Former NHS manager knits success story

giant ambition: Claire Gelder, of Wool Couture, who has secured a deal with John Lewis for her DIY knitting kits.

giant ambition: Claire Gelder, of Wool Couture, who has secured a deal with John Lewis for her DIY knitting kits.

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A former NHS manager who used knitting to de-stress has secured a contract to sell her wool products to John Lewis.

Claire Gelder, who has moved her business into new premises in Barnsley, quit her high-pressure NHS job to set up Wool Couture.

The company creates DIY knitting packs with giant needles and giant yarn. It also sells Merino wool yarn, hand-made crochet hooks, and chunky scarves, hats, blankets and dog beds. John Lewis will retail the nine different DIY kits that Wool Couture creates.

Ms Gelder, who launched the business less than a year ago, said: “Normal knitting means it can take six months to knit a scarf and I can’t wait six months for something to be done, I wanted it to be done in a weekend.

“So I started with small needles and then they just got bigger and bigger; until we ended up with ones that we made ourselves and are up to one metre long.”

Wool Couture currently has four staff and is also celebrating securing a deal in the US.

Ms Gelder worked for the NHS for 15 years. Her career in the health service culminated in a role where she was director of transformation for a clinical commissioning unit. However, her hobby changed her life about 12 months ago.

She said: “I was in the pits of depression and doing a lot of knitting when a friend said you really need to sell these. So I put a giant chunky scarf on the online shop Etsy and straightaway I was getting orders in. The fact that people wanted to buy my scarves was really uplifting for me.”

The success prompted Ms Gelder to take a “huge leap of faith” and volunteer for redundancy.

The company has just moved into the 500 sq ft office at the Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC).

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