Lisa Comfort set up Sew Over It at the beginning of the craft revolution. Back in 2009, it was just her and her sewing machine traipsing around London giving sewing lessons. Today, her passion to teach as many people to sew as possible is still alive.
Lisa Comfort fell in love with sewing at age 11 when she made her first skirt. A year later her parents gave her a sewing machine and she has not looked back since. Despite being teased for her “uncool” hobby, she persevered and carried on sewing. After studying at the London College of Fashion, she worked for British designer Bruce Oldfield and then bridal couture designer Phillipa Lepley. She set up Sew Over It in a response to the growing feeling that sewing was becoming a lost skill. Sew Over It is a one-stop sewing shop, selling everything you need to help you sew your own wardrobe – (Patterns, classes, fabrics, London shops)
Since opening Sew Over It they have taught over 10,000 people how to sew in their two London shops. She has published two books. Her patterns are stocked all over the world and she is a leading brand and personality in the international sewing scene. In 2017 she launched lisacomfort.com where she shares more of her creative life and her recent fabric and cardigan launches.
Fun fact: Lisa can’t cook to save her life.
Here’s our enchanting interview with her.
For Creative Girls: From crafted Patterns to Sewing classes and then Cardigans. You are one awesome Shero! How do you handle all your work and stay productive & creative?
Aww, thank you! I have a great team at work who I couldn’t do it without. I delegate to them a lot, and to keep myself on task, I’ve got better and better at compartmentalizing, meaning I only deal with one thing at a time. This is really useful in preventing everything from being overwhelming. Since my daughter, Jasmine was born last year I naturally find I have even less time, but this has made me a lot more focused. I have less time so I’m more productive squeezing things into the time I have. As I don’t get too involved in the day-to-day running of the business, I always try and keep some headspace for thinking up new ideas, which allows me to stay creative and keeping loving it!
How did you grow your classes from the point of traipsing around London with a sewing machine to having two shops and teaching thousands of people?
It was definitely faster than planned! I opened Sew Over It at the perfect time, just as the UK craft wave was kicking in. The industry grew and that meant there was lots of interest in the business right from the start. In the first year I was approached to write a book, and as the Sew Over It brand took off, I made sure I kept up with where the industry was going. With lots of people getting into work-with-your-hands hobbies, I knew there was demand for what I was doing. We opened a second shop and gradually took on more team members as we needed to. Growing Sew Over It’s profile meant it was natural to start producing patterns, online classes, and most recently fabrics.
Tell us about your background and what got you interested in sewing. How did you cultivate that interest/skill over time?
I started sewing when I was in primary school. When other children were busy playing outside, I was inside learning to sew with my childminder. As a teenager, my parents bought me a lovely Bernina sewing machine and my passion for sewing my own clothes kept on growing. It was really uncool at the time, but I stuck to my guns and just learned as I went. Most of the early things I made must have been dreadful, but I guess that’s the way you learn!
You recently launched Poppy & Jazz which is focused on sewing patterns for babies. What moment led to this new focus on sewing for babies?
I’d wanted to launch patterns for children for a while, but I thought it would make more sense to wait until I had a baby of my own, so that I could understand the market and the demands parents have for their children’s clothing. There’s so much I didn’t realize before I had Jasmine! When I had my daughter I found myself overflowing with ideas. I knew I didn’t want my designs to be overly fussy. I wanted them to be sweet, simple clothes that work every day.
What fuels your passion for the DIY lifestyle and your desire to spread this among as many people as possible?
Because it’s just so enjoyable! Doing it yourself gives you so many options you wouldn’t otherwise have if you were choosing from what’s available in shops. You get to become the designer. I find it so satisfying and therapeutic, and I want to share that joy with others.
Oh hello! We’re pretty excited this morning because tonight it’s our SUMMER PARTY! ☀️🍰🍹🌺🎉 Whoop!! We can’t wait to meet loads of you in our Islington shop this evening. Our resident party planner Mollie has gone to town and we know it’s going to be SO much fun. We can’t wait to see you there! (If you’d like to come but haven’t RSVP’d yet, find the link to do so in our Story Highlights!) #sewoverit #lisacomfort #lisacomfortfabric
You share your favorite places in London from time to time. Tell us your top 5 and why they are your top 5?
I live in Hackney where there’s so much to do, so I tend to spend most of my spare time enjoying my borough. I love flowers, so a Sunday trip to Columbia Road Flower Market is always high on my list. I treated myself to Shoreditch House membership, which is something I’ll never regret. The rooftop restaurant and swimming pool are one of those things that make living in London amazing. When I’m not living the “high-life” (see what I did there?), I love a weekend stroll down my local canal to Hackney Marshes. If I venture further from home, I always enjoy visiting the Southbank. There’s always loads going on that it always feels vibrant. And lastly, it has to be Hampstead Heath. It’s the only place I feel like I might be in the countryside whilst in London. As a Yorkshire girl, I need that!
What does a typical day in your life look like? Share a peek into your life every day.
I don’t really have a typical day. With loads going on, I could be anywhere! I spend the longest time at work in our Hackney office, but I make sure I spend time in our Islington shop as well. I love the hustle and bustle there and having the opportunity to interact with our customers and see what they’re buying. In between all this, I might be on a photo shoot, going to meet suppliers, interviewing lovely people for my magazine, and so much more! The ends of the days are usually the same. I pick my daughter up from nursery and we and my husband Matt enjoy the evening together. I need that chilled-out home life to balance my busy work days!
What’s your definition of creativity?
Ooh, that’s a tough one! I’m northern so I tend to say it how it is. Creativity to me is making, in whatever form fulfills you. From sewing a new dress to designing a fancy building, making a new record or coloring in for pleasure, it’s all creativity.
Tell us about 3 women you admire.
Number one has to be my mum. Her work ethic is so inspirational, and since I’ve become a mum myself I’ve really realized how fantastic she is with children. She’s wonderful with Jasmine and even though my mum lives in Yorkshire, I love the close relationship they’re forming. Business-wise I find Joy from Oh Joy incredibly inspiring. I adore her business and her style. And lastly, I can’t get enough of Audrey Hepburn. She’ll always be my ultimate style icon.
Tips, resources and favorite websites for any woman who wants to start a revolution like you.
Be determined and don’t give up. If you’re truly passionate, that will get you through. It doesn’t necessarily get easier and you’ll always face new challenges, so keeping your passion is incredibly important. Plus being passionate about what you’re doing means it never really completely feels like work. I find it’s really crucial to talk about your ideas with lots of different people. And get out there and meet people. Organisations like Enterprise Nation in the UK offer great talks and loads of help for new businesses. Take advantage of what’s on offer, because the more you know, the clearer and more focused everything will be.