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The Sirdar Story

James McIntosh
February 18, 2019

The Sirdar Story

I've always loved brands of deep heritage, and Sirdar is one of them. Below I tell the story of Sirdar, from it's humble roots founded by the Harrap Brothers to today, via James Bond - AKA 007 as an extract from my book Knit and Nibble.

Knit and Nibble by James McIntosh
Knit and Nibble by James McIntosh

Mention the name Sirdar to a knitter and they instantly smile knowing the quality of the yarns and knitting patterns produced. Sirdar is the go-to brand worldwide for yarn. But there is more to Sirdar than this. An inspiration of colour and style, Sirdar keep up to date and set new trends in the global hand-knitting market.

With a history of nearly 180 years promoting the best of Great British craft, generation after generation have worn clothes knitted from Sirdar yarn and patterns. Most likely you have too - from a lovingly knit baby outfit in Sirdar Snuggly to a jumper from their vast collection of yarns.

Tom, Henry and Fred

A gentle stroll around Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England, shows the history of Sirdar.

Street names honouring many of the company directors surround the huge yarns mill and design house that Sirdar has occupied since 1890. In fact, Wakefield has been notable for yarn since the Middle Ages, and this continues right up to today.

In 1880, a generation into the Industrial Revolution, Tom and Henry Harrap started to sell yarn fibres before passing the company to Tom’s son Fred.

Uniting the British Army to 007

Knowing he had a quality product, Fred adopted the name ‘Sirdar’ as a sign of strength, which meant ‘leader’ after the title given to Lord Kitchener as ‘Sirdar of the Egyptian Army’. Sirdar started to sell their yarns to independent retailers and by 1934 produced the first Sirdar knitting patterns.

Roger Moore AKA 007 as a Sirdar Model
Roger Moore AKA 007 as a Sirdar Model

Men, women, children and babies have since worn garments developed by Sirdar. During wartime, Sirdar produced patterns entitled ‘More Comfort for the Forces’, encouraging help on the Home Front. Furthermore, arguably the most famous model for Sirdar was Sir Roger Moore, AKA 007.

A Family Affair

As the years rolled by, Sirdar grew from strength to strength and the company passed to Mrs Jean Tyrell, Tom Harrap’s granddaughter.

Mrs Tyrell was a visionary. She introduced the quality products of Sirdar to the hand knitter by being the first hand-knitting company to editorially feature in fashion magazines. Pioneering the growth of Great British textiles, she was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for her lifetime’s achievements.

Sirdar is currently a part of the DMC, Sirdar, Wool and The Gang Group. Global distribution and brand strength has never been stronger, yet the history and hallmarks of what make Sirdar so special to the knitter remain.

Design House: the Sirdar Knitting Room

Straddling design concepts as the decades passed, Sirdar has had its own in-house design department from 1934. An award-winning team of knitwear designers, have produced thousands of knitting patterns over the years encompassing all fashion trends: from mohair and batwings in the 1980s to baggy jumpers of the 1990s and more fitted items for current clothing and homeware trends.

Sirdar is the only yarn provider in the UK with such a design department in-house. Everything is hand knitted, then checked at least three times. The commitment to the knitter is a top priority for Sirdar. All designs are both a pleasure to knit and stylish to wear.

Sirdar has a strong belief that knitting patterns should be easy to follow and correct; pattern writing being a slow and complex process. The design team work at all levels of the supply process, from choosing yarns for the current portfolio to creating designs and testing the patterns. A hive of colourful activity, Sirdar take great pride in their work.

The process being:

• Initial design samples and knitted swatches

• Pattern writing

• Maths checking

• Sample knit

• More maths

• Photography

• Pattern layout

Yarn Ranges

Sirdar has a long list of yarn ranges within their portfolio including yarns for babies, classic yarns and fashion yarns in a plethora of colours, thickness and types. Cottons, bamboo, rayons, acrylics and the truly gorgeous high end Sublime range comprising of Extra Fine Merino wool, alpaca wool and baby cashmere. Designs across all brands include tweeds, striped yarns and cake yarns.

#knitandnibble #knitmcintosh #knititation #knitsirdar #knitsublime

© McIntosh Publishing 2018.

Photography © McIntosh Publishing 2018.

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