Bedecked of Hay

PUBLISHED: 14:14 20 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:04 20 February 2013

Bedecked of Hay

Bedecked of Hay

Andrea Mynard meets Hay's Judith Lewis, a woman with a fascinating yarn to spin

All yours in buttons & bows

Andrea Mynard meets Hays Judith Lewis, a woman with a fascinating yarn to spin

From its traditional shop-front in Hay-on-Wye, feathers, ribbons, yarns and buttons of every hue entice visitors into Bedecked. Once inside, girls of all ages are mesmerised by the fabulous treasures stocked in this haberdashery shop and its difficult not to be inspired to get crafty.

This is the brainchild of Judith Lewis, whose life and career totally changed direction in her 50s. Newly divorced, she decided to take on a tumbledown farm with 42 acres in the Golden Valley and, with no experience of livestock, was soon sheep farming. Having raised a flock of 50 sheep, it wasnt long before Judith was combining checking her sheep and letting out the chickens with starting an online haberdashery shop.
Judiths retail career had begun years earlier when she worked for BHS before having children. When she was keen to return to the world of work after spending some time as a full-time mum, Judith studied for a fashion degree and joined Next where she was in charge of womenswear during the companys rapid expansion.

Having lived in Herefordshire for a while with her family before moving to Nottinghamshire, the Golden Valley beckoned as a place to lick her wounds when her marriage split up. She joined Bulmers and moved to a farmhouse in dire need of attention. Tempted to buy four ewes at Hereford market, Judiths flock soon expanded and were joined by chickens, cats and dogs.

When the Bulmers office closed in Hereford Judith started a haberdashery business from her dining room table at the farm. Originally, it was going to be a purely internet business, utilising the valuable e-commerce experience Judith had gained at Bulmers. But when bad weather meant that a lot of the stock she was storing in her old farm buildings was ruined, Judith looked for a small warehouse to rent in Hay. Instead she was offered a shop: So I went home and thought why not, I can run an internet business from it too. It was serendipity.

Tucked away in a side street in Hay, Judiths first small shop was crammed full of braid, buttons, wools, ribbons, buckles and braids. Moving into a larger shop on Castle Street in 2009 enabled her to also stock fabrics and a small range of childrens clothes and toys. She enjoys sourcing, visiting trade fairs in Milan and Paris and dealing direct with suppliers means that Judith can cherry pick the best trimmings from each, resulting in a fabulously eclectic range. Keen to source ethically, Judith has found toys made from organic rubber-wood, lovely buttons produced from recycled compressed paper and gorgeous organic childrens clothes. Her suppliers range from a Milanese lace manufacturer to an art student in the UK who makes buttons by hand to fair-trade suppliers in Ghana.

Customers are equally diverse; Bedecked has supplied Buckingham Palace, Glyndebourne Opera and Notting Hill Council, while the Royal Opera House used its trimmings for Czarinas Slippers. Bedecked has even made Page 3 of The Sun. Not surprisingly, it was the leopard print trim with sequins that featured.

Grown-up girls may be seduced by the feather brooches, leather buttons, blowsy roses trim or rococo edging, but its also easy to imagine how entrancing this shop is to the little girls who Judith describes coming in with their pocket money: They come in to buy treasures and spend ages and ages examining each button by the time they make up their mind, their 1 coin is warm in their hands.

Originally, Judith had ideas of combining the two strings to her bow by supplying the shop with her own wool. But as Bedecked grew, it became increasingly difficult to juggle farming with her business. As she was also developing eyesight problems, Judith worried about her journey home and decided to leave the farm for the fresh challenge of renovating a cottage in New Radnor. She is planning to expand the shop this year, transforming her basement into a cosy space for knitting and sewing workshops alongside selling home accessories.

Although Judith talks about serendipity a lot, it seems that its her own enthusiasm, creativity and hard work that will make this expanding treasure trove work

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