Interview with Rachael Lainé - The proud owner of La Tricoteur
Rachael Lainé is a passionate supporter of heritage brands and proud owner of Le Tricoteur, company that does heritage knitwear made with 100% British wool.

Rachael grew up in Hong Kong but spent every summer with her paternal grandparents who lived in Guernsey. She has a patois name and she is very proud of it (but it did cause some teachers issues trying to pronounce it when she was living in Asia!)

Rachael is married and her husband works with her. Together they have 2 kids and a dog and she is an obsessive plant lover and collector of vintage pottery.

During our conversation with Rachael, we inquired about what motivated her to take over Le Tricoteur in 2020, why the original guernsey from Guernsey is so unique, and her favorite spots on the island.

Please can you share more about your personal connection to Guernsey and how it influenced your decision to purchase Le Tricoteur?

My Dad’s family are from Guernsey and my Mum moved there when she was tiny. Her stepfather was brought over from Southampton airport to work at the Guernsey airport.

Growing up on the island my Dad learnt to sail and so we all used to go out on boats. My sister used to skipper ladies races but I just slept in the sail bins! At other times my dad would send me up the mast to sort out any fiddly rigging because I was small and light and had skinny fingers!

When I was 15 he bought me my first guernsey.

I have to be honest and say I did not love it! It was not exactly a ra ra skirt and I thought it was hideously uncool.

Purchasing a company is a significant decision. What motivated you to take over Le Tricoteur in February 2020?

I worked for many years in marketing & advertising.

After a while it became draining to see so many brands launched that were just like everything else.

I decided to set up a brands agency in 2010 that focussed on essential or heritage brands that had proven their place on this planet. I approached a footwear label (Salt-Water sandals) that was unknown outside of the USA, to pitch as my first brand to launch abroad and won the account.

I am now their largest distribution partner and manage 50 countries. It has been a huge achievement as I am not trained in business, but I can spot an amazing product and I am very good at telling their story. The rest then comes easily.

We shot a campaign for Salt-Water in Guernsey and we borrowed some guernseys. I got talking to the owner Neil, and he admitted he was getting tired of it and wanted to spend more time in Australia with his son. I proposed buying the business as I didn’t want to see it just disappear.

To me it is a vitally important business and feels part of this island’s history. We are the only manufacturers still using hand knitters – a skill that Guernsey was so famous for.

As a passionate supporter of heritage brands, what values do you believe these brands bring to the market?

They don’t have to try hard to persuade the customer that they can do the job.

If they have lasted for over 50 years, they have proved their merit and especially if they only make a very small range or specialise in just one product – they likely do it very well by sticking to what they know best.

Please can you describe the characteristics that make the original guernsey from Guernsey unique?

The pieces are knitted on vintage machines that are no longer made and they are “fully fashioned” which means they are not cut and sewn. It makes for a much more robust structure that means if you snag it, it won’t fall apart. They can be mended and we often see many that are 3rd or 4th generation.

We hand knit parts of our guernseys using traditional knitting methods that are 100’s of years old and then they are hand linked in house using wool.

Our guernseys are completely eco friendly and recently we did an experiment where we actually buried some and they rotted down to nothing in a matter of months.

We use only traditional worsted wool which is extremely robust and is spun in a way to keep out the wind and sea spray. We wanted to honour the legacy of the English wool license granted to Guernsey in the 15th century so we will always, always use only English wool even if it’s more expensive. It is excellent quality and we have been doing business with our mill for 2 generations.

Owning a heritage brand must come with its own set of challenges. What have been some of the most rewarding aspects and challenges since you took over Le Tricoteur?

Working with such an amazing team who have dedicated their lives to their craft has its own special magic. They have been a very tight knit team and Neil was their boss for over 50 years. Those are quite large boots to fill!

Very sadly he passed away in November 2023, but he could see my vision and supported me in every way he could. I have copious notes and videos of us discussing all elements of the business. Taking on his legacy is a privilege and with my marketing background we are already seeing some exciting growth both on Guernsey as well as abroad. I am really excited to introduce “the original guernsey from Guernsey” to as many people around the world as possible.

