Spreading the sewing love!

This may seem like a slightly strange blog post choice from someone who is anything but an extrovert. I am definitely not the sort of person who likes to be centre of attention, however the idea of this post is to start the theme of stories about how and where starting to sew can and has lead you. I am hoping in the months and years to come I will be able to share more stories from students and people who I meet along the way.

Sewing has always been in my life since an early age. I think I was about 6-7 when I was off school one day, probably with a sore throat or something deemed bad enough to be off school but not bad enough to be tucked up in bed. My mum who worked as an occupational therapist took me into her place of work and left me with some calico and a hand operated sewing machine. She quickly showed me how it worked and went off to do her work, (which was only in the next room, I wasn’t abandoned!). By the end of the day I had sewn up about 8 calico pencil cases for my sister. And I was officially hooked on sewing!

There begun a life long passion for sewing. It may seem like something not that significant in someone’s life, and there indeed has been times over the years that the good old faithful sewing machine has been neglected and gathering dust under a table somewhere. But overall sewing has been a very significant part of my life.

To write this post I started to think about my favourite experiences and best times in my life and was quite surprised to find sewing had played such an important part.

If I asked you this question – what are your 4 most favourite or best times in your life? what would your answer be?

This is how my list goes:

1 meeting lovely man who later became lovely husband.

2 having 2 lovely children, one of each

3 learning to sew

4 voluntry teaching in South Africa to a group of disadvantaged women to expand there sewing skills.

The order of priority does change 🙂

Then next to that what are your 4 favourite possession?

My list looks like this:

1. My wedding dress.


 I did consider not sewing it myself as I felt it might feel stressful and I wanted to avoid any last minute panics, but after visiting a couple of wedding fairs and finding that most dresses I liked were in the region of £2000 (way out of my budget) I thought again. Even though deciding to get married and actually getting married all took place in the space of about 3 months I decided I had enough time.

The other large issue I had was getting larger as I was 6 months pregnant with our first child! The whole exercise became a pattern cutting puzzle I had never really taken on before, despite quite a simple style the fitting and shaping took quite a long time.


In the end I was very pleased that I had a dress I felt fitted the occasion and my shape, all made in beautiful finest quality ivory satin back crepe silk and finished with a large silk organza bow tied over the bump, and also lined with pure silk – I was proud of my bump and wanted to show it off but in a flattering way, my taste is quite simple and understated so I was happy with the end result and it felt amazing to wear.

2. My kids christening gowns.




This was a no brainer, I really wanted to make them something that was part of me that they could keep and pass to there children and grand children.

My daughter came first and was christened at about 9 months so she wasn’t a tiny baby, she was crawling around. I decided to design a double purpose dress, a dress that would work for both the ceremony and as a party dress afterwards.  It was made in silk organza (in fact the same fabric used for my wedding dress bow). I made it tiered and graduated the tiers  to become longer towards the bottom. The thing that made this special was the lower 2 tiers were on a small separater bodice so it could be removed. As the traditional nature of christening gowns mean they are a good 12 “ longer than the body length so it would have been impractical to continue wearing it after the event which seemed a shame. So after the christening I took the longer under layer dress off and she was left with a pretty party dress. The finishing touches were matching nappy cover and shoes.



My sons gown was more of a challenge as I wasn’t sure whether to go down the gown route or try a trouser suit. I decided on simple embellishment on a traditional gown, so I used pin tucks and inserted pale blue organza trim on the bodice and made matching nappy cover and shoes, I steered clear of gathers to make it look as masculine as possible.


31_3_12_Jo_Christ (11)


3. My sewing machine.


This sewing machine was my 18th birthday present and many years later it is still going strong. She has sewn so many things over the years. I think even if she went beyond repair I don’t think I could part with her!

4.  My bug skirt.




This was a sample I made while in South Africa teaching at Nieu Bethsda Arts centre it was an example for my students of what I wanted them to create for their next project. The beautiful thing in South Africa was we all had so much time, my students attended 5 full days a week and even sometimes came in at weekends.  Their work had moved on to the point where this project was very achievable for them.( I think there is at least one or two more blog posts about these amazing ladies who have real sewing stories to tell!).

The day I started this skirt I had been out hiking in the near by hills in semi dessert landscape of The Karoo in the tiny village where we were based called Neiu Bethesda. I had discovered the most amazing insects – locusts that were bright orange and 3 inches long and huge beetles amongst long grasses.

Township 2


Hopper 2

Hopper photoshop2

The basic project brief was to choose a theme that inspired the ladies and to appliqué this onto a skirt, so this was my inspiration and example to my ladies.

me and ladies

Sitting here writing this and thinking back about where this simple skill had lead me and the things I have done. All because I was off school one day and had a go on a sewing machine, is quite amazing.

So or should I say sew! If you have been thinking about taking a sewing class, dusting down your sewing machine that your auntie gave you, or trying a sewing project at home or even sewing on a button for the first time. I say……………..go for it, who know where it might lead you.


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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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