Story and photos by Kathy Dumbleton
With 58 years of sewing under her belt there is no sign Gladstone’s Daphne Pohle, well-known owner of Fillies on Parade, is slowing down.
Daphne‘s creative flair for sewing began when she was only six years old. She was taught by Mrs Murray, the headmaster’s wife in the small country town of Degilbo, west of Hervey Bay.
"We would all sit around her kitchen table, and that’s how I learnt to sew," Daphne remembers.
"We all had to take a sewing basket with needles, thread, scissors, fabric and a thimble. I still use my thimble to this day!"
The first thing the young girls were taught was a sampler.
"It was a rectangular piece of linen or cotton, and you would learn the stitches.'
From running stitch, blanket, daisy, stem, herringbone and back stitch, Daphne learnt them all. The first item Daphne made was a pillowcase.
"I can still remember the cotton fabric with little yellow flowers," Daphne said fondly.
When her family moved to Bundaberg in the 60s she made all her own high school uniforms.
"I use to work off patterns and just figure it out."
Married at 19, her husband’s wedding gift was her very first Elna sewing machine.
Daphne ran her own sewing business from home while raising her young family, providing work uniforms for local businesses as well as personal clothes for off-duty wear.
Her three daughters were also well catered for with Daphne making their clothes for every season.
"I loved dressing my little girls. I made their school uniforms, tracksuits, PJs and many pretty dresses. Girls wore frocks back then not shorts.
"They all sew a bit, but they still come to Mum!"
In 1992 Daphne put a hold on working full time and took a 12 month TAFE course.
"It was the last TAFE course ever offered in sewing.’ Daphne said.
Her studies covered everything from millinery to lingerie, trips to factories including Dryza-Bone and sportswear, and to see fabric being woven.
While Daphne considered it a brush up course, in her end of year exams she topped the class in textiles and received honours in garment assembly.
Through the years Daphne’s business has changed dramatically: she says with cheap off-the-rack fashion and growing online clothing sales, making clothes has become a dying art.
Daphne has taken her business into the alteration field, and while she still prides herself on hand sewing she now owns eight Janome machines including four overlockers, a heavy duty sewing machine, a machine built specifically for hems and edging, a smaller backup machine - and a spare.
Daphne's core business today is bridal attire, evening wear and school formalwear, and her personal and trustworthy approach has helped soothe many nervous customers before their big day.
Her helpful advice on dressing for special occasions is certainly appreciated by her clients as she has developed a talent for matching garments with accessories.
"Dress making is a very personal thing. My customers are like my family."
Based in Gladstone, she works with clients in Rockhampton, Biloela, even Brisbane customers posting items up for alterations.
From the 6 year old growing up with her little sewing basket to operating her own businesses in both Bundaberg and Gladstone there is no end in sight for the 64 year old.
Working five days a week and some Saturdays, Daphne still has time for tap dancing and Tai Chi.
"I will be sewing my own tap dancing costume for our concert in November!" She said with excitement.
"I went into this not knowing I’d make a career out of it. I feel privileged to be doing what I love and working from home."