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.

First Results

First Show results (Gulgong) were a tad mixed but overall pleasing.

G pipped me at the post for the Baby Shawl category but we can’t complain with a first and a second. I also picked up a second for my linen stitch scarf, which was great but a little puzzling when my lace shawl, which I thought was significantly superior, in the same category only scored a Highly Commended. There wasn’t really the right category for the Shawl so maybe it just suffered a little in the Accessory class. Although I thought G’s may have taken a first for the category…

We did think that this Show preferred entries that were a little more conservative but have taken in some learning and should adapt our work next time.

Anyway, between us we came away with four prizes. Just a little disappointed that this Show doesn’t award ribbons. We love our Show ribbons!

Anyway, this weekend is our Big Show, with our local Rylstone Kandos Show, so we’re a bit nervous. We both have new baby shawls which we’ve put some work into, although I’ll confess, I’d make a few changes if doing mine again.

Pictures and results will follow after the Show (unless our heads are hung in shame).

It’s Showtime!

It’s that time of the year when we have our local agricultural shows and the community get to display their produce, animals, cooking and handicraft.

G and I have been doing the hard knitting yards for some time now, to the detriment of shop knitting but it’s now culminating with the local shows, all hot on each other’s heels. This week we dropped off a few items each at Gulgong Show – we should find out the results late tomorrow when we pick up our knitting. The big one for us is next weekend with our local Kandos Rylstone Show, with Mudgee Show (which is the bigger one) the weekend after.

Our major pieces are still on the needles, hoping to make their debut for our local competition. Other Shows will come up, including the Sydney Royal Easter, but next week is the one that means most to us.

Will update the blog and post pictures as results come through (or not!)

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.

Knitting… and lots more knitting!

Yep, just a cast on row. Getting the first pattern row right took hours and lots of tinking (knitter's speak for undoing).

Yep, just a cast on row. Getting the first pattern row right took hours and lots of tinking (knitter’s speak for undoing).

What with the shop and the impending Shows, it seems like the knitting needles are never out of G and my hands.

It’s great that people like to buy the hand knits, but they all take time to knit and at present we are focussing on our Show entries. To make best use of our efforts, we are endeavouring to use shop yarn and our own patterns (or at least patterns that are easily accessible to others), so the finished entries can then become shop displays or the basis for our classes – it’s called “leveraging”!

Looks a bit of a mess at present. Not sure how many knitters have a Chapel floor on which to block. Don't think it will help with judges scoring at the end, though!

Looks a bit of a mess at present. Not sure how many knitters have a Chapel floor on which to block. Don’t think it will help with judges scoring at the end, though!

So far I’ve managed a shawl in a very vibrant Zauberball Lace – different from my usual classic and subdued style and have just cast on the beginnings of a sampler lace shawl using Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Shetland Lace. I’m hoping this can be used in a future lace workshop for customers. But I’ll be knitting into the wee hours each night to have a fighting chance of getting this into the Rylstone/Kandos Show in late February.

I’m hoping to have a few items finished by the time Show season kicks off, with a few more entries completed shortly after for the later Shows. We’re also encouraging our customers to enter so others can see the possibilities with knitting and that the craft has evolved considerably from people’s previous expectations.

In the meantime, there’s still some shop knitting happening. The past week it was focussing on Noro and Zauberball Spiral Beanies – one of our best sellers.

Noro beanies - very popular. Now adding Zauberballs to the mix.

Noro beanies – very popular. Now adding Zauberballs to the mix.

Show Preparations

I love entering the local Agricultural Shows – I’ve only attempted the last few years and mainly with knitting. Whilst it’s a thrill to win a prize at one of the bigger shows like the Royal Easter Show, it’s more of a buzz to participate in the local ones.

I’ve had some reasonable successes with my knitting but have been an abject failure in other categories such as tomatoes, dahlias and roses, but am determined to persist with my efforts. And I’m way past the Showgirl section!

The knitting categories however are now the core focus for G and me, particularly now we have Convent & Chapel Wool Shop up and running. Somehow the stakes seem much higher this year. Anyway, we have our projects underway – using shop yarn, of course. To date I’ve focussed on lace shawls but will be spreading myself a little more this year, planning on also entering accessories – I’m thinking mitts, scarf and maybe a beanie – as well as possibly a baby garment.

