This blog is about my affinity with hand knit yarn company Rowan as a Rowan Ambassador. It attempts to provide an unbiased assessment of Rowan and their yarns against the knitting projects typically undertaken by the average knitter. Although, as the title suggests, it is strictly related to Rowan Yarns their patterns and yarns, it is not affiliated with Rowan Yarns as a company and is managed and written solely by myself.
I have been a knitter since I was about 4 years old. I have designed all kinds of garments from scarves and mittens to sweaters and lace shawls using many of Rowans classic yarns such as Pure Wool, Wool Cotton and Tapestry and their more luxurious ones like Kidsilk Haze. The whole designing process really gives you an insight into what a yarn can or cannot do.
A Little Bit About Rowan Yarns
Rowan is a British company manufacturing high quality yarns, including both classic and fashionable varieties. In support of their yarns they produce a twice yearly magazine full of designer-led patterns but also books and brochures all of which are available in department stores and yarn stores worldwide. Rowan also have a comprehensive website listing their yarns, books, brochures, knitting videos for technical instruction, workshop information, a free to join online members section and a worldwide subscription service offering many exclusive benefits to subscribers.
Rowan was started in August 1978 by two friends, Stephen Sheard and Simon Cockin, as a small business called Rowan Weavers. They mainly designed and manufactured hand woven rugs but also produced weaving kits and bought and sold yarn. During the early 1980’s their company gained strong traction in the knitwear industry as many British knitwear designers, previously frustrated by a lack of good quality yarns and color choice, began using Rowan Weavers Lightweight DK yarn. These knitwear designers not only found it suitable for hand knitting but were also drawn to it because it came in 96 amazing colors.
They then followed the DK success with another huge success – a handknit kit that was produced for UK magazine ‘Woman and Home’. The ‘Super Triangle Jacket’ kit, designed by Kaffe Fassett using Rowan Weavers yarn, was predicted to sell to 400 customers but in fact sold to 7,000. This success led Rowan Weavers to change its name to Rowan Yarns.
Following the success with designer Kaffe Fassett, which continued for the next 40 years, Rowan Yarns recognised that working with knitwear designers would be the key to their future. In 1986 they produced the first Rowan magazine which featured patterns by many leading knitwear designers including Fassett, Annabelle Fox, Sasha Kagan and Sandy Black.
They continued to promote the Rowan brand by developing additional companies offering hand knit design and production, tapestry kits and high quality knitting-related vacations. Their most far reaching enterprise was ‘Rowan International Club’ which is still going strong today, where subscribers from all around the world receive two Rowan knitting and crochet magazines, quarterly newsletters, an annual Rowan Subscription gift and discounts on Rowan Mill workshops. The magazine is also as popular as ever, with some sought-after past issues, such as No.4, being sold on e-Bay for as much as $400!
During the mid 1980’s to mid 1990’s, knitting and many needle-based crafts were in decline with many haberdashery and yarn stores closing down. Department stores in many countries also pulled out of many sewing and knitting based crafts. This enabled Rowan to open concession stores in many distinguished department stores in the UK, France and Japan. This provided a face-to-face direct link to the consumer and their needs which led to another idea by knitwear designer, Kate Buller. After writing to Stephen Sheard with her concept, a design consultancy was trialled in the prestigious John Lewis department store, Oxford Street, London. With so many knitters leaving the craft and with the skill in danger of dying out all together this injected new life back into the craft.
Many world renowned knitting designers such as Debbie Bliss and Louisa Harding began their careers working for Rowan Yarns which continues to be an international designer-led company, creating knitting and crochet patterns which are both fashionable and classic.