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How knitting changed my life

By West Country Life  |  Posted: February 22, 2014

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She only intended taking a look at a new knitting shop. But Elesha Camp's decision to walk through the door of Jumble Jelly ended up transforming her life.

"I was unemployed, with no money, nowhere to live, and without a partner. I didn't feel there was any way out of this pit of despair that I was in," she recalls.

"When I think of how my life has changed over the past three or so years it is incredible."

Elesha – who is known to most people as Elle – is now in charge of Jumble Jelly in Silver Street, Bradford on Avon, which she first visited in April 2011 shortly after it was opened by Debbie Harvey and Rox Mendiblez-James.

"I popped in with my friend Helen because we were both mad on knitting," she says.

"At that time, knitting was my lifeline. It was what I'd been doling to keep me going. I'd been unemployed for about a year, as I'd been working at Next in Bath but it closed down and I was made redundant.

"I'd been suffering very badly from fibromyalgia, which causes muscular pain and tiredness, so there were only certain types of work that I could do as I wasn't physically strong enough to stand on my feet for hours at a time in a shop.

"Not long after I was made redundant my relationship with my boyfriend broke down, and I found myself on my own and without anywhere to call home for a while. My family live in Kent, and they helped me as much as they could, but it wasn't easy from such a distance."

Elle, 30, who has a degree in retail management, discovered during her visit to Jumble Jelly that the shop held a weekly "knit and natter" group, and went along to it.

"To begin with I was the only person who attended," she says. "I got talking to Debbie and Rox, and when they discovered I was unemployed they said I could help out in the shop on a voluntary basis if I wanted.

"Debbie encouraged me to start teaching knitting here, and also to design knitting patterns to sell in the shop. In the end she gave me a part-time job."

"It was perfect for me as I was so into knitting, and blogging and podcasting about what I was knitting.

"I'd been knitting a lot – mainly shawls, and lots and lots of socks. I love knitting socks. I once took part in a challenge to knit 52 pairs of socks in a year – a pair for every week. I find knitting socks very therapeutic as there are so many different permutations that you never get bored."

"I'm presently doing a knitting challenge called Socks with Sarah, which is not so demanding, as the only requirement is that you incorporate sock knitting into your daily life by doing it when and where you can."

Elle's passion for knitting socks originally developed after she saw her friend Helen working on a pair at a knitting group they both attended in Bath.

"There were so many needles. I remember saying to Helen: 'What are you doing? It looks really scary.' But I also found it fascinating and about two months later I decided to try it, and made a pair out of a double knit yarn and gave then to my Nan for Christmas. She loved them and kept asking me for more!"

Elle's sock knitting classes at Jumble Jelly have become very popular, and her blog, called Miss Elle Knits, has a growing group of dedicated followers, as do her podcasts.

She says: "I started podcasting about knitting, at the time podcasting was quite new to the UK so with knitting it was mostly Americans talking about knitting with yarns that you couldn't get over here.

"The fact that I was doing it for a British audience meant it became popular with knitters over here. People will pop in to the shop and tell me they have listened to me podcasting."

By last year, Elle was working one day a week at Jumble Jelly and four days a week in a nearby health food shop – but then she unexpectedly got the chance to run Jumble Jelly herself.

"Rox had left after about a year, and Debbie no longer had time to work in the shop as she had become very involved in her husband's woodland adventure business, and she asked if I would like to take over.

"It was an exciting opportunity, but scary too. I was getting a regular salary and doing work I enjoyed, and would potentially go from that to having no income coming in, and no security.

"But I'd always really wanted to have my own shop, and I was already working here and teaching here, so I decided to go for it. Everyone has been so encouraging and so lovely, and the town has been so supportive.

"I was going to move into smaller premises, but then I met Rosie Pollard, who had a bead shop in The Shambles. She suggested this would be the perfect place to combine wool and knitting with beads and jewellery making, and she was right – the colours of the yarns and the beads work so well together."

Elle bought the Jumble Jelly shop and contents, and she and Rosie then took out a new lease with the landlord, redecorated the premises within about a fortnight, and re-opened towards the end of 2013.

"There were a lot of late nights coming up here with Rosie and working out what would go where in the shop," says Elle.

"There is Jumble Jelly for wool, plus knitting, crochet and spinning classes. There is Buffy's Beads with beads and findings for making jewellery. And there is Monty the Cat, which presently sells jewellery and will soon expand to selling a range of baby wear, with hand-knitted and hand-sewn items. I will be knitting and Rosie will be sewing."

It is not just Elle's career that has been transformed since she walked through the door of Jumble Jelly back in 2011.

She has also found happiness in her personal life, and her health has improved dramatically.

Last summer she began seeing her boyfriend Adam Beer, with whom she is now blissfully happy.

"He's been amazing," she says. "He helped Rosie and me to redecorate the shop, and he is also brilliant at IT and does my website. I've knitted him socks and I'm presently knitting him a jumper!

"I am also feeling so much better now. It turned out I was suffering from vitamin D deficiency, which has similar symptoms to fibromyalgia.

"I suffer from vitiligo, which causes pale patches to develop on the skin, and so I have to avoid the sun and wear factor 50 lotion. But that meant I wasn't getting enough vitamin D from sunshine, and a blood test showed that my levels were so low they couldn't be properly measured.

"I had to start taking very high doses of vitamin D for four weeks, and still have to take tablets now. I knew that the tablets had started working when after the third week I came home from work and cleaned my flat.

"Before that I would come home completely exhausted and fall asleep!"

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