Paigan Aspinall of What A Load Of Knit

Say Hello To What A Load Of Knit

Welcome back to Book Your Pet's Business Pawspectives series. In this series, we're meeting petpreneurs from around the world and getting to know more about them, their businesses and what makes them tick.

For our third instalment, Book Your Pet's Marketing Manager Liam sat down with petpreneur, Paigan Aspinall who is the founder of What A Load Of Knit - a provider of handmade, knitted clothing and accessories for dogs, based in the north west of England.

As What A Load Of Knit approaches it's 1st anniversary, Liam and Paigan discuss where the idea for the business came from, the lessons Paigan's learnt as a business owner in her first year, the importance of diversifying your services as well as what the future looks like for What A Load Of Knit. 

If you'd like to be featured in future instalments of Business Pawspectives, email for more information.

Sit back, grab a coffee and watch the full interview below:

If you'd prefer to read this interview with What A Load Of Knit, you can find the full conversation below!

Liam: As your first question Paigan, I would love for you to introduce yourself and your business and tell us a bit more about what is What A Load Of Knit.

Paigan: Hi. So What A Load Of Knit came about because you can't really buy that much good knit wear for sight hounds. I have a huge lurcher who doesn't really fit into a lot of clothes and I had bought a lot of knitwear for him and it just doesn't work. It slips down his shoulders or It's too short and I was just kind of getting frustrated. 

I just wanted him to wear wooly jumpers and I already knew how to knit - my mum told me when I was quite young - but I'd never really paid that much interest in it and then I kind of had this project and developed my own patterns and I just can't stop knitting now. 

I was kind of like, these are really good and I'm sure other people have had this problem and so I want to share them. So I sell my patterns and I sell my knits as well.

Liam: Where is it at the moment that you're mainly selling these patterns and those knits?

Paigan: At the minute, I sell on Etsy and I also have my own website, which is

Liam: Perfect. So you said it was a skill that you'd initially picked up when you were younger. Your mum taught you to know. Once you'd made that connection between my dog needs some custom knits and this is a skill that I know how to do, how did you go about developing that into a point where you were designing your own patterns? 

Paigan: It took a while. I started simple on snoods and things like that, which, just a nice easy rectangle and things, but it basically was almost like I taught myself from scratch. I never paid that much attention - I’d made scarves and things before, but never really thought about what kind of yarn am I using? Am  I using the right needles? It had just been a needle and some yarn, it's just a scarf. 

So then it became this process of basically learning all the technical things and that took a while to get used to a lot of yarn bought, and then what is this? I don't need this. 

Then the next process was trying to knit something for my dog and it kind of came from doing a lot of test knits from free patterns that were available, working out how to make a jumper for me. I've never done that before and then measuring up my dog and working out how I was going to apply jumper making to him.

It was tricky, it took a lot of attempts. He had a lot of really really poorly fitted jumpers which were all frogged eventually.

Liam: Just for the non-yarn folk out there, you just said that you frogged your jumpers, can you just explain to us what that means?

Paigan: I unravelled them painstakingly by hand.

Liam: Which is not ideal, but it's part of the process, isn’t it?

Paigan: Yeah. It took a lot of attempts. I think I was on jumper number 10 or 11 by the time I was like, he could probably wear this now.

Liam: In that exploration process, were you at that point thinking about this as a potential business or was this purely a recreational hobby for you at that stage?

Paigan: I already set up What A Load Of Knit because I was selling the snoods and kind of like allowing that to pay for my jumpers. So I already had the principles in place, it was just very rudimentary and so I was like, I think this is gonna be something. 

Other people want what I was making and it's kind of documenting the process as well on my Instagram a little bit, on my stories and design and product testing today and it was just to be him in a sat. but So the idea was there just wasn't a hundred percent sure like how it would be implemented yet.

Liam: Okay, and again going through that experimentation phase and you're obviously knitting and unravelling a lot and testing out loads of different yarns - did you come to any sort of conclusion that there were particular yarns that were better and material that worked for the dogs. How have you made sure that the products you've ended up having are the best quality?

Paigan: I have a couple of different materials available. Now my standard is really strong acrylic which it's not something that I would particularly want to wear and there are problems with acrylic, but it's very sturdy. A lot of people don't have experience caring for delicate knitwear, especially with dogs that you need to wash them more often. So that's what I went for. 