The Shows start with a flurry in mid February, kicking off with Gulgong, followed by our own Kandos Rylstone Show, then Mudgee, Lithgow and Bathurst all jammed in closely. Other shows are a little more spaced with Sydney Royal Easter Show in late March. Not sure how many we will manage, but we will definitely be supporting our local shows.

At this stage the projects are under wraps – we’re keen that they will be surprises. no doubt you’ll hear about our results – good or otherwise.

Knitting Our Socks Off …

… Well maybe more scarves and mitts.

The Heritage Train is arriving on Sunday at Kandos. At least I hope so. It was scheduled to arrive last far but unfortunately the shocking bush fires intervened and it was cancelled.

Anyway, this year the town is ready and we plant be at the markets at the Railway Green. For those who don’t understand the significance, the train doesn’t usually come to Kandos. The public train line stops at Lithgow and the line is kept open for industrial use only – not passengers. Train lines were once a major linkage between towns, but sadly no more. The lines through to Mudgee and other towns  not maintained and we drive over bitchumened tracks all the time. Public transport to country towns is often non-existent. So the heritage train coming to town this year is a really big deal. Tickets sell out very quickly and we’s love to see it more often as it is important not just for commerce but also  for the morale of the town.

We plan to be there with our yellow marquee and knitting goods welcoming visitors – we just hope the weather is a little kinder than the last week which has been blisteringly hot. Possibly not the best time for knitted goods, but we’ve found that we provide great presents for overseas friends and relatives who are in Winter and also have a range of cotton scarves for the locals.

Anyway, it’s more being part of the local action and we’re excited to see the train arrive and encourage it to continue.

The Countdown Begins … and another phase starts

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!

New Market Territory – Rylstone StreetFeast

Under the yellow marquee which did such a great job during such challenging weather.

Under the yellow marquee which did a great job during such challenging weather.

Since discovering the Kandos/Rylstone area just over two years ago, we have been ‘tourists’ at Rylstone StreetFeast and bought tickets to the sumptuous local spread which is seated along the main street.

Scarves with lots of shawls in the background.

Scarves with lots of shawls in the background.

This year we are ‘locals’ and had our own stall at the markets that flanked the Feast or ‘Long Lunch’. The bright yellow marquee made its first appearance and earned its money on a hot and gusty day that also saw storms with rain. We had a great day, being particularly busy in the morning before the food was served, yet had to pack up a trifle early as rain threatened later in the afternoon.

As usual, we met lots of knitters – locals, Sydney-siders and neighbours from Mudgee and the Blue Mountains, all of whom were pleased to hear about our shop opening shortly. The samples of Noro and Zauberball were much admired, so we think the shop stock will be appreciated.

Sales were pretty constant – the mohair/silk lace scarves are always popular and mitts and beanies were still purchased despite hot and gusty weather.

Next week we will concentrate on shop stuff and hope to open Friday week. So many people pressed us on an opening date that it was time to draw a line in the sand and commit, so that will now be our target!

The old hotel key pigeon holes are  perfect  for displaying the Zauberballs.

The old hotel key pigeon hole cabinet is perfect for displaying the Zauberballs.

Markets Tomorrow!

Tomorrow my friend G and I are heading off to Rylstone Street Feast. Since discovering this wonderful region, for the last two years we have done the tourist thing and bought tickets for the ‘Long Lunch’, which is a gourmet feast set in the leafy main street of Rylstone. Table are laid out down the length of the street for a communal repast of courses which make the most of local produce.

The street is flanked by local market stalls and the day is a major one for the area, attracting both tourists and locals. This year we are much more like the locals and will be manning a market stall ourselves stocked with our hand knits as well as luxury yarn. The stall had been booked many months before, following our success at Rylstone Artisan Markets, but it is now a fortuitous opportunity to promote the new shop to a wider audience as we will be opening in the same street in a few weeks.

This will be a much bigger market than we have previously been to and will be a long day (and possibly a very hot one!). The excitement is building. I’ll post photos after the event for all to see. Hopefully we also get to see lots of the other stalls and sample some of the great local food on offer.