Friday, 17 April 2015

Love Your Blog Challenge 2 - Beginnings

I want to start by saying thank you so much for all the lovely comments on my last post. I'm not sure what my next adventure is yet (apart from planning a wedding and looking forward to a wonderful marriage!), but I hope it will be as exciting as everything I've done so far.

I've had a lot of new beginnings recently, starting about three and a half years ago when my relationship of five and a half years ended suddently, abruptly without any sign. We'd been bimbling along quite happily, and then one day it was just over.

I've realised my ex was actually quite controlling, he didn't let me have any say in the running of the household. Can you believe I was 28 when I paid my first bill?! He was quite "old fashioned". He earnt the major money, he paid for everything. I had quite a cushy life, my birthday being close to Christmas I'd write a joint Birthday/Christmas list and he'd get me everything on it for my birthday. Yes, he spoilt me rotten with gifts, but withheld his love. I had a hug and a kiss quota, we didn't snuggle on the sofa, and I won't mention anything more personal... I loved him so much and just wanted to make him happy so I dealt with it, explaining it to myself as he's really stressed at work, he likes to be alone, I'm fairly certain he has autistic tendacies...

So after that ended, I had to begin again. Find out who I really was, what I really wanted from life. Your early twenties are quite formative years, and I'd spent them with him. I had to begin to enjoy my own company completely, sure I was used to being on my own in the living room whilst he was in his "office", but if I wanted a chat I just walked to the next room. It was really difficult, but I made friends with Little Laura just before the break up, and she spent as much time as she could with me, and then afterwards Other Laura arrived in our lives, and I spent a lot of time with her too. 

Six months later I was being kicked out of my very first flat (apart from student accomodation at uni, this was the first time I'd lived alone), and trying to find somewhere new to live with just a part time job of 14 hours a week. Around here rent for a one bed flat is upwards of £495 a month. I was placed on the housing register, but until I was actually homeless I was only a "gold", not "platinum" which would get me a house right away. Oh, and because I hadn't worked for two years after being made redundant, I had no national insurance to get me any benefits. Fun!

Other Laura and I started to look for somewhere we could possibly rent together, but we had no luck. Just two weeks before the end of my tenancy, the estate agents found me my current flat, negotiated an incredibly good rent, and I moved in.

Another new beginning! A new flat, and then a new job in the sustainable supermarket (where I'm working again now), and I loved it. The ex then moved to Australia, so I didn't have to worry about seeing him in town, and I started to move on with the love life.

And wow, trying to date again! As I'm not from the area, and neither are the Lauras, I wasn't able to be set up with friends of friends, or someone at work. I signed up to a couple of dating websites... That is definitely a minefield of crazy! The first guy I started talking to would have been perfect if I hadn't found out he'd been lying about various things (he said if he'd told me he had a daughter I'd never of gone out with him in the first place. Possibly true, but she was practically a teenager so I'd have considered it!). Others just pawed at me as soon as they possibly could. Some didn't look anything like their pictures when we met, or we just had nothing to talk about. 

Throughout all of this though, Adam was always in the background. He and his girlfriend had broken up just before my break up (my ex and Adam's ex were together years ago, she insisted we all met up when they holidayed in Bath - most awkward evening ever - but Adam and I stayed in touch). For us, the beginning was supporting each other through our heartbreak, and forming a friendship. We would text (him more than me, coz I'm pretty bad at texting haha), we had a marathon Skype session of 12 hours, we even spent a Valentines evening together on Facetime as neither of us had dates. I tried to push it out of my mind that I liked him - he's 5 years younger than me, he's my ex's ex and thats icky... But I began to look forward to his texts in the evenings, or 4am in the morning when I couldn't get back to sleep and he just couldn't sleep (he used to exist on about 15 minutes of sleep a night until he'd crash once a week and sleep for almost a day at a time, with me he gets about 5-6 hours now). 

We agreed he'd come to visit me on holiday, and we joked that we'd hook up and make like bunnies, but always said no, that could never happen coz we're such good friends. I got so excited that he was coming to visit, I'd tell all my friends and said we must all get together so you can meet! Apparently they all knew from this that I liked him!

And I guess you know what happened, since we're now engaged and all!

Thats already lots of new beginnings, and that wasn't even the end! I became a yarn shop owner, sharing retail space with another store. That didn't work out so I had to begin again in another space. Adsm and I moved in together and he began a new life 130 miles away from his previous life, and that was quite a learning curve after me being alone for 2 years. 

Now we begin again, looking towards this next adventure, whatever and whenever it appears!

