This is a very difficult post to write, its very sad, but its also very positive for the future.
So here goes....
Daisy and I have decided to indefinitely mothball The Natural Dye Studio, to stop dyeing and close the website.
We don't want to kill NDS completely as, at sometime in the future, we may decide to revive it and start dyeing again. However if we do it won't be for several years and will be on a much smaller scale.
We have thought long and hard, and spent several months discussing our options, but we have come to the realisation that we both want to move on to follow our other careers.
Daisy wants to be a writer and I want to be a full time crochet designer.
There are so many reasons behind our decision and I want to explain some of them to you so you understand why we are closing NDS.
I'll start with a couple of the smaller reasons and work my way up to the major reason.
1 - Our lease is up at the end of April and even though I don't know for sure I suspect we won't be able to renew it as the ownership of the premises changed hands during our lease period and the new owner has little interest in our business.
If this is the case we would need to find new premises, and would probably mean moving the business off the moor into an industrial estate in Barnstaple or South Molton.
2 - It is getting more and more difficult to obtain our dyes. We have already lost 2 or 3 as they have been discontinued since moving to Devon and now we are unable to buy Fustic, which is our yellow.
Until recently we bought it 1kg at a time from our main supplier.
Recently they stopped stocking it but can obtain it from an outside source but we would have to buy 11kg minimum at an inflated price, which means it is way out of our price range.
Our other suppliers are also unable to source it.
We could use weld as a substitute, we used it previously in Suffolk. However we have been unable to get a good colour here in Devon, a colour which can best be described as pale and wishy washy - not nice at all.
There isn't a plant that dyes green, so to produce green we have to dye yellow first then over dye it with indigo, so this means not only do we lose yellow from our palette, but we also loose all our greens, leaving us with orange, pink, purple and blue.
Now onto the main reason.....
Daisy and I can't cope with the workload.
This is a very long explanation, so you might need a cup of tea to help you get to the end.....
Let me rewind you to a year ago...
Phil, Daisy and myself were all working for NDS, everything was under control and running smoothly.
I was in the process of deciding whether or not to write my book. It was a difficult decision as I didn't want to damage NDS and knew that Daisy and Phil would have to take on my extra work. They both assured me they could cope and that I should do it, so I signed the contract and started making blankets.
We managed to struggle through, it was hard work and meant we had to work weekends to keep everything under control, but we managed it.
Then in the summer Phil was offered a full time job by a very close friend. It was a proper job, with a proper wage and meant that if Phil and I stopped taking a wage from NDS Daisy could be paid a 'living wage' and there would be less of a financial burden for every one involved.
Phil had been working for NDS since his redundancy in 2010, and even though he loved it I always felt that it wasn't enough for him as he was used to big business, plus he wanted to turn it into a much bigger company that would have meant so many changes that the core and ethos of NDS would of been lost.
I know he was frustrated with Daisy and myself for wanting to keep NDS small and true to its self.
I was panic stricken as to what the future might hold, but happy and positive for him as I knew his new job was exactly what he needed.
So at the beginning of August NDS became just Daisy and myself with the help of Nicky one day a week.
For the first month it wasn't too bad and we managed to cope. It's always quieter in the summer and although we had to dye for the shows NDS was almost under control.
Daisy was doing nearly all the dyeing, clubs, wholesale and updates. She was also doing a lot of the winding, all the packing and posting, and all the wholesale and club management.
I was spending 3 days at the studio helping with the dyeing, working on the update, marketing, social networking, managing the website and trying to produce patterns for NDS.
The other 4 days of the week I was designing and making blankets for my book. I wish I could say I was writing the patterns, but I just didn't have the time.
We managed to struggle though to Yarndale, had a brilliant show, and hoped to relax a little bit during the autumn before starting to plan next years shows.
On the way home I started to sneeze and by the time we got home I had flu and have been ill ever since. Nothing major or life threatening just an endless lists of colds and infections (gum, sinus, tonsil), and was finally diagnosed with asthma. As soon as I recover from one thing I come down with a new one.
I've had lots of tests for various things and spent a lot of time at the doctors and the verdict is that there is nothing serious to worry about but I am run down and over stressed.
At one point during this period Daisy damaged the tendons in both her hands from over work and had to stop dyeing for several weeks. As a result she became very irritable and upset; she was hugely frustrated and I was left to take on her workload in the dye-room as well as my own.
It all came to a head one day when a friend of ours said good morning to me and I burst into tears for absolutely no reason at all. I was broken physically and mentally.
During all this chaos we went to Bath to see the Kaffe Fasset exhibit at the American Museum.
I love Kaffe and, whilst standing in amongst all his colour and knitting, I realised that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a designer and make colour and crochet. I didn't want backache and brainache and the constant demands of the website or Daisy's stress and frustration or show panic or constant social networking and wholesale promotion.
I wanted to indulge myself, make exactly what inspired me when ever it inspired me and not have the constant pressure of trying to find new and exciting ways to sell wool.
I casually mentioned the idea of closing NDS to Daisy and she was so happy I'd suggested it as she'd felt the same way for some time.
Although she had been writing Murder on the Moor for the last 2 years she hadn't written anything of her own and was frustrated and exhausted with the constant pressure.
So we made the decision together, in total agreement, to wind down the business and I went home feeling that the world had become a much clearer and more positive place......although I did wake up in the middle of the night panicking and decided that I really couldn't kill the one thing that I had dedicated my whole life to over the past 13 years, hence the decision to mothball NDS and not close it.
I never set out to be a full time dyer. I was a textile artist who wanted to dye a little bit of fabric and thread to use in my work.
I dyed too much so sold it on Ebay, I only dyed little bit of wool as an experiment to see it it would sell, and the rest, as they say, is history....
I can't remember the last time I had a whole day off and we haven't had a holiday for years. My whole life revolves around the business I don't do anything else. I haven't baked a cake, sewn a seam or even read a book for the last couple of years.....my whole life is dedicated to NDS and I want it back!!
So the plan is we dye until the end of March. Hopefully during this period we can fill your stashes (and mine) with enough NDS yarn to last you a long time.
We will dye all the Chameleon club and so it is ready for me to post in the relevant months.
Zodiac will be dyed and gone long before March.
We only have one show booked for 2015 and that is Unravel in February. I'm hoping to do Yarndale as a designer, but that's not certain at this time.
I will finish my book, the deadline is Christmas 2015, and then I will sit back, take stock, and decide what to do next.
Maybe a tiny bit of dyeing in my courtyard, maybe apply for the 2016 shows as a designer with a tiny bit of NDS or maybe none of these things.....who knows.....maybe I'll just sit on the top of Hollerday Hill and crochet in the sun :-)