Meet Sophie Cadogan from Great Torrington, Devon. Her business is Cadogan Cardigans – beautiful hand-crafted knitwear, long cotton cardigans for women, and accessories. All are made from natural yarns – Merino wool or cotton – and designed by Sophie herself.
The business was named Cadogan Cardigans after her married name, as she thought it was fun and catchy placed next to the description of her main product. Her Merino wool items, cotton scarves and long cotton cardigans – for women – are sold online and at craft fairs.
I get a lot of people thinking my name is cardigan when they read my name badge!
Originally From Worcestershire – Now In Devon
Sophie has not always lived in the South-West. She grew up in Worcestershire in a village called Great Witley.
When she was 16 her parents brought a house overlooking the beach-front in Instow, North Devon and that was when her love affair with the South-West began.
However, her passion for creativity lured her away to Brighton to take a foundation course in Art at what was then known as Brighton Polytechnic. She says this was a formative experience and opened up her mind to all sorts of art, design and creation.
After Brighton, she went on to study millinery in London and worked as a self-employed milliner for several years. However, after meeting her husband she moved back to Devon and decided on a change from hat making.
The Devon Business Started With A Knitting Machine!
Sophie notes that throughout her life she had always hand-knitted, sewn, taken tailoring classes, or done some sort of upholstery or soft furnishings work. Looking back she was always busy creating things from fabric and wool.
She has even made a few theatrical costumes for some amateur performances in which she has been involved, with her husband.
So when her mother-in-law told her about an old knitting machine which had been used to knit her children’s cardigans, she expressed an interest. It had been stored in the attic for 20 years or so but she decided to give it a try, mainly due to her love of all things creative.
Cadogan’s makes unique Merino wool or cotton cardigans and accessories which are loved by women of all shapes and sizes
Using a knitting machine seemed like a natural progression from all her other activities. After making a few items on the machine for herself, friends started commenting on how nice they were. Encouraged, she decided to go a bit further and created a small collection. She then invited friends and neighbours for a fashion show and critique. The evening went very well and she got six orders!
Sophie went on to do a few shows at open house/studios and then moved on to bigger ones as she gradually grew in confidence. She formed the business in 2007.
Gardening and Devon Nature
When not engrossed in designing and making her knitwear, Sophie is very fond of the garden and spends as much time as possible in it. She moved to her current house in Autumn 2011 and both the house and garden needed a lot of work.
She remarks that the garden was terribly overgrown but that going back about 20 years, it used to be open for the National Garden Scheme and you can see the bones of a once fabulous garden.
Her desire is to bring the garden back to its former glory. It will of course take some time – probably years she remarks ruefully … But she loves nature – and all its marvels – and of course, there is a huge affection for Devon.
Sophie enjoys Devon because of the wonderful countryside, the people and their friendliness. She enjoys driving through the delightful country lanes. Life is good in Torrington with her husband, dogs, garden and home.
She travels around frequently to shows. All the clothes are designed and made at home, and she takes them to many of the Devon and South-West shows but also goes as far as the South-East. She says that when she comes back after 3 – 4 days away, her spirit lifts as she crosses the Devon border and gets nearer home. I suspect there are many people who will empathise with that!
Merino Wool And Long Cotton Cardigans For Ladies!
Sophie is passionate about her product because she dislikes synthetic yarns that prevent the body breathing. She only uses Merino wool and cotton in her creations.
She says that cotton is a wonderful fabric to wear as it is soft, breathable,and when worn in layers even the finest cotton is warm. Most of her designs are made to be worn together as well as singularly.
Cadogan Cardigans are in short supply as Sophie works by herself. Because no-one else is involved there are limited numbers of garments – but this is no bad thing as it maintains her creations as rare and original. She has never liked bumping into other people wearing the same clothes as her own. She prizes some originality in what she wears and of course this is also valued by the people who choose to wear her garments.
South-West Craft Fairs
Sophie says that 2012 has been tricky due to the financial climate. Further, several shows have been negatively affected or even cancelled after the unseasonally wet weather, but she hopes to continue to build the business and attend the most promising shows. She was delighted to experience the 2012 Exeter Craft Fair in a weekend of sunshine.
Sophie’s various designs suit women of all shapes and sizes as she deliberately sets out to create knits that flatter the figure. There is something here for almost everyone. While there are no traditional button-up cardigans in her collection – her designs will appeal to those with a preference for romantic, flowing lines. Her garments are made from natural yarns cotton or Merino wool to order – and her cotton creations are especially suitable for people with allergies to wool.
Some Cadogan customers are well known – recently items were sold to an actress from a well-known sketch show and also a minor royal!
Cadogan’s sell at shows and via a website, www.cadogans.co.uk but Folksy, Etsy and other websites are also used in order to reach more people. Her long cotton cardigans for women are especially popular.
And Sophie’s philosphy on life – Spend time watching bumble bees and enjoy your work. Pretty good advice, I would say!