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Interview; My Handmade Wardrobe

Decembers Luxury box featured the gorgeous Ready To Party Dress from My Handmade Wardrobe. I interviewed Sarah and Freya who also run the amazing fabric shop Crafty Sew & So to find out more about them and their inspiring businesses.

Have we caught you on a busy day? What are you up to?

Well, it’s the beginning of a new working week and we like to ease ourselves in gently. We close the shop on Mondays to have a day at home catching up on chores, spending time with our little ones and sometimes a little bit of admin work to prepare ourselves for the week ahead. If we are lucky we might squeeze in a bit of sewing time too!

The shop is open from Tuesday to Saturday, and during this time it’s full steam ahead for Freya with retail sales, especially at this busy time of the year in the run-up to Christmas. We love helping customers pick out the perfect gifts for themselves or loved ones. As well as running the shop floor, alongside our fantastic sales assistants, Freya also does our buying, bill paying, marketing and social media and puts together some fantastic blog posts including tutorials and our crafty bloggers club. Go, take a look at our blog on our website, there is so much good stuff on there!

We also run craft workshops in-store.  As well as teaching dressmaking workshops, I plan and coordinate the workshops along with our fantastic workshop coordinator Tracy, who also teaches for us too. We now have a great team of tutors who run workshops on all different subjects including dressmaking, patchwork, homewares, beginners sewing projects, brush lettering, tie-dye and embroidery and macramé.

After releasing our latest dressmaking pattern, the Ready to Party Dress, we’ve taken a bit of a break from pattern development to focus on other projects (and I’ve also had a baby, but more on that later!)  We’ve just finished designing our latest product – The Dressmakers Planner – which is now available in store and on our website. We’re making fantastic pattern release plans for next year and I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to pattern development again!

You have a few different sides to your business, a fabric shop, classes and events as well as My Handmade Wardrobe patterns. How and when did it all come about?

It all started about 6 years ago when I was working as a kids wear designer. I enjoyed the job but missed the hands on design experience of making clothing. I’d always been a keen dressmaker, and I enjoyed sharing the skills I picked up from this and my fashion design degree with other people, so I decided to set up a sewing group in my local area. I’d also just moved back to Leicester from London, so it was a great way to meet people with similar interests to me. To begin with we met in village halls, then I got a small studio where I could teach 2-3 people at a time. In 2015, after meeting Freya at a class I was teaching, we discovered we had a mutual dream to open a shop and workshop space. After some time plotting, we opened the doors to Crafty Sew & So, Shop and Studio together.

The business has grown and developed so much since then and we now have a fantastic range of own brand products, a wide range of fabrics we are so proud of and our own pattern range. We also love running bigger events and have hosted The Dressmakers Ball in Leicester twice, and we’ll be running the Crafty Sewing Camp this year!

What are the best and worst parts about what you do?

The best and worst thing about having a successful creative business is that we are always having so many ideas but there is never enough time! We have got a lot better at delegating and we are working with some amazing people because of it. Our most recent collaboration is with the girls from Pickle Illustration. They designed some beautiful prints for us, which we have used to make our own branded gifts including mugs, notebooks and art prints. It’s a project we’ve been dreaming of for a long time we were just waiting to meet an artist with the perfect style to suit our brand. We love the illustrations they produced which perfectly sum up our modern, fun and colourful Crafty Sew & So brand!

Both of you have had children in the last few years and Sarah, you are still on maternity leave. How have you found combining running your business with parenthood?

Having a baby is a life changer! But we’re both so glad we have our babies and our business.  Juggling the two is tricky sometimes but does ensure we keep a good work-life balance. I think the most important characteristics I’ve noticed are useful to balance work and life with a little one are efficiency and resourcefulness. These characteristics are also massively important in business, and have got us to where we are now.

Our business model has always been based around family. When we first started the business Freya and I discussed our future plans and agreed the business would need to be flexible around our plans to have families. We have been so lucky to have amazing support from our parents, siblings and friends along the way. And of course our amazing husbands who have decorated, designed, spell-checked and calculated us into a successful business, as well as helping to create our beautiful small people too!

Any upcoming projects or events you can tell us about?

So, we’ve got the big Crafty Sewing Camp happening at Beaumanor Hall in Leicestershire next July! We are super excited to bring together a lovely group of sewing enthusiasts for a weekend of sewing fun with an old-school summer camp vibe.  We’ve also got a brand-new venue in Leicester where we will be hosting larger format workshops. The first is the Jeans Weekender in January where you can make yourself your own pair of jeans over the weekend with help from the experts! Then we have our ‘Galantine’s’ Sewing Weekender, a chance to relax and sew your heart out for a full weekend with your gal pals, with sweet treats, empowering tunes, bottomless tea all weekend and a delicious afternoon tea at the local Skylark bakery to round it all off.  And of course we’ll have more patterns, exciting workshops and products released throughout the year!