Former NHS manager knits success story

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

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

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.

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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).