Sewing memories with every stitch

Until Monday, 31 October 2022, visitors to the D-Day Story can participate in this interactive and inventive temporary exhibition that tells a story when an old Singer Sewing Machine handle is turned.

Visitors to the Portsmouth City Council-owned museum can visit the exhibition for free. It is inspired by the 1940s stories of Make Do and Mend, where buying new clothes wasn’t an option and repairs, and upcycling materials were the only way forward.

Participants are encouraged to turn the sewing machine handle to read messages and memories of sewing. With each revolve of the handle, the text shown on the screen shifts one line upwards, mimicking the sewn fabric that would move through the needle footplate.

By turning the handle, viewers can directly engage with the physicality of the old Singer Sewing Machine and read the memories of various past and present sewing generations. A film of all the memories accompanies the physical piece.

The artist Jan Frith said: “Sewing Memories reflects a broad range of people who have sewn, both for pleasure and in times of very urgent need. It is an ongoing interactive artwork, and visitors are also invited to consider how sewing has touched their life and to leave their own memories. The idea of Make Do and Mend is one I think we can adopt more as a society, and I am delighted to encourage people to try out Make Do and Mend within the contemporary idea of Sew Style and Upcycle, which is just as relevant today.”

Alongside this exhibition, Frith will run a series of Sew, Style & Upcycle creative sessions over this October half-term. She will show participants how to upcycle their pre-loved clothing.

Cllr Steve Pitt, the council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Economic Development, said, “We are committed to providing opportunities for people to learn how to be creatively expressive and in a way that is environmentally responsible. The Sewing Memories exhibition enables local people to engage with the artwork and learn upcycling in a helpful way.”

For more information, visit

To join a free half-term Sew Style and Upcycle session, sign up here:

To contribute a sewing memory to the exhibition, do so here: