From huge shoulder pads to shell-suits, skinny jeans, vintage clothing and everything in between, seamstress Janet Matthews has seen it all.
From her shop, Janet’s Sewing Alterations, in Burnley town centre, she has witnessed 37 years of changing fashions, some of which she would probably like to forget.
Now grandmother Janet is preparing for a lifestyle change of her own, her retirement.
The 66-year-old mum-of-two, who lives near Turf Moor, will close the doors to the shop at the end of March, marking the end of a career which started when she took over the reins at her aunt’s sewing shop in Parker Lane.
“My aunty wanted to sell up. I was married at the time and my then-husband suggested we buy into the business. I had done bits of sewing before and helped my aunty out on a Saturday. I had two young children and didn’t know the first thing about running a business but he bought into it anyway and it was thrust upon me.
“My aunty stayed to help me when I started at first and give me some support.”
I tend to find that fewer younger women have the skills when it comes to sewing and they will ask me to sew buttons on for themJanet
After 10 years Janet moved to her current premises in Yorke Street but she credits the various employees she has had over the years with her success.
“I’ve got to say that over the years, the ladies who have worked alongside me have been really good. I couldn’t have done it on my own. I’m really grateful to them.”
Although most of Janet’s work, what she calls her “bread and butter,” is shortening jeans and trousers for regular customers, she has had some unusual requests.
“The latest lady who’s come working for me can’t believe some of the things we get asked to sew.
“Some people come in asking us to sew a button on, or to sew things for dogs, A man once came in with a pair of ladies lace knickers. He was getting married and he wanted some bows sewing on for his bride-to-be. We get asked to sew all sorts of things.
“Turn-ups on trousers have come and gone as have big shoulder pads. Then there were shell-suits, they were awful things to sew. Now everything that comes in is stretch fabric. We used to get a lot of long coats, floor-length jackets, wax jackets, maxis, midis and maxis, the whole kit and caboodle.
“It’s been really interesting. I’ve been very lucky with my job.”
Traditionally a skill mastered by the older generations, Janet is hoping television shows such as “The Great British Sewing Bee,” will help fuel as resurgence in needlecraft among younger women.
“I tend to find that fewer younger women have the skills when it comes to sewing and they will ask me to sew buttons on for them but one lady came in the other day and said her 14-year-old daughter had asked for a sewing machine for her birthday, so who knows. I’ve found it sometimes skips a generation and children learn how to sew from their grandparents.”
Looking forward to her retirement, Janet said she wants to spend more time with her partner Arthur Fort (63), walking, reading and enjoying the outdoors.
“I won’t have to have a timetable and I’ll be able to go out on a sunny day without having to wait for the weekend.
“I’ll also have time to potter about and clean out my kitchen cupboards and do all the things that my retired customers do. I’m very much looking forward to it.”