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.
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.
Participating in the local markets with a knitting stall has had somewhat of an effect on my “regular” knitting. In fact, renovations, establishing the garden and relocating permanently whilst working may have also contributed a little over the last year as well.
Anyway, I’m back – forced by the impending Rylstone Kandos Show in February where I have a reputation to maintain, particularly now I am also knitting at the markets.
The markets and my normal knitting provide a good contrast. For the markets, I focus on creating my own patterns which rely on interesting but simple stitches and beautiful and unique yarns or combinations to provide a good result. My main aim is for people to buy the kits with the patterns based on my samples, but finished items are also for sale. A good example is the Drop Stitch Scarf which is a simple stitch pattern combined with striking Noro yarn.
On the other hand, my normal knitting tends to be a little more epic in nature. I favour laceweight shawls or big blankets – no short term projects here.
For the Show I am using Fluidity (or here) as a base. I’m familiar with this pattern, which started life as an 8 ply/DK equivalent but this time I’m using a barely 2ply lace weight silk/merino combination undyed, to give it a natural/antique finish. It’s square but knitted in the round. At some point I will cast off and finish off with a Shetland lace border. I’m also incorporating tiny seed pearl beads into the pattern, so I have high hopes. So far I have a rather modest 1,200 stitches on the needles and anticipate many more before I am done.
Lace (particularly bunched up on circular needles) always looks a bit like steel wool. For now it’s heads down and needles clicking as I head towards the Show.
Last year I set myself a goal and ended up surprising myself. After over 40 years of knitting I challenged myself to enter Shows and surpassed all expectations with a first and third in the Sydney Royal Easter Show in the Baby Shawl and Lace categories and taking out the Champion ribbon at Dubbo with the same lace baby shawl from the Sydney RAS.
This year I’ll have another go at lace but also try blankets. I have no expectations of winning again, although it’s always a thrill to see your item on display with a ribbon. The items are being produced anyway, but it is fun participating in local shows, particularly when they are my new local rural Shows as part of the community.
If I get my act together, first Shows will be my own local ones at Gulgong, Kandos/Rylstone and Mudgee.