'Sewing has kept me sane'Thursday, April 01, 2021
By Rochelle Clayton
MONTEGO BAY, St James — “Every single product that I create is special because I do this with love. I really love what I do. I have been doing this since high school,” said Asheka Headley as she explained the joy she gets from every needle threaded, each seam sewn. Five years ago she turned her passion for sewing into a business, and though COVID-19 has now caused a falloff in sales, she has found that the rhythm of needle moving through fabric has helped her hold onto her sanity during the pandemic.
“Yes, it is work but it is very therapeutic because when I am in my zone, I block out everything that is going on outside. I think this has really helped me cope because — with everything going on in the world — if I did not have anything else to do, I do not know how I would be mentally. Sewing has kept me sane,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
It serves as a getaway from the “never-ending happenings in the world”, she added.
“During the lockdowns and curfews, I have found comfort in sitting in front of my machine and just allow[ing] it to guide me. Once I have fabric, thread, and electricity, I am fine,” said Headley.
Sewing was once a hobby but Headley quit her nine-to-five sales job to launch Ayondae's Collections in 2016.
“We specialise in the manufacturing of home and fashion accessories, as well as gift items. [We do] home accessories like cushions, sheets, drapery, kitchen curtains. [We also do] fashion accessories such as bags for both children and adults and gift items such as personalised Mother's Day and Teacher's Day gifts,” she explained.
Through the highs and lows of the pandemic, Headley said she has been “rolling with the punches and making adjustments where needed to stay afloat”, as she believes nobody could have really prepared for this level of upheaval. The challenges have also pushed her to expand her product line to now include fabric masks.
“This has been an eye-opening experience, but it also allowed me to challenge myself and go into different markets. When the pandemic started, because my products are considered luxury items, sales fell. I needed to find other products to make that would bring in money because I still needed to eat and pay bills. I saw that masks were mandatory, so I got a few designs, tried them out, started doing some advertising and that took off way more than I expected,” Headley told Observer West.
The job of a seamstress, she believes, is important to the Jamaican society and it is one that she believes more young people with the passion and talent should explore.
“Everything that we wear or use, that is made of linen or fabric, was sewn. I sometimes regret that I did not jump into sewing right after high school. It is something that you get better at each time you do it. Every day that you go on the machine or you create something, you find another way to do something else, so it is like a continuous cycle of creation,” she said. “We buy sheets from overseas, but a young person can make these sheets and get that market. It is very broad and there is room for everybody. Just improve on your talent and do not give up!”
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