Monday, 20 August 2012

#ESPspotlight on...Andy Piccos of Stitchin Business!

...Andy Piccos

When you are Blessed enough to have a career you love, you find that many defining moments automatically weave themselves into your life's tapestry. Start up businesses tend to generate these entirely sentimental strains on your tear ducts more than most. For instance, I recall two years ago this September,  not too long after I joined forces with one Charli-Anne Shirley as Deer Oh Deer Ltd's Marketing Assistant, when she showed me her sketches for these dream magazine clutch bags that she had designed.

A month or so later, I turned up for our weekly meeting at DOD HQ, to learn that not only had she found someone amazingly talented to hand-make them for her, but a prototype was already waiting for me to have a look at. The Vintage Rose clutches went on to be our first line and the occupant of the hotseat this week is one half of the duo responsible for bringing Charli-Anne's dream to life.

Sticking with us through our VIVID (SS11), Heritage (AW11) and Carnivale (SS12) collections, Andy Piccos of North London   Stitchin' Business fame, has trained Charli-Anne in an artform that he has perfected throughout his prestigious career. As we embark on our biggest project yet, fully branching into Brit-American fashion and Bridal couture, it was only 'fitting' that I finally get to talk the bare (whale)bones of the sewing business with someone hugely inspirational; with a heck of a lot to teach in every aspect of fashion, business and life. More than anything else, Andy is a picture example of someone utterly in love with their calling, who has a lot of fun doing it!

Grab your sketchbooks and sample the hilarious, yet poignant teachings of a self-confessed "Stitch Bitch" at your leisure. Meet Stitchin' Business Founder, Andy Piccos...

Andy, I'm honoured to have you grace my little blog - Thank You for taking part! I'll cut to the (fabric) chase...Your story is such an amazing one that I'm going to break from the norm slightly and let you tell it in your own words before we start:

People ask me: “what do I do?”; “ What am I?” I say “I sew”.

The response is often: “Are you a dressmaker or a tailor?”

My most favourite response is “I’m a stitch-bitch”.
It breaks the ice and they won’t forget me!

My father was a builder and my mother, at various points in her life was a seamstress. We’re Greek Cypriots and good with our hands. I grew up watching people make things and fell in love with fabrics. Being a good Greek boy you weren’t taught to sew, or knit, or anything that girls might do (although my mother did encourage me to cook).

So after many years I finally decided that just looking at & collecting fabrics wasn’t going to turn them into anything other than a piece of fabric. I wanted to sew and create using fabric.

So, I borrowed a sewing machine, laid out the fabric, chalked up a pattern and cut it out. I then spent 2 weeks at the machine trying to thread the thing! I’d grown up watching my mother sew on an industrial machine; I knew how my hands should hold the fabric and how to piece things together. So after a frustrating 2 weeks my sister bought me a brand new sewing machine, with a manual, and so I started to make clothes.

A couple of years later I was running a bar and one of the regulars had noticed that I was wearing things that I’d made and asked if I’d like to take on some sewing jobs for his company. He ran a model making company that made models primarily for advertising photo-shoots. “Yeah sure” I said “I can do that”. It was a great test and training ground for me as everything had to be precisely sewn, made to scale- either miniature or oversized, and after a few years I’d created some crazy things that had tested all of my skills both manual and mental.

I’ve always been a 3-d visualizer. I can break down a shape or visualise it when it’s a flat drawing.  I taught myself everything, collected old / vintage sewing books, bought shop-patterns for dressmakers and took things apart, learnt to make patterns and to fit things on people. You learn the relevant techniques as you go and as they say, “necessity is the mother of invention” – so I create to make it work!

I decided to set up Stitchin Business 9 years ago and I think without the internet I wouldn’t be here now. Its been tricky at times, without the credit card I wouldn’t survive. I’m lucky that I can make money from working with a medium that I love.

1900s Daffodil Cotton Lace Wedding Dress
I used to think alterations were the worse things to do, but I quickly discovered that you get to see inside a garment and how its put together  and what design tricks have been used to make it look the way it looks.

