Supporting small

Over recent months many small businesses have found themselves in a precarious situation – unable to open shops, sell at markets – making it all the more important that we support them now to ensure their future existence. We Snails have done our very best to buy from small traders over the past 10 months and have managed to source the majority of our food that way – luckily in our part of the world there are many, many small food producers and an abundance of independent retailers. In addition, we’ve been able to access direct from some producers via the internet. I know that people who cannot go to the shops have found the big supermarkets to be a lifeline, but those of us who are able to shop locally can play our part in making sure that people in our community who have small businesses continue not only to survive, but to thrive. Plus, many of our local small businesses have gone the extra mile to support the vulnerable in our community – delivering emergency supplies at short notice, for example – something that you simply wouldn’t get from big companies. In addition, many small businesses, despite suffering themselves, have donated to local food banks and other charities supporting the needy.

Aside from shops that sell food, other retailers have found the last year even more of a challenge. Even well-established companies are being affected. I noticed that Baa Ram Ewe, producers of fabulous British wool (including the stuff I made my latest fingerless mittens out of), have had to resort to crowd funding to give their business a chance of surviving (here is the link). Whilst I have been at home, I have tried to make the majority of my on-line purchases of materials for making things from small, independent companies, but I also keep an eye open for very small enterprises who are crowdfunding. And this is how I came across Midwinter Yarns, who were trying to collect enough money to produce a Welsh wool to add to their range. They are based in Scotland, but have Welsh connections and their wool sounded lovely (you can read about it here, although their crowdfunder was successful and closed last summer).

My contribution was sufficient to receive six skeins of their hand-dyed yarn. The wool arrived a few weeks ago and so I needed to find a pattern that would be suitable for the amount of yarn available. Having gone out of my usual comfort zone and chosen a sludgy green colour (the photo on the left below is closest to the actual colour), I wanted to make something appropriate, which I think I found with Southern Pines by Dora Does.

It’s worked top down, all in one piece, so there’s no sewing up at the end. I had a bit of an issue early on in the pattern, but Michelle, the designer. was amazingly helpful, even though it turned out that the problem was me being dim rather than an issue with the pattern itself. It will have long (or at least 3/4) sleeves, and I’ll make the body as long as uses up all the yarn – this is one of the joys of top-down garments. I plan to make a skirt to wear with it out of some grey and white fabric I have with a design called “crop circles” (the fabric was from an independent on-line store, but more on that in a future post). So, a new outfit in hand all from small, businesses – long may they survive.

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29 Comments

  1. You are so right about supporting local businesses although I concede it’s not always practical or cost effective.
    We have a local community store – run by volunteers – and you can order online to pick up from the village hall on Wednesdays. They have quite a lot of local produce as well as brands and, although the choice is more limited than a supermarket, you can get all the basics plus some treats and you can actually get a slot for collection which is nigh on impossible with the likes of Ocado and Waitrose at the moment.
    I will definitely carry on supporting them when these bizarre days are over.
    Love that sludgy green colour.

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    • Glad you like the colour… I dithered over it for ages, but I’m rather pleased with it.
      One of our local shops has been amazing with our very elderly neighbours…. the owner came up especially to drop off milk and bread in the early days of lockdown #1 when they ran out (and didn’t ask us!).

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  2. Excellent advice! Lovely yarn.

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  3. Lovely wool, and I like your description of the colour.
    Yes, it’s very difficult to know what to do for the best. We buy fruit & veg locally, to top up on what is in the freezer. And craft supplies of course. I know we cannot get to collect right now, but had bought a lot from Suma through HT. But as for main stream food? Well you know how rubbish a cook I am, so Morrisons it is. 😦

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  4. Rather than ‘sludgy’, let us rather call it oak leaf green, because it does look very similar to that greeny gold colour of new oak leaves in the spring. It’s going to be very pretty.
    I had the TV on at 2.30am while I was seeing the Husband off to work, for the start of the inauguration. Thank heavens. Rationality, goodwill and compassion, common sense, a moral compass and impulse control reign again. I like a President who can show emotion other than conceit, tantrums and sulks.

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  5. Shopping small and local is so important. I try to do it, and like everyone, don’t always succeed. A campaign was started during our lockdown at the end of last year called ‘Click for Vic’, where we were encouraged to buy from Victorian producers, many of whom were struggling because of the lockdown. It seems to have been very successful, with lots of clicks and purchases via the website, but has required government support.

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  6. Testing 1 2 3… WordPress seems to be gobbling my replies to posts and not spitting them out on the other side.
    I think the concept of ‘supporting local’ is rapidly gaining traction everywhere, an interesting return to a different kind of market economy.

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  7. I tried so hard when we moved to a new area to find local businesses to support high streets. My experience was the opposite to yours, and I found many businesses who acted in a very entitled way and gave poor value and service. The exception was the local hairdresser who was wonderful- consequently at every appointment I gave large tips to help make up her missing income.

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  8. Ethical Addictions

     /  January 21, 2021

    Great article. The small businesses that survive will do so because of support from loyal customers and people like you encouraging others to buy small and buy local.

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    • I really like buying from real people rather than big companies, but many people just don’t seem to get it. I guess one of the issues is finding small businesses – in the past I’ve spent a lot of time researching in order to track down small independent retailers/producers. It’s pretty easy now, as most of the hard work has been done and I usually know where to go to get what I need. I have to say that the increase in small businesses having an online presence has helped, although there are still one or two suppliers who I have to ring up to place an order.

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  9. That’s gorgeous, and yes. Absolutely. As a tiny business, I am very grateful for every sale, review, social media share and interaction. Thank you for all the links, that looks a gorgeous pattern, I’ll have to take a look. Hugs.

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  10. I’ve tried to support local and small, but for the last few months have been homebound a lot of time – so it’s the big chain online supermarket. But I try to buy locally produced items from them although some of the products seem to be from Australia!

    When I was able to be out and about, instead of going to a big chain for textile supplies went to a small one that has had a huge blow via no cruise ships in port (they are a block or two from said port) – so although I could get elswhere for the larger reels of sewing machine thread or DMC, they get my support. Also the art store in up-town but not been in for a while.

    I agree with Kate on the colour – but also I see that it’s going to look much different when it’s been worn and it will catch the light of day etc.

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  11. Going Batty in Wales

     /  January 22, 2021

    We are very lucky here in rural West Wales to have village shops for food and everyday things and independent shops in the towns for more specialist items. Then there are the local producers who sell direct to the public. It is much, much harder in large towns and cities where many of those shops have gone in the face of competition from supermarkets and chainstores. There online is the only other option.

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