In the 1940s and '50s factory seamstress Doreen 'Rhys' Gardner was paid by the garment, not the hour, so quickly learned to pick up the pace.
She never compromised on quality though - whether she was stitching up hardy uniforms for WWII Diggers or, later, constructing delicate wedding dresses and other fine pieces for the well-to-do in Melbourne and Sydney.
Now 93, the Tarrawanna great-great-grandmother is still putting her skills to good use - currently using her trusty Singer sewing machine to make scrubs for health workers at Wollongong Hospital.
Along with her dear friend Betty Gallen, she's made over 100 colourful scrubs to donate to the hospital during the COVID crisis.
Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff wear scrubs under their personal protective equipment (PPE), but the garments have been in short supply during the pandemic.
"I had four kids, and no husband, so used to work in the factories from 9am to 3pm and then bring work home to do when the kids were asleep," Ms Gardner said.
"Once I finished my working life, I still wanted to sew - but not for money. So I've made clothes for Mission Without Borders, for The Salvation Army, for the recent bushfire relief effort.
"Now I want to help the hospital during this terrible time. It keeps me busy and happy - once you're concentrating on your sewing, you forget all your troubles."
Sewing has always been Ms Gardner's happy place - one of the 'Fairbridge children', in 1938 - aged just 10 - she was sent from the UK to Australia with two of her siblings under a child migration scheme.
"When I was 13 they put me on a train to work as a maid on a sheep station but I soon left, and walked the streets until I found a job in a factory," she said.
"I'd been sewing since I was a little kid, I can't remember who taught me. I love it."
Ms Gallen supplies the material for the venture, and ferries the finished products to the hospital.
"I met Doreen about 20 years ago - she was sitting at a bus stop in the cold and rain so I gave her a lift home and we've been friends ever since," she said.
"I knew she was a keen sewer, and I had a stack of material, so when this virus started to get bad I thought we could do our bit to help out.
"We checked with the hospital, came up with a pattern and made sure our scrubs were bright and cheerful to give the staff a bit of a lift."
Nicole Sheppard, general manager of the Northern Illawarra Hospital Group, thanked the ladies for their efforts.
"We are so honoured to receive the donated scrubs from Rhys and Betty, who are both incredible ladies doing their part to make a difference for our staff," she said.
"It has been heartening to see the way the community has rallied behind the hospital and our staff during COVID-19 and donations like this are truly appreciated."
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