Monday, January 27, 2020

You Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone...

This week marks the last week of the 'brick and mortar' version of The Crafty Lady.  The doors will close February 1 at 6 p.m., and a new chapter in the business' history will begin -- just two weeks shy of 26 years with a store-front location.

Why do you think so many small, independent businesses shut their doors and either close completely or go the online route?

There are probably as many answers to that question as there are small, independent business-owners.  It's a complex issue, and rarely is there only one reason.  But here are some factors...

  • The owner wants to retire and no one will buy the business because...
    • It takes capital to fund a business that has built up good will in a community;
    • It takes courage to take a long-running existing business and put your own stamp on it as a new owner;
    • It takes courage to continue to compete against Big Box Stores selling similar merchandise more cheaply; and
    • A small business is a 24/7/365 (or 366!) commitment.  However much it might be your passion, it will also be your life;
  • The business is in a rented premises -- and doing very well -- so when the shop's lease is coming up for renewal, the landlord just might spike the rent to skim off as much of the business' profits for him/herself; 
  • The economy of a given community/province/country ebbs and flows...and however robust the planning or the capitalization, it becomes a real challenge to keep brick-and-mortar going if customers aren't buying, while costs are rising -- for heat, electricity, inventory and the like; and/or
  • The advent of the Internet and the boom in online shopping over the last 10+ years means that while people might enjoy the ambiance, the service and the quality of products in a local shop, more and more drop in for a "fix" and then shop somewhere else where -- with free shipping offered over "X" amount spent -- they can get something similar for less.
One or some or all of these reasons factor in to the closing of a physical store-front occupied by a small, independent business.

So...the owner puts the inventory on sale so there is less to pack up and move -- whether to a warehouse for an online operation, or to a "shop on wheels" that books space on a 'pop up' basis that changes from week to week or month to month.

People flock to the store then to stock up before the closing date -- and because of the discounts available.

They commiserate; they're sorry to see the business shut its doors; they'll miss the business' presence in the community...they wonder what the staff will do now that they are out of work.

They've suddenly begun to realize what they had...and what they'll lose when it's gone.  

Even though The Crafty Lady will continue in a new format -- online and through mobile 'pop-up' locations; even though she'll continue to carry beautiful, good-quality yarns at reasonable prices and there'll be opportunities to touch and feel the products, to get advice, and even -- eventually -- to book a private lesson or two; even though Knit Night will continue to provide a social time on an RSVP basis at the home Lori shares with her mother (the Very Supportive and Indefatigable Muriel)...

  • There won't be a permanent location where you can drop in to chat, browse, fondle yarn, be entranced by colour and variety, pick up notions and embroidery and beading and mending supplies, find just the right buttons for that new little sweater you've made.
  • There won't be a permanent location with at least two knowledgeable and informative staff members to advise on yarn quantities, weights, colours and patterns; or on fabric and floss for embroidery projects; or on dyeing or mending those jeans or that torn sweater or jacket or home decor item...and...
  • The face of the community changes whenever a small, independent business closes its permanent location. 

One of The Crafty Lady's longest-running community services 
has been the shop's in-take of donated yarn which is used by
volunteers to make blankets for Blankets for Canada.  The ideal yarn is a worsted weight (an American #4) made of acrylic which is easily cared for and relatively soft.  Yarn of different weights and fibre content isn't turned away, though.  Instead volunteers have taken it for baby blankets, hats, mitts, scarves and prayer shawls.  

The Shop's Queen of the Blankets is Minke, a woman well up in years who crochets (or on occasion, knits) delightfully colourful blankets that have been distributed either by Blankets for Canada, or by the shop, to half-way houses, fire victims (think: Fort McMurray a few years ago), homeless shelters and the like.  Why is Minke the Queen?  She's just brought us her 600th and 601st finished blankets!!

The Crafty Lady hopes to continue collecting donated yarn and sharing it with Minke and others as part of this service to Lacombe and stay tuned for information on how and where to donate!

While change is inevitable, while changes in technology and economies contribute a great deal to the future of any business, large or small, when -- in the words of Joni Mitchell -- "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot...Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?"

