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.

Kandos – AKA ‘Pirate Town’

Who would have thought of it – Kandos playing home to pirates!

Two of our intrepid locals, who always put on great events, are utilising International Talk Like a Pirate Day to hold a pirate bash in Kandos with Jon English performing, no less.

I must confess to having a soft spot for Jon English, going back to the old Jesus Christ Superstar days at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney. I remember getting my Mum to take me to performances and waiting out the back of the theatre which wasn’t the best layout – the cast had to wait in the back alleyway between changes and going back on stage, so us fans had the opportunity to speak to them and get autographs. I also went to Jon English’s first solo concert at the Manly SIlver Screen and bought his album. So, YES! I was a fan and part of my is pretty excited by Mary and Sue’s choice of entertainment.

Anyway, September 19 will be a Big Kandos Day with the inaugural Kandos Pirate Festival followed up by the night Buccaneer’s Bash. I can see some pirate knitting in our future. Hoping some friends and family can make their way here for what looks to be a truly memorable experience. Aarghh, or we’ll keel haul you, me hearties!

The Convent and the Artists

Geometries: Kandos in a perfect setting
Geometries: Kandos in a perfect setting

Cementa_15 has kicked off with a vengeance and the Convent is playing her part as both a venue for artworks and a haven for some of the artists to rest up at night.

The first day, as anticipated, was relatively quiet but we expect crowds to build over the four days, peaking on Saturday.

The eerie and sad image of extinct birds vanishing before our eyes.
The eerie and sad image of extinct birds vanishing before our eyes in Indicatus.

I’m pleased with the exhibits at my place – all different but work in well with the building and grounds. Geometries: Kandos by Beata Geyer & James Culkin has had its share of publicity already, hitting the front page of what’s known locally as the ‘Mud Guard’. It is a site responsive sculpture described “The temporal disjunction between the modular construction of monochromatic planes and multidimensional forms, on the one hand, and the architecture and landscape, on the other, creates an exciting and speculative juxtaposition”. Another description is giant funky pick-up-sticks, which look great in the sprawling front yard with the Convent in the background.

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Indicatus well situated in the Chapel is one of the hits of Cementa.

Another work attracting much media attention is Indicatus, 2014 by Kim V. Goldsmith. In this installation “Goldsmith plays with different elements of our relationship with birds, and their place in our environment, using technology to do so. Taking, often sentimental, notions of birds as identifiable decorative symbols of nature, they are deconstructed using sound, the burning of a series of charcoal drawings created specifically for the purpose, and smell”. The work was specifically created to complement the Chapel and is hauntingly beautiful.

The boxing tent looks ethereal against the backdrop of the Coomber Mountains at the rear of the Convent.
The boxing tent looks ethereal against the backdrop of the Coomber Mountains at the rear of the Convent.

Alexander Jackson-Wyattt & Paulina Semkowicz’s Standard Boxing Tent No.1 was intended to be installed in the nearby paddock, however harsh Kandos winds put a stop to that idea. It’s now housed in my backyard but still suffering at times from the weather (although the cold snap has diminished and the days are kinder). “Kandos has not seen a boxing tent since 1971. From then, the empty field you have passed every day has stood there waiting for nothing to happen. Til finally the boxing troupe comes to town. From the nervous crowd, your hand goes up. You are pulled into the ring and what comes next is not the end but only the beginning”. It’s an appropriate location for the tent given the boxing boys practice five nights a week in the buildings attached to the Church directly behind my home.

Bit hard to photograph this but viewers get a beautifully reflected vision from inside the Grotto.
Bit hard to photograph this but viewers get a beautifully reflected vision from inside the Grotto.

Lastly, the Grotto gets some attention with Dan Kojta’s Infinityscope. “Peering into the infinity scope’s deep velvety depths, viewers are encouraged to reflect on their spiritual state: and interior mirror returns their immediate past back to them as a future event”.

I’m looking forward to seeing more. One of the few other exhibits I’ve seen is the mural being created at the Museum by Djon Mundine which is amazingly spectacular and epic in size and cultural context. This will be a great ongoing contribution for Kandos, well past Cementa_15.

In case any readers think I’m art literate, the descriptions have all been taken from the Cementa_15 catalogue and I can’t take credit for them.

I’ll post more of some of the other works as I make my way around.

Djon Mundine's mural will be a greatly valued legacy for Kandos.
Djon Mundine’s mural will be a greatly valued legacy for Kandos.

