Dis­cover the beau­ti­ful yarns and de­signs of this US brand

The Knitter - - Contents -

FOR THOSE of us who dream of run­ning our own yarn busi­ness, Court­ney Kel­ley and Kate Gagnon Os­born are in­spi­ra­tional role mod­els. Through their hard work, de­ter­mi­na­tion and am­bi­tion, they have created a suc­cess­ful com­pany of­fer­ing yarns and de­signs that knit­ters love to work with.

Kelbourne Woolens was an idea dreamed up ten years ago while Court­ney and Kate were work­ing in a yarn store. Their busi­ness be­gan life as a yarn dis­trib­u­tor in Philadelphia, Penn­syl­va­nia, sup­ply­ing yarns from The Fi­bre Co. to stores across North Amer­ica. Both tal­ented knitwear de­sign­ers, Court­ney and Kate also created gor­geous col­lec­tions of pat­terns show­cas­ing The Fi­bre Co.’s yarns.

A few years later, Court­ney and Kate de­cided to launch their own house yarn brand, and today Kelbourne Woolens has three dis­tinct ranges - Scout, An­dorra, and Mo­jave. Scout a clas­sic DK-weight wool for ev­ery­day knits, with a strong, smooth and bouncy feel - it’s ideal for cosy sweaters and cardi­gans. An­dorra is a beau­ti­ful, sport-weight blend of merino and High­land wools with mo­hair, in a vin­tage-inspired colour pal­ette. Mo­jave is the new­est ad­di­tion to the Kelbourne fam­ily. De­signed with sum­mery knits in mind, it’s a pima cot­ton-linen DK that comes in a choice of vi­brant hues.

Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the yarn ranges are at­trac­tive pat­tern col­lec­tions created by Court­ney and Kate, along with their col­league Meghan Kelly. The aes­thetic is clas­sic with a mod­ern twist - think so­phis­ti­cated Fair Isle, ca­bles and del­i­cate lace de­tails paired with el­e­gant sil­hou­ettes.

De­spite a very busy sched­ule - and a brand-new baby! - Court­ney Kel­ley took time out to chat with us about her Kelbourne Woolens jour­ney.

Can you tell us more about the story be­hind Kelbourne Woolens?

“Kate and I met work­ing in a yarn shop in Philadelphia. I was the man­ager, and was look­ing to hire a per­son part-time as I pre­pared to go on ma­ter­nity leave. I reached out to the lo­cal de­sign school and found Kate, who at the time was get­ting an ad­vanced de­gree in knit tex­tile de­sign.

“After my son was born, in 2008, I wanted to do some­thing more with knit­ting, and the op­por­tu­nity to dis­trib­ute yarn for a small yarn com­pany, The Fi­bre

Co., pre­sented it­self. I con­vinced Kate to join me in the ven­ture, and she did! We’ve been cre­ative part­ners ever since. We be­gan de­sign­ing knit­ting pat­terns and yarn, and grew Kelbourne Woolens into a rec­og­niz­able and re­spected de­sign brand in the boutique yarn in­dus­try here in the US.

“At the end of 2017 we de­cided to cel­e­brate our ten-year anniversary year with the in­tro­duc­tion of our own Kelbourne Woolens line of yarns. Up un­til then we had only dis­trib­uted for other com­pa­nies, de­sign­ing gar­ments in their yarns. We took the plunge and launched with our first house yarn, An­dorra, in Jan­uary 2018. Scout and Mo­jave fol­lowed sea­son­ally. While we en­joyed de­sign­ing for and de­vel­op­ing yarns for The Fi­bre Co. over the past ten years, we don’t re­gret the de­ci­sion to go out on our own.”

Can you sum up the phi­los­o­phy be­hind Kelbourne Woolens?

“We just want to make good, qual­ity yarns that aren’t fussy or over­wrought. ‘It’s just

yarn, peo­ple!’ is a re­frain oft heard in our of­fices! It is just yarn, but we love yarn, and we are knit­ters at heart. Hav­ing worked in the yarn in­dus­try from so many per­spec­tives, we re­ally, re­ally strive to make a yarn that shops can feel con­fi­dent in selling, and that the cus­tomers en­joy work­ing with.”

What were the high­lights and chal­lenges you faced when de­vel­op­ing your own yarn?

“There is noth­ing quite like hold­ing a yarn you’ve de­vel­oped for the first time - and, yes, we both have chil­dren! I might have wept a lit­tle bit when An­dorra first ar­rived in our ware­house. I de­vel­oped An­dorra. It’s a very sim­ple, yet el­e­gant – al­most vin­tage – wool and mo­hair blend. It re­minds me of a yarn my grand­mother might have knit with, and I think it’s just per­fect.

