city which is presently my home there were three yarn shops within easy reach - by that I mean within a couple of miles. Two were specialist shops and the other was half yarn and half haberdashery.
Further afield there were, from memory, at least nine other places that sold yarn in a way which would satisfy a serious knitter.
There were also sections in department stores, indeed some of the department stores had their own "labels" of yarn. There were "wool banks" where the yarn would be set aside and people could buy balls of yarn as they were ready to knit them.
People still knitted "TV" patterns. They were usually plainer patterns which required little concentration.
Much of the wool sold was grown and processed in Australia. Some of the cheaper yarn was not the best quality but the slightly more expensive yarn tended to be excellent. Cared for properly it lasted for years. I know. I still have one garment made back then. It was a long time ago.
There were a couple of specialised places which imported yarn - exotic French and Italian yarn and "proper" sock yarn from England. My paternal grandmother only used a certain brand of English sock yarn for my grandfather's socks. It was lovely stuff - and wore like steel.
I had time to consider all this yesterday as I went to the last remaining shop in this area. It is the half yarn and half haberdashery shop. It is still there - just. The owners want to retire and they are trying to sell the business. There have, the woman told me this yesterday, been "a few nibbles" - but that is all. They may be lucky but retail is slow. Serious knitters have other sources these day - mostly the internet and mail order. The owners know this. They stock good but basic yarns with just a little of the more exotic sorts thrown in. They know they cannot compete with the big, untidy store that sells all sorts of craft items, kitchenware, manchester etc. The untidy store sells cheap yarn sourced from China and Turkey. There is very little yarn spun in Australia any more. Some I would not use but some is excellent. The best yarn tends to be expensive compared with importing yarn of a similar quality.
I mentioned my musings to the Senior Cat over lunch. He agreed. He has seen the same thing happen in the woodworking area. Specialist tool shops and timber merchants have gone too - although not quite as dramatically. All the same cheap furniture is imported instead of using a skilled cabinet maker.
Friends who knit and live in other countries seem to think the same problem exists there and perhaps it does - to a lesser degree. I know what one of the problems is here - our weather does not demand heavy woollen garments, mittens, scarves, gloves, hats and the like. Most people now own cars. They go from one air-conditioned space to another via an air-conditioned car. They do not need knitted woollens.
So I wonder if we will keep the last local "yarn shop" and what will happen when the woman who runs the only other yarn shop left decides she too has had enough. I am reminded that some months ago that woman said to me at another event, "Come and see me in the shop." I have yet to do it. Perhaps I should. I don't need yarn but perhaps I should buy some just to make sure the shop is there when I need it.