It's been just over two years since Gerard and I started I Knit London. Back then we were a regular knitting group, organising weekly meetings for knitters in London pubs. Every Wednesday we'd choose a pub, send out a newsletter and wait for people to arrive. So far, so easy. It's only ever worked because people came, what we did was really nothing at all. So we'd teach people how to do stuff, and sometimes they'd teach us and we all had a few drinks and got on like a house on fire, made new friends and made stuff. But there was more to do, there was a Sunday market stall at Spitalfields, a decision based on the fact Gerard couldn't buy any recylced sari silk in London, so thought he'd do it himself. Those very early Sunday mornings were very hard work and even if we didn't make back any of the stall rent, we met more knitters and we invited them along to our weekly pub meetings too. Our circle of friends got bigger and our plans did too. but, the last thing we wanted was a shop - why would we need another full-time job on top of the two we already had?
One of our local hang-outs was the Bonnington café, where I'd meet Gerard for lunch when it was my day off from the National Theatre, and he was working around the corner for WaterAid. I don't remember when it was that I first suggested asking about the corner shop, at that time looking pretty grim with the metal shutters down and a blight on the square to be honest. Gerard was working from 8am til 4pm so we thought we could run a shop for people after work, open from 4 to 9 and still give ourselves a little time to have a life. We'd close on Wednesdays so we could still go to the pubs and knit and all would be well. We knocked on a few doors, found the owner and decided to give it a go....and it's been an unexpected journey.
Shortly afterwards Gerard was promoted and had to stay on til 5pm. It's only an hour difference but somehow 5 to 9 each night didn't seem proper, so we got someone to sit there for afternoon, usually on their own, pretending to run a shop, only with no customers. This is when we decided to get our licence to sell alcohol and decided that we'd alternate our weekly knitting group between shop and pub, giving everyone a chance to come and discover IKL and to live up to the 'sanctuary' part of the name which we'd been adamant about from the start. And so it went on....
Recently I've been hearing that because we're a 'business' we're different to other knitting groups; somehow this makes us less worthy of praise, as if our 2 years of work is somehow reaping financial rewards. I only wish! True, Gerard did, finally give up his full-time job at the end of 2007, meaning he can now spend his time and energies on his first love, but it's also true that it means from two incomes we're down to only one! I'm glad the 14 hour working days are over, I'm ecstatic that we won't have to give up our flat and live in the shop again (well, not as far as we plan it anyway) but with only two of us running the shop and the knitting group, not to mention organising SnB Day last year and this year's I Knit Day, it's still a long way from time to relax and put our feet up.
So, the last thing we need right now is more stress and more sleepless nights - but we genuine love IKL so much that we're going to do that anyway...and we're moving. Bonnington Square has been good to us, it's been a beautiful place to rest our knitty heads and it will always be part of our IKL story...but there's always time to move on. Next week London has it's newest knitting shop, at 106 Lower Marsh, Waterloo, SE1. Open late, licenced bar, gorgeous yarns and still a place for knitters to drop-in, put their feet up and have a natter. We wouldn't miss it for the world and we hope knitters from London and those visiting the city think so too.
From a weekly pub knitting group to what we consider to be a very good local yarn store, it has been a long hard slog. We won't be retiring anytime soon and we'll continue to do our best to offer London's knitters what we think they want and need. To all those who think it's easy you are welcome to have a go, and for those who think we're in it for the money - well, I can only laugh! The one thing I will say is that I am never a do-er, I'm always a wannabe! Thanks to Gerard this has been the most interesting (most stressful, most exciting, most unpredictable, most fulfilling...) 2 years of my life. If you want to do something just do it...we are no businessmen, and I still feel like I'm making it up as I go along. The clever part is making it look, apparently, so easy.
I Knit London will open at Waterloo on Saturday 15th March....until then, there's lots of painting, scrubbing and shelf-building to get done!