“My business is my baby…& more importantly, I love it!”
I can’t remember how and where I first discovered Lauren Aston’s beautiful, super chunky knits some years ago. Although I have a sneaking suspicion it was through Twitter or via another blogger.
Once I’d laid eyes on those gorgeous hand crafted throws, blankets and cushions, I then began seeing them everywhere. All hail the power of Instagram and Pinterest once more!
As someone who likes nothing more than to build a blanket and cushion nest about her person whilst ensconced on the sofa of an evening, these over-sized beauties were simply my idea of cosy heaven!
It wasn’t until some years later that I finally decided to treat myself to the Woolacombe Throw in cream with a cushion to match.
If I could go out wrapped
in it, I would…
You’ve probably seen it pop up on my Instagram a gazillion times. In winter, if I could go out wrapped in it, I would.
When I excitedly tore open the package on delivery day, as well as letting out my signature squeal, I think I actually talked to the blanket and told it how beautiful it was. Not many things have that effect on me!
I recently caught up with Lauren to find out more about her day to day life in Devon and this incredible business that involves GIANT (and I mean GIANT!) knitting needles.
Read on and prepare to fall in love…
How did you first discover beautiful oversized knit products and what made you decide to start up a business around the concept?
The short version is that we moved to Devon in 2013 for my husband’s job and I didn’t know what to do with myself… but I knew it needed to be creative.
Having learnt to knit when I was 11 and then studied knitwear at Uni, it seemed an obvious choice. But I knew it had to be big to be time effective so I went on a hunt to find or develop the biggest yarn I could.
It was a long-winded process but I got there in the end and just knew it was a bit special.
Talk us through a typical week in the life of a creative business like yours…
Due to my products being so seasonal my weeks can vary drastically depending on the time of year. Generally I’m here knitting (with a lot of Netflix and tea!) and I do a lot of social media, photography and product development etc on a day to day basis.
Christmas is thought about and
discussed at least once a week…
Every Wednesday is a blog post day and Christmas is thought about and discussed at least once a week; whether it’s to do with stock building, new products, styling or the photo shoots.
There’s also all the boring stuff like checking you have enough business cards, searching for new suppliers for packaging or figuring out which ribbon is best for swing tags.
Other than the priorities, I don’t have too much structure as I like to move jobs about and fit them in when I fancy. For instance, I don’t wan’t to have to to be price checking when I’d really rather be knitting.
Where do you seek inspiration from for your gorgeous designs and products and how do you ensure you balance your creative instincts with business needs?
My inspiration comes from trends and the materials themselves as they’re so easy to manipulate. I mess around a lot with stitches and then imagine it in different shapes and sizes etc.
I do a lot of Pinteresting but I’m very careful not to look at competitors. I find if I see a great chunky knit blanket it get’s stuck in my head and I can’t think about anything else. I really want to do my own thing rather than emulate anyone else’s.
I’m more likely to search ‘fun cushions’ for instance and that might lead me on to consider pompoms and their placement or colour combinations.
When it comes to individual products
I make most things to order…
In terms of balancing creative desires and business needs, when it comes to individual products I make most things to order to begin with. I’ll make a prototype and photograph, share it, publish it on the website and then see how popular it is.
That way I can try out loads of styles and items without committing to oodles of stock.
In the greater scheme of things I’m also really lucky that a lot of the everyday work is creative. This means I don’t often have to down sticks for too long therefore I rarely feel like I’m missing out on the creativity.
Do you have any tips to share for staying on track of all the essential elements to running a one-woman business?
Other than To Do lists, I’d say that utilising the quiet times is really important.
As I mentioned, for me that’s around June/July and I really make the most of these months to build stock, prep social media and plan blog posts.
I make sure I have everything I need for Christmas from swing tags and compliment slips to cardboard boxes and packaging tape.
It’s so important to make the most of those times as it really does help in the busy periods. The more organised you can be, the better!
What was the first thing you every knitted? Do you still have it?
It was a ridiculously wonky ‘scarf’ that was about 40cm long. Needless to say I gave up for a few years after that (for the greater good I’m sure).
It’s not exactly a masterpiece so I do still have it but in a box in the attic somewhere.
How do you switch off and ensure you have enough time to de-stress?
It’s one thing I’m really not good at I must admit. My business is my baby and more importantly, I love it.
I’m often in the studio from 8am – 9pm but the beauty of working from home is that I can pop down for a cuppa or lunch with Alex and the dog whenever I want or when I just need a break.
I’ve come to accept that October through
March will be tough on our social lives…
Between April and September it’s not manic so that’s when we try to get out a lot – we live in Devon so there’s so much to see and explore.
I’ve come to accept that October through March will be tough on our social lives (I’m something of a 6 month-a-year friend!).
But every year gets easier as I become more and more prepared so I don’t think it’ll be that way forever.
Ultimately I love it so much that I accept it simply can’t be easy and fun all the time!
What would be your key piece of advice to anyone thinking about setting up their own business?
There’s a saying: “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it”.
You need dedication and time to invest in it. It’s best to ensure that it’s something that you love because there will definitely be times when you think ‘Is this worth it?’.
And I think it’s really important to remember the big picture and answer that question honestly.
Whose style do you most admire and why?
So many people! It depends on what type of style, if it’s general life then Lena Dunham on account of nailing it for the girls.
For Creative and illustrative style I adore Nina Cosford and her beautiful honest way of drawing.
For Interiors and styling its Lust Living all the way because she is so good at putting it all together, and of course for both gorgeous and honest posts, you can’t beat yours!
What’s next for Lauren Aston Designs?
I’ve been working hard on a knitting book for this year which I’m really excited about! It was hard work but so rewarding and I can’t wait to see other people knit up the things I’ve imagined and created!
It’s already available to pre-order although I have to wait until November this year until it comes out but I think it’ll be worth it!
It’s a really exciting year!
In the meantime, I’m hiring more knitters and have big plans for selling more wool and knit kits this year.
As well as that, there’s the finished products I’ve always done and more that I’m constantly developing.
It’s a really exciting year!
And for some fun stuff! Your three current favourite Instagram accounts?
Which is your favourite season and why?
Autumn. We got married in October last year because it’s just such a beautiful time of year.
I love everything about it from the colours of the trees, dog walks in the chilly mornings and the perfect excuse to stay in and wrap up warm.
How do you take your coffee?
With a tea bag – I’m not a huge coffee lover. If I do then it’s some very milky, very sugary form. A very frothy thing!
But I take tea with milk, no sugar and a biscuit if you have one.
Sum up Lauren Aston Designs in three words…
Vivacious, Fun & Super-snuggly 😉
I don’t know about you but after reading that, I just want to nip down to Devon and hang out with Lauren over tea and biscuits and figure out how we can put the world to rights.
One cosy knit blanket at a time!