Sew on we go….

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The last time i wrote my blog i really wasn’t sure what was happening, within a couple of days it became very clear that the doors on the shop had to close, there was no argument from me it was very clear that this had to be done.

The last few weeks have been challenging, having to up my computer skills which to those of you who know me will find this amusing, it’s not my favorite past time, even managed to join in a couple of webinars from suppliers to see the new collections for autumn winter, classic blue is the pantone colour of the season, lots and lots of knitwear, natural fibres, lace and layers so I can put plans together for the next season.

For the time being the physical shop will remain closed, the on-line shop will continue to be the main way to purchase, I am currently going into the shop twice a week to cut and prepare the orders, you can always e-mail me any requests or questions, i am so grateful to everyone that has supported me via the website and telephone orders. The shop looks so sad, I have had to empty the window display and cover a lot of the shelves with brown paper to prevent the beautiful sunshine having a detrimental effect on the fabrics. In June I will do partial opening on an appointment basis, please contact me via the e-mail address to tell me when you would like to visit, this will enable me to adhere to the social distancing guidelines and ensure that you can shop in a safe enviroment. Depending on the customer response in June will indicate whether it is viable to open the shop full time in July when the hospitality sector will hopefully be able to open too.

Mask Making

During the last couple of weeks i have tried out various designs to make family facial masks, the one i finally decided was a pleated version, my reasons for this is I found it quite comfortable, my glasses did not steam up whilst wearing it, washable and easily made for others as the only adjustment needed is the elastic .

My method is as follows, these are guidelines only, these masks are not of a medical grade they are a cloth facial covering that can be laundered at high temperatures, though what i had read is that it is not necessarily the heat that kills the virus its the detergent, so i will wash mine on a 40 degree wash.

Firstly cut two 20 cm squares of tight weave cotton, one square of interfacing 18cm square and adhere onto the wrong side of one of the fabric squares. Place the two squares right sides together and sew with a 1 cm seam allowance along the top and the bottom, you now have a tube of fabric, turn right side out and press. Sew along the top and bottom again using a 1 cm seam, at this point if you want to you can uncurl a paper clip and insert it into the channel you have just formed at the top of the mask. This will enable you to shape the mask over the nose, but you will have to be cautious when you launder or iron the mask and you may have to replace it.

Next you will need to mark where your pleats are going to be, I mark from the top of the mask at 4cm, 9cm and 13.5cm. Then make a 1cm pleat, with the pleat going downwards.

Then make a binding to cover the edges, you will feed the elastic through this channel.

I have used 20cm length of elastic per ear for ladies and 25cm for men, if I am sending them to family and friends i just insert a long piece through each chanel then when they get the mask they can just knot the elastic at a length comfortable for them.

Its important that the masks are worn with the pleats facing downwards, they are easily washed and ironed.

I have put some kits up on the website .

One thing i have discovered is that you can re-visit, or if you didn’t get the chance..visit, the Christian Dior Designer of dreams exhibition at the V and A, from the comfort of your home via the internet, its really worth a look just go to the V and A website and enjoy.

Happy sewing everyone, hope you are loving the Sewing Bee…go Ali

Stay safe

Sandra x

The Battle Plan

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We are entering uncharted waters, never before have we encountered such uncertainty, should we have a stiff upper lip and carry on until we are told that the country is completely locked down, or do we all panic buy and self isolate as soon as possible, difficult decisions to be made. As far as Fine Fabrics is concerned it will stay open until such time I am told to shut down, like businesses in Italy and Spain. I have spent a very frustrating day trying to source emergency funding for such a business like mine, it was announced in the budget that there would be money made available for small, independent retail units like me, sadly all sources of financial funding do not have any information on how it is accessed. I have put a business plan together for the bank explaining how long i have been in business, what i am doing to keep the shop going during this crisis, all the questions that are reasonable and quantify an answer, then i was asked “how long do i perceive the emergency funding will be required?” I looked into my crystal ball but there was no answer forthcoming…..if i can not answer this question then i can not be considered, but if i am not totally honest in my answers then the funding can be removed, all in all a difficult day but no worse than many other small independent businesses like me.

