Sewing · Staff

26 Years In The Can!

So, we opened our doors on 1st June 1996, a staggering 26 years ago! It’s fair to say a lot has happened since then!

Our very young children are now grown up and have families and careers of their own. Staff have come and gone and come back again! We welcome back Jayne Childs, who opened with us in 1996, and is coming back to teach classes in the autumn. Sewing machines, fashions, techniques, fabrics, and inspiration have all changed, the advance of technology in sewing machines has frankly been breathtaking.

The shop front back in the days that we were Studio Husqvarna
Our original Studio agreement with Husqvarna from 1996

But some things remain the same. We opened with a mission to get people sewing again! Against the backdrop of a cyclical recession, we mortgaged ourselves to the hilt to open a new kind of sewing store.  One designed to inspire you to sew, with great products, inspiration, knowhow, and classes to make the experience of sewing a joy, therapeutic, and to create a community of stitchers who would want to come back for more and more.

Me, back when I had black hair!

Of course, the whole thing nearly crashed and burned. It was two months before we got any sort of revenue stream, but with plenty of money going out! I remember one day being here all day to take £2.50. The window cleaner came, and I had to pay him £3. I thought then, what have I done?! Rose was working nights to pay the bills at home and looking after our 2 boys during the day. I am not sure quite how she did it.

Rose planning one of our first classes

Anyway, we hung on and as summer turned to autumn, things started to improve. Our footfall increased and a lot of orders started to come in by phone (pre websites!). People started attending our classes, and sewing machines started arriving for service.

We managed to acquire a tie up with People’s College who used our space and machines to host classes in our premises. Lorna Keeling, who is just set to retire, started teaching with us from those days – I know that staff and customers alike are going to miss her when she goes.

Our embroidery software club took off with people coming to us from all over the country. In 1999, we managed to get onto the NEC Exhibition circuit, and gained a lot of new customers from those shows. We started getting contracts for servicing sewing machines in schools and supplying new machines too.

Exhibiting at the NEC

As things started growing, we needed more staff and our massive premises started seeming to be shrinking. Launches of new products, especially sewing machines, were well supported, and everything was going well. Of course everything changed in March 2020, thanks to Covid 19. I remember locking the door on 23rd March and wondered if we would ever open it again. We diverted the phone lines to home, tied down every cost and hoped.

What we didn’t expect was that everyone would start sewing masks, gowns, and take sewing up as a hobby while stuck at home. Not only were our wonderful customers supporting us where they could, but we also had interest from new stitchers and before we knew it, Rose and I were in every day shipping out orders.

We had so many online and phone orders that soon Catherine was able to come back to keep our mail order department running. Then came the demand for sewing machines to be repaired, so Lee returned to the workshop and in no time we were back to about 40% of where we would expect to be at. All the while, Sam was supporting us as our Finanace Manager, working hard from home until she was able to return to the office.

The lockdowns came and went, the toughest for us being Jan – April 2021, when sales fell away. Once things re-opened for good, we could bring back our other staff and people gradually started to come back in. Starting our classes again and seeing our regular customers and tutors more often, along with having Catherine, Anna, Debbie and Jackie back on the shop floor, has brought the shop back to life. We are still working at getting back to where we were in 2019 but without our loyal customers and supportive staff and tutors then we really wouldn’t still be here.

The Coles Sewing Centre van ready for a collection, delivery or home service in the Nottingham area

It has been a tough road, but we have pivoted. We have invested in our website, which Ellie has tried to make more user friendly and contains more of our range than ever. Anna and Rose have worked hard to make our Zoom classes just as crammed with useful information as our in-person classes and Anna’s online software classses are selling out just as quickly as ever! We want to make online learning even easier for you to take part in so we are currently setting up a learning website, which is due to launch in July.

I’m glad to say that we not only still have all our staff, but have also taken on a service and retail apprentice, so we are planning a rosy future! Our senior service engineer, Lee, has gone from joining us as an apprentice 13 years ago to sharing his expert knowledge with an apprentice of his own. George has been with us for over a year now and is learning fast. We have also been joined more recently by Oscar and Amelia, who are learning about retail and sewing from Debbie and Anna.

George and Lee working on a machine

Hopefully, we can do an update in 26 years’ time. In the meantime, thank you for all the support over the years, it really means more to us than we can express. We wish everyone safety, health, and a bit of wealth.

Neil, Rose, and the team.

Christmas · Staff

Coles Review of the Year 2021

Oh what a year! A year we may all want to forget but one we probably won’t for so many reasons.

We started the year in lockdown, so once again our doors were shut. All the staff were again at home and Neil and I were busy keeping the ship rolling, answering the phones, picking, packing and dispatching orders. Towards the end of January Ellie started working from home, updating and improving the website. George, our apprentice engineer, returned to the shop to continue his training and to help with the many machines that started to come in for servicing. Due to a high demand the service department was once again fully operational by February, with both Lee and George back at work.

