Yesterday we took a slice of Newtown House to Prefab’s festive Christmas market. We had a blast talking with people and watching them respond to our unique offering - cast-iron cookware, glasses, table linens, copper pans, knives - and yarn? And sewing patterns? YES we say, we are about the homemade and the handmade.
We walk in both worlds - proudly sourcing homewares made with care and helping people who want to share in the home crafts of knitting and sewing while supporting independent yarn producers and pattern makers.
It’s probably safe to say that there isn’t a copper pan community, or a linen tea towel community, in the same way there’s a knitting and sewing community. And what a community it is. Fibre folk are just different.
Recent months have brought this home to us in so many ways. Much of the year has been spent with Nick facing up to a cancer diagnosis and the resulting surgery and months of chemotherapy. We’re nearly to the end of this hard slog, just in time for Christmas. For obvious reasons we have put our focus, and limited time and energy, into things close to home. So, developments here in Newtown House land have been slower than we’d have hoped.
It’s also meant I’ve had to do something I am so loathe to do. I asked for help. With a slow knitting output at the best of times, there was no way I was keeping up with my internal wish-list of samples knit up in the beautiful wools we stock. They’re unusual for New Zealand, which means it’s even more important to us that people can see, and touch, and understand, the qualities of these yarns. I’m also keen to sew up some sample garments from the patterns we stock, but again - limited time!
We all know there’s nothing like seeing yarns, and fabric, and garments, in real life. Pixels can only tell you so much, and they are absolutely silent on how things will feel against your skin, and how the yarn will go through your needles.
So I emailed my knitterly friends and asked: Would you mind helping me with some shop samples? I was so embarrassed to do this - it was like admitting defeat. And I almost cried at the responses. YES. YES with enthusiasm, even. Everyone was in agreement that not only should these be shop samples, but they should be things that we could wear.
These magical things happened:
A day before the Christmas market, at Knitting Ladies Lunch, Helga was doing a show and tell of the beautiful Wool and Honey jersey you see here. She had just finished it, using Tukuwool she’d bought from us just a few weeks earlier. It is utterly, glowingly gorgeous. She handed it over the table, along with a pair of socks she’d made from Rosa Pomar’s Mondim. Take them, she said. I protested. Come on, she said, summer’s coming. Keep them until after the Unwind knitting retreat in Dunedin, in March. I won’t need them until then! Put them in the shop, take them to shows, do whatever you want. People need to see what it’s all about. So the jersey and the socks went to the Saturday market with us and had pride of place with the yarn we’d brought. As I told Helga later, I could have easily sold her jersey at least five times. But as knitters know, this kind of thing is priceless.
Another friend said of course I could have the things she’d made using our wool for shows.
People also offered to knit things from scratch. Which then turned into very jolly conversations about patterns, and yarn, and Knitting Schemes. These kinds of talks are just the BEST.
Sue said, let’s do some more socks. Not for me, I said, looking at the ground: I’ve got big feet. (One reason I have never made a pair of socks!) What came back was basically, bollocks, put your foot on a ruler and we will make it work.
At lunch I handed Sue a skein of Biches et Bûches Le Gros Lambswool for her to make a hat. Less than 24 hours later she was at the market with a nearly finished hat, the Antler from Tincanknits. She pulled it out of her bag and we popped it onto Nick’s head to check whether she could start the crown decreases. Yes, it was time. It’s probably blocking now. Who am I kidding, it was probably blocking an hour later.
Another friend popped by our stand and said she was looking forward to what I’m now calling Project Shoppe Sample. When I thanked her, she looked at me with a smile and said, “Honestly, it’s just nice to be able to help.” I almost cried again. (I’d like to blame the exhaustion or too much coffee or both, but.)
So where does this leave us? It’s oft repeated life advice, and perhaps because of this it’s become trite, but I believe we forget it at our peril: People like to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. And if you’re a knitter, it won’t be long until you’re swimming in the handknits — figuratively and literally, you will be buoyed up by wool. It’s just one of the many things that makes this community such a special one, and one we’re so grateful to be a part of.