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Make do and Mend – by Caroline Stacey
Photography graduate and craftswoman Hannah Elgie noticed a gap in the market and a hotbed of creative talent in Chelmsford that she felt determined, and qualified, to address. She talks to Caroline Stacey about where it all began and where it’s headed
“They all have names”, she tells me enthusiastically. “The owl is called Harold, the cat’s Betsy, Dolly is a bird and the fish is called Godfrey. Oh and I’ve forgotten Frank. He’s a bat. He’s funny”. I have come to meet Hannah Elgie to talk about her business Make Do & Mend, a successful retail outlet and craft workshop provider, at the small but perfectly put together eponymously named shop. She is introducing me to the range of animals for which you can buy ‘make your own’ kits or attend a ‘how to’ workshop.
Hannah greets me warmly at the Chelmsford premises she has occupied since July of this year, her creativity instantly apparent in a wonderfully multi-coloured outfit. Bright pink tights set off a ditsy print floral dress, a pale blue belt mismatches a dark blue necktie, scarlet lips offset burgundy nails, whilst her painstakingly perfect black, flicked eyeliner and 40s style quiffs are enough to outdo any wartime sweetheart. It becomes apparent she’s had a lot of practice as she tells me about her bestselling workshops: “The Vintage Hair and Makeup workshop is our most popular, without a doubt but crochet, patchwork and upholstery all sold out this month too.”
Citing her mother as her main crafty influence “I learned everything from my mum”, Hannah tells me The Knit and Natter club, where the business all started, is still going strong, regularly welcoming 20 knitters. It’s a part of the business Hannah is keen to continue, “I’m not going to forget where I started”, she says genuinely. Hard to believe these humble beginnings are only months ago with Hannah now regularly selling out workshops in dressmaking, pottery painting, book binding, silver jewellery making and curtain making, to name but a few. Plus seasonal additions such as the ’12 Days of Christmas’ series of workshops and the 9 festive craft workshops she is looking forward to hosting at the ‘Made-it Market’ at the Cambridge Guildhall on November 26th.
Hannah’s desire to, “provide an arena for people to just be” is palpable. The eclectic furnishings sourced from charity shops and when she “did a little house clearance by accident” (Hannah contacted someone to buy a dresser and ended up buying a whole house-worth of furniture) provide a homely hug of a welcome. Glass cabinets display local crafts-people’s wares for sale, an element of the business Hannah is clearly passionate about, and every available inch of wall space is adorned with craft paraphernalia; embroidery hoops, laser cuttings and an entire section covered in handmade tiles produced by friend and local artist Georgia Coote. “I am a bit of a hoarder, can’t you tell?” she admits playfully.
Unassuming about her obvious achievements with Make Do & Mend, Hannah’s excited about the future with plans to extend, a queue of people keen to get on board and a very supportive family. Hannah’s husband Joe, whom she met on an art foundation course, recently started a workshop of his own. Mum Marion looks after the shop when Hannah is indisposed and her father Neil ceremoniously cut the wool (yes that’s right, wool) at the company’s opening party.
On meeting Hannah and uncharacteristically losing myself, plus a good two and a half hours, in her home-from-home business I have to agree with a friend who told her recently, “Make Do & Mend knocks spots off the competition; you’re sitting on a goldmine here.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.
To discover the epicurean delights of Make Do & Mend:
Find the shop at 94 Byron Road, Chelmsford
Visit the website at www.makedomend.com
Email Hannah direct at firstname.lastname@example.org