C & H Fabrics Ltd was started on 1st April 1933 by C.W. Hamblin and Mr H. Closs,and has now grown into a huge store over several floors with a great selection of fabrics, wools, haberdashery products and many other household and gifts items.
We had the fantastic opportunity to interview Diana Hing and James Hamblin, the manager and Personnel of the store, to learn more about the store and the products it sells.
What is the main audience of your business?
Up to 5 years ago the main audience was aged 45 and over and predominantly female, but in the last few years this has lowered to age 35 and over. Also many more young people has been buying products for school projects,which is encouraged by the10% discount to products for school work.
What do you think are the popular sewing products bought?
On the whole the product sales are very even, although C&H do sells huge numbers of scissors, people really appreciate good fabric scissors. The most popular editions are the Fiskars scissors, these are very good quality and last up to 10years before needing to be replaced. They also sell a lot of velcro, Wundaweb, and fabric dyes. The increased sales in fabric dyes has been quite recent, and is probably related the rise in young people buying from the store, and also the recent tie dye trends. A greater number of dyes are sold in the Brighton store than other stores across the country, which Diana believes is due to the greater interest in crafts in Brighton, as well as the outlook of older people here is in general younger and funkier.
What are the different types of fabrics that you sell?
Interestingly the customers often follow the advice and ideas of the staff, as opposed to having fixed ideas themselves. They also find that wool is very popular, which may be as it is a natural fabric and also very easy to work with, as therefore popular with less experienced stitchers. They have also seen a rise in crafts and with this a shift towards the use of fabrics for craft projects as opposed to dress making. People coming to C&H expect quality and something different rather than simply cheap and cheerful.
Personally what have you sewn or made that you have been most proud of?
James, the area manager of C&H, isn't a regular crafter and stitcher, but when training for his position he knitted a scarf with the help of other members of staff in the store. Whereas Diana sews a lot, creating a variety of clothing and pieces for the home. Her favourite creation was the silk curtains and matching silk roman blinds she made for own home, and feels very proud when seeing them within her home. She also makes a lot of clothing, particularly skirts, which she makes from scratch without any pattern!
Sewing, knitting and crafts are very fashionable hobbies now, what do you think has sparked this?
Crafts and sewing became fashionable when celebrities like julia robertsand gwyneth paltrow started knitting 6 years ago. Kirsty Allsopp has also been a massive influence, especially following her an episode of 'Kirstys Homemade Home' in which she made pom poms, C&H sold out of pom pom kits. Also Gok Wan brought embellishing into fashion, helping to set trends, and also increase the sales of materials to embellish clothes from home. Usually as well as materials for dress making, C&H also sells a lot of fabric and wool for creating dog beds and coats, which mimics the trend of pet fashions and clothing.
Do you think that the Great British Sewing Bee has had a big major affect on the sales of sewing and craft materials? And how?
The Great British Sewing Bee has been a great influence on sales of fabrics and dress making materials. People nowadays want to be different and individual, especially with the increase in mass produced cheap fast fashion.
How do you think that young people could become more excited about sewing and crafts?
Diana believes that by getting young children to touch and feel fabrics, such as angora and velvet, they would become more interested in fabrics, craft and sewing from an early age. Also teaching people more about the background of fabrics and the technical aspects, for instance that silk draws up more colour, thereby looking more vibrant. We also need to raise awareness that young people can create something and get a result they are pleased with , they just need to go for it! People are put off be crafts and sewing as they see it as complicated, but Diana says people ought to “just get a lovely fabric and go for it!”.
Last week we had a chat to students on the Tuesdays & Thursday Stitch Mornings, our weekly 'make whatever you want' sewing classes. This is what they had to say...
Keely (40) from Hove is currently creating an exact copy of a vintage 40’s dress she is already owns.
She says ‘I enjoy the independence as I can make what I want to make’ and that the teaching is ‘helpful and flexible and I can work at own pace and can do something different.’ To create the dress she has mocked up a basic dress from the Burda 7137 pattern, then adapted the design with Kat’s help. She is interested in returning, to learn garment making and how to use a sewing machine. She also wants to do upholstery for her business.
Louisa, 27, Brighton, who sells clothing in Brighton’s Snoopers Paradise (Kensington Gardens BN3) is currently making stretch jersey knickers from our pattern, with a view to making and selling them in her collection.
She says ‘I have never done this before, but it’s easy with professional guidance for each step. As a complete beginner I expected to make a lot of mistakes but with Kat’s guidance I had a lovely pair of knickers in 2 weeks, I enjoyed it so much I am definitely going to come back for more.’ She is interested in returning to add more for her collection or to make something completely different.
Ingrid Drinkwater, 41, Hove is currently making cushions. She says ‘I enjoy everything and the teaching is very good, I would like to make a bag next. ’She will be returning this week to copy a thick felt & leatherette Ipad cover which she saw in a magazine.
