I can hardly sew on a button. So I’m in awe of people like Joanne Kaisa of Martha-Nellie Designer Clothing. Here is a woman who can whip up a tunic or pair of wide-legged pants, quicker than I could thread a needle.
Jo was born and brought up in Rangiora and has been sewing for years. Her mother was into sewing too. And when Jo left school she started sewing for a living, doing piece work for various companies.
So she’s been in the sewing game for a wee while, but is still in love with it. “My sewing machine is my happy place” she says. She uses all her own patterns and ideas will often come to her, sometimes at 3am. And when that happens “I can’t wait to get up”.
The business of Martha-Nellie Designer Clothing is named after her grandma, or ‘nanny’ as she was known to the family, “she supported me in everything I wanted to do” says Jo. And it came about the way these things often do, she made her own clothes. Then made clothes for friends. Then friends of friends.
It’s grown from there. And after selling at markets and fairs, she has just opened up her studio. It’s tucked away down a quiet driveway and is located in what was formerly the garage of her Kaiapoi home. I’ll be honest, I was expecting something a little bit chilly and a little bit makeshift. But it was neither of those things. It was cosy and calm and filled with colour and personality. A lovely place to browse and try on things away from the hustle and bustle of malls.
There are tunics, wraps, wide-legged pants, little skirts, stylish dresses in a surprisingly large range of colours, patterns and sizes. Jo tries to keep styles simple and flattering and particularly likes working with stretch fabrics. Things like layers and asymmetrical cuts can hide all sorts of little body flaws that women are often uncomfortable with she says.
Her range caters for sizes 10 to 20 and prices are from $35 upwards. For one off pieces they’re surprisingly reasonably priced. Jo believes women should be able to “Have something nice without having to pay half a mortgage payment for it”. Which sounds like a great philosophy.
The studio is open by appointment and, yes, I know, that kind of thing sounds a bit intimidatingly expensive. But it’s not like that at all. It’s just great, locally made one off pieces and reasonable prices.
When I was chatting to her I kept getting distracted by things I thought I might like to try on. I think I’ll be going back soon.