MEET THE MAKER- FROM HOBBY TO THRIVING BUSINESS... My First Shoes
Catherine Baker has been knitting since she was five years old. A skill she learnt at her mother’s side, Catherine continued to practice the craft when she became a mother herself, knitting all sorts of creations for her young children.
While she set aside the knitting as her family grew up, a new generation of children – and an unexpected business opportunity - saw the needles called into action once more.
For the past ten years, Catherine has been designing and knitting a range of baby shoes. Created following the birth of the Hamilton woman’s first grandchild, Catherine was bombarded with requests from her daughter’s friends to make shoes for their children, eventually inspiring her to turn a much-loved hobby into a fledgeling business opportunity under the banner of My First Shoes.
“I knitted from the time I was five with my mother,and I knitted when my children were young, but I hadn’t knitted for 30 years or more until my grand children came along,” she said.
“(My First Shoes) really began with my first grandchild. My daughter was living in Utah at the time, it was freezing cold, and she asked me to knit (her son) some things. She said the thing she missed most from home were ugg boots, so I decided to knit some. Then all her friends kept asking me to make some for them and so I made more and more and more.“
I’ve been doing the markets for about four years now, and I knit about six different designs including the ugg boots and some gym boots that look like Converse sands hoes.
“They’re not baby booties, they’re made to look like a shoe, and they’re all really practical, everything I make fits really well, even my ugg boots I design so the kids can’t get them off.“
I don’t see the point in spending all that time making things if they’re not of value to people. It’s an old art but I’ve made things that appeal to young people, and I think it’s lovely to be able to bring an old art into a modern era.
Catherine uses two different yarns for her shoes – a lighter 100 percent Egyptian cotton variety for the summer months and a beautifully soft and warm winter weight that is 75 per cent merino wool, 20 percent cashmere and five per cent silk.
She sells them each month at the Handmade in the Hunter Market,with her creations not only being snapped up by local buyers but also proving a popular gift for international visitors heading back overseas.
Check out Catherine’s latest designs at this month’s markets, which will be held at Kevin Sobels Wines from 9am to 3pm on September 8, 22,29 and 30.■