Bunkering Down

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Why not have a knitted sign for a wool shop? One of my Winter projects finished.

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!)

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Cable beanie sample

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.

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Cabled scarf over the shop fire

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.

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Shockwaves knitted in our beautiful hand dyed Hedgehog Fibres from Ireland

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.

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A yet to be named scarf in Adagio Alpaca.

 

 

 

 

I Knit Therefore I Am

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Our new baby jumper in Noro.
This one in Zauberball.
This one in Zauberball.

 

 

 

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.

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Wee Willie Winkie Cap in Opal
Elefantes in Claudia's Handpainted Yarns
Elefantes in Claudia’s Handpainted Yarns

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.

In Zauberball.
In Zauberball.
And, finally, in Noro.
And, finally, in Noro.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

So far this week - going into the shop tomorrow - 3 spiral beanies and a fishnet lace scarf. Two baby jumpers are currently on the needles.
So far this week – going into the shop tomorrow – 3 spiral beanies and a fishnet lace scarf. Two baby jumpers are currently on the needles.

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.

A retrospective of 2014…

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The old girl is coming together nicely and enjoying the attention.

It’s been just over a year since I moved to Kandos permanently. And over two years since I discovered the Convent and Kandos. What was a fortuitous realestate.com search certainly changed my life dramatically. I had never intended to make such a substantial permanent move, well, at least not straight away. The plan had been to live the “balanced lifestyle” and maintain my Sydney property and corporate life in the CBD for a few days a week and then chill at the Convent for the other days.

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From this disused verandah..
To this - the verandah outside my bedroom. And now is Popcorn's favourite place.
To this – the verandah outside my bedroom. And now is Popcorn’s favourite place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dogs were the first to decide that there was only one life for them and within the first six months of purchasing the Convent, it was pretty clear that Kandos was going to be my permanent home. The first year saw a lengthy settlement before the property was mine, but thanks to the generosity of the Church (who still owned the Convent), I camped on an air bed until all the legals were finalised.  Then came, painting, floors, curtains and furnishings and I moved in permanently last November – on my 55th birthday to be precise.

My abundant berry bed.
My abundant berry bed.

Of course there are many more plans for the Convent – one day …. bathrooms, kitchen, but I’m just enjoying it as it is. The garden has had a major makeover and has been a joy to put such effort into. I’m now waiting to see if I manage to get some cucumbers this year. There are lots of zucchinis, my berry bed is going crazy and I could live off the lettuces and carrots at present. Oh, of course cherry tomatoes are also kicking in. My family and friends are making the Convent a regular getaway, which fortunately lessens the wrench of leaving them. And I was so lucky that one of my best friends decided to join me here and has also moved to the town and lives around the corner.

Re Kandos itself and its community, I’ve been made so welcome. We spent New Year’s Eve at the local club and I was pleased to recognise so many familiar faces and be included as one of the crowd. I’m endeavouring to help with community activities (which also helps in meeting people) and have really enjoyed being part of the Kandos Museum through its renaissance as well as the local CWA.

Popcorn - such a beautiful boy.
Popcorn – such a beautiful boy.

Other highlights through the year have been including the wonderful Popcorn in the Convent family – he is a joy, holding the Best Knitting at Show for the second year at the Kandos Rylstone Show (which is adding to the excitement of this year’s Show), being part of the Kandos Centenary celebrations and opening the Convent doors to somewhere between 400 – 600 people and learning the ins and outs of online auctions which have furnished my home and now finding their way into the shop collectibles.

Whilst I had thought I had retired, it hasn’t taken long to find myself running my own wool shop which combines a longtime passion with the skills I’ve acquired through many years of corporate life.

That's us at the new shop.
That’s us at the new shop.

It’s been a good – no great – year. And 2015 looks as though it will also bring its share of surprises and pleasures, with no doubt also some sobering moments. However life is good, It takes work, decisions and actions to make it happen, with also some risks. But it’s worth it. If you’re thinking of making a change, don’t just think about it, also plan and do it, but be prepared for lots of surprises along the way.

Showing Off – Our New Shop

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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.

Our signature Convent and Chapel bamboo needles
Our signature Convent and Chapel bamboo needles

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.

The back room is appropriately called 'The Snug'. It also is home to a comfy green leather Chesterfield couch.
The back room is appropriately called ‘The Snug’. It also is home to a comfy green leather Chesterfield couch.

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.

LR_Convent & Chapel Wool-38I 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.

We love our Zauberball display.
We love our Zauberball display.
The Hedgehog Fibre Collection from Ireland is attracting much attention - we love the names like Pod and Shamrock.
The Hedgehog Fibre Collection from Ireland is attracting much attention – we love the names like Pod and Shamrock.

End of Week One for the Shop

So we’ve just had our first week of being open (we open Friday to Monday) and it was a great start! Locals seem to love having a yarn shop. We’ve had great feedback from tourists as well.

We haven’t started advertising yet, so that will be our next step as well as continuing to add items and keeping the shop well stocked with hand knits which will now reflect our yarn.

We’ve been inundated with requests for classes so that will also be high on the To Do list, but for the next few days it’s tending a garden that’s looking a little ragged and spending some time with the dogs who are wondering where I’ve been lately.

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!