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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 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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Christmas is Coming - I'm Freaking Out!

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Okay, okay, I know it’s ridiculous to be stressed out by this, and in real life terms (ie: mommy and wife terms) I haven’t even given Chrimbo a second, or third thought (perhaps that’s part of the problem?!) For those of us in the retail world Xmas 2018 is launching right about now. Remember all those hot summer weeks we had? Smart retailers, or those in the ‘know’ were quietly working on their winter collections whilst the rest of the world enjoyed the heatwave. Now I know how to manage my time next summer because right now I’M FREAKING OUT! Majorly freaking out. I’d take a photo showing my real state of play but I quite frankly don’t have time for selfies.

Have I bitten off more than I can chew? Perhaps. I mean with a major four day posh shopping event coming up on November 21st that will require about 75 retail worthy items to make, on top of my eight workshops between now end of November, along with the online Christmas photoshoot & launch, developing a baby line, processing new orders that are coming in daily, launching new collaborations with festivals, hotels, venues webshops, I’m going cray cray - oh yeah and today - I got to attend a speed awareness class that has eaten into my child free hours leaving this day production free. On top of the work demands (which I do love by the way) I’m still a full time mum to 4 year old twin boys, a furry baby, a husband and have house guests arriving this weekend, a haunted house to erect and dismantle on the 31st and a house-full of kiddos, parents and sleepover guests on the 3rd-4th November for our BonFire Blow Out! My housework has fallen by the wayside and I have piles of laundry all over the house. It’s total chaos at Chunky HQ, but I’m on it. Kind of.

The 1st Chunky Christmas will launch on 12th November. I feel Christmas retailing should begin after 11th November, Remembrance Day. As a Canadian, we commemorate the 11th of November every year formally and as such it deserves its own season/day of recognition. Christmas chatter takes away from that season, so, I will not launch until after that date. This year there won’t be a lengthy list of Chunky bits/bobs as I’m still exploring which direction I want The Chunky Needle to evolve in and need to observe what works and what doesn’t. But stay tuned.

So for now that’s where things are at. I’ve launched with the Tudor Farmhouse in Clearwell, Glos this week and will bring you some lovely workshops into the New Year. Exciting opportunities are abound.

Parent teacher interview, now; must run. Barely a minute to stay up-to-date with you lot.

Speak soon!

Cx

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Why The Terms?

Credit: BeCozi

Credit: BeCozi

Hello lovelies happy Monday and Happy October 1st! WOW! It really is October, how did that happen so darn quickly? October is probably my favourite month of the year. Still on British Summer Time our evenings still have a sliver of light. The mornings crisp and the afternoons warm enough to not need several layers. The colours around us are striking with the clearest of blue skies, and forest greens, yellows, reds, oranges emerge deeper each day. Living close to the Forest of Dean brings a sensory overload and I’m grateful.

October will see a very busy month for The Chunky Needle. 5 workshops are planned and will see me travel several miles in all directions. Alongside the marketing, planning and prep for these great events, I am still busily prepping for the Stonor Park show in November. Building stock has become my prime daily focus. I’ve been told that there is ‘no such thing as having too much’ so I’m beavering away everyday making this and that.

Speaking of workshops however, I wanted to touch on the reasoning behind The Chunky Needle’s terms and conditions as this past week they were queried and I want to explain. Fundamentally, workshop tickets sold are non-refundable. Transferring tickets to future events is a possibility, however, refund is not and here’s why. Wool is ordered from a supplier at the time of your booking. At times the supplier runs out of stock in particular colours, so The Chunky Needle orders your wool early to ensure it’s safe and secured for you upon your event. Naturally, my supplier also has T&C’s that customers must adhere to, and mainly, once wool is dispatched The Chunky Needle is unable to return it for refund, thus making it impossible for my customers to request refund after their wool has been ordered. Does that make sense? In addition, in order to keep costs lower (merino wool is a luxury fiber and therefore expensive) I always need a minimum of 10 students per course. Should this number drop below 10 due to an individual requesting refund, it will impact the cost of everyone’s ticket price. I know, boring stuff eh? Once I’m at it, I’ll remind that bespoke orders (blankets, cushions, wreaths, scarves, etc) are also non-refundable for obvious reasons - these items are bespoke to the buyer. It’s all rather dull I know but I want to be transparent. When booking onto a course please do take a moment and click the TC’s link on the booking page.

Oh yeah, an awesome night was had in Newnham-on-Severn last week making arm knit blankets. Super proud of the world these ladies produced. I hope they are loving their new Chunkies. Stay tuned for further dates in Newnham to be announced this week.

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So that’s all for now. Kids are off to school and I’m heading up to the studio to start work on today’s projects. I’m growing a wee bit concerned by how few steps I make each day but I’ll save that for another blog post in the future.

Have a lovely start to the week and enjoy the new month.

Cx

Onward, Upward...

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So week two has passed and The Chunky Needle is continuing to evolve.  I enjoyed attending the Made By Hand event in Cheltenham last weekend and was so impressed by the quality and caliber of artisans on display.  It gave me so much food for thought and I was thrilled to see only one other chunky knit artist on site.  As a local Gloucesterian (is that word?!) I hope someday I too might get to the Made By Hand event.

I've been thrilled to send off my first two dispatches this week.  Both New York and London are snuggling down with The Chunky Needle's merino blankets. What an amazing first couple of weeks! 

My first dispatches.  Opal and Pewter on display.

My first dispatches.  Opal and Pewter on display.

The week has ended with further research into my first market stall opportunities and with a national blogger that would like to work with me.  The sky is the limit and I can't wait to get into the studio each day.

Stay tuned for exciting days ahead and do sign up to my "Off The Needle" online magazine.  Until next week, have a chunky ol time! Cx