A Little Bit About Me

Hello Yarn Lovers, Claire here. Fran has been busy with her knitting needles and watercolour brushes so has asked if I could write a few words for the newsletter. Something along the lines of “all about yourself…your no nonsense, traditional British childhood, inspiration from your mum, family values…..how you came to NZ, applying to Woolly etc.”…..so here goes!

Growing up in the south of England, in a place called Totton, nestled nicely between the 'bright' lights of Southampton city and the wild heathlands of the New Forest National Park, my childhood was a joyous one. My dad was a Police Dog Handler, Mum was ex-police turned Learning Support Teacher and my brother was my first best friend (although he would deny it now) seeing as there is only 13 months difference between the two of us.

In the summer Mum and Dad would load the Land Rover up with all the kids from the cul-de-sac and take us out in to the middle of the national park. We’d find a rope swing and be content until it came time to pile back in to the Landie, soaking wet and exhausted and drive home, ready to do it all again tomorrow. If we weren’t in the forest, we were playing roller hockey in the street or waiting for it to get dark before starting a game of ‘9-9-In’ until Dad would call us in for bedtime. Rainy days were spent painting Warhammer, inventing new games or acting out our favourite parts of Disney movies. This was when my first love for crafting started.

My mum is a true artist. She is someone that can try her hand at anything and instantly be amazing. Painting, sculpting, felting, weaving, illustrating, knitting, cake decorating etc. We never really understood how lucky we were to have someone like her around, until later years when my brother would turn to her a day or two before Halloween and say “Mum, I need a dragon outfit for a work thing”. And she would come through, dragon feet shoes and all. So, I don’t really know why it took me so long to ask her to teach me to knit, but it wasn’t until 2014 that I eventually did. They were living in Spain at the time, and I had gone out to visit them between working as a stewardess on a private yacht and starting work as a ski chalet host. I was only there for a week, but she handed me some very yellow acrylic yarn and showed me the basics to knit a snood.

Needless to say, it wasn’t my best work. But that was that I was hooked.

Over the years, my jobs have been vast, and some have included a lot of travelling and not much time for knitting. But I would pick it up whenever I went home. I’d plan my next project whilst sailing around the Mediterranean, looking forward to the winter season when I knew I could sit in front of the TV, with Mum by my side to help, and get those needles out of storage. Starting small, with beanies and a baby blanket, then getting a little more adventurous with a VW campervan inspired cushion cover. That’s when I really started to get addicted. I started taking my knitting needles with me when working on the private yacht, spending my weekend watches onboard looking after the boat and starting a Wool and the Gang chunky cardigan kit. Around this time, I started to develop feelings for the quirky Kiwi Chief Engineer I had been working with for the last 3 years and before you could say ‘Bob’s your uncle’, I was applying for a Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand.

I spent 2018 in New Zealand, living between Tauranga and Hawkes Bay, spending time with Richard between his job, doing the touristy thing such as travelling around the South Island in a campervan for three weeks and visiting the very North of the island. However, the sea called us back to it and we spent the summer of 2019 sailing around Italy, Turkey and France. Richard had at this point been working on the yacht for 6 years and was ready for a change. So, in February 2020, he handed in his notice and flew to the UK to meet me and spend some time with my family. Whilst there, we decided to spend a long weekend in Copenhagen, Denmark, and were in our hotel room one morning when we heard the news that Donald Trump was closing the borders to anyone flying from Europe. Panic filled us as my flights to New Zealand were to stopover in Los Angeles in a couple of weeks’ time. Quickly we packed up our things and got on the next flight out of Copenhagen, back to the UK. We made it back to my parents’ house on the Friday and by the Monday we were on our way to New Zealand, landing just two days before the NZ borders closed.

Those first months were spent, like the rest of you, knitting my way through lockdown. Tauranga has only one knitting shop, so I briefly dreamt about starting my own online wool shop to fill a demand I felt must be there. But life got in the way and before I knew it, I was working at Mitre10 (much to Richards delight). Richard then accepted a new job which meant we had to move to the ‘big smoke’, Auckland. One day I was searching for knitting groups in Auckland, thinking it would be a great way to meet new people and keep my addiction going, when I happened to find a job advert for a wool shop in Milford. “What’s the harm in applying?” I said to myself, sending off my cover letter and not thinking I would hear back. Cut to a couple weeks later, I’m sat in the most beautifully stocked and well thought out wool shop I’ve ever seen, trying to impress this lovely couple from the North of England, whilst trying not to appear too eager. Questions fly around and I’m asked how I would rate my knitting skill, on a scale of 1 to 10. I gave an honest 6 out of 10, thinking that, without my Mum by my side, I haven’t knitted anything too extravagant or complicated.

I think Fran thinks I was being modest, but honestly just working in the store, talking to you lovely ladies all day and listening to the constant stream of advice coming from Fran, I have gained so much knowledge and experience. I am completing patterns that I would never have even contemplated before. Circular needles, top down, raglan increase, Italian bind off etc. How could I not be inspired by the yarn I am surrounded by each day, by the patterns I see each one of you attempt.

My addiction could not be any stronger; I am a knitting addict.

I did not mean to waffle on for too long, however I do hope this has filled some time whilst we sit through another lockdown. Cindy is doing the right thing and hopefully we will be out of danger before you know it!

Keep calm and carry on, as us Brits would say.

Or should I say Kia Kaha.


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