Sewing in all its forms has been the linchpin of Lorna Laverty’s entire life. Or, more precisely, since she was five years old and fell in love with her neighbour’s sewing machine.
This was in 1944 and the object of Lorna’s desire was a portable, hand-driven machine jealously guarded by its owner and capable, in Lorna’s young eyes, of performing miracles.
Since then Lorna has performed many, many miracles of her own, sewing both by hand and by an ever-evolving progression of sewing machines. In a world filled with women who share her passion, Lorna’s dedication to the many crafts of sewing has included more than the average seamstress’s. How many people, for example, can these days attest to having worked as a tailor in the days when hand-sewing of all but the seams of bespoke suits was the norm? How many women taught fancywork (her elderly neighbour used to tease her saying “girls who do fancywork don’t fancy work”) back when girls at all state schools were taught embroidery on samplers as a matter of course while the boys learned basket weaving? How many people, these days, make all their own clothes except their underwear, and yet are completely capable of making that too if necessary!
These skills are fundamental to Lorna Laverty. A seamstress extraordinaire for the ladies of the district for many years, she has sewn the wedding outfits for her two daughters and three daughters-in-law, plus countless other family members and friends. Labours of love, these love-notes for her nearest and dearest have each added an intimate element to their special days.
Now her dressmaking skills are not so sought-after in an age when off-the-rack clothing and boutiques offer quick solutions to elegant ladies. But Lorna, not one to regret the passing of time but rather to build on its experiences, is fully occupied with running her fabric store Anthony’s (with her daughter Tina) in Dalby. That, and applique patchworking, her newest and most currently fulfilling passion.
These days knowledge of the intricacies of sewing is no longer a necessity for every woman; which leaves its exponents room for another abstract concept – joy. Into the space vacated by need has evolved a pastime which offers artistic expression, skill sharing, friendship and, ultimately, the joy of achievement. The passion and, indeed, joy of Lorna Laverty’s lifetime of sewing are now poured into the lessons she delivers to the many women who share her devotion to this form of artistic expression. Those women, says Lorna, enrich the time spent applique patchworking for her. This undoubtedly works both ways.
Then there is this. “Each handmade quilt is an expression of love,” says Lorna. “Despite the many techniques and endless variations available to the applique artist, each quilt is unique to its creator. And,” she adds, “most unique of all is that they are invariably made FOR someone – a friend, a family member – as a gesture of love.”
Words by Jane Grieve | Images by Janine Waters