My sewing life started very young, thanks to having both a Grandmother and Mother interested enough in sewing to make bits of clothing and toys. At 5 years old, I was given two pieces of felt cut in the shape of a goat from one of my wooden stencils, a needle, thread and scissors. Mummy had drawn a Biro line to show where I should stitch around the outline but leave a small hole for stuffing, she showed me how to backstitch and placed me under strict instruction not to stab or cut myself, then left me to my own devices while she frantically did housework. This instruction not to stab or cut myself seemed to magically do the trick and I completed the felt goat very neatly. Many other goats, cows and sheep followed over the months to come, until I got bored with simple shapes and wanted to move on to fabrically (sic) assaulting the fashion sense of my rather large, creepy and varied collection of dolls. Mum showed me what she could with making dolls clothes but because I seemed to have a natural aptitude, she mostly left me to it, checking on my progress as she brought me more of her fabric scrap collection or let me pick treasured buttons from a biscuit tin.
Sometimes, on the way back from town, we would call in at the big haberdashery, run by a shy, unmarried man is his 40’s, who reminded me somewhat of a clergyman, or nervous accountant. I would always embarrass Mum by asking for only a couple of inches of things (for working in miniature), but he always obliged. About a year later, the shop shut and the only shops left were the horrible, musty fabric and foam shops, run by uptight, over-hairsprayed women in garish pink lipstick, white turtlenecks and 80’s glasses.
Over the next ten years, I practiced sewing and became a Wardrobe Mistress for an entertainer, mending and looking after costume, then just as I turned 16, Mum gave me Grandma’s yellowed, electric two-speed sewing machine and a box of fabric to coincide with me joining a re-enactment group. I was off! Skirts came first, gathered rectangles with decorative hems, but after three of these and becoming totally obsessed with corsetry, I needed a new challenge.
I bought my first corset from Twilight Fashions, a Tentacle spot broche underbust in black. On the second wear, a seam came apart and having no money and no resources, I decided to learn to make them. I used a custom pattern generator for an Elizabethan style corset from the internet and produced my first steel boned corset, with bones salvaged from an abused Ann Summers piece. It had hook and eye tape and little holes for cord to go through, as I had no idea about eyelets, but it was strong and did the job and wasn’t even too messy. Once I realized that the hardest-seeming thing was in fact, easy accomplished, I knew there was no help or holding me back. I moved to dresses, bodices, shirts and more corsetry.
At 19, although the fabric was horrendously inauthentic and I had no real clue about real authenticity, I was managing big garments with very good fit and finishing and I carried on asking questions and reading to improve my knowledge and technique. I once, for example, produced a lovely Burgundian gown from peach, rose embossed velour that had black fun fur and maribou trim, with gold curtain rings to lace it, whereas leaping forward to now, I have produced costume for the BBC and been approached by various museums and historical societies for my pieces.
I thank the people, in person if I can, who inspire and teach me whenever I get the opportunity – Cathy Hay, Sarah Thursfield, Ninya Mikhaila, Jane Malcom-Davies, Ralph Pink, Alexis Black, Sally Green, Jennifer Garside, Jackie Phillips, Immodesty Blaize, my Mum, Angels of London, Christian Dior, Karl Lagerfeld, La Belle Fairy, a special man, the list could go on forever! And last, but not least, my Muse, Muriel Lavender. All of these people have kept me going through the darkest hours of my life and pushed me to follow my passion, so thank you. ❤ xxxxxxx