“Scout is Kate’s baby. It’s a DK-weight, 2-ply 100% wool that is soft, but not too soft, and is beau­ti­fully heathered. Mo­jave, our yarn for sum­mer, was de­signed by our of­fice man­ager and all-around point per­son, Meghan Kelly. She loves plant-based fi­bres, and created a lovely cot­ton and linen blend that met her ex­act­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions. Mo­jave has a nice range of bright pinks and corals – Meghan’s favourite colours.

“I would say that tim­ing is al­ways the big­gest chal­lenge. The yarn de­sign phase has a LOT of back and forth. You may want to try a slightly tighter twist, or maybe add a bit less of this, or some of that

un­til you get it right. Then you have to choose a colour pal­ette, then sam­ple quan­ti­ties for de­sign­ing, and then you get the yarn.

It’s a time-con­sum­ing and la­bo­ri­ous pro­ject, and it’s hard to stay fo­cused on the end goal of launch day. But, after all is said and done, it is an im­mense feel­ing of ac­com­plish­ment, and we are very proud of our hard work - even if we only get a brief mo­ment to bask in it be­fore the next dead­line pops up!”

How has your busi­ness grown since 2008?

“We started out leas­ing about 400 square feet of ware­house space from the US Manos del Uruguay dis­trib­u­tor, which is also based in Philadelphia. I was still work­ing part-time at the yarn shop, and Kate was still study­ing at univer­sity. Over the years we’ve grown, slowly and steadily. Now, ten years later, we lease 5000 sq ft of our own, and Kate and I both work full-time, with two em­ploy­ees and the oc­ca­sional in­tern from Kate’s alma mater, Philadelphia Univer­sity, Col­lege of Tex­tiles.”

Are you plan­ning to have more stock­ists of Kelbourne Woolens yarns in the UK?

“We are! We have a lovely UK sales rep cur­rently, and are hop­ing to find in­roads in the UK mar­ket. We have al­ways had a hand­ful of lovely cus­tomers in the UK, and our de­signs have been pop­u­lar with Bri­tish knit­ters over the years.”

Do you have a favourite de­sign from your port­fo­lio?

“My fa­vorite de­sign right now is ‘Sawyer’ from our re­cent Scout col­lec­tion. It’s based off a su­per-pop­u­lar pon­cho pat­tern I did called ‘Stone Point’ - it’s ba­si­cally a pon­cho with sleeves! It’s per­fect for fall.”

Kate adds: “I re­ally like ‘Rainier’, and mak­ing one is on my must-knit 2019 list. My most worn de­sign is ‘Car­rowkeel’, al­though the de­sign is quite sim­ple. My most fun to de­sign was the ‘Baby Jane’ hat from the Pop Col­lec­tion for its in­te­grated crown de­creases.”

Who are your yarn he­roes?

“You mean ‘yarn hero­ines?’ Ha­haha! Both of us had in­cred­i­bly tal­ented and cre­ative grand­moth­ers. They taught us to knit, sew and cro­chet, and re­ally fos­tered a love of fi­bre arts within us both. They had no idea what they started!”

What’s the best piece of ad­vice you’ve re­ceived from an­other knit­ter, de­signer or yarn maker?

“In 2017, when we knew we were no longer go­ing to dis­trib­ute The Fi­bre Co. in North Amer­ica, we met with a long-time col­league and col­lab­o­ra­tor who had sup­ported us and our work over the pre­vi­ous nine years. We were en­cour­aged to cre­ate our own line of yarns with the words, ‘You can do this. Do it now.’ And we did!”

Do you have any plans for 2019 that you can share with us?

We have two new yarns com­ing in 2019, which we’re re­ally ex­cited about!” – Dis­cover more about Kelbourne Woolens’ yarns and pat­tern col­lec­tions at www.kel­

1 1 Scout is a clas­sic pure wool, ideal for cosy sweaters and cardi­gans 2 Kate Gagnon Os­born and Court­ney Kel­ley are the founders of Kelbourne Woolens 3 ‘Sawyer’, de­signed by Court­ney, is a wide, drap­ing lace jumper knit­ted in Scout yarn 4 The ‘Keane’ racer­back tank top by Meghan Kelly show­cases one of the vivid shades of Mo­jave


An­dorra is a lux­u­ri­ous blend of wool and mo­hair


Mo­jave is a new cot­ton-linen blend, in vi­brant colours


‘Rainier’, de­signed by Kate Gagnon Os­born, is from the Scout Col­lec­tion




5 An­dorra comes in vin­tage-inspired colours 6 This lacy shawl, called ‘Evan­gelina’, uses two shades of An­dorra 7 ‘Phyl­lis’ from the An­dorra Col­lec­tion is worked in old shale stitch 8 The ‘Bodie’ ca­bled T-shirt from the Mo­jave Col­lec­tion 5

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