Full-time United Kingdom knitter Jan Brown has some of the best customers around: dogs. Through her business Knitted with Love, Brown creates handmade sweaters, neck warmers, and entire outfits for furry friends around the world, especially those in need. Inspired by her passion for greyhounds, Brown doesn’t just sell her knit items—she also donates them to several greyhound shelters. In an email interview with I Like Knitting, Brown filled us in on her business, her charitable advocacy, and all things knitting.
Brown became a knitter early in life thanks to her mother’s teaching, and her refusal to be inactive motivated Brown to continue the craft. With an endless reservoir of generosity and energy, Brown estimates that she fills around 150 orders every year. Her designs come in every style, from delightful rainbow ensembles to elegant pieces made of variegated yarn. The Knitted with Love website offers several premade items, but she also takes many custom orders. She picks from a few favorite durable and washable yarn brands to create each piece, but her clients get to decide on the rest, though Brown does offer some color planning advice as well.
Although she has knitted for many different breeds in the past, Brown’s greatest focus is of course the greyhound. With little body fat and thin coats, greyhound dogs in particular need the extra layer of knitted comfort during cold months in kennels. In addition to perfecting the pattern for sighthound breeds of dogs, she has formed a strong bond with many retired racing dogs. Though she is currently mourning the loss of one of her foster dogs to cancer, she continues to honor her memory with her work. She shares that it’s a no-brainer why she loves these animals.
“They are the most loving, trusting dogs. Most of them have had a rough life in the racing industry. Many don’t make it to rescue,” Brown writes.
Brown’s advocacy for the greyhounds and her dedication to knitting infuse every aspect of her life. She has four greyhounds she calls her own, plus a German shepherd and two long-term foster dogs. Working from home, the only place her beloved dogs aren’t allowed to sit is her knitting chair, where she knits for up to 10 hours at a time. Cranking out a high volume of work, Brown shares that she generally watches television while she works.
“I’ve worked my way through quite a few box sets,” Brown writes.
Brown encourages other knitters to donate to charities as a way to use their fiber skills, especially to dog rescue programs run primarily by volunteers, who can use all the money-saving care items they can get. Brown adds that her knit pieces bring awareness to the craft of knitting as well as to her charitable cause.
“When a greyhound is out wearing a jumper you are often asked by strangers about it. It gives the opportunity to explain about the greys themselves and about the hardship they go through. So technically the jumpers and hats are educational,” Brown writes.
When asked about the challenges and rewards of running her own knitting business, Brown responds that the experience has been worth any difficulties. She enjoys the connection she makes through providing people with personal knit items that will benefit their pets. When she first began Knitted with Love, Brown had to tackle the initial challenge of building her customer base, but the success of her business has made that obstacle a thing of the past. Now, she shares that her biggest—and welcome—challenge is that it seems like “you never have enough time in the day” to tackle all the incoming orders.
As she moves into the New Year of 2017, Brown looks forward to sharing in the global love for the fiber arts, which has been picking up speed in recent years. She plans to add another knitter to the world as well as the greyhound cause by teaching her friend to knit. As for Knitted with Love and her plans for moving forward, Brown won’t be stopping anytime soon.
“I want to continue with my business as it grounds me. I love making new friends through it,” Brown writes. “Just recently I have started helping Greyhound Rescue Northeast. I do fundraising. I go and help at the kennels. I wash the bedding and walk the dogs. On top of all that I get loads of kisses and cuddles. Working from home gives me the opportunity to have so many dogs and to be able to foster. Wouldn’t change a thing.”