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The Evolution of Chameleon

Words & Image: Paul Chapman

Chameleon is closing down, not due to financial or economic pressures, but “the time being right, to look forward to a happy retirement”, adds Tracy Oldfield, owner.

What to many might look like a place to buy wool and all the associated bits and bobs is a lot more than that, it’s a community hub where like-minded knitters and crafters come to meet, socialise and spend time together… and will be missed very much by the those who step through the door.

"I've loved meeting the wonderfully talented and creative people who have crossed my path, the ladies who regularly attend the groups, my regular customers and those who drop in for a chat.

I first met Tracy when she was excitedly opening up the ‘Image and Colour Emporium’, tucked away in the courtyard behind the Real Ale corner on Chatsworth Road. The business offered colour consultations, image and style advice and started selling scarves, accessories, and jewellery to compliment the colour consultations.

This was 2011, nine years ago and there was no wool in sight. “We’d been open for a while and ladies started asking about wool, and could we supply some? Ball by ball the range of wool we stocked started to increase”, explains Tracy.

She describes herself as ‘falling into the world of colour’. “I’ve always had a passion for colour. I remember going for a consultation with my mother, I watched as things progressed and could see all the comments and suggestions being made, I thought ‘I’d love to do that’. To help people understand what makes them look good and help them choose colours and styles that suit them.”

Before opening up the business Tracy worked as a primary school teacher, but personal and family circumstances required a change. “It wasn’t until a chance comment when talking to my hairdresser that I was encouraged to make the change. I commented that I didn’t want to carry on teaching, she asked what I would really like to do, 'colour consultations' I replied.” The seed was sown.

Tracy searched out some training, got it booked and started looking for premises.

“We started doing knitting groups at Image and Colour, the ‘shady ladies’ we called ourselves, we met on a Friday night, about five of us at the start.

“The ladies started wanting more wool, things evolved and I started stocking more wool and extra groups started meeting. We had three groups meeting each week and mini-knits for children on Saturdays. A social scene had been created, bringing people together with a common interest.

“I soon realised that the premises were too small, within a few months we’d moved into 420 Chatsworth Road. Wool was now my main business, the groups continued to grow and meet in the rear room, workshops took place with people coming in, and things have ticked over nicely for the last five years at 420.

"I've loved meeting the wonderfully talented and creative people who have crossed my path, the ladies who regularly attend the groups, my regular customers and those who drop in for a chat.

“We really have become a hub of all things wool. People exchange ideas, patterns, a swap shop, discussion strikes up in the shop as people bump into each other.

“It’s great to have brought people together, to encourage and develop people's skills, whilst thoroughly enjoying it plus enjoying their support."

She mentioned her suppliers, an opportunity to work with local, national and international businesses, whilst always supporting ethical companies through fair trade, and British yarns from businesses such as West Yorkshire Spinners. My children still have jumpers using yarns from Tracy, lovingly arranged into jumpers by Grandma.

“Thanks must go to my family, without whose support it would never have happened. I’ve always been a reluctant knitter but they helped me change this. Thanks to customers, past and present, every sale has been appreciated. It is hard in the present economic climate, but small business can succeed if you do it right, you need to be flexible. Customer service has always been important, to create a place where people want to come. I never dreamt I’d end up with a wool shop, it’s been a fantastic and wonderful chapter in my life”, says Tracy.

I was chuffed when Tracy thanked me for my support through S40 Local, for always championing the small independent business and the importance of shopping local. Thanks Tracy, and good luck with your next endeavour.

Tracy ended adding, “I will miss the social community we’ve created but some groups will continue, and I look forward to being a participant but it’s time for a new chapter.”


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