Being Family Friendly

When I was a kid, my parents were self employed. They ran a retail business and dad traveled a lot, picking up merchandise to sell in the store. My siblings and I took turns traveling with him on those business trips. I loved going with him; but sometimes, the waiting was long and boring.

Some of the places we would go to had some toys, puzzles and books for kids. You know, I always wondered whether they had caught someone on the way to the dump and said,

“I’ll take those worn out and broken toys you were going to throw away; I’ll put them in my store for kids to play with.”

Brilliant! Boring, broken, worn out toys. Yay! … not.

As my store was getting established and I started selling yarn, I found that

I was seeing a lot of young moms with small children.

It took me back to when my kids were little and how frustrated I felt trying to keep track of them and still do my shopping. Especially in stores where I was hoping to find some project inspiration. As the moms were shopping in my store, I found that my thread cabinet and zipper racks were irresistible temptations for toddlers. You can’t blame a kid for wanting to entertain themselves. And it broke my heart to hear the mom’s refrains of “No, don’t touch that!” and “Put that back, please!” If I were their age I would have wanted to play with the colourful things too!

I wanted to have a place for the kids, in my store, where they could just be kids.

I wanted them to have a safe fun place that would keep their attention so their moms could relax and shop without worry. I wanted a space that they would be excited to hang out and play in. I made a list of the types of things I would have loved to play with when I was a kid. I set out to make a play area that my inner child would want for herself. I wanted a place to colour; and nice colouring books and crayons. Lots of colours to choose from and both pencil crayons and wax crayons. I wanted a table and chairs that were kid sized, and not scruffy or worn out. I wanted toys that got my imagination going. New toys. And as the mother of two animators, I wanted some toys that were straight out of “Saturday morning cartoons”. I wanted a place to hide away (safely), and a place to build a town with all the toys. A train track and some cars. Yup. Back when I was a kid, I had to make do with what the adults set up. But now, I could make it the way I wanted it. I wanted it to feel like a home, not just a corner in a store with some toys. The shopping trip that followed my planning was a blast!

I felt like a kid in a candy store!

I was so excited to set it all up. I blended it with our Social Saturday corner, which I had tried to set up to feel like a living room with chairs and love seats and coffee tables. And then I waited for the first little kids to come to the store so I could see their reactions. It was actually funny, because normally I saw little kids regularly, but after setting it all up it was a couple weeks before any came in.

And when they did, I told the moms about the play area and invited them to make use of it.

I knew I had done it right when the kids didn’t want to leave!

The first time each of them came, it was a bit of a spectacle as their moms explained that they could come back another day but they really did have to go home. Once they had been here a few times and realized that the toys would be here waiting next time, they didn’t mind to leave. I thought that I had received the very best compliment when a mom called to ask whether she and her daughter could just come and hang out so the daughter could play. I was delighted!

Well, today I was thrilled to be visited by a representative of the Revelstoke Early Childhood Development Committee. She brought with her a plaque and a letter to say that I was the 2018 recipient of their annual “Family Friendly Business Award”. What a lovely honour! She took a photograph and congratulated me. I have to say that it was a wonderful surprise. That wee little girl inside of me busted out her happy dance to celebrate!

I’m so happy that my customers appreciate the efforts I made to create a family friendly space for their shopping.

Thank you to the person who nominated me, and the people who voted for me to receive this award. 😀

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Photo by li tzuni on Unsplash

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Comfort Wolle – Gala

Sometimes it’s my customers that introduce me to gorgeous yarns.

That is certainly the case with Comfort Wolle – Gala yarn. I brought it in as a special order and took a chance to bring in all 6 colourways. When it arrived, I was delighted with it.

This “degrade” (a continuous finely knitted tube of yarn) is gloriously soft despite being 80% wool and 20% nylon. At first glance it looks like roving. The skeins are 200g with an exceptional 500m of length! It’s available in six lovely ombre colourways and the manufacturer offers a number of free patterns to go along with it.

The label suggests using 5 mm to 6 mm needles. I made a shawl with it and chose to use 8 mm needles as I wanted to be certain that the lace would show through the fluffiness. It feels like a cloud. Did I say it was soft? Yeah! I can hardly wait to snuggle into it when I watch TV at night. It’s so cozy!

