Jeanette Leib-Foster runs Knotties Sewing Services from her home in Portsmouth, providing alterations to clothing and offering a range of products, including Christmas items. She learnt the skill from her dad, who was a sailmaker in the navy, and used social media site Nextdoor to market her services in her local area.
The enterprise began when Jeanette was left in the “tricky position” of looking for a new career after being made redundant from her job of 10 years.
She decided to apply her sewing skills to making reusable cloth facemasks for people in her local community, as she wanted pre-made masks to be used by frontline NHS staff.
Nextdoor catapulted her to fame with people soon requesting handmade items as well as alterations to clothes.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, she said: “I was on Nextdoor as a public member and would post things occasionally. When I posted about doing masks, I was inundated from the moment that I posted it.
“The orders never stopped coming in. It kept me going every day for five days a week all through the first summer of the pandemic.
READ MORE: Octopus Energy explains meaning of key terms on your energy bill
“That gave me the money to buy an industrial machine. I would be nothing without Nextdoor, I don’t know what I would have done if there wasn’t that platform to advertise on.”
Now she can help make and mend bespoke clothes as well as seat covers, and a growing range of festive items.
Last year, she made skirts to go around Christmas trees, wreaths for doors and some mantle runners.
She said: “The items were really popular and I ended up making 24 items in total. I’ll be making them again this year, but with a couple of extra additions including padded tree decorations and bows, to help spread the festive cheer.”
Jeanette has also branched into making foam seats with cushion covers for garden or window seats.
She works a five day week, from around 8.30am to 4pm, and currently takes in around £100 a week.
She kept her prices low in her efforts to help the local community but last year she made a £105 profit, and she hopes to build on this as the business grows this year.
The seamstress said she has to carefully manage her time in running her small business, with her diary usually planned for four to six weeks ahead.
She said: “It’s difficult trying to plan everything in. When orders come in, you have to stop what you’re doing and then you have to concentrate on what somebody’s saying to you and get all the relevant and right information down on paper.
“Then you can refer to it later on. When deliveries come, again you have to stop what you’re doing, file paperwork away as and when you get it.”
READ MORE: Mortgage warning as millions face ‘big repayment shock’ within three years
One of her jobs involved making memorial bears for a woman whose mother had died, to be given to the grandchildren.
She said the cost of some materials has gone up slightly, such as for zips, binding and cotton, and some of her suppliers who are also small businesses have had to put up their prices.
She said one of the best things about her business is the flexibility it allows as well as the joy of creating a special item for a customer.
Jeanette said: “I still keep to the working day and hours, but if a customer says, ‘I really need this doing’, I can go out to them.
“I like meeting the customers and interacting with them, whether it’s on the phone or in person.
“Being with them at the start of their enquiry and then following it through to getting the material and showing them the material.
“Keeping them updated with the progress of the job and then actually seeing it in their house, seeing their face light up.
“They’re so pleased, they can’t believe that from an idea or a picture in their head, they’ve got this new accessory in their home, and they’re overjoyed and excited about it.
“That’s another kind of payment that you get. The added bonus is that I love sewing.”
She said Christmas is the “perfect opportunity” for creative types to look at running a side hustle.
She said: “To anyone else thinking of launching a side hustle this winter, there’s also other easy creatives to help earn a little bit of extra money.
“From creating and selling your own Christmas cards, to personalised gifts, and even being a Santa’s helper!”