Thursday, 12 November 2020

My Community! Shop Small & Local

I imagine you'll have heard this over and over again but as it's something so close to my heart I thought I'd mention it one more time (and it probably won't be the last). The lockdowns we have had this year, and are currently in, whilst helping to keep us safe and reduce the number of those affected by the COVID virus, are doing nothing for our little independent shops and businesses! 

I have been hugely supported by these little quirky shops or handmade, homegrown businesses that find those extra special products or bolster creative skills that big corporations can't and don't supply. We little people have to stick together and I'm always keen to give back to those who have helped me on my journey to being able to do what I love with hand embroidery and teaching Stitchscaping. 


This lockdown is different to the first one in that we are more prepared this time around. It isn't such a shock and care has been taken to ensure that, whilst physical premises can't stay open, their fabulous little corners of the world stay open around the clock online, potentially reaching even further than they usually would. It's especially important at this time of year, which is well known for its springboard in creativity and rise in sales, as people rush to have the most beautiful Christmas table and give the best presents (Kirstie Allsopp style). 

One of my biggest supporters has always been Saira at the-stitchery in Lewes, who I actually met whilst going for a job interview a few years ago. I didn't get the job but what I did get was huge backing and support, and a new friendship! She helped me springboard my kits by letting me help myself in the shop (see this blog post here) to whatever I wanted with a view to developing two, exclusive kits just for the-stitchery and, when they sold out, agreed to become my first stockist of any other kit that I produce. 
The-stitchery has done a fantastic job, and have worked really hard, getting as much on their web shop as possible (including my kits!) but there is so much more available and if you need anything at all creative wise it's a fantastic place to start. Just send them an email detailing what it is you need and they will get in touch as soon as they can. (Email: info@thestitchery.co.uk)


Somewhere else that has majorly boosted me is Closs & Hamblin (formerly known as C&H Fabrics Ltd). They are my biggest stockist by far with kits in several of their branches across the South East and, whilst they do have several locations they are still a family run business with a tight knit team. They were also the first company to offer me a job whilst I was wandering the streets in search of one after graduating from university. Currently all of their physical stores in Brighton, Guildford, Horsham, Chichester, Tunbridge Wells, Winchester, Eastbourne, Canterbury and Windsor are closed to the public but again they are working really hard to get as much of their produce on their website. They have quite a vast range of things from baby toys, craft kits, (Stitchscape kits), puzzles and games, soft furnishings, Christmas decorations, candles.....there's literally hundreds of things!

Below is a blurry photo of me from a couple of weeks ago in the Winchester store when we popped over to have a wander around the shops. Naturally a selfie was required with the Stitchscape kits!


Not all of my community members are shop owners though and I have a lot of thanks for Louise and Sarah of Made & Making in Hassocks. They run the most amazing workshop studio and I was following them on Facebook and lusting over how much space they had and the gorgeous creations around the walls when one day I got a message from them asking if I'd like to be a tutor!! Once I'd picked myself up off the floor it was an instant yes and I've been running a monthly Stitchscape workshop every month this year - when we weren't/aren't in a lockdown. 
After the first lockdown they worked really hard getting the studio space a safe place for crafters and tutors to go back to and I personally found it a fantastic experience to be the workshop that some of the ladies chose to go to as their first proper venture outside in months! During this second lockdown they have lots of online courses being held on Zoom you can sign up to, kits available for some of their most popular projects you can purchase, and gift vouchers available to buy to be redeemed on any course you fancy. 
They have a whole host of different classes, some run by themselves for quilting and sewing (even one just on getting used to your own sewing machine!) and others by tutors they've found and sourced for you to do things like sketch booking, quilling, calligraphy, paper craft, fabric flowers, sewing in pretty much any form, flower headbands, straw work and of course, Stitchscaping.  Even if you don't want to purchase a physical product, there's definitely someone you know who would appreciate a gift voucher for a class.


So, I'm not saying that you should only purchase from these lovely places (I mean, you definitely should take a look anyway - can't hurt can it?) but I am saying that maybe you could consider purchasing from somewhere smaller than Amazon or the big high street chains. Local businesses and small sellers can be found on Etsy, Ebay, Not on the high street, Folksy, Ravelry, Instagram, Facebook, NuMonday and their own individual sites. I guarantee that every purchase you make from these people (myself included) will do a little happy dance for every item and probably lovingly wrap it and package it for you with little details and sweet stickers - no slapped on black tape and squashed boxes with masses of unnecessary bits of paper and stuff floating around in there to burrow through. 

If you look around online at the moment there are lots of virtual fairs you can sign up to which will essentially be a collection of artists and makers in one place. I am mentioned on a fantastic site just put together called Stones Throw who have collected a Christmas community 'shop' of artists/makers/crafters in Sussex and have links to all of their pages to make them easy to find. 
I am also joining in with a virtual fair hosted on Instagram on the 21st November by the Tree of Hope Children's Charity based in Kent. (Click here to see more about that.)


So, if you are still with me then thank you for getting this far! It's a subject I'm hugely passionate about and I thought I would just leave you with some links to other lovely businesses and makers and artists who I also consider to be part of my community. All of them are definitely worth a visit (just click on their name to go to their sites)!! xx

 Snobb Ltd. (For handmade bags, accessories, purses, crocheted items, handmade jewellery and more...)

 Tilly Tea Dance (For gorgeous felted art pieces embellished with hand embroidered; frames, pendants, book marks, brooches...)

 Top Cat Bags (For handmade designer handbags and accessories, memory animals and more...)

 Aries Glass (For beautiful custom glass art and fused glass workshops)

 The Wendy House (For handmade bags, children's clothes, bunting, scrunchies, cushions....lots of pom poms!)

 Willow River Crafts (For macramé hangers, keyrings, pot holders, personalised wrapped letters and gifts....)

There are probably more that I have forgotten to mention so I will update this if I have!

If you are interested in supporting more of your local community, why not check out Just A Card? It's an organisation dedicated to getting the word of local, handmade, little, independent or kitchen table artists, makers, creators, designers and sellers out there. They are fantastic promoters and you can support them too by purchasing one of their fabulous pins. 


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