I was lucky to catch up with Karen and Susan from Mrs Moon this week. We chatted about their extraordinary journey from local yarn shop owners to international yarn sellers, their favourite puddings, plus where their love of knitting and crochet comes from...
Tell us a bit about yourselves – where do you live, and if with family/pets?
We are sisters, and both live in an area of Twickenham called St Margarets. We didn’t grow up here but in SW Oxfordshire. Somehow after university, we ended up in this area of London (well Karen ended up sleeping on Susan’s floor, which happened to be in Richmond!) We’re very lucky, it’s a lovely villagey area. Lots of beautiful parks and by the River Thames. Richmond is a 10-minute walk away for a bit more hustle and bustle!
We both have 4 children (not so children-y anymore). The eldest is 20, and the youngest is extremely nearly 13! They all went to our local schools, and now three are at university (or would be were we not in lockdown!). Terribly boringly, we also both have a dog. Susan has a standard schnauzer called Betsy. Karen has a Jack Russell X called Waffle. On the exciting side, Karen has fish too!
Where did you love for knitting and crochet come from?
Our mum is an unbelievably brilliant sewer/knitter/crocheter. Sewing was her trade. She worked for a couture house off Bond Street before she got married and we have benefitted from her talents. She tried to teach both of us to sew to varying degrees of success, but she was more successful with the knitting! We both knitted as children and it was useful as for a time she had a shop so easy to get supplies! Our Great Auntie Doris taught us to crochet one summer on the Isle of Wight. We took a refresher course before we thought of opening a shop and really that kicked off the Mrs Moon story.
Sunburst Granny Blanket knit in Mrs Moon Plump DK
Where does the name Mrs Moon come from?
When we were setting up the shop, we were desperately trying to come up with a name that would sum up how we felt about the experience. We came across a poem by Roger McGough, which beautifully summed up the relaxing, nurturing quality that crafting can have:
We got in touch with Roger McGough to see if he minded us using it and he was lovely about it.
So you started out in your own yarn shop in Richmond, London. Tell us about those early days, and what lead you to create your own yarn?
Our shop was lovely. We really enjoyed the interaction with customers; helping them decide on a project, choosing the right yarn, talking about colours. But as we started designing projects to help sell other yarns, we realised that actually, our talents lay there. That, plus the tricky matter of looking after the kids and the shop. Also, we started looking for different yarns that would work better for particular projects.
We wanted a super chunky yarn that was luxurious, soft, sustainable and had a beautiful drape. So many of the others out there were too bulky to wear or full of plastic or just really poor quality fibres. It was this that lead to the development of Plump.
Did you work closely with the mill to develop the yarns in your range?
We spent a lot of time working on the specification of Plump. There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the mill. Lots of samples to mull over. Eventually, we went for a mix of 80% ethically sourced superfine merino that until that point had never been used for handknitting with 20% baby alpaca to give some drape. The care of animals and the environment was really important to us in the whole process. The mix is bespoke to us.
Your colours are divine, how did you decide on the colours and also the names of each colour?
One of the benefits (and drawbacks) of working with a family member is that you can be brutally honest with no pussy-footing needed! We can also be uncompromisingly stubborn! Fortunately, we have very similar likes when it comes to colour. We spent a morning sifting through hundreds of tapestry yarns for our original batch of 12 colours, negotiating with each other over personal favourites. Since then we’ve added from various inspirations. We sent a tassel from a linen scarf of Karen’s to the mill to match the colour for bubblegum!
The names are done in much the same way. Once we’d decided on sweet foods puddings as a theme, some were easy, others needed a bit of googling for inspiration! (there aren’t that many blue foods…..!)
If you could only ever eat one pudding for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If it were from our palette I’d (Karen), have to go for Pavlova…Susan would go for Rhubarb Crumble.
You now offer your yarns to other yarn shops, why did you decide to close the shop and offer your yarns wholesale?
Yes, we closed the shop as the yarn started to take over. It was one or the other, and it’s tricky to promote other yarns when you have you own to look after. Plus having a shop is incredibly expensive and relentlessly all-consuming. People who run shops are just totally amazing.
You both write patterns as well, how would you describe your style?
Simple contemporary I think sums us up. We have to stop ourselves putting the word ‘Simple’ in every pattern! We like clean, unfussy but colourful and non-fuddyduddy clothes.
What achievements are you most proud of? And what are the highlights of your journey so far?
One of our proudest achievements was definitely being asked to write our books: Simple Chic Knits and Simple Chic Crochet (see the ‘simple’ edging in again!). It was lovely to get that endorsement from the publishers.
Highlights have to include the shows we’ve been too, particularly to the US which have always been great fun. There is nothing like meeting people who love what you do.
How do you juggle running your business with your personal/family life?
Hmmm… well for us family comes first and can put a spanner in the works at a moment’s notice! That’s another good thing about working with your sister. You are both acutely aware of other things going on in your lives. Our families are also very involved when needed, e.g. modelling, lugging boxes, delivering, plus some of our patterns are named after them!
What are your plans for the future for Mrs Moon?
We’re so excited for the future. We have some exciting plans for Pudding in particular. Lots of things have been cancelled because of the lockdown, but we’re not going to let that get us down.
If you were stranded on a desert island which three items would you take and why?
So, Joe Wicks has really helped keep the mood light during the lockdown, so Susan thinks taking a Joe Wicks DVD to a desert island, plus something to play it on would be very helpful. I’d need a good pair of sunglasses and a hat, plus maybe a piano…
You are sisters, how would you describe each other? Whose the eldest? Whose the bossiest?
Susan is the eldest and the bossiest (this is Karen answering the question!). We know what each other is good and not so good at so we manage to divide out the workload according to our strengths. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and we try to make sure that when all else fails, we are getting enough enjoyment out of things to make them worthwhile.
A huge thank you to Karen and Susan from taking time out in their schedule to talk to me. We stock both Plump DK and Pudding here at Tangled Yarn along with some beautiful crochet and knitting patterns which are available free when you purchase the yarn to make them.