Interview with Fiona Douglas, Oh Sew Brixton

This is the fourth in an occasional series of interviews with local people who inspire us.

Oh Sew Brixton is a sewing school & workshop based in south London, concentrating on teaching creative dressmaking. Fiona Douglas, the owner and founder of Oh Sew Brixton, took time out to tell us about her love of sewing, good puns and the occasional

1.       When you meet someone for the first time, how do you describe Oh Sew Brixton to them?

It isn’t complicated – we teach sewing and dressmaking!  If you want the sales pitch, then we have a lovely spacious studio dedicated specifically to teaching.  We also aim to be welcoming to everyone, whatever age, size and ability level you are.

2.       Where did the idea come from?

I’ve always loved to sew as a hobby and I could see that it was at last undergoing something of a renaissance. I wrote the business plan for fun whilst I was between freelance contracts.  This might sound a bit weird, but I used to work in marketing so this was relatively easy for me and was my way of seeing whether it was viable. Then I saw the space in Piano House and couldn’t think of a reason why I shouldn’t have a go.

3.       At Makerhood we love a good pun – did you have any good alternative names you discarded?

I do have a very fabulous alternative name, but it’s top secret as it will most probably be used for my next sewing related venture.  But Brixton Sewcial was in there, also Brixton Stitching, Dream Seams.  Oh Sew Brixton was a working title which made everyone smile so it kind of stuck.

I have also threatened to start a blog called ‘Do you really want to sew your armholes together?’….

4.       How did you get into sewing in the first place?

My Mum was a keen sew-er so I picked it up from her at a very early age. Over the years it has always been a great way of calming down after a stressful week of work.

5.       How can people get involved with you?

Check the website and then give me a call and sign up for a course.

6.       Does it matter if I’ve never done this before?

Beginners are very welcome and we have plenty of classes for those new to sewing.

7.       I bet it’s a great place to meet women – do you get many men coming along?

Only one or two, mostly aspiring fashion designers and the occasional cross-dresser!

8.       There seems to be an increased interest in these type of skills. Why do you think that is?

A timely collision of increasing environmental concerns and the onset of recession, I reckon.

9.       How do you see Oh Sew Brixton growing and expanding?

I’m looking at opening a fabric shop, together with an online sewing business targeted at beginners.  I have considered an additional school (Oh Sew Camden?), but I already work too many evenings as it is!

10.   How can Makerhood help you?

Find me customers, of course, but also it has been really nice to meet other local sellers and I do hope that that aspect of Makerhood does continue.

Bonus questions: Share a bit of ‘hidden’ Brixton with us…
It’s a bit predictable coming from a sewing school, but I would have to recommend Simply Fabrics on Atlantic Road.  Very good value, a bit random in its selection but you can always guarantee finding some really nice fabric for £2-3 per metre.  If only Robert would stop telling my beginners dressmaking students that “your first dress will be rubbish anyway, so it doesn’t matter what fabric you use”…

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