She would cut down one of her dance dresses and we’d have outfits.With bows as well, unfortunately

Alisa: We meet every Monday. Some of us are professional, some of us don’t know anything. The group is very good, very friendly. We help each other.

Maria: Myself, I do knitting as well. We had somebody before doing tatting. It’s like crocheting but very fine lace. I can do crocheting, I can do quite a lot. I furnished my home, my one bedroom flat myself, and I’m still doing bits and pieces as I go along you know. I’ve always been creative. My Dad was, and my niece is, so I get it from them. So yeah, if somebody says “can you try and do that, then I try and do that”.

Alisa: We don’t have a group to do big things, just reasonable things. Because we can’t do a bedspread or anything.

Maria: We can have a chat, which is nice.

Alisa: The four seasons quilt on display in the library was created all by hand, and it took, what, two years. Yes, two or three years, and we were 25 members who did it. We had sandwiches and drinks and music as well.

Adrienne: But the money ran out for the project. We decided, if it was OK with the library, to come and meet up as a group. I then went into various shops and asked “have you got any bits I can have” and there was one curtain fabric shop in Enfield that were very kind and used to donate their books to us but now they’ve closed down. I’ve got a cousin who is a dressmaker, a dress designer, so when she has got little bits and pieces she will give them to me. We were all in the habit of doing something anyway, something plain. You know I’ve made curtains in the past so has Maria. We’ve made little cushion covers but I hadn’t been taught how to quilt, to do appliqué, Yvonne was very good with patterns and things. We certainly weren’t in it professionally or anything but we always had a liking for it and then in my family I had an aunt who was a tailoress and another aunt in dressmaking. My own mother, it was her profession years ago – obviously she is dead and gone now – but you know all the hand bead work, well that was what she did for dressmaking. If she saw a hat or something, she would be able to come home and just make it. The same way, my sister and I, when we were children she would cut down one of her dance dresses and we’d have outfits – with bows as well unfortunately! And so it was probably there, it was in us.

My aunt worked for a company but my mother, when she had children, well then she wasn’t able to work so it was only what she did at home. But it was in the family. But me, I can’t cut or sew a straight line! If I pencil it in I’m probably OK. With the bead work she was working for very small specialised companies – family businesses – things made very much to order. This was years ago in London and in Ireland. But my Aunt she was up in the West End. My cousin she was in the West End. And now funnily enough, my cousin in Gloucester. She will make things for people to order. Curtains, window seats and all that. She did my other cousin’s wedding dress, she is really very good.

Maria, you made your own roman blind didn’t you? I had a book and we were looking at that and Maria has made her own Roman blind.

Maria: But it is cheaper than going out and buying one, just getting the material you know. I’m there by myself so I have something to do of an evening.

Adrienne: Maria and I, we both knit. I could crochet but not to a pattern. Yvonne taught us to hand paint on silk which was something I’d never done before and that was a nice thing to learn. This, I’m making now, is for a gift. Some of the things I make as gifts. Other things I make for my home. I make trimmings, and curtains. I did my curtains nearly two years ago.

Alisa: I made the dresses for my daughters’ weddings. I made the dresses, both of them, because there were two. When I did it [dressmaking] professionally one daughter was my model for all the samples. The other one, the other daughter, she isn’t keen on dresses. But she did wear a wedding dress and a dress for her sister’s wedding. And I made them. She doesn’t wear dresses. She doesn’t like them. I made three for myself because I didn’t know which one to wear. I was waiting to see on the day which one to wear. And at the wedding I was asked to lend it or sell it. But I didn’t sell it, I didn’t lend it – I’ve still got it. I think I’m going to wear it if I go to ladies day, to Ascot. I also make handbags and hats. I don’t like buying these things from the shop and somebody has got the same. I want a dress where nobody else’s is the same. You get three people dressed the same. I’d rather make it. That’s the reason I started that job.

We have a good time here.

This is an edited text of a conversation with the ladies of Edmonton Green Library  – Monday Quilting Group. Thanks to Maria, Adrienne, Alisa: Sandra and Yvonne for sharing their stories and their crafting skills.