so fast that its bank suspects it is a front for something illegal and shuts down its credit-card operation. As I said, sounds too weird to be true. Judge for yourself.

Dear S&S,

I’ve gathered from reading the Freakonomics blog that at least one of you lives in New York, so you are no doubt aware that in the last few years knitting has become pretty hip. The knitting community is large and rich (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s blog,, raised over $120,000 for Tricoteuses Sans Frontiers in less than three days, this Christmas), so it’s surprising that we are still so socially invisible. Maybe $120K isn’t so much, on the scale of the entertainment industry. But here’s the interesting part:

This morning, one of the most popular producers of hand-dyed sock yarn, Blue Moon Fiber Arts, announced that they were making so much money on their sock yarn that their bank managers decided it must be a front for something illegal, and shut down Blue Moon’s credit card system, and refunded all of the money for the 2007 Sock Club!

Blue Moon has found another bank that is happy to take knitter’s money, no matter how much of it there is, so all is well again in the knitting world. It does seem, however, that this gobsmacking development deserves to be known outside the knitting community-and must be of some kind of interest to economists.

The incident has been blogged about by the Yarn Harlot. And also by one of Blue Moon’s biggest fan-blogs, January One.


Katrina Triezenberg, Ph.D., sock knitter