Sew refreshing as cafe-goers’ left in stitches

Eyes down: Suzi Zobair hard at work. Below: owner Tansy Dyer

Eyes down: Suzi Zobair hard at work. Below: owner Tansy Dyer

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TANSY Dyer opened the door one morning to find a customer wanting a full English.

“It might be a cafe but it’s not that sort of cafe,” she says laughing, when we meet up.

New sewing shop, Cheeky Sew and Sew, on Rochdale Road, Todmorden'Pictured is owner Tansy Dyer

New sewing shop, Cheeky Sew and Sew, on Rochdale Road, Todmorden'Pictured is owner Tansy Dyer

No, you certainly won’t find bacon and eggs on offer here but what you will find is artistic flair and inspiration by the plateful.

For this is Calderdale’s first sewing cafe – a drop-in sewing workshop, where budding creatives can hire sewing machines by the hour, take part in craft groups and courses and receive invaluable advice on projects they might never normally have tackled otherwise.

Cheeky Sew & Sew, in Rochdale Road, Todmorden is Tansy’s brainchild – set up in response, she says, to a growing interest in making and altering clothes.

“There’s always been a strong interest in fabrics, handicrafts and recycling locally but I think the ‘make do and mend’ philosophy has never been stronger, especially because of the recession. Everyone is mindful about getting the most they can out of their clothes and not throwing things away,” explains Tansy.

“One of the things the cafe will do is teach people how to tackle alterations and customise and funk up their existing clothes with a few new ideas.”

The sewing cafe is based on the internet cafe principle – so although breakfasts won’t be served, there will be a cup of tea or coffee and biscuits on offer.

“Ultimately I’d like to get local, crafty people involved, perhaps having home-made cakes on offer. There’s a lot of talent here locally,” she says.

Tansy herself, who was born and grew up in Todmorden, has always been interested in crafts.

“I always sewed as a teenager and I was into Batik after travelling. I usually hand-sewed though and hadn’t really tried machine sewing until I took an adult education course in Todmorden and then Brighouse, where I got really interested in making my own clothes.”

Tansy’s original creations include striking dresses made from old ties.

She reveals she had harboured the idea of a sewing cafe for some time and then after being made redundant, her mind was made up.

“I want the cafe to provide a supportive, creative environment for people who want to learn and practise sewing, knitting and other fabric-based crafts,” she says.

“People might already be doing a bit of sewing at home but they might not have their own sewing machine or they might just feel they need a bit of advice or to bounce ideas off other people. Rather than be sitting at home on their own, the cafe provides a social side to crafts. It’s great when a bunch of people get together because that’s often when the ideas start to flow.

“The cafe will hopefully encourage people to develop creativity and resourcefulness and all in a fun environment.”

The cafe has now been launched with a range of basic sewing and knitting courses and craft groups, including learning to use a sewing machine, funk it up craft groups, learning to make a basic skirt, making a bag from scrap fabric, making a fascinator, shortening a skirt and taking up trousers and fun with fabrics.

Some courses are free while others cost between £10 and £15. The cafe will also host free Sunday surgeries each week – including ‘In a tangle with your knitting’ – where people can call in and get help with their projects.

“I want the cafe to be affordable and open to all but more importantly I’d like to hear people’s ideas. I want to base the courses and craft groups on what people want and hopefully they will evolve as we go along.

“The emphasis will definitely be on fun too. We’re even having a workshop to make belly dancing accessories and there’ll be clothes swap parties. I want it to be much more than just sewing.”

In the few weeks since opening, the cafe is already proving a big hit, as one crafter Suzie Zobair attests.

“It’s just good to be among like-minded craft people and swap ideas,” says Suzie, who is currently working on lengths of bunting for an up-coming festival.

“I think the idea of a sewing cafe is brilliant.”

Sam Parfitt agrees: “I have always been a knitter so I will definitely be using the cafe and who knows, I might even try my hand at some sewing.”

And Tansy has even got the seal of approval from mum, Jan, who is also an experienced sewer.

“I always sewed when Tansy was little and I still enjoy doing bits and pieces now. I’ve a vintage top which I’d like to alter so I think I shall be bringing that along.”

Cheeky Sew & Sew sewing cafe is now open every day from 10am to 4pm and people are invited to call in. Sewing machine hire costs £5 an hour with a half-price offer on Thursday mornings. Further information about the courses and workshops can also be found at www.cheeky-sew-and-sew.co.uk or by ring Tansy on 07452076185.