Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Tartan Cardi

Ahhhh, this blog is feeling more and more like respite right now, so lovely to be back and I've got something to talk about!

So, it's no secret how much I like Knitty.com and Amy Singer. In every edition of the mag there's something to inspire and I am forever grateful. Something that caught my eye and I kept coming back to was the Princess Franklin Plaid Collar. So much so that I haven't really stopped thinking about it since 2013 (I had no idea it was that long ago! I can still remember the first time I saw it and it took my breath away).

How cool is that?!

Now, we're all knitters and crocheters here and we all know that we all have a million scarves and cowls and snoods and we probably don't need any more. Thing about neck accessories is that they don't really wear out do they? Not in the same way that cardigans and socks and things do, which means that once you've made it you've got it for years and years and therefore I try and avoid making them unless I really really can't not. And to be fair, what I loved about this was the technique rather than the thing. So the idea that I'm talking about today had been percolating for a year or two before I even considered casting it on. I did that at some point last year, early last year when I was going through a bout of finish-it-and-use-up-the-stash-itis but I only managed to finish it yesterday.

And I love it and I know that it's good because every single person who's come in the shop has commented on it. Boom.

So, I haven't got a pattern for you and to be fair I'm not going to write one because I'm not sure, despite the final garment being brilliant, that the idea is a sound one but I also couldn't not write something because so many of you love it. I found, on rav I think, a basic pattern for a top down raglan and used that to make the body in garter stitch. I put big chunky ribs at the top and bottom because I knew I'd need to hide some ends.

I did a stripe sequence that I kind of made up and went a bit wrong sometimes too but mostly kept the same all the way through. All the increases and things were done right on the edge so as to try and keep that out of the weaving process. Once the knitting was done, all I had to do was weave in the weft. All I had to do. Haha. 

 Now that was a job and a half, you can read about how to do it in the Princess Franklin pattern, he explains it better than I ever could. The weft had to go all the way up the fronts and then when I got to the armholes, it had to then go all the way up the fronts and down the sleeves too. I really like the way that the raglan 'seam' looks:

I wasn't sure that the vertical stripes were going to meet up properly at the back so I made the fronts right because people were going to see that and then fiddled a little bit at the back. If I remember rightly I just took out a couple of the purple lines in a mirrored pattern at the back and I doubt anybody would ever know:


Then came the really difficult bit - sewing in the ends. Every singly vertical bit had two ends. I thought I might use one thread to go up and down if I was doing more than one vertical stripe in the same colour but I found it really hard to keep the tension right. One of the brilliant things about knitting is that it stretches both ways - more one way than the other - but definitely both ways. When you're weaving as I was doing then you lose the vertical stretch. The tension needed to be such that it didn't pull the garment shorter, and allowed for a little stretch but didn't bunch up. I didn't get that right. I didn't take my time sewing in the ends either so when it was laid out for blocking and I was stretching it into position, some of the ends popped free. And that's about where I left it.

I knew I would have to sew those ends in and find a way of securing them without being able to add any more length to the strands... And that just kind of gave me brain ache (also, pretty soon after we got loads of really good stuff in the shop like Drifter so I was far too busy fondling that, haha).

But yesterday! Yesterday was the day! I had steadied myself for a day of adminning and doing lots of little jobs that hadn't got done and I did do a lot of those but I also forgot two crucial pieces of paperwork which meant that everything else went to pot so I caught up on a bit of housework - sorting out the recycling, doing the washing, cooking in a nice relaxed manner, changing the sheets - all lovely housewife-y things and then I settled down to sew the ends in on Chris's Christmas jumper and then I was ready to tackle this which I'd found at the bottom of a pile of (clean) laundry. I went through finding the ends to sew in, re-wove them where needed and used a finer needle to split some plies to add strength to that sewing job. Then I debated sewing a straight stitch along the entire hem of the thing and all up the sleeves and then I thought to myself 'oh no Eleanor, you already mostly look like a tit, what's a few little ends poking out going to do?'. So I left it. And if they poke out I'll leave them, or I'll fix it according to my whim and to be honest, after a while, the ends with mostly be felted slightly and stay where they should anyway.

Then I put the eight buttons into place and then I tried it on and took the best photo ever taken without a bra which can't be shared because the beauty will be too much and then I put it away to wear today, and here I am full of compliments! Boom!

I can definitely see that it's going to be a favourite to wear - very snuggly, although I feel like snuggly season is almost over (maybe?). It's also kind of smart so it will be a nice one to wear when I visit the bank or the solicitor, that kind of thing but eventually it will be a ratty every day cardigan and I need more of those! So, if you can get your head around what I did and you like it enough, it's a very simple cardigan to make, you just need to do more reasonable sewing in your ends than I did - take time and effort and it would be worth it.

