Sewing runs through Alex Askaroff's life from his beginnings at his family's firm to his current life as an expert on and repairer of sewing machines and author of many books about his life as a travelling repairman.

NO ONE really knows the path that seems to be mapped out for them. When my sneaky father asked me what I would like to do I answered immediately, “I would like to be a doctor, a surgeon”. He thought for a moment, scratched his head and told me how perfect that was as I could operate on his sewing machines!

He saw that one of his six boys had a gift in his fingers which, with training, could keep his busy production lines running. So my path was set but few could have foretold the collapse of the British manufacturing industry which would, in turn, lead to me becoming a master craftsman, run my own business, start a publishing company, write books, become one of the few world experts in early sewing machine pioneers like Isaac Singer, and build, the number one website of its kind on the planet.

Where did this crazy journey start? I was born in the latter half of the 1950s in the busy bomb-blitzed seaside town of Eastbourne. It was the most bombed town on the south coast of England. Rubble still lay about, in places, from the 11,000 or so buildings damaged by Luftwaffe.

My father told me he was descended from a line of proud White Russians. By Dad’s accounts they were all sword swirling Cossacks. He had answered England’s call for men after the terrible losses of the Second World War. He was handed a ten-bob note at customs, patted on the back and told to, “Go forth and prosper.” That he did.

By the time I entered the world my parents were manufacturing baby goods from a factory in Eastbourne called Simplantex, trading under the name of Premiere Baby. It grew to be one of the largest businesses of its kind in Europe. For years I kept the sewing machinery running on the factory floor as well as all the outworkers that stretched from Hastings to Hove.

Eastbourne was a hive of industry. Many remember the huge Birds-Eye factory that ran 24 hours a day at what is now Tesco’s but there was also lots of fabric manufacturing from Jarvis Leather Goods to Pura Plastics, Lizannes, who made shower curtains by the thousands to Kitestlye and of course the famous Jaeger where a dress cost a month’s wages. There were many and sadly they are nearly all gone today.

Eventually, like so many British companies, Premiere Baby was priced out of the market by cheap imports and only a small part of the parent company survived.

After I left the family firm, I started Sussex Sewing Machines, which today looks after countless customers around the South East. My engineering diplomas and specialist training all those years earlier had stood me in good stead and my father’s words had proved right. I did not stumble across any Russian relatives riding bareback through the streets but I did have a living in my fingertips.

I am better known to thousands of households as the man who turns up to fix their sewing machines when they grind to a halt. An Alex Askaroff gold label on the machine is the clue. Few knew that for more than 20 years I had been collecting, writing down and publishing the fascinating history of our area mingled with our local folklore.

After my first few books, American publishers asked if they could publish my next works. I was gobsmacked. I said yes so fast I almost choked. I tried to appear calm and restrained but my brain was just shouting yes, yes, yes! They launched my books in 40 countries worldwide and they became some of the first ever E-books.

My last offering, Tales From The Coast, like my previous books, is a series of short true stories in which I try to bring both England’s history and her people vividly to life. It is full of more tales picked up from my customers, like the ghost of Vivien Leigh at Blackboys or Driscoll’s the Eastbourne dressmakers who worked for the Palace and spilt the beans on Queen Elizabeth’s pregnancy! Cockney royalty, war veterans, hop-pickers who picked while the Battle of Britain exploded above them, everyone from Salvador Dali to Picasso and William Duke of Normandy. In the meantime I shall carry on following my path and won’t be too surprised if I come across the odd Cossack or two.

Alex’s books are available from