I’ve reported here about the sewing group – Chi Stitch – I run with Karen from The Draper’s Daughter. We now have a lovely group of regulars who come along with a myriad of sewing and crafting projects and I find the whole experience inspiring – even if I don’t always get a lot of sewing done!
This has set me off thinking about my sewing inspiration generally. I know both my grandmothers sewed and knitted, although I really only remember seeing my paternal grandmother in action. She was Scottish and knitted very fast on long needles tucked under her arms. During the Second World War I know that she knitted socks, gloves and balaclavas for soldiers.
My mother has always sewed, knitted, crocheted and generally made stuff – and still does. My dad was also an inveterate maker of things. He made model boats with working steam engines, built furniture and kitchen units, made wooden toys. He could turn his hand to just about anything. I’m ashamed to say that I never really took the opportunity when I was younger to benefit as much as I could have done from their skills and knowledge. There were other things that seemed of much more interest to me! That’s not to say that we didn’t make things. We were deprived of television for many years “for the good of our education” so we had to fill the time somehow when we weren’t sloping off to our friends’ houses to watch TV there. Amongst other things we made rudimentary dolls’ clothes, knitted yards of woollen ‘tubes’ with the Knitting Nancy and made a mess with papier mâché.
At secondary school I did needlework for the first three years. Our teacher was sadly not inspirational. We were taught the basics and I remember making a striped apron with a patchwork embellished pocket and a really hideous dress that I never wore. Despite the lack of inspiration, I was quite good at sewing and remember one test when I had to pass my very neat seam finish samples to my friend behind me to copy because she had no idea what she was doing! Another friend and I always recall the time when she was sewing the pocket to her apron and it ended up attached to her skirt!
Of much more importance to me was my Food & Nutrition (aka Cookery) teacher who I have never forgotten. She was a tiny and very feisty Welsh lady called Mrs Jones who I really liked – and she really liked me because I paid attention. Not something I was necessarily well known for in some other lessons. She taught me pretty much everything I needed to know and a few things I didn’t. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever make my own flaky pastry – but I could if I wanted to. I certainly won’t be stuffing a heart or sousing a herring! Here’s Mrs Jones in the centre of the photograph.
Fast forward a number of years and after various forays into assorted crafts I decided I wanted a sewing machine. I acquired a basic Singer and started making bags. I also used it for sewing paper which probably didn’t do it the world of good, although it’s still working as my colleague now has it and is using it to make a new set of seat cushions for his boat!
Having decided I would like to try making clothes I popped into The Eternal Maker to ask Anna if they were planning to offer dressmaking classes. She said they would if they could find someone to teach them. I put her in touch with a friend of a friend and I started a six week course of lessons with Cath. I made a skirt which turned out surprisingly well and we moved on to a second six week course. After that we set up a little sewing group which met in the conference room at my office for a few months and I was on the road to a sewing obsession!
Back to Chi Stitch and I was so pleased last month when Cath came along for the first time! Without her I probably would have carried on sewing bags and paper decorations and never met all my lovely sewing friends. Here she is with her knitting on the table reserved for Catherines – @cathysewsstuff is next to her and Catherine opposite her! Karen is also there – her name does start with the right sound!
I can’t believe this picture was taken a month ago. The next Chi Stitch is tonight at St George’s Church Hall in Cleveland Road, Chichester from 7.00 – 9.00 pm. Everyone is welcome.
Just going back to school needlework teachers. My sister, who can sew but doesn’t, had a sewing teacher whose response to anyone referring to “material” was “fabric dears, fabric”. It’s an entrenched phrase in my family which we often repeat automatically when someone says “material” and then have to offer an explanation!