BAA BAA BRIGHOUSE
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
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