Our ‘In the Shop Window’ interviews are a regular little glimpse into the lives of the people behind some of Shop Scotland’s most amazing businesses. A look behind the scenes at the loves, loathes, inspiration and backstories of some of our most imaginative and astonishing small businesses. To kick off September we’re delighted to feature Magghi McLean of Puffinpatchworks. Oh and take note of Magghi’s Plan B if all else fails, top advice and possibly the best response we’ve ever had to that question. Puffinpatchworks Shop Scotland, Folksy, Facebook, Twitter, Website.
My Business: I design, sell and make bespoke patchwork quilts and cushions using recycled tweed, tartan and denim.
Starting Out: Having spent most of my working life in retail and after a spell of unemployment, I decided to set up my own business and work for myself. I am self taught, but have sewn since I was a child and doing patchwork when I had my children. So combining my retail experience and my love of all things creative I thought I would give it a go!
Where I’m based: Creetown, Dumfries & Galloway
Business Name: Your business name is so important. I chose Puffinpatchworks because I am passionate about both – puffins and patchwork. Anyone coming to our house will see lots of puffins and patchwork quilts.
Previous Jobs: I started in as a Training Officer with a large insurance company. Then took time out to have children. Retrained as librarian, but qualified when there were no librarian jobs. So I worked in a bookshop for many years, then a garden centre doing their buying and merchandising. I’ve worked selling wood burning stoves in Edinburgh and then an office manager for a software company. All of these have been experiences I’ve put to good use in the business.
My “typical” working day: My commute takes me minutes from the kitchen to my work room. I check emails etc, then it’s sewing and more sewing! I usually lay out what I’m going to be doing the day before. All days are different, but always involve designing, matching fabrics, thinking ahead and catching up with orders or stock for craft fairs. I have to sew every day – that way new designs come along, but my stash of fabric never seems to get smaller.
Self employment highs: Being your own boss. I work as hard as I like, but I can take the odd day off and enjoy Galloway countryside.
Self employment lows: Making ends meet sometimes and trying to put into place a way to have a constant income over the year.
Who helped me: When I was unemployed I went on a training course on how to set up in business – invaluable.
Inspiration: I draw my inspiration form whatever fabric I have to hand and matching it up to the amazing Scottish landscape and all that live in it. I take lots of photographs of colours and textures.
Find Me: I sell through a lovely shop in Wigtown called Curly Tale Books and I do a few craft fairs, but I sell most through the agricutural shows here in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders. Most of my work comes from commissions.
Business Achievements : Still going and developing after 7 years.
Longterm goals: I plan on making my own fabric. I’ve recently been given a loom and I’m going to teach myself to weave this winter. I love experimenting with colour and want to put the Scottish landscape into fabric.
Promotion: Use of social media is very important, but so too is meeting people face to face. So I try and match the fairs I do to the people who want to buy.
Popular products: My cushions are always popular. I think people like the bold designs of birds and animals I do. I can’t tell you how many Belted Galloway cushions I’ve sold – they’ve even gone to America.
Must have crafty tool: Could not live without my Heavy Duty Singer sewing machine – obvious I know, but it’s taken me to the moon and back stitch wise and it’s so fast!
With Hindsight: Persevere and believe in yourself.
Other Makers: There’s a lot of collaboration with fellow makers. I get great support from Debbie from The Butterfly and Toadstool and Christine from Galloway Designs. Galloway Chillies is a favourite of mine
Plan B jobwise: No plan B – I just work harder.
And another thing: I have a photo of my Granma on my desk. She was a very influential person in my life. She would love what I am doing and would want to help.
Best thing about Scotland: A man in a kilt
Hidden Scotland: Camusdarrach
Best thing about Scotland: Its people.
Favourite TV Show: The Clangers, because Granny Clanger is always knitting.
Favourite Film: Far from the Madding Crowd – the original.
Favourite Book: Tess, Thomas Hardy – can you see a theme?
Do you believe in Nessie? Absolutely.