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Next steps for BHL

Before I begin, I want to extend a deeply heartfelt thank you to everyone who read my post yesterday, everyone who commented or sent me a message of love and support - my husband and I are floored by your kind words. I can’t thank you enough! I only hope that I can provide the same comfort to someone else who needs it in the way that I have received.

This blog post is a more matter-of-fact outline of what our next steps will be. If you haven’t read the last post, this one might feel a bit abrupt without the context. It’s a lot to read though, so in a nutshell, 2022 was a financial nightmare, we got unfairly evicted from our studio last month, I’m recovering from a recent miscarriage, and here we are trying to recoup, find our feet and stay afloat…

My aim here is to address everything that has led to where we are now in a way that is factual and straightforward. As I write I promise to do my best to be sensitive to those that this information might affect negatively, and I would like to emphasise that it pains me as well - BHL is my baby and I have done my best to serve this community and run a sustainable business, and will continue to do so. However, a business that is not sustainable will serve no one, and in order to survive changes need to be made and priorities need to be clear. Projector files for example, are not a priority (sorry Projector Crew! Please don’t hate me! Maybe one day…). Right now, anything that costs us time and money to develop that will be expected to be given away for free is not a priority.

Ok. So what is changing?

Most significantly, and heartbreakingly, I have had to let go of two of our beloved team members, Mattie and Elle. This will be effective at the end of March after Stitch Fest (more about that below), although we are really hoping this is just a temporary measure until we can regain our financial footing. Mattie and Elle are both part-timers, and have other ongoing freelance careers. Thankfully both are open to coming back to BHL as and when our bank balance allows.

We have stopped offering copyshop prints, and everything you order from our shop from now on will be in the form of digital PDF downloads only.

Jess and I will be going back to working from my kitchen table and sewing in our spare rooms at home. Jess works for BHL on a part-time basis, so we will probably go back to spending two half days together at mine, and do the rest from our homes. Moving forward, my hours will also be more in the realm of part-time (as opposed to overtime!) as I work on other projects and pursuits (more about those below) and generally slow down and do whatever I need to stay as far away from Burnout Broadway as possible!

The reality of what happened with our size extension and why it’s not working out the way we hoped. Three years down the line and unfortunately, the sad truth of the matter here is that creating two size bands doubles our costs per pattern, but did not come anywhere near to doubling our sales. It also meant that most patterns ended up taking longer to produce as there were more hurdles to factor in at the pattern development and grading stage for each size band (this is normal as we iron out fit issues and design details in the initial stages, just that when you’re working on two size bands, this workload is doubled), meaning that we would be releasing fewer patterns in the long run. Add to that a large backlog of older patterns that need to be systematically updated with the new size band - this was a major money sink as we were giving everyone who had previously purchased the pattern the update for free (as most in the community agreed should be the done thing), and not enough new sales were coming in to cover the costs of the update. 

So between the doubling of our costs, the extra time needed to develop two size bands per pattern, and the updating of older patterns, this dual size band model of creating sewing patterns is not working out for us, and if we don’t address the situation and dramatically adjust our course, we won’t be around for much longer.

Does that mean no more BHL sewing patterns?? Yes and no. For the time being, we are pausing all of the sewing patterns we have mid-production, and we are not focusing our energy on developing more. For the reasons outlined above, the dual size band model of sewing patterns isn’t working out for us financially, nor does it adequately address the issue of size inclusivity. Instead, we are focusing on Draft-It-Yourself patterns. We tested the waters with our collection of BHLDIY skirts towards the end of last year, and the feedback we’ve had has been soooo encouraging! All I want to do is teach and inspire people to make their own clothes - clothes that are a joy to make and wear and fit like a dream. And working on DIY patterns feels like it could be the solution. These patterns can be made by absolutely anyone of any size and shape. In following our Draft-It-Yourself patterns you will:

  • Learn how to make clothes from scratch based on your own measurements
  • Level up your drafting and fitting skills
  • Gain a deeper understanding of and appreciation for your body
  • Consider pattern hacking and design tweaks that reflect your own taste from the get-go
  • Become more self-sufficient in your sewing, less reliant on working with sewing patterns that come in your size and/or proportion

The first three BHLDIY patterns available are nice and simple, without compromising on the fabulous, stand-out style that you've come to expect from us - the perfect place to start if this concept is new to you. 

@ashleytaylorosorio on Instagram said of the DIY Peplum Skirt pattern, “Kudos to By Hand London for making a beginner friendly pattern, teaching me how to draft it myself using my own measurements and making me feel confident enough to continue making more garments after this!

As we release more BHLDIY patterns, we will be covering a wide range of garment types and accessories, catering to all levels of sewing experience. As this is not only new ground for us, but also the sewing industry, we are always open to suggestions and feedback so we can constantly improve our offering.

What is the rest of 2023 looking like?

Stitch Festival; March 23rd-26th. Before we had any idea as to how the 2023 cookie would crumble, we committed to exhibiting at Stitch Festival at the end of March. Our stand is part of the Indie Biz Village, an impeccably curated space within Stitch Fest dreamed up and executed to perfection by none other than Nerrisa Pratt of Untld Project and Bargello Edit fame. Believe me when I tell you that Nerrisa is a superhuman angel, the blinding likes of which I have never before witnessed! We will be exhibiting alongside some other amazing indie brands such as I Can Make Shoes and Sister Mintaka.

