Hello and welcome to my blog, hopefully you have had a look at the rest of my website and would now like to know a little more about the person behind Sartorial Soft Furnishings.
As this is the start of my blog I thought it would be appropriate to begin at the beginning and tell you my roots and how I have got to where I am now, which is a housewife in Hampshire, England with her own soft furnishing business.
I was born in the mid sixties in Oxfordshire. As a toddler we (Mum, Dad and younger sister) moved to Hampshire for the first time but after only 6 months we moved to Keyworth in Nottinghamshire. We were in there for 5 years, and then relocated to a small village in Cheshire called Bunbury just before my 9 th birthday where we lived for about 15 years. By my early 20’s any southern roots were lost and I considered myself a “Northerner”
My interest in sewing started at an early age. While in Nottingham I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas. Instead of getting me the pink plastic “Miss Petite” one was expecting my parents, very wisely, gave me a lovely old hand operated Singer. My first attempts were soft toy kits with my mum joining the more complicated bits together. I graduated to making clothes while still at primary school. Unfortunately I remember this for the wrong reasons – the badly attached pocket on the front of my pinafore dress fell off while at school!
A short video from YouTube demonstrating a similar sewing machine to my first hand cranked machine
When the time came to choose which subjects to take at O’level (that ages me) I had what seemed a very random selection, but with hindsight they fitted together perfectly. As well as the obvious Needlework I also took Art, Physics, and Economics. Because I was good a Maths I was chosen to be part of the first Computer Studies course my school offered. This was very different to the IT courses of today; we booked time slots to work on the school’s ITT Apple equivalent computer for coursework, wrote BASIC computer programs and learnt about the history of computing.
My school, Tarporley County High School, had its own sixth form so after finishing my O’levels I stayed to take A’levels. At this point I dropped the fun subjects and took Maths, Further Maths and Physics, with the intention to progress to a Maths Degree. As my results weren’t too good it was soon obvious that my degree would be from a run-of-the-mill Polytechnic and wouldn’t get me very far in the job’s market.
Quite by chance I stumbled upon a course from Manchester Polytechnic that suited me (and my combination of O’levels) very well, a BA in Clothing Studies. The course was designed to produce students with knowledge of the clothing industry and have the potential to run their own factory. At the time (mid 80’s) the clothing industry in Britain seemed buoyant and the course had employers ready to take graduates as soon as they finished.
So after 4 years in Manchester, one of the best places to be a student at the time in my opinion, I graduated with a degree and headed to Leeds to work in a factory making Post Office Uniforms. For a year everything went well but after I had just bought my first flat I was made redundant, looking back now it was the start of the decline of the British clothing industries and it would have happened at some time if not then. My world fell apart, my parents had just moved to France, I had a mortgage I couldn’t pay and the only people I knew in the area were from the factory who didn’t keep in touch. I had the worst 6 months of my life, I can remember walking to the local shop with the sole of my shoe flapping and I couldn’t even afford to replace it.
My break came through a consultant who worked for my previous employer. He also worked with a small bag manufacturer in Somerset and thought I may be what they were looking for. At the interview he asked if I had heard of them, I said”yes” but I must admit that this wasn’t completely true. Within a week of my interview with the Factory manager I had a job, was renting a room on a farm and looking forward to a new life. By the way the small bag manufacturer was Mulberry, the international designer label. Within a year I had sold my flat in Leeds, bought a new one in Chilcompton, Somerset and met my future husband through a mutual friend.
This video from YouTube includes footage from the Mulberry Factory in Chilcompton, Somerset.
My time at Mulberry was one of the best I have had. Starting in work study I progressed through the warehouse department into customer services, ending as a market support assistant responsible for the UK customers, but after I married my husband in 1995 we moved to Hampshire and I very sadly had to leave Mulberry.
The start of Sartorial Soft Furnishings
We have lived in the same house since 1995 but family life has changed because there are now 4 of us, my son was born in 1998 and my daughter in 2001. I was in the fortunate position to become a ‘stay at home Mum’ and left the administrator’s job I had at IBM at the time to look after our son when he arrived.
When my son was a toddler I became very frustrated and needed something outside of mothering. My local adult education centre was offering courses on soft furnishings that took my fancy so I signed up for the intermediate level one. I had made various curtains and blinds for the house and thought I knew what I doing so I didn’t need to do the beginners level. After the first week when it became obvious that I had no idea of professional curtains techniques I decided to start the beginners course the following term and I have not looked back.
In 2007 both children were at school and I needed to fill my days. Instead of looking for a job I decided to start my own soft furnishings business. Working from home would mean that I would be around after school for the children and there were many friends and family saying that I should go for it.
So here I am now, the business has taken over the spare room and although I have a sofa bed in it any visitors have to give me plenty of warning so that I can clear the room out. Most of my creations are for a local shop which provides a wide variety of work, but ideally I want to have more direct contact with my customers because part of the pleasure in making soft furnishings is seeing them in situ.
I hope you enjoyed this post, look out for others coming soon.