Lee and George at work in the workshop

Along with all the other retailers across the country we reopened our doors on 12th April, and weren’t we glad to do so! Initially we were only working a 4 day week – people were nervous about coming back into town and who wanted to use public transport?! Gradually more customers came to see us and we were able to gradually bring our staff back into the workplace.

We were in a conundrum, did we reopen our classroom? Would people want to come to classes? A decision was made: the classroom would stay closed for the summer with a plan to restart classes in September. We purchased screens and rearranged the tables so that people attending classes would be socially distanced and would feel safe. Finally in September we restarted our classes and we were delighted to welcome people back!

For the foreseeable future the screens and our covid classroom guidelines will remain in place. We will be adding new workshops in 2022, so do keep your eye on the website.

Another challenge we have had to overcome was stock, or more to the point the lack of it. Early on in the year it became apparent that sewing machines were in short supply due to a shortage of parts, but also a shortage of containers to move them around the world. Although this remains an issue, it has much improved.

A few staff changes have occurred during the year…

  • We have taken on a customer service apprentice. Interviewed initially on zoom due to Covid isolation, Carys joined our team in August.  
  • Anna and Debbie have started supervisor apprenticeships, a steep learning curve!
  • Jackie has become a grandma (congratulations Jackie!) so has reduced her hours and now works two days a week.
  • Catherine is covering maternity leave at our alterations shop but will continue to teach overlocker classes in the New Year.

As the year draws to an end we would like to say a big THANK YOU to you all for your support (without it I might not be here writing this), and we very much look forward to seeing you next year!

Christmas Opening Hours

To give our staff a well-deserved break we will close at 2pm on Christmas Eve and reopen on Tuesday 4th January. Although the shop will be closed the webshop will remain open, any orders place will be processed as soon as we return.

Coles opening hours Christmas 2021

Your Christmas Makes

We know you will all have been busy stitching your Christmas gifts – we’d love to see what you have been making, do send us your pics and we’ll share them in a future Blog!

Merry Christmas from everyone at Coles!

So from everyone at Coles we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year! We look forward to seeing you all again in 2022.

Sewing · Staff

Coles staff sewing night

We are all stitchers at Coles Sewing Centre so we like to get together every so often for a sew and a chat, although Covid restrictions sadly put a stop to that for a while. So we were all very excited to get together on Saturday to have a staff sewing night for the first time in nearly two years! As you can imagine, we did a lot more chatting than sewing because we haven’t all been together for so long, but here’s a little look at the projects we all currently have on the go.

Jackie has a brand new granddaughter and has been making all sorts of sweet outfits for her lately. I just had to take a picture of the completed dinosaur print dress that she brought with her, although apparently she’s unlikely to make one in my size, which is very disappointing. Jackie is a whizz with pinning and cutting out and she had the pieces for another dress cut before the end of the evening, even with all the talking and distractions!

Deborah has just bought some of our Tilly and the Buttons jersey and is going to use it to make the Tabitha dress from Make It Simple by Tilly and the Buttons. She’s chosen to make the drawstring variation in a long length with a three quarter sleeve so that she can wear it in the winter with a cardigan, tights and boots, or in the summer with a pair of trainers. She spent the evening tracing out her pattern pieces and I’m sure you’ll see her wearing the dress in the shop before very long. Both Jackie and Deborah have made a lot of the projects from Make It Simple – it’s a fantastic resource for quick makes so if you’re interested in getting a copy then you can find it on our website here, along with other useful books on dressmaking. We still have some of the Tilly and the Buttons jersey in stock too, which you can find on our website here.

Catherine, as you might expect, spent the evening on the overlocker – she was the only one of us to actually get some sewing done! She is currently making several cushion covers, some for herself with the fabric and matching Seralene thread pictured below, as well as some for her son. She is cleverly making use of off-cuts from some curtains that she took up and as the pieces were only half the width she needed, she has combined two different fabrics so that one half of the cushion is plain and the other half is patterned. You would never know that they are made from fabric that might otherwise have been thrown away.

A quick note on Seralene. Catherine always uses Mettler Seralene thread for overlocking as it is lovely and smooth, causing less breakage and creating less fluff than cheaper threads, which means your seams are stronger and neater. We don't currently have Seralene thread on the website as I am still working on getting our whole catalogue of products online, but you can purchase it in store. If you aren't local to Nottingham, don't worry - we take telephone orders too!

