In a career combining his three passions of sewing, gardening and cooking, Berwyn Jones has worked on BBC costume dramas and garden makeover shows and been a chef at both a Liverpool restaurant and his own bar in Spain.
Now the Garndiffaith-born Blaenavon resident is sharing some of his talents with local people, having set up a clothes and fabrics design and alterations business, while also helping run a community gardening project.
Berwyn, 52 – who studied tailoring at college in Liverpool before joining the BBC’s wardrobe department in London – has launched Needles and Pins to offer clients bespoke bridalwear and proms dresses, along with soft furnishings such as cushions, curtains and blinds.
As well as working from patterns or designing and making dresses to exact specifications, he is also available to help shop for fabrics with the aim of producing a perfectly made-to-measure unique creation.
In his spare time, Berwyn swaps his sewing machine for a shovel and becomes an integral volunteer with Blaenavon Town Team’s Community Gardening Project, helping spruce up neglected public areas of greenery across the town.
The role allows him to deploy skills learned before and during filming three series of BBC2’s Garden Invaders series with former pop star Kim Wilde in Manchester, in which he helped make contestants’ unloved gardens look lovely again.
Berwyn’s many roles have included setting up and acting as chef at a popular vegetarian restaurant near Liverpool University and supervising a project teaching unemployed people to sew.
After Garden Invaders, Berwyn ran a bar in Malaga, Spain for four years – offering upmarket snacks to the clientele, a mixture of tourists and local residents.
He recently moved to Blaenavon – where he has family – and decided to return to his first love of sewing, setting up Needles and Pins with support from the Welsh Government and Communities First-funded Effect (Enterprise Facilitation for Effective Community Transformation) project
Effect is managed and delivered by a team of local entrepreneurs and volunteers coordinated by Torfaen County Borough Council Economy and Enterprise department’s Enterprise Facilitator, Jayne Skyrme, who works one-to-one with clients.
Jayne, who works for, said Berwyn had received business coaching, management advice and support with marketing and promotion from the scheme.
“Our objective is to encourage entrepreneurs to reject isolation in business and to build a team that will ensure sustainability,” she added. “Allowing Berwyn access to our network ensures he always has a pool of positive and supportive people ready to problem-solve and help resource his business.
“Skilled dressmakers are in demand, especially since yearly proms are held in most local schools, and there is a rising number of people wanting to repair – rather than replace – clothing and soft furnishings.
“Blaenavon has many talented craftspeople and producers and it’s fantastic that we have another quality business opening in the town.”
Berwyn said he had realised there was a market for his service, and he wanted to be based in Blaenavon, hoping to grow his business and eventually open a shop in the town.
“I’ve gone full circle and come back home,” he added. “I’ve loved learning new things, and I want to put to good use the skills that I’ve picked up along the way. I had a few reservations about self-employment but working with Jayne has been fantastic – if anyone is considering self-employment they should definitely give her a call for a chat.”
Jayne Skyrme, Enterprise Facilitator can be contacted on 07534 511575 or email [email protected].
- Enterprise Facilitation was founded by Italian Dr Ernesto Sirolli, who devised it in 1985 as a way for local communities to support and help would-be entrepreneurs and existing small and medium-sized business. Since then, the model has been adopted in more than 250 communities worldwide