Meet Fiona Hesford of SewGirl
Fiona is our Designer of the Month for November 2021, so we asked her for a quick chat to introduce herself to our lovely CraftWorld members!
Don't forget! Fiona is offering a 10% discount in her shop to all CraftWorld members and a FREE copy of the Cecily dress pattern worth £18.50 to CraftWorld Premium members.
Click here to find out more
Hello there! my name is Fiona Hesford and I have a sewing enterprise called Sewgirl which I started in about 2009. I’m based in Worthing, on the south coast of England.
Today is photography day so I’ve been filming a short reel for Facebook and Instagram featuring Autumn versions of three Sewgirl hat patterns (Chelsea, Brompton and Brighton). Also, some gorgeous new fleece back sweat fabric has just arrived in stock, so I’m shooting the new Maisie sweater top made up in a gorgeous teal colour, worn with a Cecily skirt in African Dutch wax. It’s looking very vibrant and colourful.
My favourite part of making clothes is most definitely teaming up the fabrics with each Sewgirl pattern. I especially love creating kits and it seems like lots of other people like them too. Packing them up in their recycled kraft bag, with all the bits and bobs is a joy, and I also think they make great gifts for a sewing beginner or enthusiast. Sometimes I even pop in a little special surprise gift for my lovely regular customers.
I don’t think I ever sat down and decided to start my Sewgirl business, it just kind of evolved over time. I’d been working for many years as a fashion/knitwear designer both in the UK and abroad, had started a family (my twins were born in 1997) and moved to Worthing here on the South Coast. I knew that I wanted a change, so I started writing sewing projects for books and magazines, launched a sewing club alongside beginners workshops and became completely obsessed with making clothes. Yarns no longer floated my boat, I had fallen head over heels with fabric instead.
In the early days, with an idea to produce a sew up fashion doll kit, my screen print artist husband helped me produce printed fabric panels for the doll and dress, to make it yourself. I called her ‘Sewgirl’ and the name kind of stuck. Now, I get called Sewgirl, which, at age 61, I find quite amusing.
After spending several years working on projects for magazines, I launched my first Sewgirl pattern on Sewing Quarter TV channel- a tunic called ‘Hilda’. It was so well received, I felt totally elated and encouraged to design lots more. Currently there are over 20 designs in the range, including jackets, bags, skirts and tops. They are all garments that I wear myself on a daily basis, simple to make projects for beginners and intermediates to sewing.
I’ve always liked natural sustainable fabrics, linen is one of my go to fabrics in particular linen/viscose mixes because it’s softer and has a nice drape quality. I adore African Dutch wax fabrics and use them often for my skirt kits, it’s so nice to wear show stopping bold prints, for me it’s like wearing a fabulous piece of art.
Its hard to pick a favourite Sewgirl pattern because they are all very personal to me, but at a push, I think my Cecily dress is one that I’m quite proud of. It’s such a classic timeless style that you can wear both to a party or at work.
I like to include as many sizes as possible on the template sheet but sometimes you have to compromise so that it’s easy to read and user friendly. Firstly, I design to a base size, when I’m happy with how that looks, the pattern will then get sized. We make a lot of samples before going to print to check that everything is ok.
If there’s one thing that making my own sewing patterns has taught me is to make a ‘toile’ or trial garment with inexpensive fabric first. Every pattern needs a bit of tweaking here and there, so it’s good to make adjustments before spending lots of money.
I was head hunted to work on Love Sewing from the very first issue and spent several years working on a variety of different items. I have fond memories of the appliqué projects I designed, such as the ‘Walking the Dog’ bag and the ‘Nail Bar’ cosmetics purse which I had a lot of fun with.
Take a look back at some of the stunning projects Fiona has created for Love Sewing over the years by checking out the "sewgirl" tag here on CraftWorld
My advice to struggling sewists out there is ‘Don’t go it alone!’
One of my biggest business challenges over the years, has been keeping up with demand. I used to process all the orders myself, however during lockdown, sales went through the roof. Luckily my husband came to the rescue. Now he’s jumped on board and helps takes care of stock and sales, which frees me up to concentrate on designing and marketing new projects. Having said that, he is also very good at injecting creative ideas and is my best critic. I think we make a great team and I love working with him.
My advice to struggling sewists out there is ‘Don’t go it alone!’ There are lots of groups out there to meet up and share ideas with. If you don’t have anywhere local, then why not link up with a Facebook group? There are lots out there and sewers are generally a very friendly and supportive bunch.
My New Year resolutions are to focus more on wholesaling. I would love to see Sewgirl patterns in more fabric shops around the country. Oh and I would also like to design a bags and accessories range so watch this space in 2022!