A recent post about British Wool has led me to discover some fantastic British knitwear designers doing amazing things with home grown wool. One of these is the very talented company Makepiece. Here is an interview with the founder, Beate Kubitz:
Hi Beate, Can you tell me a bit more about yourself and why you set up your company?
I used to work as a campaigner for Amnesty International so I was very conscious of worker’s rights. I also love clothes, but the garment industry is riddled with environmental and workers’ rights issues. When I moved to Yorkshire in 2001 I noticed that British wool, spun and made into clothes here, was much less subject to these ethical concerns. So I bought some sheep with the aim of making something with their fleece. I then opened a shop in Todmorden, and as I didn’t yet have much from my sheep, I sourced locally made accessories and socks to stock it with. On the day that I opened Nicola walked in, with her degree in knitwear design, and she’s now the other half of Makepiece.
Where does the name Makepiece come from?
I called the shop Makepiece to reflect the heritage of the Piece Halls where Yorkshire weavers took their cloth to sell.
How would you describe the products that you make?
Luscious knits, complex, sculptural and intricate, but very wearable. We make everything from winter warming woollies to knitted wedding dresses.
In which part of Britain do you manufacture your products?
We make our knits in Todmorden, West Yorkshire and most of our supply chain is within the UK too. Our own wool is spun in Cornwall by the Natural Fibre Company, we use alpaca spun in Devon at Coldharbour Mill (a water mill which has been brought back into use), and some of our Bluefaced Leicester is spun in Yorkshire. We dye our wool 20 miles away in Dewsbury.
Why did you decide to manufacture in Britain?
I thought that if we could keep our manufacturing in the UK we could more easily see what was going on within our supply chain, and also our carbon footprint would be much smaller than if we shipped our products around the world.
Who makes your products?
We do! We’ve got a workshop in Todmorden with skilled workers knitting on our own machines. We also use local outworkers.
Where do you source your raw materials from?
From our own sheep, as well as a larger wool merchant who supplies our British Bluefaced Leicester wool.
What has been the hardest part of getting your clothes made in Britain?
To start with it was finding British wool that was spun in the UK, and then explaining what we really wanted to the producers. Eventually a wool merchant came to us. In some ways the limited yarn available has really pushed the design shapes to be innovative. If you’ve only got quite plain yarn to work with you’ve got to do something else to stand out.
And what has been the best part?
Well, for me its standing on the hill with my sheep around me!
Makepeice will be opening a new shop in Hebden Bridge on the 3rd August Makepiece 7 Market Street, Hebden Bridge HX7 6EU