by Elyse Wurm
IN AN age where machines can whip up clothes in a matter of seconds, a Southern Downs family is working hard to keep hand-sewn clothes and the quality that comes with them alive.
Mother-daughter team Jillian Browne and Renee Elsden are the co-founders of Lil Lovelies, crafting brightly coloured children's clothing and other accessories such as bibs and nappy wallets.
Eighteen months after having her first child, Mrs Elsden said she struggled to find a high quality hat for her new daughter, Ellie.
Previously a teacher, Mrs Elsden had learned to sew in her early teens and approached her mother about starting the business.
"Being a stay-at-home mum I wanted something extra to do,” she said.
"Mum and I are very, very close and this gives us an interest that we both love and share.”
Ellie is now 10 years old and has started taking an interest in the craft, taking lessons from her mother and grandmother.
"It's really nice that she has that connection with my mum, they can sit down and pass on that knowledge as well,” Mrs Elsden said.
Mrs Browne said it brings back memories of when she taught her daughter and son, Duncan, how to sew.
Ellie helps to remove pins on pieces sewn for Lil Lovelies' customers and practices her skills making dolls' clothes and other tidbits.
Mrs Browne said patience is paramount to the craft, but believes it's a dying art.
"It's a little bit sad because if you find something that doesn't fit or you can't find something, you can do it yourself,” she said.
"Clothes are so cheap now, it's cheaper to buy them but you don't get the satisfaction.”
Sewing seems to be coming back into fashion according to Mrs Elsden, but she agrees many do not possess the skills these days.
"It's not something people know readily any more,” she said.
"I think it's sad because it's something really useful to have.”
The team share the load when it comes to Lil Lovelies, creating their brightly patterned items using floral designs, farm prints and other vibrant materials mostly sourced from Spotlight.
With Mrs Elsden based at Brookstead and Mrs Browne in Warwick, they divide the tasks evenly depending on the item required and where it needs to be sent.
Mrs Elsden now has two more children, Thomas, 7, and Marty, 3, and is returning to part-time work as a secondary school teacher, while Mrs Browne is a registered nurse at Condamine Medical Centre.
Lil Lovelies remains a labour of love around life's other commitments, but the pair have built a strong following of return customers who praise the strength and durability of their products.
Mrs Elsden said the team would continue creating pieces for the forseeable future and soon get ready for the often busy warmer months.
"We never started it to make millions but we enjoy doing it,” Mrs Elsden said.
Find Lil Lovelies on Facebook and Instagram.