When I was younger my Mum was always trying to encourage me to sew, she was a complete whizz with the sewing machine and made so many great things, curtains, cushions, fancy dress costumes, our clothes (which at the time I never wanted to wear because my Mum made it, now I feel so ashamed I had that view!) but sadly I was never really interested. Sewing was for Mum's and old ladies! Anyway, I don't know what happened but I woke up one morning recently and decided that I wanted to sew. I think its started when I reluctantly dragged out Mum's old sewing machine because I needed to shorten some jeans and to my surprise, found I actually really enjoyed it. I found it therapeutic, and I was so impressed that I had managed to sew in a straight line. Wow! I decided immediately I wanted a new sewing machine and for my Birthday I was so lucky, my boyfriend bought me one. I opened it with great excitement and sat in front of it and realised I had no idea what to do with it, or even how to use it properly. What did I do next? Signed up for a sewing class.....
I came across a class local to me, 'An Intro to Sewing' at Sew Over It in south west London. Sew Over It is a shop, come cafe, come workshop set in a residential street in Clapham North. A hidden paradise for sewing enthusiasts. It is such a great concept. The class was for complete beginners which was certainly what I needed. It was taken by the owner Lisa Comfort, and her colleague Dominique, both very lovely ladies and fantastic teachers. They very patiently taught us all the basics we needed to know about a sewing machine and sewing, including making a cushion, a tote bag and a little cosmetic purse (with zip) all in the space of one weekend, and there was still time to make more at the end. Plus, they plied us with Yorkshire tea and cupcakes, if that isn't an incentive, I don't know what is! I had so much fun, just like an afternoon gossiping with the girls! I must also thank my trusty machine 'Bernard', they have given all the sewing machines a name, so cute, and adds to the lovely experience.
Here is a peep at what I achieved, I'm secretly very proud of myself.....
I was interested to know about the design process and the background behind the brand, so I asked Lisa to answer a few questions. I feel so inspired by her motivation and passion that I wanted to share it here with you:
I have been sewing since the age of 9. It started off as a hobby then it became my career. I trained with Bruce Oldfield, a British couture designer, then I went on to work for Phillipa Lepley - a bridal couture designer. I have always made my own clothes and then started making clothes for other people and then wedding dresses.
• How/why did you start Sew Over It?
I started teaching sewing on the side when I was working for Bruce to make a bit of extra cash. I then set up a website and started trading under the name Sew Over It but still as a second job. I started to get more and more students and I realised that I was enjoying teaching more than my day job. So I bit the bullet, handed in my notice at Phillipa Lepley's and started focusing on Sew Over It full time. I built up my customer base a little more and then started looking for the shop. Once I found it, I then decided what I would do with the space - use the downstairs to teach classes, and upstairs for the shop and sewing cafe.
• Your branding is so powerful, how did you come up with it?
I knew that my branding had to be really strong. I also didn't want it to be too twee. I asked my friend's boyfriend who is a graphic designer (Richard Marking) and he helped me find a font and then designed the logo. The colours were first cream and teal. Then when I decided to open the shop, I wanted to make the branding even stronger. This time I asked my graphic and web designer Rob of Rogue Four to help with this. We introduced the shocking pink and made the teal more of a cyan. I love this combination of colours. We kept the font and logo the same as this was already strong. I then wanted to make sure that the branding followed through to the website and everything in the shop. I used the pink gingham as a signature Sew Over It fabric and we have that throughout the shop/studio and on the website and flyers.
• What is your typical day like? No two days are quite the same which is what I love about running your own business. But mostly I am in the shop for 9am, we clean the shop and prep for the lessons that day. Georgie, my assistant and I have a cup of tea and go over anything we need to do that day. I then teach from 10-1. I teach everything from absolute beginner courses, to dressmaking classes like tea dresses and 50s summer dresses. After the class, I spend time answering emails, doing accounts stuff, marketing or coming up with new class ideas. Two days a week I also teach in the evenings so it can be long days. But Sew Over It feels like my second home and I love spending time here so it never really feels like work (except when I am doing the accounts!)
• Is there anything else you love about the shop/cafe and the Sew Over It experience?
I think what makes Sew Over It special is the people who work here - they are all equally passionate about sewing - and also the space itself. We get a lot of lovely compliments about the shop and how inspiring it is. People say it makes them want to sew! And it's filled with all sorts of things that can help you learn how to sew so people are never low on inspiration
• Any other plans in the pipeline? Book, new classes etc.
My first of two books comes out in September - I am so excited! It's a project based book, with 4 chapters: customising clothes, altering vintage clothes, making accessories and a challenge me section at the back which has some 'from scratch' larger projects. We are also launching our own range of sewing related items in the next few months. So that's the plan for this year. Long term? I would of course like another shop that did the same thing but with a twist. I have an idea, I am just waiting until it's the right time :-)
Thanks so much Lisa. You truly are an inspiration. I can't wait to see your first book and a new shop is very exciting. I can't express enough how much I loved my experience at Sew Over It and I hope my recommendations will be sending some more happy customers your way very soon. I will certainly be back, your introduction to sewing has well and truly got me on my way and I've even got a new business idea.......watch this space!