Also, if you aren't mad enough to do a whole garment, lovely Lindsey used the same idea to make a crochet cowl in chunky. I just love this technique!

That's it. I've got so much to do, I'm offski!

Love Eleanor. xxxxxxxx

Friday, 22 January 2016


Gauge Gauge Gauge. It matters. And I have proof.

So, I do want to avoid talking overly about the new shop, but this is related. Know how I was saying that customers are so willing and excited to help?! Well, lovely Vita Spark is one of those! She loves a hand knitted sock and has made plenty for herself which are beautiful and practical but she's a loose lady, I'm sure she won't mind me saying, in terms of gauge anyway.... ;) Just a naturally loose knitter and as you'll know, if you've been on a sock lesson or watched or read any time I've spoken about socks, the tighter the gauge the better. There's a sweet spot like between being so tight that it hurts your hands and means a sock that takes two years to finish and being so loose that the sock doesn't last but generally, the tighter you can comfortably go - the better. Tightness works because the yarn can't move around to much and so the fibres don't rub together and get thinner and therefore weaker.

For numerous reasons, including the sheer amount of projects she always has on (!!!!), knitting tighter socks is not possible for Vita and therefore she had an offer for me! She'd give me the yarn and I'd knit socks for her for a good price which gives the shop a nice chunk of money to put towards the new shop! Boom! And because she's a knitter, and a close supporter of the shop, the timeline for getting them finished is long enough for me to relax and knit them as I'm on hold for all the people that I need to be on hold for or whilst I'm reading through contracts etc. Perfect project.

So, the first pair I'm knitting for her is in a beautiful yarn that she picked up from Yarndale when she came with us on the first trip. She's already knitted the leg in the way that she wants which is perfect because it gives me the size and style that she wants for the leg (no ribbing for comfort, nice and wide and not too long). The leg was ready for the heel to be started and I've now got the leg length that she wants and the shape of the toe. Very easy.

So I'm using the same needles that she started on, same yarn obvs, same amount of stitches because there's no point changing it and I've decided to do a heel flap and turn because that gives the opportunity to increase the amount of stitches without much thought to make up for the fact that my gauge is so much tighter. I've done the heel now and I've done a couple of decreases for the gusset but not many to try to keep the same circumference around the foot as it has been on the leg and I'm now just plain sailing down the foot, so if you pop into the shop that's what you'll find me working on.

I knew our gauge was different but just look at this:


I've made the photo extra large. Can you see the difference between the top bit knitted by Vita and the bottom bit knitted by me? Same needles, same yarn, same stitches, different knitter. Amazing huh? Vita's gauge is 6.5 stitches per inch and mine is 8.5. That's 2 stitches per inch difference which means that over a sock which is roughly 9" circumference a whopping 18 stitches difference which at this gauge amounts to between 2 and 3 inches difference. If that makes any sense at all?!?! Put that into a jumper for say a 40" chest and there's 80 stitches difference which amounts to 10-12 inches difference! Can you imagine the difference that 12 inches makes in a jumper - that's (roughly) six dress sizes! The difference between a size 8 and a size 18!!!!

Gauge matters!

So for the next sock in this pair, I'm going to go well up a few needle sizes for the leg, and pop down onto the same needles for the foot so they'll be a slightly odd looking but fully functional and identical-as-any-hand-knitted-pair-of-socks-are pair.

And for the rest of the pairs I'm making for her I'm going to measure the circumference that she needs in inches and times that by 8.5 to come up with the cast on number for me. If you can make that cast on number divisible by four then you have a recipe for an easy-no-think sock. But of course, if you want to know about that you'll have to come on one of our courses, but of course, our next two sock courses are sold out which means that I need more space which brings me right back to the new shop.


Love Eleanor. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Thursday, 21 January 2016

An Update

Ahhhh, I am so excited about how excited you lot are about this new shop! And overwhelmed by the amount of help you lot are offering. This is truly exciting and I am feeling constantly sick which I've learned is just my body's way of telling me 'get on with it, this is going to be bloody great!', it just doesn't feel like it at this point.

So, I went to see the shop last Thursday (a whole week ago!) and it was as lovely, if not lovelier than I remembered! The previous tenant has left some stuff there which should make my life a little easier and I'm taking every bit of help I can at the moment.

