The "Perfect" Workshop

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Hello my Chunky Junkies it’s been awhile since my last blog post. I’ve been mulling and reflecting over things and quite honestly have been so busy, finding time to blog seems lower on my to-do’s. I’m definitely enjoying the quieter months and am spending time steadily working on new orders that come through as well as prepping new projects to launch over the coming weeks. Autumn/Winter 2019 isn’t far from my mind either as I start to put into motion organisational plans for the busy Holiday season. It seems in the craft world, you are always working six months ahead. I’ve been mulling over this article though as my recent workshops have sort of drawn something to my attention.

The craft and workshop world has recently taken Britain by storm. Nearly every community art centre, coffee shop, gallery, cafe you name it, seems to be running their own craft making workshop series. This is great news for small businesses like my own where a major percentage of earnings are derived from such workshops. Monetary benefits aside (let’s be real, they aren’t hugely lucrative) are that I can meet and interact with my followers and supporters in person as I share the joys of chunky knitting. I’ve written in the past how I’m a classroom teacher by trade, so getting back in front of students is hugely rewarding for me personally. I’m always humbled by each person that takes the time (and £) to come to one of my classes. Merino wool based workshops do not come cheaply, and The Chunky Needle is proud to offer Merino as an option in our classes. Very few chunky knit instructors offer both a combination of merino and acrylic wool, so I feel particularly proud that I’ve been able to keep merino arm knit costs below £100. I’m determined to keep costs as low as possible.

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I take my workshops quite seriously and despite having some of the best laughs of my life with each of you, they can be exhausting as I’m personally determined each of you go home with something perfectly… well, PERFECT. That idea of ‘perfection’ is what’s leading tonight’s post. I am getting to the point, albeit slowly.

When a person registers onto a workshop one must remember (including myself) that he/she is a student learning a skill for the first time. If everything I custom made for each client was as easy as “getting it” on the first attempt, well, I’d be out of business. Everyone would be chunky knitting ‘pros’ and there would be no benefit to learning the craft. The art of chunky knitting can not simply be handed over in a two hour workshop. The skill behind getting either a blanket, cushion, footstool, etc. “right” takes several weeks, attempts, and moments of shear frustration before you can at last get to a point of personal and professional satisfaction. It’s vitally important to keep one’s expectations realistic when signing onto a workshop. Equally, it’s important the instructor tries to manage the burden of expectation. I have a personal tendency to want so badly for a student to go home with something as close to ‘perfect’ as possible, that it can be blinding.

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The goal of a successful workshop is to pass on knowledge in a fun, socially engaging environment and for the student to go home with a finished product made with their own two hands. It’s important however, that everyone realises that it’s practice that makes perfect and that your first attempt at learning a new and sometimes complicated craft may not result in the quality of finished product you were hoping for. That is the nature of workshops - they are opportunities to work and learn. Perfection comes much later. The valuable money spent on attending a class is not simply the finished product; the instruction, materials, venue, snacks you may enjoy, wider experience is all priced carefully in the fee. As written earlier, The Chunky Needle works very hard to keep prices reasonable and fair.

I guess in a long winded, round-a-about way, I’m just trying to say, “try, try again.” You aren’t going to nail it on your first go. Come to the class prepared to go home with something custom made by your own hands. Unless you have loads of chunky knitting experience prior to the workshop, you quite possibly are not going to go home with a finished article that is catalogue ready. It’s a complete bonus if the finished work is perfection in your eyes. It takes time, experience and patience getting a newly learnt craft ‘just right’ so be kind to yourself and enjoy the process.

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I have to be kinder to myself as well. It can be challenging trying to ensure 10 or more of you go home with something I’d consider Chunky Needle worthy in two hours or less. I can place too high expectations on myself as the teacher to ensure you go home thrilled with your new make. I’m a people pleaser by nature and work so hard to make sure my students leave with a smile. I need to sit back now and again and remember there’s just one of me and that all I can do is my best at any given moment. Anything beyond that is a level of perfection that even the “PROS” can’t achieve.

Onward and upward my Chunkies. I think I need a long hot bath and some R&R.

Arm Knit Workshop June 2019, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Arm Knit Workshop June 2019, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Workshop Review

Where have the last five or six months gone? Running a small knit business like The Chunky Needle, I’m always jumping the calendar ahead, looking at the colder, darker months that inevitably will return. As the arm knitting and cushions workshops wind down over the next six weeks or so, I made a quick little video looking back at some of the recent classes held over the last couple of months.

