18 Jan 2018

Tags: Get involved

When I first started working here I never imagined that my love of sewing would come in useful. After all, what does a museum need with a sewing enthusiast?

How wrong I was!

I have worked at Reading Museum for the last 12 years, and as a learning officer I deliver educational activities for the Museum. Over the years I have helped occasionally with any little repairs of costume, or sometimes other fabric items around the building. About five years ago, though, we decided that there was so much sewing to do that we needed a volunteer role.

A role was created and two wonderful ladies volunteered for several months. They looked after most of the costumes that children wore in the educational sessions and made any minor repairs that were needed. After several months, however, it became apparent that there was more work to be done, especially as we wanted to expand our costume offer to schools.

A label with 'Seqing box for volunteers' written on it in blue marker, attached to the handle of a black suitcase.

At that point we started a volunteer group. To begin with we thought we would just do the costumes for the Tudor period and that would be that. We needed fabric of course, and several people donated lovely fabric suitable for Tudor period costume. Several kind ladies then came along to a training day where we tried out various costume designs. We sent the aforementioned lovely ladies off with the fabric, and some weeks later met up again. 

We were thrilled to see the costumes that they had made! And, since everyone involved had enjoyed the social aspect of the whole thing, we decided to create a volunteer sewing group.

sewing volunteers and the abbey gateway panel

Our volunteer sewing group now meets once a month in the Museum. It is open for anyone to join and is a relaxed and informal gathering. We meet on the third Tuesday of each month (except December!) between 10am and 12pm. Over the last few years we have made a variety of items for the museum including costumes for children, protective covers for items on display, and a cushion for a fragile item in the store. We have also run mini workshops for children about how to sew, and attended workshops ourselves on the history of costume. We have also continued to repair costumes that the children use both in schools and in the galleries during educational visits. 

A close-up of a white ruff, with a label inside stating Reading Museum Service

Over the next few months we have a lot of work to do helping with the costume for the Reading Abbey Revealed project as well as costume for the new Story of Reading Gallery.  We are also making a wall hanging for the new Abbey Gateway building. This will be an educational tool, with each part of the hanging giving the name of a key item or person related to the Abbey. We hope that the children will be able to ask questions and find out more about the characters on the wall hanging. All the sewing volunteers have contributed to the wall hanging, including one lady who made a special trip from America!

Over the years we have all enjoyed the sewing and the good company that the group provides. It is a really friendly group so if you like to sew please do feel free to join in, no need to book just turn up!

A close-up of a pair of hands sewing a piece of fabric.