Chorley’s mum traded her office job for a sewing machine after taking her own advice
“Do what makes you happy,” said Dawn Elliott, when her children asked her for advice on what GCSEs should choose.
But then, it occurred to Dawn that she hadn’t actually taken her own advice, choosing instead to choose “safe” subjects to study such as accounting and business.
So, in July 2019, Dawn decided to quit her administrative job as an office manager at an engineering company to pursue her passion for sewing, which she had nurtured since childhood as much as she could.
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She found courses were hard to come by in Chorley and the surrounding area where she lives, and came across Scotland-based Sew Confident, who were looking for new franchisees to expand their portfolio.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was younger, then I was in my 40s and I just thought ‘life is too short’ not to do something you love, and I wanted to see this that there was else,” Dawn told LancsLive.
“I always did crafty things when I was little and did home economics when I was 13/14 and had my own sewing machine.
“I foolishly didn’t go any further but apart from a few evening classes before having children, I am self-taught”.
Mother-of-two Dawn opened England’s first-ever Sew Confident franchise in a studio on St George’s Street in Chorley, and has seen it flourish and grow to offer a range of courses from dressmaking , hand embroidery, knitting and crochet.
Less than a year into her new business, the pandemic hit but Dawn was able to stay afloat thanks to a business grant from Chorley Council and by running online classes on Zoom.
It has also seen its popularity rise, with people looking to learn new skills during lockdowns and wanting to find a way to disconnect and relax, especially if they have stressful jobs.
“A lot of doctors and nurses sign up for classes, as a way to forget everything that’s going on in their lives,” Dawn explained.
“People join the courses because they are new to the area and want to make friends or they have a business idea but have no sewing experience.
“The last three months have been the busiest three months and I think it’s after people have had time to assess their lives. [during the pandemic] and decided they wanted a hobby.”
Dawn is seeing people of all ages and abilities sign up for her classes, with children as young as eight welcome and she is also hosting virtual sessions, which she will record so attendees can watch back.
Although learning to sew is “not the cheapest of classes,” Dawn says the idea of her students making something they can then take home is rewarding, and all the fabrics and equipment needed for classes are provided.
Dawn added: “With TV shows like the BBC’s Sewing Bee and also when it comes to the environment, people want to learn how to alter their own clothes or recycle them.
“We have people who may have disposable income and just want to learn a new skill or a lot of them will save up and come to us.
“We had a lady who had a successful sweatshirt business who used to have them made overseas, but she wanted to learn how to make them herself and collect samples.”
On Mother’s Day, Dawn is hosting an introductory sewing class for children, which parents are also encouraged to attend.
Sessions will include learning the basics of a sewing machine and the chance to make your own tote bag.
Have you acquired a new skill in containment? Let us know in the comments below?