Bunkering Down

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Why not have a knitted sign for a wool shop? One of my Winter projects finished.

Apologies for being away from the blog for a while. Winter here tends to lend itself to bunkering down – it’s cold and the gardening winds right down with bitter frosts. However it’s also a good time to drop the pace of activity and a great time to knit (as if I need an excuse!)

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Cable beanie sample

That being said, I’ve been knitting up a storm and also made some improvements to the Convent. Knitting has included shop items (we sell beanies, mitts and scarves at Convent & Chapel Wool Shop), shop samples (it’s great to show customers ideas for patterns and how the yarn looks knitted up) and some fun knitting as well.

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Cabled scarf over the shop fire

The fun items include Shockwaves in Hedgehog Fibres as well as Fringed, a Stephen West pattern also knitted in Hedgehog Fibres. This one is still on the needles. I’m usually a black/grey/brown person in terms of colours I wear but these gorgeous hand dyed yarns have tempted me to use a broader palate that will all happily sit over my black attire!

For something a bit different, I’ve used my love of knitted blankets into making a knitted sign for the shop which happily hangover our balcony at the gorgeous historic Bridge View Inn in Rylstone.

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Shockwaves knitted in our beautiful hand dyed Hedgehog Fibres from Ireland

Over the last last week or two the weather has started to warm up, so I know I’ll be spending less time during the day with needles in my hands and more with the shovel, whippersnipper and hose.

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A yet to be named scarf in Adagio Alpaca.

 

 

 

 

Cobwebs in the Garden

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Cream lace dominated the Chapel veranda

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Fluidity in Zauberball Tropical Fish glowed in the privet hedge.

Last weekend we had our CWA Kandos Gardens Fair, with the Convent gardens being open to the public. Of course, we couldn’t let the weekend go by without including some of our knitting. We used the occasion to display some of our lacework around the garden to catch the eye of visiting garden enthusiasts.

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Birds on Bikes made a great display with this shawl

Some of our most recent work is still on its way back from the Sydney Royal Agricultural Show but we had enough to decorate the grounds. Our cream lace shawls, which are our best Show pieces hung outside the Chapel verandah, Kerry Blue was inside the Grotto, a vibrant Fluidity in Zauberball Tropical Fish peeped through a gap in the privet hedge, our Doodlers hang proudly from the side verandah, the sculpture birds held up a glorious maroon lace triangular shawl and the angel looked suitably draped.

A great week for the Convent garden and we think our shawls added a little to the colour and texture of the garden.

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Doodlers displaying themselves on a verandah

 

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Looking demure and snug

 

 

Click Go Those Needles…

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Although this year has been chaotic, there’s always been lots of knitting. Over the past month or so, I’ve been working on more solid pieces, as opposed to beanies, mitts and scarves for the shop. No doubt most of this will end up in the shop as samples, but they’re a chance to play with different projects.

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The Doodler helped me master icord and understand a number of ways I could use it.

First cab off the rank was the Westknits Mystery Shawl Knit-Along on Ravelry which turned into the Doodler Shawl, made in our beautiful Hedgehog Fibres – a fun knit and a chance to socialise online with other knitters. A month of pretty solid knitting and a few new techniques now mastered (I hope!) Very pleased with the result and, whilst it’s hanging in the shop, I hope it will get lots of wear.

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Owlet – such an appealing pattern, this one in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran

Next was trialling Owlet, a cute jumper that goes from baby to adult (OWL) size – clever little cables that look like owls around the yolk – knitted in one up to the armholes, then you pick up the sleeves and knit the yolk in circular with the cables.

IMG_1840Buttons for owl eyes are optional – I put them in a few spots without becoming overwhelming. I wanted to include a few more baby/child jumper samples in the shop. Samples help knitters make decisions on what to knit and are a good way of displaying how a yarn behaves. I’m hoping these will inspire some of our customers. A smart and rewarding pattern – two are already off the needles and in the shop.

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Baby beanie and booties striped with a plain blue. 

Next is the continued love affair with Zauberballs, with seamless booties (I’ve actually knitted half a dozen pairs) and spiral baby beanie. I love the Tropical Fish colour way so much that it’s now also making its way into an experimental Entrelac baby jumper. We stock a good range of Zaubers and colours in the shop and customers are always surprised with what you can complete with just one ball. However I’m anticipating the Entrelac will be using substantially more!