Sorry if this is really long, but its nice to write it all out and see how far I've come from the pampered, spoilt little girl I was with my ex!

Elle
xxx

Monday, 6 April 2015

Love Your Blog Challenge 1 - Interactions and Community

The wonderful A Playlful Day is all about giving us challenges, and making us think in different ways. She has been blogging and podcasting about an inspired 2015, and now April is about falling back in love with your blog. I thought I'd be too tired and stressed to follow along, but maybe its exactly what I need right now.

The first topic is "Interactions and Community". I have a lots of that, working in retail, so I'm going to share my experiences.

First of all, currently I'm a yarn shop owner. The interactions with customers here are compeltely different fo the interactions with customers in my second job (sustainable supermarket). 

In the yarn shop people need more interaction. Certainly there are those who know exactly what they want and need nothing more than me to bag it up and take payment and wish them fun with their project, but I'd say about 85% of people need more than that. 

I swear sometimes they feel I'm asking daft questions, but its my retail background. I've only ever worked retail, I have a degree in retail management, I've been trained to understand the customer! So if I continue to ask more and more questions its because the customer has yet to give me enough information for me to be able to give them the help they need. 

Interaction isn't all verbal though. I can tell just by how someone walks in to the shop if they will need a lot of help, some help, or want to be completely ignored. I try very hard to say hello, or make eye contact with everyone. This does not mean I want you to buy stuff (although that would be nice!), it just means I'm letting you know I'm here and available should you need help. I had a customer a few weeks ago who walked around my entire shop (and its not massive, I know that, but it meant she had to walk past me), and she refused to say hello or make eye contact. In fact, when she got to where I sit, she turned her back on me immediately. Some people are just like that. 

Which brings us to community. A yarn shop tends to build a community. Usually by having a knitting group. I don't have one. When only one or two people show up, it seems a waste of time. 

So I don't feel like I've built one for other people, but I do feel like I've become part of one. Its very rare now that I can walk down the street without someone saying hello. I have a few customers who will on,y come to me for help with their projects. Or indeed only buy yarn from me (I always tell them its ok, I understand there are other yarn shops out there who carry different things to me!). 

It was difficult when I took on the second job (which is where I used to work before I took over the yarn shop) to set the boundaries for this community. The shops actually share a wall, so for some people they thought I was running both at the same time. I open the second job 9-10 every morning, and have people asking why I'm not in my shop (I open at 10 is my response). I even had someone come and ask for help with a knitting a pattern on a Sunday in the second job because "well, you're the knitting lady!". I had to very firmly tell her that I am paid very well to be at the second job and as such I need to concentrate only on that job and that I'd be able to help her when I had my knitting hat back on in the shop on Tuesday. Needless to say she didn't come back, but I needed to define those boundaries!

I do love my little yarn shop. I will miss it soon, as I have finally made the decision to close. Unfortunately the interactions are becoming less frequent, and the community is failing (for whatever reason) to support not only me, but many of the local shops in town. We've lost our sweet shop, the bath bomb shop and an antique shop since Christmas. A florist closed but another has opened, and we have a cheese shop (although second job has always sold cheese!). But shops are closing quicker than they are being replaced. I think it showed quite true that the community here doesn't really care about the town when we had a parish poll in February - out of around 10,000 people only 3000 turned out to vote (Adam and I were on holiday and unable to vote). 

The moral of the story is - interact with your local community. Spend more in your local independant shops (obviously only if there is something you want). A Playful Day is a proud supporter of the "Just A Card" campaign (http://www.molliemakes.com/craft-2/just-card-campaign/). And it is so true. If everyone who told me how beautiful my shop is, had even just bought some buttons or a bit of ribbon... I'd be able to pay myself more than £2 an hour. Seriously, thats how many people give me that compliment but don't buy anything. 

Think the next time you are in an indie shop. They probably aren't paying themselves minimum wage, if they are taking a wage at all. If they are talking to you, its not because they want you to buy something, they probably haven't seen anyone to talk to for a while and are craving an interaction! Go talk to them, find out what their business stands for, and maybe buy a little something to keep them going. 

Elle
xxx

Friday, 13 March 2015

Blergh :(

Since July last year (specifically after our holiday) I started to feel a little run down. It happens with me, being an ignorer of my fibromyalgia. I thought nothing of it, and continued on my merry way.

In December I started having small panic attacks, and thought I was just worried about travelling back to Kent to meet Adam's friends at a wedding in a place I'd never been to before... Most people will know I hate travelling, I'm a bit of a control freak and travelling means things outside of my control.

