Monday, 23 February 2015

Introducing: YAK, Brighton

I've been following the ventures of Kate from Yarn and Knitting since I met her at the knitting show 'Unwind Brighton' last year, she was then (and still is) the owner of a beautiful online shop 'YAK' (Yarn and Knitting). A haven for knitters and yarn lovers alike, beautiful yarns, patterns and various tools that knitters would love to own. Kate has just recently opened up a real life shop here in brighton, which excitingly now stocks Yellow Bear Wares knitting needle jewellery.
I went to visit Kate and the shop just before the grand opening to have a look around. Kate has also very kindly has answered some questions for my first ever 'Introducing' blog post, a series in which I will introduce you to some pretty exciting maker/crafter/do-er type people:

Firstly please introduce yourself:
Hello, my name is Kate and I run YAK a lovely little local yarn shop in
Brighton. We are nestled in the North Laines, an area renowned for its
creative buzz and eclectic mix of shops. 

 What is your earliest knitting memory?
I was definitely shown how to knit and crochet at quite a young age but I don't remember being very enamoured with it at the time and I definitely didn't get past knitting just a little square. The first project I can remember finishing was a scarf when I was about 13. I ran out of wool before
it was long enough so carried on with a completely different colour which
didn't exactly go, so it turned out pretty odd. I think I palmed it off on a

What made you want to turn your passion for knitting into a business?
It was a combination of things. I'd been living in Canada which was where I
really fell in love with knitting where there are none of the preconceptions
of who should be knitting like there still is here. And the yarn shops, oh
the yarns shops! When I got back to the UK I knew I wanted to try and get
into the industry somehow but was hard to think of an obvious way in having
had no background in it. Then when I moved to Brighton and found it really
hard, not only to find somewhere to buy yarn but also to find other
knitters, I made up my mind pretty quickly that creating a space for
knitters was what I should do. It didn't make any sense to me that a
creative city like Brighton didn't have a good yarn shop and I knew there
must be hundreds of other knitters who felt the same. So I set about doing
my market research like a good business person, met some really inspiring
local knitters, designers and dyers who gave me the encouragement I needed
and the rest is history. I hope people come into the shop, knitters or not,
and feel inspired to get creative.

Yellow Bear Wares necklaces and bracelets in situ at the shop.
What is on your 'hot list' knitting wise at the moment?
It hard to keep up sometimes! I love browsing patterns on Ravelry, and there
are certain designers I follow especially because their work is always so
inspiring. Over on the YAK blog I write a pattern round up at the end of
every month where I post up some of my favourite patterns that were released
during the month. I always have far too many to choose from but if I had to
pick a designer who I really can't wait to see more from it would be Dianna Walla. She has popped up in so many of the things I've been reading recently
and her designs never fail to set my mind wandering to my stash.

Gorgeous yarns from 'the uncommon thread'

What exciting things can we look forward to at the YAK shop in Brighton?
Classes. Our class timetable going up on our website a few days ago. We've
started out with some beginner classes to get the ball rolling but we will
be adding more advanced classes and workshops soon.
Knit night. A static feature every week on a Thursday for anyone who's in
need of a bit of social knitting time.
We also have a few events planned for later in the year including hosting
the Yarn in the City gang on Knit in Public Day.

Thank you Kate for this introduction to yourself and your shop, such a good addition to the North Laines and to Brighton as a whole, there really was a gap to be filled and the shop does it just perfectly
As you can see in my photos Kate has exquisitely curated the shop, from the items she sells to the way she display's them amongst gorgeous furniture and props, please go see for yourself at:
16 Gloucester Road, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 4AD 
If you don't live in Brighton or are too far for a visit you can see YAK online here: 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Brighton Etsy Team Blog Hop post

I was nominated by the lovely Kate of Actually I Do for our newly started Brighton Etsy Team Blog Hop, in which we all answer the same questions (created by Kate) so that we can get to know each other a little better and tell people about ourselves and what we are up to. Please follow the links through and you'll get a great introduction to our thriving crafty community!

