Love Our Indies: Wild and Woolly

One of the original inspirations behind the Love Our Indies feature was meeting Anna, the owner of Wild and Woolly, a new yarn shop in Hackney. I visited there for the opening party and collected some audio for the podcast a few months ago. I was really struck by the unique way Anna had put her shop together. It's not easy running a bricks and mortar store and I love to see new stores open as it is so important for crafters to interact in *real life* rather than always online. How else can your queue grow explosively as you see shawls and sweaters in the wild, moving on real people?!?

So with that in mind, I invited Anna to tell us a bit about herself, her store and what it took to make it a reality.

(c) Wild and Woolly

(c) Wild and Woolly

Please introduce of yourself

I'm a 43 year old former website planner, with a long standing love of yarn and fibre arts in general, and knitting in particular. I'm originally from Norwich but have been living in Hackney, east London since the late 90s. I'm from a big family, most of whom live very nearby and I have two teenage children.

Why a Bricks and Mortar store?

For the last 15 years I've been supporting small non-profit organisations with their presence online by planning their websites and developing their online communications. And although that work was all about engaging real people out in the world with the issues my clients worked on, my role was always firmly located in the digital space. I used to find that an incredibly exciting place to be - with all its new possibilities, ways of working and opportunities for creativity constantly changing.

(c) Wild and Woolly

(c) Wild and Woolly

Equally, it can feel like a very intangible place. And over the last years (and in spite of the amazing work of my web clients), the web's lack of texture, hold and warmth, started to disappoint and then frustrate me. I responded by using new-found free time (from kids getting older) to explore personal fibre passions with short courses at the City Lit and a much longer and more involved City and Guilds course with the knitwear designer, Loraine Mclean. I also began volunteering with the knitting group for clients of the Helen Bamber Foundation. With hindsight I can see I was gradually working a new section of my life:  Proper learning of stitches and techniques, inspiring class outings to examine antique knitting in the vaults of the V&A, spending more time with really serious knitters, teaching stitches that I could see soothing the troubled hands of refugees, and of course all the time working through new creations with my needles at home. 

(c) Wild and Woolly

(c) Wild and Woolly

The contrast with the flatness of the online world I was dealing with in the office was not lost on me. And so this fantastical and rather ridiculous idea grew - to make a real place where knitters could come and squeeze and stroke and check and ask and offer and just be the way that knitters are. I imagined a space which would be real and inviting and which could respond out loud, with texture, form and colour to fill those gaps left by our lives online. 

How did you choose the location?

I wanted to be in a place that I was very familiar with, so that my local knowledge could be part of the shape and approach of the shop. My vision was a very conventional one - of a neighbourhood wool shop that local people could depend on for their knitting supplies and pattern support. I grew up with a little wool shop like that at the bottom of my street in Norwich. Later after we moved to North London when I was doing my A levels, I always had put-by yarn waiting for me behind the counter at ColourSpun in Camden Town. It's shops like those that have really been my inspiration. 

Meanwhile Hackney is where my children were born and grew up, where my mum and sisters are, also where my great grand parents lived and worked when they arrived as migrants over a hundred years ago.

So I wanted this shop to be a place that was easy for local knitters in Hackney to get to. And when I found the shop on Lower Clapton Road, it felt like the right size and location for what I had in mind.

(c) Wild and Woolly

(c) Wild and Woolly

What aesthetic did you go for?

The aesthetic came from working together with product designer, Gregor Timlin and graphic designer Raquel Dumas,  on interrogating values and themes which were central to my vision of a good wool shop. These included a slightly antiquated sense of 'expert retail', of modest industry and manufacture - where things are created on a small scale with an emphasis on crafting and grafting, a workshop-like space with an atmosphere that can cultivate a sense of industriousness and creativity. And from all of that, we gravitated towards a light industrial aesthetic, with echoes of a well stocked apothecary or tool shop. The design was also heavily informed by the constraints of my tiny budget and the understanding that everything during this early stage is experimental. So the shop you see now is a first iteration and there's an acknowledgement of that in the wheels that underpin all the wool cupboards, and the wooden tracks that support all the haberdashery display boxes. Nothing is fixed and everything can be altered and re-iterated as I learn over time what works and what doesn't.

What was the hardest thing about having a blank canvas?

I'm tempted to say that the absence of a blank canvas was a bigger challenge, and that reaching blankness felt like progress. The shop I moved into was an unloved, messed up place that had the scars of its previous series of hastily erected enterprises, all of which needed peeling way to get to the blank canvas that would form the base for my shop. And in some ways I feel that the minimal product design approach that we've taken means that that blank canvas is still visible and tangible beneath the wool and needles. It's part of what I hope can make people feel like there's space left in the shop to cultivate their own creativity.

