Material girl

FOR those who love clothes but want an alternative from the usual, run-of-the-mill high street shops; for those who, whenever they pull into Brighton Station, head straight down the hill for North Laine; and for those who want to dress originally, perhaps uniquely, there are few ways in Guernsey to fix the craving. Counterstitch might just be the answer.

‘I started it in August last year, kind of as a way to learn sewing while earning money,’ said 18-year-old Maisie Bisson.

‘My main aim was affordable, handmade, bespoke clothes.

‘I’ve always loved sewing and first started when I was 10 or 11. A friend in the UK who runs Sew La Di Da Vintage taught me how to sew on a machine. And my great-grandmother was a seamstress at Creasey’s.

‘I called it Counterstitch because I like the fashions of the counterculture of the ’60s and ’70s. I think that’s the name of an embroidery stitch, too.’

As well as offering original clothes, what Maisie set out to do was give to people a choice.

‘There are still standard stock sizes of clothes, 8, 10, 12, etc, but they don’t fit everyone perfectly. Quite often items are worn only once and this is so bad for the environment.

‘I want Counterstitch to be completely sustainable. I aim to be zero waste in my sewing room. Whenever possible I use vintage, second hand or upcycled fabric and everything is sewn by myself. I work hard at being sustainable and avoid wasting or throwing away fabric.’

The beginning designs of a dress made from vintage fabric and lace. (29316895)

Upcycling and sustainability are at the heart of Counterstitch.

‘People can bring me their items of clothing that are perhaps ripped or don’t fit any more – they might be charity shop buys or maybe they like the fabric or the item is sentimental – and I can change it for them.

‘For example, a friend of mine who fixes up instruments brought in some pairs of old jeans and I made a patchwork denim apron for them for the workshop. I think that’s a good way to sustainably upcycle fabric and a nice way to keep clothes going.’

All this creativity comes from a small room at the family home.

‘My sewing room is in the spare room. I have two sewing machines and my mum’s got one upstairs. I’ve also found another one on Guernsey eBuy either from the ’70s or ’80s – the instructions are really vague.’

Last year Counterstitch left the sewing room and set up shop at the Retro Festival.

‘I had a stall in a tent down there. It was a really good day. I was making bow-ties to order. Someone would order one, leave me their number and in 10 to 15 minutes I’d text them back to come and pick them up.

‘I try not to make too much product beforehand. If I made something and someone said “I’d love this so much but it’s not in my size” I’d hate that to happen.

‘People often struggle with an idea for bespoke items. Now that I have my website up and running I’m trying something new. If someone comes up with a design, they can order it through the website. They can send a message or a picture or we could have a meeting and I’ll take the sizes. It’ll be a stock price plus fabric. Each design is its own little thing.’

Maisie's sewing room. (29316885)

After showing her wares last year at the Retro Festival, Maisie will be holding the Counterstitch Fashion Swap in April.

‘I’ll have a stall with bespoke items but the main thing will be people can come in with old clothes – though not jewellery or shoes – in good condition, exchange them for tokens, and use them to get new clothes. So basically, it’s a new wardrobe for free.

‘Also, if you don’t have anything to swap, come down to have a browse and a chat and items can also be purchased for set prices. It’s all super-affordable. All items either swapped or bought can be altered by Counterstitch.

‘It’ll be a great afternoon with live music and records plying, with an atmosphere a bit like the VEF Record and CD Fair, and Cooked will be open for drinks.’

  • The Counterstitch Fashion Swap is at Cooked, St James, on Sunday 18 April from 11am to 4.30pm.

  • To find out more about Counterstitch and the Fashion Swap, visit www.facebook.com/the.counterstitch or the website counterstitch.com

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