We have admired Louise's work for a while now and are really delighted that she's agreed to join the guest blogger team here at Poppies & Polka Dots. Her first tutorial which will be available from Sunday 12th June and is an absolute beauty, featuring one of my favourite fabric collections so far of 2016 - Wonderland by Melissa Mortensen .
It's become traditional to introduce our guest bloggers to you with a few questions..... so here we go, introducing to you Louise Ambrosi the founder of the wonderful Sew Sofia shop and blog.
1 - Have you always been a fan of making and sewing and when did it all start?
I’ve always been into making stuff. As a child I would spend ages finger knitting, cross stitch/tapestries and handstitching patchwork hexagons together. When I reached secondary school I was sewing cushions on my Grandma’s old Singer for my bedroom, crocheting blankets for the needy and making polymer clay bead necklaces and key rings for friends and teachers. I never really got sewing properly until I got married and we needed curtains for our new house! Then my daughter Sofia came along and I started Sew Sofia in September 2011, inspired by her enthusiasm to create new things every day and I love making new things for her and her brother to try out.
2 - What was the catalyst to opening your shop?
It all started when I was made redundant from a business information centre in 2011. I was looking for something more creative than an office job to keep me busy for a few hours while my son was at nursery. I became interested in making bags after buying the book Sew! By Cath Kidston which gave the basics for bag making. I made a couple of tote bags for Sofia’s teachers and a ballet bag for a friend’s daughter – I got lots of compliments for my first bags and when my friend said “You could sell these!” and put in an order for another bag, I was encouraged to make more!
I then received The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam from my sister for my birthday – I initially thought the bags looked far too difficult to make, but once I tried one pattern I became hooked and have not looked back! Now the more challenging the bag pattern the better!
3 - Where do you find inspiration for your makes?
Fabric is a key source of my inspiration – if I see something I like I start dreaming up what I can make with it. I’m also inspired by all the bag pattern designers around the world who come up with some wonderful patterns just waiting to be made into beautiful bags.
4 - How would you describe your style?
Funky, Fun and Functional is my strapline for Sew Sofia – I like making items with a purpose and in eye catching prints and colours. I also like working with wipe clean fabrics like laminated and coated cottons which are practical for keeping bags clean and lasting longer.
5 - What is the make you’re most proud of to date?
That would have to be my camera bags, they are a challenge to make but I really love the way they come together at the end.
6 - In terms of sewing, is there anyone in particular that inspires you or someone we should be looking out for / reading their blog?
I’m an avid follower of Melissa Mortensen of The Polkadot Chair blog, she has some brilliant bag patterns and other tutorials on her blog and has recently started designing fabrics too like this Wonderland collection for Riley Blake. She also has some great party ideas for kids!
I love Swoon bag patterns by Alicia Miller in the US – her work is inspiring and I love taking part in her Facebook group page. I’ve made friends with lots of fellow bag makers around the world and we spur each other on.
7 - What was the last thing that you made for yourself?
One of my Weather Girl wallets in laminated cotton umbrellas print from Dashwood.
8 – Is there anything in the craft calendar you are currently working towards or particularly looking forward to?
I love making quilted advent calendars for Christmas – there’s something lovely about creating a timeless keepsake for families to enjoy year on year. It’s also a pleasant change from making bags.
9 - What’s the most rewarding thing about running Sew Sofia?
I really love what I do, I get just as excited as my customers about picking out fabrics for their chosen bag and find it so rewarding creating something unique and handmade that someone will appreciate. There’s something really special about making something that will end up as a birthday or Christmas gift, a changing bag for a new mum, wedding favours for a bride-to-be or even an ordinary women just wanting to treat herself to a new bag! I love the flexibility of my job too. With most of my customers ordering online, I can choose when I want to be busy or keep a low profile when I need a break. It means that I can spend more time with my family as well and they grow up so quickly so I don’t want to miss out!
10 - Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of starting a sewing business?
Oh where to start! Stay on top of admin (she says!) – it’s my downfall as I’d always rather be sewing than keeping those accounts in order.
Product pricing is key…it took me a long while to figure out the right prices for my products and admittedly I started out with much lower prices at the beginning without seeing much profit. Handmade should not be cheaper than mass produced items, it should reflect the time and care and materials that have gone into the end product. I would highly recommend the book “Sewing to Sell - The Beginner's Guide to Starting a Craft Business” by Virginia Lindsay of Gingercake Patterns for some great tips and also clever patterns to get you started.
11 - When not sewing, how do you like to relax?
Aqua Aerobics and walking – to ease the daily tensions of sitting slumped at a sewing machine all day! Plus I enjoy reading and a good bit of not too scary sci-fi!
Massive thank you to Louise for this wonderful insight into how Sew Sofia all began and for the fantastic suggestions and advise. Hopefully this has whet the appetite for the next tutorial which is by Louise and will be available as of Sunday 12th June, for now here's a lovely taste of what's to come.....