(c) Wild and Woolly

(c) Wild and Woolly

Things you've learned already?

1. Knitters in Hackney/Clapton come from all sections of the local community.  At the moment I still can't point to any one dominant customer group. It's a complete mix of old and new Hackney, and of course all the different ethnic groups that Hackney is known for. I'm particularly pleased about that as gentrification in this area of London means that new shops can be quite divisive between old and new and at the moment I seem to be steering a course that includes both.

2. There used to be a wool shop 2 doors away at 118 Lower Clapton Road which closed 20 years ago and was much loved by lots of the people who now come into my shop. The Designer Yarns SE sales rep, Mike Cole, spoke really fondly of supplying 'Claire's' with Sirdar yarns for years.

3. Twitter is key for reaching the not-local knitting sorority. I was a Twitter novice when I opened up and was very reluctant about making friends with Twitter. I'm now a reformed character and have to acknowledge that Twitter really does reach the knitters other media don't get to.

4. Vegan knitters are a bit of a misguided bunch. Sheep and Alpaca fleeces are exploitative to animals but using up fossil fuels isn't????

5. Floro/neon yarn is in! I really don't like it but it's definitely on trend in Clapton. I'm going to have restock soon.

6. Knitted samples are crucial for pattern sales. If it's knitted and it's here, I'll sell the patterns.

7. I'm never ever going to have a complete and finite stock of needles, no matter how many hours I spend pouring over the wholesale cataglogues. Buying needles is a nightmare!

8. Yarn dyers are very special people. They have a love and knowledge of fibre that you don't find in anyone else.

9. That I love being a shop keeper!

10. Male knitters are very serious about their hobby

Favourite moment so far?

Hhmmm there are quite a few strong contenders for this spot..
- Having my former City & Guilds fellow students come in and praise my range of yarn
- Watching the smile spread around the face of the guy who bought a load of skeins of Jacob yarn after I put it on the swift and invited him to crank the wool-winder handle
- Listening to Linda Lencovic describe the properties of her yarns
- straightening out some muddled circular knitting for a customer who was struggling with a baby hat pattern, and getting them comfortable with their first set of dpns.

 

 

A big thank you to Anna for her inspirational answers. Please do go and visit if you're in the Clapton area and say hi for me!

Untangled Winner

Thanks for everyone who entered to win the exclusive bag courtesy of Indie Untangled. The random number generator has spoken and the following commenter was a winner:

Clever Clementine Pouch in exclusive Indie Untangled fabric. 

Clever Clementine Pouch in exclusive Indie Untangled fabric. 

"oohhh Invictus Yarns or the Uncommon Thread. Both have beautiful colourways!"

(Kelly aka CelticCastOn on Rav)


Congratulations Kelly, please ping me your mailing details and we'll get that straight to you. Next giveaway coming right up. Oh this summer of giveaways is glorious I can tell you!

Indie Untangled, Bags and More Giveaways

Happy Wednesday everyone! How are you all doing today? I'm sitting happily typing up posts and pinging back and forth emails with so many awesome giveaways and features right now. I love it when a winner sends a lovely message about the moment they realised they'd won- it leaves me smiling all day. It keeps me motivated to keep finding more and more people to share with and for you to enjoy. 

Well, I have another feature and another giveaway for you. Remember the Love Our Indies post from Lisa of Indie Untangled? I thought it all sounded really interesting so I invited Lisa to share some more insight into her knitting world and she threw in a giveaway for good measure. Don't you just love it when people share?

Lisa, Founder and Creator of Indie Untangled

Lisa, Founder and Creator of Indie Untangled

Over to Lisa...

I grew up on the South Shore of Long Island, New York, which is also where I went to college before moving to the city and starting my journalism career. I’ve always loved reading and writing, as well as crafting (the box of childhood mementos at my parents’ house is filled with projects from the Girl Scout troop that my mom helped lead). For more than ten years, I commuted from the city — the two hours on the train each day gave me a LOT of knitting time — and covered local communities in coastal Connecticut for a few daily newspapers there. About a year ago, there were staff cuts, and so I started working as a freelance writer. During that time, I was hearing from some of my knitting friends, who are also dyers and crafters, about how it was getting harder and harder to stand out on Etsy. That gave me the idea for Indie Untangled, and I set about launching it late last year.

When I’m not knitting or writing about yarn, real estate or health care, I like going to Broadway and off-Broadway shows, finding cool new restaurants and trying craft beers. I love to travel when I can, and I spent the fall semester of my senior year in London through a program called Friends World, now LIU Global, which has small centers in several countries. 

