Julia King: dressmaking and mending sewing machines

Julia King recalls dressmaking in childhood in the 1960s, and the necessity of mending her mother's sewing machine.

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Well, my mother was very interested in art and when it was sort of clear she wasn’t going to make enough money to live on as an actress, when she had children, she started looking for ways to stay involved with the theatre. So she was trying to get a – so she became a ballet critic of the Daily Worker. So when I was – when I was at home we went to the ballet quite a lot. And she was also very interested in visual art so we went to – we spent a lot of time in galleries. And we made all our own clothes. So I was a – a fanatical dressmaker as a teenager. Erm, I used to make the most extraordinary creations that I didn’t usually – well, I used to make the most extraordinary creations because we used to have – I used to have a chance to wear them ‘cause we used to get to go to Covent Garden for first nights and things. So I used to make lots of lovely – lots of very, very ornate evening dresses, was my particular speciality [laughs]. Erm, so I enjoyed – I enjoyed arts and I enjoyed making things, to be honest. That was a – and I suppose I also learnt how to do quite a few things round the house because my mother wasn’t very competent with electrical wiring and [laughs] putting plugs on things and, er, laying carpets and things like that so I was the person who ended up having to find out how we would – how we were going to put new lino in the kitchen and things like that. So I’ve always been quite – I’ve always had – I’ve had to be quite practical because Jane wasn’t very practical. I made all sorts of things. I built – I built a medieval fort. My mother taught at – for much of my – certainly through my teenage years, she taught at the Hammersmith College – what was the Hammersmith College for Further Education in those days. And so I used to go to – I used to go to pottery classes there after school. So I made enormous numbers of pots. We had a houseful of pots. Perhaps this was compensation for – we lived in a house where lots of pots got broken, I used to churn out pots of all sorts [laughs], sizes and shapes. Erm … I used to – I used to spend a lot of time mending the sewing machine. We had a very elderly electric Singer sewing machine that was absolutely critical to making all these dresses [laughs], so it had regularly to be repaired to keep it going. ‘Cause I – the option was I either had to walk to Shepherds Bush with the sewing machine, to the Singer shop, which was about a thirty minute walk and the sewing machine was very heavy, or I had to mend it myself [laughs], so mending it myself became the much, much preferred option.

  • Interviewee Julia King
  • Duration 00:03:15
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Thomas Lean
  • Date of interview 2/18/2011
  • Shelfmark C1379/43

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