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Farsley sewing business booms as people discover new pandemic passion

By Michael Crossland

A Farsley haberdashery company has seen business boom since the start of the pandemic.  

School of Sew, based in Sunny Bank Mills, have reported an increased interest in sewing since the first lockdown. 

Booming: School of Sew has drawn in people following the pandemic. Photo: Michael Crossland
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Nicola Lee, owner of the business said:

“If the pandemic’s done us any good it meant that lots of people had spare time, and were crafting. They’ve really got the bug.” 

Nicola noted how demand for sewing machines rose to the amount that suppliers were unable to keep up. “You could not get hold of them at all, they were like hotcakes, even now it’s hard.” 

This popularity has remained after the pandemic ended. She added:

“As soon as we opened back up people came in and said ‘it’s so nice to touch fabric and not have to get it off the internet. It’s not the same just sitting at your kitchen table ordering things.” 

Nicola also explained her belief that sewing can be helpful with mindfulness, another reason she feels it has gained popularity since the start of the pandemic.  

“A lot of people have come for a kind of therapy,” she said. “People off with stress, anxiety. 

“We have people that come and say, no that can’t have been two hours, or they’ll come to a three-hour workshop and say ‘I’ve just not thought about anything at all for three hours’ so there is that element to it. People share things and they really look forward to it.” 

During the pandemic, Nicola’s business also began sewing scrubs together for hospital staff, and managed to complete around 800 sets, helped along by a £4,000 donation on the group’s just giving page. “It was a great community thing,” she said. “We had so many people asking to help.” 

In September, when the School of Sew reopened after lockdown, Nicola also opened her new haberdashery shop, Mill Creations, replacing what was once her curtain business.  

Shortly after she was to find out that the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee celebrity special was to take place in Sunny Bank Mills.  

“They interviewed actor Anthony Cotton just outside my window there. I got very excited!”  she added.

Nicola also hopes that the programme’s new season taking place at Sunny Bank will again give a further boost to business. Sunny Bank is expected to feature on the BBC One programme again on Wednesday, 27 April 2022.

“We get busier when the Sewing Bee is on anyway,” she said. “It always kind of gets the juices going. 

“I did drop a line on Patrick Grant’s Instagram to say if they ever wanted to come in they were more than welcome.”

Nicola also hopes that the Sewing Bee coming to Farsley can be beneficial for the region. In particular, in attracting a younger audience.  

“Whenever you get any correspondence, or any articles, they always link Sunny Bank Mills with Heartbeat and Emmerdale because they were filmed here, but for much as my daughter she hasn’t got a clue what Heartbeat is and only just maybe Emmerdale.“ 

Nicola also noted how due to the success of Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley is quickly becoming a destination spot for tourism.  

“Farsley is a very buzzing place now” she said, “I’ve been here six years and it’s so much busier, and a lot of that is down to the regeneration of Sunny Bank.” 

Sunny Bank Mills now plays host to around 80 businesses, employing around 800 staff.

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