Sew Scottish Afternoon tea

About 18 months ago I got madly jealous of all the amazing meet ups that were happening elsewhere in the world between Sewists. I’d looked and looked for similar events near me in Scotland but hadn’t found any. At which point I decided to put on my big girl pants and ask if anyone wanted to meet up. For me that took quite a lot of guts – I may look all bubbly and chatty but its all an act. Asking someone if they want to be friends with you is a really scary place to put yourself.

Anyway the first meeting was lovely. A small group of us met up, looked at the fashion exhibit in Edinburgh and went for pizza. Bouyed up by this success (and again driven by jealousy of other meet ups) I launched Edinburgh Frocktails only to discover there are frocktail events elsewhere. Ours was no where as large as some of these but it was a genuinely lovely evening of cocktails, food and sewing chatter (and prizes!).

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And so we’ve just held our 3rd #Sewscottish meet up in Edinburgh which was an afternoon tea. As a result I’m being all reflective. I’d love to hear from others who organise meet ups – what have been your reflections? Any good pointers you can share? Or lessons you’ve learned the painful way

  1. There are more people than you think in your area that sew

When I started I got a list of local people off someone who’d previously organised a meet up. I’d only just joined instagram so didn’t really have many contacts. We established a hashtag #sewscottish (lots of arguments over that one!) and it brought in a couple more but really its been word of mouth that has grown our list. We’ve had a few shout outs on places like the Fold Line but in general the growth in interest has been organic which has kind of suited me (more on that later).

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2. Sewing companies are incredibly generous

For Edinburgh Frocktails we had the idea to try and raise some cash for a charity that had strong resonance with some of our group – Marie Curie. I very cheekily emailed a few companies asking if they’d be willing to donate something as a raffle prize. 100% of the people I emailed responded and gave us something – that is truly amazing. The prizes they gave us were very generous and very very well received. In total we raised £365 for Marie Curie which felt really worthwhile.

 

3. There is never enough time

On each meet up its felt like the time has flown. There’s never been enough time to finish our conversations about patterns, fabrics, what we’re wearing, our favourite techniques eetc etc. The joy of social media is we’ve been able to continue those conversations with our new found friends – I feel like I’ve made some really warm friendships with people despite only meeting them a maximum of 3 times. The bar staff in these places have been particularly entertaining when you tell them you’re meeting strange people off the internet. The lady in the Ox bar in Edinburgh reckoned so long as we stuck to sewists it would be safer than Tinder 🙂

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4. Venues are really important

I don’t live or work in Edinburgh so I’ve very much relied on my partner in crime Emma to source good venues. Finding somewhere with a bit of space to do a fabric or pattern swap is challenging. We’ve just held an afternoon tea party at a fabulous place called Casa Angelina and we definitely used up his space to the max with a proper bun fight over patterns. The weight of the table with all the patterns we wanted to swap was immense. We’ve all clearly been buying the same sewing magazines and ended up with many duplicates of the same patterns.

 

5. Sewing people are really generous

As well as raising money for charity through these meet ups (£365 for Marie Curie and £75 for Fashion Revolution) I’ve been amazed by how generous sewing friends are with their time, their compliments and their sewing patterns. We’ve done a fabric and sewing pattern swap twice now and each time I’ve come away with such an amazing stash I felt like I was being really cheeky (for example I’ve just come away with some amazing west African wax that was in brand new condition – eek!). These new friends are also hugely generous with their compliments and advice when i post questions about my makes on Instagram.

 

6. Admin can get scary

This for me is probably the only downside to these meet ups. I’m a professional project manager and organising complicated logistics is a natural step for me (I normally work on projects in sub-Saharan Africa so Scotland is a bit of a breeze). However that’s my job – something I’m meant to leave behind when I leave work. Sewing is meant to be my release from the stresses and strains of life.

At the moment I’m keen to keep these events to just once every 6 months. Any more than that and I think I’d start to resent it – and probably even retreat from it (my partner in crime Emma has far more appetite for organising these things).

We’ve released a logo and suggested anyone in Scotland organising a meet-up use the logo and hashtag to support the sewcial scene. Its been lovely to see how much appetite there is for these organised events. Certainly if I was a business owner I’d be happy with this increasing level of interest – however as a part-time worker and full-time mum I’m happy with my sporadic marathon organising sessions.

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So over to you guys. I’d love to hear from others who organise meet ups – what have been your reflections? Any good pointers you can share? Or lessons you’ve learned the painful way? Have you attended any meet ups and have thoughts on how to organise them? Are there no meet ups round your way and you want ideas to try and launch your own?

Please do share!

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14 thoughts on “Sew Scottish Afternoon tea

  1. Fab post Lesley (nothing new there! 😉) really good pointers too. Like Lesley, I’d love to see some more of the Sew Scottish Family to organise something and of course, we’ll give you what you need to start off an event! Lesley, without you I’d don’t think this could happen – without your wisdom and character we wouldn’t be where we are today 😘 THANKYOU xx

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  2. What a brilliant post. When I lived in Glasgow full-time there was nothing at all. I tried to organise a Burdastyle meet-up (it was a long time ago) but about 3 people turned up and I ended up having to move for work anyway. Now I am spending most of my time somewhere where I am the only “sewcialist” in the village. I hope that it goes well, sewing people are the best and really pro-active, and hope that I can catch a meet-up when i am back home. Xx

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  3. Thanks for this Lesley. I totally get where your coming from! Saturday was my first meeting with the group and I had a great time chatting with like minded people, as you say, the time flew by and I wish I could have spoken to more of the group.
    I’m based in Glasgow and I would be happy to arrange a meet up or two in between the main gatherings to keep momentum going in this area.

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  4. Well done Lesley I’m organising three events! I set up #Dorsetmeetup for the same reason and equally worry that if I organise something too big I’ll get stressed and resent it.
    We have had two get togethers both at a large local fabric shop. The first time we went shopping and then had lunch and the second time we had a breakfast and then shopping; the latter worked better as we all had time to chat before going shopping. Plus we swapped fabric and patterns first; and I would agree that sewers are so generous in that area! I’d love to set up a frocktails or afternoon tea but I think I’d need someone to help me!

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  5. Pingback: Sew Scottish
  6. Hi Lesley, I’ve often felt exactly the same – both in terms of events and shops. So much so that when I quit my job I decided to open a fabric shop! Anyway, I have a shop in Castle Douglas, SW Scotland and am keen to try and organise some social events as well and it would be fab to try and tie them in with Sew Scottish if I could. Also, if you ever need donations for future events as well then please do get in touch with me. Rachel

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    1. Rachel that would be awesome. You’re most welcome to use the hashtag and logo if hosting events. There’s also a small Facebook group we’ve set up to help organise things.

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  7. What a great idea; sometimes when you want to do something, you have to do it yourself. I find it difficult to even find places where I can learn sewing skills- it always surprises me as I thought it was all very fashionable now. I have to go quite far a field. Well done for feeling the fear and doing it anyway. You should be very proud and the people who go to your events will be very grateful for you for setting them up. Congrats. I learned to make a quilted bag the other day and I am sew proud of it.

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  8. I have to say I too have looked with jealousy at the meet ups I have seen on-line. Not being very active on social media (well except for reading blogs) it feels like I miss out a lot but I am loathe to delve too deep into it as I fear it will suck up the little time I have to actually sew! The idea of an Edinburgh meet up sounds amazing – I live in East Lothian – so that’s much more accessible than most of the meet ups south of the border.

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