For 35 years, the Walmsley family has been synonymous with all things knitted in the south Preston area. The family's trio of much-loved wool shops in Farington, New Longton, and Lostock Hall have become the area's go-to choice for wool, knitting products, haberdashery, and school uniforms, as well as a warm and friendly atmosphere.
To this day, Delta Wool Shop is continuing a long and storied thread which started back in 1984.
"It's a family business," says Judi Ingham, who works at the Farington branch with her sister Louise Sutch. Judi and Louise's parents, Irene and Bill Walmsley started the company and lovingly grew it into its current state as a local institution. "There's three generations of the family working here now: my mum still helps out in her 70s and we've got my daughters and Louise's daughters working in the shops as well," added Judi.
It all started when Irene and Bill bought Delta Wool Shop in New Longton. "It was mainly mum running it, we were just Saturday girls there," said Judi, from Leyland. "In 1986, they bought another existing business in Farington and I started running that when I left school. Then, in 1991 we bought another shop in Lostock Hall and in 1992 Louise came into the business along with various other members of the family."
Now selling a wide range of different knitting yarns, including prestigious brands such as Sirdar, Stylecraft, and King Cole, as well as myriad patterns and other accessories, Delta Wool Shop is a haven for those looking to get their nimble fingers of anything and everything they need to satisfy their creative knitting needs.
The shops also stock school uniform for a number of local schools in South Ribble, making them inherently nostalgic hubs for countless parents and children alike who excitedly purchased blouses, blazers, sweaters, and skirts from a Delta Wool Shop outlet.
"People used to come in to buy their school uniform from us, and now they're coming in with their own children because we've been here that long," said Louise. "It's really nice; knowing the schools, knowing what parents want, not letting customers down - that's what we aim to do.
"It's great that it's a family business; my daughter Ellie is 18 and has just joined, and someone came in and remembered her from when she was about two years old and came to work with me," added Louise, also from Leyland. "People have seen our kids grow up as they've been coming in all these years. They've gotten to know us all quite well."
That personal touch and sense of belonging the the community is really what makes Delta Wool special, according to Judi. "We're not trying to be like a supermarket," she explained. "We stock uniform all year which the supermarkets don't, and we know a lot of our customers by name, having known most of them for years."
Looking ahead to the future, the recent growth in the popularity of knitting and particularly crochet - spurred on by increased focus on mental health and wellness - has led Judi and Louise to lean into their online sales as they look to provide those looking for the latest wool for that new project with the best products possible.
“People know us locally and now we’re trying to grow online, especially with the wool side of things,” said Louise. “We’ve definitely noticed a boom in interest in wool and a lot of people have spoken to me about the mental health side of things - how much crochet helps.
“Crochet in particular has had a massive revival and young people are learning how to do it,” Louise added. “It’s all on YouTube and Etsy and all these websites, which has helped.”
With three-and-a-half decades behind them, safe to say that Delta Wool Shop will have plenty more yarns to tell over the coming decades, too.