Monday, 30 March 2009

Patterns/Pattern Production

I had a customer in last week and what she said has been going round and round my small brain for the whole weekend so I've decided to air my thoughts and see what reaction comes in.

So, customer comes in wanting a tea cosy pattern. The only one we had, not in a book, was for the Cornish Organic Loopy Sheep - so she saw the actual tea cosy (on tea pot) in the shop and said, yes, that would do fine. Did she want some wool to knit it? No, she already had some at home. Fine - got the pattern out of the drawer and told her how much it was. "How much?" was the response. I repeated the amount. "For a photocopy" she said. No, I said, the pattern was typed up by me (as I designed it, although I didn't tell her this) and printed at the local printers. "Well, how much do you charge for other patterns" she asked. The same amount, I replied. "Well, no wonder this business is going down-hill" she said, paid, took her pattern and left.

I have to assume she meant the wool business as a whole and not my shop but there are a number of issues here which have been bothering me.

Firstly, what an incredibly rude way to talk to a shop assistant (I'm not sure she realised I'm the owner). Marie has a theory that the moment you get behind a counter you cease to be a real person and customers, therefore, can say what they like about anything in the shop and you are blind, deaf and completely insensitive. Clearly, this is the minority of customers - most are lovely, charming, understanding and appreciate the help you give but some - well - what can I say?

Secondly, though, the full implication was that the pattern (being only 2 sides of A4) was obviously simple to design and, therefore, wasn't worth paying for - which leads us on to the whole question of the de-valuing of skills. All the genres of knitting, needlecraft, dressmaking, cake making, card making, flower arranging etc (mostly female skill areas you will notice) are covered by this de-valuing of their worth although we all know they are real skills and should be valued and appreciated. I could, of course, have said to the customer - "well, if you're not prepared to pay for it you could always go and design your own tea cosy" and seen what the reaction was. I could have said, "do you have any idea how many hours it took to design that tea cosy", but I didn't. I could have said (but didn't) "we don't make money out of patterns, we make money out of the wool we sell and you're not buying any". I could have said any of a number of things but I didn't and I rather regret it now.

And it's not just individual sheet patterns which I just happen to have designed. I have no idea how many times we've been asked why pattern books cost so much (£7.00 for 10-12 patterns on average) - I think that's excellent value. Can't we just photocopy one pattern for them (I won't tell if you won't) - ever heard of copyright laws? If someone is reasonable I'll explain the massive costs that all companies incur in the designing and knitting of garments. Can you begin to imagine how much it costs to design, knit, test and re-test patterns, photograph and print pattern books? I know how much it costs to commission one pattern and, believe me, you have to sell a heck of a lot of patterns to get your money back!

I was discussing this with a friend on Saturday who is an artist. He was telling me about a gallery owner who sells his work. She had a customer come in who was a dentist (for the sake of argument). He liked a painting (a large watercolour) but he wasn't prepared to pay the price they were asking. He wanted to do a deal. The gallery owner (who I'd very much like to meet) asked him if he did deals on his dental work as she had a bridge which required a bit of work ........ he walked out, furious. So, why did he value his worth as a dentist above the artist's worth? Same scenario, different skill.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

I've had a busy and, amazingly, fruitful couple of days - battling with end of year accounts in the morning and then in the shop in the afternoons.

Today I've done a batch of inputting on the site - patterns in Debbie Bliss (the Summer Essentials book and Rialto 4ply) and Rowan Classic (a load of patterns in their lovely summer yarn "Bamboo Soft"). I've also put on the new Debbie Bliss magazine which is jam packed full of patterns which makes it, at £3.75, excellent value for money.

I even managed some knitting this week - shock horror! I'm designing a jointed teddy bear in Cornish Organic and he's nearly done and I've managed to source more joints and eyes in case I sell out of the ones I have if teddy sells well. So, having put everything in place, I started putting him together last night and only had the arms to do. Charted out the arms - no problem - started knitting (whilst watching telly - this may have been my mistake) - got to just at the top of the arms and thought I'd better double check the number of stitches - 13 on the chart, 17 on my needles. Checked, double checked, pulled the whole lot out and went to bed - such is the joy of the knitwear designer. Round 2 tonight.

