Friday, 23 September 2011

Little Eleanor in the Big City.

Hello all, boy-oh-boy have I got a tale to tell today! Well, actually it'll probably bore you to death but I remembered to take photos all the way through so you're getting a blow by blow account whether you like it or not!

Knit Nottingham gets asked to take part in stuff a lot. A lot, a lot. All sorts of 'stuff' - charity events, craft shows, art exhibitions, local social groups etc etc. But essentially, I'm a miserable sort of person and I hate being out of my comfort zone i.e. the shop. There's also an awful lot of 'stuff' for me to do for our own shop so taking a day out isn't always an option. But then something or somebody comes along and the event is fabulous and the cause behind it is heart-wrenching and I just can't say no. This was one of them...

National Wear a Tea Cosy on Your Head Day.

Organised by White Stuff, the idea is simple, the staff at White Stuff wear a tea cosy on their head (and you do too if you want) and they put on a day of frivolities in the store which the customers sponsor. Each White Stuff store has a charity that they support and our local store sponsor Brad's Cancer Foundation (look here for Brad's story - I defy you not to have a little cry).

So, the lovely James got in contact with me nearly a month ago about making some tea cosies - I said yes (despite my better judgement, I already had a dalek and two cushion covers to knit to a deadline...) because I couldn't say no. I did bits here and there but didn't really get down to it until this last Monday and Tuesday when I had two days off together that I wasn't hungover and nothing else needed doing and I got down on it, as they say:

This was the start - crocheting infront of the t.v. with a cup of tea and wrapped up in my crochet blanket. Heaven! Also - mega stash bust!

This was part of the results of my effort - 126 crochet flowers in about 4/5 hours. Mega. My thumb still hurts! Then I had to decide what to do with them all... so I went a-searching through my little brain for ideas. I came up with some sort of flower basket - a plain cosy, with a brownish basket popped on top full of fun, frilly, bright little flowers. Brilliant! 

Then I found out that I had far too many flowers to I had to use them in some way, cue my 'abstract' piece...

Then later, whilst watching Big Brother, I had a craving for the knit so I cast on for a second version of my Sheepster tea cosy using some leftovers of 'proper' wool (including the lovely lovely lovely lovely British Wool Aran). 

And finally, the next day, I decided to tackle a pattern I've never been able to do - though I've tried many times - don't laugh... The PomPom Fancy... bad knitter. It got done, but I didn't pull the floats tight enough so it's a bit floppy but it fits my mum's tea pot perfectly so I'm not fussed, that's a Christmas present in the bag!

Pictures later in the post - I didn't take enough of them to put them here too... 

Then, dear crafters, the lovely James popped into the shop and invited me to come down for the day! How exciting! I said yes straight away, a luckily, June was able to cover. I decided to take some spare bits of yarn, needles and hooks with me and made my way into the big city!

I wore some makeup, a lovely dress and some heels! Because, really, I don't get out much so this was a lot of excitement for me! Doesn't the store look lovely?

James was there to greet me and he took me around all the exciting bits of the shop:

This is the male changing rooms - bloody garden sheds aren't they!!!

On the left, that's the inside of the shed (don't worry, everything's screwed down!) and on the right, that's a cat sat on the roof!! Sorry for the bad photo...

The ladies changing rooms are down a little cobbled street with a lovely seating area and a magic mirror at the back which takes your picture and you can collect it later on the internet! Isn't that dead good? Surely we could set that up in our shop!? 

All of the changing rooms are different styles; different doors, mirrors, chairs, light fixtures. Here are my two favourites:

Again, sorry for the bad photos. 

The last bit of excitement is this: 

It's only an old-fashioned sweet shop in the middle of the shop! Haha, this place really was like Disney, I couldn't believe it! 

Anyway, here's where they set me up:

Cute ey!? And comfortable with good light, the perfect knitting conditions! I know Steph's going to love, love, love those owl cushions (though she'd make them herself and a million times better...). If you look closely, just to the top left hand corner of the comfy, comfy, comfy chair there are some little cottage tape measures. Absolutely adorable! But £7.50! Blimey! Might make a nice present for somebody though. 

These were my views for the day: 

The bottom is there little 'home' set up with cookie cutters, sewn tea cosies and some gorgeous 50's kitchen units and on the top is out of the window looking down onto Bridlesmith Gate which is just such an adorable street and seems to be coping well with the recession. The amount of people I saw popping in and out of Flannels and Links (some sort of expensive jewellery place) was quite amazing. Those sorts of places make me glad that my yarn addiction is cheap - only by comparison - but in terms of hour by hour entertainment, there's surely no cheaper hobby? 

