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Interview; Workshop Patterns

October’s Sew Retro themed Luxury boxes included the gorgeous Alex Jumpsuit pattern from Workshop, a stunning pattern company, fabric shop and sewing cafe company based in Headingley Leeds. I caught up with company owner Aliss for a feature in the accompanying magazine.

I’m so excited to be including one of your gorgeous patterns this month. Can you tell us a bit about how and why you started your own business?

I was ready for a change in my career and to start something new. I had this dream of a place where people could relax and learn new skills. I love craft and sewing and wanted to make it easy and accessible to people but also social too. The sewing community is such a welcoming space and I wanted a way to channel this energy and make it physical. That’s where Workshop came from. It’s a café and a sewing and studio space. We welcome people who want to craft and anyone who just wants to pop in for a coffee and a cake.

Tell us what a typical day looks like for you.

Most days I’ll be working in the shop. This could be serving customers in the café or teaching workshops. We normally host around 3 workshops a week, of all different disciplines. When we’re not running these I’m usually there through the day serving customers. Meeting customers and chatting to people is one of the highlights of the day. People from all walks of life come in – all with a different story!

What inspires each of the patterns you design?

I do a lot of research before designing a pattern – I look at what’s on trend and also look at what shapes will last and aren’t just a fad. I try and design classic shapes which can be worn over and over but I also strip them back to give customers a pattern blueprint which they can hack and change into something unique! Most people start sewing because high street clothes don’t fit them properly. It’s about creating your own perfect garment and I want my patterns to enable people to do this, whether it’s making my patterns or customising them and changing them completely.

You have also opened a beautiful sewing cafe in Leeds to compliment your fabric and pattern shop, what can people expect when they walk through your door?

I wanted to keep the café as modern as possible, so you can expect a minimal Scandi-inspired décor with lots of cosy details like plants and cute prints. It was important to me that the space stood alone as a café as well as being a place to create: I’ve worked hard to find independent suppliers who make produce to an incredibly high standard. We have cakes baked here in Leeds, coffee roasted in Yorkshire and all our food is organic and locally sourced.

What is the best and hardest thing about your job?

My favourite thing is when I see customers make my patterns! It’s amazing to see the different takes on them and to see what people do to transform them. I absolutely love it!

The hardest part of the job is working on three fronts: café, workshop and patterns. At the moment we’re an incredibly small team but it’s so rewarding when people come in to learn, challenge themselves or just relax.

Do you have any exciting new projects in the works?

Yes! As I’ve mentioned, the idea behind the patterns is to give customers a basic blueprint to design and create from. I’m looking at bringing out some pattern hacks to accompany the patterns. These will range from sleeves to pockets to different skirts etc. I’m really excited for them to launch in a few months and I’m hoping they’ll spark people’s imaginations on the potential behind the range.