We make handmade up-cycled gifts in Scotland and wanted to feature some other makers and small businesses that are from Scotland too. This is our second small business to be featured in this blog series called Meet the Maker.
Bill Baber is a family run handcrafted knitwear business based in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh. We sat down to have a chat with Jack Baber about the story behind Bill Baber.
Jack Baber from Bill Baber Knitwear
How did the Bill Baber business get started?
My parents started working together over 40 years ago. My Mum, Helen, had studied and worked in textiles and knew she wanted to design her own garments. Initially my dad, Bill, helped out behind the scenes but when Mum hurt her back and couldn’t operate the machine, he had to step in. She taught him how to knit and they began designing and making knitwear together. They've never looked back!
Bill, Helen and Jack Baber at Bill Baber Knitwear
I joined the business around 12 years ago and really enjoy designing and working with our customers so they end up with a truly unique garment. We design and make a range of womens knitwear in Edinburgh and have recently added some children’s pieces to our range.
Helen with dress from Picolo's kids range
What's Bill Baber's inspiration?
We take a lot of inspiration from nature and the Scottish landscape around us. We are obsessed with colour and spend a lot of time creating colour combinations!
Bill Baber Knitwear - Inspired by Edinburgh's Old Town. The Bill Baber workshop and shop is just around the corner from here in Edinburgh's Grassmarket.
How do you make the products?
Helen & Bill in the workshop
We are a fully fashioned, hand framed knitter. That means that we use large electric knitting machines for speed & efficiency and then assemble these pieces together as .
We produce panels of knitted fabric on an electric machine. Each panel is the exact shape and size that we need it to be for the finished garment, that is where the term “fully fashioned” comes in. If we need a sleeve, we create a tapered fabric panel knitted to the exact shape and size that we require.
After we have inspected each piece carefully and given it a steam press, the different panels of the garment are assembled on a linking machine. We take one or more of the yarns used in the knitting and use it to bind the panels together on a large round machine that behaves a bit like a sewing machine. This gives us a strong invisible seam along the edges of the garment. Being a good linker takes years of training and practice, it’s about quality not speed. All of us here at Bill Baber Knitwear can link and when we are very busy, that’s what we are all doing!
What's your favourite product that you make?
Bill says that his favourite is always the latest thing he’s worked on. His current favourite is our Mosaic Jacket. This is a piece we originally made in the 1980’s and we have re-imagined it and brought it back into our range! It’s made of luxurious Merino wool with a mosaic inspired pattern along the hem and sleeves.
The beautifully crafted Mosaic Jacket
Helen loves our Sally dresses. These are lightweight tunic length dresses made from a linen and cotton mix. They layer very well and can be dressed up with heels for a night out or down with jeans for everyday wear.
The Sally Dress pictured above
As for me, I am a big fan of our NACTA (North American Celtic Trade Association) award winning linen capes. They are perfect for throwing on top of an outfit for some extra warmth while keeping your arms free and they’re available in over 40 colours!
Linen capes pictured above
What part of Scotland are you based in? And what do you love about your local area?
We are based in Edinburgh and have been for over 40 years. We love being in the heart of the city in the Grassmarket. I love that it’s full of independent unique shops and it’s lovely to be part of that community.
Busy Grassmarket in Edinburgh's Old Town
Edinburgh Castle - Bill Baber Knitwear workshop and retail shop is based in the Old Town in Edinburgh, just around the corner from Edinburgh Castle
To check out the Bill Baber range of beautiful range of knitwear click here for the Bill Baber website