An Open Letter: Dear Customer

Dear Customer,

Thank you so much for your lovely comments and your smiling appreciation of my work. I put so much love and thought into designing the patterns for my baby clothes and then knitting or crocheting them in eco-friendly, baby-soft natural yarns. It will be your smile that I’ll take home with me this evening rather than the bevy of unkind remarks that people make, about my designs, my choice of colours, my prices – unaware, I like to think, that I’m only a metre away from them and can hear every word!

I sometimes think that even though designer-maker markets such as Spitalfields and Greenwich, market themselves as places to buy bespoke individually made, hand crafted items, the word ‘market’ still conjures up a messy, cheap, busy environment where London barrow-boys shout out their offer of 2 for a pound. I see people entering the market expecting off-cuts of fabric for 50p rather than Liberty print bags and purses, or cheap plastic tourist gifts rather than amazing photographic prints of the city. One woman was so offended by the market, I watched her storm through with her husband and son following in her wake. She stopped and backtracked to my stall, where she pointed at my baby booties and said, with a jabby finger to make her point ‘… and that’s just shite!’, before continuing on her stormy way.

I was slightly offended, but it made me giggle on and off for the rest of the day.

But as a counter point to the disparagers, to those elderly women who would be knitting that jumper in baby pink acrylic yarn at 50p a ball (unaware of the environmental cost), or the suited and booted lawyer-type who asked me to justified my prices (wtf!), or the lady who thinks she’s at a jumble sale and lazily drops the hat she’s been looking at back on my stand with a disinterested sneer….. (…I could go on!). As I was saying, as a counterpoint to all that, I also have people who approach my stall and stop in their tracks – hands on hips, open gesture, smiling – to appreciate my display, the colours and my work. Some people come hurrying up and stand there smiling. ‘ I love knitting!’, they often say – counterpoint to the woman who sidled up to my stall and whispered conspiratorially, ‘I hate knitting.’! Better still, they say, ‘I love your knitting!’ (OK, so they might actually be holding up a bit of crochet work, but I’ll take the compliment anyway 😀). 

Some people come back to my stall time and time again, some travel from as far as Australia – well, not just to visit my stall, but they always let me know when they are in town so that we can arrange a visit. Some, mainly Scandinavian visitors, wipe me out of my knitwear, often without asking the price.

I know that there are lovers of my work out there!

I take great pleasure in sourcing the materials for my clothes – I love working with gorgeous, soft yarns such as organic cotton, bamboo, alpaca, yarn made from maize and, perhaps the most unusual, milk protein yarn. I once explained to a woman how it was made – from the casein A in milk, superheated and separated from the remaining liquid milk and spun into a yarn. The woman, who out-weighed my years of textile experience by having a daughter who was ‘doing a course…’, told me I was a liar, that she knew how wool was made and that there was no such thing as milk yarn! I beg to differ, and I’ll continue to make lovely cosy clothes from milk protein for as long as I can afford the yarn!

But on those days when I only get the old sour faced ladies tut-tutting and insisting that the shoes are too small for a baby and they must be for a doll and, um, do you have them in lemon, I think back to the lovely lady who cried when I made her something special on the off-chance that she would like it. Or the bloke who giddily bought a jumper, hat and booties (in milk protein yarn) for his little boy who was waiting with his partner back in the maternity ward. Or the new mum who was completely overwhelmed that I made house visits for those new mums who were still finding it difficult to get dressed before lunchtime.

Or the mum who visited with her teenage son and with a sideways glance at him said, ‘Oh, it’s going to be years before I can buy this sort of thing!’ – then she popped back to my stall half an hour later to buy a little something for the future!

So thank you, Dear Customer. There was a time when I would receive several lovely comments about my work, but it would be the nasty sneer and the ‘Who would put their baby in THAT!?’ that I would take home with me to dwell on. But these days, I accept that everyone has their own opinion and if a person chooses to be rude while voicing theirs, then it says more about their upbringing than the value of my work. Each to their own, eh? 

And today I will take home with me your smile and your enthusiasm and I’ll work that loving feeling into something new…

Thank you!

Sue is a designer-maker who runs both a Greenwich Market stall and an Etsy store. She sells beautiful handmade products, from crochet baby booties to super soft baby knits, as well as Soy Wax candles in China Teacups. Definitely have a look over on her Instagram or Facebook page for more information!

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