FOR Carlisle-based bridal alteration specialist Rebecca Ferguson, the future is bright – and usually white.

As the Bits & Bobbins seamstress says: “I love working with brides!”

It’s a simple and heartfelt statement but one that has powered her to new horizons as her business continues to grow, now operating from new premises in the city centre.

Not long ago, she packed up her machines and took the jump to move Bits & Bobbins into its very own facility on Warwick Road, situated above Eden & Warwick hairdressers.

And it seems her timing couldn’t be better, despite the pandemic upheaval of the past 18 months or so: “There are exciting things to come for Bits & Bobbins, especially with the busiest anticipated year for weddings in 2022 since 1984,” says Rebecca.

With the most hectic period of marriages in more than 35 years on the cards, it’s a good job she has the well-honed skills to cope. “I began working at a bridal shop in Carlisle after work experience there,” says Rebecca, 27.

“When it came to leaving Sixth Form, I was offered an apprenticeship in sewing. Unfortunately, there wasn't a qualification available as an apprenticeship at the time, but I still stuck around and learnt the ropes.”

Now backed by almost 10 years’ worth of experience in bridal alterations, Rebecca began sewing at a bridal shop and then started to hold fittings in her parent’s spare lounge – all while studying for her North East Sales and Marketing qualification and working full-time in marketing.

She then moved to her first home and set up a spare room to continue holding fittings for brides and bridesmaids on evenings and weekends.

“The thing I love most is the job satisfaction,” she says. “Seeing a dress change and the bride so happy to see it fit her own shape with any changes and amendments we may have done too – it’s such a great feeling!”

Rebecca also enlisted the help of the help of local bridal houses to spread the word about her services. “Carol Roberts was the first to begin recommending me to their brides,” says Rebecca.

“I then approached Songbird in Keswick after my sister purchased her dress from there and they were absolutely amazing, I really wanted to work with them. “Bridal houses were struggling with seamstresses, so it has really been something that has benefited us all.”

News and Star: NEW PREMISES: Rebecca Ferguson, owner of Carlisle-based Bits & Bobbins bridal seamstress businessNEW PREMISES: Rebecca Ferguson, owner of Carlisle-based Bits & Bobbins bridal seamstress business

The Covid restrictions spurred her to expand her horizons. “ During lockdown, I spread the approach further afield, knowing I wanted to expand Bits & Bobbins,” Rebecca says.

“Although it was a very quiet period over the course of the pandemic, with close contact businesses unable to trade, it gave me time to really reflect on what I wanted for Bits & Bobbins and how I could make myself available to see more brides,” she says.

With the support of Sally Herd of Warwick & Eden hairdressers, Rebecca booked out a week in May, spending evenings and weekends working around her marketing role to keep on top of any alterations needed. It quickly paid off, with her efforts rewarded by moving into the new premises - ready to open up and start seeing brides again - the following week!

“When I opened post-covid I was full speed ahead with fittings,” Rebecca recalls. “I had to book the time out in my diary and after work on an evening to move everything over and set up ready for a full day of fittings the following weekend.

“The new premises, being separate from my home and a bigger space, will help me to keep up with the demand,” she says.

“I love my new premises and being alongside two great ladies; Sally Herd and Laura of Laura Cadman Confidence Coach. Sally and Laura were amazing support and encouragement when I was concerned about moving into a premises, whether I could afford it or get enough business to cover rent and other fees,” Rebecca says.

“They really encouraged me and I wouldn't have done it if it wasn't for them. They also welcomed me into the building on the first day of moving in with a glass of prosecco ready!”

Rebecca’s faith and determination is paying dividends. “Enquiries come through from brides after purchasing their dream dress from a number of boutiques, including Carol Roberts, Eden Wedding Boutique, Songbird in Keswick and many more all over Cumbria,” Rebecca says.

Still, being only in her mid-20s, some clients are taken aback when they first meet Rebecca: “When people come for their fitting, they are always so surprised at my age. They always say they expected someone older, yet I still have a good few years of experience and an eye for design and the perfect fit!,” she says.

“I can go much further than your average alteration. I'm also passionate about weddings and making it the best experience for everybody, so will always go above and beyond.”

The business certainly keeps Rebecca on her toes: “There have been occasions where I have been in fittings and my phone has been buzzing more than usual, so I have had to answer and either a bride or bridesmaid has burst zips or seams on their dress as they're about to get into the car to head to the venue,” she says.

“I've had to hurry to where they are getting ready once or twice to sew ladies into their dresses for the day... another reason to have your seamstress there on the morning!”

Rebecca, who lives with her boyfriend in Carlisle, says the presence of her beloved dog is a bonus, too. “I’m not married and I don’t have kids but I do have my puppy Cavapoo called Ruby,” she says. “I work full-time, so it’s a hectic lifestyle sometimes but Ruby comes along to the room with me on fitting days and the brides love her!”

Being a bridal seamstress can also be quite an emotional undertaking, says Rebecca. “Things such as making things for the bride to wear on their wedding day that was maybe worn by their mum or dad or a relative is quite moving,” she says.

“I've sewn pieces into wedding dresses that are from their loved ones who have passed away, such as favourite shirts, jewellery, mums’ veils and so forth. That’s always an emotional but lovely thing to be a part of.”

Not one to rest on her laurels, a recent addition to Rebecca’s bridal party alterations business now sees Bits & Bobbins offering a dressing service, with Rebecca regularly heading out to venues on wedding mornings (armed with her emergency sewing kit!) to dress brides and their bridal parties, helping ease the stress of the getting ready process.

She has also become a stockist of the Empty Box company wedding dress boxes, providing a post-wedding packing and safe-storage service, which keeps the dresses looking like new for many years to come.

“With limited options for experienced bridal alterations in Cumbria, and new services on the horizon, I am happy to be able provide brides and their bridal parties with my knowledge and advice,” says Rebecca.

For the founder of Bits & Bobbins, it seems the future really is bright white.