At Woolyknit, we love to see your amazing yarn creations on social media, and each month we like to get to know a small business owner and celebrate their incredible talent. This week we are beyond excited to introduce you to Brooke Dennis, creator of Make Town, a textiles and craft studio and all-round creative hub for the local community.
With a background in fashion and garment construction, Brooke has created a creative space with core values that are based on ethical garment making and using craft as a tool to support mental wellness. Whilst Make Town has had to close its doors due to Covid, you can find a range of tools, resources and kits on their online shop to help you flex your creative muscles during lockdown.
This week we chatted to Brooke about mental health, the Scrubhub, and how Make Town continues to support their community of crafters through lockdown.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how Make Town started
Make Town was created on the back of a terrible break up. After spending months on the couch watching medical dramas, I thought I should retrain as a surgeon. But nah, too much admin, let’s stick to what ya know Brooke. The whole process from the breakup, to opening day was a measly 4 months. I am fortunate to have a powerhouse of talent surrounding me. Herbert designed the furniture and fit out, and I came into the workshop over the summer break and helped build it all. Wood being an unfamiliar material I was soon wielding power tools like a pro. Now we have a stunning and encouraging purpose-built craft sanctuary for our community.
Describe Make Town in 3 words
Colourful, satisfying, for everyone
What type of project do you love to make the most?
My background is in fashion so sewing clothing is my favourite, picking fabrics, textures, prints, colours and fibres, cutting and piecing it all together methodically. I love making coats and jackets, for the technical challenge but it’s not an everyday wearable item. I like my garments to be practical and heavily used. On the other hand, I wear handknits all through winter, and can’t sit still, I always have multiple knitting projects on the go.
What inspires your designs and what is your creative process?
I can go either way. I can start with a design or the materials first. I am quite the collector, so if I love a piece of cloth I will buy it and wait for the right design to inspire me. I usually line up 5 or 6 projects so I can snap into the next one really quickly. That means a lot of bulk cutting or stacks of project bags, especially as I like to use as much of the ‘leftovers’ as I can.
Could you tell us about the amazing work you did making scrubs for the NHS?
During the initial lockdown a local doctor was asking around for scrubs, and the more questions she asked we realised there was an entire workforce looking for them. We founded the Scrubhub which enabled out of work seamstresses, small fashion houses and theatre and costumers to volunteer to make scrubs. By month 4 we were a well-oiled machine, had raised over £23,000 for materials and supplies, and sewed over 400 sets of scrubs. The rest of the money was donated to Homerton hope and Mind charities, and fingers crossed Boris has it sorted this time round.
What do you love the most about running Make Town?
I love the people the most, I have the most wonderful customers! We have developed into a local and inviting place to go for support and advice. Whether that is about a knitting project, where to find leather scraps, how to insert an invisible zip or the birth of their new granddaughter. I am never lonely working here. Our Craft Cult and regular Monthly meet ups are a definite highlight. We share wine and snacks and have a jolly good natter while we solve all the problems of the world. It’s amazing how one conversation can heal a broken and hungry heart.
You’ve created such a fantastic community with Make Town, could you tell us how you’ve managed to keep it going strong through all of the restrictions?
We kinda fell under the ‘educational facility’ umbrella so we tried to safely soldier through initially. Then it got weird and heavy and out of control with Covid, so we closed the doors. We are still here because we just are. It’s not through trying harder in fact this time I have kicked my feet up and trying just to float downstream. I am enjoying spending evenings with my family eating and playing boardgames. Make Town is in debt and struggling financially, but I believe it’s temporary, and I believe we will be able to struggle through it and come out the other side ok enough.
Why do you think crafting and making is so beneficial to our mental health?
When you are fully focussed on a project or something you are trying to decipher, interpret, understand or create your brain doesn’t have the opportunity to slip into anxiety mode. It’s simply too busy creating and getting into the zone. For a moment you can catch yourself feeling lighter and free, time flies and it’s almost like you forget to breathe. Making something tangible with your hands is the most rewarding of all activities, whether it’s cooking a meal, planting seedlings or knitting a sock. We find specifically at Make Town the interaction with others is the key to alleviating loneliness and grounding oneself in the community. Being around others is the way we like to work.
What resources do you have in your shop for anyone who wants to learn a new craft in lockdown 3?
We firmly believe in quality materials and products with as little plastic packaging as possible. Local, natural, handcrafted, well-made, sensible tools and materials. If you want to enjoy what you are about to embark on it’s vital, we sell you the best that you can afford. A fool buys twice, and that just means landfill. We have lots of different kits in store and online, but I think Tapestry is the easiest and most rewarding. The simple over and under rhythm, no pattern to follow, no real technique. Just the full range of colour and textures to play with, and it always looks amazing! Side note – Youtube is great for getting your taste buds tingling, but for lasting effects of the ‘covid-craft-mania’ check out your local craft store, the support they will offer you will be second to none.
Do you have any goals set for 2021?
Make Town will be launching a membership programme, so we can work on nurturing the people who are already invested in craft. I want to celebrate getting out of the Covid Debt and of course the nightmare that is Covid, and I hope to finalise our family’s citizen process and get my photo taken with a photo of the Queen. It’s pretty lols, and I can’t bloody wait for it!
If you want to be a part of our meet the maker series, make sure you tag us using @Woolyknit on your Instagram photos.
All images courtesy of @Make.Town