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Meet Wooln, A Company That Employs Talented Grandmothers Who Knit

Wooln is a company that sells high-end accessories--mostly hats and snoods--that are hand-knit in New-York (and soon in Los Angeles) by talented grandmothers. The company provides customers with a very personal and unique item they will love wearing.  Each hand knit hat is labeled with the knitter’s name and made of incredibly soft yarn.  It was started by two friends, one of whom, Margaux, works at Lion Brand.  We interviewed Marguax about this unique social good business.

Wooln

What inspired you start WOOLN?

Margaux:
I’m an avid knitter and yarn lover and I’ve always wanted to create a business involving my passion for knitting. When I met my friend, Faustine in early 2015 we both wanted to start a business. There was a great connection and instant trust. We brainstormed ideas and came up with this original concept. It had to involve Faustine’s creative talent, my experience in the knitting/yarn business (in France and in the US as a Marketing Analyst for Lion Brand) and a strong social aspect.
The company got started in early March 2015 (less than 2 months after we met) and we’re now working on our 3rd collection.

Being two French transplants in this huge city has played a great role in starting up WOOLN. We felt seniors could play a bigger role in the community and be more valued. As Europeans, honoring elders is a big part of our way of living, so we wanted to incorporate that same feeling into our project. And let’s face it, people with experience do things better. A knitter who has been knitting for more than 30 years has golden hands and knits perfectly.

  

How did you find knitters?

Margaux:
We found our knitters by going where they are: senior centers! Last year we trekked New York City going to all 40 senior centers in different neighborhoods, putting up flyers, and talking to knitting teachers in those centers.  Last year we started the season with just 4 knitters and as word got out about what we were doing more knitters started naturally gravitating to us. When we started to get publicity we received many messages from knitters who wanted to join us. It’s always a huge pleasure to receive those emails.

In fact, the whole idea of Wooln is not to have interviews and have seniors get tested on their knowledge. The way we start working with them is very organic.  We meet them, talk about our project, what we do and why we do it, and try to understand why they are interested in being part of our community. (There are many reasons such as money, feeling valued, having a new sense of purpose, meeting people, etc.) We quickly understand if they share the same values as we do. The next step is getting them started on just one pattern to get a sense of their skill level.  Meetings take place often in the first month or so, and then we let them decide when they want to meet next and how much they would like to knit. There are no deadlines, everyone knits at their own pace!

Note: we’re looking for knitters in Los Angeles -- please email us if you think you might like to knit with us!

From your website we read that “we aim at creating a strong community with our knitters, welcoming them back into the active workforce.” Could you elaborate it for us?

Margaux:
We really want to bring our knitters’ talent to the forefront and share it by including them in the economy and having them be part of a project they belong to. The idea is to make money while doing something they love, but above all to take part in a larger project. We want them to have a feeling of belonging, a feeling of "yes, some business needs me!" For our knitters, having something they’ve made with so much care being sold and marketed in a thoughtful way gives a new perspective to what they have been doing for so long and with passion: knitting.
Many of our grandmas also take part in crucial creative and business actions. Some help us develop our patterns, Hollis is our spokesperson and edits our documentation, Annie is a wonderful rep and they almost all participate in interviews and TV recordings. We can also count on them to teach each other new knitting techniques.

WOOLN is all about community, and creating bonds between different communities, and we strongly believe those relationships benefit everyone. On one side, we have this community of senior knitters, who have an amazing talent, and who can handcraft such beautiful objects. On the other side we have a community of consumers who care a lot about what they wear and who understand that anything they buy makes a difference in some way. They are part of a conscious commerce movement and appreciate to know where they clothes come from.

 

What type of yarn do you use?

Margaux:
We mainly work with alpaca yarn from Peru. It took us a long time to find the perfect yarn. Each season we work on introducing new material we love. We’ve been very lucky to benefit from Lion Brand, who donated their LB Collection 100% cashmere yarn. It’s the softest! We’re very thankful and very proud to collaborate with such an amazing family business.

 

What message do you want to send by your work?

Margaux:
Inspiration is everywhere.
Life is way more meaningful when you contribute to a project you believe in.
Everyone has something inspiring / we can learn from and benefit from everyone we meet!
It’s important to create bonds between all communities ; in the end, everyone benefits from it.
You’re never too old!

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