June marks the first year anniversary of our very first workshop that was held at Meggies Lifestyle in Stow-on-the-Wold. When The Chunky Needle debuted 18 months ago, workshops were the furthest thing from my mind as I didn’t realise the opportunities that existed in the workshop scene. Man-o-man how much I didn’t know. The variety and wealth of crafting courses offered in various venues around the country has really helped revitalise struggling High Street shops by bringing in new potential clientele as well as revenue from the workshop itself. The relationship between venue and Maker is important as it allows us crafters an opportunity to showcase our work to new locales as well as possible buyers. It’s a win win for both.

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It’s so funny. The first workshop I rolled up to I brought way too much with me. It was a cushion class and since perfecting my 14” cushion, I know only 500g of wool will finish the job. I brought close to 2kg for each student! I was so afraid they’d need more than what they actually required. Needless to say, those first students got alot more for their money than just a cushion. They probably could’ve made a lap blanket, scarf, hat, etc. with all the excess wool they went home with! I travelled with my banner, ladder shelves, blankets, cushions the whole shebang! Meg must have thought me so clueless. LOL. Fact is, I WAS! I am much more streamlined now. Bring just enough, no more or less. Oh and the shelving ladder is safely stored in the garage!

I’ve certainly put more miles on my car than I ever thought I would when The Chunky Needle launched. This in itself is quite an accomplishment for me. Having moved to the UK in 2004 from Vancouver, Canada, I lived in London and didn’t drive a car for about 9 years! Naturally living in London a car is more of a hindrance than a necessity. Furthermore, you all drive on the wrong side of the road and seem to mainly drive a stick (again something I didn’t do as in Canada I drove an automatic transmission.) It wasn’t until 2014 when my husband INSISTED I get behind the wheel as we had twin boys arriving. Well long story, short; the whole experience has been eye opening. Whilst living in Maidenhead, Berkshire, my first goals were to successfully drive to the local Sainsbury’s on my own. My ultimate dream was of reaching The Oracle Shopping Centre in Reading someday. LOL when I look back now I’m amazed that I now bomb all around the country from workshop to workshop. North, South, East, West, off I go with my 4x4 jammed full of merino and acrylic wool balls off to my next venue. I must say though, if we didn’t have Google Maps I’m quite certain I’d still be walking to the grocery store.

400+ students in one year makes me gape in amazement. It’s funny though as it’s the most natural thing for me to do. As a former classroom teacher, I’ve missed being in front of students sharing knowledge with them in a funny relaxed manner. I enjoy teaching so much, so being able to run these workshops really fulfills that missing need in me.

As the season winds up I’m looking forward to some much needed rest but I’m already super excited about all the new venues that I’ll be meeting from September onward. I have a load of dates already launched but have room for more if you or someone you know thinks a Chunky Needle workshop is a perfect fit for your space. Go to www.thechunkyneedle.com/workshops/ to see what’s coming up later in the year.

The smiles and often look of disbelief on the faces of my students after they’ve completed what they considered the impossible, is addictive. The feedback has been so rewarding and encouraging. I love that everyone and every age can participate in a Chunky Needle workshop. Young and old alike can sit side by side creatively. How rare that is. As I type now, I’m gearing up for another workshop tonight in Cardiff. I love it. I’m so happy.

Stay Chunky Dolls.

Cx

The Power of Knitting

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A few weeks back I was approached by a rather large international computer company asking if The Chunky Needle might run some in-house workshops for their corporate mental health initiatives. I said, “absolutely!” Then last week a music streaming company contacted me asking if I might be free to attend their retreat in Portugal in May, again, offering a mindful workshop for their employees. This all got me to thinking, “hmmm… there might be something to this.”

There is no doubt about the mental benefits that come from tasks such as knitting and crafting. Last May, The Indpendent delved deeper into the benefits by writing, “Knitting can reduce anxiety, depression, chronic pain and slow dementia.” Furthermore they found that knitting “can ultimately save the NHS millions of pounds” by promoting mental and physical well being.

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Whenever I run an arm knit workshop there comes a point in the two hour session where all goes quiet. Deep mindfulness takes over as each person, for a brief time, are at one with the task in front of them. Vanished are the mobile phones, social media, news distractions and even conversation. The quiet peace of knitting takes over where for a few brief moments all goes silent. The quiet can be quite disarming as we are uncomfortable sitting without the chatter of noise clammering within and around us. The silence inevitably breaks with someone acknowledging how wonderful knitting is for mindfulness and mental peace.

