Spotlight On: Sewing Club

We’re launching a series of spotlights on the activities & groups that volunteers from our community run in Monkey Park. First up we have a great story from Christine Redding about the Monkey Park Sewing Club.

When I started going to Sewing Club, it was with the idea of making something for Christmas.  I had no fixed idea what this would be.  I quickly found that others had lots of ideas and magazines with a selection to choose from.  One that caught the eye of two or three of us was a table runner.  So, full of enthusiasm, but without the lingo, I went out to buy my ‘ingredients’.

I’m still not sure whether the pattern suggested buying too much fabric or whether I was just clueless, possibly both, but somehow I ended up with enough ‘ingredients’ for three extra table runners so I decided to make three as Christmas presents: slightly daunting but I didn’t want to waste any fabric.

I received excellent (and very patient) advice from the more experienced members of the group and, after quite a bit of time and effort, proudly had my table runners.  One of them even appeared on the table at the Monkey Park Christmas meal last year! (The photo below was taken before they were quite finished).

Table Runners made at sewing club & used for the 2017 Monkey Park Christmas Meal

Table Runners made at sewing club & used for the 2017 Monkey Park Christmas Meal

Whilst making the table runners, I had discovered something surprising: while I was sewing, my brain had to concentrate so hard, I couldn’t think about anything else.  All the daily niggles of work and home just disappeared for a while.  The world slowed down.  I was also creating something solid.  The table runners had more than their fair share of mistakes and, at one stage, I truly believed my unpicker had become my new best friend, but, at last, they were done.  In time to give as gifts (just!).  And, they were mine.  Not only that, but they appeared to give the people that received them pleasure.  

For Christmas, I got a sewing machine.  No pressure there then!  The group decided to undertake a yearlong project in 2018: a patchwork quilt.  I liked the idea.  A lot.  However, I was fairly sure that my skills would be about as stretched a pair of skinny jeans on Boris Johnson’s legs.  Telling myself I only managed the table runners on a wing and a bellyful of determination, and that I’m a busy woman, not a leisured Victorian ‘lady’, I thought I’d better say no.

Then I saw some fabric I fell in love with.  I also remembered that in September 2018 my daughter would be going to university.  The crazy idea developed.  I could make her a quilt!  IF I could find the skills and the patience and the time.  One block a month might be just about manageable, surely?

To cut a long story short, reader, I did it, with an awful lot of help from the experts Nilufer and Gillian, Maggy and whoever else happened to be on hand!  In addition, a trip to the quilting show in Uttoxer inspired us all.  To date, I have concocted eleven of the twelve blocks required.  The twelfth one will be coming up very soon.  In 2019, we will piece them together and quilt them: slightly scary but possibly possible.  There is a huge difference between my early blocks and the most recent ones but my daughter is adamant she doesn’t want any mistakes corrected as she loves it the way it is.  

The nearly finished patchwork quilt

The nearly finished patchwork quilt

In addition, one sewing club member, Maggy, who makes all her own clothes, was chatting one day and, for some strange reason, decided I might make a dress for the choir I sing with: Aurora.  I wanted a red cord pinafore dress but couldn’t find one in the shops.  I don’t suppose I’d ever have done anything about if she hadn’t given me a pattern.  I ummed and erred for months, until finally I plucked up courage and bought some fabric.  

I have to confess, I did raise a few eyebrows when I opened the packet and didn’t realise the pattern was the pattern: you lay it on the fabric, pin it and cut round it, Christine.  Ah yes.  To be fair, I hadn’t sewn anything bigger than  replacing buttons since school.

Along came a rainy Sunday morning and I cautiously got my stuff out.  It completely sucked me in.  Hours went by.  My spatial awareness being a bit rubbish, the facing was nearly the undoing of me but consulting the flat-pack king in our house actually helped and I was off again.

I’d love to say I did it all in one day but that would be a lie.  I got tired, and excited that I’d managed to do so much, so I dutifully put it away to finish later.  But, I did finish it.  And I have worn it to choir.  (Since then, I have also accidentally cut a hole in it, but that’s another story).

My finished dress

My finished dress

Finally, this Christmas I did something I’ve never done in my life before: I bought a pattern.  You’d have thought I’d have learnt from last year’s table runners, but no; I decided to make some more Christmas presents.  This year it would be Japanese aprons.  Lucky friends and relatives.

Yet again, Maggy and Nilufer, and anybody I could drag in off the street, were asked to help, offer advice or listen to me telling them just how many times I’d had to unpick various bits of the aprons and re-do them.  It feels as if we have become friends and partners in crime and I’m sure I will keep trying to produce stuff.  It doesn’t matter that I’m a ‘learner’.  I am learning!  

The finished apron

The finished apron

In the photo above, I was struggling with the straps, which cross over on the back.

I would have liked to have made a few more, if only so I could have got one apron looking really good.  However, I managed three before Christmas arrived.  Each apron took about a day and I swear about half of that time involved unpicking mistakes.  Lots of mistakes.  Each apron I made I managed to make different mistakes!  However, once again the recipients appeared to like their presents.  They should be careful:, there’s a severe danger they might get homemade presents again next year!

Why working in a flexible office space is good for your business

So, you’re busy trying to get your start-up off the ground, grappling with book-keeping, trying to keep abreast of the latest digital marketing tools, and of course providing products and services that satisfy your customers – the last thing you need is to be working in a busy office space surrounded by other people running their own enterprises, right?

Well, wrong, actually …working in a co-worker space could be just what you need to boost your productivity and to allow opportunities for creativity and innovation, argues freelancer Kate Dawson.