I set up my little shop: 

I cast on a few different bits with some stash yarn that didn't get crafted into flowers - the idea was that we'd maybe make enough patches to work into a tea cosy on the day. We didn't make it, eyes too big for our needles/hooks, but I'm going to finish those patches and keep a stash out of all the events and shop samples and bits I make throughout the year and we should have enough to make a few more cosies for the event next year!

And before you start to worry:

They kept me well fed and watered! I had some beautiful tiffin and a mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.... delicious cupcake! All home made by the guys and girls that work there. Lovely. I kept meaning to take photos of the produce but before I got a chance it was down the hatch... Oh well... You'll have to make do with my empty cup and saucer. 

Oh didn't I have a wonderful time!? I did some knits and some crochets - got an awful lot done on my exciting commisions (more on that at a later date). The staff were wonderful. One of the best bits was that the company had sent the head office staff to man the shop floors! I thought that was lovely, it keeps the buyers and managers in touch with what's happening at ground level, provides extra staff on manic days and lets them understand what sort of pressure the shop floor staff are under (and how well they cope with it). I remember working for a 'proper' company and there was always the feeling that they just didn't know, or care, what was going on with us. They'd send edicts at 6pm at night that we had to action before the shop opened in the morning or send us merchandising plans for newly refurbished shop spaces when we hadn't had an ounce of work done in our shop for 10 years. And retail is damn hard work! So I thought that was lovely, well done White Stuff!

These are the pictures of the staff that wore my hats - the lovely sheep on the left, the flower cosy in the middle and the 'abstract' on the right. I'm glad they were well loved. The lady on the right of the middle photo is the manager (wearing the flower basket) and I loved her! She kept coming to see if I was alright even though I could see she was busy and she even had time to knit a few rows on one of the patches! She only meant to knit a couple but just couldn't stop - don't we know how that feels!

I didn't take down any names, you should know by now I'm atrocious but they were all just lovely!

I thought the staff were great. But I'll stop saying that now and just show you this photo:

A trashy sort of a picture that I must have seen before but it's got nipple tassels!!! Nothing else to say I just thought it was great!

And in case you were in any doubt:

There was some fabulous knitwear. I loved this simple jumper and thought it was reasonably priced at £56 (ish...) but we all know it would be much more fun to knit it! The big trends seemed to be chunky (has that ever been out of fashion?!), modern aran-y type cables especially when mixed with lace and leg warmers - blurgh. 

I'm also mega pleased to announce I didn't see one bit of crochet which means that White Stuff has just overtaken Monsoon as my favourite store. Now, if we could just persuade them to sell clothes bigger than an 18 - come on guys, the national average is 16, would it kill you to stock a 22?!!?!??! 

Monday, 19 September 2011

As many of you know my big love is spinning which neatly ties in to my love of textiles in general. This means that I often sit in the shop,look at all the wonderful yarns and what if I stitched with this, weave with this, felt with this as well as knit/crochet with it

inkle loom

. Thinking along these lines my most recent acquisition has been an old inkle loom. The inkle loom has been around for at least 400 years and is used to make braids to edge garments and belts etc. The width of the loom means that you are restricted to about 3 inch but you can generally weave several feet in length on one.

inkle loom
So I grabbed a few balls of yarn and played, learning how the patterns formed.The next a ha moment was discovering a pattern generator on the net which let me place colours where I wanted them to get the right results.

inkle loom
Knitting yarn tends, by its very nature, to be a bit stretchy so it will be interesting to see how the end result behaves. In the meantime I am working on making sure the edges are neat.
It will be fun to see how variegated yarns work and I've already found that hand spun has to be tightly plyed to stop it furring up the string heddles.
These are very early steps into the world or weaving, will keep you in 
touch with my progress.


Saturday, 17 September 2011

I made it to the party!

You may have seen on the shop newsletter that I was able to attend the shops first Birthday party due to the bike breaking down and this resulted in what I think is the first ever photo of Eleanor, Liese and myself all in the same place at the same time!! See, even I don't have a copy of it!!

Well, we did make it to France on the Sunday morning only for the on board computer to go belly up after 200 miles. We left France on the 11pm ferry from Caen om the Sunday evening, eventually getting home early Monday evening after having the bike and ourselves recovered to the bike dealers in Lincoln.

After two ferries, 200 miles, four breakdown trailers and a train journey in 36 hours we were knackered!!

We eventually recovered enough to have a week in Cornwall, took my spinning wheel and my knitting. This time Spring Thaw shawl in hand spun merino/silk spun to a sort of DKish weight....feels amazing  :-)

I hope you all enjoyed the rest of the day and have chance to look at the beautiful drop spindle now available in the on-line shop, I'm thinking that I may have to post more about spinning next :-)

TTFN ...Sue

Monday, 12 September 2011

September, September.

