During the 5 Wednesday evenings in August I will be running my ‘Machine Sewing for Beginners’ Course.
I have run this course many times in the past, and it has always proven popular. The course is designed for folks who want to learn how to use a sewing machine, or refresh their machine sewing skills from long ago!
Here’s a run down of the topics we cover:
threading the machine
filling a bobbin
understanding the various buttons, dials & stitches
practising the different stitches
understanding tension & troubleshooting
how to change needles and feet
understanding uses of different feet
sewing control skills
understanding fabric (warp, weft, bias)
measuring & cutting fabric
seams (1/4”; 3/8”; 5/8”, overlocking; french)
Project: Single skein cushion cover with a zippered back
Cost: £45 (includes a non-refundable deposit of £20)
Course in Conway Mill (2nd Floor), Conway Street, Belfast, 6.30pm-8.30pm
Disabled Parking and Access available
Places are limited so book early
Limited number of machines available to hire (pre-booking required)
Full list of materials/requirements emailed in July
So if you fancy learning a new skill, or brushing up on an old one, just drop me an email to email@example.com. Classes are fun and relaxed!
How is your week going? We are (still) basking in the most gorgeous sunny weather here, leaving us with stunning, glorious sunsets!
This week in my classes I am presenting my summer Saturday Workshops. The 4 Saturdays in August will all be workshops, and I will be posting about them here, starting with ……
If you’ve been sewing for any length of time, you may have a huge healthy stock of scraps, leftovers from previous quilting projects. These pieces might just be too sizeable, pretty or meaningful to throw away, leftover binding or jelly roll strips, or perhaps frugality gets the better of you!
Either way, there are many, many ways to put those ever growing scraps to good use!
Here are just a few examples of what you can make on Scrap Buster Saturday.
Stacked Coins Cushion: (pattern available at workshop)
If you have a plentiful supply of scraps, you may be able to group them into colourways like I’ve done here.
Let your scraps dictate how wide your stacks can be! The only preparation here is some pressing and making sure the sides are straight.
Equally you can go completely random, and sew a variety of scraps together in the same ‘stacked coins’ way!
French Braid Handbag: (pattern available at workshop)
This is another example of grouping scraps into colourways. The French Braid piecing technique is super easy, and you don’t even need the pieces to be of equal width.
I’ve quilted the bag exterior onto bosal (flex foam) which gives it lovely texture and structure without losing softness.
(Hinged Faux Leather Handles available from Fabric Yard)
Strip Pieced Quilt: (pattern available at workshop)
My technique for making strip pieced blocks doesn’t involve a foundation layer.
I added a little ‘organisation’ to lots of random strips by making the central strip in each block white. The white strips are of uniform width, but that’s were the uniformity ends! All other strips are random widths and lengths. I even used ‘ugly’ fabrics I still had, but I totally love the finished quilt! That’s the magic of using scraps.
Autumn Rail Fence Quilt(pattern available at workshop)
The simple sewing together of strips means you can easily make up this quilt top in a day.
Once again, I dove into my scrap drawers for specific colours – golds, oranges, pinks and teals, all of different widths and lengths. Some donated yardage of a brown stripe gives flow and order to the scraps.
But equally, this quilt would look fabulous made in random coloured scraps with a uniform ‘fence’ fabric.
‘Birch’ Quilt (in progress):
I took inspiration from this quilt and decided to make a grey and low volume version (given that I have an overflowing drawer of LV scraps!).
I plan on using up my stash of Kona Greys to make this into a bigger ‘man’ quilt. Somehow, I think it will take me a lot longer to use up my LV scraps!
So there you have it! A little inspiration on how to use your scraps, and a date for your diary on how to have a day of fun turning them into something wonderful!
Mental Health Awareness Week is 14th – 20th May here in the UK (photos explained at the end of the post!).
Did you know that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health issue and 5% of the world’s population currently suffer from depression? That’s 350 million people!
I’m sure, like me, you have either experienced some form of mental illness in your life, or know someone you care about who has.
During a particularly low point in my life, I started seeing a counsellor, who recognised that after seeing to my husband, my children, my home etc. I did nothing for myself. She introduced me to the notion of ‘play’ and asked me to name one thing that I used to enjoy doing when I was younger. I said sewing!
She encouraged me to reclaim this activity that gave me so much fulfillment and joy, and so I enrolled in my local college to study in City & Guilds Textile & Design.
I can honestly say that getting back into a creative environment and learning how to ‘play’ again, was instrumental in my recovery from depression.
That was 12 years ago, and little did I know then, that I would be teaching others how to release their creativity and learn how to ‘play’ and enjoy life again.
My first experience of teaching patchwork and quilting was to a group of women with various mental health needs (depression, self-harm, addiction, domestic violence, grief, bi-polar disorder, cancer survivors, eating disorders to name but a few). For 2 years I saw first-hand the therapeutic benefits they experienced after only a few short weeks of sewing. One lady in particular, old before her time, stooped with low self worth and heavily reliant on a walking stick, made her first patchwork cushion and within 6 weeks was coming to class without her stick and walking tall!! Like many others, learning a new skill within a caring community, and having something to show and be proud of, elevated her self-esteem and ignited hope and positivity in many areas of her life.
Seeing the wonderful benefits sewing was having on these ladies’ lives ignited a passion in me to encourage others to let go of negativity, worry, anxiety & perfectionism, even if only for a few hours a week, and discover the healing and therapeutic powers of sewing.
