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 for a time. Despite this, the uncertainty of café trade in an area with lots of competition & parking concerns plus the hours & overheads associated with a such a business was too much to keep up with.

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

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 fun & bespoke 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 repairing, 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.

My love of sewing is as great as ever so I delight at sitting down at a machine or having needle and thread in hand whenever I can.

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!

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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