• Claire Dunnett

What does Q stand for?

What a quiz to start the weekend with. Here's two for starters, Quick or Quality?

Quintessentially I stick to quality!

On reflection, I am doing my best to stick to my morals and provide a totally handmade product using the best materials possible at a fair price for all involved. Yes there are many giant chunky knits out there, sometimes cheaper than you'll find at Dunnknit Designs but they are often either made from chunky Acrylic Wool which is a significantly cheaper material or they are made with cheap Merino Wool which is usually sourced from China. (Might I add that there are many who are far more expensive too!). Some are even arm knitted! How? I'll never know as my arms certainly aren't the same width all along them like my giant knitting needles. Anyway I've been there and tried that and it's definitely not for me!

You'll be pleased to know that I'm not being tempted to the dark side but I regularly receive emails from wool suppliers in China offering me cheaper Merino Wool. I buy my giant Merino Wool directly from a local Mill where I know exactly where it has come from. I even know which dyes have been used to create the colours that I have decided to use for my designs.

I wouldn't use anything else!

However, this got me thinking and I realised that I actually apply the same principles to every aspect of my small creative business. I appreciate quality and want to do my best to support other small businesses like me. I guess that's just part and parcel of who I am and how my creative mind works.

So this week I thought I'd give you a small insight as to some of the materials that I use, some of the local businesses that I support and how I do my upmost to keep my designs for sale at a fair price.

Obviously the biggest part of Dunnknit Designs is the creation of Chunky Knit designs where as mentioned before I use only the best Merino Wool from a fantastic Mill here in the UK along with (of course need I mention it), simply the best tools ever that have all been handmade out of huge chunks of mahogany, beech, ash and oak by my amazing wood-turning Dad. All of which are definitely the inspiration behind the design magic that is Dunnknit Designs.

So what else do I buy?

Well, I source all of my feather cushion inserts from The Feather Company which is a family based business in Edinburgh. The company was established in 1969 by David Monro. After years of stuffing cushions and duvets during the weekend and school holidays, David's son Gareth took over the business from his father in 1996 and Gareth launched the company website in 2010. Every feather and down filled item purchased from The Feather Company is hand-filled to specific weights using only top quality materials.

Yes I could easily source cheaper cushion inserts from ebay or the internet but 'NO'. Right from the beginning when I worked with my wonderful business advisory team, it was a unanimous decision that all products for sale at Dunnknit Designs would be of premium quality and I am absolutely adamant that there will be no compromise on that belief.

I work with local shops for my fabrics, threads, tags, polystyrene beads (for my Budworth Beanie Footstools), canvases, frames and tape etc. Northwich is a small market town with lots of independent shops and I'm doing my best to support local!

Then of course there's all of the printing and packaging. This is the only part of my small business where I buy online from some of the big guys. I'm working on that one though as it's all soooo expensive, that is unless you buy it by the palette load anyway!

So how do I work out my prices?

Well following on from great business advice I am also a member of a designer makers business group where their tag line is 'remember you must factor in your time', 'you can't make it for nothing' and this is oh so true! After all there are always bills that need to be paid. Right?

When you think that decent un-spun giant Merino Wool retails at £50 per Kg and a large blanket takes up to 7Kg to make. Is it any wonder that the overall cost are high? Plus they can also take up to 3 weeks to make. I'll leave you to do the Maths there!

So what are the differences between the various Merino Knits that are available out there? Now this is where I have done my homework. When I was in the planning and designing stage of setting up Dunnknit Designs I did nearly two years of working with the Mill and testing out different grades of un-spun Merino wool and how I wanted to process it to get the kind of finish that I was happy with. It was a messy business believe me and I had a few disasters along the way but eventually I came up with a system of preparing the wool before I knit it which takes time and once knitted up, I then process the item which takes even longer (a secret which I'm not telling anyone!). Once dry I have the knitted or crocheted design on my giant work table and I check and finish off every single stitch by hand. This process alone can take up to 3 days and is a real labour of love. Then it's time to add the finishing touches of the 'Handmade by Dunnknit Designs' tag and to add my new Swing tags and Voila!

Surprised by how long things take and what's actually involved in a chunky knit from Dunnknit Designs? Most people who are in the know as to what goes on generally are. Yes I'm very patient! Yes it's very therapeutic most of the time! Yes I love what I do! Most of all, and anyone who knows me would say the same, I am an absolute stickler for detail even down to the packaging and a handwritten note to add that personal touch. Yes some might say it's unnecessary and a waist of valuable time but I thoroughly believe in getting what you pay for and it's the small personal touches that count and make the difference.

Well I certainly feel that all handmades from Dunnknit Designs are unique and definitely worth their price tags. There aren't many knitters of giant wool out there who are bonkers enough to process the items as it takes so much time to do. I't's messy, it involves lifting heavy weights and it definitely involves copious amounts of back aching patience. Most knitters of giant Merino Wool simply buy the wool, knit it up and sell! What they don't tell you is that un-spun Merino Wool is 'just that, un-spun'. In it's raw state it's a mass of delicate strands of super soft Merino fibres that will shed all over absolutely everything it touches. I'm not on a mission to educate the world on Merino Wool but to buy a hand processed Merino Chunky knit is a bit like buying decent chocolate versus cheap chocolate. Many will settle for the cheap chocolate because they like the look of it but once you've tasted the good stuff, there's no going back. Need I say any more?

Happy Weekend folks,

Until next time,

Claire xx

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