Mental Health America did research into the power of knitting and published in January:

The benefits include:

  • Lowered blood pressure

  • Reduced depression and anxiety

  • Slowed onset of dementia

  • Distraction from chronic pain

  • Increased sense of wellbeing

  • Reduced loneliness and isolation

The last listed benefit, reduction of isolation and loneliness is so vitally accurate. I’m always amazed by the initiative made by solo people to book onto one of my chunky knitting workshops. So often many arrive alone, unsure of what to expect and a little apprehensive of sitting among others that may know one another. I’m always quick to take note of who these individuals are, so that I may make greater effort at getting to know them, chat to them and make them feel at ease. I’m naturally a shy person and would be hesitant to try new things on my own, so the people that come out to these workshops always seem so brave to me. The power of sitting among other like minded people, whether you know them or not, is astounding. For two hours strangers sit amongst one another carrying out a very independent activity, yet the power of just sitting with other people is palpable and makes you feel like you’ve accomplished much more than knitting a blanket by the end of the workshop.

Knitting for the novice, particular arm knitting, becomes an exercise of concentration and focus. Learning the new tasks of moving stitches and loops from one arm to the next encourages our brain to work in ways unfamiliar to it. So often the dominant arm picks up the momentum so much more readily than the weaker. The mental awareness tasked upon the brain to spring into action as it is challenged to undergo activities not usually asked, makes for a fully mindful opportunity. For a brief time the mind and body are working in complete unison without the distraction of our demanding lives that today require constant mulit-tasking and are incumbent upon sensory overload and hyper stimulation. It’s easy to see the multiple benefits that activities such as arm knitting can bring to the workplace and demanding environments we live in today.

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Furthermore, I love the inclusiveness of workshops such as arm knitting. It simply is a task that EVERYONE can do. Young, old, people with disabilities, men, women, children everyone, can participate. It’s a mental and physical activity that doesn’t require the toughest of bods or years of skill acquisition. Anyone can simply roll up to a class and participate successfully. What’s not to love about that?

So The Chunky Needle is very proud to encourage and engage in the powers of knitting on both our mental and physical health. I look forward to working with other corporate organisations as I bring the beautiful peace and quiet that come along with knitting into the workplace. For more information on how The Chunky Needle can be included in your work place mental health schemes, drop me an email at info@thechunkyneedle.com

Until next time, stay healthy and enjoy the quiet.

Cx

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The Chunky Needle Turns One!

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The Chunky Needle is one year old! Wow how did that happen? When I look back at where I started, a lonely, bored former secondary school teacher, stay-at-home Mum with too much time on my hands to now having no time, it’s pretty amazing how my world has shifted on its’ axis. As I’ve written before I’ve been a knitter since the late 80s and was chunky knitting way back in 2005 of course not knowing then how I’d actually make money at it in years to come. I saw a chunky knit post on an Australian friend’s Facebook page nearly 2 years ago and I immediately knew I needed to make these blankets, scarves, cushions etc. I at last found a new purpose. Time was then spent on learning the craft. I knew how to knit already and had been familiar with using 25mm needles but 40mm was something entirely new. You can’t simply buy these sorts of needles at Hobbycraft. I started online research and was amazed to see all the chunky knitting already going on here in the UK. I had some of my very own wooden chunky needles made from a local wood turner found close to my home in The Forest of Dean. I sourced a wool supplier and slowly began putting all the pieces together. With no website building training or experience, that alone took me a good 6 weeks or so to get my head around. Thankfully my husband has already launched a very successful home based, online business and without his expertise and general know-how, it’s unlikely I’d get the business side of The Chunky Needle up and running.

My first official order came from America of all places!. On the back of a blanket gifted to a NY City blogger, I was able to get a little bit of coverage in US social media. The first order was for a Dandelion Infinity Scarf. I remember the order clearly as I worked carefully with the buyer to ensure the length was just right.

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The orders that followed all became a bit of a blur. A slow steady trickle started to emerge. Of course my first summer trading happened to fall in the longest summer heatwave Britain has seen in decades. I spent most of the summer elbow deep in merino wool as I prepared for Country Homes and Interiors Magazine show in November. It was a long hot summer of knitting and always thinking ahead to Christmas and the months to come. Summer seemed to go by in a bit of a blur as I spent much of it with needles in hand. I’ve learnt how to better time manage and have an action plan for this year. ;-)

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I completed my first market in Cheltenham in July and managed to swell a whopping £110 worth of stock on one of the hottest days recorded. I sweltered in that market, melted in front of any punter that dared come near my smelly self, but I made good friends and meeting customers face-to-face was just the sort of boost I needed at that time. I attended a Going To Market workshop in the days prior to Cheltenham and it gave me just enough confidence to make my first market experience worthwhile.