Stephanie, 31, a Youtuber and musician from Hove is currently working on the pattern measurements for 90’s style trousers.
She says ‘She enjoys cutting the fabric and the final stages and result’ and that ‘Kat is really good, patient and the teaching is not awkward.’ She will be booking onto our tailoring techniques course next.
You can make anything you fancy in our 5 times a week all year round classes – now on Tues and Thurs mornings, Sun afternoons & Mon and hurs evenings. Let us know by email before you come along what your project is and we’ll advise you what to bring.
A step by step guide of how to make a hair corsage - perfect for wearing at formal events and weddings, or as a gorgeous gift!
I used a selection of fabrics, ribbons, lace and a button, but the beauty of these corsages is that you can use any similar materials that take your fancy! So your new hair corsage can be for any occasion or match any piece of clothing!
Create long folds with a length of ribbon into a fan shape, sewing the folds into place as you go.
Repeat STEP 1 several times, but instead using different ribbons or fabrics for each layer. Ensure that each new layer is smaller, therefore not covering the layer underneath. The hair corsage ought to begin to look similar to a rosette.
Cut a length of lace or ribbon that is long enough to tie around your head. Turn over the corsage and sew this onto the back. Ensure that the stitches cannot be seen on the front.
Sew or glue a button, or any other small item you wish, into the centre of the corsage.
Finished, your new hair corsage! Its that simple, and looks gorgeous!
We love Instagram! Check out our image feed below. We'd love to see some pics of things you've made with us so we can add them and show off your cleverness! Send them to [email protected] with the subject 'for instagram'. You could win a £15 voucher if you also answer the questions about your made items on our Sewing Star page here
Congratulations to Karly Blackford for making these lovely garments at our Stitch Evenings and becoming our latest Sewing Star! Karly decided to make her own denim shirt dress after not being able to find what she wanted in the shops, and the end result looks superb. She used the pattern pack by 'Lisette Misses' & Miss Petite Sportswear 2246'.
Karly also just finished making this gorgeous pencil skirt, which she is looking forward to wearing to work. She used the pattern pack 'New Look Misses Skirts 6843', and fabric purchased from Ikea.
Karly's taken away with her some lovely new clothes and lots of new sewing skills, including how to make clothes from patterns and how to use an overlocker. She's also learned that she doesn't like fiddling with buttonholes! Karly said that Debra was a great teacher and the Stitch Classes were fun and friendly, and she's even recommended our Learn to Use a Sewing Machine Course to a friend!
Overlockers, originally used in industrial sewing venues, are a valuable asset to home sewers.
Not long ago, overlockers were only available for commercial use. The machines were huge, heavy and impractical for home sewers. Fortunately, the market has changed and there are wonderful assortments of industrial-quality overlockers, at a variety of price points, designed specifically for home sewers.
Different from a conventional sewing machine that forms a stitch with a bobbin and top thread, an overlocker works with loopers and needle threads that form an overlocking stitch.
When selecting an overlocker, keep in mind that as the number of threads and loopers increase, so does the price of the machine. So, choose the configuration that best fits your needs.
What does an Overlocker do? To continue reading this in depth article on overlockers click here
Interested in learning to use an Overlocker? Read details in the box below
Learn to use an overlocker (use ours or bring yours)....
I thought I would put up details of the pattern adjusting book I have occasionally mentioned that is BRILLIANT for methods of adjusting dressmaking patterns like we do on the Making Clothes from Patterns Course to fit big boobs, rounded backs, thin or chunky arms, thin or big thighs etc etc....basically for anyone who's making clothes from patterns (bought patterns or drafted yourself as we do on the Fashion Design course) for a body that is not 'uniform' size and shape all over (who's is??)!
Phillipa tells us about the dress she created for her daughter Martha that made her this months Sewing Star, and won her a FREE Stitch Class.To find out how you could become our March Sewing Star please click here.
Phillipa was inspired to make this dress because she has a 6 month old baby, Martha, and wanted to learn to make childrens clothes.
She came on the Making Clothes from Patterns Course at Sew In Brighton armed with Simplicity's 5489 pattern and 2 lengths of corduroy, which she'd bought on the pre-course shopping trip at Fabric Land, which is run as part of the course.
Phillipa says of the course:
"The best things I learnt were how to do applique and automatic buttonholes - and I also learnt loads from watching the others on the course learning various techniques for their garments, such as the zip in Sallys top, gathering on Fran's 50's style dress, I plan to try both techniques myself in next projects!
" The classes were really good, informal, which I prefer. There was always a good atmosphere and liked the balance between Kat's teaching and allowing me to get on with it myself and ask for help when needed."
Phillipa made the dress as a practise run, as it's a 3 year old size, and she plans to now make lots more from the same pattern in smaller sizes that Martha can wear now - next the next one will have an applique apple instead of an owl!