My surveyor smashed it asking for some stuff that I would not have dared and told me exactly what I'm responsible for so I'm feeling both relieved and nervous about the sheer amount of stuff. The Heads of Terms are written (basically the stuff in a contract that's specific to me as far as I can see) and that's been sent over to the solicitor who I've instructed. Yes, I've instructed a solicitor, I am a grown up. Whoooooo, this is getting real right about now.

I've been in contact with my energy, water, phone, internet and insurance companies and I know exactly who to ring and when I have to ring them to make sure everything's as smooth as possible. I've also been in contact with the rates people who are on my side and the business support people at the local council who've been really helpful, I need to follow up some links (they have told me about a loan facility which looks much more reasonable than the bank although I'll still avoid it if I can). I've told King Cole and Cygnet that I'm probably moving and I know what I have to do and when I have to do it.

I've been in contact with a couple of carpet companies, I have to measure out the space and choose a carpet/flooring before I get a proper quote but I know what I'm working with. I've made notes on my Ikea catalogue about which bits I need and I'm trying to work out when I have to buy so that it doesn't have to be stored too long in mine or Chris's house. I've also earmarked a few second hand places that I want to visit, I don't want the shop to look like an Ikea catalogue - I like the higgle-de-piggle-de nature of this shop.

Moving van! Ugh! I have options between having full on movers or a man with a van or Chris with a rented van. I thought all my troubles were over in this respect when my dad told me that he had a certain type of van, I checked on the website about the size of that and it sounded perfect (although much bigger than I imagined) but it turns out he'd got it completely wrong and it's much too small (apparently forgetting really useful things can be a side effect of a heart attack and not getting blood through to the brain properly that will get better unless he's going completely mad, and that's a very real possibility... Haha).

I'm half way through setting up a crowdfunding scheme thing on the suggestion of a number of customers (some who've already sent money through Paypal!). This is possibly the hardest thing I've had to do. It's really against my nature to ask for help and it's hard to hit the right note of - I'd love the money and it would make everything easier and smoother but not gimme all your money now or else or even I've got no money and I need your heeeeeeeeelp. The truth is, I could do this *just* without help, it would mean clever use of credit cards and loans which I would love to avoid but it could be done. Thing is, so many people have offered so much help that it seems stupid not to allow people to help - people love this shop and what it means to them and I don't want to negate anybody's experience. Does that make sense? So I'm bloody doing it! Now I just have to work out the wording and I've got a team of amazing customers or friends who are reading through and making suggestions and doing the best that they can for me and I'm overwhelmed by their kindness and generosity. Love!

I think that's where we are. I also have a shop to run (big box of King Cole wool waiting for me to sort it), and a load of patterns to get on the internet, and updating some bits on the internet, and sorting out the workshops on the internet, and writing a few blogs, and making a few vlogs, and working out what I owe and paying somebody which has to be my priority. Gah! I keep thinking that it would have been great if this new shop thing had worked out at the timing I was looking for - late summer - but I can't let this one go, it's too perfect and I know that I'd be just as stressed and overworked if it had happened then. Breathe. Last night me and Chris had a lovely dinner and played backgammon and there was no knitting and no talking about finances and no figuring out strange floor plans, just relaxing and being a normal human.

Another thing I've organised is a couple of nice evenings with friends over the next few weeks. I will need that time. The first is a gathering at Jem Weston's house to celebrate the publication of her brand new book - The Knitted Nursery Collection - which is as cute and well put together as we've come to expect from her. I love a friend doing well, don't you? Ahhhhhhhhh.

And I managed to get a picture into this post which I consider quite a feat!

That's it, I assure you lot that I'm keeping you as up to date as possible so there's no need to come into the shop and ask loads of questions!!! In the nicest possible way, I'm getting a bit stressed about it especially going over the same things again and again. The best way, if you've got a brill thing to say (and a lot of you have had some bloody marvelous things to say!!!!) is to let me know through here or facebook and then I can have a think about them and respond in my own time which allows me to think a little clearer and allows my mind to do things in a way that works for me. But don't stop suggesting things please! Lots of you have reminded me of lots of things that I hadn't thought about or that I'd forgotten so I need you I just don't need you all up in my face at the shop. Yeah? LOVE!

Friday, 15 January 2016

2015 - In Review

Only a little late. I think I was thinking about last year and the sheer amount of posts I made reviewing 2014. I don't think I'm up to that this year, we're a lot busier behind the scenes this year (as you'll know if you've read the previous two posts) but I also have a lot of admin stuff weighing down on me which I'd love to get on with! I do need to write something though, it wouldn't be right not to. So.

I don't have to start about buying the business partners out, you know all about that now!