The Convent, Cementa_15 and Lots of Artists

Cementa15

Cementa_15 is a contemporary biannual arts festival held in Kandos. The first event was in 2013, in my very early Convent days. This year the Convent will participate again and host a number of artists and welcome the public through the gates.

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Geometries being installed.

 

Geometries casting shadows in the early evening.
Geometries casting shadows in the early evening.

Approximately 60 artists will be exhibiting at over 20 venues around town for four days from Thursday 9 – Sunday 12 April. The Convent will be hosting Beata Geyer & James Culkin’s: Geometries: Kandos, which has already been installed at the front of the property, Dan Kojta’s: Infinityscope in the Grotto, Kim V. Goldsmith’s: Indicatus, 2104 which looks like it will be a standout display in the Chapel and Alexander Jackson-Wyatt & Paulina Semkowicz’s Standard Boxing Tent No 1 in my paddock next door.

Looks like a great few days and it will be exciting to see so many people wandering around Kandos. I’m sure there will be more photos to come.

Geometries from my sunroom early in the morning.
Geometries from my sunroom early in the morning.

Beanie Binging

The Roll Brim Beanies in Noro are one of our popular sellers with both adults and kids.
The Roll Brim Beanies in Noro are one of our popular sellers with both adults and kids.
Zauberball Starke 6 works well with the spiral beanie adding texture with the knit and purl contrasts.
Zauberball Starke 6 works well with the spiral beanie adding texture with the knit and purl contrasts.

We are finding that the hand knits in our shop are incredibly popular – it’s both a blessing and a curse. Whilst it’s great to sell them and they are good little earners, they are also very labour intensive and sell much faster than we can knit them. Sometimes we’d like to see them sit in the shop for a few weeks and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry when a new item comes up to the counter for purchase an hour or two after we’ve just put it on display.

With a bit of a nip now in the air some days, we’re expecting greater demand for our knits. In choosing what to create, we try to mainly use shop stock and patterns that are either our own or can be easily accessed online, so they double up as project samples for keen knitters. We are also fussy with the quality of yarns we use and try to utilise patterns that offer interest in texture and colour (whilst not being overly time-consuming to knit).

Noro beanies - the colour and textures of Kureyon work particularly well.
Noro beanies – the colour and textures of Kureyon work particularly well.

The last few weeks, now Show knitting is over, has been beanie knitting time. I’ve put together very basic patterns for spiral beanies in 6 and 10 ply – simple but effective with a banding effect being emphasised with different stitches and colour waves in the wool. I’m mainly using Zauberballs and Noro for these and they’ve been incredibly popular.

Blokey beanies in cashmere wool blends and alpaca.
Blokey beanies in cashmere wool blends and alpaca.

I’m also using Cashmere/wool blends for beanies – the texture is so beautifully springy. Basic ribbed beanies are particularly popular with the blokes and look natural and rustic in earthy colours.

Twisted Slouchies with a travelling stitch and knitted in luxury blends.
Twisted Slouchies with a travelling stitch and knitted in luxury blends.

Adding to the collection is more of a Slouchy style with an interesting travelling stitch which looks a bit like a cable effect. I’ve tried this in a few yarns and they are all coming up well.

I’m sure there will be a few more styles in our near future – we’re working on berets and more slouchy versions –  and also using some of the gorgeous local alpaca yarns.

Our Lace Scarves sell well year round and we can practically knit them in our sleep (I wish we actually could!). Once the beanies supplies have been topped up (if they stay in the shop for long enough), it will be mitt time again.

Ever-popular Fishnet Lace Scarves.
Ever-popular Fishnet Lace Scarves.

The Results Are In!

G's granny squares blankets are always crowd pleasers.
G’s granny squares blankets are always crowd pleasers.

So we’ve just finished the first wave of local Shows. The shop has done very well overall, but no thanks to me.

The overall winner of all the shows we entered - G's shawl.
The overall winner of all the shows we entered – G’s shawl.

G was the champion by a long shot with her beautiful Jamieson & Smith cobweb lace shawl that took out first each show, also scoring Best Knitted Article at two of the shows. This year my shawls languished with minor awards, however I still picked up some firsts, seconds and highly commendeds for more minor articles.

Even Sheepie the Teacosy managed a first.
Even Sheepie the Teacosy managed a first.

Overall it was lots of fun and we still may enter some more local shows. A few of our items are currently on their way via CWA to the Land Handcraft competition.

