Good things take time: 86-year-old fulfils dream of opening knitwear store

2:44 pm on 26 May 2021

Margaret Richardson knows better than most that the best things in life can take time.

Margaret Richardson holding some of  her hand dyed wool with her handmade shawls and knitwear on either side.

Margaret holding some of her hand dyed wool with her handmade mohair knitwear on either side. Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart

She's waited her whole life to start up a hand-dyed knitwear store and now aged 86, Amy Maria knitwear is open for business.

"I've always been into crafts. I've lived in New Zealand for 17 years, and I built up the business from there. My big dream was to have exactly what I have here. A dear little shop with its own porch and its own garden and I have been having a great deal of fun."

Margaret is determined to wrap as many people as possible in her hand-dyed mohair shawls and ponchos.

Margaret and her family moved to New Zealand's South Island in 2004, due to a worrying increase in the amount of crime in her native South Africa.

Sign for Amy Maria knitwear shop

The Albany location for her shop suits her well because even though it is a bit hidden away "there is always lots of parking," Margaret says. Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart

Ever since the big move she's been looking for a place to open a shop, but there's always been one major barrier.

"Astronomical rentals that's what stopped me. Ever since I moved to Auckland, which was in 2012, I tried to find premises that I could afford that were reasonably priced and in a good area."

Margaret Richardson hand dyes the wool for all her mohair shawls and ponchos.

Margaret hand dyes the wool for all her mohair shawls and ponchos. Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart

Amy Maria knitwear is based in the Ramada Hotel complex in Albany.

It's next to a gym that plays loud music most of the day and although it isn't central, it's perfect for her.

"People have got to get used to the idea of where I am because it is hidden away. But one big selling point for me was the fact there is always lots of parking. There is free parking and that is what put me off a lot of venues because you would find a lovely little venue and no parking."

Margaret Richardson shows off one of her garments.

Margaret shows off one of her garments. Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart

Most of the garments in her shop are made out of mohair wool, which she hand-dyes herself and then knits.

"To begin with, I have to dye colours that I want. That has to be dyed, dried, rewound and before I can even start knitting, I decide what I'm think I'm going to be making and I get going.

"I've got little hand domestic knitting machines but most of the work is actually finish, handwork, crochet, hand manipulation, sewing up, blocking, pressing. To me the actual knitting is I suppose it's about a quarter of the work.

"Everything is unique because even though I write everything down, I don't seem to be able to follow a pattern. I never follow a pattern, so my garments are unique."

Margaret Richardson says she uses domestic knitting machines to make her garments.

Margaret says she uses domestic knitting machines to make her garments. Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart

Margaret has also started up a knitting group which meets at the shop every Saturday at 11am.

"That's for knitters, used to be knitters and wanna be knitters.

"It's turning out to be quite fun. We knit and chat and have a cuppa and everybody is helping each other and that is the beauty of it."

Margaret is 86 years old but does not want that to be the biggest part of the story.

"To actually simply emphasize someone's age, it's rude, it's same as sexism or you know or racism, ageism is almost as annoying, but it's not only more that it's sort of denigrating.

"I don't mind being my age. In fact, I'm quite happy to be my age, but I don't want it emphasized because, I mean, I run my own big home and I helped with a B 'n B [bed and breakfast], I drive my own car, so I don't see why being 86 has got to be such a big deal, I've got a life to lead and I live it."

Now she's happily settled into her store, Margaret is looking to branch out into children's clothing and even knitted bridalwear.

Margaret Richardson standing outside her Albany shop Amy Maria Knitwear.

Margaret outside her shop. Photo: RNZ / Ella Stewart