Silk firm flying flag for sewing heritage
VIP guests were this week given a tour of a firm aiming to ‘bring sewing back to Macc’.
Ron Smart, 76, of family silk firm RA Smart, invited dignitaries and guests to the factory, on Grimshaw Lane, Bollington, for a special event to show the work they are doing to keep textiles skills alive and promote Macclesfield as a silk town.
Visitors toured the firm’s new sewing room and met some of the apprentices who are learning the trade with the hope of bolstering the skills base in Macclesfield.
RA Smart, run by Ron and his family who lives in Macclesfield, has produced fabric for decades, opening in 1972 to make screens for screen printing before in the 80s start- ing to print silk for fashion and later for mens ties.
But it was only recently that the company started to sew items too.
They took on home sewers to produce household textiles such as tea towels and aprons, and then last year opened a sewing room to increase production.
But Ron, a grandad of two, married to Carole, whose daughter Alison and grandson Daniel work at the firm, said it wasn’t easy to find skilled staff.
He said: “We advertised but couldn’t find enough skilled sewing machinists. I guess sewing isn’t cool enough for some young people today. But now we’ve taken on around 16 local people and trained them up, and want to show that it is a profession for young people.
“We’re flying the flag for UK manufacturing and it’s all happening right here in Macclesfield.
“Macclesfield was always a sewing town and we want to promote that, We’re bringing sewing back to Macc.”
Ron says they hope to take on up to 50 machinists and start sewing clothes for fashion designers
is running apprenticeships with Macclesfield College so trainees work full time but go to college one day a week to qualify for an NVQ.
One apprentice is Emma Sheldon, 22, from Adlington, who had been hoping to make a career out of her love for sewing.
She said: “It was great to find an opportunity so close to home.
“I learned basic sewing before picking up more skills. I’ve found it hard to stick to a job but love it at RA Smart, we’re like a family.
“People may.think of sewing as something for grannies but it’s not. It feels great to go out wearing something you’ve made.”
Emma Cavender, 30, a mum of two from Macclesfield, applied with no formal sewing experience.
She said: “I’d done bits at home and knew it was something I’d like to try but had never seen an opportunity. You need to be creative, patient and have steady hands, and it’s so rewarding.
“I’m very proud of Macclesfield and it’s great what RA Smart is doing to bring sewing back to the town.”
●● Ron Smart, front left, with (clockwise from back left) Bollington mayor’s consort James Nicholas, MP David Rutley, Cheshire East mayor Wesley Fitzgerald, Jane Jones from Macclesfield College and Bollington mayor Amanda Stott at RA Smart in Bollington
●● Award-winning wildlife photographer Ben Hall in action. He is due to give a talk at Macclesfield Camera Club’s next meeting