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In August my business started to move in an unexpected direction. I was approached by a gift shop in Stow-on-the-Wold about holding a cushion workshop. I hadn’t even thought there was market or interest in teaching the secrets of chunky knitting, but little did I know, I was about to open a pandora’s box. 315 students later, I’m rocking and rolling the workshop world. I’ve done arm knitting and cushion workshops in counties all over the country and have several requests for more. It’s kept me incredibly busy with little time to blog, knit, clean house, etc. but it’s been quite rewarding. As a former teacher, I love being able to get back in front of a group of students and teach something that I enjoy. It’s been quite uplifting for me. The workshop world has really taken off in the last few years as many cafes, work spaces etc are diversifying into small crafts and DIY.

The autumn was a blur of prepping for the big magazine show in November as well as keeping up with the regular commission orders that were coming in quite frequently. From October onward I had consistent Making work. By far the stockinette, opal blanket was/is the best seller for Christmas 2018. I think I must have done 30 of those blankets by the time Christmas rolled round.

Images courtesy of @shnordic Instagram

Images courtesy of @shnordic Instagram

The November show in Henley-on-Thames was crazy. A beautiful show with awesome vendors, I was super lucky to probably get the funniest and most chilled neighbours at the event. I was able to secure some social media coverage from Country Homes & Interiors magazine when it was discovered they were using chunky knit stockings in a sponsor display by a competitor knitter that hadn’t even paid for their place in the show. There were many red faced magazine folk on hand when it was quickly discovered. I saw & spoke to hundreds of people over those four days. It was exhausting but was so much fun getting The Chunky Needle ‘out there.’ The feedback was super encouraging. Will I do it again? Probably not. I think workshops and web sales with a good Google presence are the way forward for this little company. No regrets though. So much learnt.

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As December rolled into the new year, I was hopeful a little respite might come my way as Christmas was busier than I had anticipated for a first year company. I was mistaken. LOL. A super collaboration with a Danish homeware supplier was presented and I had to act upon it. 20 blankets were needed in about 4 weeks. Mid January to mid Feb I was deep into about 50kgs of merino, felting, knitting, shipping, repeat. All this whilst still doing on average 2 workshops a week. One weekend in January saw me do 5 workshops in 72 hours over 3 counties. I’m a crazy person. I’ll definitely never do THAT again!

As March 1st approached I was taking workshop bookings well in to May, June and even DECEMBER! I’ve got a dual wreath/blanket offering with a gorgeous Cotswold boutique hotel that they’ve secured me for. As The Chunky’s first birthday rolled round, I have an interior design collaboration with a European hotelier in the works and have secured a mental health, corporate workshop day, for a tech company at their two London based HQ’s. With regular workshops, private parties (which are really taking off) and regular custom orders, things don’t appear to be slowing down. In truth I’ve been writing this blog post over the last 10 days! LOL

By the first year, The Chunky Needle has sold product to seven countries. Have had over 400 orders. Over 40 workshops. Over 300 workshop students and 36,500 unique website visitors. Simply put, WOW!

I’ve definitely learnt quite a bit as the year has gone on. I’m learning to say, ‘no thank you,’ to some of the offers coming through, as I can’t forget I do have a young family to raise - oh yeah remember that?! I know that social media can most of the time be a wonderful place to network and promote, but it can also be a devilish thorn in one’s side that can make a person lose perspective. There will always be someone with better posts, better pictures, more followers, etc. but all so often this is an ‘insta-sham.,’ and not to be trusted. Lastly I’ve learnt to not be so hard on myself. Every day presents something new to learn, and it’s only normal that mistakes will be made along the way. I have a good support network around me who encourage and back me up whenever needed.

Anyway, ten days later, I think I’m going to leave this blog post a bit unfinished, and say “it’s time to move on.” Thank you so much to every customer, student, venue, supplier, friend, family member, etc. that have made this first year such an enormous success. I do wonder what year two shall bring.

Until next time, stay Chunky.

