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Guest Blog – Running My Creative Business

My day off is Tuesday; on that day I mainly do figures and if I’m knackered I knit instead. That means I work six days in the shop which is quite something. We open at 10.30am so I set off around 9am to get there in time to do my bits and bobs and we close at 6.30pm but I don’t get out until about 7.30pm on a good day. When I get home there’s always something to do, even if it’s just knitting a few commissions or working out a lesson. I’ll tell you this for free – I’m knackered!

If you’re thinking of starting a business, creative or otherwise, however hard you think you’ll work, decuple that! Sometimes it’s not fun either.

My most memorable customer wasn’t actually a knitter. She ordered a commission for two sweet little baby cardi’s for her granddaughter that she’d chosen the yarn and pattern for. I made it in good time and gave her a call to come and collect it. When she got there everything was wrong with it – the neckline, the colour, the size – everything. I’d followed the pattern exactly as she’d asked but told her I’d be happy to change whatever she wanted for a bit extra money (I figured that would technically be considered designing and I charge a premium for that because not everybody, indeed not every knitter, can do it). She wasn’t happy with that at all and left, coming back half an hour later with her daughter in tow. She had a bit of a go but left when I stuck to my guns.

They both came back with the daughter’s six foot plus husband about an hour later and I’ll not go into the details but they left with £30’s worth of clothes for the £10 deposit. It was scary and I felt vulnerable but I learned a lot from it – including to be more organised. Anybody wanting a commission now knows what they’re being charged for i.e. there’s a breakdown that includes designing fees, yarn, time etc. If they choose a pattern and yarn they sign that that’s what they agreed upon, if they let me choose they sign that they’ll accept my choice and on the conditions that they give to me. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom – mostly I adore my job and I’ve always got a funny story or ten to tell. A little personal foible of mine is that I think I’m boring – I probably am but it’s made all the worse by the fact that my friends are all creative, brave, clever and wonderful story tellers – makes little old me feel insignificant. The shop has been a real boost to my confidence because I’ve always got something to say. I guess that’s something that they don’t tell you in business school.

Next door there’s a Jamaican tailors shop. Oscar, who runs the place is lovely: old school polite with a massive smile. His shop’s a bit of a meeting place for Nottingham’s Caribbean contingent and as we all know Caribbean men love a big lady. I’m amply big so I’ve gone down a storm and not a day goes by when I’m not given some fried plantain, dumplings, goat curry or mutton stew. Never one to say no to food, I’m surprised I’ve not expanded to fit the shop yet! And that’s the story about how all my good work lifting furniture about didn’t stay good for long… Recently he’s had a change of career plan and started selling Jamaican fruit and veg (for really good prices!). I’m most excited about trying bread fruit which I’m told is delicious. Annnnnyway, back to crafting…

One of the best bits about running a yarn shop is that you see people at their best. When you’ve got in your head the perfect cardi’, jumper, scarf, hat or whatever and you’re coming in to find the perfect yarn, you’re never happier. At this point in a project the world is your oyster, anything could happen and often you’ll leave with something completely different than you thought you would but full of good intentions and hope for the future of that project. I trained as a lawyer and one of the reasons I didn’t take it any further was because it’s all about people at their worst. I couldn’t put it into words at the time but it’s become clear in the months that the shop’s been open that I’m all about the positive in life. I don’t want to spend my time around people arguing about money or land, or worried that they’ll be in prison missing their kids growing up or desperate not to be deported to their war-torn country. There’s a lot of good that a lawyer can do, even directly change the world, but that meta-view doesn’t sit well with me. I like small, every day things like flowers in vases, pots of tea and seeing, even helping, someone become inspired and excited and growing in confidence. It’s very me.

Next installment I’ll actually get round to talking about wool, knitting and creativity.