So I'll start with our other events. Yarn Shop Day went swimmingly as it did last last year (if you know what I mean, too late to be posting this really, haha). I think this sums up the day nicely:

A happy customer surrounded by wool. :)

The date for this year has been announced now - the 30th of April. And looking through for photos of last year it appears that by then Let's Knit were asking for nominations for the British Knitting Awards so keep an eye out for that (and let me know if you see it before I do! I'm determined to win again).

Which leads me onto winning the award!

This is the third year running that we've won the Best Independent Yarn Shop in the Midlands and it is always a thrill! This year we were also nominated for the Best Online Shop (which Dera-bugger-mores won) and Best Yarn Shop Day Experience and we came third in that but this year I'd like to be second before smashing it the year after. What's most exciting about this is that it's nominated and voted by the customers. I have a feeling that I wouldn't win if it weren't you lot voting, I'm no good at networking and I'm not great at being in 'the industry', I don't really care for it, or rather, I do but only in as much as it affects us, the knitters and crocheters. Anyway, winning this year definitely didn't feel like a foregone conclusion, I felt sick most of the way through when we were supposed to know about it especially because I'm now part of the AIYSO (Association of Independent Yarn Shop Owners) so there were a lot of us biting our nails when the announcements were delayed.

That's got to be another high for this year - the making of the AIYSO. I've talked about it a lot but I don't think I can overestimate how good it feels to be in contact with other people that know what it's like. Owning a wool shop is incredible but bloody hard work and they get it. 

Back to parties - our fifth birthday party felt like I real achievement. It didn't just feel like it, it was it! Although I have a hard time convincing myself of this, if a friend of mine had done this I would be incredibly proud - I've worked a lot on being kinder to myself this year.

I think this photo nicely sums that up. Love Holly's cheeky face at the front there. I'm so hoping that by the next party we will be in the next shop whatever happens. I think the next Yarn Shop Day Party might be at the new shop but I don't want to jinx it. I think September is a good time to plan for... I do worry that the shop gets too busy at these parties, people do come in and leave pretty soon after. To be fair, if they come in on a party and then stay, we know they're going to be good Knit Nottinghamites but some people are shy and I get that and wouldn't it be nice if we could all have a seat or at least some breathing space. Oh I am so excited! I can almost feel the relief already, I just know that there's a lot of work to do in between. Ahhhh!

Hmm, next highlight. Ahhhhh, I'm going through the blog and I know I'll find more stuff but I really loved this jumper!

Still love it! Still love it! Still love it! So warm, so stylish, so easy to wear. Well, maybe not stylish. But I think we're all looking for the one thing we can make that we love to wear and looks good - a perfect combo. It's made in the Chunky Tweed and it's this pattern although I changed the neck somewhat. It also brings back memories of when I had my ear did and all of a sudden nobody was bothering me to do anything but sit around and knit all day. Ohhhhh to be an invalid.

 I got the door fixed! This was such a problem to me and the noise grated on my soul so much that it feels like I only had it fixed yesterday. But it was February!

King Cole released my first pattern, I have so many ideas for many many more but time is not on my side... So thrilled to have this though! An official, published designer. You can still buy it here: King Cole 9026.

June's son got married and I knitted him and his husband socks. Bloody big footed men.

This is another stand out pattern from this year. The King Cole Shine is one of my favourite yarns and they just smashed it with this pattern which seems to suit every single person.

Just in general, I feel like the Drifter DK was a real standout yarn. It helps that it came in high summer when the shop is slowish so I could sit outside and knit with it and really fall in love but I've also now crocheted a simple blanket in it and I still love it. Ahhhhhhh. Still so many plans for this.

But the real smasher this year has been the Panache DK. Such good value but just such an incredible yarn. Everybody has fallen in love with it - people who love colour, people who love texture, people who love posh yarn, people who love a bargain, crocheters, knitters, arty people, garmenty people. Everybody! Boom!

I still have nothing finished in it... but other people do, I'm just struggling to find the photos... I will do soon as I started the second sleeve of Chris's jumper yesterday. I promise.

Following on from that, my lessons are always a massive highlight throughout the year!

This was my first evening lesson and it was on fairisle. This is like my favourite thing to teach ever and I've been really excited this year that you lot have booked out so many fairisle lessons that I've been able to teach it about once a month. haha. Usually, we use the King Cole Merino DK but lately I've been opening that up to the Panache DK in the lesson because people have just been falling in love with it.

And talking about events for customers. BLOODY YARNDALE!

This was, without doubt, the biggest source of stress and one of the biggest joys of the year. It must be a bit like giving birth because I've just bloody booked for next year ain't I?! An 83 seater! It's so weird how the year takes on a rhythm of its own - yarn shop day, nominations, birthday party, yarndale, Christmas. Ahhhhhhhhh. And this year will be even more special!