Today I've been scanning the last few patterns to put up on the webshop - these are the ones where the info has already been written but the pictures are causing me some grief so I thought I'd just delete those ones and start again. It's only about twenty and finally, after months and months, I'm not feeling overwhelmed by using our scanner (the same scanner that we've had since I was 16...). The worst part of it was when I first started using it and I kept clicking the icon for the software to appear on screen and it just wasn't there. I tangled myself in knots trying to figure it out - the software CD's have long since disappeared so I thought we might have to fork out for a-whole-nother scanner. But it's okay. Apparently all you have to do is choose the icon, press 'alt+space' and click 'minimise' twice. Makes sense? Yeah - I love computers. But it does work...

Anyway, so the last twenty patterns are being done!! The rest are live: here you go. It's not pretty yet - when you click on 'patterns' then 'single patterns' it tells you there are no products in that category. That's correct but there are 'folders' in there that should be turning up but they only appear on the left hand side. Which is weird. Again, let me tell you how much I love computers. That should be sorted in some way of another by the end of today but I'm having a break to complain to you guys about it and to emphasise how much I love computers! I also have no idea why it says we have 1847 patterns - we don't - it's only about 200 but I'm sure that'll keep you going for a while...

Had a  real comptuery day on Saturday - dead proud of myself. I updated the Heritage DK with some new colours, and the Lopi Chunky. I managed to get the Katia Aloha up and running aswell as finally finding a Katia company logo that I could use so that this page looks a bit neater (I actually had to fart about with pixels and jpeg sizes to get that right for you - computer genius!!).

Things aren't quite right yet - if they were the the numbers after 'yarn by weight', 'yarn by fibre', 'yarn by company' would be the same but they're not. I believe that means that I've not copied some of the yarns into all of the categories that they could be in but sorting that out would be boring so I'm leaving it for a time when I can't do much else but feel like I need to do some work. Hangover anyone!?

I'm feeling fresh at the moment - it's the September thing. I haven't bought myself a new pencil case or shoes or anything but I'm ready for some new challenges and feel excited about finishing some old ones (I think it's mainly because these bloody patterns are nearly finished...). The next stage is to get all of our artisan items on the internet which is going to be a challenge - there's so much stuff and obviously it's all a one-off so I'm going to have to keep on top of what's selling where but we've lasted a year now and I'm confident that it's all within our reach. Just smile and it'll all be all right!

It's also dead exciting to see all the new and big projects being started!!! Must have been about 10 of you last week buying yarn for your big winter projects - including a very very very very exciting cabled sweater! If I don't see photos of that one I shall be sorely disappointed - you know who you are!

Oh wow - I nearly forgot to mention that the Cygnet Seriously Chunky is back in stock! As popular as ever, on Saturday, the first day it was in the shop, we sold 14 balls! How exciting - especially the new colours 'cornflower' and 'candyfloss'. I think I made it clear on facebook that cornflower has stolen my heart - it's the most vibrant, deep, electric blue you've ever seen and I can't wait to see it worked up but it looks like I may have to make a sample in bluebell because I was making a sample last year in that colour that never got finished (eyes bigger than my knitting capacity...). Oh it's a hard life...

I think that's enough, I need to make a cup of tea and get back to those patterns but I thought I'd leave you with this. It's the post that we made exactly a year ago about how excited we were about the opening and how well it had gone. At that point I didn't even know the login for the blog (never mind the e-mails, paypal, website etc etc etc...). Look how far we've come! Writing blogs and everything.

Also - I promise this is the last bit - we've had as many hits on the blog already this month as September, October, November and December last year! Not put together mind, but it does mean you're reading it! Thanks!! It makes me feel like a celebrity!!!

P.s. Honestly the last thing I'll write - when I type 'tea' into the keyword label thingy then press space to get me to the next word the computer automatically updates it to 'tea knees'. I wonder what I was talking about when I put those words together...

Friday, 9 September 2011

A little Video Blog about the Boozey, Boozey Party!!!

At this point, we hadn't had the Cygnet Seriously Chunky in but you'll get to know about that tomorrow. Mmmmmmmmmmm....


Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Its All Getting a Bit Tens(ion)e

So, my mum (who didn't teach me how to knit) started her knitting life back in the 1940s when she was at school, where her second project was a pair of gloves, in the round on tiny dpns. Anyway, I'm digressing. Nowadays, she can't knit much because her fingers don't work properly. It doesn't stop her trying though. She finds a pattern she likes, buys the yarn and casts on. Over a period of a few weeks she manages to knit about four inches before putting it to one side. For the next two years its sits around and I offer every few months to take it away and finish it. And yes, it does take her about two years before she finally admits defeat and hands it over.

Its never been a problem until this project. Her tension and mine have always been the same (and we have the same attitude towards making tension squares/gauge swatches - call them what you will, then wash your mouth out). But this time, oh this time... Can you see the problem?

