September 23 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, February 28, 2013
How knitting while pregnant inspired wife of Python star to establish her own business
When Anna Söderström fell pregnant she got two gifts – a baby and a business.
It didn’t feel like it, but the morning sickness she endured while pregnant with her daughter led to a good thing.
“I was very ill during my pregnancy and had terrible morning sickness,” she recalls.
“I was debilitated really. I couldn’t even read it was that bad.
“One day my mother gave me some knitting needles to help pass the time. I discovered I could do it and spent the whole pregnancy knitting.”
Söderström’s daughter with Monty Python star Terry Jones is now three-and-a-half. Her business is just as young and booming.
“Now my mum has to do knitting for the baby as I’m so busy doing knitting for the business.”
Söderström makes everything in her collection, which includes scarves, hats, gloves and throws, by hand knitting or a hand-operated knitting machine.
“It’s more like a loom really. When you tell people you have a knitting machine, they tend to think that you just turn the machine on and put in some wool. It isn’t like that at all.”
She works from home in Highgate after converting the basement into a studio and the designs are inspired by her Swedish roots.
“I am influenced by the Scandinavian aesthetic, the whole Fair Isle design. I’m not so much into the patterns and the reindeer though. In every design I make, there is a story.”
Söderström focuses on the sourcing of quality and rare materials to create her work, including alpaca wool from Peru and rare wools from small producers in north Yorkshire.
“I’ve just started working with English cashmere. This is a very rare thing, even Scottish cashmere comes from Asia and is spun in Scotland. I have found a producer down in Devon who is making this incredible yarn.”
It was a stroke of luck that Söderström, who has just turned 30, started knitting. An Oxford languages graduate, she started her working life as a script supervisor for her husband.
“We were living and working together at that time, which was actually not bad at all – it was a great collaboration. But I always thought I wanted to do something for myself, rather than just play a supporting role for my husband.”
She hopes to make her own name in the knitwear world, even though she has no formal training.
“I feel free to explore practices and create my own designs rather than subscribing to what is in fashion. I focus on quality really rather than being in fashion.”
It seems like that attitude has already brought her success. If her Twitter stream is anything to go by, soon she will need more people to keep up with the demand of her customers.
She writes: “I’ve got two hours to make 3 hats and 7 pairs of wrist warmers... Wish me luck!.”
“At the moment I am doing everything. Not just making the items but taking the photographs, managing the website and dealing with all the press and distribution.
“I’d love to have people work with me in the studio, but anyone who joins me will have to have the same approach and passion for the business.”
n www.annasoderstrom.com. Or visit pop up shop The Chocolate Sheep, 57a Redchurch Street, Shoreditch March 12-17th, a collaboration with Caitlin Paxton of Paxton Chocolate. Details at www.thechocolatesheep.co.uk