If you'd like to make clothes from patterns, you can do so on these courses and classes:
Making Clothes from Patterns5 week evening courses We take you pattern /fabric shopping, then teach you how to make clothes from commercial dressmaking patterns, fit them to your size and sew up to an expert finish! Clickherefor more info or to book
Stitch EveningsThursdays 7-9.30pm every week Make whatever you want! Flexible sewing and dressmaking classes: choose your own dates and sewing projects.....Improve your sewing skills & get expert tuition making clothes from commercial sewing patterns or mending and altering clothes, furnishings etc. Click here for more info or to book Stitch MorningsTuesdays and/or Thursdays 10am-12.30pm every week Make whatever you want! Flexible sewing and dressmaking classes: choose your own days, dates and sewing projects.....Improve your sewing skills & get expert tuition making clothes from commercial sewing patterns or mending and altering clothes, furnishings etc. Click here for more info or to book
Stitch WeekendsSun afternoons 2.30 - 5.30pm every week Make whatever you want! Choose your days and what to sew. Improve your sewing skills & get expert tuition making clothes from commercial sewing patterns or mending and altering clothes, furnishings etc. Click here for more info or to book
One to one- private sewing & pattern cutting lessons Flexible: choose your own dates and projects Get our undivided attention to help you with any sewing or pattern cutting project from learning to use a sewing machine, to soft furnishings to altering/creating dressmaking patterns to fit 'non standard' body shapes, or anything else! Clickhere for more info or to book
Claire tells us about the dress she created that made her this months Sewing Star, and won her a FREE Stitch Class.To find out how you could become our March Sewing Star please click here.
I'd just finished reading Chanel's biography, which was littered with plenty of drawings of her classic designs, tweed jackets and plenty of structure. I suppose this was the inspiration behind choosing my heavy pink and cream fabric. It made the most beautiful box-pleats, with lots of oomph to the skirt! I wanted to keep the dress feminine though, almost doll-like, so nipped the bodice in of the 50s-style pattern, added a lace Peter Pan collar and shortened the hem-line. I love the end result!
I made it in Stitch Evenings on Thursday nights. I’d go straight from work, and if I was lucky, I’d have just enough time to grab a mocha before class!
The evening classes are a great opportunity to do something productive on a weeknight, rather than veg out in front of iPlayer. One-to-one help is never far away, as well as a good chat with everyone there. I also appreciate the HUGE selection of herbal teas (and chocolate chip cookies) on offer to help me get through the evening. Cinnamon and Liquorice tea is a revelation!
I've already worn my dress for client drinks followed by a Yoga party (no actual yoga at this, but plenty of raw food and vodka!). It's lovely and warm, due to the thick fabric and cotton lining, so I'm storing it away for future winter parties.
Charlotte tells us about the inspiration behind the corset she made during Stitch Mornings
What inspired me to make the corset is that I love period costume...and, imagining that I come from other times or have lived other lives. I had actually had a dream where I was wearing a corset and long full skirt and big petticoat, so I tried to remember the details and draw the outfit. I began by making a gorgeous ruffled skirt.
When I came to making the corset part of the outfit I went online and looked at fashion designers ideas for inspiration and, watched the series Paradise which has beautiful 1890s clothes in it. I was inspired to use rich velvets reds and pinks.
I had an excellent teacher at the Sewing Lounge who encouraged me to try out different ideas shapes and forms to create what I had imagined. I learnt how to adjust and adapt a pattern to create the shape I wanted. I used the overlocking machine for inside seams and the eyelet machine to create a lace-up front.
I intend to wear my corset over a cream silk blouse so that I can wear it as day or evening wear. Definitely to houseboat parties where I normally wear ball gowns anyway :-).
I’m very pleased with the result as it turned out just how I imagined and I really love it.
To find out more about Stitch Mornings which are held weekly on Tuesday and Thursday mornings 10.00 - 12.30, please click here.
Get that perfect retro-style fit! We're excited that we're going to be at the upcoming Vintage Fair at Brighton Dome on Sunday 4th November, 12 to 5pm. There will be a great range of stalls selling really lovely vintage frocks, ladies' day wear and evening wear, and also suits and shirts for the gents. So if you find something you love but it doesn't quite fit... we'll be on hand to advise you how you could alter it, for Vintage perfection ....OR even better, you could think about bringing it to one of our popular Stitch sessions so that you can alter it with our expert help. - see Stitch mornings, Evenings and Weekends in the 'all classes' menu.
Sew Useful...This month our Stitch Evenings & Stitch Weekends tutor Deborah shows you how to tie the perfect knot. Handsewing can often make up the last part of a project whether it's a hem or a buttonhole but it's the tying of a secure knot that proves to be a big headache. Watch the video and never again will you find yourself in a tangle.
