A childhood love of arts and crafts has blossomed into a fruitful business for Jessie Rowe, owner and director of Sashes and Rosettes Direct Devon.
But how exactly is a sash made and how has Jessie turned a passion for horses and all things creative into a career? Here, she explains how she’s done it:
A friend of mine asked if I would do a sash for a show she was running. She wanted a floral one and they were looking to be really expensive. I’ve always been into sewing and was on maternity leave so I thought I’d give it a go. I noticed that this was something not a lot of people did and that there was a gap in the market. So I invested in a single ribbon printer and started my journey.
From the end of January through until October, we are absolutely swamped. Christmas and New Year is a funny time; we are relatively quiet until February hits and we’ll be busy with orders right until the end of the season. It can get very manic.
Social media is key to the business. We’re always trying to move with the times. We don’t have a website as we found it didn’t work as people are big into social media these days. As this industry is set on personal touches, customers want to interact with us rather than make a few clicks to order. It leads to fewer mistakes and more clarity.
I made 96 sashes for the 2018 Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in two weeks. The Coloured Horse and Pony Society rang me a week after I’d booked a holiday to Spain for the end of September. I had 14 days to make all the sashes for the finalists as well as the two bigger floral garlands which went to the champion and reserve. I managed to catch the lap of honour of the championship of live steam and it was brilliant to watch my creations on the ponies.
Each sash is hand made. Each tier of the sash is hand sewn on a machine. Sashes usually measure between 72 and 76 inches. Everything is cut to size before we design the prints on the computer that get put onto the sash via the digital printer. Then everything gets sewn together. Floral sashes can take up to an hour and a half each to finish. I throw a lot of passion into it.
Most of the clients let me choose the designs. I’m personally a traditionalist; I love a red, white and blue champion sash but lots of people are now going for out and out colours or something a bit different. A lot of shows are now swaying away from rosettes and are choosing to give each placed competitor a single tier sash. I’ve noticed it makes a difference to entries, as people are most likely to come if they get a nice prize at the end.
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Some days I can be up until three in the morning designing and sewing. I used to work as a night manager in Tesco before I had my son two years ago and my partner does the same so he works at night. This is my time to get my head down and really get stuff done.
As with showing, it’s often about who you know. I made a sash for a client, which was completely hand glued with British Legion poppies. It was for a demonstration as the horse had been clipped with a war memorial design. A friend of mine’s father works at the British Legion so he managed to get me the poppies. Another show I supplied for ended up raising over £10,500 for Cancer Research, which was very rewarding to be a part of.
I love meeting up with my clients. I have them all over the country. I also do a lot of work for clients over in Ireland. Shows over there often put in big orders for more than 50 rosettes or sashes at a time.
There is no right or wrong way to make a rosette. My advice to anyone starting out is to develop your own style and technique. Put your own stamp on your designs. It isn’t a crowned market but you have to stand out to get people to come to you. And my advice to shows? Don’t skimp on rosettes; people come for the prizes.
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