And to round it all up, on a personal note, my biggest highlight, or series of highlights, has been my garden, taking more time out for myself (until just before Christmas), and Chris. Ahhhhhh.

And that's it. It doesn't do justice to 2015 but it does do justice to the immense amount of work I have to do today (although, it's Tuesday that I'm writing not Friday as I'm posting so I might have nothing to do on Thursday. Jokes. Never nothing to do). I have loved 2015. Not every minute, some of it was downright shit, but a lot of it was solid and a few sparkly moments shine out above all else. Here's to 2016 when I should have a bigger shop, more customers, more wool and be dead organised!

Thank you everybody that supported us throughout the year and keep doing it (and maybe do it more!).

Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

P.s. I forgot to talk about the vlogs which have been an immense source of enjoyment!

P.p.s. I've finished the jumer! (Apart from sewing in ends, blocking and perhaps redoing the neck. The less said about all of that, the better...).

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Moving On

So, what I was talking about yesterday really threw me for a loop (that's a term, right?) and I really wanted some time to just think and regroup but after only a couple of weeks I had a phone call from a woman called Sue.

She'd come in a couple of years ago when I'd only just started about getting a bigger shop. It was a pipe dream back then. I like to do one thing at a time or I end up worrying, thinking too far into the future is a big problem for me. So at that point I was still thinking of buying the business partners out and I couldn't see a way around that to get to the point where I would be ready to buy a new shop. Of course, I could have moved whilst still having business partners but I was aware that every minute that I spent doing work adding value to the business would mean that I would be losing out in terms of having to pay them more.

To be clear, I'm not money grabbing, there's been a lot of talk about money and how not to spend it on these last two blogs, I wish it weren't so but the reality of running a business is that that's what it comes down to. My aim for this shop is to provide me with a reasonable living, whatever that might mean at the time - I'd like to own a house, be clothed and fed, afford a coach trip holiday every year and perhaps support a few other people to do that too with my business. But I have to stay in business to do that. I really enjoy spending the shops money - on wool, obvs, but also there's a sense of pride that I have when the shop buys brilliant things like the stuff I bought at Ikea at the weekend. It was only £60 (although we spent a further £30 on screws and bits and bobs) and it applies to things like the computer, or, hell, anything I buy as a shop. All of this adds value though; it's an investment. Giving money to people just so that they're no longer part of the business isn't adding value as far as I'm concerned, it's wasted money and I'd like to do as little wasting money as possible so that I can put it into the good stuff.

Anyway, I really am tangenting these last couple of days aren't I?! Hmmm.

So, Sue rang me and told me about a shop that was shutting next to hers. The shop is Vintage to a Tea which has already closed. I'd heard about the closure, lots of my friends are into vintage and were very sad. I'd never been, vintage doesn't really come in my size ;), but I knew it was a bigger shop and Sue seemed so positive about me and the shop and the landlord. I was absolutely amazed that she'd remembered me from that long ago! Amazed! So I knew that I had to ring the landlord. I left a message on his phone and then went about my day.


Readers, he rang me back! This just like doesn't happen. I don't know whether it's me or the times that I'm able to ring (i.e. when the shop's not open) or what, but people just don't ring me back. He had to leave a message and then I was going out and didn't have time to get back to him but I was going to in the morning apart from then the morning was busy busy busy and then I forgot. But, he rang me back again! And I got to speak to him and he sounded lovely! I mean, it helps that he sounded lovely but what he was saying about what he provides as a landlord was just incredible! I mean, not really incredible, but reasonable and fair and in relation to landlords (especially commercial landlords) that really is incredible. Ha. I got in contact with my surveyor, the same one, the previous shop wasn't his fault, just to let him know and arranged to go and see the shop.

Just so you've got all of the info, it's on Trinity Walk which is a little cut-through between Upper Parliament Street and Trinity Square. There's another walk called Kings Walk which is bigger and has Long Tall Sally on it but this is the smaller one, packed with little independent shops but there's some fancy new signs been put up and over Christmas they'd fought and won the right to have Christmas trees. Lovely. It's the one, if you know it, that has the pet shop on it which has been there for like ever. I've helpfully made a little map for you:

The current shop is much much further off the map. Look how close the new shop is to the Victoria Centre! Genuinely, like two minutes away. I do know that the John Lewis staff often send people our way but I can only imagine that people begin to peel off as they realise that they have to walk up a hill. I feel like that sometimes too. Haha. My main problem with the spot is that it's not on a big main road. One of the things that has really benefitted us is that we're on so many bus routes and even have a bus stop right outside. You can park on the street, not for free, and constantly changing charges (thanks Nottingham City Council) but at least you can park. In this new shop, there is parking just around two minutes away at the Trinity Square car park, or at the Victoria Centre although it seems like more of an effort to park in one of those than to just nip in off the street. I suspect though, that people in cars will start to see the shop as somewhere that they can go when they're in town shopping so they won't be parking just to see us. People on buses are generally closer to us anyway, most of the buses that go past the shop now go down Upper Parliament Street so we don't lose those, we're barely further way from the Victoria Centre Bus Station just the other way down and we're definiteley closer to the buses on the square and Broadmarsh. In terms of people on foot, I reckon most come from town end so they're in for a treat. Also, the less exercise my customers get, the fatter the get, the more wool they get. Brill!

I've done a lot of thinking about this, I've taken a lot of advice (nobody asked if I wanted it, I asked and they gave ;) ), I think I'm happy.

Now, in terms of the shop. I didn't step in and love it. I see this as a brilliant thing. If any of you have heard about how me and Chris met, it was a blind date and I was so unsure of him in the first instance that I was about to run out the door, haha, but I didn't, I saw a little spark and stayed. I saw a little spark in this shop. It's a strange shape which I can work with. It was a little bit dark which I think I can sort out. It's a little dilapidated which I'll either sort out or keep because I like it. The vintage shop has had a lot of trouble with leaks. I've researched as extensively as I can, my surveyor has talked to the business owner involved and I've spoken to other business owners on the street and the landlord as well as scrolling through countless facebook pages. Most of the leaks were like freak accidents (I liked when the landlord said 'that can't be legislated for', whilst I agree with him I loved the fact that he used that word and used it correctly!). The couple that weren't, I'm happy that the landlord dealt with appropriately. I also think we're in a better position to stand that because our stock can be replaced if needs be, beautiful Victorian gowns can't. I feel so deeply for the vintage shop, she'd built a beautiful business with a loyal fanbase but sometimes, life does just doesn't pan out how it was meant to and I hope she goes on to do something that she loves and it works out. I can't shake the feeling of being a vulture but.... business has to go on and in this market, you snooze, you lose.

So, whilst being aware of some issues, and side-eyeing my savings pot, I told my surveyor to go ahead with an offer. We got the offer in before Christmas because I was aware that there was another party interested in the shop. Happily, the landlord owns the rest of the street so he's aware not only of what would or would not work but also his duty to 'curate' the street so that every business works. This was a little bit hanging over me over Christmas but mostly it felt like the right thing to do and I started to allow myself to think about how I would work with the space. I have ideas and they involved shelves, many many shelves. The offer has been nominally accepted as of last week although there's still time for it to go pear shaped. I'm meeting with the landlord, his agent and my surveyor on Thursday and if that goes well it's a case of getting the terms over to a solicitor and let them deal with it.

For now, there's very little I can do. I'm still saving the money, I've rebranded the money box that we've had in the shop since the beginning as the 'new shop fund':

It's kind of been the new shop fund for a while, I have no idea how much is in there, but it will be opened in order for me to buy stuff for the new shop. I'm also mulling around in my head some sort of crowd-funding/kickstarter thing inspired by what Amy did with Knitty.com. My bank keeps offering me money, I'm saving like a little save-a-tron, Chris has offered me a loan and I'll do my best to keep costs reasonable but this has come more suddenly than I was expecting and I'm still not sure of how much I'll need so it's all very scary. I like the idea of different levels of stuff that can get that different amounts bring, does that make any sense? So for like £1000 worth of support I can move into the shop without going into debt, for £2000 I can do that and redo the lighting for £3000 I can do all of this and go on a coach trip. Haha. Not really, there'll be no holiday for me this year! But you get what I'm saying? Although, I haven't worked out the levels yet. I'm also aware that not everybody has spare money even though they might support the shop if they did so even though I'm musing about this, please be aware that the best thing that you can do to support the shop (in this place or the new one) is buy from us and talk about us to anybody that might be interested. Anything like putting money into the shop fund or a crowd funding type thing is extra - we appreciate you all, even the skint ones. :)

Again, I feel like I've jibber jabbered so I'm going to put this here and write some more to be posted tomorrow. I will get around the summing up last year, maybe?

Love Eleanor. xxxxxxx

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Last Year!

Last year, last year, last year.

