Elizabeth Bennett: Sewing Friendship
Updated: Nov 17
Sewing After Teaching
Every guest is special on The Hub. But re-meeting a favoured teacher and hearing her life tales is truly special. The Hub reconnected recently with Elizabeth Bennett, a former Biology teacher at Salesian's College, Chertsey.
In a three-part series Elizabeth recounts growing up in south Wales, moving to London as a student, and a career teaching secondary school Biology in Surrey, Hampshire and latterly Lancashire. Now happily retired, part one starts with Elizabeth observing the impact of a personally-sewn quilt as a Christening gift opened a newly creative time. Of connection and friendship, during Lockdown and beyond.
In part two Elizabeth shares her Desert Island Discs favourite music and a poem of particular meaning to her. In part three she will open up on how her Faith is fundamental to her life. You can listen to part one, Elizabeth Bennett's Sewing Tales, by clicking on the link below.
Picture: Friendship cushion - Elizabeth Bennett's colourful cushion with messages of friendship, a gift to a friend / Credit: Elizabeth Bennett
Elizabeth Bennett picked up sewing later in life. "I've always been a knitter, I didn't even possess a sewing machine." However, attending the Christening of a friend's grandchild, she witnessed a woman gifting a beautifully-sewn quilt. "I just thought, I want to do that."
That was the start of Elizabeth's sewing journey. "The thought that this quilt had been made for this baby, stitch by stitch, by this lady and that nobody else was going to have a quilt like that. It was her gift to him and I was hooked." The quilt was cot-sized, a mix of pale blues, creams, lemons, "lovely" light, sunny, baby colours with the baby's name sewn across the top. "Perfect!" says Elizabeth.
But Elizabeth doubted she could achieve a similar skill level. The woman insisted she could. "She convinced me it was easy. I didn't believe that for a second, but she carried on and said I didn't start until I retired. I thought, well, I am retired what excuse have I got?"
Getting going took a while as Elizabeth struggled to believe she was capable. Her new acquaintance kept in touch and would occasionally enquire: "So have you made any progress?" Elizabeth would usually claim she hadn't had time until her husband finally said: "For goodness sake buy yourself a sewing machine!"
Picture Gallery: A sample of work from Elizabeth's
sewing group / Credit: Elizabeth Bennett
One day Elizabeth returned home with a sewing machine. She bought a few bits of fabric as she did not want to spend a fortune making "terrible mistakes". She loved it! "I probably made lots of mistakes but that didn't matter because I was happy and it carried on from there."
Elizabeth had learned how to use a sewing machine at school but had not used it to make anything for herself. Her new sewing buddy gave her a ring binder with suggestions she had used when starting, advising: "Just do what it tells you." Elizabeth religiously followed the instructions and then joined a sewing group after a year of progressing on her own.
Picture Gallery: Elizabeth's sewing group at their first post-Lockdown
gathering. L-R: Tutor's tips; Lip reading the tips; At work / Credit: Elizabeth Bennett
Adding "lots of advice from lovely ladies" to her year of self-teaching. Lockdown kicked in shortly after, meaning for the past eighteen months the group has not been able to meet in person. Luckily by this time Elizabeth "knew what I was doing" and was able to buy fabrics online.
Elizabeth started with small projects, making place mats and mug rugs. She has now made several quilts and "lots of cushions". Elizabeth has found a "lovely" pattern involving a small 'friendship block' where messages of friendship can be sewn around a square grid. Elizabeth incorporated the pattern into cushions and to give as gifts.
Picture: Chez Nous - The cushions Elizabeth made for her
friends at home in France / Credit: Elizabeth Bennett
She has given many of these colourful cushions as gifts to friends and family and some to charities. She likes to personalise the messages to give particular meaning to the person receiving the gift. So for example, she has incorporated a number of French themes into a cushion she has just made for some friends who live in France and the wife is quite ill.
Another cushion Elizabeth loves, as a tea lover, has references to tea. A popular theme for a number of her friends too! She also adds colours she thinks the person might like. It is this personal touch that is the key to her Elizabeth's sewing project. "The thought that something I have made helps someone to think I have thought of them and made it for them."
Picture: One of Elizabeth's spectacularly designed quilts all ready
to snuggle under / Credit: Elizabeth Bennett
On her quilts, she adds: "A quilt is made for snuggling in. It is for feeling good and every stitch is put in it with that thought in mind. The hope is they are going to love this and to love being wrapped in it. Because it is given with love! It's just fabulous. I am so happy I have found this hobby. Even though it involves so much ironing!"
The afternoon after our conversation was to be her sewing group's first physical meeting since the pandemic. "That will be wonderful!" said Elizabeth.
Listen to Elizabeth's Sewing Tales
You can listen to The Hub's conversation on Elizabeth Bennett's sewing tales by clicking on the link below.