Gift & Stitch Aspatria - A shop local story

Welcome Back Fund - funded by ERDF

Dawn Richardson’s Gift & Stitch Aspatria business began as a small home-working embroidery enterprise to fit around her family – but her West Cumbrian customers had other ideas…

When Dawn Richardson’s home was filled with helium balloons, her husband James delivered a heartfelt plea: “Please get a shop!” She had been running her small gift business from their house in the village of Plumbland but it had expanded so much due to customer demand, every room was overrun with products.

It was the bulkiness of the balloons, however, which were the final straw for James, who also has his own company, working as a groundworker. They were everywhere – even their children’s playroom had been swamped with the pretty things that Dawn was selling online and to locals through her Facebook page.

Gift & Stitch Aspatria began as an embroidery business. Dawn used the art and textiles skills she had learnt at school to create personalised gifts like teddy bears and baby blankets. It was a far cry from her original training – she had studied animal science at Newton Rigg College – but it suited her family life and she enjoyed using her creativity again. On the side, she was sewing for commercial upholstery projects alongside a friend, working on properties such as those owned by the Lake District Hotels group – until a growing baby bump got in the way. Dawn and James now have three boys.

“Towards the end of my pregnancy I couldn’t sit at a sewing machine!” says Dawn.

“After he was born I discovered an embroidery machine – you programme the pattern, press play and walk away.”

“I was selling via Facebook and online, on Etsy and eBay. It was hard work and, as the range of things I sold grew, it started to take over the house.”

The first Gift & Stitch premises were down an alleyway, just off King Street in Aspatria, but they weren’t ideal. There wasn’t an obvious shopfront and they were pretty small. Then the business’s current home became available. It’s right next to the Co-op, on King Street, which is the main A596 route through the town, and is very easy to find.

Dawn and James bought the building, which used to house a butcher and a sandwich shop, and renovated it to include retail space at the front and a workshop and storeroom behind. They opened in February 2020 – just before the first lockdown – but that didn’t stop Dawn. She started doing home deliveries of art and craft kits for children, as well as cards, balloons and presents ordered through her Facebook page.

“It kept me sane,” Dawn laughs, “never mind the parents!”

The shop is an absolute treasure trove, stocking everything from baby’s newborn gifts and traditional wooden toys for toddlers, through to commemorative glasses for those big dates in people’s lives. Then there are games, candles, table decorations and pretty homewares, lamps and candle lanterns, and greetings cards, plus more masculine gifts like wallets and socks.

Two local products are bath bombs and soaps from Cumberland Syape, and scented wax melts by Jam Melts Cumbria.

There are the practical things too, like gift wrap and bags, and even BluTack and sticky tape. Dawn says: “I try to cater for everything and everyone wants something different!”

Now Dawn is hoping to expand the business still further, concentrating on increasing the amount of embroidery work she can do. She’s already got the contract for school uniforms at Plumbland Primary School, and works for a number of corporate clients creating their workwear and uniforms, and she is planning to do more of that, already purchasing a second embroidery machine.

“It’s a really simple process,” she says. “You send me your logo, I can get it digitised, and then I programme the machines to create whatever you need.”

Gift & Stitch Aspatria
40 King Street