Cx

The Chunky Footstool

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Hello Dolls. It’s been nearly a month since my last post. Just crazy how the weeks are flying by. Spring has sprung in my neck of the woods and despite my thinking that things might slow down a bit, it’s been quite the contrary. March 1st will be our official 1 year birthday and when I reflect on how it all began I’m amazed at how fast the company has grown. More on that later….

Firstly today is the launch of our much anticipated new product our Chunky Footstool! This little beauty has been on my ‘to-do’ list for months. I traveled all the way to Belgium 3 days before Christmas to learn the secrets behind the pouffe and thanks to Coconknits and The Sewing Loft in Bruges, I can now bring my version to the UK market. I’m not going to lie, it’s been a challenge sourcing the supplies this side of the English Channel, but at last I’m able to bring you up to 14 different colour combinations for this gorgeous little footstool.

There has been a load of interest in my launching this footstool to workshop and I’m excited to say that, “YES, this footstool will be coming to a workshop near you soon.” Stay tuned for more information.

Speaking of workshops, holy moly this gal has been busy. I’m pretty much booked up through to May and workshops are now being allocated for the autumn months. The arm knit trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, thank goodness! Keep up to date with my Event Page for all the latest workshops coming up.

So I’m going to bolt for now and just keep this short and sweet. We’ve got the Chunky Needle Birthday party coming up in ten days so stay tuned for birthday prezzies passed on to all my supporters and followers. Love you guys loads and thank you so very much for your continued support. Hey, should any of you with a Google or Gmail account, want to share the love and drop me a KIND review to help my website ranking, I’d be super grateful. Click HERE to leave a review.

Will be back here again on March 1st. Stay tuned.

Love,

Cx

Chunky ARM-ageddon

Wake me never.

Wake me never.

Well I’m not one for conventional marathons that’s for sure. The training. Time time commitment. The physical, excruciating pain of it, not to mention the chaffing. Yikes. No, instead I run (get it?) knitting marathons - five workshops, three counties, 160kg of wool to transport, in a period of about 56 hours. I’m a nutter. No I’m just a knit wit.

This past weekend I put onto the calendar about 2 months ago. I’m having a hard time saying ‘no’ to offers and why would I want to? The weekend of January 18th-20th became known as Chunky Arm -(get it?) Ageddon. I said ‘yes’ to everything. Yes I can order that much wool. Yes I can transport it all around the country. Yes I can on my own drag bags and bags of wool across shopping mall floors, mud soaked car parks, snowy winter escapes. I am CHUNKY hear me ROAR is my new mantra.

My first arm knit workshop saw me with a group of gorgeous Mamma’s in Blockley, just outside of Moreton-in-Marsh, GLOS. These yummy mummies are PTA Mammas and this workshop was designed to raise money for their school committee. I spent my Friday evening listening to retro 90s tunes, swathed in merino whilst the ladies knitted, knattered, drank pink prosecco and downed the yummiest canapes of foccacia and olives. How posh they run in them Cotswolds. I loved it. The snow started to gently fall over the limestone hills and those newly knit chunkies quickly turned into capes and shawls to combat the chill.

The Mummies of Blockley FOS

The Mummies of Blockley FOS

Saturday the alarm went off at a respectable 7am but let’s be honest, as a Mum of twin boys, the wake up call came much earlier. The car was loaded with 85kg of merino and acrylic. Off I go east to the counties of Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. First stop, High Wycombe’s Eden Centre and the newly opened Craft Coop. A lovely haven of all things crafty. This was a bit of a challenging set up as I had booked on far too many people for the space available and I had to park (aka: UNLOAD) way toooooo far away from the shop without the immediate aid of a device on wheels. After some wrangling, a shopping trolley was sourced (Thanks Tesco. Hope you’ve found it by now.)

Craft Coop, High Wycombe, BUCKS

Craft Coop, High Wycombe, BUCKS

17 of us (18 with me) filled the back of the shop with yarn flying here, there and everywhere. Without enough table space, we had to get creative with our cast on, but we got there in the end. There were plenty of smiles and laughs and the blankets made were just fantastic. Super proud of those ladies as they got my day off to a flying start.

