We are living through some very strange times indeed, shuttered in at home only venturing out early morning or after dusk just to avoid other human beings. It feels a little like I’m living in one of the dystopian post apocalyptic books I like to lose myself in. Only this is real and it is having quite an impact on a rather lot of people.
The first week of Lockdown sent me into a bit of a tailspin, I won’t lie. When I realised we were going to have to postpone all of our workshops and retreats and that the upcoming shows we had planned on attending were not going ahead, I had a brief but rather intense meltdown sitting in my garden gazing at the chickens. I wondered if I was going to be able to afford to buy chicken food, or what I was going to feed the chickens if I couldn’t, could I even bring myself to dispatch them if this really was the end of the world and could I use the chickens to feed my children? But I decided that there is not a lot of meat on an egg-laying chicken!
Looking back now that seems a bit ridiculous and rather melodramatic, and after I had given myself a rather good talking to, more rational thinking resumed. I am, by nature, not really a panicker so the last few weeks have been more about “Right!” *stands hands on hips in the middle of the kitchen.* “This shit thing has happened – how are we going to deal with it?!”
Make videos – was how we dealt with it in the first instance.
The first show we were due to attend that had been cancelled was the Sewing for Pleasure Show at the NEC. So I decided that if we couldn’t be at the show we could do a Live Video for each of the days we should have been at the show. It was a bit of an experiment as I wasn’t really sure if it would work and we would get many views, or even if it was what our lovely customers wanted to see. However, we quickly realised that if we were not able to go out to see our customers and if they were not able to come to see us in the studio the only way to connect with you/them was by video. So we popped it up on our YouTube channel and have been recording Live twice a week since then. This has been a team effort. I am lucky enough to be married to a videographer and my son is blessed with the inherent tech knowledge only the young were born with and I couldn’t have done this without them.
Just before Easter I was tagged into a Facebook post, sorry I can’t remember by whom, from the Warwickshire Scrubbers and it got Charlie and I thinking. We have several friends working in the NHS and other care professions and after asking them if this really was a thing, I quickly realised it very much was a thing and that yes I could make scrubs but, at Charlie’s suggestion, would I not be better making a pattern that included what my friends were looking for in a set of scrubs to help others make more scrubs. I freely admit the pattern is not perfect. I bashed it out over a weekend and would happily go back and alter things. But it’s there, and it exists to help people make scrubs for their local community, and for that I am a little bit proud. I have even been sent a letter from a local MP thanking me for my help during the crisis. Being a slightly left leaning, tax paying egalitarian this has left me with mixed emotions as you can imagine.
It was a team effort and we also made a little video on how to make a set of scrubs that has now been watched by tens of thousands of people across the globe! I never imagined it would take off as it did. We have had thousands of orders for the pattern and it took us a good few of weeks working flat out and roping in the SMS team and all my family members to get those orders sent out. I am so grateful for the patience of everyone who placed orders and were chomping at the bit to get going with their sewing. We had no idea so many people would want to use the pattern or indeed want to help.
Designing, printing, packing and sending out the scrubs pattern really took up the first few weeks of lockdown. We did it all ‘not for profit’ and just about covered our costs, but it gave us all something to focus our thoughts and energy on and for that I am truly grateful.
Once the initial shock of what had happened had receded and we had responded to the immediate crisis of the lack of PPE and created the Scrubs pattern, we quickly came to a level of normality in our new working lives. We are incredibly fortunate to have the studio in a rural location away from the town centre which has allowed us more freedom than we would have had before at the shop.
Normally I would be teaching and running workshops over the weekends or be exhibiting at a show away from home for several days. But without this level of activity I have been able to step back and give myself some headspace. I have managed to have weekends away from the studio and work and have been able to focus my energies into re-juvinating our garden. It got totally flattened six years ago when Charlie and I got married and we covered it entirely with a marquee to hold our wedding reception and it hasn’t really recovered since. Now with weekends at home we have been able to lavish our care and attention upon it. While working in the garden our minds have been free to roam and be creative in our ponderings about how the business is going to continue to move onwards.
A couple of weeks ago a long term project finally came to fruition and we launched the online Sewing Studio. The extra time both Charlie and I have had has meant we could focus our efforts and headspace into creating the content for the Sewing Studio Subscription Club. This is something I have been dreaming about creating for a couple of years now. Without us being able to teach workshops for the foreseeable future we needed to think of other ways to reach out to our customers to support them in their sewing and online, it appears, is the way forward. Whether I like being in front of a camera or not. So with an ever increasing range of video tutorials, PDF patterns, in-depth courses and pattern adaptations we hope to be able to help more people now with their sewing.
Looking back over the last 8 weeks or so of lockdown, (to be honest I have forgotten which week we are on now!) has forced me to completely rethink my working life. I am fully aware that a lot of people have been knocked sideways by the whole Covid 19 nightmare and many have lost friends and loved ones. Levels of anxiety and depression have risen hugely and taken their toll on the Nation’s mental health. Which is why I do feel rather guilty when I admit to rather enjoying elements of Lockdown.
Time is a gift so precious, and one we have been given in spades during this time of uncertainty. BC – Before Covid I was forever bemoaning my lack of it. I was “so busy all the time” rarely taking time off and constantly on the hamster wheel of life running a business, trying to be creative, looking after my family etc. Now I have had TIME to just BE.
I have sat in the garden with a cup of coffee doing absolutely nothing and not feeling guilty that I should be doing something else or be somewhere else. I have had time to plan and create a garden, a work in progress admittedly, but progress nonetheless. I have had time to step away and readjust my priorities. Both my kids are at home, much to their disappointment. Seamus has had to return from Uni in Cornwall and is desperately missing his new found independence. Orla’s summer has been totally cancelled. No A levels, no prom, no holiday with her friends and is facing an uncertain future regarding attending Uni in September at all. But I’m very selfishly pleased, because never again will I get to spend this much time with the fledgeling young adults that are my babies. Let’s face it would you hangout with your parents drinking gin and lemon playing Scrabble of an evening given the choice? Of course not neither would I, but the conversations and laughter that we’ve all shared is something I will treasure to the end of my days.
So although this is a terrible situation and something I sincerely hope ends soon, I am looking at it in a positive light. I am so very fortunate to have my husband and family with me and that my extended family are all safe and well but my heart goes out to those who are not.
Lockdown has given me all manner of positive things, not least of all hope for the future. The world over the last few weeks has changed irrevocably and that can be seen as a positive thing. Our values have changed, we have made do with less, after home educating, teachers will be given the respect they are due, (hopefully). There are things I miss like popping into town for a coffee and seeing my friends, we do that via Zoom at the moment, so it is still happening but in a different way. And therein lies the crux – life will go on just in a different way. We have adapted to new surroundings and situations and that has kept us going for millennia.
Adapting and changing our perspectives are what enables us to keep going onwards in a generally forward motion. And that is what I shall be doing to keep Sew Me Something moving forward. I’m not sure quite in what direction yet but we are taking each day at a time planning and readjusting as we go. We will be hosting workshops again in the future but they may be run in a slightly different way, who knows.
As long as we keep putting one foot in front of the other and counting our blessings the journey continues.
Keep sewing and stay safe