On a trip to the city of Melbourne, Australia I had a delightful time exploring the local yarn shops. One of the places I visited was Morris & Sons in Collins Street in the heart of the CBD, and I also took a tram out to their other store; The Granny Square in Richmond.
Morris and Sons is an Australian needlecraft and yarn retailer in Australia, with an online presence plus several brick-and-mortar shops in the states of Victoria and New South Wales.
Both stores I visited are a feast for the eyes for any yarn enthusiast. So many gorgeous yarns in a huge variety of colors, pattern books, accessories and tools for knitters, crocheters and needle crafters.
At the Collins St store, I bought a colorful mini skein of Manos Del Uruguay Cabrito yarn (kid mohair & nylon blend) which came with a suggested free pattern – Carrots From Mandrake by Lisa R Myers.
Here’s my inteview with Joseph, the current director of the family business. We discuss his experience of running the yarn store, his favorite parts of being in the industry, and how his role in the business have changed over time. Enjoy!
Interview With Joseph Morris
1. What Inspired You To Work In The Craft Industry?
Art and creativity have always been a significant part of my life, thanks to my father, who was an artist. Growing up in a family where art was cherished, I developed a deep appreciation for craftsmanship and the beauty of handmade creations.
When my mother, Mrs Morris, founded our business in 1973, I was inspired by her passion for tapestry and the joy she found in sharing her love for craft with others. It was this inspiration, combined with my own desire to continue our family’s artistic legacy, that led me to work in the craft industry.
2. How Do You See Operating A Yarn Store As Different From Other Retail Stores?
Operating a yarn store is a unique and fulfilling experience. Unlike other retail stores, our yarn stores are the place where creativity thrives, and individuals come together to pursue their passion for knitting, crochet, and needlecraft.
It’s not just about selling products; it’s about fostering a community of like-minded individuals who share a love for yarn and the artistry it enables. The sense of connection and the opportunity to witness the incredible creations that come to life in our stores make operating a yarn business truly special.
3. What Do You Feel Is Unique About Your Store That You Can’t Find Anywhere Else?
What sets our stores apart is the rich history and family legacy behind them. We are not just a retail store; we are a culmination of years of love, dedication, and craftsmanship. Our close-knit team, which includes my mother, Mrs Morris, and the shared passion we have for our craft, creates a warm and inviting atmosphere for our customers.
Additionally, our emphasis on sourcing high-quality yarns, promoting sustainable practices, and offering expert guidance and support sets us apart. We strive to be more than just a store; we aim to be a trusted partner on every customer’s creative journey.
4. What’s The Most Challenging Part Of Your Role?
The most challenging part of my role is balancing the responsibility of leading the business with maintaining the essence and values that have made us successful over the years. Stepping into the director role after the passing of my brother Albert was a significant personal and professional challenge.
I strive to honor his memory and the legacy my mother established while adapting to the evolving industry landscape. Finding innovative ways to meet the needs of our customers, keeping up with market trends, and ensuring a sustainable future for our business are ongoing challenges that require careful navigation.
5. What’s Your Approach To Choosing Which Yarns To Stock, & What Guides Your Color Selection?
Our approach to choosing yarns is driven by a commitment to quality, variety, and meeting the diverse needs of our customers. We carefully curate our collection, considering factors such as fiber content, texture, and versatility. We prioritize sourcing yarns from reputable and sustainable suppliers, ensuring each product we offer meets our high standards.
Color selection is guided by a combination of factors. We take inspiration from current fashion trends, nature’s palette, and customer preferences. We aim to offer a wide range of colors to suit every taste and project.
Additionally, we consider how colors interact with various stitch patterns and the overall aesthetic they create when incorporated into finished projects. Ultimately, our goal is to provide a vibrant and harmonious selection that sparks creativity and ignites the imagination.
6. What Are Your Popular Yarns & What Do You Think Makes Them So?
Some of our most popular yarns at Morris and Sons include our very own brand ranges, each offering unique qualities and characteristics our customers adore.
Morris Estate: Our best seller, Morris Estate is a versatile, machine-washable, 100% wool yarn available in a stunning array of colors. Crafters appreciate its softness, durability, and vibrant hues, making it suitable for a wide range of projects.
Morris Empire: Another favorite among our customers is Morris Empire, crafted from 100% Australian Superfine Merino Wool. Renowned for its exceptional softness and warmth, this yarn is a luxurious choice for projects that require the utmost comfort and sophistication.