The ladies of Craft Coop

The ladies of Craft Coop

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After a private 1-1 with the lovely Zoe, time was inching ever closer to my next workshop in Henley-on-Thames, about a 35 minute drive in traffic on a Saturday afternoon. YIKES! It was now 13:50 and my class was at 3. I always like to arrive 30 min before, but at this Henley venue I need loads of time as I need to unload and then re-locate my car. HAHA yeah right! Find parking on a rainy Saturday afternoon in Henley close enough to get back to my workshop venue in less than 5 minutes! HA!!!! Well I had to make an emergency call to an old friend that lives locally. I hate imposing on people at the last minute, but this was a do or die scenario. I arranged for my friend to walk down to my venue, pick up my car, drive it to their house, park it, then come pick me up after the class. I mean seriously, what amazing friends right? I felt a bit like a teenager again having my Dad come pick me up from the mall.

After all the logistics were sorted I had a group of lovely ladies join me in the old Tudor, wood beamed room of what is now Zizzi restaurants hire space. It’s a charming rustic room that I do enjoy using, but will be looking for a new space for my next Henley class (long story, not going to go into it.) I had two special guests attend this arm knit class the lovely Lynne Lambourne of interior styling and design Love Nellie and her delightful bestie, women’s alternative health expert and nutritionist, Angie Best, came to check out The Chunky Needle and see what this arm knitting deal is all about. Well they came, they saw and conquered as gorgeous chunky knit blankets were made by them and all my students combined.

Lynne Lambourne and bestie Angie Best

Lynne Lambourne and bestie Angie Best

Chunky Knits in Henley

Chunky Knits in Henley

With little time to relax, it was time to call my “Dad” to come collect me as my next workshop was about to start 20 minutes away in lovely Marlow, BUCKS. 7pm start time with arrival approx 6:20. OMG thank GOD the fabulous Resolute Cafe in Higginson Park, allowed me to park right outside their restaurant. By this point hangry (no food was had yet - seriously) and knackered it was a joyous relief to park literally out the door. One of the staff members helped me unload upon his own initiative and that was such a welcomed offer. The Resolute was quiet and peaceful. The tables were set up and everything was ready to go. Best part for me was that this restaurant specializes in artisan pizzas - so of course, it was time to eat. I treated myself to a much needed glass of merlot and enjoyed The Resolute pizza entirely. Seriously, the pizza is WOW!

The Resolute Cafe, Marlow, BUCKS  The next arm knit at Resolute will be Saturday Feb 23rd 4pm. Book  HERE

The Resolute Cafe, Marlow, BUCKS

The next arm knit at Resolute will be Saturday Feb 23rd 4pm. Book HERE

Class finished bang on time at 9pm and I was back in my car ready to head back to Gloucestershire by 9:15. One hour, 45 minutes back to the countryside. I don’t know about you, but long night drives just feel like a never ending foray into a black hole. Wow. Definitely needed a services stop at Oxford!

Sunday morning arrived far too quickly but alas, the birds sang. My last Arm-ageddon workshop of the weekend. The award winning, Malt House Emporium in Tewkesbury was to be my finale. Oh and what a finale it was. Seriously I don’t even know how to describe this super warehouse of interior design genius. Two, expansive floors of vintage, craft, new makes, antique, all under one roof and styled as though you’ve entered a time machine. It’s like IKEA as the for proper grown-ups and the intellectually design savvy. No flat pack here! (Sorry IKEA, no offense meant.)

Our workshop space was suited and booted and I was so happy that I brought a few Chunky Needle blanekts and cushions with me as I couldn’t not take a couple styled photos. The inspiration was swarming. I could spend an entire day in there taking shots of my blankets against all the gorgeous furniture pieces.

Look at this place!!! The Malt House Emporium, Tewkesbury, GLOS

Look at this place!!! The Malt House Emporium, Tewkesbury, GLOS

The class was a gem. Lovely group of ladies coming together on a chilly Sunday afternoon to learn a new skill, have a laugh and make gorgeous chunky knits. What more could one want? The beautiful Ferns Tea Room kept us warm and the blankets added to the cozy ambiance. So many onlookers were amazed by what we were producing as they hadn’t seen anything like it. It really was the cherry on the Arm-aggedon cake. I look forward to my next cushion workshop at The Malt House on March 10th. Book HERE:

The Malt House Emporium, GLOUCESTERSHIRE

The Malt House Emporium, GLOUCESTERSHIRE

Workshop was over by 3:30 and that drew a line under my chunky knit marathon. What a crazy weekend. Overall I met 80 women and carried 160kgs of wool. Imagine that. 80 chunky knit blankets made. Seriously WOW!

