Alison Campbell runs Marble Moon Kidswear shop on Etsy. She learnt to sew at Sew In Brighton sewing school. We caught up with her to find out all about her business!
How and why did you first get interested in sewing?
As a child, I used to cross stitch with my mum and later, as a student, I wanted to customise my own clothes. I would buy fabric I loved from Birmingham Rag Market but I never managed to fully realise a garment as I was just improvising, although there were some interesting “no-sew” attempts! I bought myself a sewing machine when I was pregnant with my first daughter, and I managed to teach myself how to run up a baby blanket following You Tube tutorials but I always felt something was holding me back from really progressing. When I finally had the time and money to take proper sewing lessons with Kat that’s when things really took off!
Where did you learn?
In Spring 2013 I started stitch classes at the Sewing Lounge. These classes were a real lifeline to me at the time - I had recently had a baby boy who had been born deprived of oxygen, and sadly he didn’t make it beyond his first day. I was off work and wanted to do something during this time that was constructive, and only for me. I have such fond memories of those sunny mornings in that lovely sewing space. It was an opportunity to be somewhere where nobody knew what had just happened to me, so everyone treated me normally and I could just focus on learning this new skill. Within a few weeks I had made a swimming bag with a waterproof PUL lining and my first outfit following a commercial pattern, a dress and cropped trousers for my 2-year old daughter.
At what point did you start to think you'd like to make and sell your creations and why?
I became addicted to sewing after the lessons! I always had compliments on the many dresses, skirts and leggings I made for my own daughters, with people saying they would buy them. One summer, my day job (I’m a freelance translator) was especially quiet so I had the opportunity to get started and give it a whirl!
What was the first step you took to selling? And the second?
I asked my fellow mums what type of handmade garments they would buy for their own children, and what they felt was missing from the market. I developed a key range of 4 items (animal appliqué t-shirt, skirt, pinafore dress and baby/toddler dungarees) and made enough stock for a stall at a craft fair at our local community centre. I also started to sell through a Facebook group, needing another selling platform than just markets, and later on Etsy.
Do you have any key tips or advice for others who would like to sell their creations?
Check the market before you start to sell and see if you can offer something unique. There are so many makers of handmade baby and toddler clothes, often all making the same sorts of garments, that I have now changed my range to focus on ages 3-8. The sales and marketing side is also really hard work, and does not come naturally to many creative people! Etsy in particular requires a time investment, but there are help groups on Facebook which I have found invaluable, and it does pay off!
What do you like about making and selling your wares and do you make everything you sell yourself?
I enjoy being able to indulge my fabric buying obsession, knowing I don’t have to limit myself to what I and my own family can wear! I do buy in t-shirts for my appliqué tops from a UK wholesaler. They are made in a factory in the Midlands and are superb quality.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future in this area or are you happy where you are?
I would like to extend the focus of Marble Moon to cater for tweens and pre-teens. As my own daughters (and willing models!) grow older, I find myself less inclined to sew tiny clothes. Sewing for older children is definitely a new challenge, as they do have their own strong opinions and you have to keep up with trends to a greater extent. I hope to offer clothes with that same spirit of fun for older girls and boys that I feel is missing from high street fashions for ages 6+.
Read about more Sew in Brighton students business success here!