My baby jumper in Zauberball did well in a few shows.
My baby jumper in Zauberball did well in a few shows.

This year I’ve been pretty focussed on shop knitting and my entries were predominantly the items I also make for the shop. I’m already thinking of next year’s entries and planning to start sooner rather than racing to the finish line as I usually do.

My lace baby shawl was left out in the cold.
My lace baby shawl was left out in the cold.
The linen stitch scarf earn its keep.
The linen stitch scarf earn its keep.

Road Trip

That's me on the grid - 1st position - at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Don't think I'd win any races.
That’s me on the grid – 1st position – at Mount Panorama, Bathurst. Don’t think I’d win any races.

This week G and I took ourselves exploring, with a purpose. Our hand knits have been selling well in the shop. If anything, a little too well, and we are struggling to keep up with demand, particularly as we also try to finish off our items for the local Shows. One of our customers suggested we check out a rural sock factory – one that makes socks on original old machinery. Given they are local (rural NSW), use Australian wool and it is such an artisan craft, we decided it was worth a trip to see for ourselves. G is an accomplished sock knitter but socks take ages to knit if we were to try and knit them ourselves for the shop.

You're kidding, right? Traffic lights out here?
You’re kidding, right? Traffic lights out here?

So, off to Crookwell we set off early yesterday morning. From Kandos, there are no main roads and highways so it was always going to be a scenic drive and one not worth rushing. We joke about the lack of traffic lights in our lives now – Mudgee doesn’t even have a traffic light, but were amused to strike two for roadworks (saves on lollipop men). It was saddening to see how much new roadkill lay on the road but we also saw kangaroos, rabbits and even an emu along the way.

Tuena, an historic old gold mining town I hadn’t heard of before, provided a quick detour, and seemed like a great destination for an overnight stay to do a bit more exploration. But mainly we pushed towards Crookwell, making it there in heaps of time for us to relax over burgers with the works at the bistro attached to a local pub.

The oldest sock making machine at work.
The oldest sock making machine at work.

The trip to Lindner Socks was definitely worth it. Situated comfortably in the main street is a charming little sock shop which is also home in the back room to a sock factory that uses old fashioned equipment to machine knit. Andrew gave us a tour of the factory and explained how the socks were made, the fibres used and the types of socks available. His mother, Gisela, sorted out the business end of things and provided us with all we needed to place our first order, which will be very soon. If you’re interested in seeing more, a Sydney Weekender clip is on YouTube with Mike Whitney visiting the factory.

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Crookwell is a lovely town and would be great for a weekend stay. We found it amusing that despite coming from Sydney, we already talk about towns like Crookwell as being “big” now that our comparison is Kandos and Rylstone.

We decided to take an even more scenic route home, which really meant taking a longer route, and instead of circling back via Bathurst went to Taralga, Oberon and then through Rydal to Wallerawang and Portland. It was a great day of discovering (alas not having time to explore) some great little towns and villages and seeing how many wonderful rural locations are still surviving and even thriving. The churches themselves are worthy of a special trip, with some being surprisingly grand and other charmingly austere. Many times we had to pinch ourselves to believe that we were now really living the dream out in the country and not just on a weekend excursion returning back to the city and jobs.

Anyway, after a long but rewarding day on the road and nearly 600k, we arrived back home to pets and gardens. Expect to see Lindner socks in our shop and on our feet very soon.

Here’s Gemma pictures of our trip on Facebook. The photos of the churches and windows are particularly beautiful.

The shop from the footpath. Loved the red socks on the sheep.
The shop from the footpath. Loved the red socks on the sheep.
Socks on display in the shop.
Socks on display in the shop.

Getting the Word Out

Our new brochures and bookmarks reflect our shop well. Hopefully we can get a wide distribution.
Our new brochures and bookmarks reflect our shop well. Hopefully we can get a wide distribution.

Our business has been open now for over two months and we’ve been really happy with the response to date. Locals seem to love having their own wool shop. Knitters are delighted and many others seem tempted to pick up their long abandoned knitting skills again and join in.

We’ve also had plenty of visitors – and now they’re not just the “We were driving through the area and decided to pop in” type, but those who have heard about us and make the special trip. All of this so far by word of mouth.

We’re now hitting our straps with advertising to get the word out far and wide – there’s no specialty knitting shop within coee of us and we also know our stock is very different to that found in other shops. So far we’ve joined Mudgee Regional Tourism which lists us on their website and allows us to place brochures in all the local Tourist Information Centres.