It seems so long ago! I meant to write this before the end of the year, in fact, I started writing it but I read it this morning and it seems like the wrong kind of tone, although I don't know what the right tone is. Today feels sad generally - David Bowie, the doctors on strike, January but it also feels full of hope personally - the shop is moving forward apace, I've even made the first piece of furniture and the shop here is relatively tidy which is the only reason I afford myself the luxury of sitting down and reliving last year. But first, this is what I look like. Over Christmas I lost my glasses, in my room I think, but they haven't appeared yet. My eyes have also got worse so I can't cope with looking at a screen without prescription glasses. So here I am, looking like a tit.

Which is a good a way as any to sum up last year. Haha.
So, I'm going to start off with early in the year I bought the business partners out! There were three of us to begin with but the other two stepped into the background, by which I mean nowhere to be seen, one gradually and one abruptly and so for about three years I've been on. my. own. Running this little shop. Which was an eye opener and bloody hard work and at times I was very angry and upset but actually, it was a pretty good way to start doing stuff that I needed to do - I had no choice.

This morning I've been listening to a podcast about child psychopaths (naturally...) and there was a lot of talk about when the brain solidifies into its adult form. Basically at 25. I was 22 when the shop opened, just. And it was probably a stupid idea but I didn't see it as a big thing then - I just knew I could do it with the teenage-like certainty that a 22 year old still has. There'd be no way I'd do it now, although I have no idea what would have happened in the meantime so maybe I would. Hmmm. I'd do things very differently anyway. I'd work my arse off to do it on my own. I know it comes as a surprise to most people, I seem to have a reputation as a bit kooky, friendly and laid-back, in fact, I am none of these things. I mainly dislike people. People as a whole. I like individuals, some of them. But 'people'? Nah. I'd do happily without them. Haha. In fact, you have to wonder whether retail is the right job for me? After spending two weeks away from 'people' over Christmas I had a little panic about coming back into the real world last Tuesday - compounded by the fact that so much has changed in the centre of town while I've been away, shops closing, shops opening, restaurants all over the bloody place! But really quickly, I settled back in, this shop just causes relaxed, fun, creativity, apart from when somebody's starting a new project in which case it's a flurry of excitement and some squealing. I love my customers. They're not 'people'.

I'm trying to remember now how I went about buying them out. I know I saved money, obviously, and I remember how much but I don't know how I went about doing it. Roughly, it was about £4000 and I know I didn't start saving until a little before Christmas and I bought them out on the 4th of April 2015 because that made the tax year easier. I know I set myself a target to reach each week and saved as much as I could otherwise so that sometimes I was ahead and that helped because a couple of weeks I couldn't save because I'd had to buy lots of stuff or even that the customers weren't there. I'm in the same situation again, I have to save but I don't have a specific deadline yet and I don't have a target because I have no idea what this will cost (eeeeeeeek). What I do know is that, I've done it before, I can do it again. And this time this is for me and it's my vision of what a wool shop can be and I'm the only one that has the experience of being here and knowing what my customers are asking for and how I can help them. I'm also much more settled financially, I know that I will have customers again so I don't need to skimp which is what we did last time when we didn't know that
there would be customers even, never mind an incredible and growing community of them.

However, the new shop has been a shock and surprise. After we were let down with the last one..... Hmmmm.... I've just realised I never actually explained what happened there... I have to bite my tongue a little bit because I am not impressed with the people involved, I'll do my best to stay reasonable and give them the benefit of the doubt where it's possible....

(Just as an aside, this was not where this blog was going, this was supposed to be some bits from last year but I think I enjoy it more when it's like free association, and I definitely need to write more blogs, so anything to make it enjoyable). 

So, I found a shop a few doors down Mansfield Road, closer to town. It's a nice shop, around four or five times the size of our shop plus a kitchenette, toilet and a little storage. It was being advertised by a professional agent who I got in contact with, arranged a date to go and see the shop and all was well. It went a little badly when the owner of the shop was there to meet me instead of the agent. I do like a personal relationship but when I'm talking about a potential contract worth £100,000 to me, I want this to be professional. 
So, the first thing that the owner told me was that I had to read some books about business - all of these books were written by middle-aged, white, men. Now, I like middle-aged, white, men as much as the next person and I'm sure I can learn a lot from them but honestly? I'm here to look at your shop. The reason being, that my shop, which I opened with £3000 five years ago, has outgrown my current shop. If I need advice, I am well aware of how to get it and where to get it from. Can we just look at the site now? So that didn't go well. I liked the shop though, I could envision where stuff would go and how I would use the space (including a small but beautifully formed office around the back, heaven). Some of the things that the owner was talking about I found problematic but I was convinced that I could keep him at arms length, especially with the help of my surveyor. So I got in contact with my surveyor - who is brilliant - he went to see it and found some problems with the shop that I hadn't including some evidence of leaks and potential woodworm. Nevertheless, we went ahead with an offer that was sensible and long term - a slightly reduced rent, six months off rent to compensate for the amount of work needed but a ten year term so that the owner could guarantee a return.