 

What IS Indie Untangled?

Indie Untangled provides one place to go to discover new fiber artists and find out when your favorite dyers are updating their shops. The Marketplace acts like a blog, and artisans post there when they’re coming out with something new, like a special series of colorways or a collaboration with a designer, and if they’re having a sale or opening yarn club sign-ups. Every Friday, I send out an e-newsletter and blog about all the things that you should stash that week. I also run Q&As with the artisans.

I love Ravelry, and the dyer groups are a wonderful resource, but I think it gets a little overwhelming to keep up with what’s new on there. Indie Untangled will tell you about all these new products so you can spend more time participating in KALs and other fun discussions, and working on projects.

 

You're a native New Yorker, who are your local artisans that you love to support?

There are SO many, but if I had to narrow it down to a few… First would be Wabi Sabi Brooklyn. She’s the artisan who created decoupage jewellery out of coins and paper that I mentioned in my blog post. MaryAnne Loverme no longer lives in New York, but she moved to L.A. and I learned that she recently opened a  gift shop there that, appropriately, sells locally-made artisan goods! 

I also have a couple pairs of earrings from Amy Lapierre of Birdhouse Jewelry, who I discovered at the Brooklyn Flea, one of the city’s best handmade and vintage marketplaces. The Flea also has some great food vendors, and I occasionally treat myself to fennel olive oil cookies or cardamom marshmallows from Whimsy & Spice. I’ve also become addicted to all the jams from The Jam Stand. I’ve also purchased many cards from Seltzer Goods. Their products used to be sold at a small mom and pop card store across from my apartment that’s sadly closed, but they’re available at other non-chain book and stationary stores around the city.

As for New York fiber artists, the skein I bought from dyer Lisa Roman of Roman Hills, with a colorway inspired by the character Bates on Downton Abbey, and which I got at the BUST Holiday Craftacular, is one of those treasured skeins in my stash. I’m probably going to make Beth Kling’s Momijigari with it.  

What's your favourite non yarn knitting/ craft treat? It can be a notion, tool or other...

Definitely my drawstring project bags and notions pouch from Vicki of That Clever Clementine (and I’m not just saying that because she made the yarn ball pouch for the giveaway!). I have a small bag made out of fabric with a map of New Orleans that was part of a limited-edition shawl kit she collaborated on with Margaret of French Market Fibers and that I was lucky enough to score. I also have another bag with fabric that has Nancy Drew from the old books. And my Snapdragon notions pouch is probably the most awesome of all: the fabric has devils knitting and the phrase “Idle Hands.”

Clever Clementine Bags featuring customised fabrics just for Indie Untangled (and you)!

Clever Clementine Bags featuring customised fabrics just for Indie Untangled (and you)!

You can read more about the exclusive bags that Lisa has developed with Clever Clementine here. Fancy winning this bag? Well you can! Please leave a comment below telling me one Indie you just love from Lisa's cohort, along with your Ravelry ID by midday Monday 23rd June 2014 and I will select a winner by random number generator. Good luck!

ppppsssstttt I'm also guest blogging over at Indie Untangled today about why I love Indies and my job so much. Thanks for the invite to be part of it all Lisa!

Love Our Indies: Indie Untangled

One of the big drives for me in starting the 'Love Our Indies' feature has been that indies work hard to make their businesses a success and that often the level of commitment that this can take is not always fully appreciated at first glance. Success can look very different to different people; it can be monetary, recognition, a healthy work/ life balance or collaborating on projects that make you feel good. In my day to day work I am constantly amazed by the way indies have to be so multifaceted in order to be successful. Social media, good photography, branding, reflecting on how things are going and interacting are all the many moving parts that help build the story around their quality product. 

This isn't easy and websites such as Indie Untangled offer indies the opportunity to be visible and the marketplace feature feels like a space waiting to inspire me as a crafter. It's packed full of interesting vendors, with their stories told on the blog and developed further still on Ravelry and Facebook. It's very appealing and exactly the kind of thing that makes you really understand the value in what an Indie is doing so I asked Lisa, the creator of Indie Untangled to share a post about why she was driven to create Indie Untangled. 

- - - - - - - - - - 

My first apartment in New York City was down the block from The Market NYC, otherwise known as the Young Designer's Market, a collection of crafty entrepreneurs selling handmade clothing, jewellery and other accessories out of a church gymnasium. This was in 2003, so pre-Etsy, before handmade goods became trendy and ubiquitous. Pretty much all of my earrings and necklaces came from the YDM. I loved that everything I bought there was unique and always got compliments, and that I could forge a small connection with the person who made what I was buying — I even ended up documenting the process of an artisan who made decoupage jewellery out of coins and paper for a photography class.

