Sewing bee easy as craft outlet opens its studio to community

Owner Layla Welsh (left) and customer Lynne Thompson at French Grey Tales, at the Chantry, Morpeth.'REF 2402156173
Owner Layla Welsh (left) and customer Lynne Thompson at French Grey Tales, at the Chantry, Morpeth.'REF 2402156173

A thriving craft business has customer service sewn up as it offers its facilities for free.

French Grey Tales in Chantry Place, Morpeth, has been inundated with interest in its sewing and dress-making workshops, so much so that they are fully booked for the next six weeks.

But all is not lost for those looking to develop their creative flair as the business is also offering the use of its equipment free of charge when it is not needed for classes.

Business owner Layla Welsh said: “It is something a bit different. We had the space upstairs and the idea was to have a sewing school.

“When we opened up the upstairs we thought it was quite a good idea to have it as an open resource so that when there isn’t a workshop on people can come and make use of it. It makes lots of sense because we are already paying for the space, everything is there and we have a homeware designer upstairs all the time.

“Because of the demographics of Morpeth, with people living around the town centre and using it to shop, it is a lovely thing to be able to walk out in the morning and come in here to be able to work on something with the facilities just on your doorstep.

“We wanted to give something back to the community.”

As well as the use of sewing machines and equipment, staff are always close at hand to offer their expertise, and an ‘honesty’ library and kitchen are also available for customers to borrow specialist craft books to hone their skills, or make themselves a cuppa while they work.

“We have always had an honesty library in that if someone needed the right book to learn how to do something and I had it, they could borrow it and just give it back when they were finished with it,” said Mrs Welsh.

“We hadn’t really publicised it before, but with the studio upstairs the library makes a nice little section of the room. It is full of books on sewing and dress-making, painting furniture and lots of different things.

“All the staff are really clued up so when people are in and get stuck with something we are at hand to help.”

As well as selling specialist craft materials and kit, and painted furniture, the shop runs workshops on a range of topics, from dress-making and lampshade creation to candle-making and furniture painting.

“There are a lot of people in their 50s who haven’t sewn or whatever for a while and want to get back into it, and we get mothers who want to make things for their children. When you put your child into something you have made it is an awesome feeling,” said Mrs Welsh.

“We don’t want to keep these skills to ourselves and be secretive about them. They are not hard to do and we want to show people that they can do them.”