When Sally Scarlett’s husband died, she went from being a busy and fulfilled stay-at-home wife and mum to needing to support the family.
“It changes your whole life,” she said. “My whole life was my kids and my husband and suddenly I’m the wage earner. I had to flip my head around.”
With three children depending on her and her grief still raw, Sally examined her heart and life, trying to find something she could do that would meet their needs and allow her to be at home for her kids. She found that something in sewing.
“I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t sewing,” she said, a smile lighting up her face. “I learned when I was about three or four by just copying my Mum.”
Sally learned on their old treadle sewing machine and later graduated to electric machines.
“There was a learning curve,” she said with a laugh. “I had lots of sewing knowledge but not much business knowledge. I picked the brains of those who are good at business.”
Sally originally did made-to-order garments as well, but soon realised it was not cost effective. “I’m pedantic and meticulous so I spend hours and hours on a made-to-order item to make it perfect.”
Now she sticks with what she loves best and allows her the flexibility and time she needs to devote to her children. “I love the teaching!” she said. “They come with absolutely no sewing knowledge and they leave with something they created.
Sally teaches her students the skills they need to produce beautifully made garments. “I teach them to sew in a production way so it looks professional when they’re finished,” she said. “There are all sorts of tricks of the trade, and what they make is better than what you get mass produced in the shops.” She loves the personalised nature of sewing for yourself. “You can individualise stuff when you sew,” Sally said. “And you can get it to fit yourself.”
Sally teaches anyone aged seven years and up, in group classes, and disabled children in one-on-one sessions. She offers after school classes for 1.5 hours, Saturday morning classes for three hours, and two-hour blocks during the week. “It’s a dying art; a lost skill,” she said. “The children go home and tell their mothers sewing terminology and they feel very proud of themselves. I teach them skills so they can go away and create the things they want to make.”
Readers also enjoyed this story about Harper Bee.