Russell knits home life with entrepreneurial spirit to launch new venture
By Mark Hayhurst 18 May 2017
A Wrexham-based businessman has launched a new venture – with help from his eight alpacas.
Russell Forrester, who has been with Sewing Machines Direct since 1988, has opened SMD Knitting, which sells knitting wool, provides advice and guidance, and supports the growing community of knitters in North Wales and Cheshire.
He has converted space at Sewing Machines Direct’s head office on the Llay Industrial Estate into a dedicated knitting wool showroom and employed a new member of staff to head up the brand.
And Russell says he owes the idea for SMD Knitting to his eight alpacas.
He said: “I bought 27 acres of land to give me space to de-stress by walking the dogs and experiencing a quieter, more rural lifestyle.
“We realised we needed animals to help maintain the land and after considering the usual cows and sheep, we settled on alpacas.
“Like sheep, alpacas need to be sheared once a year. An average alpaca fleece weighs about 2.5kg and even the very best quality unprocessed fleeces are only valued at around £10.00 per kilo on the open market.
“To add value we decided to spin it up and turn it into yarn and sell the finished product, which is how SMD Knitting was born.
“We are hoping to work with more similar sized producers to provide them with an outlet for the fleece from their sheep or alpacas.
“The products are then sold online as well as from our shop on the Llay Industrial Estate.”
Russell, whose background is in sewing machines, hired Lisette Zwart to head up SMD Knitting. Russell says that her knowledge of knitting, crochet, and yarn, as well as a shared interest in the promotion of British wool, made her the ideal candidate.
Lisette, who started knitting and crocheting in her native Netherlands before coming to the UK and working in the industry, said: “Everyone here at SMD Knitting either knits, crochets, spins or weaves. We are all passionate about wool and love helping our customers.
“Our aim is to build a community. We want to be known for much more than suppliers of wool.
“A central part of the new development inside the knitting wool showroom is a dedicated knit and natter area.
“This provides somewhere for people to meet and talk about all things knitting and crochet and show off their handiwork.
“As well as welcoming people who pop in to browse, we will be hosting regular events for anyone who shares a love of knitting and crochet.”
SMD Knitting is part of the SMD Retail group, which includes Sewing Machines Direct, and SMD Creative Wools.