What do you think are women’s top pet peeves when it comes to fashion? I’ll go first – a lack of pockets on everyday clothes. And is it possible to find a gorgeous dress if you’re ample chested and don’t want to look like a bag of spuds? Asking for a friend. Well, if you can sew, pop on over to The Fold Line, find a pattern you love, choose a material to die for and get sewing.
Founded in 2015 by new MDHUB members, Rachel Walker and Kate Underdown, The Fold Line is a website for people who love sewing and making their own clothes. They supply unique sewing patterns, in paper and digital formats, made by independent designers for customers to make and tailor to fit them whatever their shape or size.
Rachel says “The Fold Line was set up to sell advertising and grow a community of makers. To help us diversify we worked with Fiona Shafer of MDHUB. It was great to have such a caring and competent person on our team. With her help and experience, we transitioned into selling patterns online made by independent designers. We are now the largest supplier of sewing patterns in the world.”
Rachel and Kate come from different backgrounds but share a love of sewing and making.
Rachel started out in science, then wholesale and pattern production. Now she oversees business operations. “I like to be productive and busy, I love the challenge of sorting things out and keeping things going.”
Kate is the warp to Rachel’s weft (look it up). She’s a knitwear designer-turned-milliner-turned-guru of the indie sewing world; the creative mind behind social media and content. The Fold Line is the epitome of Instagram with 132k followers. She is also the champion of their sewing community.
They started out to build a community of makers so when the website became a store there was a ready-made audience hungry for content. “It wasn’t part of our strategy. It just happened. The importance of the community is massive, especially on Facebook. Makers provide help and encouragement to others, often sharing video tutorials, reviewing work and giving tips.”
Thinking about it, sewing is a solitary craft. You can easily lose a weekend to a new pattern, ensconced in your sewing room or cubby hole. The Fold Line’s Facebook community is 1,600-strong, so you’ll always find someone to assist with a bobbin issue, for example.
A customer commented “Keep doing what you do. It’s so inspiring to be part of and has made me braver in my sewing as well keeping me connected over this last year.”
Kate and Rachel have also been a force for change when it comes to inclusion and diversity. “We want to give people of all shapes and sizes what they need to make great clothes and we have requirements for our designers to make sure our patterns work for everyone.”
But how have they fared through Covid and Brexit? “We had to close down in the first few weeks of the pandemic but when we finally opened the doors, sales went up because people wanted a distraction from the stress and worry. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have done so well.”
The Fold Line’s annual Sewing Weekender - where makers turn up with a project to work on as a collective, sharing tips and helping each other out - nearly bit the dust but was transformed after they took it online in 2020 where it will likely remain. Last year, 2,000 makers showed up from all over the world. “It’s now far more inclusive and accessible to those who couldn’t take part before.”
Brexit hasn’t been kind. They’ve lost paper pattern sales to EU customers due to rising costs. Stock that previously took a week to arrive easily takes five and customs has its own challenges. Costs have gone up across the board.
Now that Rachel and Kate want to take The Fold Line to the next level they’ve joined MDHUB to help them get there. “We have our processes and teams in place and the next step is to go international. Being members of MDHUB means we get to work with ‘The Greats’.”
Being an MDHUB member has far exceeded their expectations. “We’re impressed by the sheer range of businesses and found the peer working groups especially beneficial. The facilitators are key to bringing the group together to make sure everyone gets what they need.”
“One big plus of membership is how reactive they are to new and ongoing world events. We get email updates, and workgroups pop up overnight. There’s a lot of support from MDHUB right now around current events and their effects. With digital patterns, there’s no limit to where we can go, we have huge potential for growth so now was the right time to join MDHUB. We love what we do. We’re able to give a maker the tools they need to create the clothes they want to wear. What can be better than that?”