Jenni Smith looks to share skills in the art of sewing with launch of Just One Quilt

A sewing entrepreneur is looking to share her passion for the craft with other people through the launch of an online educational platform.

Ilkley-based Jenni Smith says interest in sewing is picking up with an entire generation looking to learn how to stitch their own clothes and quilts.

Speaking to The Yorkshire Post, Ms Smith said: “I’m 42 years old and my generation were the generation that really missed out on sewing education at school in the main part.

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“In the 70s and 80s it wasn’t considered that cool any more. A lot of sewing machines were cleared out.

Jenni Smith from Ilkley, who has turned her hobby of sewing into a business. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“Now there’s a resurgence. There are people my age who suddenly want to be able to craft and want to be able to do something with their own hands.”

Ms Smith, who has a background in television, has created Just One Quilt. The educational platform features video tutorials as well as an online course where Ms Smith teaches how to quilt.

The videos are sponsored by sewing machine manufacturer Janome and Aurifil Threads and as well as the online course Ms Smith will be selling associated items.

However, the entrepreneur is keen not to go against the values of her business, which she set up three years ago.

She said: “The idea is not to become the Amazon of craft. The focus is definitely more on the education side.

“What I don’t particularly like morally is selling people things for the sake of it. I want the value to be on the education and then support people to go and find their local quilt shop, support smaller independent shops or use and recycle things that they have got.”

Ms Smith teaches sewing lessons from a studio in Ilkley. The studio is also managed by Kay Walsh.

“If I’m the creative one, she’s the practical one,” Ms Smith said. “She does the accounts, sorts the schedules and everything.”

Her own love for sewing comes from an early age. Ms Smith’s grandfather had a business building trailer tents, boats and caravans.

She said: “We had a mill and with a sewing room. There were women who made upholstery, curtains and everything for the caravans and trailer tents. People sewing was just around me.”

Having children reignited Ms Smith’s love for sewing as she wanted to make clothes and quilts for them.

After spending a year in Canada back in 2006, when her husband was doing a fellowship out there, Ms Smith decided to start teaching on her return to the UK.

The entrepreneur is working on a book.

She has also teamed with the historic fabric business Liberty to release patterns and new quilting cottons. Working with Liberty is “a bit of a dream come true”, Ms Smith said.

She added: “I’ve been collecting Liberty fabrics since I was about eight years old because they used to print at a mill in Lancashire where my nan used to take me when I was a child.”

Despite the success of her business, she has taught hundreds of people how to quilt, Ms Smith doesn’t want to lose sight of the values of her business.

Ms Smith said: “I’ve had offers from lots of other people to do things in my name and to collaborate with them but not necessarily where I’ve felt it’s the right fit.

“Financially it might have been more beneficial but I want to do it my own way.”

TV times help reach people

Jenni Smith has a background in television. She was once nominated for a Bafta for her work as associate producer on the children’s documentary My Life: Ballet Boys.

She left the TV industry to focus on her sewing business, which enables her to also juggle her family commitments.

However, the Ilkley-based entrepreneur says she still “dabbles a little bit” in TV work and is using her background to good use with the video element of her educational platform.

Videos are a good way to reach tech savvy but time starved people, she said.