Reader's Digest spoke to Charlotte Hanson, founder of eco-friendly macramé company CharKnots, about how she got started and where she sees the business going
How did CharKnots get started, and how would you best summarise what you offer?
I started playing around with macramé techniques around 5 years ago, initially making plant hangers as a solution to our never-ending houseplant collection! I started to think about it as a business towards the end of 2019. I was in a job that was really affecting my mental health and I needed an escape. It wasn’t until the pandemic hit that I began to think more seriously about how I could turn it into a business.
"My focus is on creating high quality pieces in a carefully curated colour palette"
I make eco conscious homeware and accessories from recycled textiles using the ancient macramé technique of knotting rope. My focus is on creating high quality pieces in a carefully curated colour palette that are either beautiful pieces for your home or have a practical use. I also offer workshops in and around Sheffield for those wanting to give macramé a go!
Charlotte Hanson, founder of eco-friendly macramé company CharKnots
Have you undergone any formal training/ previous roles that have helped with what you do for work now?
Not really! I studied Fashion Design with Textiles at the University of Huddersfield and I think that’s where I realised my love of creating bold shapes in tailored colour palettes. I was always drawn more towards the textile side of the course, working with materials and manipulating them to create different textures.
How did you know you were ready to take the leap to self-employment?
Honestly, it’s a scary step and something I’d dreamed of doing for years but I never thought I’d be able to do it. I ran the business alongside working full time for over a year but started to experience burnout. I had to take a step back and remember why I’d started the brand in the first place, and that was for my mental health. I took the step into being predominantly self-employed back in February after a lot of thinking about the "what ifs". I’m now incredibly lucky to have a wonderful part time job alongside my business, which helps with the balance.
How does your work compliment your personality? Why the medium of macramé?
Over the last few years I’ve taken steps in my personal life to lessen my effect on the planet, which has had a real influence on CharKnots. Using recycled materials, being proudly plastic free and aiming for zero waste are some of the factors I’m proud of. The majority of my pieces are made from Oeko-Tex 100 certified recycled cotton, which has been sourced from production waste or used clothing that is saved from landfill. I only use paper packaging for online orders, and production offcuts are used to make smaller items like earrings. I’m currently working on some exciting new products that will help to push me towards my zero waste goal.
"I’m currently working on some exciting new products that will help to push me towards my zero waste goal"
I’ve always been a tactile person and I like to create pieces that look inviting to touch. I think you need to handle my pieces to appreciate the quality of them. You can create so many textures with macramé and it’s incredibly meditative, I think that’s why it’s the technique I’ve ultimately landed on.
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Macramé wristlet keychain
I tend to get admin out of the way first thing with a cup of coffee; emails and to-do list plans for the day. I usually have a plan of what products I need to make, any wholesale and online orders I need to be aware of, and how I plan to replenish my market stock (I tend to sell at markets most weekends). I’ll start production late morning and that usually takes me up until the end of the day. Macramé is a very time intensive technique, but it’s worth it!
What do you like to do to switch off?
When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I walk. I'm incredibly lucky to live in Sheffield which has so much green space and the Peak District is just a 10 minute drive away. I try and sneak a walk in before I start my working day as I find it really clears my head and gets me ready to be productive. On days off, I love grabbing a coffee with friends or hunting around charity shops, of which Sheffield has a plethora. I love to explore Small Plants, an incredible houseplant and gift store that is also full of independent makers, and there's also an amazing vegan scene in Sheffield, with eateries such as Tigs and Make No Bones being two of my favourites.
What are your favourite and least favourite parts of the job?
I love the flexibility. Being able to take myself off to the park to sit and have a coffee because it’s a nice day, or choosing my days off to fit around a friend’s busy schedule is a massive bonus. I’ve also found an incredible community of other small business owners who are so supportive. Sheffield has an amazing indie scene; from great coffee shops like Whaletown to makers markets from Endless Love Creative, we really have it all, and it’s one of the things I love most about the city.
Charlotte at her CharKnots stall
I do really struggle to switch off, so I’d say that’s my least favourite part. I’m trying to schedule my days off at the beginning of each week, but I usually end up working an hour or so on days off and late into the evening on working days.
What has been the most valuable business lesson you’ve learnt so far?
I’m capable of a lot more than I give myself credit for! When I look back at everything I’ve achieved over the past few years, I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved on my own.
And what has been your most tangible achievement?
I’d say stocking in lots of amazing Sheffield shops. But also, making the business my main job. That was always the dream, and I’ve achieved it. I’d always dreamed of hosting workshops too; I love sharing skills with people and watching the amazement on their face as they realise they can make a plant hanger or wall hanging.
Macramé plant hanger
In five years' time, where would you like to see the business?
I’d love to stock my products in more shops across the country, and do some collaborations with other artists. And I’d really love my own studio space. I currently work from my home studio, but my supplies are spilling into every other room of the house!
If you weren’t in this line of work, what other career would you love to have?
This is a difficult one! I think one way or another I would have stayed creative. I did a silversmithing course a couple of years ago and loved it, so maybe I’d have gone down that route…
To learn more about CharKnots, visit their website.
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