Meet the 80-year-old seamstress still fixing wedding nightmares

Joan has mended countless wedding and prom dresses over the years
Joan has mended countless wedding and prom dresses over the years

She is the miracle worker whose needle skills have saved countless weddings and prom nights, and she's still going strong at the age of 80.

Joan Long, from Thorne, puts her nimble fingers and sharp mind to good use fixing damaged or ill-fitting garments which threaten to ruin brides' and students' special days.

Joan Long at work with Caroline Beer and Diane Walker

Joan Long at work with Caroline Beer and Diane Walker

The indefatigable seamstress celebrated her 80th birthday yesterday (Tuesday, January 31) but brides-in-waiting can breathe a sigh of relief as she has no plans to retire just yet.

"I'd be bored if I wasn't working. It keeps me active and the money pays for my holidays," said Joan, who works at Clothing Alteration Services, in Sandringham Road, Intake, Doncaster.

"I've always liked sewing. I made my first garment aged six and whenever there's something awkward they always say 'that's a Joan job'."

Diane Walker, whose husband Clive owns the business, described Joan as an 'invaluable member' of the team there.

Joan Long at work

Joan Long at work

"She'll turn her hand to anything, including jobs we don't think are possible. She's wildly respected here and she's touched so many people's lives with her repair jobs," she added.

"I know eventually she will want to retire but we're all dreading that day because her knowledge and talent is vast."

Diane recounted the tale of a distraught mother who turned up one day after taking an iron to her daughter's prom dress and melting it.

She and others at the firm thought the glamorous outfit was beyond salvage, but not Joan, who did such a good job the girl remained none the wiser about her mum's mishap.

While Joan specialises in prom outfits and bridal wear, particularly for women whose weight has fluctuated in the run-up to their big day, she can turn her hand to anything - from curtains to speedboat covers.

Joan, who has two children and three grandchildren, has lived in Thorne since moving here aged five from Bishop Auckland after her mother died.

She began her working life at the old hardware store Saul in Moorends, having left school aged 15.

After spending the bulk of her career working in insurance, she did retire - but she only lasted two weeks out of work, saying 'it wasn't for me'.

She had never worked as a seamstress before joining her current employer, for whom she works two days a week, 14 years ago.

But the job proved a natural fit, since she has always enjoyed making clothes in her spare time, especially wedding dresses and bridesmaids' outfits.

"It's so pleasing when you're able to alter something and you get to see their reaction," she said.

Diane and the gang at Clothing Alteration Services planned to celebrate Joan's birthday by taking her out for a meal and pub quiz on Wednesday.

Joan was also set to mark the milestone with her family and her close friend Audrey, with whom she is heading off on a cruise along the Norwegian fjords this summer.

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