Wool garment company Interknit has a long history in the Ballarat region, first beginning sock manufacturing in Clunes in 1939.
Andrew and Kassie Blaszak moved to Ballarat 14 years ago to keep the business alive.
Now it is one of the only knitwear factories remaining in rural Victoria and one of about 12 left in Australia that makes knitted items on site.
Garments are knitted from start to finish in the 600 square metre factory which sits behind their Humffray Street South shop front.
Fourteen staff are employed at the Ballarat factory which houses 24 industrial knitting machines and 24 industrial sewing machines.
A tour reveals electronic knitting machines at work creating fabric, while employees sew garments on machines and flatten fabric on the steam press.
Around 60 garments are produced in the factory each day, from jumpers and beanies, to scarfs and blankets, which are supplied to businesses, designers and stores. Interknit’s biggest contract is supplying uniforms to Metro Trains.
The shop front opened about three years ago, a move made as part of their transformation of the business from wholesale only to direct to public.
“When we get people in the store who say ‘I have driven past and I didn’t know what you sold’, we then tell them they are all made out the back and they are shocked,” Mr Blaszak said.
Old knitting machines from the 1960s operate alongside newer electronic machines with increased capabilities and improved efficiency.
For Andrew, who was previously an accountant, and Kassie who worked in hospitality, taking on the business was a learning curve.
“Andrew has learnt all the software for the knitting machines and programs them for my intricate designs. Sewing is probably the one thing that we both don’t do, but every other job that is here we can fill the role,” Mrs Blaszak said.
“I suppose the only way you can survive in a small business is to be able to do everything,” Mr Blaszak said.
If machines break down I have to be a mechanic. If accounts break down I have to be an accountant.Andrew Blaszak
The couple, who are also busy with two children, continue to add new elements like embroidery and screen printing to their business, to ensure survival in challenging manufacturing times.
“We had to make drastic changes through our space, rent, machinery, things that we offer and services that we can provide. I think we have made changes to give ourselves a good grounding for the future,” Mr Blaszack said.
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