We will be there selling off the last of our beautiful paper patterns (which you can no longer buy through our online shop, and will be gone forever after Stitch Fest) and offering 1-2-1 30 minute time slots with me! If you have fitting issues, are struggling with any sewing techniques, want help or ideas with a pattern hack, or anything else - let me help :) 

We are also excited and deeply honoured that Stitch Fest has offered to celebrate a decade of BHL and Fabric Godmother with a retrospective exhibition AND a catwalk on the Thursday showcasing our patterns and FG fabrics from over the years. 

If you haven’t yet booked your ticket to Stitch Festival, you can get £2 off the standard advance adult/concession tickets with code BHL23. Tickets need to be booked by March 22nd 11:59pm, and do not apply to the Sunday.

My book - publishing in the UK on October 12th 2023.

I touched on this really briefly in my last post, and I’ve been keeping it secret since last Spring, so it’s with a huge sigh of relief that I can finally reveal that I have written a book and it will be published in the US and Canada on October 10th and in the UK on October 12th!!! 

This book has been marinating in my head for years, and when the lovely team at Quarto Books contacted me, the fit instantly felt right. Working with my editor Michelle and her team has been the best, and they have been so wonderful and supportive throughout all the unforeseen bumps along the way. The book is of course about sewing ;) and is a collection of Draft-It-Yourself projects - perfectly and rather coincidentally in keeping with (or a preordainment of?) how things are shaping up over here! 

I still have a way to go proofreading and refining, but I’m told that pre-orders will be opening soon, so I’ll save all the juicy details for when I can direct you to an actual link with all the info…!

I’m going to uni!

On a personal level, a long term goal of mine is to qualify as a nutritional therapist. I’ve always been interested in holistic health, and this interest has really ramped up and zeroed in on food and nutrition over the last 5ish years. I’m starting a degree (BSc) in Nutritional Therapy at ION in September! It’s part time, and I should be graduating in about 5-6 years. In January, I started their Science Access course - equivalent to an A-Level - which I need to complete by July in order to qualify for the degree course. So that’s basic chemistry, biology, physiology & anatomy and so far I’m loving it! Chemistry is no easier than I remember it at school… At least I have my 14 year old son to ask when I get stuck!

As I said, this degree will be part time, and I don’t see it impacting negatively on my business. In the wake of how busy 2022 was, and everything that’s happened over the last couple of months, my plan moving forward is to slow down, balancing work, study and home life equally. I’m already feeling a lot more inspired and grounded than I have in ages!

Once again, thank you for your time - it's been a lot to read and digest over the last couple of days. Your ongoing love and support means the absolute world to me! Onwards and upwards - in a calm, gentle and manageable fashion ;)

  • Post author
    Elisalex de Castro Peake

Comments on this post (7)

  • Mar 05, 2023

    Very envious of all who get to watch the BHL and Fabric Godmother retrospective! A bit far from Australia sadly. Your draft your own pattern plans it right of the current zeitgeist clever you. I’m itching to get to my BHL Gathered Tuck skirt making …silk organza is waiting patiently. Hopefully will get a little time soon . Onwards and upwards beautiful human you are an absolute inspiration . 🙏

    — Norma

  • Mar 05, 2023

    I’m so sorry you have been going through all these trials. It’s totally devastating to lose a baby and I feel so sad for you. Nothing will ever replace that loved and wanted child.
    Having said that, I have now read your future plans with interest. I applaud you for the wisdom to step away from the madness of workaholism. I love your ideas for development of BHL with diy patterns – stroke of genius! I also really look forward to getting hold of a copy of your forthcoming your book.

    Best wishes and love ❤️ to you and your family.

    — Angie Williams

  • Mar 05, 2023

    Sounds like a very positive 2023 for you from now on, can not wait for your book to come out, I will definitely be pre-ordering it and I will see if I can make it to stitch festival to see you

    Onwards and upwards xx

    — Julia jones

  • Mar 05, 2023

    Thank you so much for your update. Good luck with the launch of your book and going back to uni. I’m sure you will make a big success of it. You have some tough times behind you and had to make difficult decisions. You are truly inspiring!

    — Regine

  • Mar 05, 2023

    I am so excited for you, your new book, and the season of growth that lies ahead. I know it’s got to be excruciatingly difficult to pave a path forward, knowing it won’t please everyone but it’s best for your business in the long run. I stand behind my comment about loving the Draft It Yourself patterns and can’t wait to preorder your book and purchase more in the future. You are offering something that I couldn’t find anywhere else, and it really helped me sew for myself while appreciating the body that I have.
    All the best to you and your team!

    — Ashley

  • Mar 05, 2023

    I just want to say that I appreciate SO MUCH that you are still thinking about inclusivity as you are moving forward. I have loved sewing BHL patterns and usually fall just outside of the “straight size” block. I’m thrilled that I will be able to make BHL patterns into the future.

    — Casey

  • Mar 05, 2023

    Virtual hugs to you through all the changes.

    I’m looking forward to seeing you at the Stitch Festival! How would one book a 1-2-1 session?

    — Sarah

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