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hellibob | Posted in Gather For A Chat on

Hello everyone.


I’m writing from Oxford, UK and it is 12 noon! With a beautiful blue sky and sunny Spring weather!  The birds are singing as I look out from my sewing space on the 1st floor over the woods at the back of my home.

I have just subscribed to Threads magazine, as I am finding the popular UK magazine, “Sewing World” is diversifying into crafts too much for my liking.  I am keen to stay with fashion/womenswear and I am particularly interested in finding ethically supplied pure cotton fabrics.  If anyone has a link let me know, especially in the US as it is good for me to buy at the moment.  Sorry for you visitors to the UK.  I was in London yesterday and we don’t seem to have the toursists queues like they usually are.

I am married to steve, with 2 daughters aged 10 and 13 years.  I am now over 50 and have qualified to take-up a business course called “Forward at 50” for women enterpeneurs who want to start their own businesses.  I am thoroughly enjoying the course, which finishes late Summer. 

 am about to buy a Franchise (or hope to I have an interview on Monday next) to teach children how to stitch (ages 8 to 13 years).  The skills are not taught in UK school anymore and the clubs are for after-school acticity, about 1.15 mins long.  The UK Government is pushing wrap-around care, so the child can be looked after from before school to late afternoon, so parents can both work full-time.  I am keen to look for places to start holding my Stitchclubs!  but have to wait!


I eagerly await my first copy of “Threads” and hope to speak often on this forum.


Helen Vallis




  1. Cherrypops | | #1

    Hello and Welcome from me in Sydney, Australia, 10pm and getting cooler here!

    This is such a fantastic fun-filled forum.

    We members are always here to help. Love to chat, laugh and sometimes cry.

    Look forward to reading your future messages.

    I am a home mum to a five year old boy. his picture is in the photo gallery, bean bags (child cushions), http://forums.taunton.com/tp-gatherings/messages?msg=6298.3 . my photo is http://forums.taunton.com/tp-gatherings/messages?msg=6381.70. Right click on attachment. open it in a new window. they will shrink.

    I have sewn for 6 yrs and have just started sewing/alterations for my son's school.

    CherryPops - sydney's northern beaches, australia.


  2. user-217847 | | #2

    Hi there Helen,

     welcome aboard nice to have you with us.

    wombat Newcastle NSWAustralia  (Lee)

  3. MaryinColorado | | #3

    Hello Hellen and welcome to this forum!  I think you will enjoy the posts by Blondie. She will soon be attending training for teaching sewing.  She also plans to teach at an after school program.  At the present, she is travelling but will be back on soon.

    There are some other interesting folks who teach full time.  They are very knowledgeable and helpful so don't be shy about asking questions.  

    There is a search where you can put in a subject or name.  Also have you searched the "archives" here?  There is alot under "teaching children to sew".

    Hope to hear from you often about your adventures.  Mary

  4. JanF | | #4

    Hi to you - from a fellow UK resident! I live in North Wales - been posting to Blondie re. teaching at after school/clubs as i'm still teaching textiles part time in a sec. school near Chester. I know lots of schools are not doing as much textile work as some - in Wales there are still quite a few of us! I was under the impression that there are still quite a few textiles teachers in England - indeed i go to quite a few meetings where i get to meet them - but I agree that lots of schools are letting it go by the wayside - or mostly into the Art faculties!
    Good luck with the plans you have - I* haven't heard of any courses as such that are available as franchises - do they come from the states?
    I did make a few comments on "Gatherings" re. running classes but if u ever want to know anything - feel free to contact me via this talking venue - you will learn a lot from all the people who contribute.
    good luck Jan - I have a good friend who teaches down your way - living in Myddleton Cheyney' but like me - getting to mid/late 50's so retirement looms - certainly for me!!

    1. hellibob | | #5

      Hi Jan

      I am also turned 50, but found a new lease of life!

      The Stitchclubs are UK based and only just launched, which is why you probably haven't heard of them yet.  Their web site is http://www.stitchclub.co.uk ,maybe you are interested?  Good pension top-up!!

      I have also started a course called "Forward at 50" run by Micro Enterprise at the London University in Moorgate.  The course was set-up 2 years ago with funding from the European Social Fund and is specifically aimed at women aged 50 and over who want to start their own businesses.

      It's a shame that textiles is becoming a "part-time" subject in schools.  If I had been encouraged as a child I consider my career path would have taken a different direction.  I worked for the Inland Revenue for 25 years, then went back to college to take a City & Guilds Fashion course, then a teaching qualification. We were late becoming parents after spending 5 years trying to have our own and then discovering we couldn't, so adopting at the age of 44.  The girls are less dependant now, hence my going back to full-time work!

      I live about 6 miles from the Northamptonshire/Oxfordshire county boundary.  In facr, I nearly considered sending my daughter to Chenderit school in Middleton Cheney.  Our adoption Uk head office used to be based there  too. 


      Hope to hear from you again!


