I like to be a glass half full person and If nothing else, the Coronavirus lockdown has forced us to come to terms with tech (I can see my kids rolling their eyes at this!) and here at Ammonite Yarns we are embracing Zoom. We have been running our Tuesday evening drop-in using the platform and it's been a lifesaver. When I say, 'we have' what I mean is that Martyn, one of our Tuesday evening crafters has set it up and runs it for us, but we are still becoming more tech-savvy. My Wednesday evening ballet class is also running via Zoom so I'm almost blase about using it.
Obviously being part of any kind of remote meeting can be problematic -- sound not always working, ropy internet connections and you can really only hold one conversation at a time, unlike the drop-ins where we are often all talking at once (we also don't have biscuits or cake provided!). I don't think the world will move wholeheartedly to working remotely because we are very social animals but these past few months have proved that working from home, at least part-time, is not impossible and in future it might help to change our work/life balance to a life/work balance, and ultimately make life easier for many.
Our next plan is to master You Tube videos for teaching techniques -- you have been warned!
If the answer to the question is 'no' then read no further! Otherwise ... read on!
Every job has its associated jargon and the worldwide knitting/crochet community is no different! We've already introduced you to the UFO (unfinished object) with our Sew up Saturdays. Now it is the turn of the CALs, KALs and MC/KALs. For the uninitiated the AL stands for A-long so we have Crochet-A-Long, Knit-A-Long and if pre-fixed by M they are Mystery Knit/Crochet-A-Longs.
CALs and KALs are a great way to learn new techniques and explore ideas that you might not have otherwise come across. Patterns are released step-by-step, with a minimum of a week between the parts and are often linked to a facebook group or YouTube videos for help with queries. The project is announced in advance with dates for when pattern parts and details of the yarns used and and there is often a linked facebook group. Crafters also post their progress on Ravelry so it's easy to find out more. These projects are a great way to link up with other crocheters and knitters and see how they are doing and whether they are following all the rules or going a bit off-piste either on pattern or colours. Yarns shops can produce a yarn pack for the project and will be happy to help with other colours or yarn options. The Mystery versions of CALs and KALs don't give any pictures in advance of the finished project so the design is a surprise -- one of my favourite MKALs is Follow Your Arrow shawl KAL by Ysolda Teague which gives different options at each stage so no two shawls will be alike.
So now you know what the jargon means why not give it a go? Our favourite crochet teacher Gaelle has been hosting a CAL through facebook for her lovely Sandrine shawl and we have been promoting the stunning Fruit Garden Blanket CAL by Janie Crow. The Fruit Garden CAL pattern is available on the Stylecraft website and we have the Naturals Bamboo Cotton yarn packs in stock. There are other stunning CALS from Stylecraft too and there will be a new one launching in July in a later post!
It seems a bit early in the year to do our 'back to school' blog but if, like us, you are looking forward to some sort of normality, you might like to plan your September skills classes.
We are being optimistic and have scheduled our workshop programme to re-start in September. There will be knitting, crochet and spinning classes once again with teachers, Gaelle, Giselle, Gina, Ruth and myself (I have just notice our trio of G's!).
Knitting workshops cast on 12 September with our 'Make a Signature Ammonite Toy'. It's a fun project but teaches some useful skills like i-cord and knitting in the round. Gaelle's crochet courses re-start on 8 September for beginners (although at present we are taking expressions of interest rather than bookings for this) and Giselle will lead her 'From Sea to Land' crochet workshop on 26 September. Our spinning day is on 4 October and will be led by Gina.
We've really missed our knitting and crochet classes as they are always full of keen, interested learners and we always hear loads of laughs (as well as a few groans) from our workshop.
You can find details of our courses here -- just click through to the ones you are interested to do and then you can book on the website or give us a call or e-mail.
Anybody who works in a people facing job often jokes that the job would be so much easier without the customers/clients/students. This pandemic has shown us is to be careful what we wish for! Yes, it is easier without customers -- shelves don't get messed up, there's time to do social media, we don't get interrupted half-way through a cup of tea (the list could go on a while) -- but ... it is nowhere near so much fun without you! Generally I love my job (although, as Ruth will attest, I am always late!) but at the moment I'd rather stay at home. I am going in each day to do the background stuff, sort out any online orders and make sure everything is safe but a shop without people walking in and out, chatting, squishing the stock, buying yarn is ... not a shop, so I can't wait for the time when we can throw open our doors again. The big question is 'when will that be?'. Westminster and Cardiff don't agree but, as my youngest has noted, Boris and his colleagues are conducting virtual briefings so clearly social distancing and staying at home is still a thing so we remain closed. Don't let social distancing stop you crafting though -- you can order online from us and either have the yarn posted or make an appointment to come to the shop and collect. We are also holding our Tuesday evening drop-in via zoom so if you want to join us, join our Yarnmanglers facebook group and let us know. When we do re-open it will be slightly different to begin with as there will still be social distancing measures in place but we will keep you all up to date on our plans so that we can open safely and successfully. In the meantime, we'd love to see what yarny things you have all been working on so why not post some pictures on our social media for us all to see. I'm posting a picture here of Gaelle's 'Sandrine' shawl which I have just completed -- there are mistakes but I'm not a pro-crocheter. My knitting project is a Kaffe Fassett coat knitted in Stylecraft Naturals so i'll post a picture of that later on.
