Heather Haswell has been knitting since childhood and her journey to recently opening HattBoxx – hand knitted bespoke hats by Hettybell – at 65 Castlegate began after she had major surgery at the age of 60.
The 68-year-old gave hat making a go during her recovery and it turned into a new career for her.
She was based at a few different locations before the Castlegate premises and a combination of passing trade and her growing reputation means she now has sent off her unique hats to people in Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and even Japan.
Heather said: “After making a hat during my recovery, my next door neighbour said she liked it when she saw it and I said she could have it. She came back a few weeks later and said her friend would also like a hand-made hat and I did a similar one for her.
“It was a process I enjoyed so I decided to keep going and as word of mouth spread, the number of orders quickly increased.”
The lifelong knitter of wool “was more or less focusing on hats” when she then based herself from a space at The Auction House in Tweedmouth for three years and she established a link with the Loudoun's Regiment re-enactment group to make Scots Bonnets for their re-enactments.
This led to her making other historical hats such as Tammys, top hats, Tudor caps and 1920s and 30s style Cloche hats as she moved on to a couple of other spaces before the first Covid lockdown in 2020.
Heather takes up the story: “I knitted every day during the Covid lockdowns because in the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to open a shop once the Covid restrictions had ended. This means I have quite a few hats already in the shop.
“Getting the shop I’m in now all happened very quickly. A friend who used to have a little antiques shop on Castlegate told me that the picture framers (Berwick Framing) had moved to Marygate.
“I thought it was worth a look and after getting the number for the owner of the building, a viewing was arranged for later in the same afternoon. As soon as I walked in, I thought ‘this is it’.
“The modern decor was replaced by the original, the carpet was taken out and my husband painted the floorboards.
“We did open up ahead of the official opening last week as some people simply wanted to enjoy the surroundings.
“I’m already extremely busy and this shows that it’s never too late to bring something new to a town.”
Before her hat making career, Heather made sweaters, jackets and coats using a knitting machine and continued to do hand knitting when she had the time as she was also a foster carer for a number of years, and had a stint working for Castle Blinds.
As for what she is doing now, she added: “I absolutely love hat making and what comes with that is meeting so many very interesting and lovely people, including people from other countries.
“The vintage nature of my hats are very appealing and felted berets are particularly popular at the moment.”