I promised to go through how I set up Woolgethering Sandbach as part of The Crochet Circle Podcast (Episode 22). There was so much detail that I turned it into this blog post to support what was said on the podcast.
I had been going to crochet classes and suggested to the other attendees that we continue to meet up and craft together every couple of weeks. Given that it was my suggestion, it was up to me to find the location.
Location: At first I was going to house the group in a local cafe but although the space was free of charge, it was right beside the kitchens and we and our yarn and projects would smell of used cooking oil. Really not ideal.
I figured that if people are going to have to pay for beverages in a cafe, it may actually be better to have a paid for meeting room and free tea and coffee instead. So, I found us a space in Sandbach Town Hall which had great lighting, car parking a couple of minutes away and a kitchen that we could access to brew up in.
We used that location for 18 months before we moved to a new one. I had three main reasons for moving to St. Peter's Church Hall:
1 - The Town Hall also housed the Rock Choir. They sing the same songs, over and over and over again in a session. If I ever hear Katie Parry's Firework again...
2 - Car parking is at the back of the hall and although it is only two minutes away, it is one of the main car parks in Sandbach and it can get busy. In the winter months I would sit in my car making sure that all of the Woolgatherer's had made it safely to their car and driven off before I went. The new location has a dedicated car park that feels much safer and it is easier for me to keep an eye on everyone.
3 - The admin at the Town Hall wasn't great and at times we were moved to a different room because a Town Councillor needed the room or there was an event on that needed access to the bar which was housed in our room.
All of the above lead us to move this Summer. Our new room has great lighting and a kitchen - both essential for our group.
Charging: Woolgatherer's only pay for the room. I pay for the tea and coffee, which doesn't cost a lot. Each session is £3 and that runs for 3 hours. We generally have £50 - £100 sat in the kitty and that protects us through the summer months when fewer people are around. I used to do free sessions every now and then when the kitty built up but I changed this and brought the price down from £4 to £3 instead and this seems to have worked for the last 14 months or so.
The room hire is £11 per hour, £33 every fotnight.
Meeting times: we used to meet on the second and fourth Thursday of every month but that could be confusing for some people and some folk didn't want to wait three weeks before they met up again. At the beginning of 2017 I changed it to a fortnightly group.
I deliberately made it a night time group. There were already quite a few day time crafting groups locally but most of the people that come to Woolgathering Sandbach are in full time employment. The meeting is from 6pm to 9pm and you can turn up whenever you want within that timeframe. This really suits people that need to do family meals and then head out the door or people that prefer to come early and then head off at about 8pm. Most people are there from about 6.15 and stay until 9pm.
Feel of the group: There is a real mix of crafting that goes on from crochet and knitting to weaving and embroidery. It has never been defined as a 'Knit Night' as many groups are. I always found that frustrating as a crocheter and so wanted something that was more welcoming to fibre crafters. Almost everyone can crochet and most knit too.
One of the nicest things is that the group is very relaxed. There is no roll call, treasurer, minutes of last meeting. Again, this was a deliberate ploy on my front. I don't have lots of time and if I was going to run a club, it had to be as low maintenance as possible. The group trusts me to pay the money for the hall each fortnight and to keep the money safe. Tat is it. This low key approach also means that there are no politics within the group. I go to three other crafting groups and it can be very obvious when poeple have issues with each other. There is none of that at Woolgathering Sandbach. You tend to find that people come and go and that the feel of the club is eiether for them or it isn't.
On that note, the club is aimed at people that have soem level of understanding of knitting or crochet. If somebody contacts me to say that they want to learn how to then I point them towards the adult eduction courses. That's not to say that there is no help from within our club for those that want to learn or develop new skills, far from it. The reality is that the three hours of sanctuary that we have (including me) at Woolgathering is needed for relaxing, having fun and crafting.
Membership: There is no membership charge, you simply turn up and pay the £3 for the room hire. We generally have about 8-15 people each session. Some folk are regulars and others dip in and out. I have no issue with this at all. One lady has just started coming again and I hadn't seen her for 12 months. She said it was like she had never been away, which is great in my book.
Tea and cake: This is very important. For many of our folk, Woolgathering Sandbach is a three hour of chatting, craft ng and enjoying themselves away from the daily pressures. Therefore, they are also allowed a little bit of naughty cake. We have the 'Cake Tin of Doom' which gets passed from one person to the next so that approximately twice a year you will be bringing cake to the session. Two of our people are gluten free and so often our cakes are gluten free so that everyone is eating the same thing. If this isn't the case then usually a shop bought GF alternative is brought, or I have back up ones in the tea trolley so that nobody is left out. I know that this thought is really appreciated by the GF folk.
I already mentioned that I buy the tea and coffee etc. I provide a range (builders, Early Grey, Lady Grey, Buttermint tea, herbal teas, decaf tea, decaf coffee). This doesn't cost a lot of money but you may want to have a charge on refreshments instead if you don't want to pay for it yourself. I also bring the milk along.
Special gatherings: A couple of times a year we do extra things. At the end of the summer we have a yarn swap. People bring yarn, craft books, kits, material etc. and place it on tables to the side of where we sit normally. At 7pm I make the call that the yarn swap is now open and that people can go and help themselves and take away whatever they want. This is a great way of changing up what is in your stash.
We had quite a lot of leftover yarn last time which was taken by Alison straight to the Cat's Protection League for their next jumble sale. The charity were very happy with the donation and have said that they will accept anything we have in the future.
We also had some cones of wool which I have caked up. At the last meeting people took some away with a crochet granny square pattern and/or a mitred knitted square pattern. We will make up squares ready to be made into blankets for a yet to be defined local charity.
The other special gathering that we have is on our final meeting before Christmas. We had toyed with the idea of going out for a Christmas meal but that usually means eating dried up turkey in a pub somewhere and spending £20+ on an okay night with NO CRAFTING!
Instead, what we do is have a list of attendees and they say what food they are bringing. We get an amazing spread of bread and cheese, sausage rolls, dips, fresh fruit, mince pies etc. It costs a fraction of the price of a pub dinner and is much nicer. We have carols on in the background and do a £5 limit Secret Santa (you can buy or craft your item).
New members: Most of our new members hear about us through word and mouth, or via this podcast. When Lynne is teaching newbies to crochet and knit, she lets them know about the group. The rotation in numbers is just right so I don't feel the need to go out and encourage lots of people to join, but the ones that do come along organically are always most welcome.
There are usually local pages that you can advertise your group on and then could help to swell your numbers. If we had a local yarn shop, that would be my first port of call for hanging up posters and advertsing for members.
It's also worth adding your group details to the UK Hand Knitting Association's website. They have a map and list of groups throughout the UK. I hav ehad a few people contact me through their website.
I really look forward to my Thursday crafting sesssions and I like that it is fortnightly so we always have something fresh to say or show off to each other.
I have made lots of friends through running this club and it really helps to fulfill my need to be part of a community.