And we now have our brochures. Well, actually brochures, bookmarks and business cards, which we are so happy with. These are finding homes in lots of locations and shortly I’ll do a mail out to B&Bs and local motels.

Our first advertisement appears this month in the local Discover magazine and we are fortunate in having a major editorial accompany it. This is already bringing people into the shop within the first weekend.

Local coverage of the shop's opening
Local coverage of the shop’s opening

The local media are very supportive and we’ve had an opening article in the Mudgee Guardian as well as a radio interview on ABC Central West.

Ravelry, the knitter’s social media mecca, is a great help and we will be running ads there next. And, of course, we are doing what we can on Facebook and blogs to keep people engaged.

The combination of more traditional advertising as well as word of mouth, social media and public relations is working well for us – but we know we need to keep it up and not get complacent.

At the moment though, it’s lots of fun and very exciting.

Our editorial and advertisement in the Discover Magazine.
Our editorial and advertisement in the Discover Magazine.

The Last Week

Beanies galore. We don't get to enjoy them for long.
Beanies galore. We don’t get to enjoy them for long.

This is more of a random post on doings over the last week, given they have been so varied.

The shop has seen a constant raid on hand knits since we opened, so I’ve been updating the spiral beanie stock (which also means working through patterns and sizings for the different yarns we have in the shop). Over half a dozen new beanies briefly went on display. Unfortunately this meant interrupting the Show knitting which is a Shetland lace sampler shawl.

Last Monday saw me on ABC Central West radio doing a shop interview on their Craft Corner. This was an unanticipated bonus and lots of fun.

Just starting to populate our new oak Wernike bookcase.
Just starting to populate our new

Over the weekend we added to our collectibles in the shop culminating with a trip to Sydney to collect our bounty from participating in online auctions from some of the major Sydney auction houses. We now have quite a selection of antiques and collectibles, including silver ornaments and lovely vintage jewellery.

Our new brochures and bookmarks reflect our shop well. Hopefully we can get a wide distribution.
Our new brochures and bookmarks reflect our shop well. Hopefully we can get a wide distribution.

We know we need to market the shop fairly broadly – including via traditional means to attract tourists. Our brochures and bookmarks (which make great pattern and chart trackers) arrived this week and we think they look great. Next step is to distribute them through central areas such as the local Tourist Information Centres, motels and B&Bs. Our first ad should also appear in the Discover Central NSW magazine next month.

Nothing flash but very fast and lots of fresh garden produce.
Nothing flash but very fast and lots of fresh garden produce.

The garden is growing rampantly – with warm, humid weather and plenty of rain, it’s moving faster than I can keep up with. I try to do and hour or two on shop days and much more on other days, but sometimes I barely make an impact and I’m not sure why I bother to mow the grass. It seems just as long three days later! Anyway, things are also growing in the veg garden, although looking at local Facebook posts, everyone seems inundated with veg. I made a slight dent with a zucchini slice and salad of lettuce, mixed cherry tomatoes and cucumber – all home grown.

But for now it’s a battle between garden, Show knitting and topping up the shop knitted items which are disappearing at an alarming rate.

Show knitting - struggling to get priority at the moment.
Show knitting – struggling to get priority at the moment.

Pretties for The Shop

Vintage crystal necklaces to sparkle up the shop.
Vintage crystal necklaces to sparkle up the shop.

One of our unanticipated successes in the shop so far has been our small range of antiques and collectibles – we started with a few favourite things from the auctions on a shelf and have now expanded into two small cabinets.

Jewellery which includes a vintage cocktail bracelet that would have looked in place on the Duchess of Windsor's wrist.
Jewellery which includes a vintage cocktail bracelet that would have looked in place on the Duchess of Windsor’s wrist.

This weekend we’ve been shopping online at one of the major auction houses in Sydney and come back with some lovely items – we’re often sad not to keep them ourselves and sometimes hope they’ll stay on the shelves with us for a while.

Probably my favourites this time around were the gorgeous crystal necklaces although some of the brooches are just beautiful, with such craftsmanship and attention to detail.

Gorgeous silver things including  coin purse and a beautiful Scottish agate brooch.
Gorgeous silver things including coin purse and a beautiful Scottish agate brooch.

This means that we have something for the non-knitting (hard to imagine) visitors to our shop.

An exquisite cameo brooch makes an appearance with other interesting accessories.
An exquisite cameo brooch makes an appearance with other interesting accessories.