Small Business in 2020

The hardest part of this current situation is not letting people into the store. I’ve disappointed a lot of people at the door, and last week got caught breaking my own rules in the worst way, and it’s left me with an uncomfortable feeling all week.

As much as I’m grateful to have the kind of business that can be recreated online (enough to survive), I dislike it passionately. An online business was not part of my plan, and especially for a fibre arts supply store where texture and colour mean everything to the customer. The in-person sensory contact and community space have always been the driving force of this shop, and Covid has changed all of that. It’s been hard for me to adjust all of this in my head and adapt at the same time.

I’m not good at saying no. I’m easily persuaded, to a fault sometimes. I always want to be able to help. Standing in the doorway of this beautiful shop saying “no, sorry, I can’t let you in” makes me feel awful, frustrated, sad, defeated… all of it.

It seems so simple, a quick pop in, grab something, go. That would be fine (maybe?) once, but being a retail outlet – who do I allow to be that maybe once? If I let one in how do I not let in another?

Then I’m in a situation where I’ve had too much contact with too many different people for my comfort zone.

I really don’t think people grasp the seriousness of living with a deep-seeded infection. I’m not afraid of dying from Covid, I’m afraid of living with it. I already have been living with an infection that stumps doctors and has caused an array of confusing symptoms, most of which untreatable. Eleven long, frustrating years I’ve lived with this, in pain, with constantly evolving symptoms clearly caused by inflammation that can’t seem to be controlled. Inflammation, y’know, like what Covid causes. I’d rather close the shop and lose everything than catch another inflammatory infection.

My need to limit the contact around the shop is serious.

It’s tough right now because the temperature is dropping, we don’t have the enclosed entrance ready – and to be honest, I’m not sure right now how I will operate with it when we do. Initially it will just be a warm place to grab your curb side pick up.

Rising case numbers, a testing fiasco, and winter approaching are all reasons to take a step back. There is a dangerous lean in Thunder Bay toward believing that because our numbers are low that it is somehow safer here. *Not for the immune compromised* – that way of thinking is a privileged perspective of survival of the fittest, with an added “may the odds forever be in your favour.” It’s truly heartless. Sadly some people just can’t understand without experience.

This region has a terrible way of saying that “there was only one death, and he already had cancer”… *only*… and I have to wonder how many of those people saying that would say that to his family? One of my dearest customers and friends has a daughter who has a history with cancer which resulted in a heart transplant; a daughter the same age as my daughter. Would those people say the same if it was “only” her?

Covid has really brought out a strange sacrificial allowance among some people. It’s something that won’t be tolerated in this inclusive community shop. I believe in protecting those who are most at risk, and putting strict limits on those who act fearlessly.

The shop isn’t wildly busy, it’s not more than I can handle, and if I do need help around the shop I have great people to call; the staff/instructors, and volunteers haven’t gone anywhere. These wonderful ladies and I have Zoomed our way through this and find our ways to connect. We enjoyed a great sidewalk reunion last week with Ashley, Katie and Eleanor, Dana, and the fab Heliina; Tiffany stopped by later in the day. I know Denyse and Kathy are out there (*waves*).

What is hard for me right now is keeping up with messages, and trying to get my communications out there. None of that is difficult to do – it’s just finding the time to do it. Finding that time with my head in the right place (which, frankly, has been challenging in itself lately) is additionally difficult.

Working parents do require time, time that daycare and school would allow, and without it Rohan and I are both feeling our focus is torn. We’ve switched from online to home schooling and it’s already helping us find a better balance, but it’s still not easy.

(And we just have one little one with two of us! For those who are single parents [which I was for 11 years], or any with multiple children I understand the impossible, exhausting situation and applaud you.)

Applying for grants and business financial assistance (none of which have come through …yet?) is also time and emotion consuming. I really loathe doing that stuff, it makes me whiney. It’s also not necessarily difficult, but dealing with whiney me is. Me dealing with whiney me is difficult, so I’m sure Rohan agrees with a big 🙄.

None of this has anything to do with wool and yarn. None of it gives me time or energy to be creative, or focus on the “yarn shop” aspect of owning a small business. It’s all business-ey stuff, tech work, email overload, computer/phone work, …all the stuff I thought I would tolerate in exchange for the creative outlet the shop provides.

Without the people, and creative outlet I’m left feeling rather unenthusiastic about my daily tasks, and I think it shows. Thankfully I know I’m not alone, I know lots of people are feeling the gravity of changes to their daily life. None of it is easy to navigate, but at least we can remind ourselves we’re not alone.

I’ll end this long winded ramble on a positive note, saying that I’m determined to keep the shop evolving through this, with the end goal of being able to safely gather together again, shop in person, touch, talk, laugh, and inspire each other. And hugs.

If we take care of each other we’ll get there.

Thank you for all the continued kind messages and support!

