Huddersfield Textile Society President: Stephen Sheard CText ATI, FRSA

Published: 11th July 2014

Stephen Sheard started his life in textiles at Huddersfield Technical College, Textile Department, thanks to receiving the first scholarship given by the Society to a local student  with the aim of trying to attract young people into the local textile industry.

Stephen holds the Associateship of the Textile Institute, is a chartered textile technologist and  is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts.

He started his career in worsted spinning and then spent three happy years at Fred Lawton & sons in woollen spinning. From there he worked in the emerging woven upholstery furnishings industry at a new start up in Todmorden, first in administration and then as design manager for 6 years.

It had always been his ambition to start his own company but with virtually no start-up capital the options were limited. He says his main drive was to create a design led business inspired by his previous boss, a Swede, who sent him to Sweden to work in a modern fabric weaving business.

In the late 70's Paul Smith was becoming well known and he was an outspoken advocate of  British textile design  and manufacturing needing to move forward by marketing themselves.

This led to the founding of Rowan Weavers, a craft kits company which by the early 80's had become Rowan Yarns working mainly in handknitting designs and yarn collections.

An early collaboration with the famous textile, knitting and tapestry designer Kaffe Fassettdeveloped into many best-selling knitting kits in newspapers and magazines.

The company grew rapidly through partnerships with leading department stores HarrodsLiberty's, John Lewis Partnership and House of Fraser, where Rowan opened handknitting concessions with workshops and classes to teach a new generation of people who had never learned to knit.

In 1995, Rowan was acquired by Coats Crafts Plc to develop its premium Needlecrafts markets in its bases in 42 countries. Stephen first headed up Rowans expansion and then spent four years as Marketing & Development Director for Coats Crafts UK operations.

The last three years of his career were spent as Creative Director for Coats Crafts global operations. He says this was a privilege to work with other creative studios and teams around the world to develop new brands and promote existing Needlecraft names into new countries.

Stephen is now semi-retired but still  works with other businesses wanting to develop new ideas in handknittings.

He says he knows succeeding Chris Wilkinson is going to be a hard act to follow but will give it his best shot!