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If it’s not fun, it isn’t done!

Heather Bannister, the Sewing Lady of Rose Cottage with a care package. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Lisa Urbani

If it’s not fun, it isn’t done!

This is the philosophy of Masterton’s Heather Bannister, the self-styled ‘Museum Director’, of a fabulous emporium of vintage and antique sewing machines, where anyone interested in sewing, can join the tea party in Rose Cottage, in Queen Elizabeth Park.

The Sewing Lady, as she is affectionately known to all her followers who attend ‘Come Sew with Me’ gatherings, was very pleased to receive a $5000 grant by Arts Access Aotearoa, through Work and Income.

This money will help with covering the many costs to buy supplies for their sewing needs, but it cannot be used for running costs, such as power and insurance bills for the cottage.

Heather’s big heart and generous spirit in sharing her time, her sewing talents, her beautiful vintage machines, and her warm encompassing of the many people who feel ignored by society, is inspiring – especially since she gives so much, all for the love of her fellow humans.

She speaks with such enthusiasm of all her sewing regulars.

“This is their happy place, where they feel comfortable and can be with their friends.

“The tea parties are a big thing, we hear wonderful stories and I like being there to listen and share my machines and my passion.”

Although the grant was allocated for mentally and physically disabled people, Heather would never turn anyone away.

“Everyone’s stressed out and in need, we’re not limiting who can come.

We have about eight people here all day and 30 regulars [before covid-19], people coming and going, even overseas visitors drop in to mend clothes sometimes.”

During the lockdown she did not forget her sewing circle, aided by her supportive husband and family, she delivered care parcels of sewing materials – including a vital bar of chocolate for a pick-me-up – to her regulars, and made sure they were safe and well.

Some were able to borrow her sewing machines, and her kindness, generated other kindnesses.

A newly started courier business, Wilton Deliveries, delivered their very first parcel to Featherston – one of Heather’s care packages – at a special reduced rate.

“We must support local,” Heather said.

To this end, the first thing she did with the grant was to purchase supplies for sewing from Evan’s sewing shop in Masterton, and Yvonne’s where she bought wool.

“They have been so helpful and supportive to Come Sew With Me,” she said.

She also acknowledged that the Masterton District Council had given her free rent for a year, and that now Come Sew With Me was a charitable trust, they had a good committee to be of assistance.

Heather has had many people attend her ‘Crafternoons’ on the first Saturday of each month.

She has also organised a 30-hour ‘sewathon’ in the past, to raise money to pay the rent, and make quilts for premature babies at the hospital.

The youngest person to sew was a three-year-old and the oldest was 92, and some of the items that are produced include quilts, dolls, bags, cushions and repurposed pre-loved clothes like ball gowns and wedding dresses.

“It’s a playroom not a workroom,” Heather said, “we want to have fun.”

From collecting over 300 beautiful old vintage sewing machines, to the establishment in 2017 of the ‘Come Sew With Me Ltd Working Museum’, Heather’s Rose Cottage has provided a “home” where all who play can feel safe, and her contribution to society is humbling.

“From Day 1 it has been full on with sewing, knitting, tea parties and laughter – lots and lots of laughter – and lasting friendships.”

Come Sew With Me runs Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm and Saturdays from 1pm to 4pm.

  • For more information, or to contact Heather, go to their Facebook page. All donations of material, wool, sewing-related items or money, would be put to very good use. An electrician with an ability to repair old sewing machines would also be most welcome.


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