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Karen, turning a hobby and a passion for sewing into a business.

Karen setting up a business at 50 imageArticle by Ceri Wheeldon

I came across Karen Arthur on twitter, and always looked forward to her pictures of her latest creations. So I asked her to share her story Fabafterfifty readers.

Karen has always enjoyed sewing – and has always liked to look at the fabric in her clothes and thought about how they can be used for something else. But how did she start making handbags as a business?

“ A friend found a gorgeous suede jacket in the back of her late mother’s wardrobe – she asked me if I would be able to make a bag from the it, as she wanted to send it to her sister as a keepsake. It was a challenge for me as I had never made anything from suede before – but I said yes and then thought about how I would do it afterwards! I made a lovely handbag  from it. I then turned some fabric from a vintage dress belonging to a client’s mother (who is now in her 80s) into a clutch bag to give her as a Christmas present. I think its a great way to find a new use for much loved items of clothing.

I love working with hessian too, and adding a personal touch- adding fabric that has some history –it’s like giving something back.

My mother made all our clothing when we were little so she taught me to sew’ – I get great enjoyment from making things – last year I made my own coat.

I scour second hand shops for clothes made out of great fabrics or unusual buttons that I can make into something else – mostly my bags!

When I reached 50 I decided it was time to get on with it!

upcycling business set up in her 50s imageI’m a full-time teacher ( I teach textiles) and had often thought of setting up a business based on my sewing- when I reached 50 I decided it was time to get on with it! I had built a mountain in my mind that I thought I couldn’t climb – but once I started I realised I could do it. I’ve started to give sewing courses- as well as making my bags. I have been talking about it for years, and with my teaching skills and love of sewing it seemed silly not to combine the two. ‘I have two girls, one at university and one planning to go next year’ – and so had extra expense which needed to be covered .  I’m really excited about combining my sewing courses with upcycling.

Sewing keeps me sane – I love to sit and create.

I think people are often scared of setting up a business, but fear doesn’t mean you can’t do it. I was lucky that my venture required no capital to start it up.

My daughters are more self-sufficient so I have the time to do this now. With my courses and my sewing my calendar is constantly filled. I find it very rewarding when people comment on something I have made and say how much they like it.

If anyone else is worried about turning their passion into a business I would say that you probably have more inside you than you think!”

To find out more about Karen’s bags and courses her website is  http://www.reddskinbags.co.uk/index.html and her blog http://reddskinbags.wordpress.com/


Ceri Wheeldon

Ceri is Founder and Editor of Fabafterfifty.co.uk She is a frequent speaker at events and in the media on topics related to women over 50 , including style and living agelessly. With 20+ years experience as a headhunter Ceri also now helps support those looking to extend their working lives.

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