It was the fabrics that first caught Christina Mackay’s eye.
‘‘I used to look at magazines when I was little and think what a lovely dress, I wish I could wear something like that.’’
Luckily her mother was good with her hands and worked on a finishing table. She encouraged her daughter’s interest in the craft.
She started by chopping up paper. Then her mother would pull apart old sheets and pillowcases for her to practise sewing with.
‘‘That was it as far as I was concerned. That was truly what I wanted to do,’’ she says.
The Hillsborough resident opened Christina’s Studio on Mt Eden Rd 12 years ago after spending years honing her skills at clothing companies Jantzen’s Swimwear and Line 7.
As well as doing alterations and dressmaking she often sources fabric and buttons for people.
‘‘Buttons can make or break a garment,’’ she says.
‘‘You can get a Plain Jane outfit and put a really elegant or textured button on it and suddenly you’ve got something really nice.’’
She has a couple of thousand different types of buttons in her collec- tion, including some very old ones given to her by her mother.
School ball season is always a busy time at the shop but not everyone agrees on how some clothing should be altered.
Trying to please both mothers and daughters can be a challenge when it comes to dress length. The daughter usually wants the hem shorter but nine times out of 10 the mother ends up winning, the 63-year-old says.
One of the more unusual requests she’s received was when she was asked to create a patchwork clown’s outfit.
The customer asked her to buy the fabric in spotted, stripey and paisley prints. Luckily it turned out well and the woman was very happy with it, she says.
Mackay’s philosophy is if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well. That means, among other things, pinning both legs when altering trousers. Sometimes she’s the first to have told someone they have one leg shorter than the other.
Accidents in the sewing room are rare but the tailor remembers one mishap with a silk dress years ago.
‘‘I had an open pair of scissors on the table and the fabric was sitting nearby. I went to pick up the scissors and they snipped right on the side of the dress.
‘‘I had to replace it. I felt so bad but when I rang the customer she was really good about it.’’
What advice does Mackay have for people buying clothes? Check the stitching.
‘‘Things are made so quickly now. Whenever you buy something look at the zip area first to make sure it has been fixed properly, that the button isn’t just held on with one stitch and darts are stitched well.’’