What we’re doing to ensure everyone’s safety at this time

Suzie Blackman
Tuesday, 17 March 2020

We know that many of you are feeling especially anxious at the moment, and we are too. These are unprecedented times and it is very much not “business as usual” for us. I hope it goes without saying that we have always practised good hygiene, but want to be transparent about our procedures for anyone who needs reassurance. We also need to tell you about some changes we’re making to ensure our own safety and how they may affect our customer service.

This is very much not In these uncertain times everything is liable to change, and we will keep you updated on our usual channels.

Packing and handling

We have a dedicated room in our home for storing goods, packing and admin, which visitors do not have access to (we don’t plan on having any visitors at the moment anyway!). As soon as yarn is dry, it is moved to sealed zip-lock bags on our stock shelves. All packing materials are also covered (in closed drawers). I will be packing all orders myself for the foreseeable future. I thoroughly wash our my hands before handling yarn and packing orders. We have a dedicated packing station, where food and drink are never consumed.

As I am immuno-compromised and unfortunately fall into a high-risk group, we have taken the decision as a household to minimise our contact with others and avoid public transport completely. In the (hopefully unlikely) event that anyone in our household falls ill, we will cease shipping immediately and any customers with open orders have the option of a full refund, or for your goods to be held until any risks have passed. We will also inform customers with recently shipped orders so they have the option to quarantine

Shipping

We pride ourselves on a quick turnaround (we’re very happy to offer what customers describe as “impossibly fast shipping”), but in order to minimise my risk of infection, we we’re reducing our mail drops to two or three days a week.

We have a number of alternatives to walking to the local Post Office if this stops being possible: We can use an unstaffed parcel drop box a longer walk away; a friend has offered to collect parcels from our door; we also have the option to pay for Royal Mail collections.  We may decide to withdraw services like Special Delivery that require scanning at drop-off.

Studio procedures and closure

Every skein that has gone through our studio has been handed with the strict health and safety procedures at the studio for our own protection and yours. These include our protective clothing, gloves and respirator masks, cleaning all surfaces and equipment after every session and yarn being washed and rinsed after dyeing. Our studio is a self-contained unit within a larger building in an industrial setting that has never been open to the public. We have an assistant dyer who has helped on a freelance basis during busy times, they are fully trained to follow our safety procedures and are supervised to do so. We do not have any employees or other business visitors to the studio.

As of yesterday the dye studio is closed because I am reliant on local buses to get there. This was not a difficult decision given the risks, but certainly creates major challenges to continuing our business activities. This is especially tough as I have already lost almost six weeks this year due to ill health. Our kitchen is not suitable for dyeing safely, so we will dependant sunny days to use our outside space. I cannot dye at scale or reproduce many of our colourways with the limited space and equipment I now have available. In practice, there will be smaller updates with fewer repeatable colourways.

We already planned to diversify our range with more products that we don’t require as much labour, such as undyed yarn, blended fibre, dyeing kits and knitting patterns. We are considering stocking other products, knitting needles for example, but this is a difficult time to be taking on that kind of financial risk. Please tell us if there is anything you’d like to see in our shop!

Custom orders

We have left our custom order request form open, and we’ll continue to dye batches to order whenever we’re able. We ask for your understanding in that there are some shades we won’t be able to dye at all without access to our studio equipment, and individual dye lots will be smaller. Please don’t feel that your request might be a burden, we value every order and we will do our best to help.

How we can help each other

Our focus as a business has always been online, rather in-person sales at yarn shows, so we’re in a fortunate position to be able to continue trading. It’s a Stitch Up is my full time job and I expect my income to reduce – our LYS stockists will be suffering immensely, and we know that everyone will have less money to spend luxuries like hand-dyed yarn, and we will not be able to dye as much – but I think we can weather this.

If you’re lucky enough to have a few spare quid, please consider using it to support those in our industry who’s primary income is teaching classes, vending at shows or traditional retail, many are sole traders (like us) and at present have no entitlement to sick pay or compensation. Most of all, we ask you to donate whatever you can to your local food bank and charities supporting homeless people, refugees and survivors of domestic violence. So many people are facing this crisis in an incredibly vulnerable position, without a stable or access to basics, and we need to think of them first.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of our processes, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

The author

Suzie Blackman

The dyer, designer, photographer, creative technologist and maker-of-things behind It's a Stitch Up. She lives in East London in a home filled with colour, fluff and house plants.

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