Tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello! I’m Aileen, the owner of Sew Yarn Crafty & Studio. I’ve owned the haberdashery/yarn shop for four years and we opened the fabric shop from scratch three years ago. My background is mainly in retail with a creative slant (design, merchandising), but to be truthful, I’ve done all sorts of jobs over the years. I really enjoy the feeling that I’ve finally brought all of that experience together in a business that I see myself operating ‘til I’m old and grey!
How did you come to own your shop?
Myself and my husband, Tristan, met while working at sea but when we left to find land-based employment, we couldn’t find the right future challenge for both of us in rural Ireland near my family - although I did work in a brilliant wee craft shop called The Craft Cabin in my home county of Cavan which I thoroughly loved for obvious reasons! In 2016 we packed our bags and came to Scotland and found day-jobs in Edinburgh, choosing to live in Dunfermline. However, on our first weekend in the town, we literally stumbled into this great wee treasure trove of a haberdashery shop on the High Street and noticed on our way out that it was up for sale – we ‘assumed’ it was out of our reach. Turns out, we were wrong, and the rest is history!
What is your earliest memory of crafting?
I have so many childhood memories of making all sorts of things! Santa brought me craft kits every Christmas, I was very lucky. I have fond memories of learning to hand sew in school, how to knit at home (my Mammy is an amazing knitter), being taught how to make stained-glass pictures from sweet wrappers by a lovely lady who our family used to stay with on the West Coast of Ireland in the summers… I look back now, and perhaps I was a bit creatively competitive too, as I took part in many school and regional prizes for drawing, painting and creating. The TV show Hart Beat was one of my absolute favourites but in Ireland we also had this programme called "How Do You Do" and I always wanted to be the presenter Mary Fitzgerald when I grew up! Maybe I still do....
Who was your influence that got you sewing and crafting?
My Mother championed our creativity at home – despite having her hands full with five kids, I don’t ever remember her saying ‘no’ when we asked her could if we melt down her soap bars to make candles or use up all the loo roll making papier maché! Her mum was a brilliant knitter/stitcher, and my aunties too. My Auntie Tríona crocheted her own wedding dress and a beautiful communion dress for me – and my Nana stitched the pretty purse. I love how skills like knitting and sewing are so often passed through the women in families like that.
We often talk about what we love about making, but can you name three things you dislike about sewing/crafting?
No matter how many crafts I’ve tried, I don’t think there’s one I’ve ever really disliked - but that can be a problem in itself! I don’t always like having to make things under time pressure – that’s when I make mistakes. And I really don’t like doing alterations! We often get asked in the shop if we do that, and inside I’m thinking “NOOOOO!!!!”. A third thing? Hmm… I think it’s simply a lack of time, and I don’t think I’d be alone with that feeling, but I enjoy finding time to sit side-by-side with my husband while he knits, I crochet, and we both put the world to rights.
When did you first fall in love with quilting?
I have a very early memory of my Auntie Veronica showing me a quilt that her sister had brought home from the States. I was fascinated by all of the individual pieces that came together, and ever since then, I had always wanted to make my own quilt. I didn’t get started till a great many years later, but as someone who isn’t particularly academic, I think patchwork appeals to whatever little mathematic skill I do have! Unlike other aspects of my life where anything goes, patchwork requires careful thought and more accuracy, so that contrast feeds my soul in some way.
Would you ever enter the Great British Sewing Bee?
I often get asked this but as I earn a living in the sewing world, I cannot enter. But, if that was no obstacle, I totally would. And I say that, because I think the folk that enter are amazing. They put themselves out there, sewing & creating under massive time pressure, to be critiqued by an entire television audience and judges and I think, well, hats off to them! So, I would encourage anyone to take part. Life’s not about being perfect, it’s about digging in, getting involved, and not letting what other people might think hold you back.
What are you working on at the minute?
More to the point, what aren’t I working on. Literally right this minute, I’m working on the website, writing this article, editing photos, sorting out a VAT return, trying to get some sewing tutorials sorted for social media, troubleshooting shop floor tasks, posting internet orders and submitting the final round of Christmas stock orders. That’s all in a normal working day!
Can you dance a Can Can?
I bet the asker of this question never thought I’d answer it! And while I cannot do a real Can Can, I can do a couple of ballroom dances, and a great many line dances. My time working as an Entertainment Officer on cruise ships has a lot to be answerable for, but I loved it! And my efforts at a "Can Can" are immortalised in this snapshot…. Yes, that’s me, second from the left!
What’s next for you?
There are some massively exciting things ahead for Sew Yarn Crafty & Studio in 2021, which should hopefully benefit my work/life balance by the end of it all. No, I can’t tell you the details just yet, but I promise that I will very soon!