Words Sarah Langton-Lockton Photographs Lisa Valder and Francine Wise
According to her husband Matt, Sarah Horne has two speeds, ‘nought and 140 miles an hour.’ Sarah is the driving force behind one of Faversham’s newest and most popular specialist shops. All Stitched Up is a haberdasher’s, offering an abundance of items for experts and beginners in the arts of knitting, crochet, sewing and other handmade crafts. ‘It is what I have dreamt of doing,’ says Sarah, ‘ever since I was 15.’
Within living memory there was a haberdasher on every high street. That was where home dressmakers bought their supplies, before fast-fashion retailers usurped the skills of generations. Further back in time, Jane Austen’s novels are full of references to drapers, hosiers and haberdashers. When she lived in Bath, Austen was a frequent patron of a haberdasher in Stall Street. Ironically, the site now houses a branch of Primark. However, the tide is turning and people are rediscovering the satisfaction to be found in making things by hand.
All Stitched Up is to be found in a prominent location in a handsome 17th century building at 1 Court Street. Its packed fittings, crammed with stock, are described by Sarah as ‘a mixture of old and IKEA.’ The shop began more modestly in smaller premises at number 7. It sells buttons, ribbons, braids, sewing needles, every kind of thread – for embroidery, darning and quilting, for example – and other necessities such as knitting needles, crochet hooks and patterns.
There are Rico wool and Mettler threads, sewing and knitting bags, kits and books on Amigurumi, the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals, and masses of craft books, on all topics ‘based on the stitch.’ Fabrics range from polycottons at £3 a metre to corduroys and denim, and on to woollens at £12 per metre. Regular workshops are held on topics such as crochet for beginners and how to use a pattern to make a garment that really fits. One-to-one sessions are available for those who have tried and failed to learn from videos and books. ‘It brings joy to my heart,’ Sarah says, when customers finally master an elusive skill. Growing in popularity is wool felting, in which barbed needles are used to transform wool into wool felt for making three-dimensional objects – small animals are popular.
Sarah Horne was born in March 1969 in Walderslade, Chatham, the middle child in a family of five. Her mother, Evelyn, who likes to be known as ‘Ev’, was the eldest of eight children. She knitted and sewed for the family. ‘There was never plenty of money and we were resourceful,’ says Sarah. ‘We were brought up making things’. Sewing runs in the blood on both sides of the family. Her father’s mother used to work for Norman Hartnell. ‘At one point she was in charge of sequins. I have a photo of my dad in beautiful velvet rompers.’
‘There’s a massive sense of pride when someone wears something you’ve made for them,’ she says. This includes the family: her son is getting married in May and there’ll be a ‘50s theme. ‘The bridesmaids will be carrying crocheted posies and the bride will have a brooch bouquet with fabric flowers.’ She has made several wedding dresses, including one for her sister – ‘I was sewing pearl buttons onto her dress at midnight the night before the wedding’ – and four to five sets of bridesmaids’ dresses. Sarah does dressmaking for customers, and her sister carries out alterations and repairs.
‘When I started, off,’ says Sarah, ‘I thought, I’ll only be a fabric and haberdashery shop,’ but demand has led to organic growth. ‘If somebody wants something, I will try to stock it. If it exists, I will try to get it.’ She likes helping people and says: ‘I like it if people go out with a smile on their face.’ ‘I’m never happy staying still,’ she says, before revealing that she also has an accountancy business. At first she tried to juggle the two, but now has the equivalent of a full-time person running the accountancy firm.
‘Faversham,’ says Sarah. ‘is the weirdest town. The shopping area is tiny and some people never leave the Market Place. The footfall is amazing.’ The shop is always busy and a small but energetic staff keep it all moving. Ev, now 77, is the ‘knitting nana’. Sarah describes her as ‘a little dynamo’. Sarah’s daughter Gemma works there while she ponders on her future. She graduated this summer with a degree in psychology from the University of Reading. Francine works for three hours on Mondays, looking after the website and social media, which Sarah notes is ‘brilliant for business’. Alex is the newest member of staff, an apprentice in business administration.
And then there are the volunteers, customers and/or makers who have fallen in love with the shop, and are invaluable. ‘They are very good at seeing the shop from a customer’s point of view and offer a different influence,’ observes Sarah. A very regular volunteer is Wendy. She is Sarah’s best friend, and their daughters are best friends. Wendy helped put together the new shop. She describes her role as ‘labour workforce and occupational health department.’
There’s also a corner for local crafters who haven’t got a shop. Altruist, entrepreneur and force of nature, Sarah says: ‘I’m never going to stop. It gives me the most amount of stress, but also the most amount of pleasure.’
A few weeks ago, the shop mysteriously emptied and its colourful stock vanished from sight. Social media and a notice on the door informed worried customers that for a few extra-colourful days the shop was to become a café in a Bollywood blockbuster. The Market Place became a film set, and was filled with extras, exotic stalls, cameras and cables. After 12 days the whole scene vanished again, the shop re-opened as if it had never closed, and the medieval Market Place resumed its familiar shape and pace. All Stitched Up is quintessential Faversham – a special place.
All Stitched Up
1 Court Street
Words: Sarah Langton-Lockton. Photography: Lisa Valder and Francine Wise