Didsbury's knitted lampshades are good for the environment as well

PUBLISHED: 01:16 12 September 2011 | UPDATED: 12:05 28 February 2013

Helen Taylor with some of her quirky lampshades which are created using recycled yarns

Helen Taylor with some of her quirky lampshades which are created using recycled yarns

Knitted lampshade designer Helen Taylor has big ideas that have only a small impact on the environment WORDS BY EMMA MAYOH PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON

Helen Taylor is used to working on big structures and projects. Until a few years ago the designer worked in environmental engineering and was consulted on major projects, including the construction of the new BBC building at Media City in Salford. Her job was to assess and advise on the environmental impact of a building.

But now the 37-year-old has taken on something a little smaller making lamps with hand-knitted shades for her own business, Ose Designs. The move came in 2009, sparked by Helens yearning to make a change. She had previously studied textiles at university in Manchester and was keen to break into the craft industry. She was also keen to be self-employed.

My old job wasnt the right lifestyle for me, said Helen. I didnt want to spend the next 40 years working for other people. It was the time to do it, although it was a tremendous leap of faith.

Id always loved textiles and I knew I wanted to do something with design and crafts. I experimented with all sorts of things. It was only when I made a cover for a lamp in my home that I realised this could be it for me.

Helens working life has been transformed. She has gone from boardroom meetings to knitting in front of the television at her Didsbury home. She also has a small group of local women who knit for her. Her curvaceous designs use various techniques and textures to produce the different collections. She also dip dyes some of the lampshades to create interesting colours.

And she has drawn knowledge from her previous career to help produce the lampshades. At the heart of Ose Designs is the need to be more environmentally aware. All her lampshades are made using recycled yarns, linen and cotton. The frames are manufactured in the north and the timber bases are sustainably sourced using Forest Stewardship Council wood, meaning the woods origin can be traced to the forest where it was grown, through to its felling, distribution and the timber supplier where Helen bought it.

It is all about making consumers aware that recycled can still mean beautiful products, she said. There needs to be an outlet for the recycled materials that are produced from recycling other products. I use a provider who buys recycled fibres and makes new yarn out of it. We are using up less of the worlds resources.

People sometimes think recycled means second best but this is not the case. Most people recycle paper, glass and plastic but if we can start to recycle some of our homewares too that is fantastic.

Helen, who is originally from Hampshire but moved to Manchester in 1996, is already stocked at a handful of shops in the North. She is also hoping to convince larger retailers like House of Fraser, Heals and Londons Liberty store to stock her designs. But it will never be big business for her.

I was working in sustainable and environmental building and conscientious design, she said. Its still something I feel very passionate about. My aim is to keep it local. I want to keep that small team of people I use. Im already having tremendous fun with it.

A Stitch in Time

Fancy joining a local knitting group? Here is a selection available in the county
Witty Knitters, Culceth: This group meet on Tuesdays at the Black Sheep Craft Barn in Glaziers Lane. 01925 764231.

Knit n Natter, Warrington:
Friars Green Methodist Church in Cairo Street is the location for this friendly group of knitters, crocheters and cross stitchers. They meet on the first and third Wednesday of the month. katiewignall@hotmail.com

Macclesfield Stitch n Bitch: Meet on alternate Mondays at Kusch Bar in Mill Street. mail@sueasbury.co.uk

Letsknit@lock57, Sandbach: Waterside restaurant, Lock 57, plays host to this keen group of knitters and stitchers on Wednesdays. Gail@lock57.co.uk

Stockport Knitting Group: Join in the fun every Thursday at the Arden Arms in Millgate. ellah@hotmail.com

Wednesday Woollies, Brindley:
If you want to learn how to knit or are looking for inspiration and new ideas, this group meets on the first and third Wednesday of the month at Brindley Art Centre, High Street, Runcorn. carysanne@hotmail.com

Sale Knit n Natter: This group meet at The Kings Ransom in Britannia Road on the first Monday of every month. debbie@dtcrafts.co.uk

Knit In Chester: The Frog in Liverpool Road plays hosts to this group on the first Monday of the month. bron@padeswood.orangehome.co.uk

Crewe Knitting, Sewing and Crochet Group:
Whether you are a prolific knitter or not, you can learn new skills with this local group. They meet on the fourth Monday of the month at Crewe and Nantwich CVS/Volunteer Bureau in Gatefield Street. migratingfishswim@googlemail.com

The print version of this article appeared in the September 2011 issue of Cheshire Life

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