Morris Avalon: For those seeking a soft and strong cotton yarn, Morris Avalon is the perfect option. Spun from 100% pima cotton, a long-staple cotton of superior quality, this yarn is made in Peru. Crafters love its smooth texture, excellent stitch definition, and the breathability it offers for warm-weather projects.
Morris Maya: Crafted from 100% baby alpaca, Morris Maya is spun from one of the finest grades of alpaca fiber sourced from roaming Alpacas in Peru. With a micron range of 21-23, this yarn is incredibly soft, cuddly, and a fantastic alternative for those with sensitivities to wool. Crafters enjoy the warmth and luxurious feel of Morris Maya for a variety of projects.
Among our popular yarns, Rowan Felted Tweed stands out. Its luxurious feel, exquisite color range, and versatility make it a favorite among our customers. The blend of merino wool, alpaca, and viscose results in a beautifully textured yarn that works well for a variety of projects.
Its ability to create stunning garments, accessories, and home décor items, coupled with its durability and superb stitch definition, truly sets it apart.
7. How Has Your Relationship With Yarn Changed Over The Years?
My relationship with yarn has deepened and evolved over the years. Initially, it was a means of creative expression and a connection to our family’s artistic heritage.
However, as I became more involved in the craft industry, I witnessed firsthand the power of yarn to bring people together, create communities, and provide a sense of fulfilment and well-being.
My appreciation for yarn has transformed into a deep understanding of its importance in people’s lives and the countless possibilities it offers for self-expression and connection.
8. Is There Anyone In The Industry Who You Look Up To Or Consider A Mentor?
Throughout my journey, I have encountered many inspiring individuals in the craft industry. However, if I were to single out someone, it would be my mother, Mrs Morris. Her unwavering dedication, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit have been my guiding lights.
She not only founded our business but also instilled in me a love for craft and an unwavering commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. Her guidance and wisdom continue to inspire and shape my approach to business and life.
9. What Were The Biggest Challenges You Faced In The Early Stages Of Your Business?
When we first started our business, our main hurdle was to build a presence and gain the loyalty of our customers. We had to put in a lot of effort to earn the trust and recognition of the crafting community.
As we expanded our offerings to include knitting, we faced further challenges in adapting to a new market and meeting the changing needs of our customers. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges, and we had to temporarily close all our physical stores.
This forced us to quickly pivot our approach and prioritize our online and digital presence to stay in touch with our customers during the lockdowns.
Despite these obstacles, we remained committed to excellence and passionate about our craft, and through perseverance, we developed strong relationships with our customers. Today, we are proud to be a trusted destination for their knitting and needlecraft needs.
10. How Has The Knitting Community Changed Since You First Took Over The Store?
Since taking over the business, I’ve witnessed significant changes in the knitting community. One notable change is the growing diversity and inclusivity within the community. There is a greater appreciation for different knitting traditions, techniques, and cultural influences.
It’s heartening to see more individuals, regardless of age, gender, or background, embracing knitting as a creative outlet and finding a sense of belonging within the community.
Moreover, advancements in technology and the rise of social media have transformed the way knitters connect and share their work.
Online platforms have created global knitting communities where individuals can exchange ideas, seek inspiration, and support each other’s creative endeavors. It’s exciting to witness the wealth of creativity and innovation that emerges from these digital spaces.
11. What’s A Typical Day Like For You?
A typical day for me involves a diverse range of responsibilities as I navigate the dynamic world of our business. It begins with reviewing emails and addressing any urgent matters to ensure a smooth start to the day.
One of the highlights of my routine is spending time with my mother, Mrs. Morris, the founder of our company. We share a deep bond and love for the craft, and I cherish the moments we spend discussing our shared vision and the values that drive us.
In addition to nurturing our connection, I collaborate with our dedicated team to oversee the operations of our physical stores and online platforms. This involves tasks such as managing inventory, exploring new product offerings, and refining our customer experience to ensure we consistently deliver exceptional service.
Throughout the day, I engage with our customers, both online and in person.
Whether it’s through social media interactions, attending industry events, or collaborating with fellow crafters and designers, I prioritize staying connected with the knitting community. Understanding their needs, aspirations, and feedback is essential for our continued growth and success.
A typical day also includes staying up-to-date with the latest trends in the craft world. This involves researching emerging techniques, exploring innovative yarns and designs, and keeping an eye on fashion and lifestyle influences.
