At the age of 11 I pleaded for my dad to buy me a sewing machine for Xmas and he did. This was quite an expense but he bought it through a catalogue where he could pay it off. I still have this machine on which I now teach family and friends to sew. From that day on I did all sewing alterations and curtain making for our home. I also made rag dolls to raise funds for charity and some pocket money to buy sewing bits and pieces. There are embroideries and needlepoint framed and hanging in my mums home from my teenage years. At Clounagh Junior high school they started teaching us on the sewing machine and as I was one step ahead I helped my peers. Our class was directly after lunch and I used to sneak in at lunch time to thread my friends machine as it just wasn't her thing and I didn't want her punished and in tears yet again. At this stage I was making night dresses and a ski jacket. That was after the traditional making of the cookery apron and head scarf.
I moved onto Portadown College where I was able to take needlework o level. I remember sitting my practical as if it were yesterday. We were given time to prepare pattern pieces, pin tack and complete half a blouse showing off various techniques. The invigilator sternly said under no circumstances could anyone leave early and we had three hours. I was long past pinning and tacking and was finished in less than an hour. I could see her watch me then come closer and look at my work and eventually she whispered in my ear I could leave quietly if I wanted. I got an A in my olevel needlework, my highest grade. When it came to choosing A levels I was in no doubt I wanted to do needlework not maths and French that I also did well in. My head master was not very sympathetic and stated under no circumstance would I be able to do this. I then said I would leave as I wanted to do something more creative. My English teacher expressed concerns to my parents that I was throwing my life away but they replied stating I knew what I was doing and they supported me.
I went to Banbridge tech where I studied a course in family and community care for which I was over qualified. However I got to sew and enjoyed the nursery nursing type subjects. Basic maths and English were part of the course and unnecessary for me so I helped the students who had difficulty with maths and did a research project on previous students at the tech and where their qualifications had led them. From here I trained as a nurse and during this time I made my own clothes and eventually my wedding dress simply because I liked to sew and it was less expensive. It cost me £60 to make my dress and £40 for the bridesmaid's.
I was always very interested in dollshouses and miniatures and lived to look at the details in the large shop in Queens st in Belfast on a rare visit but much too expensive for me as a child. A school trip to Windsor Castle encouraged me further when I got to see Queen Mary's dollshouses. In 1997 my husband bought me a dolls house kit and I found a local dollshouses club. This hobby sped in as I became involved with English artisans and then International. I started teaching dollshouses miniatures in Ards and Bangor and hosted international artisans. It really is another world. I took two courses withRik Pierce in England which allowed me to practise other skills in paper clay and distressing, not just sewing, knitting,cardboard and simple wood work type .crafts. Two cottages I made under the direction of Rik Pierce below.
I continued to sew and knit in any spare time I had and loved teaching others to do like wise. Five years ago I took up drawing and painting classes withJulie Douglas and discovered anyone could draw if they had the right teacher to advise and encourage. An oil painting below as a gift for a friend.
school of stitched textiles
I really want to do level 3 embroidery but with my husband nagging about the cost and the registration day being a day I was working on the game of thrones tapestry it was not to be on this occasion, but I won't give up.