In the beginning …

I’ve been reading Jane’s brilliant blog about her first sewing experiences and it’s made me think a lot about when I started to sew. Like Jane in 1980, I was in a Needlework class learning how to make a cap-sleeved, slash necked, burgundy, slip over top AKA two rectangles of cheap fabric sewn together (we were a challenging class) while the boys were really enjoying themselves making ash trays in metal work. I didn’t keep the top, I’d have much rather made the ashtray for my lovely ‘chimney pot’ father.

But school and the teacher with a name I can’t remember (says it all) can not take any credit for my love of fabric and making clothes, it was at home with my mum that I really enjoyed my sewing. Mum would sit at her electric Singer and I would sit at the vintage hand cranked one (you know the black ones with the decorative gold bits?). Mum would make clothes, sometimes for us and sometimes for other people, while I made dresses for my Pippa doll (fiddly and disastrous) and bracelets from the buttons in her button box. She was a natural with pattern cutting (still is if she can tear herself away from her painting) and was able to copy a dress from the cover of a fashion magazine with ease. There was a gas fire in the work room (goodness how I miss that dedicated room!), a radio (when Woman’s Hour was on in the afternoon) and a cupboard full of fabric and patterns. Happy days.

My mum also liked to do a lot of appliqué and machine embroidery and it’s this that had a huge influence on me. The Pippa outfits are long gone, but I still have some of the pictures I made …

The one on the left is obviously by my mum (the white house is where I grew up) and the one on the right is by me (aged 10)!

I loved machine embroidery and this was probably my first go with Mum’s Singer, opening up a whole new world of zig zag!

Here’s my lovely mum …

doing what she loves to do, knit and read The Guardian! It’s 1979 which makes me ten. In our family, Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister was  the worst possible outcome of the election of that year and here my mum is obviously seeking solace in her knitting! I’ve used left over fabric from a dress she made for herself (khaki cheesecloth) and I remember those peep toe shoes as being her favourite at the time.

There was no stopping me, I made lots of these pictures for various family members between 1979 and 1980 but this one made for my dad is the one I laugh at most …

I obviously thought to myself ‘what would Dad like for his birthday?’! You can lift the net top to reveal a lovely pair of buxom bosoms!

My favourite though and the one that I think shows that I haven’t changed that much since those carefree days is this one …

My love of the circus has always been there, from childhood, through to my work at art college and later my love of Giffords and our circus themed 40th birthday party!

What is so special to me about these pictures is the fact that they show I had a brilliant childhood with parents who took a lot of time to encourage me to be as creative as possible. The hours I spent whizzing away on the sewing machine were so enjoyable and my parents were full of praise with every picture I made. The scraps of fabric I used evoke memories too, a shirt my mum made for my brother, a bit of old sofa, a dress made for a holiday, 1979 and 1980 captured in sewing!

So, this is where my love for sewing and fabrics stems from, my mum and a brief affair with machine embroidery. I think horse riding and Morten Harket were probably my next obsessions but not to worry, sewing came back a bit later!

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “In the beginning …

  1. Crikey! What a talented child! It’s lovely that you still have those embroideries – true heirlooms (seven veils and all!)

  2. Gosh yet, they’re amazing – really lovely reminders of a happy and creative childhood. I love the one of your mum reading the Guardian! I remember the whole family being shell shocking by Thatcher’s victory too. And Pippa Dolls!!! My mum cut the hair on my Pippa doll as a tester for me wanting my hair cut. I liked it for about an hour then told her to put it back on! Therein lies the lesson I suppose! Great post. x

  3. This is so cool! Do you have these framed around your house? Or have you thought of making one giant quilt? I love looking at old art work I made as a child, although I never made anything quite as risqué as the burlesque lady you made for your father! These were really fun to look at, thanks for sharing!

  4. I’m so glad you kept these! What wonderful memories and what a creative childhood.

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