Anna had a pencil in her hand all evening as she was planning out a new quilt. She likes to take inspiration from patterns she sees on her travels and she has found some beautiful tiles outside a shop on Chapel Bar in the city centre. As you can see in the photo, she is currently translating the tiling into quilting blocks, which takes quite a bit of planning but the outcome is worth it. She has already made a gorgeous quilt based on some tiling outside Primark on Long Row, so I’m sure her Chapel Bar quilt will be equally beautiful! It’s lovely to see how Nottingham influences her quilting – each quilt has its own story and history, as all good quilts do.

As always, I was the slowest and least productive member of the group. I have been working on some crewel embroidery kits from The Coleshill Collection that my sister asked me to make for her 40th birthday. Unfortunately, she turned 40 in 2018 so I’m a little behind schedule! I stitched out just one leaf, using satin stitch over a backstitch outline for the main part, blanket stitch for the top, while the bottom was composed of a stem stitch outline and filled with seed stitch. Given that it took me the whole evening to complete that, I think my sister will be lucky to receive her embroideries by her 50th birthday!

As you can see, we all love to sew but also have very different areas of interest and expertise. That’s why we love our staff sewing nights so much, it’s inspiring to actually see what everyone else is creating. It’s also the reason why we can usually find someone with the knowledge and experience to help when customers come to us with questions. I don’t know when we’ll next be able to meet up like this, but hopefully it won’t be another two years before we can have another stitch and chat!

Fabric · New in · Patchwork · quilting · Staff

What’s new at Coles?

Hi, my name is Ellie and I’m in charge of the Coles Sewing Centre website, although you might know me from the shop as I used to run the Mail Order department. These days I mainly work behind the scenes keeping the website up to date with all the latest products, and that’s a busy job because we have a lot of products! I will be posting with updates about the latest additions to the Coles catalogue, from newly arrived fabrics to the current courses and the latest Husqvarna Viking machines.

This week I will be talking patchwork and quilting fabrics, as we have just had a delivery of some real beauties! We have a new collection called “Hand Stitched” that was designed by Karen Lewis Textiles for Figo Fabrics – this a lovely range that draws inspiration from hand sewing and the natural world. As you can see from the pictures below, “Stitches” brings to mind sashiko embroidery, while “Tossed Leaves” and “Plants” have a simple and elegant foliage-based design.

“Hexies” is my personal favourite from this collection, although I can’t decide how I would like to use it – I’m about to try English Paper Piecing for the first time and it would make gorgeous hexagons, but wouldn’t it make a lovely needle case too? Of course I could always combine the two…

Our other new addition this week is some Christmas fabric – with only three and a half months until Christmas then now is the time to get started on your Christmas makes! We have four new fabrics from the “Traditional” collection by The Craft Cotton Company, which include traditional Christmas plants such as holly, poinsettia and mistletoe, with festive metallic highlights.

We now have all of our fabrics online, so you can buy the Hand Stitched collection on the Coles Sewing Centre Website here, while you can find the Traditional Christmas Collection here. If you prefer to choose your fabrics in person then why not come and visit us at our Nottingham shop? We are once again open 9:15am to 5:00pm, Monday to Saturday. Come and say hello!

Sewing · Staff

Hello from all of us here at Coles Sewing Centre!

How have you all been? What a strange 18 months we have been through!

Well we are delighted to still be here, and all our staff have stayed with us. In fact we have 2 new members of staff, apprentices, George Farmer in the sewing machine service department, https://www.colessewingcentre.co.uk/service-repairs and Carys Brandy in the shop https://www.colessewingcentre.co.uk/. You will probably speak to Carys if you call us by phone on 0115 9881550/1, or come into the store, so say hello and make her feel welcome! The store is now open as normal from Monday to Saturday 9.15 am to 5pm, we do ask you to wear a mask and respect social distancing instore for both staff and customers, thanks.

Our newest member of staff, Carys

George has been with us since November last year and is learning very quickly. He is great with overlockers too, so if you need your sewing machine or overlocker, servicing or repairing, we have a great team here to do it for you . You can or pop in with it, or we can collect it from you, by our van in the local area, or by courier https://www.colessewingcentre.co.uk/shipping-and-returns. There is a loading and unloading bay at the front of the store, or pull into Lennox Street by our side door. You have time to conduct dropping your machine off for repair, but hey why not use the metered parking bays nearby on Lower Parliament Street. It’s £2.40 for an hour, but we will give you 10% off your shop, so spend £24 and park for free! Nottingham Parking: https://www.transportnottingham.com/driving/parking/

Our classes are back too! Lower numbers due to social distancing, but here nonetheless. More details: https://www.colessewingcentre.co.uk/courses.html

During lockdown we have seen a great uptake in sewing. If you need help or inspiration, why not get in touch at info@colessewingcentre.co.uk, we would love to hear from you, or see your lockdown projects!

Well that’s all for now, but we will blog again soon!

George working on an Epic