A pattern . . . The Alterations Lady owner Donna Waipouri has been sewing since she was a young girl. PHOTO: RUBY HEYWARD

Life often follows a pattern.

For Donna Waipouri and her foremothers, sewing has been a constant .

Mrs Waipouri is originally from the far north, and her great› grandmother, grandmother and mother all sewed, the latter two making wedding dresses.

‘‘I’ve traced my family tree back to the 1500s and there’s been fabric and sewing all the way through,’’ she said.

Before her grandmother’s death when Mrs Waipouri was 5, she was steeped in sewing skills at a young age.

Her grandmother, Evelyn Ivin, would draw lines on a piece of paper and Mrs Waipouri would use a treadle sewing machine to go over them.

Mrs Waipouri still had her first sewing machine, which she and her grandmother used to add lace to her doll’s dresses.

As a school girl, she would make and sell clothes to friends.

As an adult, she trained in pattern drafting, although she still found herself drawn to sewing, and spent five years doing upholstery sewing in Australia.

While her children were growing up, she helped out in their school sewing departments.
Sewing was always something she could fall back on and she had done just that throughout her life.

‘‘I never valued sewing — it’s always been a low paid job, but now I can appreciate how much value it does have because it’s a lost skill,’’ she said.

‘‘I’ve tried to give up three times and said ‘I’m never sewing again’.

‘‘I’ve just done it for so long.’’

Set on retiring, she and her husband, Mark Waipouri, moved to Waitaki from Hawke’s Bay three years ago.

Mrs Waipouri first opened her business, The Alterations Lady, in Oamaru’s Eden St. As business picked up and more space was needed, The Alterations Lady recently moved to the North End shops, in Thames Hwy.

She did everything from sewing hems and zip replacements to making and altering wedding dresses, clothes and costumes.

She enjoyed making original pieces and liked the variety of her work.

Over the years she had noticed an increase in people wanting their clothing mended, rather than throwing them away in the ever growing fast fashion market.

Sewing was sadly becoming a lost art, but Mrs Waipouri said she was more than happy to help people find their way.

People often came in with material and patterns asking for tips and guidance, and Mrs Waipouri was happy to oblige.

She even had thoughts about introducing a drop›in evening for this purpose.

Mrs Waipouri also runs Treasured Events, an event decoration business.