Sewing lessons for grown ups at Recycle and Sew

A couple of weeks back I went to one of Anita Bott’s Vintage Fashion Fairs  and got chatting to June Allnutt, above, who was perched in front of her sewing machines, ready to mend or restore any vintage finds that needed a bit of tender loving care at the fair.  June and her daughter Ria run Recycle and Sew a small company that will both teach you how to sew or pattern cut, make you a dress, take your hem up or restore your recent vintage find.

I was pathetically excited to see a sewing machine in action, it’s getting more unusual to find anyone under the age of 30 who either has a sewing machine or even knows how to thread a needle (fashion students excepted here obvs) whereas my mum taught me how to use her fancy electric machine when I was about ten, as most of my friends and I made (or our mums made) our clothes. It’s also hard to find anyone to make stuff for you today, or properly alter clothes and even more surprising to find someone who understands vintage clothes well enough to restore them competently. June and Ria will do all of this at very reasonable prices.

The pair of them are very well known for their excellent sewing classes, they will teach absolute beginners or help the already competent learn how to pattern cut or do more advanced stuff, either in their regular classes (in Southampton and London) or for £20 an hour they will come to your home. I think EVERYONE should learn how to sew in order to rustle up their first pair of curtains or knock out a pencil skirt for Saturday night out of some fabric you fell in love with at that last Margaret Howell sample sale (oh ok, that’s just me then).

Whatever, Jean and Ria could probably sort you out if you fancied learning. Or make you a dress. They are often at the Vintage Fashion Fairs, or you can contact them here.


  • It’s such a shame that sewing has become a chore rather than something that liberates you to make whatever you want to wear for Saturday night. Can you remember the first thing you made to wear yourself? I can! GG

  • Marv says:

    They’ve got nearly as many buttons as me!

    A, you won’t believe this but I learnt to sew by making clothes for my collection of Pippa dolls. I still don’t quite believe it myself. Dolls! Ugh.

  • Amanda says:

    Ha Marv! dolls! I also learnt to sew by making clothes for my Tiny Tears doll, I even made my own patterns… hand sewing them first then progressing to my mum’s machine, when I realised what a bit of speed could achieve, abandoned the doll and made everything for me from then on. bring back home sewing I say. And needlework classes in schools. A

  • Melissa says:

    As a professional seamstress I have a different attitude about women and girls who can’t sew. Women who grew up with their moms sewing for them or who have rudimentary sewing skills often don’t understand paying fair prices for sewing. I think they feel it’s not a real profession and they could do it themselves (butchering and mastering are however two different things), so it can’t be worth much. Now, with more moms and daughters unable to sew, I see more respect for the “magic” of it and more willingness to pay. I’m not talking about price gauging, I’m talking abour fair pay for skilled work.

    I DO think everyone should learn to sew IF they’re interested. I LOVE sewing and have even given a couple of classes. I’m not trying to make it an esoteric domain, I just see the positive side of the situation.

    I LOVE your blog, thanks for always making it so interesting, pertinent and inspiring!

  • Amanda says:

    Melissa that’s SUCH an interesting viewpoint, and you are right, with fewer people doing sewing it makes the seamstress more respected, which is how it should be.
    I lament the ‘fast cheap fashion’ factor too, as most of us stopped caring about the skill of sewing when the cost of bought clothes dropped so dramatically and it became cheaper to buy ‘shop-made’. Cheap clothing also makes it look as if the ‘making’ element is not worth much, when of course it is a VERY important and highly skilled operation.
    I hope then, for your sake we inspire just a FEW enthusiastic sewers to learn, the rest must still come to you! Actually once you do start to sew you realise how darn hard it is, sleeve-heads are my downfall…..and thanks for reading, it is much appreciated. Ax

  • Amanda says:

    PS, Melissa, the post on the Chanel Black Jacket that I’ve just put up is just for you! Ax

  • Jane says:

    Oh Melissa I SO agree, I did a fashion and textle degree and the hardest bit was the pattern cutting and sewing. Throughout my design career I have had such respect for the amazing pattern cutters and machinists I have worked with, At the end of every catwalk show they should be brought out for the applause, as without them there would be no collection.

    I never try to do anything beyond running up a few seams as I know my limitiations and always trust the machinists in my local dry cleaners (all ex factory machinists) to put in my zips and hem my trousers.I have taught my daughter how to use a machine for basics though, as I agree with Amanda, there is nothing like running up an outfit for yourself on a Saturday night – no matter how (in my case) badly made !!


  • Jude says:

    I do agree with you totally, learning to sew is such a useful skill to have. I was taught to sew by my grandmother – she used to make her own ballroom dance dresses and I used to be fascinated by the off-cuts. I remember so clearly the first item I made using a sewing machine. It was an orange lurex A-line midi-skirt for my Sindy doll. I cut the pattern myself – it was a triangle – put the two sides together and sewed up the sides, remembering to leave a gap at the top of one side so she could get into it – this had a massive popper hand-stitched to it later. I learnt my first lesson too – always place the RIGHT sides together!

  • middleagedad says:

    So, how many of us learnt to sew by making clothes for our dolls then? A

  • April says:

    Thanks so much for this. I loved sewing as a teen , but work, kids etc have got in the way. All i seem to make these days is curtains. I will definitely look up refresher courses with June.

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