Le Tricoteur is the original manufacturer on the island and we are considered the gold standard. It is important to me to maintain that reputation, as well as build on it.

How do you balance modern business practices with the preservation of traditional craftsmanship?

I had to get all the systems online and off clip boards so we can have visibility from anywhere of what is going on (and an easy record for production planning purposes)

It hasn’t exactly been plain sailing, but we are seeing the benefits now.

Some of my “ideas” have been regarded with suspicion, but I think I have finally won everyone over!

A lot of time was spent building the visibility of Le Tricoteur, and what is expected (by the customer) of a retail brand in the 2020’s.

I invested in a new website, I launched us onto Instagram and I added a few modern shapes and colours to the range.

It’s rewarding to see comments on social media from new followers and to see their appreciation of the care and attention that goes into the product.

Customers really love to “meet the makers” and see the work that goes into creating their garment. Broadcasting on our social media accounts has really helped showcase these beautiful vintage machines, as well as throw a spotlight on the people who work by hand on every step of production.

I did rework the logo because I wanted the labels to be more premium & the branding to be a bit more sophisticated – but we kept the same font as a nod to its past. There were quite a few iterations all being used and it needed unifying.

We added a reef knot motif, which is an intrinsically important part of boating life as well as the manufacture of the guernsey – and we use that on our packaging as an instantly recognisable icon (a bit like the bitten apple for Apple)…but we are certainly not “posh”.

We send all our despatches out in paper potato sacks because that is how we used to deliver the knitting to our ladies who work on the shoulders and necks and we have tried very hard to get rid of any use of plastic.

Please can you tell us about the materials and techniques used to ensure the longevity of each guernsey?

All our guernseys are “fully formed”.

It means each piece is knitted individually by increasing or decreasing the number of stitches per size & each piece has a selvedge edge so if you snag it, it won’t unravel. Some garments are produced using the “cut & sew” method which means cutting shapes out of a bolt of pre knitted fabric and then sewing up the sides. If these snag, they totally unravel.

We also offer a re-knitting service for anyone who has purchased a Le Tricoteur.

We can mend collars, cuffs and holes but we are really strict about moth damage! We won’t take it unless you have chucked it in the freezer first to kill any grubs.

We have re-knitted so many very special guernseys that have been passed down the family line as well as helping out our hard working fishing & farming community with the guernseys they wear every day.

We only use worsted wool and contrary to how you might remember them, it really isn’t as scratchy as you think. It isn’t quite cashmere either! but it’s the only wool we use as it is functional. It keeps the wind out and the way its spun it also keeps sea spray and mist at bay.

A guernsey should be worn front to back and back to front on rotation. That way it doesn’t wear out in one place and the flipping backwards & forwards extends its overall wear.

What does your typical working day look like?

It’s a cliché but no one day is exactly the same.

I wake up thinking about things I have to do, so I am a start-work-straight-away type of person. This means I am working before I even get out of bed. I read all my emails, I check statistics of the webshop as well as the social media accounts and make sure any enquiries that have come into Instagram or FB get answered. We have customers from all around the world so enquiries are 24 hours.

My husband has made me a cup of tea every day of our life together, so I drink my tea, then get up and straight away have a cup of coffee in the same mug. I might walk around the garden thinking things through (if the weather allows) and will work for a few hours at home before going into Le Tricoteur. I don’t eat breakfast until much later so I’ll take something with me as well as something for lunch. There are not a lot of food options on the West Coast or opportunity to eat out, so mostly I sit at my desk or if it’s sunny we have a picnic bench to perch on outside. If it’s not too blowy I will sit on the sea wall.

I make sure all the linkers and the technician are happy and then I will be sat at my desk, asking how our wholesale accounts are doing for stock, checking production is on track for delivery, writing a social media post, designing a leaflet, monitoring our cashflow (always important!) and maybe discussing any special projects we have with our collaborative partners.

We might be stock taking, or ordering yarn so I will update the system after we’ve done the count, or work out with the technician what we need to order and I’ll talk to the mill.

If a customer comes in the shop, I like to help them choose their guernsey. It’s great to have 121 interaction and their feedback. Everyone helps in the shop and we take turns pressing as well. It’s a tight group of very hard working people; some who have been here for nearly 50 years.

