Forget Great British Sewing Bee – meet the Cambs woman sewing for the stars

Great Huntingdon Sewing Bee Sarah Stammler in her work room

Great Huntingdon Sewing Bee Sarah Stammler in her work room - Credit: Archant

A BBC television programme has been credited with reviving the country’s love affair with an old skill – sewing. But, for some, sewing is more than just a pastime, it’s a living and an essential skill. RORY BRIGSTOCK-BARRON talks to a seamstress to the stars.

HER skills have seen her work with the likes of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Sarah Stammler, of Ferrars Court, Huntingdon, has also worked on the set of the Harry Potter films – and shortened Tom Cruise’s trousers.

Her skills are very much in demand, but this time by a new audience – TV viewers inspired to learn to sew by the BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee, a programme doing for sewing what the Great British Bake Off did for making cakes and bread.

The craze to make-and-mend saw department store John Lewis announce a 24 per cent increase in sales in its haberdashery department after the first airing of the show on BBC2. One of the store’s buyers said home-made crafts were “more fashionable than ever”.


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And Karenza Rosier, joint-owner of Krafty Kats, in Huntingdon High Street, said she had seen plenty of new faces in the shop since the Great British Sewing Bee was first broadcast.

“We’ve had people coming in who hadn’t sewn for years but have become interested again after watching the programme,” she said.

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“We’ve also had some people who want to start sewing come into the shop. I haven’t seen an increase in sales so far but, hopefully, the show will be good for business.”

Mrs Stammler, 52, is keen to get the people of Huntingdonshire involved in getting creative – she’s even considering running lessons.

“I already do a lot of work with younger girls who can’t sew on a button,” she said. “They teach textiles in schools but it’s more about design rather than learning the basics of making clothes.”

Mrs Stammler’s love affair with crafts began when she was working as an au pair in California at the age of 19.

“I had a Swedish au pair friend who used to make her own clothes so we started making our clothes together,” she said. “We didn’t get paid very much so it was a good way to save money.”

When she had her three children, Mrs Stammler would make their fancy dress costumes but it was not until she was made redundant from her job as a medical secretary in London in 1994 that she decided to make a career from her skill with a needle.

She studied for a degree in costume making and became involved with the Globe Theatre, in London, and it was there that she was recommended for projects with some of the biggest names in theatre, film and television.

The highlights of her career include working with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on the set of the 2007 film A Wild Heart.

“I think that’s the most awestruck I’ve been. We were on set in France for five days and I dressed her and they were both there with their kids. They were both really nice and really normal.”

Mrs Stammler also worked on costume design for the film Mission: Impossible II where she had to turn up Tom Cruises trousers by six inches.

Having recently finished working at the Globe Theatre on Richard III, Mrs Stammler wants to pass on her knowledge to those who wish to learn about sewing and dress making.

She said: “I think now with the trend for vintage clothes, and with money being tight for a lot of people, it would be a good time to start some sort of course for beginners.

“Lots of people have sewing machines at home and don’t know how to use them, and lots of women change sizes all the time and so have wardrobes full of clothes they never wear.

“People could bring fabric and a pattern with them and I could show them how to use it, or they could bring clothes that don’t fit them and I could teach them how to alter them.”

INFORMATION: For more details about learning to sew, e-mail her at sarahstammler@msn.com

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