Fast forward four years later to when I started knitting. My first garter stitch and ribbed scarves were made with Lamb’s Pride Worsted and Cascade 220, but it didn't take me long to fall down the rabbit hole of Madelinetosh, and then to discover the incredible world of indie dyers. I was drawn to the depth of color that these fiber artists created, the fact that no two grays ever looked the same. I loved how a dyer could be inspired by a landscape, or even a movie, and dye yarn that I could actually turn into something to wear. 

Indie dyers are not too difficult to find, but it does take some extra work to get noticed these days. While Etsy is certainly a great resource for building up a crafty business, and comes with somewhat of a built-in customer base, it’s not so easy for dyers to stand out (that’s not even considering their recent relaxing of the rules governing what’s considered handmade, which is a whole other issue). When I’m signed in, I get a list of the new products for sale from my favorite shops, or I see the items that my friends have clicked the little heart for, but I don’t necessarily know the stories behind these products — or whether there are going to be any skeins of that non-repeatable colorway left tomorrow. Ravelry also provides a way to find out about and connect with indies, but keeping track of all the Update News threads can be overwhelming. 

Part of what makes the indie fiber community so exciting is learning about a new series of colourways, or finding out what  inspired a self-striping skein of sock yarn. Sometimes you can make that connection at the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival, or at an event like the upcoming Unwind Brighton, but unfortunately most knitters can’t afford to travel to every fiber-related event (sigh).

I don’t really have the budget, or the storage space, to stash with abandon like some people I know, but I also hesitate much less in purchasing a single skein or investing in a sweater quantity, and paying for shipping from the UK, when I know a little bit more about the dyer or spinner and her story. That’s really what I'm trying to build with the Indie Untangled marketplace and blog: a way to get to know the person who creates art in a dye pot, and to more easily find out when she’s created something you just have to get your hands on.

Sometimes yarn is just yarn, but when I'm struggling to get the fit of a cardigan just right, or frogging several rows of the shawl I'm knitting for my friend’s wedding, I like that I can look down and know that someone put just as much thought and work into the material that will be transformed into a garment I can be proud of.

 

A big thank you to Lisa for talking through the value in getting to know our indies, something I feel really passionate about too. If you liked this insight into Indie Untangled, pop back soon as there's more to come and it includes a giveaway!

True Brit Knits do Journals!

Some of you might remember that I talked about the awesomeness of True Brit Knits amazing knitting journals a few podcasts ago. Remember? Jen AC and I geeked out at Belinda who was a great sport and sent one home with me after Unravel. They're awesome and I've been waiting till they're available to purchase before I flaunt mine in front of you all. I'm a good friend, no?

Firstly these journals are stylish, slim and so retro. I want to keep one of these in my desk at school Miss. Seriously, how much do I love the useful squares inside? LOTS. 

Open the notebook and inside there's a handy dandy ruler. I'm always short of a measuring tape despite having several and this is just inspired as far as I'm concerned. 

It doesn't stop there either. Also inside the cover, you will find a list of common stitches and abbreviations for reference. The last few pages are perforated so you can tear them out and stick in elsewhere and the whole thing just screams 'knitting journal full of awesomeness'!

Interested? Well the link just went up over on the True Brit Knits website (also, go check out their patterns, I'm currently lusting after a Highland Bling. Get ready to make notes on your future design sensation!

Unravel and everything after

Sleepily I'm typing in a sun spot of the house, pondering a gorgeous weekend. This weekend was a big one to say the least. I might be over tired as a result but Unravel was completely worth it this year. What a rush!

Highlights for me:

- The Sweet Georgia girls completely fangirling Victoria from EdenCottage

Susan Crawford's stylish booth and winning smile

- Fyberspates new yarn, Cumulus, sitting like little tribbles at the stand

Plume by Lisa Mutch in The Uncommon Thread yarn

- The way my shawl was an instant point of conversation each time I made a new acquaintance. 

Coopknits just next door with her explosion of pompoms

- Eliza Conway gleefully telling me stories of vintage knitting finds and the wonderful reactions they cause. 

- Emily from Tincanknits campaigning for me to attend Edinburgh Yarn Festival (haha)

Knitted Stuffed Heads!

- The knitting decorations

- So much banter, good will and fun from all the vendors. It was truly a brilliant event.

I'm going to be blogging about a few things I brought home and editing 2 podcasts worth of audio this week because sometimes you just don't want something to be over. 

Although my fourth cup of tea begs to differ.