So I’m going to tell you a little story about how I first started sewing…
One Saturday afternoon when I was visiting my grandma, (I was about 8 years old at the time) she was making herself a skirt on her sewing machine. I remember watching her with avid interest and asked her if I could make something.
Obviously, as grandma’s do, she said yes. So the following Saturday morning I went out with my Gran to the local fabric shop and found this really nice quilted black with white spot fabric (it was the early 80’S so don’t judge me lol) she then set about showing me how to make a little jacket. I remember helping her cut out the pattern and she showed me how to use the sewing machine and put in a zip and sleeves etc.
Needless to say (being only 8) the sewing lessons went off for weeks and weeks until eventually, I had this little jacket. I have to say I was very proud of that jacket as it was the first thing that I had made, but most importantly I made it with my Gran! One of the sleeves was longer than the other and the zip didn’t quite sit right but never the less I was very proud. I remember wearing that jacket until I outgrew it but I can’t remember what actually happened to it in the end. But what I do remember is the lessons she taught me and the wonderful Saturdays I spent with my Grandma sewing. Those memories have stayed with me my entire life.
Sewing has always been with me and always will be, but along the way, I also fell in love with design. After school, I went on to university where I studied Fashion. I absolutely loved the sewing and designing side but hated the marketing and business progression that came with it. I find this quite ironic now as I now do more marketing and developing my business than I actually do sewing lol… but we never quite know where we’re going at the time do we?
So anyway my first stint at university didn’t go so well and I decided to drop out and start my working career. Through the years I have had various jobs but I have always sewn as a hobby and to help my friends and family out.
Then about 15 years ago I decided to go back to university where I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Interior design. There I learned the high standard that was expected within the industry and whilst on my degree I started learning about curtains and blinds and the construction of them. I already knew quite a lot as I had made curtains and blinds before but here I learned how to achieve the professional finish I needed.
After I graduated from university I worked for a short while at a prestigious retail company in Bolton which unfortunately went into administration at the start of the recession. Through working as an interior designer I got to know a lot of people within the soft furnishings industry and made vast amounts of friends along the way.
Whilst working as an Interior designer a second job came up which I couldn’t say no to… I started working for Salford City college where I was asked to design, manage and deliver, a soft furnishing course. With all of my knowledge of fabrics and sewing, I successfully delivered my course for nearly six years. I started out teaching one course a week but by the time I finished teaching, I was delivering 3 courses a week. Unfortunately, though I had to give this up as I was due to have my fourth child and evening childcare was difficult to come by. So I focused on my day job once my son was born.
Unfortunately, though my interior design job didn’t last as I mentioned earlier. At the time (due to the recession) there was no interior design jobs around, so I sat down and looked at my skill set, sewing, and designing. It was the perfect progression. So I took my small amount of redundancy money I got and bought some fabric books. I opened a few accounts and contacted yellow pages back when it used to be the big doorstop of a book! And started to advertise.
My mum used to have an old industrial sewing machine which she gave to me and I restored (I named her Bertha as she never let me down). I turned my dining table into a workroom table and off I went sewing. So yes I started as a homeworker which suited me and my family fantastically well until it took over my house. After four years of working from home, I needed to get out of the house. I had a sewing machine behind the T.V in the lounge, curtain tracks, and poles down the stairs and the finished curtains and blinds all bagged up stored in my bedroom. To say we were cramped was an understatement.
So I started looking for premises. This turned out to be a fairly easy job as a beautiful looking shop came on the market at just the right time. So I took out a lease and hoped for the best. I divided the shop up into two parts so I had a shop for my customers to look through our books and a workroom big enough to expand. At that point, I hadn’t even looked at employing any staff but within a few weeks, I was inundated with work.
A lady who I had taught on one of my sewing courses came into my shop to wish me well and as I didn’t have staff at the time she patiently waited until I was free. I started telling her that I thought I might need help with the sewing but didn’t know where to look. That’s when she said… “ you need a Joan” I will never forget those words… Anyway, she started telling me what a fantastic sewer Joan was and how much experience she had and I thought straight away that I definitely do need a Joan.
So she said she would call her to see if she was interested in some work. My friend came back in about a week later and asked me if Joan had been to see me yet. Unfortunately, she hadn’t so I thought I was back to square one.
The following day I had a queue of people waiting to speak to me and the sewing pile was getting higher and higher. Then another lady came into the shop with a little shopping trolley. I asked her to please bear with me whilst I attended to the already waiting customers and she said “There’s no rush … I’m Joan” I could have run up and hugged her there and then and I knew instantly that we would be working together for a long time to come.
As time progressed (not too much time though) we got busier and busier and I found we needed more help. I called my friend up and asked if she knew another Joan… She said unfortunately not so I resorted to putting a notice in the window of the shop saying machinist wanted. A few people turned up for the job but when Kathy turned up I knew she was the one too, the same went for Elsie, Allan, Steve, Jes, and Alex.
Everyone here gets along like a house on fire. We are a little family, we help each other out, we sew together we have a good chat and when we all go home even after a hard day, we all feel happy. I think that is the sign of a good business, one where everyone gets along, one where your staff (now my friends) say thank you for a happy day at work. Through doing what I love I have met the most amazing people. Not only the people who I work with but our customers too.
So on the last note, I would like to thank everyone who works with me, our customers and our new friends for supporting a local business which strives not be the biggest, but the best. Thank you.