Tracey and I have also planned a fab waistcoat in Wool Britannia - she's now knitting it as she's a heck of a lot quicker than me and, to be fair to me, has more time. (It'll also mean that if I get the plan wrong it's her knitting she has to pull back but don't tell her that, OK). As and when I get my new camera I'll do a quick sneak preview.

G&T break up tomorrow for the Easter hols. I'm going to do a brief proud mum bit here - it was the school cross country race yesterday - whole school, run it or walk it, it doesn't matter - you just have to compete for your house. The Hopson household came 1st and 3rd - very proud mum and dad - well done boys!

We have friends down for the weekend and Jules is going to do some modelling for us - she's the lady modelling the Cornish Organic 4ply shawl. Friday night will, inevitably, involve copious quantities of the falling down water and then Jules will put her face on on Saturday and look gorgeous. Sunday is Rugby County Cup Final for T - Penzance Pirates v Falmouth - keep everything crossed for us, please.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Wool Britannia Competition

I'm delighted to report that the Wool Britannia naming competition has been confirmed. The competition will be run in the June issue of "Knitting" magazine (out on May 14th) and the winner will receive a kilo of Wool Britannia in the colour of their choice. All entrants will receive a 10% voucher off their first purchase of Wool Britannia. Put the date in your diaries and start thinking of funny, clever and appropriate names for our un-named colour of wool.

On Saturday I entered some new baby patterns in James Brett's Marble Chunky plus some gorgeous baby patterns in Brett's Baby Marble and some wonderful baby patterns in Katia's Samba (new colours due in this week - can't wait) - who could resist a baby in those dungarees?

The new Hopson family rule is that we don't turn the computer on on Sunday. It almost worked yesterday - T was yomping on Bodmin and G realised they'd forgotton to buy me a Mother's Day card so he quickly whipped one up on the computer - bless!

I then spent Mother's Day cycling around West Penwith and, again, forgot the camera - hopeless, sorry! It was a truly stunning day - blue sky, blue sea and yellow gorse - sumptious. FB has told me to go and find my own little camera so we have a better chance of getting some pics - I'm off to the shop shortly. FB had three punctures - yes, three - so he's off to the cycle shop to get some new tyres. He has a fancy racing bike and the diddly little tyres don't really do well on West Penwith lanes. I trundle along on my hybrid mountain bike - complete with panniers - so I may not be the speediest in the world but I carry all the drinks and food and I do get there in the end! And, given that I have all the drinks and food they never leave me!

After all the glorious sunshine I gather we're now in for howling gales and lashing rain - hope you manage to avoid the snow.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Because I had to collect eldest son from rugby last night (and, yes, for you pedants I am going to start this sentence [and indeed entry] with the word "because") I didn't have time to put an entry in about our new venture - as mentioned in last Saturday's entry.

When we were at the NEC it was clear that many people are looking for British wool - possibly as part of the recession people are turning inward and wanting to support British farmers and British industry. This is something that is dear to our ethical hearts so, to this end, FB beavered away in his dye house and came up with a fantastic range of colours for our new brand - Wool Britannia. (If you don't "get" the name, think last night of the proms and sing it!)

The wool is British and is spun in Britain and is hand-dyed by FB here in Cornwall. We have launched with Aran weight wool so you can knit up all your favourite traditional British aran patterns - if you start now you'll have them all done for the autumn and you can then save on your heating bills by wearing your gorgeous British wool sweater!

To add a bit of fun to the whole project (and let's face it, we need some fun at the moment with all the doom and gloom in the news) we've named all the colours after places in Britain - red is Reading (obviously!), lime green is Lyme Regis etc, etc - you get the picture - some of them are wonderfully corny - check them out on the site.

We did some marketing shots in the garden and the much-improved Deidre came to have a look - here he is with me and the wool! Fortunately, he found the mountain of wool a bit alarming so didn't dive in.

You'll see on the site that we've left one colour un-named. We're going to run a competition for the final name - details, hopefully, by the end of today - if not, Monday - watch this space for your chance to win a free kilo of Wool Britannia.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

In my exhausted haze on Saturday night, I forgot to say that I've added on 4 new patterns in Cornish Organic Wool all designed for us by Tina Barrett. They are: a tartan scarf to match the tartan dress (very clever), a simple but stylish jacket, a gorgeous cabled wrap (which I wore constantly at the NEC) and a fabulous cabled sweater for the man in your life. Ours is done in the Cornish colours of black and gold but you can do them in whatever colours you fancy!