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The colour gradient is subtle, yet dramatic at the same time. It’s nice and thick and knits up fast. The 200g ball is large enough that you can make a decent sized project with just one of them. It was easy to work with; my needles found their path through the yarn loops effortlessly. As with most quality yarns with high wool content, it is recommended to wash Gala gently in cool water and lay it flat to dry.

The verdict: I love it!

Happy Knitting!

 

The Ravelry 2018 Challenge

And the decision has been made…

I have officially signed up for the Ravelry 2018 Challenge. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it. But I picked a modest number of 20 knitting projects to finish this year for now. We’ll see how it goes. I may add a few more if it goes well.

I have seven projects queued up, four of which are started, including the cardigan I was talking about a couple weeks ago, two shawls, (both the same pattern but completely different yarns) and a pair of Legolas socks for my son. Two of those are Knit-alongs. I know that I want to try my hand at doing some Scandinavian mittens this year and there are a couple of beautiful cowls I am deciding between. There are two sock patterns that I want to make for myself that I’ve had in my library for over a year that I’d love to actually make. I plan to participate in Tour-de-Sock this summer and that should give me another half a dozen projects or so.

If I do complete 20 projects, that’s a little over 2-1/2 weeks per project over 52 weeks. That should be doable, even with my full schedule. It’s funny how my first thought was that I really ought to do more. Good grief! I think I’ll stick with 20. LOL

Here are photos of my started projects as they sit today. Darn! See, now I have to finish them! Oh NO! LOL 😀 I’m feeling the whole, Love-Hate thing starting already.

Reyna

The shawls are both Reyna. I’m doing one with fingering weight Malabrigo Sock yarn. The other is with Comfort Wolle Gala yarn on 8mm needles; it’s a knit-along. Same pattern but completely different outcome. I’m excited to see them both finished.
Find the pattern here

 

Legolas

The socks are Legolas from Fellowship of the Socks.
Find the pattern here

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Chance of Showers

The cardigan is Chance of Showers; it’s my other knit-along. I modified it to have a long fitted sleeve with a longer lace panel than the pattern offers. The sleeves are done and I’m ready to start the body of the sweater now.
Find the pattern here

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So how about you? Are you up to the Ravelry 2018 Challenge? Do you want to join me?

When Starting isn’t Straightforward

Sometimes you get an idea in your head about something you want to knit or crochet.

When inspiration hits, perhaps you’re like me and you are determined to get at it… right now! Whether the yarn inspired you, or a pattern did, or you saw someone walk past wearing something amazing, sometimes getting all you need to start a project is easier said than done.

One of the things I do is help people to “get the ducks in a row” so they have everything they need to get that project underway. I often see people who know exactly what they want to make, but they can’t find what they need to get there.

Here are a few suggestions

to help you muscle through the frustrations so you can get on with what you love: to knit or crochet something wonderful!

Follow The Inspiration:

So, where did the inspiration come from? Did you see someone wear what you want to make? Did you see it on Pinterest, Ravelry or Instagram? No matter what got your creative juices flowing, you’re going to need to track down a pattern (or at least some guidelines; unless you are a pattern-making guru already; and if you are, you probably won’t be reading this). Sometimes following a Pin just leads you down a rabbit hole of frustration. Just because you can see it on Pinterest or Instagram doesn’t mean that you are going to be able to track down a pattern from that post. And even on Ravelry, sometimes photos of a finished project are posted with no indication of what pattern was used or if a pattern was used. Sometimes you can see something you want to make online, but it’s only offered as a ready to purchase item.

If your local yarn shop doesn’t have what you need and if using the sophisticated search filters on Ravelry got you nowhere, try searching for a group on Ravelry that specializes in the type of knitting or crochet project you want to make. Whether it’s socks or sweaters, hats or mittens, see what groups already exist. Join up and ask questions. Chances are, someone will be able to point you toward a pattern (or a couple patterns you can mash up) so you have a place to start. Or you can ask around in your local community of knitters and crocheters. Often someone will know someone who can connect you with a pattern or can teach you what you want to know. Who knows, you might make a new friend while you’re at it. 🙂

Gathering Your Materials:

Sometimes getting the pattern isn’t the issue. Sometimes you already have a pattern but you just can’t seem to find the right yarn. Oftentimes patterns are designed to be used with a very specific yarn. They will ask for a specific brand and line of yarn for which the pattern was originally meant to be used. That’s really nice and all, but it’s not always helpful.

