Sue Hill Handknits has chosen The Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells for the store which will sell handmade boys’ and girls’ clothes, as well as shoes and children’s jewellery.
One of the unique features of the store will be the workshop where customers can see patterns being cut and the different types of yarn available. Clothes sizes include newborn to age ten and there will also be a range of girls ribbed tights from Paris and designer swimwear usually only available from Harrods.
Founder Sue Hill started her business seven years ago and now has a number of celebrity customers who demand the highest quality clothing for their children and especially love the luxury Loro Piana yarn used by Sue’s large team of knitters across the UK. High-profile names associated with Sue’s handmade clothing include Stella McCartney, Geri Halliwell, Charlotte Church, Davina McCall, Sting and Trudi Styler, Tamara Beckwith, Plum Sykes, Sophie and Jamie Cullum and Tamara Van Cutsem.
Sue Hill said: “The store gives us an opportunity to showcase our clothes to local customers who want high-quality, unique clothing that they won’t find anywhere else in Kent. We also thought customers would like the idea of an ‘atelier’ or workshop where they can see the clothes being made and the different yarns for bespoke pieces.”
Councillor Catherine Mayhew opined: “Tunbridge Wells is well known for its individual and interesting shops so as Portfolio Holder for Economic Development I am delighted to welcome Sue Hill and her gorgeous shop to our town. It will give lovers of high quality and unique items another good reason to shop in The Pantiles.”
Sue, taught by her mother Valerie at the age of ten, had always knitted but mainly for children’s birthday and Christmas presents. Valerie persuaded Sue that she could turn her love of knitting and skills as a seamstress into a business. So, after her son Jack was born Sue gave up her high-flying career in exhibitions and worked with her mother to make up some patterns. They then started knitting designs using the best yarn they could find.
As their hand knits became known, Sue and Valerie were increasingly asked for softer yarns, cashmere with cotton or wool and then pure cashmere. At the same time, one of Sue’s most trusted knitters lent her some of her patterns that she had knitted for her children. Sue fell in love with the beautiful vintage designs, which were mainly from the ‘50s, and started concentrating on adapting these designs to use with modern yarns. As Sue took on more knitters, more vintage patterns came to light in attics and dusty boxes, some dating as far back as 1935! Now the range includes designs adapted from the ‘30s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
Different ideas came to fruition such as her unique buttons – hand covered in the same knitted yarn as the garments – with hand-embroidered daisies, roses and soldiers.
The yarns used by Sue Hill Handknits are the finest available – pure cashmere and cashmere/cotton blends by the famous Italian company Loro Piana and blends of cashmere and fine merino all spun, twisted and dyed to Sue’s specification in Italy. When a garment is completely finished and ready for sale, Sue attaches a signature tag showing the knitter’s name and proving its uniqueness. It is then packaged in a lilac signature gift box and finished with white ribbon.
Sue is best known for her vintage cashmere baby knits which include dresses, matinee jackets, pram coats, bonnets and bootees. In 2010 she added a clothing collection, handmade in Liberty fabric blended with 100 per cent cottons, wools and other luxury fabrics. Just like the hand knits, each garment has a tag attached showing the name of the seamstress who made it.
Sue’s collections can be found in the best stores including Bergdorf Goodman, New York, Fortnum & Mason, London, Ma Mere, Tokyo (from AW11) and independent stores in Berlin, Paris, London and other UK towns and cities. For more information go to www.suehillhandknits.co.uk