What inspired you to start your business or Etsy shop?
Well to be honest it sort of happened by accident, I've been a maker for as long as I can remember, mostly making gifts for people but occasionally making things for myself, then I started making knitting needle bracelets for friends and had given some for my parents to try and sell on their stall. At that time I was an avid follower of my friend Emily's adventures into handmade selling (see her Etsy shop cuttlefishlove here). Emily makes beautiful Japanese folded flowers, an art known as Kanzashi and I could see that she was involved in a supportive network of makers here in Brighton.

An example of Emily's Kanzashi.
I soon realised I should be trying to sell my own makes myself, and so I gradually built up a selection of designs as well as the bracelets, opened my own Etsy shop, and joined the Brighton Etsy Team. Luckily, early on in my Etsy adventure, Etsy Mentor Month happened and I was given an amazing introduction to all sorts of Etsy tips and tricks by my mentor Kelly Stevens of Etsy shop FabFunky. It gave me a great insight into lots of things I hadn't a clue about, Kelly really got me set-up properly and raring to go!

We're looking at goals in the Brighton Etsy Team this month (you can follow along with #btnetsygoals!) Can you share one of your goals for your shop for the next six months?
I missed the Etsy meeting about this and although I have made vague plans to 'BE BRAVE' as a goal this year and try new things. Apart from that I haven't actually got any specific goals yet, except that I really need to photograph stock more regularly and get my available items back up to the 100 area, it's dismally low at the moment and that does not help with views and visibility within the Etsy community. I'm cheating and adding more vague goals here but I also have aims to try and make my Instagram more chic, keeping the images of a high and consistent quality.

Last year was absolutely great, I had many unexpected positives happen without planning them (for more on that see my round-up of 2014 here) and I'm hoping that by building on my brand, working on new designs, broadening my range, being involved in the Brighton Etsy Team and sticking to BIG knitting shows (being BRAVE there!) that my shop (and I) will continue to grow and consistently make sales throughout the year. I guess one more specific goal could be to reach a previously un-found audience through my blog, I'm aiming to write about 1 post per week or fortnight, and so far I'm sticking to it!

What are you working on at the moment?
One of my being BRAVE moves has been to book myself into a few BIG knitting shows this year, the first of which I have been accepted to is the Edinburgh Yarn Festival next month, this is massive for me, travelling that far for a show and making a bigger investment than before. I'm currently getting stuck into making tonnes of new stock and sorting out my display so that it is portable enough to allow me to get all my stuff to Edinburgh and so that it looks professional and a little more chic than before. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post I have commissioned ByHookCrochet to create me a series of crochet bowls and boxes that my stock can sit in on the table, these are due to be finished this week and I'm very excited about receiving them.

If you could give other sellers or someone looking to start their own design/craft business one piece of advice what would you say?
Join a local Etsy team! It has been the most inspiring thing to help me in so many ways on my journey to becoming an Etsy shop owner, it's so good to share the highs and lows with people who are going through the same as you, it's a way of meeting a like-minded bunch of creatives and of learning more about running a creative business. I realise I'm very lucky being here in Brighton as we have a thriving group headed by a team of amazing people, who regularly put on events, talks, parties and monthly meetings, this really helps with the community feel of the whole thing, if you aren't lucky enough to have such a team near by I would suggest that you aim to try and make that happen!

If you fancy checking out more Brighton Etsy Team makers and their blogs, here's our blogroll.
I'm not sure who wanted to be involved in the blog hop so I'm just going to make this up and hope they are interested, I nominate: Victoria of Victoria Sol Jewllery, Karli and Jacques from designosaur and Anna from Anna's drawing room.

Monday, 9 February 2015

A photo shoot for a new greetings card.

So I've been procrastinating on a few things recently, mostly to do with my perceived hate of doing still life/product photography, don't get me wrong- I love looking at pictures once they are created (even better if someone else took them!) it's the process that just seems so laborious and painstaking. Anyway enough moaning, on Saturday I finally got motivated to get out my camera and went about shooting a new image for a greetings card that I have had on my 'to do' list for a long time.

