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FOCUS ON FLEET – SEW BUSY

GETTING TO KNOW LOCAL BUSINESSES

SEW BUSY

You may have seen it in the Hart Centre, you may have seen it on social media or you may even have seen it on the front page of the local News & Mail, it’s the window display that has everyone talking. We take a look at the business behind the stunning poppy-themed Remembrance Day display and find out more about the people that made it all happen.

Below: The stunning window display in Sew Busy  (photo credit: Mandi Coxall) and the front page of the News & Mail featuring Nicola Frost and Mandi Coxall.

BACK TO THE BEGINNING

But let’s go back to the beginning…what inspired the business in the first place and how did it all begin? Nicola Frost, Owner of the business explains:

After being made redundant from my accountancy job in the corporate world, realising my dream of owning my own fabric and haberdashery shop started to become a reality. I felt that I could offer Fleet a new, fresh and different independent and I needed something to work round my three young children. Life changing events make you rethink life’s priorities and Sew Busy was opened in May 2014 in Branksomewood Road.”

“I wanted to show people that you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy sewing and crafts. People think they have to make the perfect garment to be able to wear it and you definitely don’t. I’ve been sewing for over 30 years and my work is far from perfect and I’m still learning new skills every day! We moved into the Hart Centre in February 2018 to become more known and hopefully we are! We advertise nationally in sewing magazines and are very active on social media so we do attract customers from far outside Fleet too now, as sadly local haberdasheries have closed.”

Dressmaking is where my heart is and my Manager, Mary-Anne is the crochet queen. We aren’t experts but these days there is always YouTube to help! Sheryl also helps us out from time to time and Emily is our new Saturday person.”

Below: Nicola Frost, owner of  Sew Busy, sporting a homemade outfit. Photo credit: Nicola Frost.

Laughter seems to be a key part of the shop as the photo below shows! Nicola agrees, saying “Yes we do have fun, this was a charity day for Alzheimer’s society last December. We love Christmas, it starts in July for us!”.

Below: Left to right – Mandi Coxall (Poppy window designer), Nicola Frost (Owner) and Mary-Anne Lavender (Manager). Photo credit: Nicola Frost.

She continues, “We started off stocking just quality cotton fabrics, in fresh and modern prints, as well as beautiful ribbons, haberdashery and notions but that has grown due to demand to many other fabrics, wool and sewing gifts. Whilst we can’t stock everything, if theres a large demand and we can squeeze it in, we will try and source it. We try and stock items that couldn’t already be found in Fleet as well as support small independent companies like ourselves, so we are always on the look out for that unique sewing or craft item. We also stock many of those every day items, that are still in use, that maybe your Mum or Nan used to have when they made most of their clothes, such as thimbles or tailors chalk. It’s always worth asking us if you can’t find something, we are a little Aladdins cave of sewing treasure!”

Below: Just some of the crafty treasures that can be found in the store. Photo credits: Nicola Frost.

But it’s more than just a shop, as Nicola and her team also offer and run a number of local classes for those that would like to get more involved:

“We also run sewing and craft workshops, mostly aimed at beginners and mostly one off, two or three hour workshops as I think that learning works best in shorter bursts. Recently we have started children’s classes during half term holidays with our lovely tutor Fiona who is also a Home Ed teacher and makes the most delicious cakes for us!”

Below: A few creations from Nicola’s needle felting classes. Photo credits: Nicola Frost.

WINDOW DRESSING

But what about the fabulous window displays that adorn the shop front?

Nicola explains Our windows are always something we really enjoy making. Gives us an excuse to make things! My friend displays it for us after we’ve talked about the theme. That could be driven by just a crazy idea, a product, local or national events such the Great British Sewing Bee on BBC2 or the Fleet carnival. Last November, we noted lots of lovely window displays for remembrance so Mandi, who works in the shop, decided to make poppies for the display for this year. She put a plea out to local knitters and crafters to knit or crochet a poppy and along with Mandi they have been made during the past year. Mandi, along with her son Alex, created and made the display for our remembrance window. We were very humbled with the wonderful comments and the local press came and took photos. We have hopefully raised a lot of money for the Royal British Legion and keep the awareness for those who gave their lives for our freedom. Poppies can be reserved and donations made in store.”

Mandi Coxall who designed the amazing window says it was “just a little tribute I wanted to do to show respect for those we lost. It was a year in the making and am so happy how it came out. We had a few customers help doing some crochet poppies but most of them were me and putting it all together was me. I drew the soldier on a piece of wood and my son cut it out for me.”

When asked if she planned to do another tribute window next year, she said “Yes I have started working on next years display already. Think I might of started something I can’t stop lol!” …(we can’t wait to see what it will be!).

Below: The making of the Remembrance Day window with hundreds of hand crocheted poppies. Photo credits: Mandi Coxall.

KEEP IT LOCAL

With so many empty spaces in the high street nowadays, it’s great to see a small business not only surviving but thriving. Nicola states “We are very well supported locally and our shop is more than just products, we have so many lovely regulars who always support us where they can or pop in just to say “hello” and see what’s new. Whilst we can’t supply everything, all we ask if that local people try us first. We do love a chat and can often be heard putting the world to rights or making a cuppa for someone who needs a friendly ear. I am passionate about retail on the high street, especially for independents and we actively support the Just a Card campaign.”

“It’s so frustrating for shop owners who work so hard, invest their own money, to hear locals who just don’t bother using the town or blame, politics, high rents or landlords. Ultimately, the high street will only survive when local people use their feet and buy local. I often hear local people complain about the lack of shops in the town and all I can say is, use what we have instead of wishing about what we don’t have and just spend an extra 5 minutes going into a shop that you haven’t visited before. You might be pleasantly surprised!”

Below: Sew Busy in the Hart Centre, Fleet. Photo credit: Nicola Frost.

Remember you can still reserve one of the handmade crocheted poppies from the display after it has has been dismantled. All poppies will be made into badges and will be ready for collection by the 30th November. The cost is £3 each (or more if you’re feeling generous!) and all profits from the sales go directly to The Royal British legion.

You can visit Sew busy at Unit 18C in the The Hart Centre. They also have a website and a Facebook page, so if you’d like to find out more about the local Fleet business then pop on over!

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