      1. JanF | | #9

        Hi again - I'm back in the land of the living now GCSE stuff is off my hands and on the way to the moderator! I've had another look at the website for the classes you are interested in. I think if you want to appeal to youngsters (KS2) they would be fine - to a point! (what Ive seen seems very simple to me - but bear in mind i teach older kids!)
        Here I hesitate to say anything against them 'cos of course you might (possibly quite rightly!!)see me as being a bit "precious" about my own teaching etc.or possibly appear to be a little bit of a "know it all" thinking "just 'cos people do their own sewing - doesn't make them a teacher!"
        It might be that I am a bit of both - but I don't think so - I think if you can do these classes its got to be good for keeping the skills alive.
        Please check all the official details etc. carefully - cos i can see that you might come up against dreadful Health and Safety issues, quite unwittingly!
        I did post a note ages ago about this on Gatherings. You must check H + S of any venue you use, Risk Assessment could be an issue you need to address and please sort out insurances!!
        I'm very lucky - I have school policies and teaching union cover - and I'm sorry to say - you could quite easily get a serious problem if little Johnnie just gets his finger jabbed - never mind accidentally cut with scissors. I'm not joking here - using the machines could be a nightmare for u!(We've all heard of the nightmare parent wanting to sue for all sorts - well believe me - in school we have parents complaining about all sorts of things!!)Anything to get some money.
        Never mind getting their finger jammed in a sewing machine - which has happened to me before now in school! Any D and T teacher would give you the same advice I think!I know this is very negative - I dont want to put you off - just get you to ask the right questions when u go to training!!
        I think for the franchise cost - which I'm amazed at! - you should at least get all the details sorted out for you! get them to activate the Child protection issue?
        Anyway, good luck - 'cos forwarned is forarmed - write a list of all the things you need answers to!

        1. hellibob | | #10

          Hi Jan


          Thanks for response.

          Yes, you're right there were lots of questions I asked at my interview (Monday last).

          An insurance company has prepared a policy (at extra cost, of course) and I have 4 CRB checks for different organisations who won't accept each others!

          I run the brownies locally, so I have first aid for children qualification.  I'm not sure the web site is very specific about the teaching material as I only saw the first 3 lesson books (each book lasts 6 weeks) on Monday.  When I think how basic my sewing lessons were in Junior High some 40 odd years ago...........it took me ages to make an apron!

          I wish I could get my daughters interested in sewing, my eldest has just chosen her GCSE options for next year, but no textiles!  They have a very good electives on Wed afternoons but she always chooses outdoor activities - D & T offer wonderful opportunities to be creative but sport seems to be the favourite.


          Hope you're students do well and you find them moving on to greater things!






          1. JanF | | #11

            Good luck - sounds ok - typical that costs go up the more u want to do though!
            You should be well placed for takers having run the Brownies!
            Perhaps ur right - the selection of ideas on the website isnt inspiring enough - I assume other lessons might come with the full package!
            If its any consolation - my own girls dabbled with textile work throughout schooling and I never pressed them at home (possibly I could have)so although they were both quite artistic - they didnt necessarily want to do textiles (I suspect they saw enough of it with me at home and workload etc)
            they both can sew quite well and now they have got their own homes one in particular is really good at making things for herself - albeit not necessarily the way I would do it!!
            So it does rub off - they just need to find their own way and niche. One daughter in particular is always thinking of ideas - into fancy knickers at the mo! and we are hoping to start a business together soon as she wants to be a business woman and we have premises available - so watch this space!
            Good luck anyway with the business, whatever u choose to do in the end!
            I'd be interested in keeping in touch and seeing how u progress with ur ideas!

  5. Char9 | | #6

    Hello Helen!

    Welcome from New Jersey in the USA!  You will love it here on this site.  So many people from so many different countries, and everyone willing to help with any problem or question you may have.  And if you don't have any of those, then just make yourself a cup of tea and log on to chat.

    I just turned 57 (groan!), married with no children except hubby.  I think most hubbys qualify as children we can't discipline. LOL!  Been sewing since I was 6 yrs. old so there aren't too many things I haven't made.  Or at least tried to make.  Some things even turn out pretty good! 

    Right now I'm about to start redecorating my bedroom, so there will be lots of Home Dec sewing in my immediate future. 


  6. RozUK | | #7


    I am a newbie too. My name is Roz and I live in North London. I am married to a Nigerian man and we have 4 children ranging from 28 years to 18 years old.

    I am a designer/dressmaker and pattern cutter.  I was fortunate enough to have a very good needlework teacher when I was at secondary school who taught me all the basics of dressmaking and particularly how to alter sewing patterns.

    As a matter of necessity, I continued dressmaking for myself after leaving school as I was a 32" bust and 5'10" tall. There were no ready-to-wear clothes that fitted me unless I bought mens clothes - this was in 1962.  In the early 1970s I attended a course of pattern cutting lessons with a fashion designer in Nottingham, where I was working.  This was a total revelation to me - I could make any pattern specifically for my size, or anyone elses.

    Once my children grew up (well old enough to be at secondary school anyway) I started dressmaking on a more regular basis.

    I attended the Forward at 50 course in 2006. It gave me the confidence to really go for it.  I have created my own website showing the sewing patterns I offer, and details of my made-to-order service.

    I hope that everything goes well with your interview for the franchise. It is a service that is sadly needed. My youngest daughter has completed GCSE and is just completing her A level in Product Design: Textiles. If we hadn't had sewing machines and embroidery at home I don't suppose she would have touched a machine until she started her GCSE in year 10.  She is about to go to University to study Fashion Design in September.

    Our house is full of fabrics, books on sewing techniques, embroidery, etc. I need to have sewing or embroidery 'on the go' or else I suffer 'withdrawal symptoms'.


    1. hellibob | | #8

      Hi Roz


      How exciting to know that the course helped you to move on to your own web site!  Would you send me details (I promise not to copy your designs).  They didn't tell me there was a dressmaker on the course last year!

      The interview went very well and I just have to make the BIG decision now & part with some money!

      I would also be interested to know who the pattern cutting course in Nottingham was with, as that is my weakness and an area that I need to constantly practise.

      My email is [email protected].



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