Long Thread Podcast: Kate Gagnon Osborn & Courtney Kelley, Kelbourne Woolens

Season 9, Episode 9: Beginning as employees in a Philadelphia yarn shop, Kate and Courtney have built a partnership around a shared vision: wearable classic knitwear and yarns.

Anne Merrow Jun 29, 2024 - 4 min read

Long Thread Podcast: Kate Gagnon Osborn & Courtney Kelley, Kelbourne Woolens Primary Image

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Working together in a Philadelphia yarn store, Kate Gagnon Osborn and Courtney Kelley learned how to help customers choose the right yarn for a project, welcome in timid new knitters, and create samples to help move yarn out the door. They learned what didn’t work (donut-shaped balls of yarn that hopped off the shelves and tangled, patterns that used a few yards of a 100-gram skein) and what did (unfussy classic yarns, wearable sweaters, and lots of fun-to-knit hats). They founded Kelbourne Woolens in 2008 to offer yarns and patterns to local yarn shops like the one where they met. Their academic and artistic backgrounds gave them a love of fibers—both studied weaving and dyeing—but much of what they’ve learned in business has been gleaned through trial and error, common sense, and their extraordinarily collaborative partnership.

They have developed a slightly eclectic grouping of yarns based on natural fibers: a range of colorwork-friendly 100% wools, a trio of heathered and tweed yarns milled in the Donegal tradition, some lightweight summer cottons, a mohair blend, and several other projects at various stages of development. Their Germantown yarn, named for the Philadephia neighborhood and the centuries-old American wool yarn tradition, was fueled by Courtney’s love of history and Kelbourne’s desire to offer a domestically grown and spun yarn that welcomes knitters at all levels.

In addition to developing yarns for the Kelbourne Woolens label, they distribute a small number of other yarn companies, bringing their yarns to American yarn stores. That includes Faroese company Navia, which preserves the knitting and agricultural heritage of a tiny group of North Atlantic islands, and Misha & Puff, a knitwear company that offers a RWS-certified line of yarns and patterns.

Having recently opened a retail space attached to their warehouse in the Mount Airy neighborhood of Philadephia, Kate and Courtney now have their own space to welcome knitters in person, experience the currents of the knitting world, and learn to suppport other yarn shops.

Kelbourne Woolens’s website and store locator
Read more about the history of Germantown yarns in “Yarn with a History as Old as America” in PieceWork Winter 2022.
The Wool Islands, a short documentary about Faroese wool and yarn

This episode is brought to you by:

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