Apologies for being away from the blog for a while. Winter here tends to lend itself to bunkering down – it’s cold and the gardening winds right down with bitter frosts. However it’s also a good time to drop the pace of activity and a great time to knit (as if I need an excuse!)
That being said, I’ve been knitting up a storm and also made some improvements to the Convent. Knitting has included shop items (we sell beanies, mitts and scarves at Convent & Chapel Wool Shop), shop samples (it’s great to show customers ideas for patterns and how the yarn looks knitted up) and some fun knitting as well.
The fun items include Shockwaves in Hedgehog Fibres as well as Fringed, a Stephen West pattern also knitted in Hedgehog Fibres. This one is still on the needles. I’m usually a black/grey/brown person in terms of colours I wear but these gorgeous hand dyed yarns have tempted me to use a broader palate that will all happily sit over my black attire!
For something a bit different, I’ve used my love of knitted blankets into making a knitted sign for the shop which happily hangover our balcony at the gorgeous historic Bridge View Inn in Rylstone.
Over the last last week or two the weather has started to warm up, so I know I’ll be spending less time during the day with needles in my hands and more with the shovel, whippersnipper and hose.
One of our favourite haunts is Gallery 47 in Louee Street, Rylstone which also is home to Coffee Concrete – the place to go if you want some of the best food and coffee in the area. It’s also run by the wonderful Georgie and Alex who are such great locals. Being across the road from our Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, makes it a regular drop-in spot for us.
Every month the Gallery hosts a new exhibition which we always visit – we usually try to get along to the openings if possible. This month’s exhibition has a twist. Called ‘Fabulous Fakes’, it’s a display of wonderful old masters recreated by the talented David Wallace, another local.
I’ve seen David’s work a few times and was disappointed to miss purchasing ‘Lady with an Ermine’ in the past and this time missed out on Vermeer’s ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring”, however managed to pick up my first Renoir, ‘Two Sisters on the Terrace’. Gemma, on the other hand, stuck with the Australian art and scored her first Tom Roberts, ‘Bailed Up’.
It’s a fun display and sure to amuse cafe-goers for the month. Definitely worth a look, and incredibly good value for a wonderful piece to hang on your wall – and certainly a talking point. I may take another peek later in the month, just in case the Mona Lisa is still there…
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!?!
This week we were ever-so-fleetingly touched by the brush of fame. One of the major lifestyle programs, Better Homes and Gardens, did a recipe road trip to our region and filmed a segment at 29 Nine 99, our legendary Yum Cha house that we share premises with at the Bridgeview Inn at Rylstone.
Unfortunately due to family commitments, I couldn’t make it, but Gemma was there in full swing and did the shop proud by displaying our blankets and knitted goodies on the front verandah in the hope we might be included in some filming. There was obvious excitement with the visit and lead-up to showing on tv and we weren’t disappointed. The segment did Na Lan and 29 Nine 99 proud and our building and shop could be glimpsed in the first couple of minutes. Whilst they didn’t film inside our Convent & Chapel Wool Shop, cast and crew visited and bought beanies and mitts for themselves.
All in all, lots of fun and some great exposure for our little town and 29 Nine 99.
Here’s the video of the segment – you can see our old sandstone building and shop around 90 seconds into the clip.
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.
… or Flutterbies as a friend’s child engagingly calls them.
Last weekend G and I joined the social community with a few outings. Firstly was the regular country music night which is often held at Ilford Hall, but made its way to Rylstone this weekend. Ever few months a few intrepid locals put together a great night of country music which includes a sausage sizzle (out here you get a generous number of sausage pieces, piles of grilled onion, homemade coleslaw and sauce of your choice!) and a great country spread. The entertainers this time were Ged and Trudy, with their laid back and more gentle country ballads, which was quite a treat and Pete Smith, the yodelling cowboy (I think his promo shot may have been taken a little earlier in his career). All three were entertaining and talented and kept us glued to our seats for hours of great music in the little local hall.
The next night, we went to the opening of Alisa Burlington’s works on display at Gallery 47, with the wonderful Coffee Concrete supporting the catering. It was a great night, seeing some of our favourite locals and also discovering how talented Alisa is. We’ve always admired her stunning individual jewellery, but had no idea of her painting skills. We came away the night a little lighter in the purse but our homes will be all the richer for it.
We continue to be amazed at the level of activities available here and how busy we are in what was supposed to be a quiet lifestyle – although the activities are hardly stressful (other than prioritising and scheduling!) and we are adding so any different aspects to our lives.
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”!
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.
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!
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.
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!