There’s no time to rest however. I’m back at Bowden Stores in Market Harborough, Leicestershire on Wednesday night and then two new venues in Cirencester and Stroud, GLOS on Friday and Saturday this week. February starts with a bang with cushion workshops in the Forest of Dean, blanket workshops at the highly regarded Tudor Farmhouse as well as many other venues. I’m super excited and super busy lol!

Thank you to everyone that helped me make this weekend possible, and many thanks to all the venues that welcomed me through their doors. I look forward to future collaborations in the coming months.

Thanks for reading everyone and stay Chunky.

Cx

Hello 2019

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And just like that, it’s January. We’ve managed another successful journey around our star. By nature I’m the type of person that looks backward. Hell, I went to uni for four years to get a History degree, so I’ve always been inclined to reflect on the past. For whatever reason this year however, I’m motivated by the future like never before. Personal pursuits as well as business are inspiring me to jump out of bed each morning. Tired of the usual new year resolutions, this year I’ve decided it shall be the Year of Me. I’m going to take up a new sport (tennis), learn a new skill (hello sewing machine….again) and reach new business goals, up, up, UP!

Before the Christmas break I took myself on a little business trip, yes Chunky Needle hit the road. For awhile now I’ve been following The Sewing Loft in Brugge, Belguim along with their workshop guest, Kelly from Coconknits. I adored the ottoman made in Kelly’s “Poof I’m in Love'“ workshop and was determined that I had to go and learn for myself. So after some convincing, I dragged, “Mr. Chunky” along with our twinnie boys to Belguim, three days before Christmas. It was an easy arm twist, as who can possibly resist Europe at Christmas?

Brugge Christmas Market

Brugge Christmas Market

So off we went for two nights, three days. Home just in time for Santa Claus to arrive. The workshop was held in the coolest workshop space I’ve seen yet. Housed in an industrial space, the workroom has touches of loft-room chic woven into its design aesthetic. Run by Magali, The Sewing Loft is full of creative energy. Entering the space was sort of trippy as I’d viewed it so often on social media, that actually being in the room was kind of awe inspiring. Isn’t it funny how Instagram can make usual spaces, people and places extraordinary?

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After taking it all in, I knew I was in a place of comfort. Just four of us ladies were taking the class so close to Christmas, and both Kelly and Magali made us feel most welcome, not to mention the most darling shaggy haired hound at our feet. The sun was shining, Christmas was coming and the energy was fantastically special. Most of the class was spoken in Flemish/Dutch but every effort was made to include English in the tutorial. I felt most welcome. I introduced myself and explained that I was from England and had a small business called The Chunky Needle. The ladies, including the other students, were most interested and we all shared business cards, etc. I explained that I often run arm knitting workshops here in the UK and Kelly was happy for me to show a little demonstration on how I cast on. Kelly showed us examples of her chunky knit blankets (she uses merino wool too) and we shared ‘industry chat’ on wool suppliers, felting processes, etc. I felt so inspired by my three hours with Kelly, Magali and the other ladies. Kelly and I agreed that it was a nice experience sharing best practice with another in the industry.

In the future The Chunky Needle may be able to produce similar footstools but in the meantime, I can’t thank Kelly at Coconknits enough.

So despite my 2019 energy to look forward, this blog is looking ever so slightly backward at an amazing morning of industry best practice, sharing and professional development, not to mention meeting new friends on the continent. Thank you Kelly and Magali so much, and Happy New Year.

So as I sign off, for this, my first blog of 2019, I want to wish you, those that read this, a very happy new year and all the best for a prosperous start to 2019. I’m not going anywhere and I can’t wait to share more of The Chunky Needle with you in the coming months.

With love,

Cx

The finished “Poof, I’m in Love.”

The finished “Poof, I’m in Love.”

The End (for now...)

The Knackered Knitter

The Knackered Knitter

There’s a title. The End. Or is it just the beginning? Either way, today I finished my last formal workshop commitment for 2018. When I launched The Chunky Needle on March 1st I had not anticipated moving into workshops. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response with my workshop launch. Getting back in front of a classroom again has been a complete joy (was a former secondary teacher in a past life.) I have met some amazing women over the course of the last several months and have had so many laughs. The venues whom have hosted me have been most welcoming and their support over social media has been so valued. I’ve met wonderful Makers and Traders at craft shows and exhibitions and have been welcomed so warmly by all. Suppliers have been super helpful and encouraging and I’ve been able to rely on them for fast dispatch and flexibility.

