Sew fabulous! Chorley mum turns her life-long passion for vintage patterns into a world-first subcription service

A Chorley businesswoman has launched the world's first vintage sewing box subscription service after noticing an upsurge of interest during lockdown.

Liz Purkis, a mum-of-four and grandmother-of-six, has been forced to close her fabric and haberdashery shop in Chapel Street for lenghty periods during the last 18 months, but the hiatus has allowed her to kickstart a new initiative.

Now she is combining vintage styles with the latest in technology - offering personalised boxes, colour consultations and even online support and fitting surgeries via Zoom for members.

"With the pandemic lots of people began to sew, or returned to sewing after many years either to make masks or from boredom", said Liz, 55.

Liz Purkis in her shop

Liz herself wanted to join a sewing subcription, but got frustrated trying and failing to find a one that liked, so so she decided to create her own, using a lot of vintage patterns sourced from America.

She said: “I looked at other sewing boxes and was left uninspired. I felt they lacked in areas such as the amount of fabric I’d get in the box, the patterns weren’t my vintage style and box customers would’ve had to go and find and purchase additional items to be able to complete the project.”

The owner of The Buttonhole started to do some research, and found there were three key reasons why people were reluctant to subscribe to a sewing box.

Firstly, they were concerned about not getting fabric in a colour that suited them, secondly, they didn’t want to get a pattern they already had in their ‘stash’, and thirdly - especially for newer sewists - they didn’t want to get stuck halfway through a project, not finish it and end up feeling bad about an expensive mistake.

Liz offers a colour consultation as part of the package

Liz, who has been sewing since the age of 11, decided to create something that addressed all these concerns, and has now launched “Sew Vintage Fabulous”, suitable for all anyone with some experience of sewing.

Already she has attracted subcribers of all ages from across the country.

She said: “I teamed up with a colour and style consultant to ensure that my customers could choose from one of four colour palettes for their fabric if they wish. All fabrics are hand-selected by me to ensure top quality.

“If a customer already has the pattern, they can return it for a pattern credit on their account, so they can feel secure in knowing they’re getting great value.

Contents of a subcription box

“In addition I created the Fitting Zoom, a fun monthly get together online where sewing box customers can get my help with any issues on sewing the garment, any problems with fit and where I share tips and techniques to improve their sewing.”

The Zoom calls usually take place two weeks after the box is sent out, but Liz also makes herself available for people to contact her for advice at any point.

She said: "I want people to feel fabulous when they make something, and if it's been stressful to make, then they won't feel that way.

"Sewing is a nice thing to do, it's been good for people's mental health in lockdown, and the Zoom calls help people share ideas, build confidence and enjoy something together.

Liz Purkis

"I used to do sewing lessons either one-to-one, or in groups of three. but obviously, we have been unable to do that recently.

"I am part of a few Facebook sewing groups and there's always people asking things like 'I don't know whether this fit is right?' I'm good at seeing a fabric and knowing how it will look made up, and whether it will suit someone, so I thought I can do that as part of the subscription.

"I'm the first person to off this kind of sewing box, so I thought 'let's be the first person to a few more things'."