Nina Murden - The Lewes Seamstress

Environmental Concerns

Deep Pencil Pleat Heading for Wool Interlined Door Curtains

Lovely quality Tinsmiths herringbone wool in Moss, used for a door curtain project in a lovely brick paved but draughty old farmhouse hallway in Kingston.  This  type of heading works well as it controls the fullness really neatly Fullness for a door that has limited opening space for a curtain to pull back to, such as this had,  should be in the region of 2x fullness. It was hung from the fabulous solid brass poles from Charles Rowley – an old British firm still manufacturing in Birmingham.  The thing about using these poles is that you can get away with a 19mm pole with no bowing or bending, as they are of superb quality and not just the usual ‘antique brass’ finish that so many other poles sold as ‘brass’ are – they are actually  made of tubular steel. Insulated door curtains can really help to stop draughts, and provide a level of insulation for a cold hallway. They are really good for houses that have a door from the street that enters straight into the living room, but every older style house could benefit from these door curtains. Even internal doors can have them – in which case a portiere rod would be the pole of choice as it rises up and lifts up the leading edge of the curtain when the door is opened Ingenious. My grandmother had some grand velvet curtains hung from portiere rods on all her living room doors. Good sound insulation too.20170112_172922


Working on alterations to a pair of trousers for an electrical engineer soon to be working on the wind farms being built off Brighton .  Interesting very tough cotton drill fabric, registered as ‘Cordura fabric’, and registered as an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 – a uniform standard of testing and certification at all stages of production,  ensuring  as I have discovered that the materials and the dyes used and other treatments of fabrics does not exceed the maximum allowed content values of harmful substances. So an acknowledgement that clothing production methods and substances potentially do harm the makers of, and the eventual wearer of the garment. “The certification covers multiple human-ecological attributes, including harmful substances which are prohibited or regulated by law, OEKO-TEX GARMENT2chemicals which are known to be harmful to health, but are not officially forbidden, and parameters which are included as a precautionary measure to safeguard health.”

Unalterable trousers: Glued hems

glued trousers

A customer brought me a pair of trousers to do a perfectly normal and many times done, hem shortening.  This entails,of course undoing the invisible machine stitching, however, this pair of trousers from Marks and Spencer were virtually undo-able. Why? Because their supplier (in Vietnam)  had put a line of very strong glue around the very edge of the fabric.  It took me three times as long to carefully pull apart – and even with due care and attention this did cause visible damage to the outer side of the fabric – fortunately this is hidden in the new hem line, it being shorter.

I contacted Marks and they said:



“we test all our products to ensure they’re tough and durable. We don’t suggest that you alter our products as we therefore can’t guarantee them in the future”

I said:

“Well that is ridiculous – if I can be blunt – many people either do not conform to the standard inside leg measurements or as they get older, shrink in height, and need existing trousers altered, also this gentleman was forced to buy the incorrect length as there was no other stock in your store of the correct length…. Anyway it is not about guaranteeing the product, it’s about selling something that can be used in the longer term. It’s not a sustainable policy to have clothes that are not altered. There is no fault with the product , the fault is in the decision to use unnecessary glue.”

I have encountered glue before –  on the seams, a quick cheap fix to make them lie flat, but not all the way around the hem. This is another example of clothes that are not made to be adapted – so another example of throw away culture.

 ‘tough and durable’.

Do we need things to be so tough and durable that they firstly cannot be unpicked and adapted, and secondly with reference to the polyester/plastic post, that they won’t decay once they are thrown away? I did manage to alter these but won’t be able to do so in the future as the possibility of damaging the fabric and the extra time it takes to undo the glue means it’s not worth it!




Indestructible petroleum based clothing…  why it’s a problem not a boon.

I wash my clothes and when the weather is ok dry it outside,- I live in a windy spot. My son had a polyester jumper – a cheap thing bought when he was a student.  It got hung on the line one day, but unbeknown to us blew off the line into my neighbour’s garden. Olly just thought he’d left it somewhere. It was a mystery.  My neighbour’s an elderly chap and rarely goes into his garden.  So two years later, I’m talking to him over the fence near the washing line, on one of odd occasions he’s out, and there at his feet is the long lost jumper.  He hands it to me, it’s sort of a bit green with some sort of algae, but other than that no holes or anything.  I wash it, it comes up just fine, I give it back to my son, who carries on wearing it for another year or so, then inevitably he gets bored with it and off it goes to the charity shop or did we take it to the textile recycling?  Anyway,it’s out there still, somewhere! Whereas if it had been wool, cotton, bamboo, hemp or silk, it would have melted into the earth.  But polyester?  No chance.

If nothing in our natural world knows how to break down this stuff we’ve been making thanks to the marvels of science, (cough), then it will stay cluttering up our planet for how long?  Apparently minimum of 20 to 200 years. Not only that but a new study that found washing synthetic fabrics creates teeny plastic fibres that get swept out to see and these can invade the cells of mussels and other creatures, and generally wreak havoc.


Here’s a link to the what fabrics are biodegradeable and what isn’t.

Toxic Fabric Conditioners


Some of the clothes that I get to work with can be heavily scented with fabric conditioners/washing powders.  I have to say that I have to open the windows to get some fresh air circulating when working on them, as I consider these products harmful.  The overpowering perfumes used in fabric conditioners are there apparently partially to ‘define the brand’ but also to disguise all the other toxic chemicals in the mix. These include:

  • · Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
  • · Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
  • · Ethanol: On theEnvironmental Protection Agency’s(EPA) Hazardous Waste list and can cause central nervous system disorders
  • · A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems, including fatal edema, and central nervous system damage
  • · Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
  • · Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
  • · Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
  • · Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
  • · Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled.

Today my wooden workshop is being buffetted by storm Isobel; plenty of fresh air swirling around out there – so how about hanging your laundry in the garden (if you are lucky enough to have one that is), like our grandmothers used to? Maybe not today – it might end up miles away. But drying your clothes outside,  imparts a truly ‘fresh’ smell to your clothes, and you’re not harming yourself and others around you in the process, let alone not using yet more electricity when the sun and the wind, free to all of us,  can do such a good job anyway.