One of my first memories was perching on my mother’s knee as she worked her old Singer treadle sewing machine. I was fascinated and often Mum and me worked together. She guided the fabric whilst I worked the treadle.
I received my very first ‘Little Betty’ sewing machine one Christmas when I had just turned six and loved learning to copy my mum. I made dresses for my tiny tears doll.
Mum was a local handy woman, neighbours, family and friends all came round to get a dress or curtains run up. One year, Mum made me a full wardrobe for my Tressy (like Barbie) doll with full designer outfits including mink fur coat and silk stockings, all hand made from recycled fabrics. I was the envy of all my friends.
Mum was doing so much sewing she bought herself a new electric Singer. It came with its own sewing cabinet, where the machine could be dropped away when not in use. Mum let me try the Singer out as I was soon frustrated with my toy machine. Unfortunately, shortly after my mum developed breast cancer and did not return from hospital, she died aged 32 years. So at the age eleven I inherited my very own Singer sewing machine and set to work throughout my teenage years creating my own clothes and sewing household items to help out my dad, grandma and eventually myself as I married and set up home.
When my own three children were born most of their clothes were hand made and unusual. It became the family joke that at one stage we were like the Sound of Music Vonn Trapp Family when I purchased a bargain bolt of bright fabric and set to sewing the holiday outfits. Myself, my husband, two young daughters, baby son and even a neighbour all got holiday outfits out of it. We certainly couldn’t be missed when we all went out in matching outfits. Looking back on the photographs it was a sight to cheer.
As money was hard in those days, I used to take in sewing to eke out the family budget. I created everything from complex cuddly toys for Christmas to large dance troupes of Ballet tutus, leotards and stage costumes. My time at University was partially funded by sewing.
Eventually my old Singer machine couldn’t keep up the pace of all the hard work and I cried as my 16 year old machine finally gave up and could not be repaired..
I bought a replacement New Home with some fancy stitches to fulfil all my sewing commission orders. My favourite commissions over the years were for the many bride and bridesmaid dresses. I loved designing and making my eldest daughters wedding dress although the hand sewing of hundreds of seed pearls and diamond gems over the corset was really not good for my eyesight!
As my three children grew up and settled down I designed and created my own ’Mother of the Bride’ outfits which included matching accessories such as fascinators and handbags.
For a time, I stopped sewing as my eldest daughter ‘borrowed’ my sewing machine to furnish her new home. I then turned my hobby to papercrafts and scrapbooking. After a couple of years, I had to buy my daughter her own basic sewing machine to get mine back home again!
I returned to my love of sewing with more detailed art projects for myself which included bespoke handbags. Some of which were a complex series of organiser pockets and variable fastening solutions.
Then my granddaughter started dancing and it rekindled my love of being a dance mum (or grandmum). Setting up Do Tutu in 2014 designing and creating bespoke structured ballet tutus which went to strength as a business. In 2018 I created the #DanceMums 101 workshops to teach new dance mums the art of costume creation.
Since then, I have bought a further four sewing machines and the collection in my studio is growing!