10 May 2018

Tags: Get involved

The Sewing Group

The sewing volunteers play a vital role in the learning and development team at Reading Museum. Over the years, they have made repairs, labelled dress-up and created costumes for schools and the galleries. In the past few months they have taken on the challenge of creating amazing costumes for our volunteer costumed interpreters in preparation for our Reading Abbey re-opening festival on 16 June.

Elizabeth 1 bejewelled
Elizabeth 1 ready for launch day!

Elizabeth Bejewelled

As part of the Reading Abbey Revealed project, we have been recruiting volunteers to become characters from Reading’s illustrious past and share their stories. To transform them into those historical characters, the sewing group have been cutting patterns, joining pieces, bejewelling cloth and fitting costumes to models at a feverish pace!

One key figure will be the Queen Elizabeth I costume, which is based on our Elizabeth painting displayed in the Story of Reading Gallery. If you get the chance, you really should see the sumptuous gown covered in lace and jewels. The volunteers have done a fabulous job re-creating the gown in real life – as if Elizabeth has walked out of the painting!

Cutting a pattern
Cutting a pattern for Jane Austen

Jane Austen Primed

One of our volunteers is creating a beautiful, ready for spring, Jane Austen costume. Jane will not be a shrinking violet, but she will be dressed in violet! Of course in her time, Jane’s clothes would have been made for her and fitted closely but we needed to make costume that could be easily altered!  It’s difficult to create costumes that can be worn by different people, but our volunteers have been very clever with this costume in adding ribbon into the casing that can be pulled tighter if necessary.

Hanging for Reading Abbey Gateway
Hanging for Reading Abbey Gateway

Reading Abbey Embroidered

The sewing volunteers were also tasked with making an embroidered tapestry to hang on the medieval wall in the Reading Abbey Gateway.

Each person used a different technique and materials to depict words, phrases and people associated with the Abbey. The embroideries were combined into one attractive wall-hanging which will also double up as an educational tool for learning sessions.

Constructing hangings for Reading Abbey Gateway
Constructing the hangings for Reading Abbey Gateway

Sewing for fun!

The sewing volunteers meet once a month on the third Tuesday of every month. It’s a great opportunity to catch up, find out what’s on at the museum and learn things from each other.

Being a part of the group isn’t just sewing for us once a month, though it can be! Sewers often take things home to work on, source materials and think of us when they spot wonderful fabrics. We have a great collection of fabrics suitable for all eras due to the sewing volunteers!

Sewing for Reading Museum
Sewing for fun!

We will always need the sewing volunteers and many of them help us with repairs and school costumes, especially keeping up our collection of bonnets (though it’s not a requirement to wear them while you work!)


If you are interested in joining us, you can find out more about volunteering opportunities here.

We meet every third Tuesday of the month, from 10am to 12pm, and we would love to see you there.