I had the idea of a card showing an image of vintage knitting ephemera; including the pretty pastel coloured knitting needles from which I make my jewellery, a vintage beehive wool holder that I absolutely love and some knitting needle gauges and row counters I have gathered over the years. I got together my props and my trusty reflector like this very reasonably priced one here:
 I set up against a blank wall and near to my window, the light was bright outside but there wasn't direct bright sunlight on the space I was using; ideal conditions!
I wish I took photos of the whole space with my reflector included but that's hard to do when you are the one holding the reflector! Anyway I have this photo here where you can roughly see how I was working:

I held the large disc reflector to the right hand side of the camera and fiddled with it until the light from the window bounced off the reflector and onto my props. I knew I didn't want to get rid of all the shadows as that can make things looks really flat but I didn't want harsh shadows, I also wanted to create a bit of a 'pop' in the shiny items so natural light and a reflector is all I needed.

Here is the image I created:
I wasn't happy with how the background looked grey and the fact that the vases natural yellow colour wasn't contrasting enough with it, so with some post work in photoshop I gave the background a bot of a colour wash and added some saturation to the vase and here is the result:
I like the way it has a real vintage feel because it reminds me of the hand-painted black and white photographs popular in the mid to late 19th century.

Whilst taking the photographs I really experienced some creative flow, which I haven't felt for ages, ideas came rushing in about extra props to use and different things to try, I was excited by the images I was creating which then caused more ideas to come, time flew by and soon the sun was disappearing so I had to stop, but not before I fitted in a couple of shots of my jewellery using the same set-up.

I realised later that evening that although I say I hate product photography I really don't, it's just the idea of it, and when I make time I can actually enjoy it. I need to learn to stop procrastinating as it isn't always as bad as the task first seems!

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Seedy Sunday

Today I took a curious look round 'Seedy Sunday' Brighton, the UK's biggest and longest-running community seed swap event. It used to take place in Hove town hall which is just down the road from me- and I hadn't been since it changed place to the Corn Exchange in central Brighton. I've also had issues with our lanlord repeatedly accidentally getting rid of anything we attempt to grow in the shared garden so I've sort of gone off growing things at the moment.

It was busier than ever even though I didn't get there til around 2pm, I love the feeling of the event, a hive of activity, all passionate about growing or preserving seed. One of the main aims of Seedy Sunday is to enable the swapping of seed, basically mainstream seed companies are selling F1 seed, from which it is impossible to collect, re-plant and grow from the following year, so you have to keep going back and buying more! (very good for the companies involved!) "EU legislation reinforces this by making it illegal to sell or buy seeds from varieties which are not officially 'Listed' - a costly and time consuming process" This also means that thousands of garden varieties are dissapearing! However "by growing open-pollinated varieties, then saving and swapping the seeds, growers can keep alive 'outlawed' varieties, conserve biodiversity and limit corporate control of the basis of life."

 There were over 60 stalls and the infamous free seed swapping area (if you bring your own to swap- otherwise it's just 50p per packet).

One of my favourite finds was a stall where you could mix up your own 'seed bombs':

And check out this amazing wildlife hotel:
I wouldn't mind taking up residence in this beauty!

As well as seedy/growy things I found people demonstrating spinning wool and roving making:

A beautiful exhibition of naturally dyed wool:

These were dyed by 'The Hedgerow dyers' whom I am definitely going to get in touch with, the colours were just stunning and I would love to give this a go! These gorgeous woolen yarns were being used to create a knitted map of Brighton:

So in all the event was a fantastic, affordable way to source new varieties and plants that you want to try growing, but also I found some interesting knitting/wool activities going on. It happens every February and I truely recommend it for those with and without green fingers!

I have been informed that there is a 'Seedy Saturday' this Saturday 7th of February in Lewes, see here for more details: