Make do and make friends

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Written byClaire Hunte

A vital part of living in the countryside and downsizing your life is figuring out what to do with more spare time. I’m not saying it’s a commodity I have in spades but having left behind a hectic lifestyle in London to settle in Ludlow meant I had a bit more it.

For very practical and social reasons, I plumped for learning skills that required working with my hands. I suddenly wanted to mend clothing and reupholster furniture I found in charity and antique shops.

That hankering led me to explore what was on offer in the area and I found plenty.

Sew long

Two years ago I joined a beginner’s sewing group at our local dressmaker, Maries. Today our wonderful group is still going strong, expanding and contracting in waves as newcomers come and go after finishing a project. But the core group remains as it’s become a social couple of hours. Mending with friends.

We meet once a week led by our fantastic teacher, Karen Roberts, who also runs Neat Pleats of Ludlow, a curtain and blind making service.  We officially graduated a couple of months ago to intermediate level (it was self determined but we finally stopped making cushion covers!).

Lucy is a sewing class drop out. She left after one year and is officially a needle-work failure (never mind, she has a million other good qualities) in my eyes.


Here’s one I made earlier…my very own bag for my sewing machine

Upholstery – flight of fancy

The other reason for pouring my energy into creative pursuits was I hoped that perhaps it would lead to a side gig. Now that I had untethered myself from an office. I needed to find something that I could engage in that would offer a potential income.  I had a flight of fancy and thought I could do upholstery.



Who’s the boss?

And old office chair with a new lease of life


My boyfriend had an old office chair and I took that to an upholstery course ran by Westhope Craft College. It was an ambitious project. They recommend stools or simple boxes for your first project for a reason. I barely had enough material hence the mixed pattern look. I didn’t know anything about measuring  — as I do with most things I eyeballed it. Not a good idea. Plus I chose a project that meant I had to sew. Given that I only just graduated to intermediate sewing; it was a headache and a half, but I loved the result.

It took me about four day-long classes and lots of help from the teacher Anita Lewis. I have taken to calling her a saint.  It also took me about as long to realise this was not a potential money spinner, at least not without a long apprenticeship.

Flowers, arts and other things

But, it’s Spring now and I’m putting aside the needlework. If the weather allows naturally I’ll begin to potter around in the garden. I have a limited vocabulary when it comes to gardening terminology but my interest is expansive.

Another flight of fancy may lead me to a flower-arranging course. There are often held at the some of the larger estates and castle gardens in the areas. I see a future in floristry.


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