The reality is that patterns outlive the production life-time of yarns.

Yarn is very much a fashion product, just like fabric is. The trends come and go; yarns come and go. And the truth is that even though a yarn may be labeled with a particular gauge, that doesn’t mean that it’s always exactly accurate, or that you can transfer that information seamlessly to any pattern with the same term. Add to this that there are a lot of different names for gauges. The US uses different names than Canada or the UK use; translators may not understand the nuances that English-speaking Yarnies take for granted. At the end of the day, the actual finished measurements and the gauge numbers (how many rows by how many stitches), are what will matter.

Of course, not every pattern gives you that information in a clear, concise way. The pattern might just say, “Sport” weight. Well, as a yarn shop owner I can tell you that “Sport” is not a universal or standard term. I have seen yarn that they call sport weight that is closer to a lace weight, and other sport weight that looks suspiciously like worsted. It all depends on the manufacturer.

Don’t you just love it when it isn’t straightforward?

So get what information you can from the pattern. Does it give you a gauge count? If it does, compare that to the labels of the yarns that you hope to use. It’s unlikely that they will match exactly. But if it’s pretty close, you should be okay. You may be able to adjust by changing the needle size.

Are gauge swatches for sissies? Well, many expert knitters will tell you that they are. The reality is that when you have a non-straightforward pattern, sometimes it’s the gauge swatch that will save you from insanity. I know, I know! You want to get going on your project already. But for the time it takes to make up a couple swatches with a couple different sizes of needles, it beats the heck out of casting on 184 stitches, knitting 20 rows and having to frog it all because the gauge is out of whack! (Can you tell that I speak from experience?)

Impatience is not your friend here.

It may be a frustrating road, but once you gather all that you need and get started, it will be worth it. And even if the project doesn’t live up to your original inspiration, it will have taught you a lot of things that you would not have learned otherwise.

Happy Knitting!

In Pursuit of Balance

There’s no doubt that building and running a small business is a lot of work.

Anyone who has done it knows that if you aren’t careful, the business starts to run you, instead of the other way around. Without maintaining a constant pursuit of balance, burnout is tough to avoid.

Over the past 3-1/2 years, my business has taught me a lot about myself. I knew coming into it that the first 5 years would be a lot of hard work. I knew it would take about 5 years to really establish the business. Knowing it and living it are two very different things.

When I first started, I had a part time job in a neighbouring community one day a week. I set up my store schedule around that job and for quite a while I kept doing both. I remember the day when I realized that there was enough demand for my services that I was better off to let go of that part time job and use that time to sew for my customers. It was a benchmark moment. At the time, since people were accustomed to the store being closed on Fridays, I kept it that way and I used my Fridays to catch up on the work that accumulated over the week. The pursuit of balance had begun.

As my business grew, I was busy enough during the hours the store was open that it was getting a little tougher to keep up with the sewing. Between trying to do paper work and sewing on Fridays and Sundays,

there was no continuity for me on the days when the store was closed.

I would get to a point on Friday and have to leave it all hanging to be open on Saturday and then pick up where I left off on Sunday. The frustration this generated motivated me to do something different. So I changed my hours and opened on Friday but closed on Sunday and Monday to allow better flow on the days I was working uninterrupted. And that worked pretty well for the better part of a year. Except that the growing needs of the business meant that those two days became absolutely packed with work. There really wasn’t any room for me to recover from the pace of work. The pursuit of balance continued.

Revelstoke is a gorgeous small mountain city.

We are tucked in the mountains and no matter what time of year, it is an outdoor lovers’ Mecca. My husband and I love to ski and with Revelstoke Mountain Resort less than 10 minutes from our door we consider ourselves lucky to live here. Last year, in spite of having season’s passes to RMR, we skied a total of twice all winter… because I needed to keep up with the work in the store. So the pursuit of balance moved along.

