I work with fibre and I felt fine
In late 2016, Clare Thornley and her husband purchased Feltfine, known for its high-quality tops, batts, and yarns among other wool items. In a relatively short time, they’ve managed to advance the business, incorporating social media for a niche but loyal following while staying in touch with many local enthusiasts. Who knew that a doctor of classical music from Iowa, USA would be running a textile business in the Central Coast of Australia, and successfully so?
“We found Feltfine to be a well-respected and well-known business,” says Clare. “We’re grateful that the previous owner was so generous with his time and his knowledge. The learning curve has been straight up, but it’s been really fun.
Feltfine was already an established business with a strong following from textile enthusiasts across Australia. Taking on quite a challenge, Clare stepped up, taking to social media to boost the business’ influence and brought modern means of communicating with fans and finding new customers. A push for a stronger presence on Facebook and Instagram has been evident since their acquisition and they have gladly extended their reach to areas like New Zealand, Europe, and Japan.
“Here I am loving every minute of it”
“We took an existing business and leveraged it through the use of new platforms,” says Clare. “It’s gone from strength to strength, and I get phone calls from people saying that they saw my name somewhere wanting to know more about our products.”
Building a community around the business has been integral as she’s travelled and met customers from across the country. Participating in the local spinners group, the Central Coast Handweavers, Spinners & Textile Arts Guild located in East Gosford is another way for her to stay in touch with the community of craftspeople.
“Even though our customers are all over the place, we do try to create a sense of community because people like to craft with other people, says Clare. ”Crafting is about sharing knowledge and showing the beautiful things that we’ve made.
“Everytime we sell a parcel, we include a handwritten note that says we’d love to see what you’ll create. Often, the customers email us or tag us on Instagram and Facebook.”
Clare too is quite away from home. With a PhD in music history specialising in late 19th century Czech music coupled with experiences in lecturing and admin, owning and managing a textile business wasn’t necessarily in her career trajectory. “I’m a girl from Iowa, says Clare. “I never thought that I’d be selling wool to people in Australia. Here I am loving every minute of it.”
“I learned to knit from my grandma when I was young, and my mom taught me to Crochet. Those are my loves: knitting and crocheting. I’ve had great experiences with people in the fibre arts.”
Feltfine sells a range of wool products from tops and batts to dyes and embellishments. Much of their products can be found on their online store with dyed merino tops and batts proving to be popular and occasionally selling out. They also branch out from wool products including handspun yarn made of hemp, jute, and nettle to name a few.
“Crafting is about sharing knowledge and showing the beautiful things that we’ve made”
The bulk of the products are sourced from New Zealand, India, and the UK. Picking and carting processes are then applied. Ties with local farmers have already been established with consignment carding a welcome process. Clare hopes to further develop a stronger farm-to-table model.
Although Feltfine has participated in the Canberra Wool Expo and Creative Fibre events for many years, 2018 will be Clare’s second year at the Old Bus Depot events. Recalling her first time at the Markets on last year’s Canberra Wool Expo, she enjoyed the differences in audiences for Saturday and Sunday meeting long-time enthusiasts and casual customers. “It was huge,” says Clare. “We had a lot of customers and a lot of great conversations.”
‘We’ll be their with our range of exotic fibres: the yak and the camel. We’ll also be bringing sheep tops, a selection of dyes and other varieties.”
Clare looks to bring their range of high-quality wool products, while still open to hearing what their fans would like to at this year’s Canberra Wool Expo, held on the 19th and 20th of May. Voice out what you’d like to see from Clare and Feltfine on the Facebook page @Feltfine. See a preview and shop on their website.
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