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Not the fastest knit, but lots of fun watching this develop. Another baby jumper – this time Zauberball Tropical Fish being worked in Entrelac.

After this? Well, I have my name down for another Knit-Along – and it’s another Westknits one – this time Exploration Station with the Hedgehog group on Ravelry. Oh, and there are two cream lace shawls that need to be finished for Show season. Plus a never ending list of the “I’d Love to Try That” projects. Looks like those needles show no signs of slowing down.

Cyber Knitting

KAL

It was probably about eight years ago that I discovered knitting worlds other than sitting at home and knitting in my own company. Once I was brave enough to venture out, I found communities of knitters, both real and virtual. Many social knitting groups exist and meet at cafes, libraries, other public venues as well as people’s homes. Others exist on the internet and have the potential to expose knitters to an entirely new universe.

Once introduced to a wider community of knitters, I found myself joining ravelry which is a sort of Facebook on steroids for knitters. Not only can it be a desktop for knitters to record their knitting projects and stash, but it also is the best and biggest source for finding patterns. Possibly the most important aspect, though, is the social one where knitters worldwide can connect over wider interests, share learnings and help each other.

A great example of the latter is the concept of ‘Knit Alongs’ or KALs, when knitters commit to finishing a project, preferably all starting at the same time. Members post photos and information on what yarn they are using, photos of their progress and can ask for help from other participants as they go. It’s a great way to challenge yourself and learn new skills. A much more social, interactive and challenging way to knit.

One of the more extreme versions of this is occurring as we speak. A popular designer, Stephen West, AKA Westknits, has organised one of his popular KALs titled ‘Westknits Mystery Shawl KAL 2015’. Why a mystery you may ask? Well a mystery KAL has a twist – you can’t see the final outcome until you finish. All you know is that it’s a shawl and the yarn you will need to knit it. Clues (parts of the pattern) are released online in order over time and participants just go for it. This challenge, we have about one month to finish the project. Of course you can take as long as you want but many aim to keep up weekly.

My Hedgehog Fibres colours - Graphite, Monarch and Pollen.

My Hedgehog Fibres colours – Graphite, Monarch and Pollen.

This KAL recommends Hedgehog Fibres which is one of our Convent and Chapel Wool Shop favourites and combined with one of our favourite designers, it was too good to pass up. Lots of our customers are also participating. In fact it seems a lot of knitters worldwide are joining in. The Ravelry Group started for the Knit Along now boasts over 4,500 members worldwide and growing, with separate groups for Norway, Denmark,  Sweden, Germany, France, Spain and even and Aussies Down Unda group, all working on their ‘Doodler’ shawl.

There’s also heaps of drama, those tackling new techniques for the first time, the dramas of colour selection, mistakes by the million (I’ve unpicked more than I’ve knitted) and not to forget, those running out of yarn part way through the pattern. We’re all following each other’s challenges – better than ‘Days of Our Lives’!

This is a wonderful example of the power of the internet to connect likeminded souls and create virtual communities. It also challenges the concept of knitting being a dying art – far from it. It has now moved into a new realm, keeping up with technology and society, providing expanded creative outlets and connecting people worldwide. Younger knitters abound – no longer dependent on Mum or Grandma to teach them – you can learn so many techniques via YouTube for free. In fact, experienced knitters in this KAL are referring to the internet to learn or brush up on some of the new techniques required to progress their shawls. It’s a great way to push your knitting to another level and lots of fun along the way.

A couple of us are knitting together here in Kandos, as we participate in an international event, and are sure to meet lots of others online doing the same over the next month or so. Mine is not racing ahead after a few false starts and I hope I don’t drop into the ‘Slowpoke’ lane. In the meantime, we’re just all enjoying the mystery, anticipation and collective enthusiasm of our fellow knitters.

Clue one - still a few more 'wedges' to go. I've actually knitted about three times this amount but have undone so much along the way!

Clue one – still a few more ‘wedges’ to go. I’ve actually knitted about three times this amount but have undone so much along the way!

Historical Stitching

The locals were hardly surprised to see us sitting and knitting at the opening.

The locals were hardly surprised to see us knitting at the opening.

One of our local historical groups, Rylstone & District Historical Society (who, by the way are also our landlords as they own the Bridge View Inn which houses our shop, Convent and Chapel Wool Shop), are holding a significant display at the Rylstone Memorial Hall this week.