As it says in various places about me and Stitchin Business, if it needs sewing it can be done here. I get some very strange projects, help product designers with developing prototypes, make covers for the strangest of objects and at the same time turn hems, make that bridesmaid dress fit and design the wedding dress for the bride.

I don’t often turn work away and if I do I usually point them in the right direction or refer them to the relevant service.

From the moment I met you, I found your Sense of Humour hysterical. Few people introduce themselves as a 'Stitch Bitch'! What other means do you use for putting your clientèle at ease?

Andy's forever cooking up mischief...
You've got to find something that cracks the ice and makes people laugh. 'Stitch-Bitch' generally tends to make suits uncomfortable and most women laugh hysterically, so it's always a good one. They'll remember you - one way or another! If that doesn't work then we're dealing with cross giants, really. If you don't make people laugh, they won't connect with you; it becomes really formal. So you have to find a way of just getting the first laugh and once you do, as soon as they have, then the attitude will go and they will relax and they will be themselves; so you can then find a common ground to work together on whatever project it is. I think that's always been true with any job I've had; there's always been an element of humour, otherwise it wouldn't work. I used to run training courses a really long time ago and humour is a really good training tool. People remember more if they laugh, than if they frown. Cannot be too silly though, because then they won't take you seriously!

The tale of how you got your start is a compelling one. Once you figured out how to thread your machine two full week's later, do you remember the first garment you made?

Another of Andy's typically unorthodox creations -
Recycled jeans, denim handbag with pockets!
It was a Brother (sewing machine). I think I'd cut out a top and that's what I was trying to make. A shirt or something similar. I'd just had two weeks of cursing a machine because I didn't know how to thread the thing! I wasn't afraid to use it, I'd watched my Mother sew for years so it was funny, because I knew how to hold my hands, I knew how to hold the fabric, I knew how to whack it through the machine because I'd sat for years and watched her. So it was like having an electric drill and not knowing that you have to plug it in - it was that frustrating! I know how to use the tool but...I don't know how to turn it on! I'd spent my childhood watching builders create and painters decorate and carpenters make tables, so I never had a problem with making stuff really, I just had a go. I'd watched enough times; you just get a saw, some wood, some nails and some glue and I can build a table or put shelves up...Sewing was just another tool, building with fabric, rather than timber. I construct fabric; that's pretty much how I see it. Which is probably why I have so much fun with lots of mad projects, because I'm not traditional, I've had no formal training. So I can approach projects from a totally different angle to maybe a traditional tailor or dressmaker.

Has there ever been anything that you've tried to make, that just completely and totally evaded you? You just couldn't make it work?

There have been a couple of massive alterations to something, where you get as far as you can possibly go and you just say, 'it's not going to happen, can't work'. Not without completely reconstructing it, re-cutting it and remaking it - which of course somebody doesn't want, if all they wanted was an alteration. I think that happened once with a wedding dress, but she never wanted to wear it anyway because her sister made her buy it! There were all sorts of family politics going on there and sometimes that's what you're dealing with, as much as the garment itself - it's the history behind it.

But I have had projects which I've had to make and remake, do and start again, rethink...I spend a lot of time in my bath just thinking about the best way to make something before I start making it. Ideally, you want to be able to pin the bits of fabric together, make it, turn it inside out and go "Ta-Daaa!" It's done. So the trick then, is to work out which way the pieces should come together in order for you to be able to do that.

Putting something together is quite fast, it's all the finishing that goes on, that takes the time...turning the hems, sewing the buttons, putting the hooks, adding the 'this', turning it 'that', pressing it; that's what takes longer than actually sewing it together, most times. Sometimes you have really tricky shapes that take longer, but generally it's not the sewing time, it's everything either side of it. Like with the hoods with Charli, we made a prototype and said: "No - this doesn't work..." and so we went back and adjusted the shape slightly, to get more hoods out of a piece of fabric. It was really subtle, but by shaving off and changing the shape, we could actually get more of them into a space.

Do you still have any of your early works, like the model pieces you made during your first job?

They were at times, completely crazy. I'd be sitting there going: "But there's no SEAM! How's this supposed to stay up?!" It was always a challenge; it might only have been 5 or 6 inches, 15 centimetres big; but it had to be absolutely perfect because it was going to be photographed, so any mistakes are just going to get amplified and it will look absolutely vile. And you may or may not be able to Photoshop it. I did all sorts of fab and strange stuff, like stockings and suspenders for a sheep...

'Wendy' The Sheep, pre-saucy stilettos...
I had to go all the way to Sevenoaks in Kent to dress the sheep for the photoshoot. She had a wig and everything...and earrings, she was lovely. It was for a brewery company, for the Rugby. She was the hooker for the ram, basically. It was a case of my going to get popsocks, lace stay ups. I opened up the whole back seam, put velcro in so that we could just wrap the stocking around her leg, rather than try to put the poor sheep in them and the suspender belt was turned into (like) a saddle, which just went across her back and held up all the other stockings.  

She was great - big, blonde wig, big red earrings and red shoes. They were Photoshopped in though because it would have been too much trying to get her into stilettos...

How exactly does it work for you then? For other 'typical designers' with their portfolio, it's just a book that they turn over, but yours; there is so much more than what you can capture in a picture - everything has it's own story:

Andy's Star's & Stripes Flag for Scottish Widow
handmade, entirely from Silk
Once they're done, they're gone, really! It's quite funny, I remember I had to make Stars & Stripes flag out of silk, because they wanted it to be a particular size, for somebody like Scottish Widows, opening up an American Finance section. I had to sit and make fifty stars, stitch them on to the silk, then make all of the stripes, and hitch it all together. It was huge and I'd worked on it...a day and a half, because of course it was some ridiculous deadline; I turned up with it after two hours sleep, the courier arrived and it went within half an hour! I sat in the office feeling like I'd just gone through a pregnancy and gave the baby up for adoption - I just felt completely gutted and empty! But that's what happens, you make stuff and it goes, that's why you're doing it, it's the process. I suppose I enjoy the process...And with the model makers it was quite nice because I would walk past a billboard and go: "Oh...I made that!" Until of course you realise that it's up there on every single billboard and you've got no money in the bank, which is always depressing; because then you go: "I made that and I'm penniless...

So is it fair to say that is the most common misconception about your job then, that you're essentially 'rolling in it' because of the diversity of your clientèle?

That's the thing about being self-employed, you have weeks when you have zero cash flow, no money. And because I do what I love, rather than (be) an accountant somewhere, you survive. I make it work, but thank God for a credit card! It's one of the biggest faults I think we have when we're offering a service where people are paying - we undersell ourselves. We think about what we would pay personally, rather than what our clients should pay.  

Former Miss England Katrina Hodge,
The Bottle Green Company's
'Miss Elderflower',
Ladies Day, Ascot 2010
We think: "it's a reasonable price if I was paying it". It's very hard to get your head into "well actually, this is what my skills are worth, this is what people should pay for it...". Sometimes, if you've got a lot of work on anyway, you double or triple your price, because if they really want the work done quickly, then they're going to have to pay the extra. If not, you don't care if you don't get the job because you're busy. So you can just up your price and it's the best time to do it. Then you start floating at a slightly higher price and you have a bad couple of weeks, so your price drops and you're stuck again!

We are completely undervalued. You'll say to someone: "This is what I charge for doing this" and they question it! Sometimes I will just have to say: "If you don't want to pay, then go ask the dry cleaners!" They have a machine in the back so they'll do their alterations for £2.50, because it's extra money for them! If they have that machine going round in the back for the day, they're making extra. I don't have a machine in the back making money for me, it's only me and my hands. So you pay an hourly rate that's worth it and covers my rent.

And of course, although there's only two of you, there must be times when you're overstretched. Being self-employed, I find that there are often times when there are more directions to cover than I by myself, can manage. How do you handle that?

Andy's work partner, John Reid
Too many hours to do in one day...John (Reid) has been working with me for the last couple of years, but I've known him for twenty. So it's quite nice to work with somebody that you know. I completely trust his creativity and his work, he's brilliant

I had a week recently where I was being called in to go to either photoshoots or prep days for Film and TV stuff. They would want me ready at 7AM, to get to the studio. So I had to be picked up with my sewing machine and taken to wherever. But normally I only live five minutes walk from my studio, so I get up, have the bath, have my breakfast, I'm here by 9:30AM and it's cool, because I don't have to get up until quarter past eight! I had a week of that; but then having to come into the studio after the day's filming and working until 9, 10, 11, 12, at night because there were other jobs that needed doing and all the TV stuff had landed on top of it. And after 3 weeks, I realised there had been no day off and I was clocking up 12-14 hour days. So then you just go "Ok. Enough. Stop. Time Off." Got to have it, or else I'd just kill somebody otherwise! Not me, but somebody - it's better that way...! 

Saucy Sally x4 for Kinky Knickers at Liberty
Sometimes you just have to say "No. You can't have me, Sorry! I'm too busy, I can't do it. And you don't want to put the pressure on me to do it because you won't like me." There's no point me coming and sitting in a studio for 3 hours until it's time for me to do something, when you could have actually said, "Come in for two hours, at this point in the day." Then you've made better use of me, I won't charge you a full day. I'd be out of pocket, but there are times when you just don't want to sit there. Only that it pays the rent. That's the only thing that justifies sitting there with nothing to do. It's about finding the balance between doing your hobby and making a living

Do you find there comes a point where there's a line between the two though? Or is it all just about loving what you do?

It's all one thing that I love. Sometimes you get bored turning yet  another trouser hem, or letting out another pair of suit trousers for a 'fat banker'; but I don't sew at home any more. I don't have a sewing machine there. Which is sad because I probably should,  then I could actually do stuff that's mine. My studio now is just work. I come here and I work on other people's stuff. Very rarely is there space to do something for me, but that might change!

So do you still sew for love?

Vodafone Festival Brollies, with Solar Panels and Wi-Fi
for phone charging and net access
Oh everything I do is for love! You'll still hear me cheer as I get to the end of a row of stitching and my bobbin at the same time! Or you tear off a piece of fabric and you stitch and you pleat and it actually comes to the exact right length when you've finished that piece that you're doing and you go "That's why I do it." It's in my blood. There's something about it. Then you put together a piece and think "Oh, ok; we could do it like this. So why did I suggest that to the client..?!" But it's good because it challenges the traditional stuff. I like a challenge, which is why I have that thing, that I provide a sewing service, rather than be a dressmaker or a tailor. It makes me more accessible

Some people think because I have a dodgy website, since my nice one was deleted by a stupid clerk somewhere in an office; that sewing should be a cheap service. I had one woman that was really p'd off because I told her that I wouldn't make her 25 dresses at £30 each (she had an £800 budget); so that she could sell them on her market stall; maybe she should invest her money in a pattern-cutting course and do them herself! She didn't like that; she told me I should take the money and spend it on my website and then dissed me because I work with Gok (Wan)! She said that no wonder his work is s**t if I do his sewing for him; knowing full well that if I did them for her, she would have them on her stall with a sign, saying 'These dresses were made by Andy, Gok's dressmaker'!

£30 a dress is still a lot more than my Mother would earn back in the 70s...she was one of the top hand machinists, making dresses from the finest silks, embroidered from France and getting paid a pound, maybe two for these really lush evening dresses that were being sold for £1000 in Selfridges. That's how bad it is! When people say: "Why aren't you in the rag trade?" I just get riled, because the rag trade is evil. It doesn't pay the people who create it, who sew the pieces together. 

You describe yourself as a '3D-Visualiser'. How easy is it to turn those visions from creations in your mind to the art in your hands?

Deer Oh Deer's Lux Hunter Hood
AW11 Heritage Collection
Well that's what I do, really. There's a whole side of Stitchin' Business that is just alterations, repairs and remodelling of clothes or trying to recover something that somebody has almost destroyed and then there is the other side; where we create patterns and make things from scratch, like with Deer Oh Deer's (Lux Hunter) Hoods. I just spent this morning re-cutting a corset section of a wedding dress that is going to be inside the dress, supporting the bride

The thing about clothes; I keep saying to people...remember paper dolls and you would have the paper dress that you would clip on to the doll? Well if you imagine that the doll is just in a sheath dress, take the sheath dress off and cut it with scissors, then glue it back together again, you've created a new design. That's how pattern-making works. The body is the same underneath. If you can plot the shape of the body - the shoulders are a certain width, the bust is a certain size, the waist is here and this far down from the shoulder, the hips are here...then you can make a body-shaped dress that is a canvas and you can draw the style of the dress on to it, then you cut it up. And that is the equivalent. So you see, it is just the same as cutting up paper dolls and sticking them back together again. 

I buy lots of old sewing books because they teach you technique. Some are really good at saying 'If you already have a pattern, this is how you can change it to create this style' and others are really good at saying: 'This is how you start from scratch'...That's how I taught myself.

In my experience, the skills you teach yourself are learned with greater impact than anything you pick up in a classroom. Was that the case for you?

In a classroom, you're being taught by one person and they have a particular way that they were taught. No-one taught me, I had to work things out. I had to check in the books and one would say do it this way, another source would say do it that way...then I would come up with my own

So what would you say has been the creation you're most  proud of, to date?

Andy's first appearance aired in
November 2010

The very first piece I embellished for Gok's Fashion Fix. I had to add leather bits to a white wool jacket that was refitted. When he finished it all and they did it on camera - I'd already done bits to it - and she was standing fully made over and being filmed, I almost cried...I'd had so much pressure. This was my first proper TV exposure, it's on a programme that I love anyway and it's got to look good! It's looked fabulous in the end...

Canal Street, Manchester
I did a huge installation job for a Heineken relaunch about 10 years ago now, I think. It had this visual of parachutes dropping huge barrels of lager all over the UK - like food parcels? They had four external sites across the UK. They wanted to put these barrels on to these billboards, then they wanted the equivalent of a 3D parachute draped as if it had been caught up on the billboard. So the rigging, the ropes, all of it are on there; as if it could blow away. I had to come up with how to do it so that it wouldn't take off, also work out all the rigging and run it all through all this fabric. It wasn't until 3 o'clock in the morning or something, when we were having a cigarette outside the studios we were working in, that I paced the 32 metres that was the whole top edge of this parachute construction we'd made and realised it was the length of the building! They were done in such a way that all this parachute silk would just ripple and billow, but it couldn't go anywhere because the air couldn't actually get inside it.

St. George's Hall, Liverpool
It was absolutely huge and the best thing was that we'd had to label all of the ropes that ran through all this fabric. We labelled them all Doris and Ethel etc. and apparently it was hysterical, because one of them was outside St. George's Hall in Liverpool; the Art Director phoned up and said what a brilliant day he'd had, because all of these butch riggers were hanging off the rigging and one would be at the top, shouting "I've got Doris" and another at the bottom would shout "I've got Doris too!" while connecting the ropes to make sure everything was in the right place! It was great because when it was finished, it vast and all we were working with was a small table and an ordinary sewing machine.

I suppose there are a lot of projects where I can just sit there and go "Wow, we pulled it off..." Some extreme pieces of tailoring, stuff that just takes a lot of accurate sewing...everything makes me proud. If I look at it and I don't like what I see, then it can't go anywhere, because it represents me.

Green velvet, half-circle cloak,
lined with green satin for Wedding Cloaks
What's really sad is that the whole Gok thing happened two and a half years ago. Unfortunately, my Mother died just a few months before, so she never got to see it, which is a real shame. But I have her photograph on the wall by the sewing machine where I work, since what I do is because of her, really. It's still quite funny because I get the sense of her looking down and smiling at me, while I say "Yes, I'm doing it and I'm doing it right, Thank You very much!

She saw a lot of the model making stuff I was doing and more since then. Whenever I would see her, I would take her some pictures to have a look at, so she could see what I had been up to. She was very proud of my work and that I'd managed to make a living doing something that I really enjoy.

One of the things I want to showcase through these features, is where your hard work can take you. Would you mind talking about how the Gok (Wan) collaboration came about and the hardest part about what it is you do there?

Gok Wan, TV Presenter and Fashion Designer
How it happened, was that I was asked to go to a jeans party by a company called, who are an online jeans buying service. They help you choose the right jeans for your body shape. They were throwing a VIP champagne house party where you turn up with your stylist and jeans for five or six girls. They were filming it for Channel 4...Girls In Cars or something like that and I went to offer instant alterations if necessary. One of the stylists said to me "You remind of Gok, do you know him?" and I said "No", so they asked "What are you then, what do you do?" I told them I'm a "Stitch Bitch" and of course it had them all hysterical, of course. Two years later, I got a phonecall saying we're interested in seeing some of your work, we need a dressmaker who won't be afraid of a camera...I asked "Who are you?!" And they said "It's Gok's Fashion Fix, but for the moment, we can't talk too much about it until we see your stuff." So I referred them to Facebook, they looked at the albums. I then went into their offices, spent the day with Gok, helped to unpick some stuff, talked about this and that, then by the end of the day, it was like "Right. You're on."

That's what comes of being nice to people. You'll get much further through people who've met you. If I didn't have my Facebook albums then I would have been in a real mess because I wouldn't have had anything to show them. I would have had to create albums and put together portfolios which is not really how I work. But I had that as a back up so the phonecall was cool because I could just go "email me, I'll email you a link and we can go from there."

It's stressful, the work has to be done really quickly because it's probably going to be filmed in ten minutes; it's a different style of sewing yet again and it's about understanding how things will look on the outside because of what you're doing on the inside of a garment. You either cope or you don't. There have been a couple of seamstresses on the show who have just not been able to handle it all. I'm quite quick generally. And also, this is for camera; it's not proper tailored alteration. It's more, 'ok I can put a dart here, a dart there and it will sit or, give me twenty minutes and I can hand sew it onto this. Give me half an hour and I can do this and this, or if you want this, I'm going to need an hour...'. I know how long things take, so then the next part is you have to gauge how to do the job because you can't do it traditionally. And of course, I'm a non-traditionalist, aren't I so the challenge suits me!

I did something recently for some make over shows that Gok's currently working on; I shortened a jacket from the day before. I put it on the rail and said are you happy with the jacket - he said "I don't look." He said "I never look at what you've done anymore, I don't need to." That was really lovely, but still I was like "Yes I know, but it would be really nice if you had a look...because I'm rather proud of it too!" But how can we say "I like what I've done, yes it's good, but I need you to tell me for my ego!" No matter how talented you are in what you do, if you actually don't care about how people receive it then you're not a very nice person. On the whole, I try to be a nice person. I'm sure there are a lot of people who think I'm vile because I've crossed them or been stroppy at the wrong point...

You kindly shared that you have run training workshops in the past. For those looking to follow in your footsteps but are not quite sure how to tread, can you explain how hard it was to start Stitchin Business? Did you find anything difficult about marrying your creative talents with business acumen?

I was doing freelance sewing for model makers and I had about two years of really bad sciatica. So I was on Incapacity Benefit and coping, but I could never guarantee what day I would be fit for anything. I got to a point where I just thought actually...I'll set up my own business. I got onto an enterprise scheme and for three months, I had that period of setting up, I couldn't spend any of the money I was making, except on legitimate business expenses, but they saw you through. I had a mentor who I think I only saw twice in that period because I knew what I wanted to do. I found my studio quite quickly and just launched into it, really! Without the Internet though, I would have gone down.

