Hi, my name is Trish Papworth, and I am co-founder of Stitch the Gap. We are a not-for-profit social enterprise based in East Dunbartonshire and we run sewing machine lessons in Milngavie and Kirkintilloch for children and adults. We also service and repair sewing machines, have a small scrap store of fabric and a lending library of sewing machines.
We accept donations of fabric (as we use this in our classes to teach how to repair, reuse and repurpose textiles) and we also accept donations of sewing machines (they are then serviced and, if required, repaired and go back out to circulation so that as many folk as possible have access to a sewing machine at home).
What made you start your business, what advice do you have for others starting their own business?
I’d always wanted to be my own boss but the opportunity never presented itself until a conversation with my friend Amanda over a cuppa in my back garden. She told me that she was volunteering at her local community centre in Twechar, teaching children how to use a sewing machine. She said that she wished that she could do it for a living and actually earn a living doing a job that she loved. I figured that wasn’t too big an ask out of life and I knew that I could help her achieve that dream. She gets to teach sewing and I get to do the business side of things and so we both work to our strengths and are completely in awe of each other’s abilities.
I think it’s important to be kind to yourself (we’re often our own worst critic) and accept that you won’t have all the answers but there are LOADS of folk out there who can help you get there. In fact, other business owners give the best support and advice, so take time to network,and accept the help to plug the gaps in your knowledge – and try to enjoy the crazy journey.
Bizarrely, life in lockdown was really busy. Amanda and I had just quit our jobs one month before lockdown to commit full-time to the business. We were a mobile unit at the time with no premises and very small overheads,so we were able to pivot quickly and spent the time doing training courses (Business Gateway is a great free resource and the courses were really good). We learned lots about financials, cashflows, business planning, marketing and developed our website and booking app. We moved our lessons online and got funding to run sewing courses for vulnerable groups. We delivered sewing kits ( that even included the sewing machine) to different local authority and community groups and made lots and lots of facemasks!
I was less successful at home schooling, and we don’t talk about Joe Wicks in our house – I still blame him for a pulled hamstring!
I’m really excited about sustainability in fashion and more attention being given to a circular economy where reusing, repurposing and repairing fabric is celebrated.
One of my favourite things about running a business is that no two days are the same. So, there are days when I’m pitching for funding and writing grant applications and then there are days when I’m hoovering pins and threads from the floor and cleaning the toilets!
However, a typical day might look like:
Asking my children at 5 mins to 9 why they hadn’t told me they needed a £1 for dress down day (why is it that you can never find change when you need it?), or on the walk to school, why my child is the only one in uniform and I clearly didn’t get the memo? Then having to recover from the parental guilt to head to the office in Kirkintilloch until around 2pm – if I can, I like being home for when the kids get back from school (half listen to their tales of woe from school – yes more guilt) and I tend to catch up on afternoon emails/calls in the evening. I’ve never been a morning person and prefer to work late (one of the good things to come out of lockdown is that flexible working isn’t seen as slacking but that it’s a really sensible approach to getting the right work/life balance).
I honestly love what I do and so I’m really lucky that it doesn’t feel like work (most days!). It is important to switch off though and I’m very good at watching Netflix and eating crisps! I also LOVE the library and get tons of books out each month (mostly very, very light guilty pleasure reading – the kind of fiction my husband wouldn’t watch on Netflix but I get the last laugh as I read the romantic fiction anyway). The secrets of a happy marriage can be found in my next blog 😉
The only time I got into a blog was when I was pregnant,and I read about an ultra-athlete who was still running – I decided then and there to give up on blogs as life is too short to read things that make you feel inadequate!
I love books (have never really embraced the Kindle for reading books), the most predictable, gushy and romantic the better (like I say guilty pleasure and not at all taxing on my brain). So, if you go into the library at Bearsden and your favourite is missing it’s because it’s on my bedside table!
Do folk have a favourite? It’s CAKE!
If I was to choose, I could never ever, ever, ever knock back a bakewell tart (but you can keep the glace cherry – that’s not for me).