Rod Webb highlights a St Leonards haberdashery 

If you feel the pace of life is getting too much, you might want to visit La La Rookh in Norman Road. The gentle music and old-fashioned charm is enough in itself to calm the nerves. Start looking through the pattern collection or the selection of haberdashery on offer and you will be reminded of a different time, a slower time, when family, friends – or people in old films – used to make their own clothes.

Your sewing ability might not go beyond replacing the odd button, but help is at hand for anyone inspired to take it further. With ‘Saturday Sewing’ you can rent out sewing machines by the hour, and Anna Winston, with her wealth of experience, is available for casual tutoring sessions. This might include long forgotten techniques or handy short cuts. “I love construction techniques,” she says. “I like to pass on old-fashioned techniques rather than relying on new ones.” 

Anna has been a costume maker since she was 17 – apparently there are many more in Hastings and St Leonards, working freelance by the sea and popping up to London when necessary. She has also been teaching for the last nine years with her ‘bring your own project’ programme that she used to run from her workshop under Marine Court. 

These classes are now run from the Norman Road premises. They are self directed with people choosing what to do according to their skill level: something that they wouldn’t attempt at home. She runs after-school workshops for children and evening classes for adults on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. For those put off sewing after past bad experiences, Anna makes sure they “won’t feel intimidated”.

Moving to Norman Road has allowed Anna to realise her dream of opening a haberdashery. She’s been collecting items over many years, using them in her workshops, and the collection just grew and grew: big enough
to open as a haberdashery! “I’m obsessed with collecting vintage sewing patterns,” she says. “I’ve got patterns going from the 1920s to modern.” Her favourites are those dating from the 30s and 40s, but the largest collection is from the 70s. 

Anna is particularly keen on encouraging people to re-use and repurpose old clothing and to inspire creativity by teaching new skills. She feels this is the right time for such a move with environmental issues turning the tide against fast fashion. “It’s all about teaching people to love their clothes,” she says. Things you love will always last longer – with a little bit of help from a needle and thread.

• Lalla Rookh means ‘tulip cheeked’ in Persian and is the title of a romance by Thomas Moore, written in 1817.

• For more information on classes, visit the shop or phone Anna on 07545 757592.

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