Also added 2 new patterns in sari silk. These are items I knitted for display here in the shop so I've finally put the patterns down on paper - both patterns are free at the moment when you buy the sari silk.

I've also added on both of Tina's books but - due to a technical problem which Thomas is working on - the book descriptions have come up twice, despite the fact that I only entered them once - it's on ongoing computer mystery.

Other computer mysteries which also bother me:

- what happens to all those emails which people swear they've sent but you never get - where do they go?

- what happens to the ones you know you've sent but are never received?

- where do emails go when the recipient's computer is switched off? Is there a great big waiting room in cyber-space where they all sit patiently waiting to be called?

These things - and more - are a mystery and will remain one, probably, for evermore - unless a techy type person is reading this and would like to explain it to us in words of only one syllable.

I had a day off on Sunday - OK, OK - you can all start calming down now - yes, I did and I went for a glorious walk with the FB and forgot to take the camera to show you this fantastic place where I live. If the weather continues as it is I'll do another walk this Sunday and I promise I will remember the camera this time.

When we came back there was a certain game of rugby to be watched and enjoyed - well done our lads!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Once again I'm not sure where this week has gone. You wake up on Monday morning and then blink and it's Saturday afternoon - the good thing about it being a Saturday late afternoon is that I know when I've cycled home up the hill there'll be a G&T waiting for me! In fact, there'll be 2 lots of G&T waiting for me - sons G&T (home from a 12 mile yomp across Bodmin) and a G&T in a glass - they were aptly named, don't you think?!

Today I have entered two new brands of yarn - both from James Brett. One is Baby Marble - hot on the heels of the extraordinary success of Marble DK and Marble Chunky. The second is a totally new yarn called Rustic - a variety of colours with "bits" in - it's a bit late in the day and I can't think of a more technical term than to say it has "bits" in - you know what I mean. Both lovely yarns, both very soft and both a very good price. There are also some new patterns in both the Baby Marble and Marble Chunky but I need to scan those in (on Monday) and get FB to format them and then I'll insert them for you.

I've also inputted 5 new colours in Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply, 2 in Baby Cashmerino and 2 in Donegal Chunky Tweed. Also new patterns in Stylecraft Kon-Tiki and 4 new patterns for girls in King Cole Mirage. Put like that, it doesn't sound like very much but, trust me, it takes hours!

In other good news, we had an (almost) front cover again in Let's Knit magazine - the Union Jack bag (designed by good ol' Tina Barrett) is featured on the front and then the pattern is inside - it's done in Cornish Organic Wool as they are featuring the Best of British yarns. Hooray for them - let's continue to support our poor beleagured British sheep farmers instead of insisting on wool from the other side of the world - think of the polar bears (as T would say). T is on the school's student environmental panel (encouraging the children to turn off lights, put on a jumper instead of turning the heating up etc, etc) and every time I have to turn his bedroom lights off I yell, "think of the polar bears"!

Here is the front of this month's Let's Knit magazine. Spot the bag at the bottom right - see it? - "Groovy Bag"! .....

Here it is blown up (from the inside):

I hope you're all appreciating here how my technical skills are improving - uploaded images without any help from FB at all (apart from the fact that he had to format them, but that doesn't really count does it?).

In other news, Deidre is making a remarkable recovery - he still has a wonky head but (almost) runs to greet us in the morning now - aren't animals extraordinary? Eric is recovering slowly and Tabitha is grateful for the peace and quiet. On the fire front, we are meeting the loss adjustor on Monday so will hear more then but, in essence, it's in their hands now - which is marvellous. FB's wounds from his cycling accident last Saturday (did I mention he was hurtling down a path, hit a rock and went over the handlebars? possibly not - quite spectacular grazes which, I've been assured, hurt quite a lot) are now healing - scabs - yuk!

FB has been working on a new project - our garden is festooned with glorious colours of glorious wool drying in the sun. The new project will be launched on this very site on Thursday. It's exciting and we're having a bit of fun with it too - watch this space - Thursday - be here!

Monday, 9 March 2009

Totally and utterly exhausing weekend so I was glad to get back to the shop for a rest. FB and friends went for a mountain biking expedition on Saturday so I had to drive them to their drop off point (bizarrely this was a pub - I have no idea why). Youngest son, T, went on a training walk for Ten Tors (this is a 35 mile yomp across Dartmoor carrying all your kit including tent which takes place in May) so he had to be at school at 9.00. Having persuaded Deidre to eat some food I then, finally, got to work.

I've inputted some Sirdar Organza patterns. Organza is a ribbon yarn which I absolutely adore but which, for some reason, didn't sell well for Sirdar. Maybe I have peculiar taste but I think it's lovely.

En route home to collect car with bike rack to collect cyclists - now very muddy and, inexplicably, inside said pub - had a phone call to say that there had been a fire at a cottage we rent out. Turned round to go and visit this cottage and, I have to say, it's pretty bad. One room gutted and the rest smoke and water damaged. The good news is 1) no-one was hurt, 2) the smoke detector worked perfectly thereby ensuring 1) and 3) some-one was in the house and heard the smoke detector so the entire house wasn't burnt to the ground. It was caused by a faulty electric blanket which set the bed on fire - not uncommon I gather so anyone with an electric blanket out there - be careful. Also, if anyone reading this hasn't got smoke detectors, I suggest you go out and buy them now.

Yesterday was rugby and more rugby - eldest son, G, had to be at the rugby club at 8.15am - joy - his team went on to win their match with some ease. Youngest son had a County Cup Semi-Final so I went to watch and they won by 8 tries to 2 so are now well into the final - hooray!

On the knitting front, I knitted two rows today - hoorah!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Last night, having tucked up the shop for the night, I packed up all my stuff to cycle home - did I mention that I cycle to work? Possibly not. Well I do, for two reasons: economic and waistline. We only have one car (trying to be economical and doing our small bit to save the planet) so I, the only woman in the house, ride my trusty velocipede. We live at the top of a fairly steep and long hill so the ride down to work is fine (just one slight incline) which, naturally, results in the home journey being almost entirely uphill. This bit, in particular, I'm hoping keeps the waistline in check.

Well last night I packed up, walked outside and was hit by a deluge of water - not a gently mist or even a gentle drizzle - no an absolutely deluge which showed no signs of stopping. Back into the shop, waterproof trousers on, cycle helmet on and back out into the elements. Rain is the bane of a cyclist's life and I wear glasses most of the time (having given up the contact lens battle) so, not only do I get drenched but I can't see anything either. Battled up the hill to home and dried out whilst nursing my Deidre.

This morning I woke up and it was hailing!! Hail, in March, in Cornwall - for heaven's sake! Luckily it stopped before I mounted my trusty steed and sped down the hill but it's been cold here today and I've just about had enough of it! And the wool reps keep coming round with summer cottons - down here we're still knitting scarves and hats! Spring, what spring?

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Well, today has been slightly bizarre to put it mildly. Like most knitters I also have cats. Three to be precise. I adore all my pussies but the FB - like a lot of men - dismisses them completely until they're ill and then he fusses them like mad. We have Tabitha who is approximately 18 - I say approximately as, as with a lot of cats, she adopted us as her old lady's retirement home and very rarely moves from her satsuma box in front of the Aga so her precise age is unknown. We know from our neighbours (with whom she used to reside) that she is getting on a bit and that she wasn't allowed in their house due to her unfortunate habit of - how shall I put this delicately - s**ting everywhere - especially the middle of ones bed. We discovered that she's allergic to milk (trust us to have a milk allergic cat) and since she no longer has milk she no longer s**ts - marvellous. She is really Tom's cat and will sit next to him at supper for little tit-bits which we pretend not to notice.

Then we have Eric who really is our cat and only has 3 legs. Yes, one with a milk allergy and one with 3 legs - trust me, it gets better. Eric is enormous, an enthusiastic traveller (has been known to visit friends 5 miles away for a ratting expedition even on just 3 legs), very vocal, a keen hunter and loathes water. He returned last night dragging his only back leg and soaked to the skin. Normally he would shelter under a hedge until it was drier so we knew he must have a pretty good reason for dragging himself home (literally). Turns out he's cut a pad on his only back leg so was feeling pretty sore and sorry for himself. He ate two bowls of food and settled down for the night. This morning, he couldn't get his back leg to work so he did his morning s**t on the kitchen floor and then cried to apologise. There's nothing quite so joyful as clearing up cat s**t before you can have breakfast - what a terrific way to start the day.

