Being a remote rural yarn shop comes with its challenges. We’re pretty remote for a yarn shop with an immediate population of barely 2,000 between our two towns and then a 60 (even then, no traffic lights) to 100k drive to the next towns.
However fortunately our town attracts great visitation, particularly on the weekends, so we get lots of people coming into our shop. The downside to this is that visitors aren’t all knitters. In fact for a yarn shop, the majority of our visitors are passing through and just love to look at our shop and displays. So we make sure we have plenty of tempting hand knits on show with a good selection for sale. It seems a pity to attract so many people and not have something to offer them.
This means that Gemma and I are always creating gorgeous but more simple knits for the shop that can be sold but also serve dual duty in showing off yarns and pattern samples for knitters. We create many simple patterns ourselves that are available to customers, making the most of beautiful fibre textures and colours or using interesting stitches. Last week was Beanie week, with versions of ‘Snug’ using Kidsilk mixed with our new Convent Irish Tweed. This week it’s our rustic tweed ribbed wrist warmers. The cold weather has depleted our stocks of hand knits drastically!
We know our patterns work well to sell and are also great for anyone doing hand knits at the markets – simple but effective. A few tips we’d give anyone who would like to try their hand at the markets with hand knits – always use good yarns. Most people can gauge quality and will pay for it, which leads to the next point. Don’t undercharge – value your work and don’t undersell the value. Our hand knits are a valuable source of income to us and help us offer something to potential customers who love our shop but aren’t exactly in the market for a skein of artisan hand dyed yarn.
Having beautiful tempting hand knits on display has encouraged many a casual tourist back into knitting or even into picking up needles for the first time.
We’re now finding that Convent & Chapel Wool Shop is a name on many knitters “must visit” lists and are becoming a destination shop, attracting our share of visitors to our amazing town and region. We have lots of people on their national road trips making sure Rylstone is one of their stops and are even finding international visitors asking their hosts to include Rylstone on their itinerary – and are not disappointed when they arrive.
Of course, we also love and greatly appreciate our online customers, although we wish we could ask them what they are making with some of the wonderful order combinations we receive and would love to see their finished projects.
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.