This is Tilly (Matilda), in one of my many, many attempts to take some ‘nice’ pictures of our Esme dresses. Interesting result, I think you’ll agree. As Tilly is my littlest girl and still at home most of the time, she gets to come along on all of my fabric and clothes-finding expeditions. And today, well today we had a very exciting little outing to the Post office to post some wool to our knitter/seamstress extraordinaire, Pat. As it was about 20 degrees this afternoon (lovely!) I thought it was a bit surprising that Tilly wore a sunhat/mittens combo, but you know, pick your battles, don’t sweat the small stuff, etc. The drawback to Tilly wearing mittens was that she lost her grip on the little suitcase of important tat that she likes to carry around. (Contents: hairbrush, purse shaped like a bear, a kazoo, and a snow-globe.) The snow-globe smashed, leaking whatever the liquid is that is in snow-globes, and a LOT of glitter onto the pavement. I cut my fingers trying to clear up the smashed glass, whilst one very distraught three-year-old wailed beside me. I managed to distract her by saying that when we got to the Post Office, she could spend the 53p that was in her purse on ‘something exciting’ – that covers many bases when you are 3…
Having made it, albeit bleeding – to the Post Office, Tilly then announced that of the two ladies serving at the Post Office counter: ‘Not that one mummy, I don’t like HER.’ She announced it with a pointing action that confirmed to everyone in the shop exactly who it was that she didn’t like. (I don’t know why Tilly has taken against her, I’m not aware of any previous gripes between the two of them. She seems like a nice lady.) Two of the people behind us started giggling uncontrollably. I love having opinionated girls, I really do, and I think it’ll be the making of them, but sometimes I long for nice, passive children who just keep quiet.
So the reason that we are becoming Post Office groupies is that we ‘export’ a lot of our sewing to sunny Norfolk, where the lovely and very talented Pat stitches our Esme dresses and most of our knitwear. I’m very proud of this arrangement. I found Pat completely by chance, by buying one of her dresses for Matilda from ebay. As I opened the parcel, I remember thinking, ‘this dress is insanely cool! (yes, in my head I speak like a Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle.) We could sell these!’ So I emailed Pat, and told her my little story of setting up a little childrenswear company. And she (luckily) didn’t think I was entirely mad and actually quite liked the idea. So later in the Summer, on holiday in Norfolk, I met up with Pat at the Clifftop Cafe in Overstrand, (one of the nicest cafes, ever, and my initial disappointment that it is not literally on top of a cliff was soon replaced by relief .) Over tea and cake, we discussed ideas and made a plan. Pat is retired now, but used to run a fabric shop in the very nice town of Holt and make dresses. She assures me that she enjoys the work that arrives through her letterbox once a week, and she is very good at it. Later on, I discovered she can knit very well and very quickly, and soon she was sending over knitwear too.
The reason that I am proud of the arrangement is that it sort of encapsulates what we are about. We didn’t, and don’t, want our clothing to be made by children in awful conditions in China, or India. We do, eventually, want to have some of our clothing made in fair-trade factories that are supporting families and children in poor areas. But we also like the idea of having clothing made here in England, by people who enjoy doing a bit of sewing and knitting in their spare time. A lot of people have even come to look at our things and said longingly, ‘oh, if only I had someone to knit for!’ And although I am definitely not the kind of person who knits or sews for pleasure, it’s lovely to meet people who genuinely do. So if you buy one of our Esme dresses, or a handknitted jumper, you know that it was made in Norfolk by someone who does really enjoy their work. And hopefully, some of that happiness gets stitched in to the clothing.
I’d like to just say though, as a disclaimer, that we can’t guarantee happiness for wearers of our clothing. I know this because Tilly has had the MOST hideous public meltdown whilst wearing a very pretty dress made by Pat. It was in the library, and I will never speak of it again, except to say that it was the last time we borrowed any heavy board books from there. Oh, and good luck if you ever encounter a smashed snow-globe. Pretty much the hardest thing to clear up, ever. Who knew?!