This offer was declined with no reason as to why.

So, on my day off a few months ago I wrote a long and detailed explanation of where we started, what I've achieved and where I plan the shop to go. This was because the owner was apparently into personalities rather than money, him being some sort of millionaire. It was also supposed to cement us as his favourite option, which we were until we made the offer. No response. So I left it for a few weeks, hoping that he might be thinking about it. And then something a little odd happened. I saw an advert on facebook for a business which is based in the same building and owned by the nephew of the owner. There was something wrong with what was being offered in the advert, though I won't go into details and I questioned it. A few days later, walking into work I was collared by the nephew to speak to me about my questioning of the advert. We chatted about that, he was wrong but I couldn't change his mind (such is life...) and then the conversation inevitably turned towards my offer...

He said 'can I give you some advice?'

This, dear readers, is about the worst thing you can say to me. I love advice, I take advice all the time, I listen to people, weigh it against what else I know or other advice that I've had and decided whether it works for me. What I hate is when people ask if they can give you advice. Have a think about when this has happened to you in life. Has it ever come from a woman? I would be comfortable to guess that it didn't. Always men, always to women. Mansplaining. And why ask? If you've got something reasonable to add to a conversation, bloody say it. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Superfluous words annoy me. Ugh. Anyway, his advice?

I shouldn't have gone in with a surveyor. His uncle likes things done on a handshake. He didn't want a contract. He wanted a rolling agreement. I had suspected as much. I had been the favourite, like I said earlier, until I went in with a surveyor. I'm uncomfortable with this anyway, never mind what happened next. I don't think that the law is perfect, in fact I know it's not, but it has been built over a 1000 years to afford protection or at least stability to everybody involved - if we know where we are then we know what we're allowed to do. No contract? No stability. 
Now, you've seen me, I do not look like a 'businessperson'. I look mostly like a tit:

Case in point.

I don't mind this. I like the way I dress. I was watching Loose Women yesterday and they were reviewing a book that's apparently the newest bestseller about how to sort out your home and life (and blah blah blah nobody's good enough blah blah blah) but the biggest point of this book is to get rid of stuff that doesn't give you joy. Everything that I wear gives me joy. They might not go together but I love them. I have stupid hair because it gives me joy. I eat a lot and am fat because food and cooking and baking and eating bring me joy. I get that. But it does mean that I don't present as a business person, perhaps why he was telling me to read those books? Anyway, I suspect he thought that because I look like a tit, I am a tit. When  in actually fact, although I do often act tittish, I am in fact a business woman. Only this business like, not bothered about other businesses, but I run this business pretty well as evidenced by the fact that I'm still here five years later and I need a bigger shop. He thought he could pull one over on me. Ha.

The conversation got more interesting after this (all the way through I was thinking 'don't say anything, keep getting stuff out of him'). He, accidentally I think, let slip that his uncle was getting on a bit and at some point would want to sell the property to a developer and they wouldn't want a business like mine sat there for another 10 years, they'd want to be able to chuck me out with three months notice. So, we see, that the rent wasn't the problem, the six months free wasn't the problem, the asking him to put the shop into a reasonable condition wasn't the problem, the way I look or what I'm doing or my plans aren't the problem, the problem was that he wants to be able to (excuse me) fuck over a tiny business (the shop wasn't big enough for anything bigger than a tiny business). Any business settling into that spot would need to spend a lot to make it a reasonable space and I hope that whoever takes it knows what they're getting into.

My one little bit of power in this exchange was, when I realised that I'd got as much information as I wanted, I simply stopped him mid sentence, said 'thanks for your time, it's been informative' and walked away. He wasn't happy.... ;)

I rang my surveyor straight away and told him it was over. I still needed to pay my surveyor, he'd put effort and time into that after all, so this blokes messing around had cost me money. At a time when I could have done without it - I'm still saving for a new shop afterall.

Then I got on with my life, still saving money here and there (£100 a week at that point) but I gave up for a little while. Thinking that I'd restart looking for a new shop after Christmas and January is out of the way. Meaning I'd be moving in maybe August which would be the perfect time as that's when we start gearing up for the busy time. But that wasn't to happen.

But I do feel like I have to stop talking now, what a lot to write and read! But now I'm on it, I'm going to write what happened next in a blog to be published tomorrow. And then maybe I'll get on to summing up last year?! Finally?!

Love Eleanor. xxxxx