It all went well, obviously, and I thought that would be it.

Well, when we went on holiday in February it started up again, less panicky, but still little ones. We got engaged which was the best day of my life so far, then I got a cold and things haven't been great since.

I feel tired, but I can't sleep properly. My whole body aches. I constantly feel sick, and I'm struggling to eat anything. I have IBS symptoms again. 

But mostly I just feel numb. I mean, seriously, I just got engaged and we've booked the registry office and the reception, and I'm kinda oh alright about it now. I was so excited at the time, but now... Meh.

I was very brave and went to the doctor on Thursday. She made me fill out a quiz type thing and I have mild depression and moderate anxiety (scores of 9 and 14). Well, I knew that already! I'm going for a butt load of blood tests on Tuesday.

I'm really hoping its just my vitamin D dipped again. I can't understand how it could really, after the massive mega dose I was on a couple of years ago, but maybe my maintanence isn't enough and I've used up my reserves. Or my B12 isn't absorbing properly and I'll need injections forever. 

Those things I can handle! But I'm very much a person who looks on the bad side and I constantly worry that its something more... 

I feel sorry for Adam the most. I have no energy outside of work, and he's doing all the household stuff. He's even encouraging me to take showers and helping me wash my hair and stuff. He's the most amazing guy ever, he told me that no matter what happens he is here for me, and he loves me and will do whatever it takes to get me better. Even if it means closing my shop. 

Oh the plus side! I've lost 6lbs and my blood pressure and pulse are perfect :P

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Don't be *that* business owner...

I saw on Twitter that there was an indie dyer trying to guilt trip people into supporting theirs and other indie businesses by saying that cold sheeping (giving up buying yarn for a determined length of time) harms their businesses. 

I will admit, I always feel a little sad when people come in to my shop and tell them they are not buying right now, but I'm not there for everyone to buy from (as lovely as that would be!). I'm there to provide inspiration, guidance and support. If you're not buying yarn right now, maybe I can help you find the right pattern/book to use up some of your stash. Maybe I have an item already knit up that would be the perfect pattern for that special skein of yarn. Maybe they don't know about Ravelry and I guide them there...

Yes I will get annoyed when people constantly come in for free advice with yarn bought elsewhere and never buy anything from me. But I won't make you feel guilty if you are cold sheeping.

I understand having a stash. I have one myself. I've barely bought any yarn over the past year because I am concious of my stash. My money situation is low (I've taken on a second job now though so thats getting better and I can keep my shop a little longer yay!), and time has been precious for making shop samples using shop yarn rather than my own stash.

So I get it. And I will chat to you about what types of yarn you have in your stash, and what types of items you like to make and whats currently on your needles rather than trying to guilt you and make you buy yarn.

I want my shop to be a safe place for people to come and talk to me about their stash! Sometimes they are hiding the full extent of it, but they can come to me and tell me what they have, as there is no-one else to talk to about it. I want people to enjoy their time in my shop so that when they are looking to buy more yarn, hopefully they will remember what fun they had chatting to me, and come back to see what might inspire them.

As my readers here will know, I'm not happy with my shop sales at the moment. But the shop is paying beautifully for itself, and in fact, sales are starting to pick up (its cold, people want to knit, its new year, new hobby time!). If a customers asks me, I'll say its ok. I had one customer ask me today if I'm covering costs and I told her I don't talk about things like that. She doesn't need to know the details! The only people that do are me and the tax man!!! 

Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yes. Don't be stupid and start making people mad because you are trying to make them guilty. I think what it all boils down to is this: Take responsibility for your own actions. If your sales are down in January/February, why? Did you run a promotion to try to keep your customers interested? Introduce new colours/yarn bases? Its one of the reasons big stores kick of January with a sale! Sure it gets rid of slow moving lines, but also it draws people in to your shop, they will look around (and this goes for bricks and mortar and online stores), and will more than likely buy something full price as well as some sale items.

I've got MillaMia on sale at 35% off. I've barely sold any! Most people are buying full price yarns. But its the sale thats bringing them in (consumer behaviour, did you know I have a degree in Retail Management?!). 

And be nice to your customers. Thank them, tell them to have a nice day! I always tell them to enjoy their project, and ask them to bring it back and show me when they are done if they'd like too. 

I think I'm starting to ramble here, but yeah. I'm trying to be more positive, and I do feel more positive right now!

Shall I tell you about the second job? I've gone back to my old job at the sustainable supermarket on Sundays, and its going to make things that much easier (even just a Sundays worth of pay!) that we can start saving for wedding (which still isn't official yet, but we've decided March 2017 hahaha!).

