Woman sits at wooden desk with Brother sewing machine

Tara Collette’s #BrotherBiz banner making

Twenty-five-year-old Tara, based in Manchester, UK, has made a successful career designing and creating banners for commercial businesses. But it wasn’t until she saw the huge variety of creative works she could create using her sewing machine that she truly fell in love with sewing.

two male models with cream banner

Photo credit Usekees Clothing

 

Tell us about your business:

I started banner making in 2017 while studying Graphic Design at university. I was looking at alternative ways to publish work and, even though I hated sewing at the time, banners appealed to me. After making a few and seeing what I could create by machine sewing them, I fell in love with making them.

After graduating I was awarded a scholarship which provided me with a free studio space for a year. This was fantastic because I didn’t have to worry about making money to pay the rent – I could just experiment, set my design style for the banners and practise my sewing skills.

The most enjoyable thing about designing and sewing banners is how far they’ve come since I started making them back in 2017. My sewing has come such a long way - although, I don’t think I ever will understand sewing machine tension! I used to doubt my sewing at the start, but now I’m confident and I think that shows a lot in the final pieces.

I particularly like creating banners that small businesses take to art markets with them. It’s such a great feeling when I turn up to a craft fair and there are other makers with banners I’ve made for them on display. I feel very proud in those moments.

 

When did you get your big break as a business?

In my first year out of university I still had no idea what I wanted to do or what direction I was going in. But I had some fantastic feedback on my banners and people were really interested in buying them, so I just continued to do what I enjoyed.

I got my first big commission from an arts festival in Manchester called Design Manchester later that year. They wanted a series of six banners with the theme of ‘Public Space’. It gave me my first experience of creating banners on a commercial basis, rather than for my degree.

I could never have predicted that five years later I would be making banners for brands like Wool and The Gang and The Breakfast Club - it’s so surreal but I love it.

models in photo studio holding white banner

Photo credit Wool and the Gang

 

What equipment do you use?

My first sewing machine was a Brother Innov-is LS14 which I used for about three years before upgrading.

It was such a great starter machine, and I always recommend it to anyone who asks me what machine they should buy as a beginner.

I bought it in 2015 in a sale for about £50, but as I wasn’t really a fan of sewing at the time it just ended up gathering dust. But when I became interested in banner making, it was brought out of retirement and served me incredibly well.

In 2020, I won a cash prize from Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival and the first thing I bought was the Brother FS100WT. For years I had dreamed about a free motion sewing machine, so it was super exciting to be able to buy one that had the ability to drop its feed dogs. I use it to sew all my banners: appliquéing my text down with the free motion foot is a dream!

Woman holding material swatch cards

So, are you a sewing convert?

Yes!

Throughout high school and college, textiles was a no-go for me! I’ve no idea why I had disliked it so much. Maybe it was because I viewed it as a chore like mending clothes. I would dread having to sew a button back on to things.

I’m glad I managed to put that behind me at university. Thinking back now, if I had the opportunity to do my degree all over again, I would do a textiles one. Maybe one day I’ll do a masters in textiles.

Having a fantastic machine is also a huge benefit as it makes it so easy, and the more I’ve sewn the more techniques I’ve learned.

line of multicolored small banners on black railings

Would you recommend any other equipment?

I also have a Brother ScanNCut - I use this mainly for cutting out vinyl, but it also works with fabric too.

I sell stained glass pieces along with my banners and often use the ScanNCut for adding vinyl lettering to my glasswork - it’s a great finishing touch to my pieces!

 

Do you have any advice for other small businesses starting out or hobbyists wanting to monetise their craft?

Try and focus on having great quality products before trying to sell them online.

I spent quite a few months learning stained glass before I sold anything. You want to test and test again, to make sure things aren’t falling apart after a few weeks.

 

What’s next for Tara Collette?

I’ve spent five years developing and discovering how I like to work, and which materials I prefer to use. Now I’m at the stage where I know exactly what my vision and direction is for the banners and that feels like a good place to be.

I haven’t sat down and made any new banner designs for a while now, so my aim for this year is to release some new ones which will available as made-to-order through my online shop.

In the future I’d love to work with musicians to create huge banners for the stage when they tour. And get on the guestlist, of course!

 

Where can people find you?

You can find my shop at: www.taracollette.co.uk and follow me on Instagram @taracollette – come say hi!

Hands holding black woven material tags

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