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.
‘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!?!
It’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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!)
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…
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cementa_15 has been great but it has been one of those epics that has for months been landmarked by “After Cementa…” for putting off activities and commitments. Now it’s over, it’s time to plan “Post Cementa”.
Since opening the Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, I’ve done masses of knitting but it’s all been for the shop. Now I’m about to do something for myself. Yes, it’s with shop yarn and will be worn in the shop, but it’s a pattern I’ve made before and love and with yarn I’ve fallen in love with.
The pattern is called Daybreak by Stephen West and the yarn I’ve chosen is Twist Sock by Hedgehog Fibres in Pod and Copper Penny. As usual, it will be overly generous and I’m endeavouring to make it into more of a cape size than a wrap/shawl.
Pictures will be posted as it progresses. Timing will depend greatly on beanie, mitt and scarf demand at the shop, which has been substantial over the past few weeks. Time we taught everyone to knit for themselves!