Sewing and dressmaking have been enjoying a resurgence in recent years as more people become inspired to try their hand at these timeless skills.
Their versatility has been showcased on television programmes such as The Great British Sewing Bee and Kirstie Allsop’s Handmade Christmas have also helped to capture the imagination of viewers.
While many people have turned to dressmaking due to environmental concerns about the ‘fast fashion’ industry.
On hand to help newbie sewing enthusiasts get to grips with their needle and thread and share her knowledge and experience is Holly Bentley.
She runs classes and workshops for all abilities from absolute beginners through to those who are already confident with patterns and a machine.
Holly has been sewing since she was a young girl and says her inspiration comes from her mother’s passion for the craft.
“My love of sewing came from my mom. My mom has always sewn, she used to sew our outfits when we were younger and I always used to love watching her sew on her old treadle Singer machine. I started sewing when I was seven.
“The first project I remember doing was a waistcoat. I loved it so much that eventually I went on to study fashion design at college and university,” explains 32-year-old Holly.
She studied fashion at Stourbridge College’s Longlands campus and went to gain an honours degree in fashion with design for performance from Birmingham City University before setting up her business Sew With Holly in Stourbridge.
“It started five and half years ago and it was actually my husband’s idea.
“I saw that lots of people wanted to learn the skill and there weren’t many places locally where it could be taught, especially for hobbyists. I started off with a few classes in a small room above a cinema I used to work in and as the classes grew in popularity, I was able to secure my first studio,” says Holly.
In August, she opened new premises which include her classroom and fabric shop, in Stourbridge’s Victoria Passage.
And there is family support nearby as Holly’s sister, Zoe Buttery, has opened her salon, Lindy Locks Hair Lounge, opposite her business.
“I offer full day dressmaking workshops as well as weekly sewing classes and I cater for complete novices to advanced sewists.
“I had a vision of creating something slightly different to the usual fabric shops that are around. I wanted something that felt welcoming, stylish and not too overwhelming for new sewists.
“I offer a range of fabrics such as cotton, jersey, viscose, corduroy and denim, as well as haberdashery and supplies in a boutique style shop,” Holly, who lives in Kingswinford, tells Weekend.
Through her classes and workshops, she hopes to pass on her passion for sewing and inspire others to be creative.
“I love to see my projects and projects of my students come to life from an idea on paper into a 3D garment. It’s also very therapeutic and is a great way to relax and unwind,” explains Holly.
Since starting her business, she has seen a definite increase in the popularity of sewing and a growing interest in making clothes from scratch.
“I have, even in the time I have been teaching, seen a huge rise in the popularity in sewing in general but especially dressmaking. I think programmes like The Great British Sewing Bee definitely help and when their programme is running, my booking and enquiries go up by at least 50 per cent.
“I also think that environmental factors are a huge contributor. People are starting to be very aware of the environmental impact of their clothing. Most people who come to my classes say that when they make their own clothes, they wear them more and so this actively helps to reduce the fast fashion way of thinking,” Holly tells Weekend.
Her advice for budding dressmakers or anyone picking up a needle for the first time is to have fun.
“It’s important to remember to have fun with it. Start with small projects that you can finish quickly to keep your motivation. If you make a mistake, don’t worry! Sewing is a real skill that takes time to perfect,” says Holly.
Teaching her students and witnessing their progress and successes gives Holly a real sense of achievement.
“Seeing the passion that my students have and the way they inspire each other and help each other is amazing. I also love how we have built a little sewing community where people can come and sew but also make friendships and help each other,” she explains.
See www.facebook.com/sewwithholly or www.sewwithholly.co.uk