If you are intending to visit the shop it is regularly cleaned and there is sanitizer available, but no handshakes or hugs . The web page is being updated with all the fabrics that have arrived recently. I will continue with the internet orders and mail order requests as long as the post offices remain functioning. Any orders will be gratefully received. I will spend more time with the newsletter, if you have any questions regarding your sewing projects i will more than happy to answer them either via the website contact page or email me direct,

Final thought, a big thank you to all the Nurses, Doctors and all health care workers who are working very long hours for our benefit, let us not put ourselves at risk, be sensible take care and stay safe.

Sandra x

Feeling grateful, 2020

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I have begun the new decade feeling reflective over last year, it was a very busy and a stressful time for retail in 2019, so much uncertainty with the “B” word, so many larger businesses expressing profit warnings, many big names on the high street pulling out.In Harrogate we lost over 10 big names in the last 18 months, Cath Kidston, Gap, Jamie’s Italian, Carluccios’, Miss Selfridge, H & M and East to name a few. These are worrying times especially when you are a small independent as everything to do with the business is down to you, from choosing and buying the stock on the shelves to cleaning the floors, in between there are accounts, bills, invoices, sewing classes to organise and many sleepless nights! So I look back over the last year and feel grateful that I am still in business, i am so very thankful for all the loyal customers that support me. I am aware that many things are cheaper on the internet, as the sellers often do not have the overheads of a bricks and mortar shop, not everyone understands this and that is why I appreciate every customer that walks through the door and buys something whether that be a reel of cotton or several metres of fabric, it’s so disappointing to see visitors to the shop taking photographs of fabric on their phones as research for finding it cheaper on the world wide web.

Sewing can transport you to another place, you can forget all your worries and concerns for a few hours whilst you are immersed in creating a garment or a project. The sewing classes that are held downstairs in the studio are busy, creative and a joy to have in the shop, I love listening to all the chatter and laughter which accompanies the classes, you may feel like a stranger when you first join but you soon feel that you have known everyone for ages. Dressmaking sewing classes are held every Tuesday and Thursday, please ring me if you would like more information, they are open to all abilities.

I am really looking forward to searching out more wonderful fabrics and sewing gadgets, the mission is still to increase the ecological footprint of the shop, source organic where I can and local when possible. I continue to enjoy slow sewing, I am currently making “the Coat” by the Avid Seamstress in an Oyster Wool fabric BW0015, decided to make life difficult and do Hong Kong bound seams using a satin viscose binding.

Sadly we lost one of our long standing members of the Thursday sewing group, Kay was a beautiful Lady , her battle with cancer was a long and difficult journey, she often said that sewing really helped, even-though she could never forget due to the constant pain she endured, sewing was one thing that distracted her every Thursday though the concentration did exhaust her. Kay did say that sewing soothed the soul, gave her peace and a wonderful sense of achievement, I know she tried to always avoid having any of her treatments on a Thursday. We do miss her , we were honoured to have known her and we will not forget her.

There have been many ups and downs in 2019 and there is a lot to be thankful for, this year I hope that I still make the right choices and purchase items people still want to buy, one thing that is certain your custom will always be appreciated.

Thank you all for your support, happy stitching and knitting

Sandra xx

September, Bike Race

 Once again  Harrogate is hosting a world wide cycling event, it really doesn’t seem five minutes since we had the start of the Tour de France, yet it was 5 years ago. This time the UCI 2019 Road cycling world championships are gracing our little part of the world for 8 days. As much as I applaud the Council for hosting these events there is a price to pay for  little independent businesses like mine, especially those that have nothing to do with cycling or catering, so florists, wool shops, haberdashery stores, hairdressers, book shops, toy shops will all struggle in this quarter of the year as this is the month that we all have to pay our rents. 

