So far sew good for crafty Clare as national outlets take interest

Clare Ashton, with some of her creations, at Felt Feelings, The Loft, Lever Street, Todmorden
Clare Ashton, with some of her creations, at Felt Feelings, The Loft, Lever Street, Todmorden

Business is booming for a textile designer as outlets around the UK take interest in her range of unique craft products.

Clare Ashton, whose Felt Feelings business is based in a workshop on Lever Street in Todmorden, has secured more than 20 new outlets to stock her products which include felt book covers, lampshades and other items.

After a slow start, 2013 was the year her business took off and she is now looking forward to exhibiting her products at prestigious craft fairs.

“Having started off with a couple of outlets at the beginning of the year, I ended up with well over 20,” she said.

“I started selling my work through Makepiece and Water Street Gallery, and also on my online shop and at craft markets.

“Most of my sales were at Christmas, so if I was going to make it into a business I knew I needed to be able to sell all year round.

“You can’t keep doing something that’s not making money. You’ve got to find that next step to make it into a profit-making business.”

Clare learned how to make felt six years ago by doing a course at Todmorden Community College.

“I did a creative textile course and fell in love with it,” she said.

She started selling her work soon after.

“For the first few years I was kind of breaking even but never actually making money,” she said. “All the money I had made up to that point went into buying a felt-making machine, which helped me take things further.”

Highlights include exhibiting at British Craft Trade Fair in Harrogate and the Scotland Trade Fair in Glasgow.

“I think my work goes down quite well in Scotland because I have Highland cows, stags and hens and they like wool up there because they have a lot of sheep farming as part of their agriculture,” she said.

“I got to show last year at the Great Northern Contemporary Craft Fair.

“It’s a great confidence boost that what I’m selling is of great quality because they only have the best at that event.

“This year I’m doing even more trade fairs.

“I’m hoping to double the number of outlets I’ve got.”

She has received support from the creative community in the upper Calder Valley.

“The local artists and makers around here are a really encouraging lot. They encouraged me to go for it,” she said.

“That’s something I try to do when I meet new makers.”

Clare will be part of the Hebden Bridge Open Studios event in June and July.

She will also be exhibiting at the Ideal Homes Show in Glasgow in May and is aiming to get her products stocked in gift shops at major museums and art galleries.