Posted on December 29 2023
What a year it's been! So much has happened to Sew Me Something this year, I hardly know where to begin.
So let’s start at the beginning.
January saw us still waiting for news on our much anticipated move. We had outgrown our studio space on the Alscot Estate and needed more space to grow the business. And although we had found somewhere it was taking an age to sort out. But in the meantime we had our Secret Event - SMS Unlocked; a behind-the-scenes look at our studio space and some insights into how we produce our patterns and run our workshops. There was shopping, sewing demos and lots of cake too.
We also launched the Greta Jacket and Gilet Pattern. This comes with a collar and sleeveless option and works well in a quilted fabric. It’s also lined, making lots of different combinations possible.
February found us still waiting on the legal eagles to do their bit to ensure our move happened swiftly. Ha ha! But we did see our first Sewing Retreat at the Hunting Lodge - the wonderful house right next door to what was going to be our new sewing studio space. Because of the delays in signing leases etc. we were only able to use a small part of the workshop space. And there were a few hiccups with the accommodation and heating. Not a brilliant start but as the year went on it got better and better.
We also relaunched the Cordelia Dress. Taking it into the new Curvy size range has made it much more accessible as it is such a brilliant silhouette for so many different shapes and sizes.
March is usually the start of show season and is generally a lot of hard work. We had two big shows back to back; Sewing for Pleasure Show at the NEC, and then Stitch Festival at the Business Design Centre. The latter, Jules had to do mainly on her own, with a couple of days of help from two rather lovely sewing tutors. We love doing the shows even though they can be really hard work, but it is so lovely to be able to meet and chat with our wonderful customers. Getting feedback directly from you means an awful lot to us.
Workshops were a bit thin on the ground in March as we were trying to anticipate the move and pack at the same time without actually having a moving date. Frustrating beyond belief!
April 1st and we finally got the keys to our new home at Longbarn Village. It seemed like a Herculean task to just get this far. But now we had to move heaven and earth to get the place ready to open. This meant waiting for the various trades to come in and give us quotes for the works that needed to be carried out. This in itself took ages, and again knocked our timeline into a cocked hat! Fortunately the SMS team are a bunch of amazing individuals who all worked together to help make Jules’ and Charlie's dream a reality. We scraped up carpet tiles, sanded and waxed floors, knocked down walls, painted walls, scoured the local area for more and new furniture and shop fixtures, cleared more rubbish than you can shake a bin liner at and this went on for weeks.
Despite the imminent move we also launched the Winnie Culottes - a wonderful shape with cutaway pockets and a side button fastening. There is a cute little hack to remove the pleat so you have a flat front as well. We also started the Beth Build-a-Blouse series in the online Sewing Studio. This shows you how to draft your own pattern adaptations and something we would be adding to throughout the year.
In May one of our new tenants, Talking Tortoise, had a client that was looking for a venue for a book launch so of course we said yes! Like we hadn’t got enough to do. But there is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind and drive the actions. So again the SMS team worked their magic to transform the Creative Studio and the Courtyard into a space that wowed the guests. Along with some help from our friends at Limebridge who loaned us some trees in pots from their own garden to help us dress the courtyard. The whole place was festooned with fairy lights and in the golden glow of an early summer sunset the whole place was transformed.
Sadly I cannot lay my hands on any images as we were all hands on deck, so you'll have to take my word for it that it looked amazing!
We also made available to the general public the Marie Top. This had only previously been in the Sewing Studio. This is a proper stash buster that is great to use for both woven and knit fabrics.
June is always Warwickshire Open Studios and Jules had taken a gamble and registered Longbarn Village as a venue back in January, in the anticipation that we would be able to open as a venue to showcase some of the SMS Team and other local artists' and makers’ work. Off the back of the hugely successful book launch event, the SMS team again transformed the Creative Studio into an art gallery that supported 13 artists during the 3 weeks of Open Studios. On the last weekend Charlie was determined to offer a proper cream tea to all the visitors and it was one that they all enjoyed.
Another pattern we made for general public release was the Frida shirt pattern. Just a simple shape that works brilliantly with light-weight woven fabrics as an overshirt especially with our Ariel Cargo pants or Duchess Jeans.
By July we had almost got all the Studio Spaces ready and The Makers' Emporium up and running. We planned on a Grand Opening for mid July but ended up having to push it back to the last weekend which also coincided with really crap weather.
So with extra marquees that we managed to beg and borrow we saw over 300 people come along to our official opening which was ably conducted by the lovely John Scott from Sewing Street. There were make ‘n’ take workshops, discounts in store and lots of coffee and cakes.
