CLOSING UP SHOP: Lynda Spall and Judy Feuerriegel are closing their Ell-Jays Haberdashery, Alterations and Mending business.
CLOSING UP SHOP: Lynda Spall and Judy Feuerriegel are closing their Ell-Jays Haberdashery, Alterations and Mending business. Cordell Richardson

Another popular Ipswich business all stitched up

STITCHING together the fundamentals of a successful small business has been a life-long passion for sisters Lynda Spall and Judy Feuerriegel.

Lynda, 69, and Judy, 67, began sewing when they were small girls but this year will mark the end of the their journey leading one of Ipswich's best business success stories.

Ell-Jays Haberdashery, Alterations and Mending has been a fixture at a small, suburban shopping centre in Raceview for close to 15 years but the passion was sewn as early as the 1950s.

This year will be their last behind the counter at Ell-Jays.

Both were keen sewers even in their childhood, their mother teaching them the basics on a treadle machine, but they soon made a career out of their passion.

Lynda started her working life at Big W at Booval when she was 14 while Judy made men's neck ties at Mason's Tie Factory in the Ipswich CBD until it closed it the 1970s.

"Some girls got a letter on their holidays that they were no longer wanted. Because Dad had died we needed a job, so I went out to House of Jennings bra factory and applied for the job when I was 18," Judy said.

Lynda said they worked together at the bra factory for 15 years.

"We were making bras and we were supervisors who taught people how to make them. We taught quite a few people how to sew," she said.

"Jennings closed and I went to work for a fella at Booval Fair Fabrics and people were coming in and asking to do alterations so it sky rocketed from there."

Judy and Lynda bought the business at Booval and then moved to Raceview 15 years ago.

The business originally traded in fabric but sales slowed when Spotlight opened at West Ipswich.

It was then Judy and Lynda turned their attention to mending, alterations and sewing.

Lynda said demand for alterations skills never slowed, with the art of sewing fast becoming extinct and contemporary consumerism demanding an expert with a needle and thread to adjust ill-fitting online purchases.

"A lot of clothes are bought on the internet and they don't fit so you need someone to alter it," she said.

"There are not many jobs I haven't been able to do. We've had a few challenges.

The business has withstood the test of time and competition; Judy and Lynda deciding to turn off the sewing machines to enjoy their retirement.

"The pace we have been doing with formals and weddings, we work weekends and we can't go anywhere or do anything," Lynda said.

"Some of our friends have passed away recently and it makes us wonder why we aren't going away and doing something.

"I am going to continue some at home, to keep my finger in it, because I love sewing.

Judy will join her husband, a fisherman, on the Sunshine Coast while Lynda will occupy a sewing room in her home.

"It has all been good, the people are lovely, and you can have a joke with them," Judy said.

"Some we have known since before they had children and now we are altering their daughters' formal dresses. Nobody wants us to go. I'm going to miss it, I will miss the people," Judy said.

"We love it but we had to make the decision.

"We'd like to thank everyone for being our loyal customers over the years, we've enjoyed it and we will miss our customers."