Some of our vintage knitting collectibles on display.

Some of our vintage knitting collectibles on display.

‘Stitches in Time’ focuses on the World War I quilt that was made by local residents as part of the war effort and is now housed in the Canberra War Memorial. Gemma and I were asked to participate by holding sock knitting demonstrations throughout the exhibition which lasts for a week.

Tonight was the opening night and attracted a great crowd which seemed well-engaged. We’ll see how the week goes but look forward to meeting and chatting with visitors. Our little area has been set up using our period cane chairs and some vintage crafting tools including my Edwardian swift, tortoise shell needles and vintage military war period knitting books that were offered to us, not to mention Gemma’s lovely crochet accessories. We have lots of sitting and knitting over the next week. I wonder how many socks we’ll get through!?!

Our little corner display, sans the knitters doing the sock knitting demonstrations.

Our little corner display, sans the knitters doing the sock knitting demonstrations.

Cute as a Button Baby Jumpers

IMG_3473It’s not a hard life having to knit for a living. At Convent & Chapel Wool Shop we like to knit up our yarn as much as time and our fingers will let us. We find shop samples help people decide on projects and makes the yarn buying process easier and more enjoyable – it certainly helps to sell the yarn as well!

A cutie in Zauberball Crazy.

A cutie in Zauberball Crazy.

One of our favourites has been our little raglan sleeve baby jumper with a buttoning raglan opening for the neck. A few of these have made their way off the needles so far and are a crowd favourite.

An Opal Sock version.

An Opal Sock version.

Yarns used so far have been Zauberball (of course), Opal, Hedgehog Fibres, and Noro Silk Garden Sock. So far the pattern is for 6 – 9 months old and knitted in 4ply/sock weight yarn, although we are now working on larger sizes and upping the yarn weight, due to popular demand.

We love the Noro Sock for this jumper.

We love the Noro Sock for this jumper.

Another Opal version.

Another Opal version.

 

 

Next off the block is one in hot Indian Pink Zauberball Starke 6 and I’m also thinking of playing with JaggerSpun Heather Sport for another colour work version.

This one was in Claudia's Handpainted Yarn.

This one was in Claudia’s Handpainted Yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a cute, simple and effective pattern. With warmer weather approaching, we’ll ease off creating our beanies, mitts and scarves and move to lacy lighter weight yarn and some baby outfits. It’s a hard life!

And yet another in Zauberball crazy. The Olive version has been very popular.

And yet another in Zauberball crazy. The Olive version has been very popular.

Zauberball Love

Our display in an old pigeon hole cabinet.

Our display in an old pigeon hole cabinet.

The Ten Stitch Blanket - a favourite.

The Ten Stitch Blanket – a favourite.

I’ve used Zauberballs for some years now – well before I ever envisaged having a yarn store. One of my first forays was an ambitious Ten Stitch Blanket. Not so much as it was ambitious hard – it’s actually an easy and rewarding project. Just that it took ten 100 gram balls of sock yarn.

Anyway, now we have Convent and Chapel Wool Shop, we are now well versed in the wonders of Schoppel Wolle Zauberballs and their allure. Most balls can do a really good project – whether it’s a fine lace shawl, a scarf, beanie or mitts or something way more ambitious if you want more than a ball! The yarn base itself is wonderfully soft and drapes well and the colours change in long waves.

Zig Zag Scarf representing us at the Show

Zig Zag Scarf representing us at the Show

This little fella takes one ball of sock yarn.

This little fella takes one ball of sock yarn.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far we’ve used lace, sock weight and Starke 6 in a number of projects including the Kandos Classic Beanie, the Rylstone Ridge Scarf, a Fluidity, our own baby raglan jumper (which is much admired) and of course, the Zig Zag Scarf. We’ve also had reasonable success in Shows with our Zaubers (although I think the judges may have been a little taken aback with Fluidity knitted in Tropical Fish coloured lace!)

I think the judges prefer cream or white for lace shawls.

I think the judges prefer cream or white for lace shawls.

Anyway, as I speak, we both have Zauberball on the needles making more shop samples and with more patterns in mind. So much yarn, so little time…

A collection of our Zauber projects.

A collection of our Zauber projects.

