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.
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. ;-)
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.
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.
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.
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.