Below I outline five ways that co-working can help your business to flourish:

1. A co working space providing the right working environment, for erm, working

So why leave the house, when all you need is Wi-Fi and to be close to the kettle, I hear you cry? Well, we all know that by 11.00am the laundry will be screaming to be done and you really ought to water the plants. Heading down to the library might take you away from the household chores, but illusions of enjoying some quiet working environment will soon be shot when the local book club start jabbering away about the latest Jodi Picoult. A café is another low-cost option but making telephone calls can be tricky and you never know whether you’re going to find a seat from one day to the next.

2. You are more productive in a co-working space.

There’s nothing like the gentle hum of somebody else beavering away on their laptop or clinching a new contract within your earshot to give you a gentle kick up the proverbial. You’re more likely to pull your finger out when you’re surrounded by other people who are happily getting on with their work.

This is backed by research by Deskmag and Deskwanted, which found that:

  • 74% of co-workers are more productive,

  • 86% have a larger business network,

  • 93% have a bigger social network,

  • Over two thirds feel more creative and collaborate more on projects

  • A third reported an increase in income. 1

3. Co-working prevents loneliness and helps you feel good about what you do

Being a freelancer can be lonely and may lead to moments of doubting what you’re doing. Working with others helps provide that all important sense of purpose and as you may frequently be asked what you do, you can really hone that elevator pitch and get more confident describing and selling your business to others. Co-workers may also be willing to give you feedback on new products you are thinking of developing.

4. Many co-working spaces offer opportunities to hone your business skills and network

Coworking spaces provide opportunities for collaboration and support from users. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help you with a problem or issue if they can. Many co-working spaces also host networking events, workshops and social events to help their workers gain new skills and to promote the cross-fertilisation of ideas.

5. Being part of your chosen co-worker community helps you build your brand

Many co-worker spaces offer something a little bit different and distinctive both in terms of the environment and their outlook on the world. Perhaps the building has some interesting heritage or is part of a wider community venture. Selecting a co-worker space whose values chime with your own, not only reflects your personal identity, but can also make you more appealing to your clients.

What is co-working?

Coworking is a self-directed, collaborative and flexible work style that is based on mutual trust and the sharing of common core objectives and values between members. Co-working first emerged as a style of working for digital start-ups, but now sole traders, those running micro businesses, as well as people who take on part-time projects and students are all reaping the benefits.

Research by Cushman and Wakefield published in May 2018 states that there are now around 3,000 flexible working spaces in the UK, two thirds of which are outside London – equating to around 5% of all office stock.

These co-working spaces are ideal for start-ups and SMEs not quite ready to lease private office space, but many users are beginning to see co-working as a long-term solution to their office requirements.

Nigel Timperley, who provides consultancy to energy firms, has been using the co-working space at Monkey Park for two years and says that camaraderie of fellow co-workers is a key draw:

“People are social animals and I certainly feel more positive about work when I’m around others. I can feel a bit low at home, shut away in my office working on my own. My productively seems to shift a gear when I’m at the co-working space. I think it’s something to do with other people being busy around you,” he said.

“Coming to Monkey Park also gives me some structure to my working week, which helps me to be more focussed and productive.” Nigel added.

Simon Redding, founder of Monkey Park Works in Chesterfield says: “Co-working is about far more than simply providing affordable and flexible desk space; it’s also about providing an environment that is conducive to creativity and enabling friendships to form that are good for your business.”

Monkey Park Works is currently undertaking a survey of co-working needs in the Chesterfield area in order to improve its offer. Respondents will receive a one-day free pass to its co-worker space located in Chester Street, Chesterfield (to be taken by Friday 21 December 2018). To complete the survey please click here. The survey closes on Sunday 9th December 2018.

Kate Dawson is a communications consultant working as Well Read PR. She specialises in helping the public sector, charities, social enterprises and businesses working to improve their communities to tell their stories more effectively.

Workspace Phase 2 goes live

Chesterfield’s first coworking space triples in size

Dedicated shared office space can now accommodate up to 25 people at a single time
Offers flexible and affordable office space to entrepreneurs, freelancers and telecommuters

Lonely entrepreneurs, freelancers and telecommuters working from home in Chesterfield need no longer be frustrated following the completion of expansion work at Monkey Park Works, the town’s first dedicated coworking space.

A team of volunteers and skilled tradespeople have completed the second phase of renovation work at the former tile warehouse, tripling the capacity of the shared office space above the Monkey Park cafe, bakery and cycle repair workshop on Chester Street in Brampton.

With more than 1,000 square feet of modern office space, there is now capacity for up to 50 members, who work alongside each other using a combination of open plan and cubicle seating.

Membership is very flexible, ranging from one day a week to full time. 15 people currently use the shared workspace on a regular basis, including staff working for mobile app developer 7DayTek , technology consultancy Systems Makers , PR and digital communications agency Roaring Mouse and several freelancers.

Simon Redding, cofounder and director of Monkey Park, comments: “We are delighted to complete the second phase of building work at Monkey Park Works. We now have a thoroughly modern working environment, supplied with superfast internet, that provides small businesses with a cost effective alternative to traditional offices and people who would otherwise work from home with a sociable substitute to the kitchen table.” “Although we are only nine months old, we’ve already become a hub for digital & creative businesses and charities in the Chesterfield area. They appreciate being able to use the coworking space to collaborate and be part of a working community. People are using the space to trade internationally and bring new opportunities back to Chesterfield and we are keen to foster more startups and other social enterprises that can create new jobs and new opportunities locally. As we’re a community nonprofit, we’ll also be using the income from the workspace to support the local area.”

For more information or a high resolution image please contact:

Simon Redding
Monkey Park
01246 235815