Occasionally we have to arrange a photoshoot and that takes a bit of planning and making sure the weather isn’t awful and therefore what plan B or C is. We use local models and try to make sure you can see every shot is in Guernsey.

Right now we have 2 new collections in production and I am really excited to get them made and online, and that will mean more photoshoots and more planning. It also meant investing some money into the production so I hope they are well received. They have been discussed for quite a few years now, so I am pretty confident they will be popular.

We host visiting journalists too or sometimes get asked to do a talk for a tourist group or local society. I will take them through a brief history as well as show them the machine room and explain what the different knitted patterns on the guernsey all mean. They all reference fishing or sea going activities. I can tailor make a visit.

Guernsey is known for its beautiful landscapes. What outdoor activities or places do you frequently enjoy on the island?

My son loves Lihou island – we spent his 17th birthday at the mermaid pool. It’s fun to walk across the causeway at low tide and then when you get to it, not too difficult to scramble down.

I have fond childhood memories of walking to the Fairy Ring & beyond at Pleinmont. It felt like a really long walk at the time, but of course it isn’t! Sometimes if I need to clear my head, I will walk to the end and sneak myself into a crevice on the cliff side that is protected from the wind and read a book in the sun.

Catching the bus to Jerbourg Point from town, and then walking all the way back along the cliff paths is a top family favourite. You stop half way for a pint & chips at Fermain Bay café and then eventually finish at the Bathing pools, where you can have a lovely swim.

The Bathing pools are a huge hit at any time when it’s warm enough, as well as jumping off the harbour wall at high tide. We always go with cousins who know exactly what to do – I am a scaredy cat but my kids aren’t!

Cycling is another great activity to do. I used to spend my summers whipping down the lanes with my cousins – the reservoir was always a good place to dump the bikes and sit in the shade for a bit.

Bathing Pools in Guernsey

Bathing Pools in Guernsey, photo credit: Rachael Lainé

What are your favorite local dishes or food experiences?

100% having fish and chips at Cobo, with take away supermarket wine whilst watching the sunset.

One of the ladies at work made me bean jar for the first time when she heard I had never had it. I love it with a crusty roll.

Really thick Guernsey butter on Gache when you are feeling a bit tired at 4pm – thick enough to see teeth marks in it!

I like going to Christies and treating myself to an open crab sandwich and glass of wine when it’s hot enough to sit on their terrace.

Three pubs I would recommend would be The Imperial for Moules, The Puffin & Oyster for the view and sunny terrace and the Rockmount for a fun family dinner. The staff are lovely at the Rockmount (I have to say this as my son worked there!)

I buy amazing local asparagus and scallops at Surf & Turf on the Castle Pier (when it’s asparagus season), I highly recommend going there to buy local seafood.

Cider at Fermain

Cider at Fermain Bay, photo credit: Rachael Lainé

If you would like to treat yourself or your loved ones to a lovely piece of guernsey, don’t hesitate to check out Le Tricoteur’s website, Instagram profile @letricoteur, Facebook page or contact them directly at 

Notes from Rachael:

We are always looking for knitters so if you live in Guernsey and have several years experience please get in touch.

If you are interested in shift work and learning to link on the machines – also let us know! At some point we will have to start training a new team as various ladies keep mentioning retirement.

We are really proud of being able to employ women at all stages of their life – from school age and doing PT weekend work, through to parenthood & only working school hours and now most are grandmothers who like the companionship and want PT shift work.

It’s a really stable and rewarding job in a supportive environment.

We are launching a range of accessories using up all our remnants. We often have pieces that aren’t quite good enough to be used in garments but that are still beautiful pieces of knitted fabric. We have finally perfected our prototypes and each piece will be a one off. I want us to have as low wastage as possible. Keep an eye out for them appearing online later this year.

We will start showing at the Viaër Marchi again and we also have a stall at the West show every year. At the West show my whole family will be running the stand – our kids love it. They love meeting all the customers and the end of show product auction. Last year people were dancing to the band waving leeks in the air like glo sticks. A pretty unique Guernsey sight!