Knitwear designer Keighly Hearty tells us why we should ditch fast fashion and buy cruelty-free products.
More people than ever want to shop ethically, a feeling that Keighly Hearty shares. Her craft business, I Heart Threads Co, sells hats, crocheted bags and macramé plant hangers that are all vegan, responsibly sourced and handmade.
Never happier than when knitting with her Boston terrier Murphy at her side, she’s making it her mission to create a business that has sustainable and recycled materials at its heart. We caught up with Keighly at her home on the south coast of England, to find out how she sources her materials, where she goes to find inspiration, and more about her clean, simple designs that last from season to season.
Hi Keighly! Where did the idea for I Heart Threads come from?
I started knitting gifts for friends and family and soon after I had requests coming in from people offering to pay me for my knits. It was quite overwhelming at first! People wanted to give me money for something I had made. It was, and still is, a great feeling to put so much love and care into making something and for it to be so well-received.
Being a vegetarian, it feels natural to only work with cruelty-free materials. For me, it’s important that all the supplies I get for my business, from the yarns I use right the way through to the packaging, are responsibly sourced. I started to see that there was a gap in the market for affordable, ethical accessories and wanted to make this the main aim for my business.
So all your products are vegan and cruelty free. Tell us more.
I became a vegetarian a couple of years ago and it not only changed the food I ate, but also made me feel responsible for the clothing and household products I was buying. This in turn had an impact on my knitting projects. I wasn’t happy buying wool from suppliers where I didn’t know how the animals were being treated. So, I started to source only 100% vegan materials to make sure that I was doing my bit for the planet.
The fast fashion industry creates so much waste that has a negative impact on our environment. The yarn that I use for some of my plant hangers is made using recycled textile remnants. They take the offcuts from various clothing manufacturers, which would otherwise be thrown away, and cut them into strips to make bobbins of yarn. All our packaging is also 100% recyclable — our tissue paper has already been recycled once and our mailing bags are biodegradable. My aim is to promote a more thoughtful approach to shopping, encouraging people to buy less but buy better. I’d love for customers to practise conscious consumerism and feel empowered to research where their products come from.
Is it hard to source your products?
Yes! As a lot of vegan yarns are made from materials like acrylic and polyester they can look and feel cheap and itchy. I use acrylic yarn for my beanies but I had to order from so many different brands until I found the yarn I was happy with.
I also use a lot of cotton yarns. It can be hard working with recycled fibres as they’re rarely exactly the same weight or colour from bobbin to bobbin. This takes a bit of planning to make sure you’re starting and finishing your project with the same yarn. Cotton cord can be tricky too, as some cords literally shred your fingers when you work with them. Luckily, I’ve found an awesome supplier in the UK that sources the softest, 100% cotton cords that are a dream to work with.
Describe your workspace and why it works for you?
My second bedroom is currently my office/stash room. It’s just about big enough to contain all my yarn, packaging materials and tools. My storage is all contained to one wall to make sure there’s still enough room to move around (it’s pretty tight in there!). I have a desk for when I’m doing computer-based work, which also acts as a packing station when I’m getting orders ready to send. I’ve got some open shelves and a little drawer unit for all my tools and stationery. I’d love to say I’m super disciplined and work from my office every day, but actually I mostly work from my sofa. I get nice and snuggly with my doggy, put some tunes on and get cracking.
How big is your craft stash?
Well, I try and be practical when I’m buying materials and make sure I’ve got a particular project in mind, but there’s always that ball of yarn you just fall in love with and have no idea what you’re going to use it for. My stash is stored in a huge vintage industrial metal shelving unit in my office. However, various items do tend to find themselves all over the house. My husband Dan has accepted the fact that the whole house is my craft room!
When did you learn the skills you use to create your makes?
I started knitting about 10 years ago after watching a few YouTube videos and fumbling around with some knitting needles. I found it super fiddly to start with, but therapeutic at the same time. I was so pleased when I’d finished my first item (even if it was hideous), and I’ve been completely hooked ever since. A couple of years later I learned how to crochet – but it wasn’t plain sailing. I started making swatches, just practising the stitches over and over again, and finally got the hang of it. I’ve only recently learnt the art of macramé, and I’m fully in love with it.
What’s the first thing you ever made?
It was a red beanie – and it was awful. It had missed stitches and the most uneven tension, but I was so happy with it!
Where do you go to find inspiration?
Inspiration comes from a variety of places, physical and digital. Pinterest is such a great hub of images to get the creative juices flowing. I love browsing through photos of other makers’ awesome projects, but I tend to get ideas for my own products by browsing colour schemes, styling ideas and fashion photography. Out and about, I have a real thing for plants and trees. I don’t know if it’s my new found love of houseplants that’s drawn my eye to anything green. I love the combination of crisp, clean décor and industrial materials, mixed with the natural colours and shapes of plants and foliage.
Who would your dream collaboration be with?
To continue my love affair with plants I’d love to work with someone like the wonderful geo-fleur. I am also looking to design some knitted and crocheted cotton cushion covers next year, and would love to collaborate with some natural dyeing gurus to create cushion backs in sustainable materials. Also, there are some awesome illustrators, such as Becki Clark, who have had their designs printed onto fabric, and would be a dream to work with.
Where are you happiest?
Snuggled up on the sofa with my dog, a cup of tea and a piece of cake, knitting in hand and some of my favourite tunes on. I worked super long hours at my previous job as a store manager for Urban Outfitters, so I don’t take the comfort and flexibility of working from home for granted.
What does making mean to you?
Making, for me, means turning raw materials into items for people to love and use purposefully. I adore the whole process of making something with your hands, watching it come together, and passing your makes on to people all over the world. Every aspect of making enables me to fulfil my dream of working creatively and to feel constantly inspired by the incredible community of makers out there.