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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I enjoy participating in the antique and collectibles auctions. It was fun furnishing the Convent with quality and distinctive furniture and items of interest as well as finding lovely fittings for the shop which suited the heritage building.
Now G and I are searching out interesting items for the shop. We particularly love finding vintage buttons and other trims which also go hand-in-hand with personally knitted items.
This week I was pouring through a mixed box of buttons I had picked up at a recent auction and was delighted to find a hand-written note in a plastic bag mixed with a few different beads. It was exciting to discover that the bag appeared to contain, amongst other things, a note explaining that the red bugle beads had been used in the 1800s to decorate the bodice of gowns and belonged to the note-writer’s husband’s great grandmother’s dress. The great grandmother would have been 150 at the time the note was written and the note was written on a page from a 1976 diary. I’m pretty sure these beads will never make it into the shop for sale and we’re already planning something special in lace to do justice to them.
Additionally the writer pointed out that the amber crystals in the bag appeared to be part of a necklace. Anyway, the little bag contained delightful treasures, but none so much as the handwritten note itself.
In the meantime, we are having a great time packaging up the various buttons for the shop and imagining some of the garments that might suit these individual buttons and do them justice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This means that we have something for the non-knitting (hard to imagine) visitors to our shop.
We are so proud of our new shop, Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, and excited to boot. Everything is very new and we’re sure to make mistakes but it’s great to be learning so much and still having new experiences.
Now the shop is open, we’re starting to promote ourselves more widely both locally with the tourist market as well as through knitting circles, particularly given we have a good online shop as well.
Part of organising marketing for the shop was getting some professional photos taken, rather than just us with our iPhones. The immensely talented local photographer, Karon Grant, has stepped in to help us and we are just over the moon with our photos which we think do our shop much more justice than our own handiwork.
I thought I’d share a few shots with you so for the non-locals you might get a better idea of how the business looks. We’re still adding some more shelving and furniture (not to mention stock) but are nearly there.
Yesterday was our Grand Opening – not sure about opening a yarn store in Central West NSW in 40 degree heat, but it was still a great day.
We had locals and tourists through, made some sales and had a wonderful opening night with our new friends.
We think the shop looks great and seems to be getting good feedback. There’s still lots of stock we need and are seeking feedback from our customers. It’s tempting to take home many of the beautiful items but we are really pleased to offer some special treats and collectibles in the store.
G’s daughter has been a great help in setting up our online store which we are sure will be a great supplement for business as well, so we won’t be dependent on foot traffic.
So now we’re open, the next stage is to start promoting ourselves, start some classes and drop in groups as well as add to the depth of stock in the shop.
At the moment, every minute is spoken for as we head towards opening the yarn shop, Convent and Chapel Wool Shop, on Friday. We’re nearly there but still have some fine tuning (and pricing) to take care of. There are always lots of things you’d like to have done better or still need to do but it’s all come together pretty well. Today we had the internet working well and connected EFTPOS facilities – probably the things that worry me more as they are out of my control if they don’t work.
I still need to work on the website to get it anywhere close to respectable and haven’t even started on the online shop. We also need the Facebook page up and running prior to opening.
Otherwise, the important activities have been completed – opening invitations sent out and drinks and nibbles bought. Oh, and the shop is completely fitted out now and we have the stock in – sort of important for a shop. We even have our outdoor furniture and plants in place.
Once I get through opening on Friday, I’ll post an update with photos, but for now I’m in a good place and just realising that after retiring from 30 years in the CBD corporate world, I’ve just started a new career in rural NSW as a small business independent retailer. “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans” – how true!