When Lara von Fintel moved to Levin from South Africa in November 2019 with husband Horst, she didn't realise that a few years later she would be living her dream of sharing her passion for fashion.
The opening of Love Stitch Studio this week, in a shared space at the premises of For Fabric Sake on Cambridge Street, is the first step in Lara sharing a love of crafting with the Horowhenua community.
"This space is going to be used to bring people together from all walks of life and all ages," said Lara, "through sewing, crafting, cake decorating, and many other fun amazing classes."
Lara also intends the space to be able to host other small 'crafty' businesses and give them a platform to grow and engage with the community.
Back in South Africa, Lara worked with a Christian-based organisation, One Life Foundation, going into remote rural areas and sharing her skills in design and sewing with impoverished communities.
In Zulu culture a lot of women will not wear pants so, with the foundation having a lot of pants and jeans in the clothing donation room, one of the projects Lara is most proud of was teaching these women how to redesign the pants and turn them into skirts.
During the last couple of years of pandemic lockdowns and isolation, Lara really struggled with her mental health and knew she had to get back into doing what she loved – creating products and sharing her crafting knowledge with others.
Lara approached her old boss and fellow South African Berdine Fraenkel, to see if there would be room to set up a shared craft space in her fabric shop.
Despite the Omicron outbreak, Lara and Horst were able to push on with creating the Love Stitch Studio and the official opening took place on Tuesday May 3, with Horowhenua District Council deputy mayor Jo Mason helping to cut the ribbon.
"The opening of another small business is exactly what our town needs to keep it growing," said Jo. "Lara is providing a much-needed service and opportunity for both young and old."
Starting with Wednesday morning UFO (unfinished object) sewing classes and an after-school sewing club for children on Fridays, Lara has a myriad of ideas for the future.
"I want to set up a mobile sewing school that I can take all over the Horowhenua," she said, "and add in other classes as demand grows."
If you are interested in joining the current classes being offered, or would like to find out more about sharing your own crafting skills at Love Stitch Studio, you can get in touch with Lara by email - email@example.com - or phone 0211111836.