A Textile Legacy
Christine Forester was destined to pursue a career in textiles. Her great grandfather worked at Philadelphia Dye Works and her grandfather swept floors at the dye house when he was young, and attended the school when it was known as Philadelphia Textile Institute. Her father, Michael Welsh attended then Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science and her aunt, Maura Welsh graduated from the University with a degree in retail marketing and management. This makes Forester part of a PhilaU legacy. Her father still speaks about the value of his time at the University and her aunt’s career progressed throughout the years. Forester’s father accompanied her for the interview at the University, and like many others who step foot on campus, immediately fell in love. She was impressed with the extraordinary placement rate into permanent career positions. She graduated with a marketing degree in 1991 and shortly after graduation, began a long, successful career at Yarn Mavens.
Forester describes her time at Yarn Mavens as invaluable. When she arrived for her interview with the company in New York City, she entered the showroom in awe of what she thought were spools of wool. She was corrected and was told they were cones of yarn and that she had a lot to learn. Forester spent two to four weeks with Felise Erdal, president and chairman, and Fred Lowenstein, vice president, a well-known yarn expert. Lowenstein took the time to teach Forester everything there was to know about the industry. She was interested in selling the product but he wanted to make sure she had the proper training. Lowenstein taught her about weaving and Erdal focused on knitting. “The knowledge was and is undeniably what has led to my success today,” explained Forester. Yarn Mavens mostly sold domestic yarns when she started working at the company. When the company’s largest mill closed in North Carolina, she and Erdal attended a trade show in France. They decided to source their products internationally, helping Forester to develop relationships with mills in Europe. Those strong relationships helped her launch her own business 18 years later.
In 2012, Forester was in position at a family owned business with no opportunities for growth. She was bored and was not growing personally or professionally. She read an article in the Wall Street Journal about the Strategic Design MBA (SDMBA) at PhilaU and needed to learn more. She spoke with the program director, Natalie Nixon, Ph.D., and was immediately sold on the program. Forester took a career in textiles but her focus was always on the business side of the industry. “This program merged the two most critical aspects of my industry and created a place for me to grow and learn,” said Forester. “It was my happy, crazy, sleepless, innovative place for two years.” She said it was the best career decision she made for herself.
Today, Forester is the founder and textile curator of Aalta Yarn, a business which helps people create handmade heirlooms by sourcing, developing and delivering quality hand knitting yarns. Aalta Yarn was created to utilize her two decades of industry expertise and provide the market with quality yarns. She sources globally, mostly in Europe and in the United States. Forester works with her fellow SDMBA alumni for photography and graphic design and PhilaU faculty for knitting pattern design. On February 6, The Tangled Web, a local yarn shop owned by PhilaU alumna, Mary Jennings Spratt ’84, will host Aalta Yarn’s first knit along. For more information, please visit the website.
Forester believes giving back to the community is crucial. Aalta Yarn donates yarn to knitters through local charities. She is currently working with Project Linus and Tabor Children Services. Forester also understands the importance of giving back and leveraging her connections and ties at PhilaU. Every year she and her husband attend homecoming with their twins. “I explain my legacy at the University and hope that one day they will follow in the family’s footsteps 10 years from now,” she said. She encourages alumni to hire fellow graduates, attend alumni events for networking opportunities and to give back to the school that provided the education and tools to succeed.