Smile everyone! Go and hug your stash! Go back through it, find that forgotten skein of yarn that made you feel all kinds of wonderful when you got it, and remember why you knit/crochet. Because you want to! 

Have fun :)

Monday, 5 January 2015

Embroidery!

One of my goals this year is to learn embroidery. Not only can you get some really awesome designs to stitch, embroidery can also be used to jazz up knitted items. So win win for me!

I made a heart just before Christmas, and tried out back stitch, french knots and lazy daisy. I already knew the first two stitches as I was a major cross stitcher when I was younger. I really enjoyed it, and started looking for more designs. 

I had a browse through Pinterest and saw a really cute tree design. I have a recipent in mind, but I also want to display it in the shop for a while first. Pinterest took me to Urban Threads where I found the design and a few others I liked - and they are all just $1! Which is like 65p! 

I found a tutorial to transfer the design on  to the fabric using tracing paper. Basically 
you print out the design, trace it and then turn the tracing paper over on to the fabric (so pencil side down) and then trace the design again on to the fabric. Its a little labour intensive, but it worked really well.

As you can see from the above picture! I'm using multicoloured Anchor threads.

I finished stitching today, and I really enjoyed it. I've done it all in back stitch, and my stitches are really tiny, but smaller stitches give you a better curve. 

I need to decide how to finish it for display now, and I'll show you what I do for that! But I've already started my next design - a crescent moon! Pictures soon!


Saturday, 3 January 2015

Don't be *that* customer... Please...

After the wonderfulness of yesterday, as soon as I saw that it was raining today I knew it would be bad. This town is very much a fair weather town and you can pretty much guarantee that rain = no customers.

So the ones that do come I always make a fuss over and give them a little extra help coz I'm so happy they came out in bad weather! 

Well this customers had come in before christmas and told me about this yarn she'd bought elsewhere and wasn't sure what to do with. I told her to bring it in and I'd have a look and see if ai could suggest anything.

She bought it in and it was boucle yarn. I've never knit with boucle yarn, no experience with it and I told her so. It was unlabelled, no yarn weight or any details like that, which is usually given on yarn labels so its easier to work out how to use it! I told her the best thing to do was a few gauge swatches with different needle sizes and see which fabric she liked best and then we could find a pattern to match her gauge.

She clearly wasn't happy with this answer, and said she never did gauge swatches because she was didn't like doing them, I tried to lighten the mood by saying I didn't like them either, but they were needed to make sure our projects would work out correctly.

The next question came with a commercially made cardigan. She said she could work out how many stitches to cast on, she just needed to know what the yarn was. Now from what the little I know about machine made garments, the yarns aren't the same as our standard hand knitting yarns, and machine knitting creates slightly different tensions. I said it was difficult to know without unravelling part of it as when yarn is knitted it can look thicker or thinner, but that it could be a DK weight. I was about to suggest we find a pattern that looked similar and use that, but she huffed up that I couldn't tell her exactly, told me she was going to a yarn shop elsewhere and that she had intended to buy everything from me. 

Now I could easily have said yeah thats a DK yarn, you'll probably need about 600g of it, and sent her on her way. But I know it wouldn't have worked, and that she would have been back yelling at me and demanding a refund because I sold her the wrong thing to copy this comericalky made cardigan. I'm not in the habit of selling things to people that won't work, as much as I want to make a living wage from my job, I'm also not going to fleece people. I want them to enjoy knitting and come back because I'm helpful and guide them in the right directions.

So trying to explain this to the customer I grabbed a DK yarn off the shef and held it to the cardigan and showed her how difficult it was to tell. She said "You don't need to get so defensive!" to which I replied "You don't need to be so rude when I'm trying to help you!". And then she left.

And I cried. Because I'm a human being, I have feelings, and I'm trying to help you to the best of my ability.

I ate ice cream, and cried on my next door shop neighbours shoulder, and then on my friends shoulder, and I just couldn't stop crying for about an hour. Luckily there were no customers for that hour, otherwise things would have been awkward.

But I just want to say that I would never not help someone unless it is beyond my skill set. At which point I will find someone who can help. And I was just trying to save this woman some money and time for an idea that wouldn't have worked. 

So please, please, please don't be that customer ever. Try to think about what someone is telling you. Sure you'll be disappointed that its not going to work, but when someone with a lot more experience is trying to explain why its difficult... Listen to them. Don't just huff, listen to them, understand, and remember we are all human beings trying to make a living! 
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