Today we chat to North London-based seamstress Caroline Stansfield, the woman behind children’s wear brand The Little Cloth Shop. Launched when her son Drake was born, her collection specialises in traditional and vintage inspired designs. Caroline talks Liberty fabric, vegetable dyes, and what she’s learned about running a creative business, with Bibelot.
1. What’s your first sewing memory/experience of sewing?
I grew up in a house where my mother sewed everything for myself and my two brothers. She would often be in her study making something beautiful. I would sit on the floor and look through her mothers old silver buttons; I thought they were magical. On every special occasion she would make a new dress for me, I remember there was a particularly horrible pink puff sleeved affair that I loved more than anything. It was the 90s.
2. Your mother was a tailor and your Grandmother a seamstress, when did you decide to continue the family tradition?
I have always been interested in sewing, and used to like making costumes for competitions. I started The Little Cloth Shop after my little boy was born as I found it impossible to find alternative but traditional boys clothes. I love to be able to create something that no body else will have.
3. Your gorgeous little boy Drake sometimes models outfits for you. How do you balance family life with your business?
I have been lucky to have a mother who stayed at home with me, and have always wanted to do the same. Sewing has allowed me to feel like I’m doing something constructive and artistic whilst being there for the little boy. I’m very fortunate that Drake is quite happy playing around the sewing machine, I suppose he doesn’t know any different!
4. When are you happiest?
Drake has been the biggest joy of my life, though he can be annoying, he brings such happiness in his little observations of the world. Today the garden was filled with slugs – he loved that!
Other than my boy, I love being at the sewing machine. It used to belong to my mother, she used to sew all of my dresses on it – I wasn’t allowed to touch it!
I feel very happy and proud to now own it and to keep improving my dress making so one day I can be as good as her.
5. Describe your working routine – studio, kitchen table, caffeinated beverage of choice, music, silence?
Everything I make is made at my old leather bound desk in our lounge, I do my cutting there whilst drakes lines up his cars on the edge of the board. We love listening to music, I am a big folk fan, so we listen to Peter Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel and Nick Drake (Drakes namesake). It’s funny to hear him requesting some of these greats, though what he really wants to do is listen to Wheels on the Bus on repeat.
I have very uneducated tastes, if left to my own devices I would live off sweets and Lucozade. I hate making tea, it really annoys me for some reason, so I drink coffee and cream.
6. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise people.
I only wear skirts, and I only wear black. I love texture and wear a lot of jewellery, so to avoid looking too mad I stick to black.
7. Who are your favourite fabric designers?
I love Liberty prints, I’m a big fan of tradition so their patterns really speak to me; it’s nice to have an outlet to buy beautiful colours. For Drake, I really like the quilting designers, Timeless Treasures, Michelle Miller and Alexander Henry; I like their cooky little Gothic designs to make his shirts.
8. Do you have time for personal craft projects, if so, what are you making right now?
I have so many projects I should be doing for myself – skirts, jackets and dresses, but my head seems to be full of children’s clothes ideas and I never get around to them. Fortunately I have my mum on hand!
I recently went to a fantastic workshop with a friend who teaches Shibo which is a Japanese dying technique using natural dyes. I’d love to explore natural dyes a bit more. I find it pure magic that a root can make a red, or a leaf a yellow. Apparently avocado skins can make a pink colour!
9. If you had a time machine that could take you anywhere, where would you go and what would you do?
I would love go back to the 18th century, and be a lady of a house, sit around drinking tea and doing needlework with my mum. I know they’re always complaining in books about how boring it was for women, but to be honest I’m a very old fashioned, home loving sort of a girl, and strolling around the gardens and reading is right up my street.
I do feel, however, that we live in the best era, where a woman can be anything she wants, the head of a large company or a stay at home mum.
10. What areas of your work or personal development are you hoping to explore further?
I would love to do a tailoring and corsetry course. I really regret not studying textiles further, I would relish being in touch with the correct construction processes and study pattern drafting. I’m hoping to do some adult pieces next season – twinning is winning.