In 2018 over 2400 shops closed on the high street, that is 19 shops a day shutting their  doors for the final time. Footfall on the high street has been decreasing year on year, we no longer have  local banks or post offices, our high streets are getting full of charity shops, vape stores, and Nail studios every town is starting to look the same and parking charges are increasing.

Harrogate still has quite a few independent shops that makes it quite unique and a great place to visit. So l have a plea to Harrogate Borough council please champion what you have, promote this town for its diversity of shopping experiences and please give us a break we have had the Tour de France, Tour de Yorkshire and now UCI world championships, can we have a rest from lycra.

Maybe the money the Council is getting from these events they can create cycle lanes so we can all use our bicycles without the fear of being knocked off  especially on routes like Leeds, Ripon, Knaresborough and Skipton roads, next time the Council resurface the roads, so that a cycling event can use them, maybe they will consider putting in cycle lanes

This event will mean that many of the routes into Harrogate will be closed depending on the day, and which races are taking place, so I have decided that for this time period I will close the shop and do on-line sales only, there will be no postage charges ,when I have posted the parcel i will send you an email so you know that it has been dispatched.

We are open on Saturday 21st of september, but from Monday 23rd of September until Monday 29th September Fine Fabrics is operating on-line only,

Wishing everyone safe and happy cycling, normal business resumes Tuesday October 1st 2019

Happy sewing


The Sewing Bee Effect

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Were you addicted to the BBC programme ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ like me and many others? I set myself a challenge of recreating the garments, sewn on the Tuesday evening programme, the following day in the shop. I had to recruit help from Lillian and Ruth of course. We then found ourselves sat every Tuesday at 9pm, with a cup of tea and pen and paper at hand to make notes for the next day’s challenge. Texts promptly flew between Lillian and myself – what pattern, which fabric … can we really do this?! Well we did manage it and our efforts have been on display in the shop window. It was really good fun and has created an in-depth discussion about the show, which contestants we liked and those we were not so sure about, how difficult the challenges are compared to the last series, Joe versus Claudia, favourite item, least favourite, are the patterns cut out for them before they start the challenges, did they make the right fabric choice and of course Esme’s outfit, and occasionally Patrick’s, is analysed.

So what lessons were learnt after the Sewing Bee challenges? I do not like to rush, would I previously have used a rotary cutter? No. I really do have to finish off the inside seams. Fabric choice is key – I found that I was absolutely useless at the up-cycling challenge. I admire the contestants as I really couldn’t handle the uncertainty of the challenges and definitely do not have the imagination to do the up-cycling bit. I would still be trying to work out what to do when they would be judging everyone else’s. Hats off to all the contestants and presenters, they make it a real joy to watch and the programme has done so much to bring sewing back into vogue. No longer do we whisper “I made it” if someone asks what you are wearing, now we are all proud to wear handmade clothing, thank you Great British Sewing Bee and long may you continue. I have heard that Love Productions are still open for applications, but not for long, which means that we will have another series, excellent news.

Happy sewing and knitting.

Sandra xx

How I buy Fabric for the shop.

A couple of weekends ago I attended a fabric trade fair,  now all the parcels are starting to arrive and it is so exciting. I am often asked how I make choices of fabric, everyone thinks that it must be so much fun … it is, but it can also be quite stressful as you can not buy what you like – you have to think what your customers will like.  When I first took over the shop I met two wonderful Sisters who made all their own clothes, and I mean everything, from coats to petticoats. They had completely different taste in colours, fabrics and designs, and they always looked impeccably turned out. To me they will always be the epitome of the fundamentals of the shop.  As I go round all the fabric agents i am thinking of Mrs D and Mrs M along with my friend who loves jersey. She requires a wardrobe to fit her challenging figure and wants to look sassy when she goes out, smart-casual for her job and relaxed and comfortable at weekends. All this is going through my head as I look at swatch after swatch of fabric. I also need to look at the composition, origin, width and care instructions, as I feel that is important to tell customers. Finally I look at price.