Final Brick & Mortar Week!
Discounts from 5% to 25%
on yarn, roving, 
notions, patterns,
needles, hooks,
embroidery supplies,
and all general craft items!

updates on THIS BLOG
for information 
on the
Opening of the Online Shop
and the locations of the 
Shop on Wheels.

And for one last time...this week... at 5006 - 50 Avenue, Lacombe, Alberta

THANKS to all our faithful customers...

See you in the shop!

*Written by Margaret, soon-to-be-former TCL employee...who will miss TCL -- and who knows very well what she had, though it will be gone.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Today "will be a memory too And a new day will begin"

Yesterday I went into my drawer of clean tea towels and only half looking pulled one out from the middle of the stack. It was the first project I completed - an embroidered tea cup on an old flour sack. Note: I was 6!

I believe there are many of our younger crafters who do not remember working on old flour sacks, or what I am even talking about. To be honest, I am not sure my three sons would recognize the tea towel for what it is. 

To Albertans who lived through the depression, as did my parents, you recycled everything until if fell apart. One of my father's favourite axioms was: If it was not broken - do not fix. 

The truck my first serious boyfriend owned was held together with bubble gum and chicken wire. Imagine what your mechanic would say today if you even suggested you had temporarily patched your vehicle with bubble gum, chicken wire or old pantyhose (an suggested fix for a broken fan belt). 

About 50 years ago a shower gift was a pretty tea cup or a 2 tea towels. If they were hand embroidered tea towels they were a wedding gift. I still have the copy of Mrs. Beeton's cookbook which was a wedding present to my grandparents. This was first printed in 1861 - my version was 1902. 

I have used this book many times. One of my favourite recipes is for parsnip soup - a really great hearty soup on cold winter meals. There are two versions - one with curry and one with mustard. The mustard version is recommended to help clear chest congestion. The current price of store bought parsnips almost makes it impossible to make, and I no longer have a garden. This may have to change. 

The amount of information on cooking, cuts of meat, how to separate an egg, clean house; tip - start at the top and work down is amazing. Electric vacuums were not even suggested in my copy. Dust the ceiling lights, then the walls, work down and finish with the floor. You will not just be rearranging the dust, will be able to get rid of most of it - this was one of the first things I learned from my grandmother. 

I did not know the value of the skills I was learning. I have initialled pillowcases from my mother's hope chest, similar to these (right) and I was lucky enough to be able to teach my daughter some of my skills. 

The blue ones were my Christmas gift, and ones I believe my grandchildren will appreciate. 

When my husband was first married in 1965, his wedding present was a down-feather quilt. I was the lucky recipient of that quilt when we got married in 1998. Until the material fell apart that was a treasure to curl up under on a cold night - like last week. 

Gardening, knitting, sewing, woodworking, reading, painting, writing, cooking, repairing things - as The Crafty Lady says - are skills that will see us through the next Zombie Apocalypse. Note: the list is not limited to the above. When our technology no longer exists - historical/creative skills will survive. 

Tomorrow will always come, as do changes. The Crafty Lady IS up and running on-line. The current website is not really user friendly, so Lori is working on making it more friendly. The phone number will not change - and you can reach her by messaging on Facebook or e-mail.

Small business in Alberta is seriously at risk! We had four people in last week complaining of how many businesses have closed in downtown Red Deer. Others were commenting on how Camrose Main Street is just starting to come back. 

The evolution of business is continuing. 

The current Crafty Lady plan is that by spring/summer Lori will have renovated her motor-home and will be out and about at Farmer's Markets, Music in the Park, and any other venue she can reach or will be allowed to attend. 

Both Margaret and I are really supportive of the changes Lori has decided to make, and hope you will continue to shop with her. The words to Memory from the hit musical Cats, I feel are appropriate:

Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory
She is smiling alone
In the lamplight
The withered leaves collect at my feet
And the wind begins to moan
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile happy your days (I can dream of the old days)
Life was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again
Every street lamp seems to beat
A fatalistic warning
Someone mutters and the street lamp gutters
And soon it will be morning
I must wait for the sunrise
I must think of a new life
And I mustn't give in
When the dawn comes
Tonight will be a memory too
And a new day will begin-

Written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics adapted by Trevor Nunn

As this will be my last blog, from the brick and mortar store, I Thank You - our customers for everything you have taught me, for all of your kind words over the years and the hugs/tears/laughter we have shared. 