I'm looking at some super-wash wools as well at the minute and nice wools that you can stick in the washing machine. There’s just so much on the to-do list, but I have got a matching jumper to this, which is alpaca -  it's a bit more fragile and you need to give it a bit more love. My dog does not wear that for runs in the park.

Liam: I think for a lot of people who don't know knitting or that sort of crafting process, when you say yarn they will just associate that as wool, or they'll use wool and yarn interchangeably, but they don't realize that the different makeups of the different fibers actually have different qualities. So when you're saying that the acrylic is best for dogs and the washing and stuff, for example alpaca and wool, they don't really machine wash very well and it's more of a hand washing process to make sure you maintain the fiber.

Paigan: Yeah.

Liam: Whereas the acrylic can be put on a 30 degree machine wash and can be done repeatedly. so obviously makes more sense for a dog that's going to get dirty.

Paigan: Exactly.

What A Load Of Knit: Paigain's sight hound wearing one of her designs.

Liam: Can you explain a little bit more about what the benefits of choosing acrylic are and how that was a decision made within the business?

Paigan: The yarn that I use the most, I chose it for a number of reasons. The first of all is the acrylic just because it's super durable. You do need to kind of shave off any pills, which Is a downside, but it does just wash nicely and the colors don't really run on it, which I think it's quite important because I sell kind of multicolored jumpers and other things. I chose it for that - It just comes in a great range of colors. 

This yarn, it's quite soft, though for acrylic. So it's not too horrible to work with or for your dog to wear. It's also just a nice thickness. It's a good balance between having delicate stitches, but not taking too long to knit.

Liam: Why was it that you didn't go with humans and you chose dogs instead?

Paigan: I just never really thought of making anything for myself until I'd made it for the dog and I don't know… you get a sight hound and they're cold dogs. I started out and I bought a lot of things for him and I kind of wanted to supplement this myself without spending a load of money, so I started making accessories for him. 

Side note: I used to have a rabbit that I made hats for and I kind of wanted to do something similar for him, but these were felt hats, I didn't think that they would be right for dogs so I went for knitting.

I tried experimenting with some jumper patterns as well when I was working out how to make the dog jumper, but I only really made myself things that I wear now in the last few months. I guess it's a bigger project as well. It's a bit more of a commitment.

I think that the other reason is just affordability because a hand knitted jumper for a person, it's going to cost a lot and I want my products to be a little bit more accessible. They still have a price tag because they're still hand knitted but I think it's a bit more accessible to more people.

Liam: How long have you been running the business now?

Paigan: I've had it for almost a year. It feels way longer, like I've been making snoods forever for dogs. But yeah, I started in November last year.

Liam: So you’re coming up to your first birthday? How has the first year been for you? How have people received what you've been putting out there?

Paigan: The reaction was really, really positive and I had a really good first winter. It was very busy around Christmas. I remember spending Christmas Eve knitting even though people wouldn't get them until after Christmas and then summer was quiet. 

Then I went to DogFest and had so many questions and compliments and I was like I need to ride this wave of positivity and I already made my website by this point but I hadn't really got much interest and then I got home from DogFest and said,  I'm going to be really good at social media which I'm doing. 

It's been a month and the uptake has been really, really good again and I think it's partly my engagement and coming towards the winter months - I'm starting to get Christmas orders already. These last 30 days I've had as much money and sales as I’ve had for the rest of the year. So it's been really popular again.

Liam: So really that exposure that you got at DogFest was really helpful for you. 

Paigan: Yeah I think it really helped my mindset as well. I was kind of maybe in a bit of a rut and I had Covid as well the month before and normally I knit almost every day and I hadn't knit for three weeks and I was just in a real slump so it was really good to get compliments and feel good about what I do.

Liam: We first met you there as well. You and your dog were wearing matching knits and obviously everybody was giving you compliments. So it's one of those things, you're building that momentum now, but like you say, social media can be difficult at the beginning, especially when you're starting an account from scratch. 

It’s often the case with a lot of not, just pet business owners, but business owners in general, they kind of want results and they want it quick. But social media is one of those things where it's long-term growth. So, I know I'm very impatient with social media. I post something and  I want it to go viral, but it's hard to do that, especially when you're just going down organic growth without the paid promotion behind it.