The Chunky Needle’s first Christmas season is proving to be strong. Daily new orders are coming in for bespoke chunky knits and infinity scarves seem to be very popular at the moment. The Opal stockinette blanket continues to be hands-down the best seller with more than 10 ordered over the last few weeks. The Ready Made shop is now fully stocked with new items arriving daily for last minute Christmas shopping. Although wool orders for bespoke projects has now closed, Fresh Off The Needle knits are good to go and can be posted as late as December 21st for Christmas arrival. (UK Only) Chunky Needle knits have found new homes in Tenerife, Austria, USA and Australia this holiday season! Simply amazing. I must say, I feel a real sense of pride knowing that Chunky Needle blankets, cushions and scarves will find their way under trees this Christmas. I’m bursting.

The Bestseller. Opal, Stockinette. Photo credit @shnordic Instagram

The Bestseller. Opal, Stockinette. Photo credit @shnordic Instagram

So as 2018 closes and 2019 rolls up, I’m beyond grateful for all the collaborations, introductions, and orders that have found their way to my studio. I’m most grateful to my customers for putting their trust into a new brand and small independent retailer. Without you there would be no Chunky Needle.

Sending much love and thanks to you and your family over the upcoming Christmas season. Keep warm and spread the Chunky love.

See you next year. ;-)

Cx

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First Major Show Christmas 2018

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So here I am; two days into four at my first major showcase. I’m at the point where I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s the experience that matters most and that the feedback and networking achieved is all worth it. Yikes, yes, that’s my silver lining. I was told by knowing folk prior to this event to make absolutely as much stock as possible. Well, I did. Whilst the world was basking away in 30+ degree weather in July/August, I was snowed under a pile of merino. The time, money, energy, anxiety, travel, money (again) etc that has gone into this show has been deafening. Will I do it again you ask….? We shall see. At this moment in time, no. I brought my goods to a demographic that I thought would appreciate and respect the work. A lot of research went into this. Annoyingly at the half way mark, my lil company hasn’t translated. For every person that says, ‘what is it?’ there’s another whispering, “I can do that myself” and other’s asking, “do you sell the wool?” Don’t get me wrong, my chunky knits have gone down well. The minute I bring out the needles and craft in situ, the crowds gather. The comments, feedback and encouragement has been wonderful, but is it worth the commitment? Time will tell.

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On the upside, I have met some cracking people. My stall neighbours are ACE and we have been having the biggest laughs. The encouragement we offer one another is amazing and each time someone lands a sale, we all do a happy jig for one another. There is much spirit.

We’ve got two more big days ahead; weekend punters with all their expectation. I’m hopeful. I’m positive. My chunky knits will make sense! To me they are the ultimate Christmas pressie. Something totally new under the tree. C’mon Great Britain feel the Chunky love!

I’ll update you all next week with a follow up. Go BIG or Go Home!

Till next time.

Cx

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Christmas 2018 Launch

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Well it has arrived; Christmas 2018 launched this morning at midnight. For a first collection it’s small, but loved. We’ve already taken orders for kids Santa hats and are excited that we’ve teamed with Illustries who are stocking our hats on their website and Not On The High Street. I often need to remind myself that The Chunky Needle only opened shop eight months ago and every day that turns over is a new learning experience on what to do (and not do) in the year ahead. I definitely know that Christmas needs planning months ahead. As soon as January rolls over, planning for 2019 needs to take shape. There are so many things I want to make and create but time just got the better of me this year. With that said, the goodies on offer I think are lovely and festive.

The days keep ticking over and I’m busier than ever prepping for Stonor Park. I’m nervous, not going to lie. I had three dreams about it last night and everything always goes wrong in each of them. I’m terrified I’m going to forget something vital and won’t be able to reach it. I’m travelling two hours from home for this show and won’t have any family support until the last two days of the show! Yikes! I’ll be able to take a super deep breath come Monday November 26th - I can’t wait!

I held two great workshops last week as well. Inside Out in Cheltenham and Craft Coop in Maidenhead on Saturday. Beautiful cushions and blankets were made, I was super thrilled with the outcomes.

The Chunky Needle has so many workshops coming up, so do make sure you keep an eye on our Events page to make sure you don’t miss out on an opportunity coming to your region.

Gift cards and workshop vouchers have also been added to the website a great gift experience for the crafty person in your life.

So there you have it. I hope you’ll enjoy the Christmas collection. Don’t delay on Christmas orders, the last day to order wool in time for Christmas delivery is 10th December. Santa is on his way!

Have a good week everyone.

Cx