Diane Radford, M.D.

Stitches: The Surgeon, the Saddler and the Tailor.

June 17, 2012

Sidney Radford, tailor.

We all worked with our hands, we just had different tools and worked on different materials, be it fabric, leather, or human tissue. Our basic tools, however, were a needle and thread. When I was growing up in Scotland, I remember studying my dad as he worked at his tailor’s bench. In the yellow light he bent over the fabric, lips pursed in concentration, dividing the tweed with huge shears. Around his neck was his measuring tape, by his side his tailor’s right angle, nearby his triangular chalk.

Against the wall in front of him were arrayed row upon row of bolts of cloth —flannel, light wool, heavy wool, silk, satin, pin-stripe, check, and houndstooth. Proudly displayed were his framed awards from Tailor and Cutter magazine, the medal for Ladies’ Couture, and the Donegal Trophy for craftsmanship in Ladies’ Suits. His hands were nimble, whether he basted a hem by hand with Coats® cotton or machine-stitched using his trusty Singer®. I was fascinated, transfixed.

His dad, the saddler, sewed with thicker beeswax-coated thread— the beeswax to waterproof the thread and ease its passage through the thick leather. Among his tools were a half-moon blade to incise the leather, whalebone to make the leather tight around the edges of the saddle, and a stitching awl. He first became a saddler during the Boer War. Then served the same role with the Welsh regiment in World War I. He kitted out the war-horses, the steeds of battle.

Sergeant Saddler Alfred Radford

My tools, as a surgeon, are the scalpel, the forceps, delicate and precise; my thread is not cotton but prolene, monocryl, and vicryl. We cut, and then we sew. Those are our common denominators through three generations. I heard as a surgeon-in-training, during my apprenticeship (as it were), “Cut well, sew well, get well.” All of us Radfords had to be exact in our craft or the suit would not fit, the saddle would be uncomfortable or the wound heals improperly.

On this Father’s Day, I appreciate those skills inherited from my father and grandfather and all the generations of artisans before me.  Cut well; sew well.




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  • Yvonne Watterson

    Beautiful piece of writing!

  • http://dianeradfordmd.com Diane Radford

    Thanks so much Yvonne.

  • Robert

    As one who has witnessed you cut and sew and stitch I find this very inspirational!

  • Bhforsyth


    Very Nice


  • Brinkerjoann


  • Edward Arthur

    Diane, I thought you might like to know that I am wearing a genuine “Sidney Radford” suit, made for my late grandfather, Matthew Glenarthur, in 1972. It is in regular use and is one of several which came from my father when he had, in turn, grown out of them! The suit is older than me (born 1973) and I only wish it was possible to buy one as well made today! Edward Arthur

  • Anonymous

    Such a beautiful linkage through the generations. I would not have thought of your work as sewing but of course it entails that. Very lovely post speaking to how many professions in your family are brought together in spirit and art.