I am Wishing Lori all the best! May we share our memory and may The Crafty Lady's dream continue 'And a new day will begin'. 

Written by Anne, treasuring my memories! Looking to see the new dawning of creativity and many successes for Lori. 

Monday, January 13, 2020

A Family Collaberation

When we first started building the original street level home of The Crafty Lady on 50th Street (Main Street), there were a number of glitches along the way, the first of which was my father being laid up in the hospital with paracarditis.

As a retired building construction teacher at the high school in town, retired building supervisor at many construction sites throughout the province and an all round handy man, having to stay in the hospital in order to keep his position in line for surgery seemed worse than the number of blockages that needed to be fixed. He wanted to get his hands dirty and supervise the build. Between us visiting daily to keep him apprised of the progress and our self-proclaimed superintendent, Mr. Gimbel, keeping the workers on their toes, we kept him from going crazy (pictured below with my brother Ron who was keeping things going at Home Hardware)

even when the owner of the neighbouring building came rushing over to tell us that by digging the basement, his basement wall was crumbling! So much for the proposed ceramics and stained glass I had planned on bringing in.

Then, while we were building a new building, the town was beautifying the street with trees. While the building was under tarps. They were planting a tree. Directly in front of the door. Smack dab in the middle of the entrance to the store. The tree got moved.

Thankfully, there were no other glitches. Dad got released from the hospital and the second he got the green light from his doctor, he was back up on the scaffolding installing a dropped ceiling.

Months later, we held our Grand Opening with the help of then Mayor Judy Gordon and Peter Bouwsema, the architect who brought my vision to life.

Then there was the move to the current location. Thanks to well timed road construction of Highway 12 (the road people call Main Street), Mom and I were able to wheel all the stock around the corner. The girls kept the store at 5009 running smoothly, calling or texting for Mom or me to run stock back over to sell, while we arranged the store so that it would be ready by July 1. We only had one hour without debit / credit card sales during that whole time. The hardest part of the whole move was convincing people that we were literally around the corner!

Even now, moving everything from the store to the warehouse - yes, we've already started - I could not do it without the collaboration of Mom, Margaret and Anne. Mom is soon going to be 86 years old and she can still keep up to me! In fact, she can sometimes play me out. :) I'm fairly certain she will be supervising (read: getting her hands dirty) when I start remodeling the RV to accommodate all the yarn I will be selling come spring. I expect I will also have a travelling companion and shelf restocker once the store is on the road.

Until then, there's still lots of product at 25% off that we would love for you to buy so that we don't have to haul it to the warehouse. 😉

written by Lori, happy TCL owner who knows the real work is still ahead.

Monday, January 6, 2020

A Stash of Memories

Does this happen to you?

Every year around this time I get a case of "startitis" -- an "infection" of "gotta make this -- and this -- and this -- and this! NOW!"  I find myself cruising Ravelry for ideas, patterns and groups that have set up challenges for the New Year.

As I confessed on my personal blog a day or so ago, it  hit me when I was roaming around YouTube, clicking on video podcasts from yarn shops.  The first one I looked up was at the recommendation of a customer who was in the Shop last week.  She and her daughter were joining a Mystery Knit-Along (MKAL) originating with the gals at Cozy Up Knits out of Grande Prairie (Alberta, not Texas; you can tell because of the "e" in "Grande" 😊) 

I went on to explain that one of the symptoms of startitis is that not only do you have to start multiple new projects, but also you find yourself compelled to work on each one all at once.  Having a 20-to-30-minute video to enjoy while you work makes it easier to do this -- especially if you have a series of video 'casts lined up that you've never seen, so you can watch them one after the other.  You simply spend one video's worth of time working on one project; when that 'cast ends, you switch projects!  You have an opportunity to get up and stretch -- get more coffee or a glass of water or whatever -- and move to The Next New Thing. 

I ended up starting two projects from scratch using yarn from my stash -- my pre-Crafty Lady stash -- but while I was searching for the right New Things to make to satisfy my cravings, I unearthed something else as well:  memories.