My MIL helps out in the store with what she can and that has taken quite a bit of pressure off me.

We get along great and have become very close.

Even though her stamina limits how long she can help out each day, I’m very happy and grateful that she enjoys helping out. I thought long and hard about hiring someone to help with the sewing. You know, there’s only so much you can charge to fix clothing for people. And what with the nature of Revelstoke, a lot of what I fix is outdoor gear. It’s not the sort of thing that the average sewing enthusiast would want to do, or have the skill to do. It definitely requires the power of heavy industrial sewing machines. It’s a lot more physically demanding than a lot of people would expect. And once you hire someone, you have to be able to keep them busy.  Yeah, there’s a lot of work, but not enough to justify hiring someone. At the end of the day, you have to have the cash-flow to pay them. And after all the work you put into your business, you kind of want to be able to pay yourself at some point too.

As the winter settled in this year, I vowed that our season’s passes would not go to waste.

Yet, when my husband and I had the opportunity to ski, I was so tired that I was afraid for my safety on the ski hill. We have had a lot of snow this winter. Powder days have come and gone, without us skiing yet. I am very aware that this is a direct result of the success of my business, and even as I work toward a solution, I’m deeply grateful for it. Isn’t it interesting that it takes being uncomfortable enough, long enough to be motivated to change things up? So DH and I began batting ideas around as to how I could shift things to create the space for us to be able to get out once a week; and yet still accommodate my customers and the work I need to get done.

In the pursuit of balance, in the ever-changing landscape of my business, I have decided to rearrange my store hours. I have allowed for one day off a week for myself: Sundays. Mondays and Tuesdays the store will be closed to allow me to work uninterrupted on sewing jobs and administrative duties. I will be on call for visitors to Revelstoke who find themselves with a sewing emergency (yes, there is such a thing as a sewing emergency) on Mondays and Tuesdays. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays I’ll open up at 8:30 am and close at 6:00 pm. My hope is that this will accommodate most people’s schedules. Saturdays the store will be open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Social Saturdays will be extended accordingly. I will be taking an hour break (MIL will cover me) from 1:30 to 2:30 each day. We won’t offer any fittings or consultations during that time. In the event that I have to be away (which doesn’t happen very often), my MIL will hold down the fort and the hours will be reduced to: 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. I’ll make an announcement on my website, on Facebook and on the door any time this is going to happen.

It is my sincere hope that these new hours will shift things around enough that I’ll be able to maintain a healthier balance while still serving my customers’ needs.

 

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Resolution or Challenge?

When I was deciding what I should write about (that isn’t anything to do with New Year’s Resolutions) I got distracted and logged in to Ravelry.com. They’ve come up with a bit of a twist on that theme. They are hosting a 2018 Ravelry Project Challenge. That made me think.

I’ve never been particularly keen to jump on the New Year’s Resolution band wagon. Is there such a thing as a Resolution Scrooge? If so, I might just be it. It always seemed rather contrived to me. I get the whole, “fresh year, fresh start” idea. Maybe the reason I don’t get excited about it is that I don’t need one more thing added to my to-do list?

I like Ravelry’s idea for their Project Challenge though. Years ago I bought one of those self-help cassette tape sets off a late night infomercial. Surprisingly, it was one of the most valuable purchases I ever made. I learned a lot from listening to those tapes. 🙂 One of the tenets of that particular system was that

if you want to create change in your life, you have to put yourself at stake.

The way they explained it was that if there wasn’t some form of accountability for this goal you had set, there is nothing to keep you honest about sticking to it. If nothing is holding you at stake, it’s easy to bail… and fail. So they said,

“tell people that you have set this goal; invite them to ask you about it regularly.”

The idea is that having a bunch of folks checking in on you will help motivate you to hang in there when you want to give up.

I have employed this method ever since I learned about it. And it has worked very well for me. This is what Ravelry is doing by creating a platform to announce your project for the year to a whole lot of people and a place to show your progress as you go. The more I think about it, the more I like it. I’m on the fence as to whether I’m going to participate in this challenge, specifically.

