How I Learned to Sew: Interview

People become involved with sewing in many different ways and for many different reasons. Helen Beaumont from Glasgow, who still considers herself to be a beginner, told us her story.

“I’ve always been quite interested in sewing,” says Helen, who did embroidery on Friday afternoons at high school and who comes from a family in which needlework is a traditional part of life. “It’s just always been something I’ve wanted to do. I’ve never really been able to afford all my own dresses so I thought well I could knock out a few skirts I could make a few tops and I’d be able to make some nice things and save a bit of money. Whenever I see bits of fabric I’ve always bought it and hoarded it so I’ve got a corner full of it at the moment.”

Like many people, Helen was inspired partly by dissatisfaction with the standard of clothing available on the high street, and she became determined to make something better.

“I don’t really like most of the fashions that you can get easily at the moment,” she explains. “Sometimes it’s quite hard to find a nice shirt that I want. I like some of the fancier skirts out there, but I can’t find them in any colours I like. I’d rather make stuff to suit my own tastes than have to hunt around for ages. And if I do find a skirt that I like it’s often grossly overpriced.”

Alterations and Modifications

Due to her concern about the price and the limited selection of styles available in any given season, Helen developed an interest in second-hand clothes, which led to experiments to see what she could do with them. “I’ve altered a few of my clothes. Just to make them fit better because I get so much stuff out of charity shops I have to make do with what I’ve got. I’m learning to tailor them to fit.”

Second-hand shops have also proven useful for costuming supplies, enabling her to experiment further.

“For Halloween this year I got a very basic nurse’s outfit and tailored it down to my size. I added a lot of decorations and I had to remake the sleeves for it because they were covered in a horrible pattern that I didn’t like. In the long run it saved me quite a bit of money.”

A Learning Experience

So where did Helen first acquire her skills? She began by learning from relatives.

“My mum used to make a lot of her own clothes. I once came across a box on the top of the wardrobe – there was just this shelf full of things that she made for herself. And my grandmother has been an immense help as well. She gave me her old sewing machine. She no longer does any sewing of her own and she showed me the way around it.”

Books and online resources have also been helpful. “We have a very old Reader’s Digest thing which showed me all the embroidery patterns I’d love to be able to try out. But for the most part, I look up patterns on the Internet and I get materials from friends who do some sewing as well.”

In the meantime, Helen’s ambitions are modest. “I’ve currently got a few patterns for very basic skirts and things, but ideally I’d like to be able to make proper shirts as well – and, if I could get the fabric for it, nice jackets.” But she acknowledges that sewing is an exciting field that she’s only just beginning to explore. Who knows what the future might hold?

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