About Maria

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 like 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. We were even Clifton’s highest rated café on Trip Advisor & 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.

sewing studio

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.

After 3 very happy years in the Montpelier studio in the summer of 2018 I decided to bring my sewing tuition closer to home and have set up my sewing studio in a wonderfully creative space at Holy Trinity Church in Hotwells.

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.

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!

0c53d5f344c635ec289fdf2b6dbef995[1]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.

  • A Table Den for my niece & nephew. Had lots of fun adding details of letter box, bird box with openings to peep through, washing line & birds.
  • Liberty scrap & felt projects - hand sewn. Lavender hearts, eye mask & phone case.
  • Sweater refashion. This sweater was too small for me but I held on to it because I loved the colour. I decided to have a go at saving it by cutting straight up the back as far as the neck band, preparing the shape, taking a template & then inserting a co-ordinating piece of jersey knit. I decided to get it to dip at the back & despite the side seams now being in a slightly strange place it has given the top a very wearable shape! It's worth being brave & just making that first cut to refashion!
  • Reversible pinafore dress for my niece. I loved the cute characters on the blue fabric so copied one of them for an appliqué detail on the contrast side.
  • Fabric pen & Liberty scrap appliqué to cheer up a shopping bag
  • Cheeky giraffe appliqué for my nephew
  • New Look 6895 - my 2nd.  I bought this fabric with this pattern in mind so having used the pattern for a refashion this was quite a quick make. This time I added another inch at the centre fold to create more gathers & a bit more fullness over the bust. I also added a scalloped hem which was well worth the extra maths & sewing!
  • Oven Mit / Pot Holder made from recycled jeans, recycled shirt & Liberty scraps
  • Fabric doorstop made from an old pair of jeans & Liberty scraps.
  • New Look 6895 - pattern pieces cut from a dress that I made previously but the style was not good on me.  It's a nice simple make, without sleeves it's just 2 pieces. I used pre-made binding. From preparing & tracing the pattern it took me 5 hours to make. The binding under the arms is a bit gapey but that might be this binding. I will experiment a bit more with the next one. Refashioning an unused garment worked really well too. I included the original hems which saved me from hemming again!
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