It was the culmination of so much hard work and effort from the whole team. We felt incredibly proud of what we had managed to achieve in such a short space of time.
Alongside all of the upheaval and hard work of opening the studio and retail spaces, we also had time to launch the Ada Dress, Top and Skirt pattern. This is a lovely wrap dress that also doubles up as both a separate top and skirt pattern too. So essentially 3 for 1!
After the Grand Opening in July, August was all about getting it all to work - running workshops, bringing new tutors on board and finding more gorgeous stuff for the emporium. It was also show time again with the Festival of Quilts at the NEC.
With all of the work involved in getting the Makers’ Space up and running it meant no pattern launch this month. Something we felt very frustrated about but we also had to be realistic about what could physically be achieved. But we did create the Ferdi Dungarees as a dress hack, which was pretty much a new pattern in the amount of work it took to produce. This is available in the online Sewing Studio to our members.
September and we were back on the road again with both a new show in Farnborough and one up in Yorkshire. One of the benefits of being in the middle of the country is that we can access most places within at least 3 or 4 hours. September also saw more workshops being run with a variety of crafts involved from pottery to willow weaving and lots in between.
Now the focus was in fine tuning what we were offering in terms of workshops and studio spaces. So looking at what was popular and what our customers were asking for. We also started planning our Christmas offering. A little bit later than we'd hoped. Next year we'll be working on Christmas in July!
October meant another show. This time a big one - the Knitting and Stitching at Alexandra Palace. This is THE major event of the year and one that was far busier than we had anticipated, which was really the validation we needed after such a tough year.
October also meant FireFest. Jules has had a fire walk on her bucket list for a while and this was her chance to make it happen. So Jules, Charlie and a couple from the SMS team along with 12 others braved the inclement weather and storm Ciaran to walk across hot coals in the name of ‘Charridy’.
We also saw the launch of the SMS Diploma. Both level 2 and the new Level 3. This is some of the only teaching Jules has time to do now and we know she really enjoys it.
We had two new patterns launched in October just in time for the shows, the Edie Coat and the Audrey dress. Both of which work perfectly together for the Autumn season. We now have a wonderful addition to the Edie Coat where you can create your own self attached scarf to make it even cosier.
November saw Jules and Charlie finally take a couple of days off to attend the wedding of two friends, before we headed off to Harrogate for the final show of the year. Yes, Jules did pay Betty’s a visit while she was there for her birthday.
Back from Harrogate and we went straight into preparations for the Christmas Fair in the Courtyard and Creative Studio at The Makers’ Space. We could not have asked for a more perfect Winter’s day. Clear and crisp with a lingering mist over the valley, The Makers’ Space looked amazing as yet again the SMS team had pulled out all the stops to create a Winter Wonderland.
Liv’s chalk pen illustrations left people gobsmacked and in awe of her skills.
An enormous twinkling Christmas tree greeted people as they entered the courtyard. The cafe, with our new team in charge, was producing the most delicious hot food and all the stall holders had a brilliant day and actually sold stuff! One said it was the best single day's trading he’d had at a market. And you can’t say better than that.
Off the back of that success we are planning more Monthly Makers' Markets starting at the end of January. If you would be interested in joining us please let us know.
Hannah, Beth and Jules enjoyed a rather lovely mulled wine from Ya Bard too.
December crept up on us and before we knew it we were planning on closing for Christmas and New year - trying to get as much done and completed as we could before people were on holiday. While winding up it’s time to take stock of what we have actually achieved this year. Which is really quite a lot.
Often in the midst of the planning, preparations and hard work it’s taken to get to where we are now we forget to stop, and look back down the mountain and see how far we’ve climbed, scrambled and plodded. We have indeed come a very long way this year. And this should be duly celebrated.
But we still have a long way to go and lots to plan and prepare for, for next year. So while we are closed for the holidays we will be resting and recuperating in order to come back in January with renewed vigour to bring you more patterns, fabrics, hand made stuff, workshops, events and delicious cafe food and drink for you to enjoy.
Thank you so much for supporting us this year, on what has already been and will continue to be an incredible journey. We have been astounded by the support we have received from all the wonderful people that have helped us build this amazing place; business advisors, builders, gardeners, decorators, artists, crafts people, tutors, the other creative businesses here and of course our wonderful, amazing hardworking team who have brought the whole place alive.
Thank you & Happy New Year!
Jules and the SMS Team x