The other major consideration I have to think about, as instructed by my window dresser – the most wonderful Angie, what will I buy for the window.

As I go round all these wonderful suppliers, seeing some of the most amazing fabrics, I have to ensure that I do not overspend the budget … that takes a lot of the fun out of the shopping!

Another major consideration that is overlooked by many shops is Haberdashery. Do I have the correct inter-facings, lining, zip colours, thread? If not, can I get them? The shop has never been, and will not become, a place of speed disposable sewing, the fabrics deserve to be treated well and then they will reward you with joy when you wear then. Often I hear the cry that a wonderful project has become a disaster and the sewer blames themselves for not having the skills, but more often than not it is not the fault of the sewer’s skills, it’s more likely to be incorrect fabric choice or not stabilizing the fabric correctly. ( I openly admit that I have become obsessed with learning about interfacing and interlining, I find it fascinating how these products can affect the finish of a garment.)These choices all need to made when you enter a shop or buy on the internet. The clues are always on the back of the pattern, so be sure to read all this information. The benefit of being in a shop is you can feel the fabric, see the true colour and ask all the questions you need, we should all know the answers to your questions, if not then we should know how to find the answer, that is our job.

So just like me when I am buying fabric for the shop, you experience exactly all the same thought processes as me when you are purchasing for your project.

Until next time happy sewing, knitting and living a creative life

Love Sandra

Craftuary and Cleaning.

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Last week I had to change the timer for the lights which are on the outside of the shop, they come on at dusk and light up the windows, this makes me sooo happy I now know that Spring is on its way.

In Harrogate we are so lucky with the beautiful Stray which gives us a fabulous display of crocus, I believe there are between 6-7 million bulbs planted in the grassland, they usually make their appearance in March and that is definitely a wonderful sight, you just can’t help but smile. So with Spring just around the corner I have started cleaning which also means that I need to re-organise as I go…this generally means that I actually make more mess initially, then I get distracted by making lists of things that I need to make to help keep things neat and tidy, for example, we have quite a few sewing machines in the studio area of the shop, the pedals are kept in spare bags, well no more there are all going to have little zipper bags to put the foot pedals and wires into. I started with a simple lined box shape but then started quilting the fabric…. Hence it always takes me so long to tidy up !!

I have also been making lots of bags out of canvas. I really dislike using plastic bags and that includes the “bags for life”, so now I have a variety of bags made from heavy-duty canvas with applicated letters on them so I have my veg, fruit, bread, toiletries and clothing bags, they are also strong enough for bottles and cans. We are running classes for all these so give us a call if you need more information, and I will be putting dates up on the website. Also, would anyone be interested in learning to make lampshades? If so please get in touch.

There also another reason for starting the cleaning process now, in a couple of weeks I am off to a trade show to see the spring and summer fabrics, and possibly buying a few bits and bobs, so before anything new arrives it’s a really good time to wash all the shelves down with lavender oil, why you may ask…I am paranoid about moths, all fabric that comes into the shop is taken off the rolls or boards that it arrives on and checked, this is for two reasons, firstly to ensure that there no flaws or faults ( with natural fabrics there are often little flaws in the weave)  and to make sure there are no nasty things lurking especially if it’s linen, cotton, silk or wool, and secondly to check the length and the width.

Are you excited for the return of the Great British Sewing Bee? Tuesday 12th February BBC 2 I have set myself the challenge to try and recreate one of the items from the programme the following day eek…check my Instagram to see how I get on fine_fabrics_of_harrogate.

Finally we have a knitting group that meets twice a month, they are called The Stray Knitters, they are a lovely bunch of ladies but the numbers are a little low at the moment so if you would like to learn to knit, finish a long-standing project but need advice, or just want to meet with like-minded people come along, the next meeting is Saturday 16th February 10 am till 12.30 pm £4.00.

Happy sewing and knitting