It’s wonderful to know that there are some really great family run businesses out there. There is something so real about a business that is run by a family, spanning a few generations.
Arthur Bales is such a business, its authentic, nostalgic, colourful and wonderful all bundled into one amazing experience. Whenever anyone asks me what my favourite yarn store is, I blurt out Arthur Bales, a name that rolls naturally from my lips. Why my favourite store you may ask? Well, there are just so many reasons I find myself having to list them:
They have the most awesome selection of fabrics – which includes the Westminster Fabrics (with collections by popular designers such as Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler).
Their yarn is simply to die for and include favourites such as Rowan and Vinnis, to name only a few.
(see me pose here with one of Arthur Bales’ oldest clients)
I absolutely love their pattern selection – I always buy my knitting and crochet books there.
And naturally the people in the store are amazing, you simply need to ask advice and they have the answer and an option right there and then.
And of course there is such a wonderful old world/new world charm to the store. In fact, the history is almost tangible.
Arthur Bales was established in 1902 and is conveniently situated in the Johannesburg suburb of Linden, which is fast becoming one of Johannesburg’s “it places” to visit. In essence Arthur Bales is a haberdashery shop specialising in dress fabric and knitting/crochet yarns.
Read this fascinating History on the company…
Since Norman days, the Bales family name has been associated with wools and textiles in the Norfolk County in South East England. Norfolk was the wool centre of Europe for many centuries. Arthur Bales, a young immigrant from Norwich in Norfolk, carried on the family`s association by opening a drapery and outfitting store in Johannesburg.
Founded in 1902 by Arthur Bales on his return to Johannesburg after the Boer War, Arthur Bales was started as a small drapery and clothing store on the corner of De Korte and De Beer streets in Braamfontein. The business grew from strength to strength in early Johannesburg, opening another two stores, one being in La Rochelle. The flagship store moved in the early 1920`s to the corner of De Korte and Biccard streets. After the untimely death of the founder in the late 1920`s, his eldest daughter Dorothy Bales, and his late wife Mrs. Edith Bales ran the store. The second Generation, Arthur Haylock Bales, took part ownership of the store in the 1930`s after his return from Norwich after completing his apprenticeship.
The store changed over the following years from a clothing and departmental store into a more specialised drapery and haberdashery shop. The third generation, Arthur John Bales, opened up a branch of Arthur Bales in Linden in the late 1960`s, where it is still in operation today. Sadly, in the mid 1990`s, the Arthur Bales store moved out of Braamfontein after serving its residents for over 90 years. The Linden Branch became the new flagship store.
Arthur Bales is jointly managed by family members of the fourth generation. The store has always remained a strong family business with its customers always being the centre of the business, some of which have been loyal shoppers for over 60 years.
Arthur Bales specialises in dress fabrics, haberdashery, quilting fabrics and knitting yarns, and is one of the largest stores of its kind in the country.
Enjoy reading our interview with Nicci (below middle) and Jonathan (below right) …
What inspires you?
Nicci: Colour. And depending on my mood it is either soft pastels or bright and vibrant. I just love seeing what people create using different colours. From knitting to sewing, I get so inspired by what our customers come up with.
Jonathan: Our customers. They provide our inspiration, and it is a privilege to be involved in their creative process.
Tell me what you think makes your business unique today?
Nicci: Being a small family business that has not changed very much over the years. Keeping up with the latest trends without losing our “old school charm” I think we offer our customers a different shopping experience, with a more personal service and also try and go the extra mile to help, because we supply a wide range of knitting amd sewing products. We are a one stop handcraft shop.
Jonathan: in a world of change, our store provides consistency and a link with tradition. There is always a buzz in the shop, this is partly due to people shopping for a craft they love and the sense of community and happiness it brings.
What do you think will be the next big thing in the world of craft?
Nicci: Crochet seems to really be taking off, and with such great colours and designs it is appealing to a large market.
Jonathan: Any handwork is proving to be popular. People are looking for something to disconnect with the fast pace world and for a creative outlet. Crochet is attracting many first time crafters and anyone can learn. Also keep an eye out on Macramé.
Who on the international craft scene do you admire most and why?
Nicci: Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler are such talented designers. We stock their fabrics and each and every collection that they introduce is incredible. Kaffe Fasset in particular is an expertise in colour, and putting them together. Not only in quilting but knitting as well, his use of colour is amazing.
What is your favourite blog and magazine and why?
Nicci: The blog at the moment Attic 24, just seeing what she creates will inspire anybody to get crocheting.
Jonathan: An online magazine I find very interesting is Frankie Magazine from Australia and Martha Stewart’s blog always has great ideas.
Have you bought something online and if so what?
Jonathan: I regularly buy fabrics and yarns for the store online.
What magazines do you buy?
Nicci: Ideas magazine
What is your favourite yarn store abroad and why?
Nicci: I Knit London is a pretty interesting place, it has lots of different yarns and books and stays open late at night. It even has a bar!
I have never been but if I go to New York then definitely the Lion Brand Yarn Studio would be on my agenda. I love what they do to with their window displays, they are legendary.
Jonathan: Whenever I am in London I always make a point of visiting Liberty’s yarn department.
Arthur Bales was so kind to offer one stunning Knit Pro Waves Crochet Hook set.
All you have to do is SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG HERE, to stand a chance to win.
The winner will be announced here next week Wednesday, 18 February 2015.
PS Look how much fun the three of us had at Arthur Bales …