A love for all things wool led to the creation of boutique wool business The Woven Co which produces specialist New Zealand yarn and knitting patterns in modern, contemporary designs. QT Magazine spoke to founder Michelle Stewart.
When did your business journey begin?
The Woven Co started six years ago when I found myself frustrated trying to find inspirational wool. I was sick of the same old colours, tired of wool shop politics and ultimately wanted to have a nicer knitting experience. I held a local pop up event, launched a knitting club and discovered I wasn’t alone in my tastes.
What was the next step to becoming a yarn producer?
I was overrun with requests for wools, patterns, general inspiration and guidance so started my boutique wool business selling yarns locally and online. I secured a run of “rejected” wools and rebranded them with my own newly minted brand, The Woven. They were widely popular and yarn production evolved from there.
How has the business pivoted since the onset of Covid-19?
The biggest change of tack was shifting my definition of success which happened during lockdown. I had been on a path of going big, looking for investors and attending NZTE exporter training and Angel Investors’ pitch nights. I found myself mostly trying to explain to middle aged men why knitting was a “thing” and why my ideas were valuable.
Lockdown was like getting back to grass roots. I was able to keep trading dispatching wools and kits to support new knitters during their isolation. I realised keeping the business big enough to support my family and suppliers was the way forward. I am not saying never scale up but this small but powerful business has soul and I am not trading it for profit.
What yarn options do you produce?
There are two lines of natural, chemical free New Zealand made yarns with the wool grown in Canterbury and Otago, washed in Timaru, dyed in Oamaru and naturally spun in Christchurch.
Smooth Merino is lush in soft, pretty blended colours that harmonise. The patterns are more classic and timeless with simple stitches to make something beautiful. Sumptuous is a blend of exquisite Polwarth and Alpaca. The Alpaca provides a soft, snuggly haze and the wools are incredibly soft and warm in neutral tones and eye-popping colours not available anywhere else.
How can people join the new community knit nights in Wanaka this winter?
Knit nights are free fortnightly Thursday evening sessions held at Revology Concept store.
They are a wonderful opportunity to connect with knitters, answer pattern and design questions, teach new skills, correct mistakes and share my passion for the craft. People can drop in or attend regularly. Having my wools represented instore there is so validating and it’s a calm and uplifting space, perfect for knitting together.
What are The Woven Co wool kits?
The wool kits make knitting easy and accessible with less time working out what is required and more about choosing colours. The pattern style is easy, flowing with less technical language. Some are designed for beginner knitters and the kits offer a progression of patterns to add in textures, colours and design elements.
Where can people buy The Woven Co wools?
Locally I am privileged to be stocked in three beautiful stores – Franks Artisan Corner in Glenorchy, Cardrona General Store and Wanaka’s Revology Concept Store.
There is also the option to shop online with delivery by courier or local pickup.