Well almost one year and one month on really. It has taken me a while to want to look back over the last year. However, I am glad that I have because we have come so, so far.
I wrote a blog last year that looked back over the first Lockdown (Lockdown 1.0 if you like), and although we, like so many businesses, started lockdown as a rabbit in the headlights – “Oh my god how are we going to deal with this?”, it actually ended on a positive note because we were able to be nimble and turn our sewing business around in a relatively short space of time.
We were a team of three this time last year, with only Sharon in the studio with me, albeit 2 meters distance away.
We started making videos with Charlie as cameraman to connect with our customers and to keep things going.
Then came the whole Scrubs thing. And we started getting VERY busy! Sharon has been a complete brick through all of the lockdowns but particularly in the first one. We had so many scrubs orders to pack and despatch that I think we nearly broke our local post office. Charlie and my kids were involved as we created our own ‘work bubble’ to make sure fabric and patterns got to the people who could make and distribute the scrubs to where they were most needed. The Warwickshire Scrubbers are an amazing group of people, who with other groups around the country performed this Herculean task.
Our little scrubs pattern literally went global. We sent patterns to all four corners of the world, from Brazil to Iceland and Tasmainia to Canada. I am still incredibly proud of the very small part we played in supporting those on the front line of caring for the sick. The video we made about how to make up our scrubs pattern has had over 98,000 views from dozens of countries.
All through this we were still making videos, connecting with people sewing and making. Whether they were on their own or with others I think we have all helped support each other through a really tough year.
One of the upsides to the lockdown situation is that without people coming to the studio for sewing workshops, I had more headspace to think about how we were going to work our way out of this. I now had time to work on a couple of projects that had been at the back of my mind for a while.
At the beginning of May 2020 we launched the Sewing Studio. This was a brand new website that would help to take the place of our physical studio while we were unable to let people come to us. There are multi-lesson videos that take you through whole dressmaking projects from start to finish, step-by-step, as well as smaller sewing projects and short online tutorials too. This was a massive learning curve for me as I had to learn completely new tech, skills, and I had to get in front of a camera on a regular basis. This I have to say is not my favourite place. I am by nature an introvert and I’m really not comfortable being in the limelight. Hard when your business kind of revolves around you though.
The number of people who want to learn to sew online, signed up and subscribed to the Sewing Studio has just bowled me over. I am so incredibly grateful to both our regular followers and those who discovered us through lockdown as you really have kept us afloat and allowed us to alter the course of the Good Ship Sew Me Something. Going online has reinforced just how key the internet and social media is to our business, most businesses really throughout these ‘Covid times’.
When we were running sewing workshops they were great, people really enjoyed them and totally bought into what we are trying to achieve here. But we can only have about 6 – 8 people per workshop to make sure there’s plenty of one to one time with the tutor. Online however, the number of people we can help with their sewing and dressmaking is unlimited. So for me this was a no-brainer. We absolutely have to focus our attention online.
To help me achieve this we needed more skilled people. The success of the live videos and the Sewing Studio have enabled me to increase our team, so we now have a marketing manager, a content producer, another pattern cutter, Claire is now our sample maker as well as Sharon who keeps us all in line and packs up all your pink packages. But we are still looking for a digital creative content producer to help with making videos and a marketing apprentice to help Olivia spread the word. And I don’t think we will be stopping there.
The quality and quantity of the content we are adding into the Sewing Studio is only going to improve further as we draw on the ideas and skills of our whole team.
The other project that had been simmering away was to really level up the skills we were sharing with other dressmakers. During the workshops, sewing retreats and just chatting with people at the sewing shows, it dawned on me how many amazingly creative women were out there who just wanted to design and create clothes, but who felt they had missed that particular boat or lacked the confidence to have a go.
In a previous life I was a fashion lecturer and taught design as well as the practical stuff like pattern cutting and production skills. This was another area I felt I could help in, but I wanted it to be a properly recognised thing. So I started working with Open College Network West Midlands to create a brand new, nationally recognised course. Using existing fully accredited units we stitched together (if you excuse the pun) a set of projects that would help spark and develop individual creativity. The course would run for a year to give everyone time to fully understand and produce their own range of garments.
Our Diploma course started last weekend with 16 amazing women who were perhaps a bit apprehensive and unsure at the start, but who thoroughly enjoyed being gently nudged out of their comfort zones and have already struck up friendships together. I cannot wait to see the journeys they are all going on and what they produce at the end of the course.
So again I am ending this on a positive note – can we really do anything else? We started 2020 with only three of us running workshops and helping the people who came to see us. Now we are almost halfway through 2021 and we have an amazing team of 5, soon to be 7, creatives all working to help you create the clothes you want to make and wear. We could not have done this without the support of our wonderful customers. So please continue to support us so we can help support you with your sewing and creativity.
If there is one thing that has come from this really difficult time that is that creativity will find a way. Imagination and connection will see us through.
Want to learn to sew online? Interested in joining The Sewing Studio, Learn more here.