 

Winding Down in Winter

We always have the fire burning in the shop -  knitting and an open fire seems like a great combination.

We always have the fire burning in the shop – knitting and an open fire seems like a great combination.

Winter is well and truly here – and it’s a real Winter. Snow on the escarpments, roads closed due to ice, minus temperatures. Such a change from temperate Sydney weather of the past but so welcome in the country. And maybe some serendipity after opening a wool shop in Summer.

Whilst the garden looks like The Desolation of Smaug, it has also provided a break from gardening which has been substituted with shop work and lots and lots of knitting as the hand knits are snapped up almost before they come off the needles. Open fires, both at home and in the shop, have added to the atmosphere and a slow cooker (KitchenAid) is a welcome addition for meals, having already tackled beef spare ribs, lamb, and pea and ham soup made with a ham hock. I think it will clock up a few more meals before the Winter is out.

It’s also a popular time for guests – we always like Winter getaways – I suppose it’s a great time just to relax in front of a fire and, well, knit… So the Convent is having lots of lovely and welcome guests. It’s a chance to host old friends and make some new ones, which can only be good.

Beanies and mitts on sale for the shop.

Beanies and mitts on sale for the shop.

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Alpaca ribbed beanie and Rib Panel Mitts.

 

 

The shop is going well and keeping us busy, making sure we have lots of hand knit beanies and mitts, our best sellers, well stocked for non-knitters. I’ve finally bitten the bullet and seriously started some non-selling knitting. This one is Eugen Beugler’s Feather and Fan Shawl from ‘A Gathering of Lace’ knitted in 50% silk/50% wool undyed in fingering weight (4 ply) from my stash. I’ve made it once before and loved it so will do it this time and put on display in the shop as a sample for lace knitters to tackle. I may manage another version in 2 ply as well. I’m also hoping this may make it to a few Shows, so it ticks a few of my ‘Knitting Category’ boxes.

In the meantime, life is surprisingly busy. We also have the Kandos Gardens Fair preparing for kick off first weekend in April 2016 – an Autumn event this time – and the Convent will need to look her best.

The latest lace project. I almost forgot how much I enjoy lace shawls.

The latest lace project. I almost forgot how much I enjoy lace shawls.

My Knitting Categories

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Beanies and mitts – great sellers for our visitors.

For many years, I’ve usually knitted for others – baby shawls, rugs … but with the shop, I’m finding this pattern changing. I’ve come to realise I have a number of categories of knitting – some with sub categories and, of course, significant cross-over between them, which helps leverage my knitting time.

Firstly, the primary category of knitting is

“Shop” Knitting – this has three sub-categories:

Rylstone Ridge scarves - shop pattern, shop yarns and for  sale! - three ticks!

Rylstone Ridge scarves – shop pattern, shop yarns and for sale! – three ticks!

i) Hand Knitted Items For Sale – we are primarily a yarn shop but get lots of non-knitting tourists (yes, they do exist) popping in and would like to have items of interest for them to buy. After all, this is a business, not a hobby. So we knit simple items – predominantly fingerless mitts, beanies and scarves. Most are our own patterns (or easy to obtain ones) and mostly in our own yarn, so they double up as shop samples (although we also use some of our own stash). We struggle to keep up with demand as they sell quickly. Whilst I might prefer to spend more time on challenging  knitting, it’s rewarding to see them sell quickly, are relaxing in front of the television and they provide a great additional line of revenue for the business. We obviously leverage them by using our own yarn so they more often than not help us sell shop yarn as well.

Shop samples - our patterns in our yarns. Simple projects and good examples of how the yarn knits up.

Shop samples – our patterns in our yarns. Simple projects and good examples of how the yarn knits up.

ii) Shop Samples – as mentioned above, we make up our own patterns and accompanying knits. We also knit appealing items that are readily available on the internet, primarily Ravelry, the knitter’s web hub. Whilst some can also be items for sale, more often we keep them as shop samples on display to inspire or tempt people to have a go and show them how the yarn knits up.

The beginnings of one of the "sign" blankets.

The beginnings of one of the “sign” blankets.

 

 

iii) Shop Blankets – I currently have two underway and they are my attempt at “knitting advertising”. Basically they are the big knitted squares blankets I make, but this time have ‘Convent & Chapel Wool Shop’ knitted into them and will hang over our railings as advertisements for the shop.