Yes, a stash might sit for a long time in your home -- in drawers, cupboards, tote bags, baskets, wherever.  It might even gather dust (or at least, pet hair!)  But when you dig out a ball or two of yarn and take a bit of time to think about where and when you acquired it, or from what project it's left over, you also release something else: memories.

What triggered my thoughts for this post?  I was digging through my sock yarns when I stumbled over a partial ball of bright yellow and another in deep navy, with the 'Regia' label still attached.

Ah yes... Now I remember...

I moved out of Calgary to the tiny hamlet of Mirror near the end of September 2008.  Some time not long thereafter, I explored the towns nearest me.  By happenstance, Mirror is located almost equidistant between Lacombe in the west and Stettler in the East.  Stettler is my go-to town for my artwork -- framing and mats etc. It also has a quilt shop that has furnished me with batting and fabric from time to time.  However, Lacombe is my favourite of the two -- having a bit more 'character' in its buildings and shops, a larger library, a good quilt shop, a couple of very good coffee shops, the church where I worship regularly, the lovely parkland around Cranna Lake that makes for pleasant walks...and of course, The Crafty Lady.
Pattern: Highland Schottische Kilt Hose
Designer: Nancy Bush 

I don't remember exactly when I found the Shop, but my Ravelry records show that in the fall of 2010, I made a major purchase of sock yarn.  Sometime earlier that year, I'd met a fellow who was a piper in the local pipe band.  He had a mass of lovely black yarn that he wanted made into kilt hose, and commissioned me to do so.  

He was so pleased with them that he asked me if I'd make a pair to match the tartan in his kilt, which was navy, red, yellow and dark green.

The socks would have to be argyles, and I'd need to order the yarn. Oh boy.  Off to The Crafty Lady I went, with an aged pattern in hand -- a book that had once belonged to my mother.  The pattern I chose was the one on the left below: "Highlander".

I needed solid colours as mentioned above, with the dark green as the main colour, navy and red for the diamonds, and a clear yellow for the lines that threaded through the diamonds.  The Crafty Lady had nothing at all in the shop -- but Lori was willing to order up the yarn for me.  I didn't have a pressing deadline, so I agreed.  

Only last week did Lori reveal that she hadn't carried that brand of yarn -- Regia -- in the shop as a matter of course.  Blessedly, I used a great deal of it -- but the last of it didn't sell until long after I'd made the hose, and had begun to work part-time for her in the Shop!

Argyle socks are knit flat, in part, and seamed down the back; the 'in the round' portion comes with heel and foot.  I'd never knit socks flat before.  In fact, I'd never knit any argyle pattern before.  Being paid to do this, I jumped in with both feet.

Luckily, the risk to learn and to try paid off, and my client got his argyle kilt hose in early 2011.  

Pattern: "Highlander"
Source: Patons #37 - Hand Knit Socks from Beehive

Despite their size, I still had lots of the navy, red and yellow left over.  Fortunately, the pattern book was full of other fun multi-coloured I made him another pair, free of charge.  These too were knit flat, at least part of the way.  When I gave them to him, I told him that a) he'd already paid for the yarn and b) he was the only fellow I knew who'd wear them!

Pattern: Double Check Socks
Source: Patons #37 -- Hand Knit Socks 
from Beehive

Some of you might think these projects would put me off knitting socks for a very long time -- but no.  I still make several pair a year.  Just don't ask me to make anything in argyle any time soon! 😉

Not only will I continue to make socks, I'll continue to add to my sock yarn stash even as I work hard to whittle away at "old" inventory.  And yes, the Crafty Lady will still be my go-to place for sock yarn -- even as I click and order rather than visit the Shop in brick and mortar.

Transition time continues -- with everything in the Shop on sale at a minimum of 5% off, and a max of 25% off.  This includes the perfect needles and yarn you'll need for socks -- from double-points to circular "shorties" and ones you can "magic loop".

There's still time to book a "how to" lesson for sock-making...or for just beginning to knit or crochet.

And there are four more in-Shop Knit Nights before the door closes.  Do drop down to say hello, check out our sales, have a chat, and sit and knit or crochet a bit.   Add to your stash of memories while you visit...and take them home with your yarn.

See you in the Shop!

*Written by Margaret, happy TCL employee and customer...who'd rather knit socks than just about anything else.  Just, please, no argyles!