Being a Rasta, I used to wear my locks up in wraps, but the material was expensive. I used to buy all my headwrap material from Sneinton Market – beautiful material at bargain prices. You could get seconds where there might be a design flaw, a fault in the material, but by the time you wrapped it round and folded it, you didn’t see the flaw anywhere. I lived on Brewsters Road and the windows in the front room were very large. I could never afford readymade curtains for them, but because I could go and buy the material from the market, I could make the curtains myself on my sewing machine. I even learned how to make my own tiebacks instead of buying them because I wanted them to look a bit different from other people’s. Looking back, I had very little, but I don’t think my house or children stood out as being poor because you could buy things so cheaply on the market. I used to really enjoy making curtains and I was very proud of them.
If I remember right, the man on the material stall was called Harry. A lot of people in them days used to make their own pillow slips and underskirts, sometimes with a little old sewing machine or by hand and they’d go to Harry’s. He’d be spreading the material out, shouting, “Right, half a crown a yard, do you want another one? Come on, what do you think?” I was after some material for pillowslips and I bought some creamy cotton from him. He wrapped it up, put it in a carrier bag and says, “You’re very lucky with that Mrs.” I went, “Why?” and he says, “They line the coffins with that, you know.” I says, “Ooh, lovely!”
When I was older I started making clothes and I’d get all my fabric from Sneinton Market. It was a pound a metre and I would have two black refuse sacks full to the brim of fabric, which I’d take back home on the bus to Cinderhill, where I lived at that time. My passion for sewing started when I was 21 – I got pregnant and I couldn’t afford to buy expensive maternity clothes, so Nana gave me an old black & gold Singer sewing machine and said, “Here’s some fabric, here’s a pattern for maternity shorts, figure out how to make them.” So I did – I made these shorts and they were absolutely perfect. The fabric must have cost £1, so I made a pair of shorts for £1 that could have cost me £30 in Mothercare. I got this idea of making maternity clothes to sell when I used to go up to the city hospital to have my maternity checks. The pregnant ladies there would say, “Wow, I love that dress, it’s gorgeous, where did you get it from?” And I’d say, “This old thing? I made it.” And it started from there – they’d say, “Could you make me one?” One dress would cost me £1 to make and I would sell it for £10, so I made a good profit. I got really good and started designing my own patterns and I got orders for bespoke pieces – wedding dresses, ball gowns, one-off costumes. It never occurred to me that I could have sold them on the market! It got to the point where I developed tennis elbow because I had that many orders. I still make the odd one-off piece now, or I might do upholstery or make a pair of curtains. I don’t do it as crazy as I did before – there was literally clothes hanging all over the house and cotton dust up my nose. The fabric stall’s no longer at Sneinton Market either, so I’d have to go to John Lewis or the Victoria Market and the fabric’s a lot more expensive there.