Emily took our 'Pattern Drafting Course' and went from learning how to make a block, to creating a unique and perfectly fitted skirt of her own! Here's how she got on...
Pattern Drafting (Cutting) Coursestudent blog A friend of mine had recently completed a pattern cutting course. “Look,” he said, showing off a newly made waistcoat, “Look how well it fits!” It indeed did fit well and I was sold, I decided that I was going to have a go too. I found a course (advertised in the window of Fabric Land), booked it up and best of all, my parents paid for it as my Christmas present. The first evening began with introductions. “Hello, my name’s Emily and it’s been one day since my last sewing session.” Nods and smiles all round and slowly we all got to know each other’s names. Then it was on to the course for real. With lots of measuring, drawing, checking and re-measuring, we all began to draft our pencil skirt blocks.
This is my block -
From these, we created our patterns. After hours of careful, close work, attention todetail and ultimate concentration I unpinned my pattern pieces from the calico to see… some square bits of fabric with slightly rounded corners. Never in the history of humankind has so much work gone into creating some square bits of fabric with slightly rounded corners BUT I knew, they were my square bits of fabric and the slightly rounded corners would fit me perfectly when I made up the toile (fingers crossed). It’s actually quite hard to sew when you’ve got your fingers crossed but anyway, I did make my toile and it did fit. Yes!What a great sense of satisfaction.
Back view of my toile -
Over the next few weeks, there followed a great deal of guidance and teaching from Kat about how to achieve different stylesand fits, including how to: reposition darts, add volume, inverted pleats, waistbands, facings, splits, wrap skirts, asymmetric designs, ruching, gathering and ruffles. We’d got to the stage where we were ready to start designing our own patterns. I was wavering between two designs that I’d seen and wanted to emulate.
Two skirts I liked -
In the end I went for the green skirt design. I have always loved 1960s clothes and liked the retro feel of the mini skirt. It reminded me of the skirts my Mum used to make for me when I was a teenager, so from hereI drew up some designs.
Designs for my skirt -
I have some fab yellow 1960s shoes and they inspired me with the colour choices. I was all set – original pattern here I come. I was a bit gung-ho and forgot to make a plan, I just started drafting pattern pieces at will, I thought I was keeping track of what needed a seam allowance and what didn’t…
Some of my patterns on the curiously named 'spot cross' paper -
When it came to making up my garment, I clearly hadn’t kept track of where seam allowance had been added and the skirt tuned out way too big!
This is the plan I made after I’d made the skirt! I’ll know better next time -
Still, all was not lost, as Kat had shown us what to do when this happened and I corrected my sizing in order to produce a skirt that fitted just right.
My final skirt! -
So, my final thoughts - I loved the course. It gave me a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. Funnily enough, it’s made me appreciate commercial patterns a lot better, which will be really helpful with dressmaking classes and making my own stuff at home.
I feel inspired and equipped to continue some more skirt patterns on my own and I’m ready for the next challenge, maybe dress patterns or even jackets. Thank you sew much (I couldn’t resist one sewing-based pun).
If you'd like to follow in Emily's footsteps and create an original garment of your own you can find details of our next Pattern Drafting Course here.
Ever had trouble matching pieces when making up a garment from a bought pattern (Simplicity, Burda etc)? On my Making Clothes from Patterns course last night we were having a right old time working out which was the side seam, which was the back etc once the pieces were cut out - which made matching the right pieces together slow & frustrating. Once you've cut out the pieces there's often no indication on the cut fabric pieces as to the right way up or round to put things together. Taking a tip from the way we make patterns on the Pattern Cutting course I suggest adding extra notches to your patterns before you pin them to your fabric.
But what are notches? Have you noticed little black triangles on the edges of pattern pieces? They're notches & they help you match pieces together, like a jigsaw puzzle e.g. a back sleeve head has 2 notches on the edge that correspond with 2 notches in the same place on the armhole. You cut them as tiny half-cm-deep snips at a right angle to the cloth (don't cut out the whole triangle, it'll fray!). I often find there aren't enough notches to help you match up effortlessly when sewing though, so I suggest, when making clothes from patterns that you add more of your own:
1. Cut out the paper pattern pieces to your size as usual.
2. Before you pin them to the cloth, look at the illustration below to see where I've drawn extra notches on the paper pattern pieces (the triangle shapes on the edges). Lay the pattern pieces together as you would when you sew and draw little notches on both pieces: for example half way down the side seam on the front and back piece, and 2 notches two thirds of the way down on the centre back, so there's no way you can sew a side to a back, as the notches won't match up. Put even more notches if your garment is cut on the bias as it will help you match up when the fabric stretches.
Adding notches is even more important if like my student Heather's skirt below you have 3 panels in the front and 4 in the back. We added extra notches so it was a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, with each seam having a different notch position from the next seam - then we just couldn't fit the wrong pieces together!