Nina Murden - The Lewes Seamstress

Natural Fabrics

Goblet Pleat Pelmet

Making a set of goblet pleat headed pelmets for gentleman’s country house bedroom. He chose Markham’s Warwick Delft, and I suggested that we add an Ian Mankin cotton stripe, the ‘Ticking o1 Sky’, this being a good contemporary contrast to the formality of the Markham fabric.  Here are some photos of the different processes  of me sewing the goblets and inserting the buckram that keeps their shape. This customer also had the same fabrics for his dressing room curtains.

Reverse side of pelmet

Reverse side of pelmet

Reverse side  IMG_20190607_080554 IMG_20190607_080617

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



Curtain under construction, interlined, awaiting lining.

I have been making some 3m high beautiful silk interlined curtains for a Victorian house in Lewes.  Sumptuous and fab to work with if a little scary @ !!$$££ per metre fabric. (These– James Hare silks, can be bought via me and the sample books are to be found at Foam and Fabrics Seaford – I have a good deal with them so if you’re interested please contact me.

Silk curtains look particularly wonderful in a bedroom setting  There is nothing like silk, and all the synthetic copies in the world will not look like silk, feel like silk or behave like silk. AND are petroleum based so personally I am not in favour; if there is a choice to be made I would always choose a natural fabric.
These are quite theatrical in their look being salmon pink  and compliment the blue velvets of another guest bedroom for this client who works  in the music business.

The only downside to silk curtains is that they are really susceptible to ‘sun rot’ so it is essential to line and interline and to bring the lining as far over to cover as much as the silk as possible.  The windows for these curtains face north, north-east, so not too much of an issue, but in time though the leading edges -where the curtains meet in the middle and are exposed to the light- will rot and fray.  These can however be taken back to the undamaged silk relatively easily when the curtain is completely hand made like this one.

The header we used on these is one particularly suited to silk, a 1” cotton loose gathering tape, this gives a really casual but soft gather to the top of the curtain.

Brass poles and fittings from the long established Charles Rowley company complete the look, and are well made enough to the take the weight of these heavier curtains.


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.”




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.

Natural Cool

My customers are starting to go on their summer holidays and bringing me items such as maxi dresses to alter before they go away.  (Not many women seem to be tall enough to wear maxi dresses without having to have them shortened)!  So when shopping for summer clothes what should you look for to stay as cool and as comfortable as possible?  I believe it’s really very important to look at the label (not necessarily the designer label, but the garment label where the fibre content is stated.  I never buy anything without first looking at this.  This will usually be on the inside side seams, or at the neck.  Look for 100% cotton, linen, silk, bamboo or hemp, or a mixture of any of these. (And organic would be the ideal).  Natural fibres such as these are much more appropriate for summer clothes than synthetics such as polyesters, acrylics, acetates and nylons.  The latter tend to retain heat and to insulate in other words they don’t  ‘breathe’ .   Whereas for example cotton can absorb and release perspiration easily, linen feels softer with every wash, silk is very absorbent and dries quickly and another really pertinent reason to avoid synthetics…all natural fibres will biodegrade easily whereas any synthetics won’t.