So what’s my story?
After 20 or so years working in management in retail and insurance customer services I longed to escape the corporate world to pursue my dream of running my own business. In 2010, a number of pieces fell into place to encourage me to take the leap & in 2011 I opened Cordial & Grace, a tearoom & sewing café in Clifton Village.
Clifton Sewing café
I knew I wanted to open a café with a difference and when I read about the sewing cafés popping up in Paris, Berlin & London I saw an opportunity to do something similar in Bristol. I could see that the discreet world of sewing was getting a bit of a makeover & with the first Great British Sewing Bee appearing on the BBC in May 2013, it felt good that I picked up on this trend at a perfect time. It was around this time that I decided to make more of the sewing element of the business, including the change of name to Café Sew|ci|ety.
At the end of 2014 I made the sad but necessary decision to give up the premises I had in Clifton & therefore the tearoom / café. I had learnt a tremendous amount about running my own business in those years. Despite the long hours I really loved being front-of-house & was very happy that the unique environment I had created was enjoyed by customers just as I envisioned. It was particularly pleasing that for most of this time we were Clifton’s highest rated café on Trip Advisor & even made it into the top 10 of all Bristol’s restaurants & cafés at times. Despite this, the uncertainty of café trade in an area with lots of competition, parking concerns & the high costs associated with such a premises meant it was unsustainable.
I also realised that my sewing customers were mostly travelling from beyond Clifton & Bristol to attend their lessons, so with the hope that this custom would still find me I looked for an alternative venue where I could continue to offer the sewing side of the business. That is how I ended up in my lovely bright studio in Montpelier.
In the last 12 months I have taught over 50 private clients (many for several lessons) adding up to nearly 500 hours of private sewing tuition. I have also continued to run a few small workshops at the studio & taken my sewing kit to peoples’ homes to host sewing parties. So my wish that the customers would still seek me out does seem to have come true 🙂 I do still miss my lovely regular café customers & happy team, but I’m sure it was the right decision to make.
my sewing background
I have been sewing since I was 7 or 8 years old when my mum bravely let me loose on her sewing machine on the kitchen table. My first dress-making project was a blue floral nightgown – quite twee! I sewed all through my school & university years making all sorts of clothes from shorts to evening dresses & even made a silk lined pin-stripe skirt suit for my Textiles GCSE project.
My passion is for handmade over homemade, I generally choose simple patterns for myself but love to add little details & pops of colour to give a polished finish. I have always enjoyed making sense of the pattern instructions & reinventing them or creating my own patterns to come up with something just for me. I am also horrified by how much fabric ends up in landfill, so like the challenge of remaking or reusing garments that I no longer wear or that I find in charity shops.
I often get asked why I am not making things to sell, but that’s not as straight forward as it sounds. There are hours of work involved in hand making clothes & accessories & I’m a firm believer that this time needs to be accounted for in the final price of the handmade item – in order to be fair to yourself & all the other makers trying to make a living from their artisan skills. In lots of cases this means the finished price will be beyond what most people would be willing to pay when compared to high street prices. I would really love to be selling my own products, so I will keep trying to come up with a make that will give me profits.
sewing is good for you!
I still absolutely love to sew whenever I get the chance & the beauty of making presents or clothes for myself is that it doesn’t matter how long it takes – it’s a labour of love!
Sewing is such a joyful hobby. It is great for manual dexterity, absorbing the mind & being productive – all of which is so good for our mental health. This is why I love to share my passion for sewing through teaching, so that others can discover this joy for themselves.
Can I tempt you to give sewing a go?….
If so, please follow this link to find out more about the sewing lessons I offer.
…and finally, here are some photos of my recent makes. Please click on any of these for a link to the Pinterest board where I have added a few details about these.