This Saturday the 9th of May is the fifth anniversary of the day that we opened. Normally we would be celebrating by inviting you to come and join us for cake, a moderate amount of party atmosphere and a special offer or two as a little birthday present from us to you.
This year feels quite different and rather sombre. As I write this, the shop is closed to customers, and most of us have friends and relatives we are concerned about. Like many small businesses, we are also having to work out how long we can last through lockdown and the anticipated recession (spoiler: we’ll be ok for a while longer).
So, just for this year, we would like to ask you for a birthday present.
When you shop, for yarn or anything else, think about whether there is a small independent shop you can make your purchase with. Many little businesses are offering online shopping, but struggle to stand out on search engines as they just don’t have the advertising reach of the big companies. But for them, even a small sale might mean the difference between being able to pay the rent this month or not. We know finances are tight for lots of people right now so if you can’t afford the purchase, support them by engaging on social media or telling your friends about them. Personal recommendations are always the best.
Thank you for all your support over the last five years and we hope so see you again before long.
Jenny and Ruth
It looks likely that some of the lockdown restrictions will be eased in the coming days. There has been a lot of speculation but we don’t yet know exactly what form the new rules will take.
As a business, we have to consider the risks to our customers and ourselves that may come with re-opening. Hand hygiene remains extremely important, and it is known that the wearing of even a non-medical grade mask over the nose and mouth offers protection to both the wearer and other people. It is probable that we will need to restrict the number of customers in the shop and asking everyone who enters to clean their hands and wear a mask.
Ruth’s mum Marilyn has been a very busy bee making masks for Jenny and Ruth to wear in the shop when we do reopen. After some trial and error and several consultations with her nurse sister, she has come up with a design that will fit most people well, provide good protection using non-medical grade fabric and be washable and re-useable. Most of us have probably never made a mask before but you only need some basic machine sewing skills. The mask could even be sewn by hand with a bit of determination and a thimble.
The pattern she has developed is available from our website as a free download here. Marilyn has asked that if you use the pattern and you are able to, please make a donation to Medecin Sans Frontiere to support their Covid19 work.
And if you still fancy making that Medieval Plague Doctor mask, we’ve spotted this fabulous patchwork version...
It may be baby steps but we are getting closer to the time when we can open up again as the government discusses how the lock-down can be relaxed. We suspect a big part of the opening up process will include face-masks so we’ve been investigating.
There seem to be two schools of thought at the moment – full on plague doctor or just wrap any old scarf around your mouth and hope for the best! Clearly we need something that does the job but doesn’t make us look as though we are about to join the Venice Carnivale.
We have been working with our local councillor Marg Griffiths to come up with a solution and are putting together DIY mask packs to be sewn at home. Basic sewing skills are required and ideally a sewing machine for best results. The masks are for use at home and when out in a public place but are not for key workers in a hospital or care home environment.
We’ll put posts on all of our groups as soon as the packs are ready but in the meantime, if you are a keen tailor we can supply the pattern as a free pdf but ask that you make a contribution to Medecins Sans Frontieres .
We're really lucky here that we have very talented designers and teachers and we worked with Giselle when she organised the 'Crochet with Confidence' retreat last year at Number 63 in London. Unfortunately Covid19 put paid to this year's retreat but look out for when it is re-scheduled.
The blanket designed for the first retreat was From Land to Sea and now Giselle has created a baby blanket based on it. In Giselle's own words:
“Onwards from Sea to land with new variations of my Noughts & Crosses design ......
As some of you who have worked with me in the past already know, I originally designed my “Noughts and Crosses blanket with pebble border” to complement the From Sea to Land theme I was working on with the stitch combination aiming to mimic rolling waves. The original ‘Atlantic’ colourway in lovely soft affordable Stylecraft Special DK supplied by Ammonite Yarns, my local independent yarn store was used at my 2019 Crochet Confidence intermediate workshop to help teach techniques such as standing trebles, carrying yarn, bobble stitches, puff stitches and crossed trebles. Since then, I have added the ‘Pacific’ colourway.
Now, to create a “Noughts and Crosses, complete in a week” baby blanket, I have adapted the pattern for “Rolling Pinks”, “Rolling Blues” and “Casual neutrals” colourways in two sizes, 36” x 36” with 6 colours and 30” x 30” with five colours. After experimenting with other borders, I decided to keep the pebble border as I like the simplicity of the two colour combination and feel the puffiness compliments the overall design. The new pattern variations also use Stylecraft Special DK yarn but are easily adapted to more expensive yarns too.
A small version is easily adaptable to make a baby “Lovie” by adding your favourite amigurumi head!
The yarn packs and patterns (available together or separately) for these new designs are exclusively available through Ammonite Yarns as are the From Sea to Land original designs.
Look out for my other new designs coming to Ammonite Yarns soon.
We couldn't have put it better. You can find the designs and yarn packs here
Welcome to our blog
Here we will share our experiences of running a local yarn shop in South Wales.