The next major category is Show Knitting. These are the special projects that are entered in the local and more major shows. They can also use shop yarn (preferably) and be displayed in the shop, but not necessarily. I’ll get onto a project or two shortly. The Show season kicks off early February each year and runs mainly through to around May. Of course, I usually leave my run way too late and it’s a rush to complete something in the end. This year I’m thinking of spreading myself a little more and wandering into coloured work and Aran – no, being smashed by Gemma in lace this year has nothing to do with it – well, maybe just a tad!

Knitting For Others – in the past, this has accounted for most of my knitting – mainly lacy baby shawls, big rugs in textured and coloured squares and children and baby clothes. Again, languishing a little this year. Sorry friends and family…

And lastly, Selfish Knitting – knitting just for me. By now you’ve probably guessed that this is totally neglected, although I’ve at least chosen a pattern and put aside some beautiful Hedgehog Fibres yarn for a special treat – another Daybreak Shawl in cape proportions.

I’ll keep you posted as some of these categories make progress, but for now here in Kandos/Rylstone, it’s bitter mid Winter (not that we’re complaining), minus one today, so our efforts are best spent on shop mitts and beanies which will keep us off the streets and in business for now.

This gorgeous Hedgehog Fibres Pod and Rusty Nail in Twist Sock will one day be a Daybreak Shawl - and possibly tick some boxes as Show Knitting and Shop Sample as well as Slefish.

This gorgeous Hedgehog Fibres Pod and Rusty Nail in Twist Sock will one day be a Daybreak Shawl – and possibly tick some boxes as Show Knitting and Shop Sample as well as Selfish.

I Knit Therefore I Am

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Our new baby jumper in Noro.

This one in Zauberball.

This one in Zauberball.

 

 

 

The shop is going well. We’ve been delighted with the reception of both locals and visitors to the area (as well as the general knitting community, which also contains members of both aforementioned groups).

Knitters are genuinely delighted to find a unique yarn shop so remote and unexpected in our little town of Rylstone. And they find yarns that have great PR and almost legendary status but are so hard to find – such as Hedgehog Fibres, Madelinetosh, JaggerSpun and Jamieson & Smith. But we also get lots of non-knitters (as hard as it is to imagine, but they do exist). They love looking around the shop and like to buy something, so the hand knits are a great shop feature. Sometimes it’s hard to balance expectations that we are not a “hand knit shop” – we don’t sell a great range – we don’t try to. We want to encourage people to create their own and buy yarn, but the hand knits do well for us as an additional line.

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Wee Willie Winkie Cap in Opal

Elefantes in Claudia's Handpainted Yarns

Elefantes in Claudia’s Handpainted Yarns

The hand knits are very labour intensive, so where possible we try and also make them shop samples – our patterns and our yarn – to inspire people to knit and give knitters ideas on how to use our beautiful yarn. Some of our knits are just shop samples and not for sale. At present, we are working on various versions of a baby jumper using a few different options – Noro, Zauberball, Hedgehog or Opal. We’ve done the same with a Wee Willie Winkie Cap.

In Zauberball.

In Zauberball.

And, finally, in Noro.

And, finally, in Noro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week, additions include the always popular Spiral Beanie in various Noros, a Fishnet scarf – a popular seller both as a hand knit for sale and for knitters to make themselves usually made out of a Kidsilk lace weight yarn such as Debbie Bliss Angel, Rowan Kidsilk or Hedgehog Kidsilk, and hopefully another finished baby jumper. G will have her own additions for the shop this week as well.

There’s always a frenzy of knitting and it’s hard to believe that although we knit so much, there always seems to be a list a mile long of patterns we want to do and yarn we want to use that we don’t seem to get time to … Not the worst problem to have.

Anyway, the shop is open Friday to Monday, making the most of tourists in the area, which means tomorrow is another “work” day (although it seems a little unfair to call being at the shop “work”). More knits will go on display, more knits knitted, yarn sold and new yarn ordered. G and I will think of a zillion things we should be doing, have fun, meet people … and then go home and knit some more.

So far this week - going into the shop tomorrow - 3 spiral beanies and a fishnet lace scarf. Two baby jumpers are currently on the needles.

So far this week – going into the shop tomorrow – 3 spiral beanies and a fishnet lace scarf. Two baby jumpers are currently on the needles.