Paigan: Yeah.

Liam: So it's good to get that kind of validation that tells you there is an audience for this, even though it's taking a little bit of time to put the effort in and to grow. There is an audience there and I know what I'm working towards is worth it.

Paigan: Yeah, it can be a little bit disheartening that this hasn't done that well and then you have to realize, especially for me that I'm making everything by hand, and it takes me a while, so, if something went viral, it would be no help to me. I wouldn’t have been able to deal with having too much business. So it's irrelevant and so what I'm doing now I've got quite a nice community that I speak to quite a lot of people regularly and I think that's much more healthy for me than having a big following that I can't even keep up with. 

Liam: In terms of fulfilling orders, have you thought about what would happen when you get to the point where perhaps the amount of orders that you're getting outweighs the amount of time that you can spend knitting? 

Paigan: Not exactly. It’s difficult. So I think I've not reached that step yet, but I think my plan is to just increase wait times or do pre-orders (like a waitlist) and we'll deal with it when we get to it, but I keep up for now. 

I do give quite a long lead time, especially on bigger projects and just people have to deal with that because it is handmade. But yeah, if I'm overwhelmed then my plan is to kind of feel like you're gonna have to sign up to a waiting list and that would be a lovely position to be in.

Liam: Have you considered bringing other members in? There's a huge community of petprenuers who are all really willing and wanting to support and help champion other pet businesses as they come up through the ranks. But the knitting and crafting community is very much the same. There's a whole community of knitters out there who knit for business, but without doing it for their own patterns. Have you considered that at all, perhaps, if you're able to write those patterns to have a team of knitters behind you to help you fulfil those orders.

Paigan: I have been discussing it with my partner because we're like, how do we kind of scale this? We don't think that's the answer because we don't think that maybe I charge enough for an hourly rate. Maybe I need to build my confidence to charge a good hourly rate, but we don’t think that's the answer. I think we would have to put prices up significantly to do that.

I’ve thought about asking my mum. So maybe expand to include my mom and get her up to scratch on what we're doing, but at the minute, I don't think bringing someone external in is the answer. I do really want to teach my partner how to knit but he really resists. But I could have him do it for free.

Liam: It is about finding that balance of wanting to keep your prices affordable for the customer but also being able to fulfill the value and the quality of that all well.

Paigan: Yeah.

Liam: We've got our Book Your Pet Membership, which is a resource hub for people who are looking to build and grow a pet business. One of the things that we cover in there is, when it gets to that point of expanding your pet business, what's the best route to go down? 

You've already explored that option, but it doesn't feel right for your business at the moment. So, what other ways can you expand and grow the business? We cover topics and things like that in some of the modules there, but it is really an individual experience for every business.

Paigan: It's difficult to kind of think about when it's just something quite personal as well. But I think one thing that we've discussed quite a bit is going down more of a digital route and making it almost the primary focus to sell a bunch of different patterns for your pets, but giving people the resources to also make them. So for people who might not know how to knit, making videos because of a lot of the patterns, they're quite simple, they don't really take a lot of time or complicated techniques. So I kind of want to go down that route, but it’s quite a big time investment. So it's going to be a summer job but that's kind of what I think is going to be one of my focuses moving forward.

Liam: I think that's a great shout as well. Again, one of the things that we talk about in some of the modules in our membership is that successful businesses diversify their services so it's not just focused on revenue streams coming in from one particular thing.

Paigan: Yeah.

Liam: So it's not just about selling the jumpers but if you can diversify and you can sell courses or run workshops and teach people how to have the skills to knit the patterns and they then buy the patterns - You've already got three or four additional income streams in your business. 

Paigan: Yeah, exactly. Digital products are great. You spend quite a while making them but then they're just there. 

I've got a couple updates I think I want to make on the patterns I've got at the minute, but they're very minor and just keeping them up to date with what I think is best on the pattern. So that is kind of what I want to go down and maybe knit yourself boxes as well where you get your yarn and your needles. I think they are a really nice introduction as well.

Liam: Yeah, I've seen a lot of subscription boxes so people do it sort of a Hello Fresh kind of thing on a monthly basis.

Paigan: Yeah.

Liam: You receive a little package that includes your needles, a little booklet of patterns with the yarn and this is what you can make from it. I think those kinds of things work quite nicely as well as a recurring income rather than just a one-off.

