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Crafty Catch-Up with Claire Gelder



Claire Gelder left her career as an NHS Director in 2015 to launch her new business Wool Couture, which specialises in knitting, crochet, weaving and macramé.

In 2017 the brand was thrown into the spotlight when Claire appeared on the BBC hit TV show Dragons' Den and walked out with a £50,000 investment from two Dragons: Touker Suleyman and Tej Lalvani. A book deal with Search Press soon followed and Mabel Bunny & Co was born!

We caught up with Claire to find out a bit more about her first book and her time on Dragons’ Den.



When did Search Press first discover you?

You found me on Dragons’ Den and the lovely Katie (Head of Editorial) got in touch.

How does it feel to publish your first ever book?

Very humbling. I have been a big buyer of craft books over the years, especially knitting and crochet.  I have always looked at these books with much love and admiration for the authors and publishers. I have thought many times how proud they must be to publish a book and to give people around the world an opportunity to make their fabulous creations.  It’s just really amazing and I thank my team of designers and staff at Wool Couture for their support in helping me bring this book to life. I am also so grateful that I have had the opportunity to work with such a lovely family business like Search Press - they made it so easy and kept me on track every step of the way. 

What’s your favourite piece from the book and why?

Well we all love Mabel and she was our first born in our family of animals, but after Mabel it has to be the Octopus, I just love all of the tentacles that can wrap around you and give you the biggest cuddle ever.

  

How long does it take you to complete an average piece from start to finish?

I would say set aside all of your evenings for a week and you can easily complete one of the animals.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Well it all started with Mabel, I decided to find another crochet designer for Wool Couture as I just couldn’t keep up with demand. That’s when I found Alison. She had been recommended by a magazine that I had been working with, we decided that we would develop a cuddly toy to sit alongside our super chunky range.  We sat down for our first meeting and I pulled out the design that I had been thinking about and guess what…Alison pulled out her design and they were both of a bunny!  That’s when I knew that Mabel had to be our first design!  It was meant to be!

Tell us a bit about your company Wool Couture? Why did you choose chunky yarns?

When I was working, I really didn’t have the time for knitting and crocheting with small yarns…I always wanted to be crafting, but I also wanted results. Big yarn and big needles and hooks = quick results. That’s why, when we started Wool Couture, we focused on Super Chunky. Now we have a wider range, but personally super chunky is my go-to yarn.

What was your experience like on Dragons’ Den? Can you describe the process from applying to appearing on the show?

It was a whirlwind! We applied for the programme in 2017 and went through a really rigorous interview and audition process where they looked at all areas of the business, then around March I went to the filming. You have to go in the lift and when the doors open its over to you, you present your product and then take questions for as long as the Dragons keep asking.  I was stood answering questions for what on TV looks like 10 minutes, but in reality it was 2 hours.  Imagine the toughest interview you have attended and then times that by infinity - that’s the kind of pressure!  I have anxiety and depression and on the day I was hoping I could keep the anxiety under control - luckily over the years I have developed many coping mechanisms and on the day, whilst the adrenaline in my body was extreme and everything was shaking I kept it under control.  After 2 hours I got my first offer…soon followed by my second. 


Claire Gelder with Dragons: Touker Suleyman (Left) and Tej Lalvani (Right) Photograph © Jimmy La

How did it feel when you got two offers from the Dragons?

Oh my…you know when you want something, but never actually think you’re going to get it! It was kind of a surprise. I was over the moon, they had me call my business partner whilst I was on camera and at that point, I just burst out crying.  Who would have thought the MD of a Craft Company could catch 2 dragons!

What does the rest of 2019 hold in store for you? Any exciting plans in 2020?

In October we will be going over to the US to help launch the book over there, then you will see us on TV in the run up to Christmas.  We have a new felted range and super chunky range launching and you will also see us collaborating with a massively well-established British brand - we will be selling our craft kits on their e-commerce site.  We are launching in Fenwick stores across the country. 

Then in 2020 we will be writing another book! Stay tuned for more details.

 


Mabel Bunny & Co. is available to buy here.




Join our Search Press Craft Group and try an exclusive free bonus project designed by Claire and her team at Wool Couture!

Although he does not feature in the book, Cedric the Lion is a close member of the Mabel Bunny family. We are offering this exclusive project to all members of our Search Press Craft Group on our Facebook page.   

Follow the link below to become a member and try your hand at making this adorable and friendly lion! Don't forget to share photos of your finished piece and tag us @searchpress!

Search Press Craft Group is a space for fans of Search Press books to show us what they've been making from the books, meet a community of other like-minded crafters and discuss what they’re currently crafting - best of all, it's absolutely free to join! 

Click here to join the Search Press Craft Group now for FREE!

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