By remaining attuned to industry developments, I can curate an exceptional range of products that excite our customers and inspire their creative endeavors.
As the director of the company, I encounter various challenges that require adaptability and strategic thinking. These challenges may range from addressing operational issues to exploring new opportunities for growth.
However, it is the passion and commitment I have for the craft industry, coupled with the support of our amazing team, that keep me motivated and focused on our long-term vision.
12. How Do You Keep Up With Trends In The Craft World?
Staying up-to-date with craft trends is a top priority for me. I actively participate in industry trade shows and conferences to connect with fellow professionals and discover emerging trends.
Engaging with the knitting and crafting community online, through social media and forums, also provides valuable insights into current interests and preferences.
Collaborating with designers and following influential voices in the handicraft world further inform my understanding of evolving trends. Additionally, I encourage our team to share their observations and engage in continuous research to ensure we are at the forefront of the craft industry.
13. How Did Your Business Fare During The COVID-19 Pandemic & What Changes Did You Make To Adapt?
The COVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges for our business, requiring us to quickly adapt to the changing circumstances. As physical stores temporarily closed, we intensified our focus on our online presence.
We revamped our website, expanded our e-commerce capabilities, and prioritized customer support through virtual channels.
To stay connected with our community, we introduced online tutorials and virtual events. These initiatives allowed us to continue serving our customers while fostering a sense of connection and inspiration.
We also implemented strict safety measures when we reopened our physical stores, ensuring the well-being of our staff and customers.
14. Can You Share A Favorite Story Related To Your Store?
One of my favorite stories involves a customer who visited our store with a project she had been working on for years. She had started a tapestry during a difficult period in her life but had put it aside for a long time.
When she stumbled upon our store, it reignited her passion for crafting, and she felt compelled to complete the tapestry.
With the guidance and support of our team and Mrs Morris, she dedicated herself to finishing the project. Witnessing her journey from picking up where she left off to ultimately completing the tapestry was incredibly rewarding.
It’s stories like these that remind us of the transformative power of craft and the role we play in nurturing creativity and personal growth.
15. Are There Unexpected Challenges You’ve Faced As An Independent Yarn Store Owner?
As an independent yarn business owner, I’ve encountered various unexpected challenges. One notable challenge is navigating the constantly evolving retail landscape, particularly with the rise of online shopping.
Balancing the unique experience of visiting a physical store with the convenience of online shopping requires ongoing innovation and adaptation. Another challenge arises from the ever-changing demands and preferences of customers.
Staying ahead of trends, maintaining a diverse and appealing product selection, and continuously enhancing the customer experience are ongoing priorities. Flexibility and the ability to anticipate and respond to these unexpected challenges are vital for long-term success.
16. What Role Do Brick-And-Mortar Yarn Stores Play In The Era Of Online Shopping?
In the era of online shopping, brick-and-mortar yarn stores continue to play a significant role. While online platforms offer convenience and accessibility, physical stores provide an immersive and tactile experience that cannot be replicated digitally.
Customers have the opportunity to feel the yarn, seek advice from knowledgeable staff, and engage with fellow crafters in person. Moreover, physical stores serve as creative hubs, fostering a sense of community and offering a space for workshops, events, and face-to-face interactions.
They provide a supportive and nurturing environment where customers can explore their creativity and receive personalized guidance. The combination of online and physical presence allows us to meet the diverse needs of our customers and create a holistic experience.
17. Looking To The Future, Where Do You See Your Store In 5 Years? What’s Your Long-Term Vision?
In the next five years, we envision Morris and Sons continuing to be a thriving and innovative hub for yarn crafters. Our long-term vision is to further strengthen our online presence while maintaining a strong physical presence.
We aim to expand our reach, both nationally and internationally, by curating an even wider selection of high-quality yarns and crafting supplies.
Additionally, we plan to continue fostering a vibrant community of crafters through workshops, events, and collaborations with designers.
We aspire to be at the forefront of industry trends, offering a seamless and engaging shopping experience for our customers. Our goal is to inspire and empower individuals to explore their creativity, experience the joy of making, and embrace the timeless art of craft.
Thank you so much for your time Joseph, that was a wonderful insight into your corner of the craft industry! Visit Morris & Sons online at their website here.
If you live in or are visiting Australia, you can browse through their fantastic physical stores in Sydney, Newtown, Katoomba, Melbourne, and Richmond.
P.S. Here’s a pic of my finished Carrots By Mandrake Cowl that I gifted to a friend.