June Stockist of the Month: Sew Creative

Established over 20 years ago, Sew Creative offer a wealth of experience and a friendly environment where many customers enjoy simply popping in for a chat.

They take pride in their attractive displays and their fabric assortment includes The Cottage Garden, the latest quilting fabric collection from Liberty.

We spoke to new owner Bridget Orzel to find out more about the business including the shop environment, the team and some exciting future plans!

Tell us about the history of your shop and the team?

Sew Creative was established over 20 years ago, moving to its current location about 18 years ago.  Initially, the shop sold wool in Sheringham before moving to Roughton and finally settling at Wroxham Barns.  Sylvia moved into patchwork and developed the shop, providing a thriving workshop programme to complement the wide range of fabrics and notions.  Two team members, Kathleen, Sylvia’s sister, and Linda have worked in the shop for over 17 years, offering a wealth of knowledge and expertise.  Linda had her own fabric and curtain making business before joining Sylvia and changing her allegiance to patchwork and quilting.

Gill and Samantha joined the team more recently; both have a real passion for sewing.  Gill completed her City and Guilds last year and has opted to continue her studies with the Diploma.  Samantha and I are part way through our studies and having such experience and knowledgeable colleagues helps us answer those tricky questions.

I’m Bridget, the new owner of the shop; having taken over from my predecessors in January 2017. Sew Creative was owned by Barbara and Stephen for six years; in that time they relocated the shop on the site, combining the shop and workshop into the same premises.  It’s so helpful to have the workshop above the shop – so much easier to do the tea-run!  My life took a new direction in 2012, after my husband died, and I relocated to Norfolk in November 2016.  The shop has given me a whole new life and purpose and I get to play with fabrics all day.

The last member of the team to introduce is Belle, my black lab girlie.  She comes to work, greets many of our ladies on the workshops and helps me to tidy up after classes.  She’s great at “emptying bins, vacuuming up after lunches” and keeping me company.

What do you offer that makes you stand out from other retailers?

We have a wealth of knowledge and experience; we’re a great team who actually care about our customers and we cut their fabric carefully!  Many of our customers comment on that – some of us use scissors, others rotary cut, but we are very careful to ensure that our cuts are straight and accurate.  We also package our “fat quarter bundles” in an attractive way; we receive positive comments about how pretty they look with many customers saying they struggle to use them as they don’t want to spoil them!

We also spend time with our customers, where possible, to give help with auditioning colours to ensure they are completely happy with the fabrics they choose.  It can be daunting starting a new project from scratch, so we’re here to help with ideas and suggestions, quite often having piles of bolts over the counters.

Many of our customers “pop in for a chat” as well as their fabrics so we offer a social dimension and a community feel to the shop.  I’ve been known to put the kettle on and offer customers cuppas, if we aren’t too busy.  Many also offer the ideas when fabric reps are in, so it’s a way to engage customers and get their feedback.

We have a very welcoming and friendly approach; many customers comment on our chatty, humorous banter.  My usual comment, when we are fighting with large bales of wadding is, “they come in for wadding and get the entertainment for free”! We don’t take ourselves too seriously…

What are you passionate about?

Our customers are our mainstay, so we are passionate about offering a good, friendly service and sharing our knowledge.  We often spend time on “how to” sessions – our artwork isn’t very good but our collective know-how is huge.  We also help with the maths; many customers ask for help with fabric quantities so we are often seen poring over wonky diagrams with the tape measure and calculator.

How do you choose what you stock?

There are several aspects we take into account: we must like what we are selling; that’s vital.  We have been changing the stock a little to suit a younger, more contemporary client-base, but we do need to ensure our current customers have plenty of choice.  We also do basic things like look for colour gaps.  I’ve been known to wander up and down the shop with colour palettes, checking to see what would complement and enhance our current stock.  I always buy stock with a colleague; I don’t “fly solo” – we both have to like it and then we choose other fabrics in the colour way to create a “fabric family”, always look to see what would make a good block or fat quarter bundle.  Obviously, we’re also mindful about current trends and what’s in the magazines.

What do you love about quilting?

I can lose myself in a day’s quilting – it transports me away from everyday hassles and absorbs me - when I get time that is!  Running the shop has meant that I don’t get to sew as much as I would like, however that’s in the process of changing as I get more settled in the shop and in my new home.  I love the ability to play with fabrics, to stroke them and to create something original.  I’m quite creative but not arty so it’s a way to express myself without a pencil.

What project are you working on at the minute?

Projects for the next term’s workshop programme; these will include a basic rail fence quilt and churn dash blocks for our beginners, a folded foundation pieced wall hanging and a strippy quilt for our regulars.  Our workshop programme focusses our quilt making.  In time, I’d love to do make cushions for my new conservatory but that’ll probably be next year.

Are there any future plans you wish to share with us?

The shop is undergoing a re-brand and name change.  There are several Sew Creative shops so we are going to be called Broadly Patchwork – we’re in the Broads and our main focus is patchwork and quilting.  We are also updating our website, developing our social media footprint and raising our profile.  Another focus is providing a wider range of workshops, especially for youngsters, as sadly, there is less opportunity for experimentation with textiles and sewing is available in today’s school curriculum.  It’s a great way for families to bond, granny, mum and off-spring.  I would also like to get more chaps involved – we have huge names such as Kaffe, Stuart and Patrick - let’s get more chaps sewing!

I’m also developing our long-arm quilter programme; we have a machine that once training, customers can hire on an hourly basis.  It’s great, because I get to use it too, and I love it!

Visit Sew Creative's website