Oxford MailSwapping rat race to put a new spin on an old hobby (From Oxford Mail)

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Swapping rat race to put a new spin on an old hobby

Oxford Mail: Kelly Ryan Kelly Ryan

KELLY Ryan felt her IT job was “sucking her soul away”, so she embarked on some lifestyle changes.

She took a part-time admin job at Oxford University’s department of computing – and joined a knitting group.

“A year later I went vegan and I realised that a lot of yarn stores were selling animal fibres. They are marketing luxury yarns which look really attractive, but it makes life very difficult for someone who does not want to use animal products.

“I realised there was a need – they didn’t have anything vegan-friendly.”

So Ms Ryan, 31, has set up the Vegan Yarn Store, a website where people can buy products which don’t use animal fibres.

She said: “A lot of yarn is acrylic, which is a great low-price yarn for beginners, but if you want to create beautiful products in natural fibres it’s more difficult. You get to the stage when you want more of a variety of feels and textures. That’s where I come in.”

She has searched around to find more unusual yarns like bamboo, hemp and banana, and also mixed fibres which are suitable for particular uses, such as socks or baby garments.

“Hemp is quite rough so it’s good for things like bath mats, a back scrub or dishcloths,” she added.

“It took me a few months to find suppliers. They are not necessarily vegan, but I cherry-pick the products.”

Craft makers are big users of social media and Ms Ryan has combined her IT skills with her passion for crafts to market her products to key users.

“Crafting is my life,” she said. “A couple of years ago I came across amigurumi – Japanese crochet – and I did a lot of toy making. At the moment I’m making a lot of baby stuff because everyone around me seems to be having babies.”

She said crafting encompasses a wide range of people, each with their own needs and interests, and she feels she now has a core of customers who follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram and suggest new ideas for stock.

“There is a group who believe crafting is a feminist tool – that we can be strong and intelligent and still make crafty things,” she said.

“I can see it might be like that for some people, but for me it was just a way to get out of the rat race.”

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