Paigan: Definitely.

Liam: We've talked a lot there about the future of What A Load Of Knit. Let's go back to the past. You're approaching the point of your 1st birthday, so what do you know now, as a pet business owner, that you wish you'd have known a year ago?

Paigan: The sizes of pets! Yeah, I just didn't really have a good understanding of sizing when I first started, I was just like snood, this is snood, you can buy snood. I was like this size is fine and then I got on order almost immediately for an English bulldog. So yeah, they're huge. They have big heads.. It's just like my god, I have not considered this at all. How am I going to make this fit?

It took a really long time to work out and obviously, I should have considered things like that but my mindset was so focused on sight hounds. I’ve got one, everyone I follow on Instagram has one, so I just kind of forgot there are other dogs.

Liam: When someone places an order, how do you go about collecting the details of what the breed is, what the sizing is and how do you make that order personalized to them?

Paigan: Yeah I have sizings now. I have a sizing chart and you just select your size. It just didn't exist at first. I don't think I had a full understanding - because I started on Etsy - I didn't have a full understanding of how to set things up either. This is not 100% intuitive. 

So, that was a little difficult and I probably spent way too long making those things, but now snoods and kind of like the standard jumpers, I have a really kind of second nature. I've got one jumper called the Ezra Jumper and I've made so many of it that I can literally get that in my sleep.

Liam: To any size?

Paigan: So, at the minute, I only make jumpers for sight hounds and it's partly just because the reason that I started was because I couldn't find any jumpers for sight hounds. The other reason is because I don't have another dog and I want to make sure the sizing is correct. I don't get every single measurement on the dog. I just have back, legs, chest, waist and neck. My plan is to add other dogs, but it will probably just be the category of ‘other dog’. 

But yeah, I need to work on a pattern for that. I'm going to be working with my parents' dogs - they have an Australian Shepherd - and I think it'll be a case that I just collect a few more measurements from people.

Liam: Absolutely. If you want any measurements from dogs, always feel free to reach out to Book Your Pet.  We've all got dogs in different sizes, shapes and breed for you. So if you need any measurements… I've a Jack Russell running around here somewhere so I can volunteer him.

Paigan: Yeah, that's really helpful. It's the distance between front legs that I think can be quite variable. You can have a really broad gap between their front legs (and my dog’s are basically both together) so it's just difficult to know and I don't want to send people things that don't fit that.

Liam: Absolutely. As I say, if we can support then we’re more than happy to. 

Let's just touch on your marketing at the moment. We've touched on briefly that you've upped the social game since going out to DogFest. You obviously went to DogFest which was a great networking opportunity, but what other avenues of marketing and promotion have you gone down?

Paigan: Not a great deal. I've got some business cards now I’m very proud of. I was really brave and gave some out when I went into Leeds the other weekend. I met someone at DogFest whose dog was just in this incredible outfit. I was like, this is amazing and she just immediately pulled out this business card and I thought, I need this confidence, so I'm trying to be more like that. 

In terms of other things, I don’t do a great deal. I'm pretty reliant on Instagram which is at the minute bringing a fair amount. And then kind of Etsy's natural promotion as well. Which I do seem to get quite a lot of people through Etsy, who haven't been on my Instagram previously. That is pretty much it at the minute.

Liam: Have you considered any other avenues you could go down as well as that? There are websites like Ravelry where you could also sell patterns, but there's also from a PR angle you could look at craft publications. Craft magazines often put out calls for submissions, for projects, to go into their magazines and it kind of puts you in a national publication, the name of your business, and an example of your patterns. So it can really increase the visibility of your brand in that way.

Have you ever considered doing something like that?

Paigan: I haven’t considered that, but it does sound excellent. So, another thing for the to-do list.

Liam: I think a lot of people who come into owning their own business, they look at things and go, right, it's a digital age so I need to just be on social media or I need a website, but there's often a lot of offline things too. Like you say, going around and handing out business cards. People forget that those traditional things have been around for so long because they work.

Paigan: I do get basically any time I go out with my dog and he's in some kind of knitwear, we get at least one person coming over and asking about it. We literally went out for a walk at the weekend just to the village we live near Leeds, and we had someone coming over being like “I've really struggled to find a knitting pattern or a jumper” and I didn’t have my side business cards. So now apparently I have to ave them in my pocket at all times.

