Battling fast fashion and job stress? Dressmaking is back in style in Lancashire

Dawn Elliott, owner of the new Sew Confident
Dawn Elliott, owner of the new Sew Confident
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A new sewing workshop space in Chorley is going from strength to strength as a trend in people making their own clothes picks up momentum.

Whether it can be put down to going against the grain of the throwaway culture or taking time out from a busy and stressful job Dawn Elliott, owner of the new Sew Confident shop in St George’s Street, says her new venture is taking off.

Owner of The Vintage Sewing Bunny in St Annes, Lucy Plumbley

Owner of The Vintage Sewing Bunny in St Annes, Lucy Plumbley

“I think for a lot of people it’s about the environment,” she says. “They want to recycle things.

“In a short space of time it seems to be going quite well. It could be because The Great British Sewing Bee is coming up.

“There were three women in our backpack class a few days ago, they were all teachers.

“They were just saying they have such stressful jobs that need something where they can just switch off and chat to people who are like minded. That feeling when you have made something. There’s no feeling like it.

“I made a dress a few weeks ago and it was a great stress reliever.

“It’s good for people who when the kids have grown up, they want to get out but they don’t want to go to the gym. They want to do something creative. They just get hooked.”

Dawn opened her store in July, the first franchise in England and two more in Birmingham have quickly followed. Two Sew Confident shops in Scotland were the first to the game.

Dawn says: “We have eco classes, workshops to make crochet pots out of t-shirts and storage and plant pots.

“We also do classes for dressmaking, they seem to be popular. It’s about teaching people how to use a pattern and how to make your own clothes or adjust them - maybe you buy something when you go to the shops and it’s not the right size.

“We do quilting, workshops in Roman blinds and curtain making, dressmaking, knitting and crochet. There are five tutors including me.”

Dawn says she came into the business after deciding to leave her office job.

She says: “I did sewing and creative things before. I was thinking I’m not happy in an office job, there must be more to life.

“I did a lot of research and came across Sew Confident. I thought there’s nothing like this in the area.

“So I left my job to give it a go. I think it will take its time to build a customer base and get our name out there but the people who are coming love it.

“They find it really therapeutic.”

Owner of The Vintage Sewing Bunny in St Annes, Lucy Plumbley, agrees. She says that although she’s seen an increase in people taking up workshops for environmental reasons it’s the therapeutic side of craft that people show up for.

She said: “I think environmentally we have seen a massive increase particularly in the last six months with people making reusable things - sandwich wraps, snack pouches, their own reusable totes bags for example.

“With the statistics around fast fashion and the environmental impact of textiles in landfill, people are saying if I’m making something well, it will last so I’m not just going to throw it out.

“We have become much more environmentally conscious with bamboo and organic cotton.

“But I think the really massive thing is the therapeutic side of craft.

“We offer quite a lot of popup tutors for things like silversmith, dressmaking, sewing, crocheting, kit and natter, needle felting and calligraphy and the feedback that we get is more the mental impact it has on people.

“People come for the company, stress relief, to forget about stress at work or in life. I think initially it was about who liked craft, people who had done it for a long time or older people. Now we do children’s sessions and we’ve got people of graduate age.

“We have quite a lot of NHS staff who find their jobs stressful.

“We have lots of young mums as well because life as we know it changes massively when you become a mother and its nice for people to get away from that mum role and title.

“It’s nice to meet people and have a chat.”

The data from arts and crafts retail chain Hobbycraft mirrors what Lucy and Dawn are saying.

Sales in sewing machines have increased by 16.1 per cent in the last financial year and sales in sewing patterns have jumped by 35.6per cent year on year.

Meanwhile the retail chain says it has also seen sales of haberdashery scissors soar by 37.8per cent.

Katherine Paterson, customer development director at Hobbycraft says: “We’re dedicated to encouraging customers to embrace a ‘make do and mend’ approach to their wardrobe and upcycle rather than throwaway by getting crafty.

“Not only is it a great way to learn a new skill, but even the smallest steps will help to reduce excess waste.”