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Talk knitting talk Rowan; Company started above a grocery shop is a cult name in knitting three decades since its inception Fashion & health.

Byline: By ANDREW BALDWIN Feature Writer

IT'S fair to say there's a bit of a cult surrounding Holmfirth yarn company Rowan.

Talk knitting and the firm's name crops up again and again.

Its designs and yarns have caught on around the world, fuelled largely by a pattern magazine launched in 1986.

The contemporary designs featured in its pages have proved an inspiration to thousands who want to bring catwalk looks into their home.

Having a young Kate Moss featured on the cover of the 10th issue did no harm either.

It's a remarkable success story for a company which is celebrating 30 years since it began in offices above a grocery shop.

There's a chance to see some of the garments featured over the past three decades in an exhibition at the North Light Gallery, Armitage Bridge.

Iconic designs will feature and there will be interviews with key designers who have helped to create the individuality that is the Rowan brand.

The company's Sarah Brook says: "The aim from the beginning was to develop yarns and colours targeted at designers, as well as providing exciting and contemporary designs to appeal to hand-knitters."

Founders Stephen Sheard and Simon Cockin set up the business to sell weaving kits, yarn and hand woven rugs.

The inspiration for the company name came from the rowan trees that grew along the banks of the river which flows past the disused mill where they set up home.

It wasn't long before the company took a new direction, selling hand-knitting yarns and knitting kits with a designer edge.

Rowan International, a subscription club for the pattern magazine, now has more than 7,500 members worldwide, many of them in the USA.

In fact, a small group of knitters from Minnesota and Wisconsin in the American Mid-West will be visiting Holmfirth for the anniversary, such is the loyalty the firm generates.

There are plenty of satisfied customers in our area too, with regular workshops being held from the mid-1980s onwards, mostly in Holmfirth at the mill in Dunford Road.

In 1995 the company was bought by Coats Crafts UK, who wanted to supplement their portfolio of Jaeger hand-knits and Patons knitting brands.

When Coats took Rowan over they left the original team in charge.

Kate Buller joined Rowan in 1994 as a demonstrator in John Lewis, and, under her management, the design consultant concept has proved to be a huge success.

The Rowan outlets in shops offer more, with advice and discussion on hand to anybody who may want it.

Rowan has expanded its interest in popular crafts by introducing fabrics to their range, adding designer names such as Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler to the premium fabric range market.

Last year a new sustainable sub-brand called Rowan Purelife was launched.

"The yarns are naturally dyed and the cotton can be traced directly back to farmers in India, who work in improved conditions without the use of harmful pesticides," said Sarah.

Two more yarns were added this year, an organic wool and British sheep breeds, using fibres from the Bluefaced Leicester, Suffolk, Welsh and Jacob breeds.

In a further commitment to good fashion Rowan has set up a design award in association with the Royal College of Art.

Rowan will be marking this year's 30th anniversary in many different ways.

The lucky winner of a competition will get to choose a pattern by Rowan designers Kaffe Fassett, Martin Storey, Jean Moss, Marie Wallin or Erika Knight and have it customised specially for them.

The anniversary competition is open to all Rowan International members around the world and the winner will be chosen on December 31.

That exhibition at the North Light Gallery is tomorrow and Saturday and then again on September 12 and 13 (all dates 10am-4pm).

Admission is free.

A worldwide tour follows.

The American visitors who are coming over for the anniversary will be holding free open workshops hosted by designer Steven Berg.

They take place at the Rock Inn, Holywell Green, from 9am to noon on September 5 and 8.

Knitters should bring yarn, needles and their favourite project or ideas to share.

A brief look at the internet shows just how popular the Rowan brand is.

One satisfied user has even posted a picture of four balls of yarn, adding: "Rowan yarn is so awesome."

That's not bad for a Holmfirth firm with relatively small beginnings.andrew.baldwin@examiner.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

FASHION ICON: Having a young Kate Moss featured on the cover of the 10th issue of their pattern magazine did the Rowan company no harm. The model went on to superstar status and here models her own clothing range designed for Topshop. Below is a taste of other pattern magazine covers, one to 44; SHARED SKILLS: One of the popular workshops held regularly by Rowan (above) and (left) the mill in Dunford Road, Holmfirth, which is at the heart of the Rowan success story
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 28, 2008
Words:823
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