Another of Andy's 'ongoing creations'
I spent the 80s working with a Charity that worked with the young homeless in the West End, I was their Finance Worker. So I can do my own accounts, plus I'd been an Administrator for them, so I had the experience of running an office. The end of the 80s was the point where I'd decided I wanted to sew, I wanted that creative aspect back in my life. I was 32 when I started sewing. Also, I'm of the generation where I was made redundant at the end of the 70s, I was made redundant at the beginning of the 80s...I've had five or six different career lines, but I've never been a traditionalist who would follow the career ladder. So by the beginning of the 90s, I was earning good money doing odd days, so I had time to contemplate what I wanted to do next. Ironically, I never thought that I would become a professional, I just wanted to sew.

We can't not talk about my beloved Deer Oh Deer Ltd. What made you decide to take an unknown brand under your wing and work so closely with us?

Deer Oh Deer Ltd Couture Clutch - Bespoke
The fact that she (Charli-Anne) was an unknown brand is irrelevant. It was solely about the fact that she was a client who wanted to have a go at getting some bags made. I hadn't realised until a couple of months ago that actually, it was possibly her first year of trading. As far as I was concerned, we saw it as a challenge and now we'd rather not make any more for you ever again! I think John would leave if he had to make any more bags! But that's purely because we do bespoke, one-offs. We initially saw it as a challenge of creating the piece, but we don't want to set up a factory line. We don't have an Eastern European machinist hiding behind a curtain in the back, who will just sit and machine all day!

Deer Oh Deer Ltd's first official line,
the Vintage Rose Clutches
this one: 'Red Carpet'
Our client who wants some magazine-style clutch bags - oh cool...How do you make them?! So we went to the market and bought a couple of cheap ones, we took them apart and went "Ooh! It's card!" Then Charli came in and we talked about the shape and suggested a few changes to give them a better line, a better flow in the style. And that's the joy when you've got several people who are creative together, creating stuff that you wouldn't have done on your own. 

But with anything, you don't want to do it too much, because it becomes repetitive. Like when she came in and we had to run up twenty-five Hoods for you at Christmas. Bless her though; she is a trooper. She came in and worked with us! But she enjoyed it because we're skill-sharing

Lastly, you're going to be helping Charli-Anne with our Top Secret foray into uncharted territory. Do you have any advice for her, going into this process from the design through to completion?

Keep on at it, really. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't. She's quite stubborn when it comes to that though, which is good! People will throw shade at you because you thought of doing something, you are actually going to do it and you're excited about it. By then it's just a case of saying "Step out my light. It's over. Get out the way, I'm coming through and I don't need you to tell me I can't do it, before I've even done it." People will always drop on you; they'll always say: "Do you really want to do that? Ooh it's going to be quite expensive and seems like a lot of work, are you sure you're going to have time to do all of that? And you don't really have all the skills...?!" If that's what you have to say, then you're not a friend. The trick is to learn to be hard-skinned and say: "Ok! Thank You for your opinion, now get out of my way."

Tell Charli-Anne to go do a pattern-cutting course, then come and talk to Stitchin Business about working more closely on stuff...

If you are a longtime reader, then you will know that I love to champion new talent. Half of this blog's purpose is to bring attention to those who really need and deserve a more unique spotlight. This week's interview however, is a typical example of the other reason that this feature is so hugely important. The imparting of honest wisdom, guidance and bitter doses of reality are exactly what I feel is missing in today's messages. There are success stories and there are horror stories, but Thank You Andy for showing us the more realistic in-between! Your candid, no-holds barred chat, on and off the record, was invaluable and I am forever grateful for the lessons!

SO many gems came out of this week's spotlight feature! Were there any particular topics that stood out, that you would like to know more about? As always, leave your thoughts, comments and questions below OR, go ahead and connect with this lovely man directly! His Social Media Catalogue is below...

See you soon folks!
ES ;o)