Liam: Exactly. You never know whether you're going to find these people.

Paigan: Yeah. One thing I really do want to do is a craft market, which I think would be really nice. I’m just trying to weigh up what’s the best option with that because it's dog-focused.

Also, a lot of things are made to order, but I don't think that's a huge issue because it can have little products on, but because it's dog focused, you kind of want somewhere that’s dog friendly or there's where there’s going to be a lot of dogs there, like DogFest. But that is way too expensive for now. 

So I'm kind of looking at some options or maybe thinking about a collaboration with other very small businesses, having a joint store or something and I think that would be a really nice way of promoting in person.

Liam: Absolutely, and what you say there again about collaboration, it comes back to that whole community aspect. The knitting community is huge, the pet business industry is huge so there’s so many people out there in the same stages of building their business or a little bit further ahead, or people who still have ideas. But everybody is really friendly and really for each other.

Paigan: Yeah.

Liam: That’s what we want to promote at Book Your Pet - it's that we are a community of petpreneurs who were there to support and help each other. We are patterns who are helping to support people like you, and we want to do everything that we can to do that, which is why we've got our software, why we've got our membership and why we've got our community. So it really is about forging those partnerships and not thinking about people who are doing similar things to you, as competitors more like friends that you have healthy competition with. 

Paigan: When I first started I felt like other people were going to be judging me or, I don't know, a bit of anxiety, and then actually probably some of the small businesses, especially local ones in the Manchester area people, I interact with most on social media and have quite a good relationship with.

I think it's pretty nice and I don't think there's anyone who's too similar to this, which is always nice. Everyone's a little bit different - fleeces or collars and things - it's quite nice. I buy all those things and spend all my money on them.

Liam: But it's good. You're supporting the community and hopefully, this community is supporting you. 

Speaking of supporting other people. Do you have any advice that you would give to somebody who is just looking to start out their pet business? 

Paigan: I would say just do it because it's not too scary, but make sure you're setting aside enough time to both work on your business but also for yourself because it can be a bit overwhelming. 

I think my other advice would be: I struggle to follow it, but just value your time and make sure if you're spending time on something it's worth it and you're going to get the compensation. It doesn't have to be financial but it could be like an investment in your company to make sure it's worth it. That I struggle with that.

Liam: Yeah, I think a lot of people have that when they're pricing their services. A lot of people underprice because they don’t know. But their product or service is worth this time and effort, everything that they put into it and then as an individual, they are worth that fee. 

So I think that is something that a lot of people struggle to come to terms with. But again, we've got some advice in our membership on how to price services effectively, but it really comes down to having that inner confidence to go, yes, I did this and so I deserve this.

Paigan: Yeah, it's definitely a confidence thing. I'm getting better and trying to really crack down as well on myself, actually timing it being like, how long does this take? We need to feed that back into the pricing and make sure everything is right because, also, the cost of everything that's gone up recently. So you've got to keep making changes, adjusting things accordingly just to make you feel like you're not just wasting your time.

Liam: Yeah, and I think that's really important to mention as well. How you've timed yourself to put the price on things because time is the only commodity that we can't really get back once it’s gone.

Paigan: Yeah.

Liam: Because it's easy to sit down and say okay this jumper is going to take me this amount of time to knit so I'm gonna sell it at this price. But when you sit down and you actually start knitting and it becomes a much longer process, you haven't changed the price and suddenly you're giving away your time for free.

Paigan: Yeah.

Liam: It's something that a lot of people don't take into consideration - groomers as well, for example, they could go, okay I’m doing this particular kind of grooming  and it will take me this length of time. But then, when it comes to larger breeds, or breeds with more particular hair, it takes them longer and yet they don’t really consider that. There are those differences that will affect their time and they end up giving it away for free. 

So, just as a final piece let everybody know where they can find you online on socials, where they can check out What A Load Of Knit and get hold of some of your amazing products as well.

Paigan: My main social network is Instagram, which is @whataloadof_knit. I'm really active on there at the minute and hoping to continue being, so go like my reels which I had never made before. I've also got my website, which is My knits are slightly cheaper there than my Etsy because I don't get charged as much to sell there.

Do you want to be featured in future editions of our Business Pawspectives series? If you’re a pet business owner, get in touch today by emailing!