Working as a freelancer can be pretty isolating- you don’t have colleagues to hang out with, after work drinks… but the best part of being a crafter is the amazing and supportive creative community. About a year ago, I rolled up to my first Brighton Etsy event- the Brighton Etsy Craft Party (which was the most fantastic Etsy event I’d ever been to!), found myself at the same floral crown workshop as Stacie, chatted a bit and 1 year later, interviewing her about her amazing Sewing festival, Sewmance, which I’ll  be hosting an upcycled jewelry workshop on on Saturday! Can’t wait! Here’s an example of what we’ll be making- drop by and make something if you’re around St George’s Church, Brighton!
How did Sewmance start? How Long has it been running and what inspired u to start it? Running your own festival must be so challenging- do u have any helpers?
SEWMANCE was created after I went to a large corporate craft fair in London and I left feeling really disappointed. I was upset that It had been just a big sell. I wanted to experience a fun day out with fellow craft enthusiasts, to connect with new friends and to learn something. I didn’t get this from that event. I wondered if there an event like this around? There wasn’t any I could find in Brighton so with the encouragement of our Brighton sewing bee community, I set about trying to create it. SEWMANCE was born.
We have had 2 successful events so far and our #summersewmance is the next. The #summersewmance is on Saturday June 3rd 11-6pm at St George’s Church and its looking to be the best independent community sewing festival we have organised so far.
Running a festival is very challenging and such hard work but I really believe in what we are doing. I have an amazing husband who helps me out so much with the logistics and organisation of the event. Sometimes I ‘ll have a crazy idea and he’ll be like, ‘no honey’ and bring me back to earth. Keith is amazing and you need a real stable foundation as the work is relentless.
My son is a constant inspiration. He’s 4 and loves to play. I want to play like him. Through sewing and craft I feel I can and this is ultimately what I want to create with SEWMANCE a safe, inspiring place for our sewing community to develop our passion for sewing through ‘play’.
I have recently been blessed with a volunteer social media manager and PR which has been amazing (Thanks Sarah) I am not the best at delegation and asking for help but I am realising how important it is to have a team who believe in what you are doing , around you.
I have inspiring friends through the Brighton sewing bee that tell me – what they want from SEWMANCE, if they like my ideas and they also give honest feedback. We are creating the event for ourselves really because WE LOVE SEWING!!. The amazing Brighton sewing bee community has inspired SEWMANCE so much! Thank you ladies and gents! My muses!
Also my friend Lou and I meet most Monday mornings over coffee to discuss whats going on and plans for future events. Our discussions help keep the vision for what we want SEWMANCE to be and we can talk through any ideas so they can be brought to fruition.
On the website you say Sewmance is different from a craft fair- how so and how do u create a sense of community through it?
I just want to say 1st that I LOVE CRAFT FAIRS! They are wonderful. I just wanted to create something different for SEWMANCE. An event focused on sewing and our sewing community. We also wanted to create the same atmosphere as our sewing bee meet ups. We want people to walk in, feel welcomed and to breathe out, ‘Ahhhh finally my sewing tribe’ I want people to stay all day, do some workshops, hear some inspiring #sewingstories, munch on some yummy cake from the Brighton Belles WI, enjoy the #sewmancmarketplace and just revel in being somewhere where everyone feels as passionately about sewing as you do! We love sewing and we know you do too!
How many people attend on average? How do you promote it and weren’t you worried there would be no attendees for the first one? (I would have been!! :))
The 1st event had approx. 400 people, the next 600 and we are hoping for the same amount or more. I wasn’t worried that no one would attend as you have to have faith in what you are doing. Also if no one had turned up then It’s a great networking opportunity for the exhibitors and it’s all just learning.. Then I would be asking why did no one attend? I would be considering what can I do better next time. As long as you do your best, you can’t beat yourself up about it. There are variables you can’t control like the weather, you just need to keep moving forward and improving.
I have always promoted the event through social media, Facebook, Instagram and our websitewww.sewmance.co.uk . We also do traditional leaflet (recycled paper of course) promotion in Brighton and at the stores of the exhibitors. For this event we were very lucky to have an article in Sew Now and The Foldline mentioned us too on their Vlog. Thank you amazing people!
There is an entrance fee of £2 per person and a charity section on the site: is the event for profit or non profit? Which charities are u involved with?
SEWMANCE is for profit at present. Giving back is very important to us.  At each event we offer a free stall to a local charity or cause. This is to help these amazing organisations fundraise and raise awareness. We have supported RISE, Brighton Women’s Centre and this year we have ‘The Revival Collective’ as our #sewmancecause. They organise the Ethical and Sustainable Fashion Group in Brighton.
‘The Revival Collective was founded by three graduates of the University of Sussex who, throughout their university career and involvement in various fashion projects, became increasingly aware of the alarming ecological and unethical harm done to our planet and its inhabitants at the hands of the fashion, beauty and lifestyle industries. The Revival Collective now works towards trying to change this! 
In the future we plan to dedicate a proportion of the profits from the event, to offer free sewing and craft workshops to disadvantaged groups in Brighton.
Our pricing structure of the stalls also offers discounts for new businesses and local makers. There is also an opportunity to ‘Table Share’ at our events to reduce costs.

