Edith Jones has left a legacy of needlecraft skills which her granddaughter has turned into a business. Sarah French discovers how sewing has transcended the generations

During her life, Edith Jones was renowned for her talent with a sewing machine, making everything from wedding dresses to teddy bears. And before she died two years ago her granddaughter Marcia Howe had the foresight to ask her to share and pass on her skills.

Marcia has not only perfected her craft, but has even turned the old skills into a new business, giving her up her job at GlaxoSmithKline in Barnard Castle to become a full-time machinist like Edith. "She was a great teacher, strict, but her high standards have helped me now I'm making things for other people," she says.

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Edith was diagnosed with cancer and as her condition deteriorated, Marcia spent more and more time at her house.

"We wanted to keep her at home so my mum and I were there every day. I'd come home to put my children to bed, then go back and stay overnight with her. There was a lot of time to fill and only so many photos you could talk about, so to give us both something to do, I asked her to teach me to sew,” says Marcia, 34. “I thought her skills would be lost otherwise and there would be no one left in the family who could repair things. It gave her a purpose and she really loved it."

"I did sewing at GCSE, but it wasn't good enough for gran. She started me off doing lines upon lines of different stitches. When it wasn't right, I had to unpick it and start all over again, which taught me how to do things properly."

The first thing Marcia made was a blanket to keep Edith warm in the evenings. "It took me days to finish it, but now I can make one in a couple of hours," she says. Together they also made costumes for the Barnard Castle Meet.

When she died, Marcia inherited Edith's sewing machine, which has only just stopped working to be replaced by a new model. "After she passed away I made things because I enjoyed it, I wasn't thinking of a business then. I wanted to make a teepee and a table tent for my own children, then I started making presents for other people. I carried on sewing and sewing then thought I'd do a craft fair and really enjoyed it. I loved talking to people and the whole social side."

By the time she took a stall at Barnard Castle School's Michaelmas Market last November, Marcia had quit her job as a sterile operator at GSK and, as well as supporting her plumber husband Morgan with his business, had established Edith Jones Handcrafted Items.

As well as blankets, table tents and tepees for children and pets, her range includes teething rings, dinosaur tails, bunting, felt garlands and, her speciality, memory bears. These fully-jointed teddies can be made from the client's choice of fabric to preserve special baby clothes, the clothes of a loved one or even school uniform. "They're really popular because they're unique to the customer and have special meaning if the fabric reminds you of a person or a time," says Marcia.

The business has grown through her appearance at fairs, social media and word-of-mouth and now an Etsy shop, Edith Jones Boutique. "I used to work shifts at GSK and thought by doing this I wouldn't be working at 2am," says Marcia. "In reality that's exactly what I am doing, but I love it. Once I've started something I can't stop so I just keep going to get it finished, but at least it means I can keep up with orders and make a lot of stock."

In October, she is taking a stand at the annual Durham Shopping Extravaganza, one of 70 hand-picked stalls selling a range of high-quality goods in time for Christmas. The DSE has raised in excess of £425,000 over the past 28 years, supporting more than 90 charities.

"It's a really good charity fair, which I love and am happy to support. It's perfect for me as my first big fair, helping to get my name out there and also for networking," says Marcia.

With two sons of her own - 12-year-old Ryan and Leo, eight - it's not clear if Marcia will be able to extend Edith's legacy straight away or if she too will have to wait for a granddaughter to come along. Either way, she is already making a mark of which her grandma would be proud.

  • The Durham Shopping Extravaganza takes place at Ramside Hall Hotel, Durham, on Wednesday, October 4 from 12pm-8.30pm and on Thursday, October 5 from 10am-4pm. For more information, email: enquiries@durhamshoppingextravaganza.co.uk or edithjones30@hotmail.com