‘Sewing is my meditation’ — Danielle Bamford finds the calm in her craft

Amid the chaos that can manifest while running your own business, Danielle Bamford enjoys a moment of calm each time she takes a seat behind her sewing machine. At the helm of Melbourne’s sewing lounge, Thread Den, this creative entrepreneur does it all. Here, she tells what goes on beyond her fun-filled classes and workshops:

Tell us about your business, Thread Den … how did it come about?

Three girls originally started Thread Den in 2007. The girls were passionate about independent Melbourne designers, sewing and vintage clothes. I had taken a knitting class and participated in a vintage hair and beauty workshop, and, when I found out that the girls were looking for a buyer… I had to have it! I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by.

When was Thread Den established, and has it continued to grow?  

Next year, Thread Den will celebrate 10 years! Since 2007, my first three years weren’t about chasing aggressive growth for Thread Den. I’ve concentrated on perfecting our workshops, creating a format that produces consistency for our students and ensuring we have the right suppliers, best prices and reducing unnecessary costs to the business. So the growth during this time has been really organic. I’m finally starting to feel like it is about right from a business perspective. Maybe now it’s time to look at growth! The continued interest from so many students who want to learn to sew is awesome. It makes me, and the teachers too, so happy to see people keen to learn about something that makes us super happy!

Tell us a little bit about each of your workshops …

The most popular workshop we offer is our Sewing Basics for Beginners. This course is a three-times weekly workshop of three hours each, and we start right from the very beginning with all the bits and bobs on the sewing machine. By then end of the course, the students have made a phone case, a toiletries case and a lined bag. From there we have all sorts of project workshops where students can make an array of garments or homewares and they cater to all kinds of levels – from making a cushion, all the way through to a beautiful winter coat with 16 pattern pieces. We also offer knitting, crochet, screen printing, lampshade covering and vintage hair and beauty workshops.

Is it all about workshops at Thread Den, or can people drop in with their own fabric and borrow your sewing machines?

People can drop into Thread Den to use our sewing lounge on Thursdays and Fridays from 2.00-6.00pm, to work on anything at all for $10 per hour. We have our Social Sewing Night on the last Friday of the month for our Thread Den members and in March we started Sunday Afternoon Sewing Sessions twice a month. We really look forward to these, we have a boutique bakery provide us with cakes and slices for these sessions … what on earth could be better than sweets and sewing?

Thread Den - Cutting Tables

Tell us about the hen’s parties you’ve had at Thread Den …

What happens at a Thread Den hen’s party, stays at a Thread Den hen’s party! Okay, you’ve dragged it out of me … We once had the loveliest guy booked as a naked waiter (wearing an apron and bowtie only!). He had just had knee surgery. He was helping the hens with their hair rollers and brushing out their hair. It was such a nice party and his gentlemanly ways and polite manner made him fit right in with a very vintage and girly afternoon.

Is sewing cathartic? What do most people get out of it?

Sewing is my meditation. When I haven’t sewn for a couple of days I get a bit twitchy.  Seriously. When you are sewing you are concentrating on creating, constructing, problem solving. Those silly thoughts, internal chatter and worries about daily life don’t have a space in your head when you are sewing. So the process is calming. But at the same time you are creating something. I see a lot of satisfaction from students when they have chosen a design and a fabric and see the culmination of their plans come together.

What do you love most about running your own business?

I spent 15 years in corporate employment, mostly in massive organisations. Where do I start about what I love in my own business? Not talking in jargon is a release. While it is stressful, it has been incredibly enjoyable to be responsible for every function; I write class notes, I apply for business finance, I plunge the toilets, I negotiate my lease, I teach workshops, I direct a team of lovely teachers, I deal directly with customers… it’s everything.

Any new projects in the pipeline?

This year I want to introduce lots of new projects for our workshops. I think we should also have some different crafts on offer. I’d love to have macramé, weaving and also workshops on dyeing fabrics.

The Thread Den

Best Kept Secrets

I khoollect a few … 

I love to op shop. I grab older patterns, especially old mail-order patterns. Trims, trims, trims and more trims! Sewing boxes, sewing books… it is a great way to build up your sewing stash without spending a fortune.  But it doesn’t stop at sewing items. I have a collection of vintage kitchen canisters, crockery, lamps, handbags, hats. My house is over flowing. So is Thread Den.

What’s your favourite item in your #khoollection?

I have a beautiful cantilever sewing box on tall legs. I bought it for AU$10!

Worst thing you’ve ever sewed?

I bought this two-toned fabric that went from a bone to sky blue, like a dip die. I made pants from it and I’ve never worn them. They had no drape and in the context of pants the two-toned fabric just looked like clown pants.

Who’s your crush (someone who inspires you)?

The costume designers from the Golden Era of Hollywood.  I love to have old movies playing in the background while I sew – it is so inspiring.

Urban Favourites

Where do you call home?  

Melbourne, Australia.

What do you love most about it?

This is such a creative place to live. It feels like nothing will get turned down here – Melbourne will give anything a go at least once.

Your top 5 places for picking up sewing essentials in Melbourne:

  1.  Clear It is a factory outlet on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy: upstairs you can buy the fabrics off the bolt from past fashion lines.
  2. The Fabric Store on Brunswick Street, Fitzroy: it has beautiful fabrics for dressmaking.
  3. Jimmy Buttons on George Street, Fitzroy: this is an Aladdin’s cave of trims and buttons.
  4. WMC Jackson on Victoria Parade, Collingwood: sewing machine parts and accessories … this one isn’t direct to the public but I really love the old-style charm of their service and show room.

Thread Den Classes

Best boutiques and places to get inspiration for craft projects?

I get inspired by the clothes that I see people walking around in everyday. I’m not really looking at what is in the stores. I also love looking at design markets for inspiration.

Favourite activity to do in Melbourne?

Other than sewing… visiting op shops and secondhand stores, markets, fabric and habby stores.

Ideal lazy Sunday?

Sewing. Definitely sewing.

If you didn’t live there, then where?

Maybe in a small rural town.

Feeling inspired? Check out Danielle’s sewing tips to get you started!

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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Photos by Thread Den

Danielle Bamford