SEWMANCE is also dedicated to being environmentally responsible. We recycle. We sell only vegetarian and vegan food at our events. We promote small, local, ethical, organic and sustainable businesses. The goal is to make SEWMANCE as ‘green’ as possible. We all have a responsibility to treat lightly on the earth. I am also planning a new social enterprise called SEWCYCLE that will launch in Autumn 2017. SEWCYCLE is a new textile recycling initiative dedicated to saving fabric and sewing related items from going to landfill. We will be intercepting this preloved treasure and making it available to our sewing friends through monthly #sewcyclesales. There is so much waste involved in the fashion, sewing and craft industries, we want to do our bit to help stop this cycle of  unnecessary waste and throwaway culture. We will be having our first #sewcyclesale at SEWMANCE!

What is the objective of Sewmance and what would make you feel you had succeeded?
SEWMANCE aims to make you smile, to inspire you, to encourage you try something new, to show connection through craft and to make you aware of the power of our sewing community. We need to be connected. More and more of our lives are lived online. We need these types of events so we can meet up in person, to talk, to connect and to use our hands to make. Sewing is cathartic and can be the remedy to the stressful, busy lives that we all lead in this modern age.
How did you start sewing and do you do any crafts? Which other crafters do you follow & inspire you?
I started sewing 4 years ago after the birth of my son. I was completely floored by post natal depression and felt an urgent need to make. I attended a ‘Getting to know your sewing machine’ course at The Friends centre in Brighton and was hooked! Julia Hincks is my tutor, friend and mentor. With her I have completed my level 1 and 2 city and guilds Fashion and Dressmaking. I have also just finished my Level 3 Pattern Cutting module! It was amazing. I am really interested in pursuing ‘zero waste’ pattern cutting as I care passionately about the earth and reducing the impact we have on it. This world is borrowed from our children and we have a responsibility to leave it in a better state than we found it.
I also Rag rug, knit, basic crochet, print, embroider, weave, draw, quilt and I LOVE POM POMS!!! I’ll try anything.  I love Rosy Nicholas and her ‘Dress you up’ book. I am so inspired by the amazing community of sewists and creatives online and offline in Brighton and beyond. There is some serious talent out there and you can find then on Instagram- the mecca for sewists!
 What is your proudest moment running Sewmance? Hardest moment? Have you ever felt like giving up?
My proudest moment was looking around at the Winter SEWMANCE, with the crazy storm crashing around outside the church, seeing hundreds of smiling, engaged faces, happily sewing away.  My friend said to me ‘It was just like our sewing bee, but bigger’ and that’s what I wanted, that warmth, the bonding and the feeling of individuals coming together over a shared passion for sewing.
The line up of workshops is so impressive!! How did You get so many people involved, especially for the free ones?
Thank you! We are very lucky in Brighton to have an amazing group of businesses and individuals. Some of the exhibitors like The Friends Centre, Sew in Brighton, Fabric Godmother, Kleine Kreations, Sew Fabulous and Sew Retro have supported SEWMANCE from the beginning. Thank you!!  I also started contacting people in December telling them about our event and what we were trying to achieve. I think It struck a chord with the sewing community and It’s businesses. We are trying to create an event that focuses on ‘an experience’ and strengthening our community – people really get that and thy want to be involved and give what they can to make the event a successful one.
What are your top recommendations for crafty people visiting Brighton?
Wow there is so much to do! Always check social media and The Foldline for any upcoming crafty events in Brighton.
  1. Drop us a message at Brighton sewing bee @brightonsewingbee and come to one our our monthly sewing #SEWCIALS!
  2. Contact the lovely Josie @fabricgodmother to see if she’s having an Open Day or arrange a visit to her beautiful sewing studio! She’s the 1st stop for beautiful fabrics, indie patterns and haberdashery!!
  3. I love a visit to the  Fabrica Art gallery. There is always an inspiring, thought provoking exhibition on!
  4. Go to the sea and feel the inspiration! Look at that endless horizon and sketch! Let your thoughts go wild!
  5. YAK is a beautiful shop of yarn, hooks and knitting supplies.
  6. Just pary up at a coffee shop and watch the world go by. The culture and show will come to you in Brighton. Its one inspiring place. The best nights are always the unplanned ones.

PS Here’s my proposed itinerary for a trip to Brighton as well as my list of craft shops in the area.

 

Last but not least, what are your tips for anyone starting their own festival/ event?
  1. Don’t be scared of being Niche, you don’t need to cover 101 crafts. SEWMANCE wants to celebrate all things sewing/fabric related and are proud of that.  So know what type of event you want to organise, for whom and have a goal of what you want to achieve.
  2. Start small

 

Thanks Stacie- see you in 2 days!!

Written by Zen

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