Local people: sewing up a storm
22nd September 2020
Sarah Chase meets Lucy Findlay of The Stamford Fabric Company to talk about the joys and challenges of running her business, plus a look at other sewing and knitting firms in the region
Life’s come full circle for Lucy Findlay, owner of the re-opened fabric shop and haberdashery on Stamford Walk (repositioned earlier this year from No.5 to No.10).
She was born and grew up here – visiting that same shop as a teenager when it was The Cloth Market and buying fabric to make her own clothes: ‘I remember it as an Aladdin’s cave of Liberty linens mixed with beautiful Sanderson curtain fabrics,’ Lucy says. ‘My parents could be coerced to buy fabric for me in place of a clothing allowance, and I’d make myself all sorts of outfits including a ballgown in glazed cotton curtain fabric – this was the ’80s, after all!’
Lucy moved away to study, spending a year doing an art foundation course before turning her focus to fashion. As part of a BSc in Textile and Knitwear Technology she was offered the opportunity to experience a year in industry, abroad.
‘I was sent to Zimbabwe, where I met David,’ she says. ‘We married in 1994 and took over the small refrigeration and domestic appliance repair company that he was working for – because that’s the obvious choice for a Textiles graduate!’
The pair moved back to Stamford in 2008 with their three girls, and Lucy revisited the shop of her youth – at that time in its incarnation as CallyCo. ‘Cally offered me a job in 2010, and I worked for her until last year, when she decided it was time to hang up her scissors, and offered the shop to me,’ Lucy explains.
A series of events has led to the premises moving this year, just around the corner from its original position. ‘It was a wrench, leaving the old place, which had been a fabric shop for 37 years,’ says Lucy, ‘but my two wonderful assistants, Meg and Sarah – who are founts of dressmaking and creative knowledge – came with me when I moved, and the benefits of the new place are many.’
Crucially, there is more space now – and a better layout for the current Covid restrictions. ‘It’s been lovely to welcome our old customers back after lockdown,’ says Lucy. ‘We try to offer fabrics and accessories that cater to all tastes.’
Curtain- and dressmaking fabrics to suit all budgets can be found there or sourced through the shop’s collection of fabric books. Lucy has brought in a new range of patterns from independent pattern houses, suitable for everyone from the novice needleworker to the more experienced dressmaker.
‘We provide a meticulous making-up service for curtains, cushions and Roman blinds,’ says Lucy, ‘as well as one-off bespoke items such as bunting, bedspreads, pinboards and lampshades. All our makers live within a 10-mile radius of Stamford, and most of them grew up here as well.’
And what are Lucy’s ambitions for her shop? ‘I’d love to carry on selling beautiful fabrics, and to be regarded as providing a good service at a reasonable price,’ she says. ‘It’s really rewarding to help someone put together everything they need to make something that will, hopefully, end up being loved.’
Sewing and knitting businesses across the region
Two Little Birds
With the restrictions of lockdown, Vicky Palmer of Stamford-based company Two Little Birds thought she’d have time on her hands. ‘My sewing clubs for schools and classes for adults came to an end with the need for social distancing, but my workload didn’t lessen!’ she says.
‘I’d always taken on commissions for bespoke dressmaking and interiors, and these orders increased enormously – presumably because lots of people had time for planning whilst being stuck at home.’
As lockdown has eased, Vicky is finding that, while the commission work continues, she is also being asked for one-to-one tuition.
‘I have been able to meet new clients, both adults and secondary school-age children individually in their homes, or mine, to undertake specific projects, usually dressmaking,’ she says. ‘I hope to be able to restart my regular social sewing groups soon, in a safe environment.’
Visit Two Little Birds’ website for details on tuition and to view their inspirational blog and gallery, and to read more about special projects including ‘textile taxidermy’.
Ewe Wool Shop
Stamford Walk’s Ewe Wool Shop, a flagship store for Rowan yarns, has built a loyal following over the past decade. Its friendly atmosphere, combined with the expertise of the Ewe team, mean that knitters from near and far come back for advice, a chat and – of course – the fabulous choice of yarns.
‘As well as having the satisfaction of making a sustainable garment, knitting has many health benefits,’ says owner, Rachel Parry-Arch. ‘It’s very therapeutic and can reduce anxiety, stress and depression as well as helping with chronic pain.’
Sam Sansbury runs this family business, started by his mother 36 years ago, helped by Elin Styles, an experienced local craftswoman and knitter.
‘Our newly opened shop in Wansford offers customers a shot of colour therapy,’ says Sam. ‘All of our yarns are our own brand and are hand-dyed using traditional methods, as they’ve been since we began.’
The shop is open by appointment until there’s a little more normality: customers can call Sam on 07856 138606 to book an appointment. There is a wide variety of yarns and patterns available to buy through the website, too.
Leicestershire Craft Centre
The Leicestershire Craft Centre in Market Harborough has opened its doors again following lockdown.
‘We’ve found lots of people have discovered wonderful new skills during lockdown and are enjoying the therapeutic benefits of being creative,’ says Katharine Wright, who runs the Centre.
‘We’re lucky to have a light, airy studio with plenty of space, so we are able to bring back our workshops in line with social distancing guidelines. We welcome everyone, whatever level they are, to learn and get crafty with our tutors!’
The Centre, handily situated on the High Street in Harborough, includes a shop where everything you need to get crafting is available, from fabrics to felting wool, and buttons to sewing machines.
Rutland Sewing Centre
Situated within Rutland Garden Village, the garden centre and retail community in Ashwell, this one-stop shop offers all the supplies you need for any stitchcraft project. Classes and workshops are reopening slowly following lockdown, so check the website for updates.