Bowral fabric store Loom is situated on Bong Bong Street, Bowral, just near my office. Lucky for me, as when NSW Health began encouraging us to wear masks, I decided to draw on my old sewing skills and make my own.
I wanted something that was functional, as well as fashionable, so I stepped into Loom and shopped up a storm. There were so many unique silks; I was beside myself with delight. I chose a handful, took them home and fashioned them into gorgeous masks.
While I was there, I decided to also pick up some stunning prints and other bright fabrics to make clothes for my grandchildren. I have absolutely loved sharpening my sewing skills again and using another outlet for my creativity. This is something that 29 year old Charlotte Bayliss, owner of this gorgeous Bowral fabric store, has been seeing a lot of lately.
“A lot of my customers are saying the same,” she said when I chatted with her recently. “They’ve been getting their sewing machines out and have been making dresses. Many have bought patterns – even before we went into lockdown, and made some gorgeous items of clothing.”
Bowral Fabric Store Boom
Charlotte’s shop is one of the few lucky businesses that has managed to thrive throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. It seems many people are returning to activities they can enjoy at home, especially ones that are productive, while they are self-isolating. Enter, sewing your own garments.
“It is a little weird to be doing so well out of the crises,” Charlotte said with a catch in her voice, clearly aware of how so many small businesses have suffered. “But people are flocking in to buy the masks I am making and selling, or they are buying fabrics to make their own.”
Charlotte revealed that the majority of our community is drawn towards brighter colours, which I think is wonderful. It will be great to see bursts of colour brighten up our streets. However, there are some neutrals and plain blacks available too.
“Everyone has their own thing, but I am mostly selling a lot of quilting cotton,” she said. “I also have heaps of requests for really bright ‘out-there’ florals, as well as demand for black and neutral, or as plain as possible, for men. And of course the masks I make myself are made to the advised three layers and are fully machine washable. They have been very popular.”
Back To Bowral From The Big Smoke
Charlotte opened her gorgeous Bowral fabric store just over six years ago, when she and her husband relocated back to the Southern Highlands from Sydney.
“My husband grew up here,” she said. “We met in Sydney but we were always down here every month for a weekend away. So, we finally decided to move down and open the shop.
“When I left school, I first wanted to design clothes. I studied fashion design at a little tailoring school in Sydney, as well as TAFE. At the time, I was also working in a big fabric store. It really was my dream job. As my studies progressed, I realised that I loved the fabric side of things so much more than the design side. So, I thought, “why not give it a go?”
There was no turning back for Charlotte, and now her store is one of the best and most innovative fabric stores in the Southern Highlands.
Fabric Finds From Australia And Around The World
Charlotte sources her fabrics from all corners of the world, including many from Australia and a few fab vintage finds.
“I do get a lot from overseas suppliers, and I normally do a sourcing trip every year, to all sorts of places – Italy, America, Japan. It’s great to try to go somewhere different every time and I get some really unique things that are hard to find in Australia.
“Obviously, I haven’t been able to do that this year. Luckily, I made a big sourcing trip last year, so I am full to the brim at the moment. And, I am getting new things from wonderful Australian suppliers. I have also sourced some fantastic vintage fabrics from dressmakers over the years and have bought their collections. That has been really fun.”
Of course, with access to all those incredible fabrics, and a slew of Tessuti patterns to choose from, it is only natural that Charlotte makes almost all of her own clothes. Aside from knits and denim pieces, she makes pretty much everything that she wears throughout the year.
“I was actually not one of those people who started sewing when I was five,” she admitted with a giggle. “My passion for sewing started in high school. I was really bad, but I really liked it so kept going. I love that when you make your own clothes, you get something different that nobody has else has. I am into unique clothes, and this is a great way to get them. You also get the fit perfect.
“I use – and sell – Tessuti patterns. They are designed and printed in Australia, and they put a lot of effort into getting them right, as well as writing them, so the instructions are very clear. It is so great when I sell them to beginner sewers, because even if they have never read a pattern before, they get it.
“These days, we see such a change in pattern making ways. Everyone used to buy Vogue or McCalls that came in the tiny A5 packets. But now we have all these independent brands that are made and packaged so beautifully that a lot of older customers do a double take.”
Charlotte’s Top Tips For The Home Seamstress
Of course, having freshly re-entered the world of sewing, I had to ask Charlotte for her top tips!
“Persistence!,” she laughed. “Every time you sew something, you will learn something new. Most of what I’ve learnt, I have learnt from experience. Every project you do, try to learn from your mistakes.”
She then added to remember to put your individuality into every garment you create.
“Sew to your own rules,” she advised. “One person may not be happy with the one garment, but another person would love it and wear it. Find what suits you and your way to sew and make sure you’re pleased with it – don’t please anybody else.”
Well, I love the sound of that, and will be heading off to buy more fabric soon!
If you would like any more information about life in the Southern Highlands, please get in touch with me at any time!
Love, Di xx
Loom is located at 2/242 Bong Bong St, Bowral NSW 2576.