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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Interview with Madonna Doyle, our Castaway to Couture Winner!






Madonna Doyle was the winner of our recent Castaway to Couture competition and she kindly agreed to answer some questions we fired at her. As you'll read, Madonna has been sewing for years but is new to the ASG, so let's give her a friendly welcome! Take it away Madonna........

Growing up in a large family, our clothes were usually handmade, hand-me-downs or from a Red Cross shop which was conveniently located near mum’s work. Both my mother and grand-mother were very crafty with their alterations to make them fit and look great. From an early age, I was taught to use a sewing machine. I used to think when I was older I would just buy all new clothes and never have to alter anything again. But these mass-produced items are made for an ‘average’ size, so I find myself back behind my Bernina doing alterations. Judith Turner recognised that there was a gap in the market on how to alter clothes and has written a sensational book: ‘The Sewing Bible for Clothes Alteration’. It’s filled with easy to read instructions and great illustrations. I was fortunate to win it and I recommend it for any sewing enthusiast.





I’m fortunate that my family and close friends know the value of shopping at Red Cross shops, and living on the Central Coast of NSW and working in Sydney, I am never far from a Red Cross Store. Red Cross offers a diverse range of items, the quality is high and the prices are affordable. When I saw the Australian Sewing Guild stand at the Stitches and Craft Show at Rosehill earlier this year, I read with interest their brochure advertising the Red Cross Australia Castaway to Couture competition. I immediately started thinking of ideas and came up with the idea to make a jumpsuit from a nice pair of dress trousers. I found the perfect pair with enough material in the legs to make the bodice at the Red Cross store at Gordon, NSW. I measured my ‘model’ (my 12yo niece) and drafted a pattern. The only tricky part was the Peter Pan collar as I was pretty tight for material. At the same time I also bought a salmon colour dress to convert into a jumpsuit for my model’s little sister (my 9yo niece). Over two nights I made the two outfits and like my nieces, I was very happy with the results.





Some of my favourite up-cycling projects include making shirts from a patterned sheet, making sock creatures from an assortment of socks, and recently making a ball dress from a curtain. After watching the recent series ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ I am inspired to create more projects.


Prior to visiting the Australian Sewing Guild stall at the Stitches at Craft Show at Rosehill earlier this year, I was not familiar with the Australian Sewing Guild. As an avid sewer, I am keen to explore the benefits of being an ASG member and to meet others with the same interests.


I have been sewing for +30 years and I sew because I LOVE it! I have crafted a wide range of items and love coming up with new ideas each Christmas. Some of my favourite items I have made include wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, flower girl dresses, party-shirts for the male bridal party, graduation outfits, and christening gowns. I love the beautiful fabrics, trims and embellishments. I have made numerous regular items (dresses, pants, shirts, etc), accessories (laptops bags, wallets, tablet covers, etc) and Manchester (curtains, cushion covers, etc) over the years. I also enjoy quilting and have recently completed my first free machine quilting project. I use my sewing machine to embellish home-made cards and enjoy decorating them with fabric and trims. Check out my facebook page “Milo and Me” to see some of my creations.



I most often get described as very creative and generous. I love sewing for family, friends and their friends. If I am making something as a request, I usually ask for money to cover my expenses; it’s more for the love of giving than being a financial reward. Sometimes however, I get unusual requests and it is difficult to say ‘No’. I recently came across an article on-line which changed my thought process and has helped me immensely. If I cannot say ‘Yes’ with genuine pleasure, then there are other options. Some examples are:

  • you can say that you only sew for gifts for family and friends and they need to work their way onto your Christmas list; 
  • you can say that you do not have time and offer them the details of a local tailor / seamstress; you could offer to help / teach so they can learn to do it; 
  • or (Drumroll for my favourite response) that your time is valuable and come to a barter arrangement where their time is returned (eg they could offer their time to do some cleaning, your ironing, gardening, prepare meals, child minding, etc). It’s a great system and can be applied to any task where you are asking for a favour.

I also enjoy sewing for charity. After +20yrs in the military, I am now settled and have reached a point in my life where I have time to contribute to the community. Time is a valuable resource and to donate it to charity is very rewarding. Consider what you can do for your community; one day you, or someone you love, may need a little help.

With the availability of pictures and information on-line, it is easy to spend hours surfing the net, filling our wish list with things to make / try. I am looking forward to spending time reading through the projects on the ‘Genie Centre Magic Circle’ and watching their video tutorials.

A big Thank you to Madonna for sharing with us! We look forward to seeing more of your creations!

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