Penrith’s Just Sew shop is celebrating 35 years in business after being inspired by the owner’s childhood hobby.
Pat Swainson, of Morland, who owns the business with her husband Peter, first opened at Poets Walk in 1986.
Pat, now aged 67, was inspired to turn her life-long hobby into a career by a business course at Carlisle College.
They opened in what is now Morgan Curtain Design, with Pat running the shop with help from Peter’s mother Doreen Swainson, who is now aged 93. The shop quickly became a popular choice for sewing enthusiasts and Pat recalled they opened in the era of shoulder pads and Rose and Hubble fabrics.
“I’ve always been interested in sewing right from a little girl and it was something my aunts would do with me,” said Pat. “We always had good teachers at Cliburn School, who taught it as well, by hand.”
At the time of opening there was just one other fabric shop in Penrith, which closed when the owners retired not long after Just Sew opened.
Just Sew has gone on to become a destination shop, with customers from all over the country and online orders even coming in from the US.
As the business grew, Just Sew moved to its larger premises on Poets Walk about 20 years ago, when, Pat said, everyone was making gathered skirts and elasticated belts.
“What has changed is that people want to make things, but they have to be quick to make,” she said of the new millennium. “I can make a top up quicker than I can go and buy one.”
Moving to bigger premises allowed the couple to create a workshop, where Pat and visiting tutors teach sewing, patchwork and embroidery.
These have drawn people from all over the north of England and Pat said she was proud to be bringing people into the town for the benefit of not only Just Sew, but other businesses in the area.
Although the workshops have been on hold throughout coronavirus it is envisaged they will restart once restrictions allow.
In the past, Pat and Peter also took their products to consumer shows held in Manchester, Glasgow and Harrogate to further expand the Just Sew customer base.
She said the BBC show the Great British Sewing Bee had helped encourage more people to take up the hobby. She added that it has also inspired those from younger generations to have a go and she has found a lot of younger mothers now making clothes for their children.
Along with stocking patterns for womenswear, Just Sew also stocks menswear patterns and finds that more men are learning the skill, as are younger people, inspired by the BBC TV show The Great British Sewing Bee.
Peter and Pat’s children, Nicola and Adrian, spent much of their childhood at the shop and continue to support Just Sew in a variety of ways. The business also has three part-time staff, Barbara Bain, Samantha Podda and Lucy Baratt, alongside Pat and Peter, who retired from the British Transport Police about five years ago.
Although Just Sew was forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their need to keep going in lockdown led to them successfully developing the shop’s social media platforms, but she said customers prefer to visit in person.
“We are a touchy-feely business and people prefer to handle the goods before they buy, so we have sent fabric all over the country and to the US throughout online sales, but people do prefer to be in the shop. We want to thank everybody who has kept us going over the last 12 months.
In Cumbria we have been through foot and mouth, the floods and even the Morrisons fire, which all altered people’s shopping habits.
“We get a lot of people from away coming to the area and they love Penrith for what it has to offer. Since we re-opened on 12th April people have been coming back in to the area on holiday and that’s lovely.”
Looking to the future, Pat says she has no plans to retire any time soon, saying the Queen is 94 years old and still working, so she sees no reason to stop herself.