Then Tom discovered our third cat - Deidre (who is a boy - I told you it only gets better - one with milk allergy, one with three legs and a boy called Deidre) in the garden shed crying. He was acting most peculiarly so was whisked off to the vet and it turns out he's had a stroke. I didn't know cats could have strokes either so, there you are, you learn something new every day. Deidre is FB's baby (although he will strongly deny this) as we had him from 5 weeks old when his mother abandoned him in the farmyard. He could easily fit in a pint pot and was a hissing ball of fury for the first 5 days, when he learnt how to purr. He is a stunningly beautiful tabby so to see him sick is pitiful. With strokes it's a case of "wait and see" so I'm keeping everything crossed and trying to tempt him with titbits.

For those of you who don't have cats but do knit I'll now do the knitterly bit. I've added Sari Silk to the site today! Hooray! Sari silk is really difficult to sell on-line as every skein is so different but we sell a lot in the shop and lots of people say they can't find it anywhere else so we thought we'd share it with everyone. Sari silk, for those of you who don't know, is the remnants of sari material literally swept up from the factory floors and then hand spun by Tibetan refugees. Every skein is different and every skein is gorgeous. It's a bit "pot luck" buying on-line but most skeins are in the red/pink zone with flashes of other colours.

I've also uploaded four new colours in King Cole Mirage and one in James Brett Baby Magi-Knit (a great colour for boys - blue/beige).

I also forgot to say that we had a big delivery in from James Brett last week so the stock is high in Marble Chunky (always fantastically popular) and Marble DK and Baby Magi-Knit. All of these yarns sell incredibly well in the shop so if you haven't tried them before - give them a go!

Tonight I'm formatting some new patterns in Cornish Organic Wool and, hopefully, we can photograph the garments this weekend - never a dull moment, that's for sure!

Our baby is definitely growing - I hope you like it.

And, oh, yes, for the person who sent a comment about knowing me 20+ years ago in Cambridge (was it really that long?!) can you email me your address as I have no identification for you so have no idea who you are! Thanks. Assume you knit? Wish I had time to!

Monday, 2 March 2009

I can't believe it's been over a week since my last post. I haven't been sitting around doing nothing - honest. On the site I've uploaded our new yarn from Lang - Mille Colori. We've had this in the shop before and it sold really well so I thought we'd get in some of the new colours which I saw in Birmingham. It's a standard chunky but feels really light so it's not thick and heavy at all and the colours are fantastic. Tracey is currently knitting a Stylecraft pattern for me in Mille Colori so I'll get the pictures uploaded as soon as she's finished it.

I spent Saturday uploading buttons - loads and loads of buttons. Check them out under "accessories". I hear from lots of people who come into the shop that nice buttons are really hard to come by so it's an area we'll be updating regularly. The only problem is it's a bit of a long winded affair as I choose the buttons, FB photographs and formats them, they then come back to me on a stick and I upload them (having first located their tube so I can get all the details). It's astonishing how long the whole thing takes so I hope you like our initial selection.

Today I've put on some Kon-Tiki patterns. Kon-Tiki is a cotton/acrylic mix from Stylecraft and it's incredibly popular. It's a standard DK and has enough "body" to hold cables well but is, in essence, a summer yarn. Apparently there are some new colours for this summer so I'll let you know when they arrive.

FB has quite a lot to photograph for me but the bulb in his super-duper photographic light has blown and, because of EU regulations on lightbulbs that aren't "long life" he's had to order a replacement on the net. I know long life bulbs are supposed to be better but there are times when you need the old fashioned type and it's extremely frustrating when you can't buy one locally but have to resort to the net. But then, I guess all of you without a local wool shop know how this feels!

In other news - I had a day off yesterday. Yes, folks, a whole day when I did no work at all. Almost the first day of this year when that's been the case - if I'm not careful I'll be having a whole weekend off soon! The boys went to rugby and I sat in bed and read a book - heaven - had a hot bubble bath - double heaven - made a few phone calls and caught up with a few people and then cooked by men their supper. Guy (eldest son) remarked that he was amazed I could remember how to cook - cheeky blighter. It has to be said that FB does do most of the cooking and he's really pretty good but I think they liked my effort and, you know, I quite enjoyed cooking it.

Tomorrow I have a Governors' meeting at school all day - yup, not only do I have a shop, a brand of wool and two boys, I'm also a Governor at their school. Ever heard the expression "if you want something done, ask a busy person ................?!".