Yes,  you can clearly see that I was knitting at a looser tension once I took over. But, then things got stranger. When I joined in a new ball, this happened

I reverted to the original tension. How? I'm not quite sure what happened, but I wasn't about to frog all that work. It will all come out in the blocking - but that's another story.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Thank you. xx

It's exactly a year since we first opened this little shop. And what a bloody year! I still can't get over it - I'm always telling people that it feels like no time at all (I remember all the feelings that I felt back then; trepidation, fear, excitement, pride...) but then it feels like we've been here forever and I just can't imagine not being here.

It's the best job ever and that's the truth! The most rewarding, exciting, fun and the most challenging. At my age, it's fantastic to be able to really create something and I'm proud of what we've made.

  • I love that we have customers who pop in just for a chat, and customers that give things like bookshelves in return for buttons or buttons in return for nothing but a bit of space in their living rooms. 
  • I'm glad that people come in to ask for help and that sometimes they ignore it because they've done their own research.
  • I'm honoured of the stories that I've heard and the feelings that have been shared to me. The miscarriages, the health scares, the redundancies we've seen throughout the year, the family arguments.
  • I'm proud of all our customers that the only difficult customer that we've had 365 days has been a non-crafter!
  • I'm grateful that nobody's been awful when we've not had the yarn or needles that you needed - and that you've had the patience to wait until we could order.
  • I'm amazed that people book and rebook our lessons just to hear me wittering on (and that they bring CAKE - amazing, drool-worthy, covered in chocolate frosting and chocolate eggs cake - you know who you are...).
  • It makes me smile and giggle a bit to think of the fun that we've had going to the pub together.  
  • I remember the outpouring of love when little Sunshine died. 
  • I'm a bit teary when I think of the concern you've all had for me when I've looked tired, ill or stressed.
  • Incredulous that people have visited us from as far away as Australia, America, India and even South Yorkshire!
There's more - oh believe me there's more! But I want to say something a bit serious here too. 

It's been only a matter of weeks since I spent over 12 hours refreshing my screen again and again to see where the next place smashed up or set on fire in Nottingham was. A frightening day and night. We avoid talking politics here and the rest of our internet outlets (though not in the shop...) because we all have such differing views and what's the point of disagreeing with somebody when you've got something you can be agreeing about? 

We'll not change our tune here - no politics - but I will tell you that as a small business owner it's a terrifying time, the recession (especially any 'double-dips') and the associated 'cuts', the riots and the march ahead of superstores like Tesco. It's definitely hard and I'm working 60-70 hour weeks. When I'm not updating the website, talking to customers, knitting commissions, doing figures, speaking to suppliers, talking on facebook, writing and teaching lessons, I'm, well, I'm asleep. I live and breathe this place. And I'm not alone - other little business owners are doing the same thing but we've had one little Nottingham knitting shop close over the last few months so I want you to know how appreciated you are. Honestly and genuinely, I can't get over how much you've supported us and how much you care. It's quite incredible. 

We're in a bit of a flux at the minute - Liese's hand over to June, getting the webshop up and running properly and training the volunteers that are working to hard for us (so appreciated!) but we're confident we'll make this coming year bigger, better, brighter, funnier and definitively more colourful than last and I'm glad you'll be there to share it with us. 

Thanks for allowing me to play with wool all day - and be paid for it! 

Love Eleanor. xxx

Thursday, 1 September 2011

'Twas the summertime

And the weather was... well, frankly, not great.

I was working away, down in that there Londontown. One day, as I was checking Ravelry, I spotted an invitation to join a new group for a new yarn shop FIVE minutes round the corner from where I live. Woohoo! And they were going to have a PARTY!

Which would have been another woohoo, if I hadn't realised I would be in that there Londontown on the day. Still, I was in Nottingham the weekend before, so I decided to find this place and check it out. And what did I find? Eleanor on her knees, scrubbing away, but no sign of yarn. We chatted, and a couple of weeks later I went into the shop - with wine.

What yarn, what colours. Fanblubbertytastic it was. And over the next few months, I kept returning and buying yarn. Love, love, love the Grousemoor chunky. Started a long term affair with King Cole Riot. The Mirage spoke to me. And, as for the Jarol Heritage...

The months flew by, in a whirl of yarn and wine and knitting and wine (well, sometimes tea). I have flirted with Bamboo Cotton, the Cygnet DK and Aran acrylics. Chatted to customers.

Then, on my birthday (although they didn't know it then), I was asked if I wanted to join the business. Absoflippinglutely!

So, as we approach the first birthday, I'm looking forward to PARTY, more yarn, more knitting and, probably most importantly, more wine. I'll be in the shop on Mondays, so call in, say hello and shop, shop, shop.

Love June. Thanks for having me!