chunky knit blanket

The "Perfect" Workshop

IMG_8670.JPG

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.

IMG_8678.jpg

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.

IMG_8672.jpg

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.

IMG_8673.jpg

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.

IMG_1350 3.JPG

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

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

IMG_5475.JPG

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

First Major Show Christmas 2018

IMG_4276.JPG

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.

IMG_4270.JPG

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

IMG_4251.jpg

Happy Halloween!

IMG_3331.jpg

Okay anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a freak about Halloween. It’s a Canadian thing. In North America we pretty much prepare for October 31st 4-6 weeks in advance! After an hour or so of much needed work this morning, I shall be turning Bank House into a spooky haunted Georgian House in prep for tonight. Stay tuned to my insta stories for updates!

The days have been flying by and I often feel like I’m being tugged in a million directions. I’m busy - with EVERYTHING. It’s a good thing indeed, and the growth The Chunky Needle has experienced has been incredible. On top of knitting all those new chunky blankets and cushions for The Country Homes and Interiors show at Stonor Park on November 22, I’m taking new orders daily and am still running wonderful workshops meeting loads of new people and having so much fun.

Last week I was at two great workshops. The first at a new venue: The Bowden Stores in Market Harborough Leicestershire. It’s the furthest I’ve traveled yet for a workshop, but was so worth it as I had such a good time. I’ll be back to Bowden on Wednesday January 23rd for the much sought after Arm Knit class. Go here for more info: ARM KNIT BOWDEN

Next up was the wonderful Meggie’s in Stow-on-the-Wold. This was my third workshop at this lovely little Cotswold Lifestyle shop and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ll next be at Meggies on November 17th for a Christmas wreath workshop. Click HERE.

So as the calendar flips to another month - a very VERY busy month. You shall find me knit knattering with my chunky needles, and making as many chunky blankets, cushions, scarves, ugh as possible. I love it so much, I just hope you all do too. Please come on out and see me at Stonor Park. Would love to meet you!

Have a great Halloween everyone! Stay safe.

Cx

IMG_3682.JPG