Tara Lewis from Portstewart is the owner and creator of Stitch and Stones - we're so pleased she'll be launching her new 'Collection Coast' at The Designerie - made from beautiful ticking fabric, these beautiful bags join her current collection of corduroy bags and are so versatile - don't you think?
If the name sounds familiar, Tara, now established in her own right, is the daughter of our own designer maker Linda Lewis - and we're delighted to showcase the talent of the Lewis family!
A mum of two young children, Rory, who is two years old and Zara, who just turned nine months, Tara has lived away for nearly ten years studying at university in Newcastle Upon Tyne. She then moved to New Zealand for a few years and more recently lived in Melbourne for three years before returning home to Portstewart to have her firstborn, Rory.
While Tara hails from a family of textile artists and upholsterers, her main influence is her Granny, a very skilled seamstress who has sewn all her life, with over 30 years spent as a seamstress at Hopefield Hospital in Portrush and then continued her sewing career when she left. Her Granny has stitched many a garment from children's clothing to wedding dresses. We can't wait for you to see how talented she is!
What do you do? Tell us about your craft.
I make tote bags using corduroy and ticking fabric.
I absolutely love these two fabrics and use them together and separately, in fact, I rarely use anything else.
The quality, style, feel and durability of these fabrics are great for so many projects. I also make aprons and dog bandanas. I have some ideas for new products which I'll be working on soon...using ticking and corduroy of course.
I source materials carefully selected from small businesses who really value quality fabric.
The new range of tote bags - Collection Coast are mostly made up from ticking fabric with one being made from corduroy. Ticking stripe boasts a nautical feel, the style of these bags are influenced by life on the North Coast.
What did you do before?
I worked as a complex case manager for a refugee resettlement program in Melbourne for a few years then as a case manager for a homelessness organisation for a while before moving back home from Australia.
How did you get the idea for this product? Or how did it come about?
The Stitch & Stones concept was born out of my desire for a well-made Corduroy tote that would last throughout the years. Unable to source such an accessory, I took the matter into my own hands. I pretty much taught myself to sew over the first lockdown with the help of my mum and granny on the phone when I needed advice.
Some stitches later - Stitch & Stones has an ever-evolving client base that stretches from County Antrim to Auckland.
What is the most challenging part of your craft?
Juggling having a toddler, baby and sewing is definitely challenging when the orders are rolling in but I am so grateful for every order so it's not a bad problem to have. I do a lot of late-night sewing when my children are sleeping.
What do you love about this craft?
Meeting customers who love my products. I have met some really lovely people through selling my bags. There is a lovely local Instagram community of businesses in this area who really support each other.
How would you describe your style to someone who didn't know you?
Casual, coastal and practical.
What is a product you want to spotlight?
The new Collection Coast range of tote bags, inspired by life on the North Coast.
What makes this particular product so special?
They are unique and designed with style and practicality in mind. The material used to make the bags are sourced from small businesses that really value quality fabric.
Who is your target market?
It's quite a mixed bag - men, women, mums...the bags are functional fashion. They are useful in everyday life and can be easily washed- so really anyone who needs a bag that is durable and looks good.
How can people order/buy your product?
Orders can be made via DM to Stitch&Stones Facebook and Instagram pages. A website is in the process of being created so online orders will soon be possible.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt in business so far?
Time management and preparation is so important.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting out?
Do it, it's so rewarding!
Anything else you would like to tell us about you or your craft?
The name Stitch & Stones came to me when giving my son a night feed at around 3am...a bit of a light bulb moment in the early hours. The stone is associated with the Giants Causeway basalt columns and stitch the sewing association (obviously).
Each Stitch & Stones product has seed paper attached to the tag. These seed mixes are made with bees in mind and each sheet includes Sweet Alyssum, Poppy, Baby’s Breath & Basil.
Stitch & Stones packaging is all eco-friendly, from compostable mailing bags to gift bags and gift wrap made from recycled paper.
How long have you been featured in The Designerie?
I haven’t been featured before, products are launching next week.
What area of The Designerie are you featured in?
Handcrafted giftware in the shop.
What do you love about The Designerie?
The diversity of makers and unique products. The staff are always so welcoming, it's such a lovely creative space.
How would you describe The Designerie to someone who didn't know about it?
A social enterprise that gives makers and the community a space to create and enjoy beautifully crafted products.