Spring Onion Crochet Pattern

Spring OnionIMG_3403 (2)
Crochet Pattern

For this project you will need:

9 yards of worsted weight yarn in white
(I used Cascade 220 superwash.)

1 yard of worsted weight in light/lime green yarn

48 yards of a soft dk weight yarn in forest green
(I used Diamond Luxury Collection
100% Super Baby Alpaca.)

a pair of 6 or 7 mm safety eyes

a small amount of fibre fill

3.75mm crochet hook

a darning needle

a stitch marker

Optional: some rustic jute twine to tie around your onion in a bow for decoration
– or to tie a bunch together.

Let’s Begin!IMG_3409 (1)

For the white part of the onion:
Begin with a magic circle of 6 single crochet stitches

Round 1: 2 sc in each (12)

Round 2: 1 sc, sc inc (repeat) (18)

Round 3: 2 sc, sc inc (repeat) (24)

Rounds 4-6: sc in each (24)

Round 7: sc, sc dec (repeat) (18)

Round 8: sc in each (18)

Place the safety eyes between rows 5 and 6
approximately 6 or seven stitches apart.

Round 9: sc, sc dec (12)

Round 10: sc in each (12)

SWITCH COLOUR TO LIGHT/LIME GREEN

Round 11: sc in each (12)

Round 12: sc in each (12)

Fasten off leaving an end long enough to sew to the green stalks.

Stuff your onion with a small amount of fibre fill.

To make the white roots for your onion:
Use your leftover white yarn, and with your darning
needle thread through the bottom where the magic
circle comes together. Stitch six or eight times leaving
two inch long loops. Snip the ends of the loops, then
untwine the ply of the yarn to create the squiggles.

Green StalksIMG_9499

To make the stalks stitch approximately 70 rounds in total slowly increasing from six stitches to ten.
There is no exact process of increasing, in fact by using a different count for each stalk, your onion will look more realistic. Your green onion stalks should measure between 8.5 and 10 inches when finished.

Fasten off two of the stalks, leaving a longer end on the third for sewing together.

Make three:

Magic circle of 3 sc crochet stitches

Round 1: 2 sc in each (6)

Rounds 2-9: sc in each (6)

Round 10: add one sc to this round anywhere (7)

Rounds 11-25: sc in each (7)

Round 26: add one sc anywhere (8)

Rounds 27-40: sc in each (8)

Round 41: add one sc anywhere (9)

Rounds 42-58: sc in each (9)

Round 59: add one sc anywhere (10)

Rounds: 60-70: sc in each (10)

To attach the green stalks to the white onion:

First, fasten off two of the green stalks, leaving the third with aIMG_3407 (1)long end for sewing.

Sewing just in the centre of the three stalks,
stitch the stalks together either using a slip stitch with your crochet hook or by using the darning needle.

Continue to stitch them together in the centre until you have approximately 12 stitches
around outside of the three stalks.

Use the light/lime green to sew the white onion to the green stalks, placing two stitches into each stitch.

Decorate your onion with a small piece of jute twine wrapped around a few times
then tied into a bow.

IMG_9501 (1)
ENJOY YOUR ONION!

Download the FREE PDF here:

Spring Onion Crochet Pattern

Making of a Wool Shop: The Children’s Play Area

This area of the shop has evolved into a space of its own.

I knew the wall gets too much sun for yarn storage, so my first thought when I was planning the space was that it would be the community space. The wall did scream for a fireplace, and I loved the idea of cozy fireside seating by windows. We in the north have to source as much light and heat at possible!

It IS a cozy seating area beside a window and a fireplace, but it has become more of a children’s playroom than a yarn lovers gathering space. Stitchers do sit by the fire occasionally, but we usually squeeze around the three tables even if there’s too many of us. 😀 (which is so fun!)

The area around the fireplace grew into a wonderful play area for kids. The little table originally had a glass top and I had plans to fill it with decorative wool displays, but before I could put the glass back after painting it somehow filled with Oliver’s toys.

I’m often thanked for creating the space, but really it created itself. Kids now enjoy coming to the wool shop, and moms, dads, and grandparents appreciate the distraction while they shop. Sometimes kids have to be dragged out kicking and screaming when it’s time to go. :S

There’s a lot of weird stuff to pique the imagination: a mounted unicorn head (custom made by the beautifully talented @mommycansew), a monster garland made by @camphappyheart and me, melting snowmen, a toy alien by @sewwhimsicalbykatie, little felted creatures, crochet Oliver in a pumpkin, sheep and alpaca toys, and of course Shaun the Sheep on the smart tv.

This area isn’t what I originally planned but I couldn’t be happier with what it has become. I love that kids enjoy coming to the shop, and that their guardians feel a little less stress about taking littles out shopping. I know the juggle well.

My hope for a community creative space is constantly both affirming my intention and evolving on its own. It’s a great thing to watch.

Thank you all for making the shop what it is today!