It’s funny how life works. Being a New Year’s Resolution Scrooge didn’t stop me from inadvertently doing a New Year’s Challenge. (In spite of myself?). On New Year’s Day, I met with my knitting buddy to hang out and knit and catch up on our holiday stories. We are both avid sock knitters and this normally would have been a perfect day to start a new pair of socks. But nope, not this time. She suggested that we do a knit-along… and that it NOT be socks. What?! Not SOCKS?! LOL But, you know what, I was excited about the idea. She insisted that I choose the type of garment. I had been dreaming of knitting myself a cardigan for a couple years so I suggested that we knit a cardigan. Wouldn’t you know, she had a couple cardigan patterns in her queue. We chose a pattern called “Chance of Showers”. It took a minute or two to purchase and download the pattern, pick out some yarn and next thing I knew I was casting on my cardigan. How did that happen? LOL

Here it is, the 11th of January and I’m well into my knitting challenge. I didn’t even know that Ravelry was going to do a project challenge. I will be adapting the pattern a little. I don’t like short sleeves on a sweater because I like to have the option of them being long or shoving them up to my elbow if I’m too warm. So I’m lengthening the sleeves. Other than that, I’m sticking to the pattern. Well, I’m knitting both sleeves in tandem so I can be sure that I get them exactly the same… but other than that, I’m sticking to the pattern.

And you know what? I’m actually really excited about it. I have to be honest, it’s my first knit-along. My knitting buddy and I have a healthy level of competition, and although I’m no slouch, she’s definitely a faster knitter than I am. So there’s my way of keeping myself on track with it. We haven’t seen each other since the day we cast these sweaters on (hers is purple, mine is green). I suspect we’ll compare notes this Social Saturday.

Maybe I will document my progress on Ravelry… we shall see.

Happy knitting!

 

 

Flowers and Caboodles

Leading up to the holidays I knitted up some yarns that I’d love to tell you about.

  • Mondial “Lady”
  • and Sirdar Caboodle

are the subjects of today’s blog.

Mondial “Lady”

“Flower” by Mondial is a pretty Italian yarn and it is as fluffy as a cloud. It comes with a little flower that you can attach to the toque (beanie) that the free pattern on the label makes. One ball comfortably makes the hat in question. It’s a chunky weight yarn that knits up fast as can be. When finished, the fabric feels light and soft and oh, so cushy. At 55% Merino and 45% Microfibre, this is an easy care product that you can put in the delicate cycle of the washer. I was able to easily knit up the pattern they provided in an evening in front of the television. The almost boucle texture makes the yarn interesting enough that it doesn’t need to be more fancy than garter or stocking stitch to look fabulous. So you don’t need any complicated patterns to make it awesome. Even with the texture, I found it very easy to work with. Flower is available in around seven soft and pretty colours.

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Sirdar Caboodle

Sirdar Caboodle is so much fun! It looks like a happy marriage between yarn and confetti… if confetti were made of fibres instead of paper and stuff, that is. It’s a chunky weight yarn that has fluffy bits of colourful fibre that give it a whole lot of personality. At first I wondered whether those textured bits would annoy me. They didn’t. I admit that the first round of knitting after the initial cast on required that I seriously take my time. After that, it really wasn’t an issue. If you haven’t worked with a textured yarn before, I would offer the following advice: Take it slow until you get used to it. Yup, that’s it. Just take your time. Play around with the tension a little. When you are knitting it, sometimes you need to pull a fluffy bit through the stitch in order that your stitches don’t end up too tight or loose. Keeping a slightly softer tension will definitely make it easier to navigate. If you just give yourself a little bit of time to get used to it, the result is just so much fun. As the fabric forms, it creates such a happy vibe that I challenge you not to fall in love with it. I used a pattern that asked for chunky weight yarn and used the 5.5mm needles recommended. It worked perfectly to the gauge for that pattern. (The cast-on was 70 stitches.) A content of 64% Acrylic and 36% Polyester makes this a yarn that can take some abuse. So it’s perfect for those friends who you know won’t be careful with hand knits.

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Happy Knitting!