Introducing our latest Woman in Business, Heather Pawluski of Northern Touches! Located in Hotchkiss, Alberta Heather rotates between seasonal worker and stay at home mom to 2 sassy kids. Heather has been running Northern Touches for 11 years!
How did you get into your craft?
Watching my Grandma knit my whole life. My Mom attempted to teach me in the beginning, but we struggled with learning from lefthanded teacher to righthanded learner.
A few years later I sat down with my Grandma and she taught me to knit at the age of 12. Since then I've always used it as a way to keep busy. Eventually, as I got older, it helped me deal with my anxiety. I taught myself to crochet when I was pregnant with my daughter.
Is there a meaning behind your business name?
The name has gone through a few iterations. To me being from the North is a big part of who I am. I can't imagine living anywhere else.
What keeps you going in your business?
I started out hoping to create items people love and make some money to support my family. Over the years it has morphed into loving the look people get when finding the perfect item for them. Every item I make is unique, and that is done on purpose.
Can you describe your making process for me?
My process starts with the yarn.
I don't buy new products without first being able to feel and touch them. The feel and actual colour of the yarn means a lot to me. Once I have the yarn in hand a myriad of possibilities for patterns are in my head. Then it's a matter of finding the pattern that showcases the texture and colour of the yarn perfectly.
How do you source your materials?
The past couple years I have been moving more into natural and recycled fibres. I do still carry acrylic yarns, but I make a point of not buying from bulk lines. Places that offer super cheap yarn do so at the detriment of the creation process. There is no care in waste or chemical processes. Buying from hand-dyed businesses or those larger ones who practice more sustainable and ethical processes has allowed me more freedom in my creations as well. Many of the yarn companies I work with support communities and workers who otherwise would not be able to make a liveable wage. This is where the Luxury Line came from.
What makes your Luxury Line different from the rest of the products you carry?
Every single Luxury Line hat is unique. All made with 100% Merino Wool. The wool is breathable, moisture-wicking and warm. When properly cared for, these hats last a very long time, and when the time comes it will break down in a landfill much quicker than an acrylic or acrylic blend. As long as the sheep are taken care of in a good husbandry manner and grazed in an environmentally safe manner, it is one of the cleanest, renewable fibers out there.
Do you have any memorable moments or struggles you’d like to share that have helped you become the maker you are today?
I can't pinpoint an individual moment or struggle, but there is the daily struggle, especially switching to the more luxury yarns. Trying to educate as well as provide an economical product. The push and pull of trying to provide a product but knowing that in the climate we live in warm toques are a necessity, it's a big reason I still offer my acrylic line.
I am trying my best to bridge the gap between fast fashion prices and slow fashion practices. I think it's something that I am trying to be more vocal about with my customers, but also not wanting to be too pushy can be a hard line as well.
Any words of encouragement for women just starting out?
I know it's cliche, but keep going. It's going to be tough, people don't always root for you to make it. If you can, find a good group of women to hold you up and hold you accountable. You need people that will support you, but also push you to be better.
What is one tip you would like to share with other entrepreneurs or people hoping to start a business?
Definitely find something you're passionate about. Whether it's a craft you enjoy or the feeling it gives you. If you can find that then you won't quit quickly after getting burnt out or bored… that may be the ADHD talking though.
I strive to always be finding something new even within my little wheelhouse. So I think having your mind open to the possibilities of where your business can take you. I seem to remember a little jewelry maker being afraid candles wouldn't do well.....
You can find Northern Touches both online and in person this holiday season.
Their website (www.northern-touches.ca)
Or in person at Markets in the area. Manning Farmers Market December 9th being the next one!
Photography by Samantha Rose Photography