Elaine Jinks-Turner, founder of on­line re­tailer Baa Baa Brighouse, has ex­cit­ing plans to turn her liv­ing room into a bricks and mor­tar yarn shop

The Knitter - - Contents -

Hand-dyed love­li­ness from the York­shire yarn brand

IN AN era where the tra­di­tional high street yarn shop is be­com­ing an en­dan­gered species, opening a new wool store is a cause for cel­e­bra­tion. In­ter­net stores might hold a lot of stock, but there’s noth­ing like the ‘squish’ test and see­ing a colour with your own eyes to find the right skein for you.

Elaine Jinks-Turner is mak­ing her own dream come true – and those of knit­ters near her home town of Brighouse in West York­shire – by go­ing through the process of turn­ing her front room into a knit­ting shop to give her on­line business, Baa Baa Brighouse, a real-world base.

It seems like a lot of ef­fort, given that Baa Baa Brighouse, es­tab­lished in 2014, al­ready has a loyal fol­low­ing on­line. Elaine has also won new fans by ex­hibit­ing at yarn shows such as Yarn­dale, Won­der­wool Wales and Not­ting­ham Yarn Expo, with her hus­band and chil­dren go­ing along for the ride.

Elaine ex­plains: “Many peo­ple who visit yarn shops seek them out specif­i­cally; pass­ing trade for such a spe­cial­ist area is sec­ondary. We have a real core of cus­tomers, both lo­cal and fur­ther afield, who are will­ing to travel the half-mile out of Brighouse to get their hands on qual­ity yarn. From those I’ve spo­ken to, there is lit­tle choice in the way of yarn that you can pur­chase nearby un­less you want 100% acrylic… we fill that gap in the mar­ket­place and pro­vide a yarn shop that while it is no su­per­store, is cer­tainly sus­tain­able and a place where you will al­ways be wel­come and get friendly, help­ful ad­vice.”

It in­volves a lot of build­ing work and red tape for this dream to hap­pen, not to men­tion the up-front funds to make the nec­es­sary ad­just­ments to her home. Elaine raised over £7500 on the crowd­fund­ing web­site Kick­starter, with back­ers from around the world pledg­ing funds to gain a re­ward such as skeins of her hand-dyed yarn Baa Baa Brew. The fund­ing plateaued in the mid­dle of the 30-day cam­paign, she re­ports, but then a lot of peo­ple joined in at the end for a big push to achieve the nail-bit­ing fi­nal to­tal.

A York­shire fo­cus

Elaine orig­i­nally turned to knit­ting as a cop­ing mech­a­nism fol­low­ing a pro­longed pe­riod of post-na­tal de­pres­sion. Ini­tially she launched Baa Baa Brighouse on­line to sell items she nd had knit­ted her­self, but quickly re­alised there was a niche mar­ket for care­fully se­lected wool-rich yarns, pat­terns and no­tions. As the business grew, Elaine in­vested all her prof­its back into ex­pand­ing her stock.

Baa Baa Brighouse’s pol­icy is to sell York­shire sourced, spun or dyed yarn and, as well as of­fer­ing big brands, to sup­port smaller names. “I am very keen on small-scale pro­duc­ers and like to of­fer them the chance to have their wares stocked by us, as we too are a small business,” says Elaine. “Help­ing other small busi­nesses to suc­ceed is good for the lo­cal econ­omy, and it helps to pro­tect the wool her­itage of the re­gion.”

Ev­ery month the com­pany col­lab­o­rates with a lo­cally based in­de­pen­dent dyer to pro­duce a one-off colour for its Yan Tan Tethera yarn club. Also in 2017, Baa Baa Brighouse in­tro­duced a monthly themed box with own-brand Baa Baa Brew yarn; re­cent themes have in­cluded Agatha Christie and Bran­well Brontë.

Elaine’s Mulier For­tis col­lec­tion, fea­tur­ing eight mar­bled shades of 4ply cel­e­brat­ing in­flu­en­tial women, is another successful hand-dyed prod­uct. Women in­spir­ing the suc­cu­lent shades in­clude Malala Yousafzai, co-re­cip­i­ent of the 2014 No­bel Peace Prize; suf­fragette Emmeline Pankhurst; civil rights ac­tivist Rosa Parks, and avi­a­tion pi­o­neer Amelia Earhart.

Elaine ex­plains that the col­lec­tion “came about as a re­sponse to the frus­tra­tion I was feel­ing to­wards the world in the wake of the EU Ref­er­en­dum, the elec­tion of Pres­i­dent Trump, and the ugly rise of na­tion­al­ism. I think a lot of that feel­ing spilled over into the Global Women’s March, and I wanted to cre­ate some­thing that would re­mind the world that women can­not be marginalised.

“A way of do­ing that was to cel­e­brate a num­ber of great women who have crossed bound­aries, borders, coun­tries, cul­tures and classes by what they have achieved in their lives… I’m not chang­ing the world with yarn, but it is pos­si­ble to make small, pos­i­tive dif­fer­ences.” Elaine uses small-scale tra­di­tional dye­ing meth­ods, which she be­lieves cre­ate a su­pe­rior prod­uct to mass-pro­duced hues.

Com­ing soon is a pat­tern book with lo­cal de­signer Fiona Ward­ing­ley, con­tain­ing ac­ces­sories knit­ted in Baa Baa Brew - and of course an opening party, when Elaine’s front room is fi­nally opened to the knit­ting pub­lic!


Elaine sells a range of nee­dles, no­tions and other yarn brands, as well as her own Baa Baa Brew

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