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Make fabrics a success in 2019

Jacqui Smith, director of Hantex, reveals how to make the most of the home sewing market

People sew their own garments for many reasons, from improved fit and individuality of design to the pleasure to be derived from the creative process. Once hooked, they will generally sew for the rest of their lives, developing and growing their skills and techniques over time.

Some will want a class to get them started, while others are happier learning on their own from books or the internet. Local sewing shops should be the first port of call, while online providers like Craftsy have a wide range of courses from 'how to sew for beginners' to specialist techniques such as stitching with knits and tailoring. Many indie pattern designers offer sew-alongs to help guide new starters and intermediates through the process.

All of these consumers have one thing in common: they all need to buy fabrics, patterns and notions. This is where you, the retailer comes in.

What do customers want?

There are always beginners starting to sew and they want manageable, stable fabrics. In general, they'll want to progress onto more challenging substrates fairly quickly. Knits and jerseys are the most common fabrics to progress to and when you think about it, most of us have a large number of these materials in our wardrobes. These are the most comfortable clothes for everyday and the range available to the home sewer is huge. Options include single and double jersey, pointe and every type of plain, heathered and printed design imaginable.

There's a popular misconception that beginners should be offered cheaper, base quality fabrics for their early projects. However, I think this is a bad approach as the end result will be potentially disappointing, creating a feeling of disillusionment. When a first garment smacks of quality, can be worn with pride and washes beautifully, its creator will want to sew more.

I recommend good fabrics, notions and haberdashery and above all, patterns where the designer understands the sewer's needs.

Popular trends

Seasonality is the primary driver for fabric choice, so we're currently seeing demand for warm jersey knits, which are great for layering up and work with tops, cardigans and dresses. Sew House Seven's popular Toaster sweater is a great example. Autumn also sees a rise in demand for warm brushed coat fabrics in rich colours and boiled wools for making jackets and coats. Brushed back French terry is great for winter sweatshirts while velvet and needlecord are very on-trend this winter too. Sewing enthusiasts are looking to mirror high street trends, so this is a good place to start for guidance on the colours and types of fabrics your customers are going to be looking for.

Home sewers will use a large variety of dressmaking patterns, but 'indie patterns' from smaller independent designers are also incredibly popular at the moment. The reason is the close connection between pattern designers and sewing enthusiasts, which produces a creative loop where ideas can be developed based on end user feedback. In addition, sewers have a massive amount of help available to them as they work on their garment. Social media connects the two groups and creates a community feel that's not always available elsewhere.

Sustainability is no longer optional

The demand for products with a lower environmental impact is also growing rapidly. Sewers want to know that their fabrics (and their threads and notions for that matter) are produced with minimal effect. When I'm selecting new fabrics for Hantex I look for a minimum standard that is either organic (GOTS certified) or Oeko-Tex approved wherever possible. More and more companies who embrace these values are ensuring they meet these standards. Let's not forget packaging either – when you sew your own clothes you don't use as much so you're already part of the solution. For hints and tips on improving the industry's environmental footprint, visit www.sewfortheocean.com


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