It’s encouraging now to see emerging evidence from neuroscientists and doctors that support what we sewists already know – that sewing (& crafting) is good for our brains and mental health!
The authors of the ‘Sew Your Blues Away’ blog have written an informative article about this here. They say:
“In short, mentally engaging movement (sewing) helps to break the cycle of negative thoughts, as well as allowing the brain to recover and improve by generating newer, healthier brain cells. Specialists state that an engaging hobby is often more effective than just taking an antidepressant, which typically targets only one neurotransmitter. While sewing not only heals, it also improves the brain’s resistance to future bouts of depression by reminding our brains that we have an impact on the world around us.”
So not only is sewing mentally good for us, it is helping our brains physically too! How cool is that!
This article from 2014 explains not only why crafting like knitting and sewing are good for our brains, but why crafting with others is so important too. Check it out!
And I’m sure the ladies who come to my classes will testify to many of these benefits (& more!) too! We certainly have a lot of fun together!
Now my work as a sewing tutor is my passion, my calling and it has gotten me through some of the toughest periods of my life. I’m so privileged to get to ‘play’ everyday as my day job. But of course, turning a hobby into a business means I needed to find a new hobby!
At the moment I’m learning about photography, and I enjoy getting out into nature and noticing details that I would otherwise miss had I not brought my camera along. In the busyness of this modern world I’m trying to literally ‘stop and smell the roses’! (I hope you have enjoyed the pics I’ve shared here.)
So as we focus on Mental Health this week and bring this once taboo subject into the open, let me encourage you to find something that returns to you the same enjoyment, fulfillment and escapism that playtime once did. Let yourself be absorbed by creativity and fun, and released from the stresses and demands of life!
I promised to post this week about the projects on my ‘Spring into Summer’ Table.
Never one to break a promise, I’m starting with my Denim Applique Sailboat Cushion.
I originally designed this cushion for a summer edition of Pretty Patches Magazine.
I loved re-purposing some denim and scraps for this nautical cushion. My recent discovery of Aurifil 12wt wool thread also made a significant contribution! You can read more about my designing process here.
The great news is that I’ll be teaching a workshop on this cushion on Saturday 19th May at my classroom in Conway Mill.
And not only that, kits will be available with everything you need to make the cushion, including lush Essex Yarn Dyed Linen, denim pieces, stripey binding and a bright red button for the back!
How cool is that!
So if you would like to spend a fun Saturday with other like minded creatives learning new skills like appli-quilting and free motion sketching, then just drop me an email to register: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hello everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying some glorious sunshine in your part of the world!
We have had several beautiful days here. Doesn’t a sunny day just lift one’s spirits!!
Time got away from me a bit this week, but don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten to bring you the posts on my Spring into Summer projects. I will get those posted this week.
In the meantime, I have a few pics to share with you from our Applique workshop yesterday!
8 courageous ladies decided to put their ‘big girl’ pants on and tackle satin stitch applique head on! And not just satin stitch applique, but ‘appli-quilting’ – combining the techniques of applique and quilting into one step.
If you are a regular subscriber to Quilt Now magazine, you may recognise someone in the ‘Designer Spotlight’ this month.
It was a privilege to be asked by Quilt Now to feature my new classroom and classes in the latest copy of their magazine (issue 48).
I have very much enjoyed working with Katy and designing for Quilt Now in recent years, but now I’m giving almost all of my design attention to my classes.
I’m nearly 4 months into running Patchwork & Quilting classes here at Conway Mill, and I’m delighted with the response and feedback so far.
My ladies are loving the wonderful light and space in the room, and I try to keep them inspired with themed quilts and project displays.
One of the things I love about working here is being surrounded by the wonderful story of what it used to be, a 19th Century Flax Mill.
Some of the original features of the Mill have survived, even through the Belfast blitz of 1941 and being set on fire during our political troubles here in the 1970’s.
How serendipitous to be bringing the art and love of textiles back into this beautiful Victorian Mill!
If you would like to know more about my classes, click here, or pop in to see us on the 2nd floor, grab a coffee (or lunch) in the Little Mill Bistro, or come see the many other businesses, trades, creatives and artists who work here!
I have two more quilt examples of drunkard’s path variations, the patterns for which I hope to be able to make available soon.
Wow! That was a long post! Thank you for sticking with all my ‘curves’!
If you would like to learn how to make drunkard’s path units (& all of these projects) & have a lot of fun along the way, then why not join in with our other crazy creatives and register for our class starting w/c 9th April. More details on classes available here.
For the past 6 weeks some very talented ladies in my classes have been beavering away on my Denim Hexie Bag Pattern.
This pattern combines techniques such as English Paper Piecing (EPP Hexies), eyelet holes, zippered pocket, handbag construction as well as some serious denim upcycling!
At times it looked like a missile had gone off in a jeans factory in my classroom, as scissors and blades feverishly amputated legs, pockets and loops! While denim is one of my favourite textiles to work with, it doesn’t half shed!
But oh boy, the results of this serious crafting were so worth it!
Not all the bags being made are represented here, a few are still being finished off.
But aren’t they brilliant! Sturdy, stylish practical bags that I know will get lots of use!
And I also know that the bags still being finished are equally as fabulous!
I haven’t been able to capture all the individual details in the bags here, but trust me when I tell you that each bag has it’s own unique characteristics.
Details like repurposed loops, tabs and pockets from the jeans, as well as complimentary fabrics like cotton and tweed, buttons, badges and even embroidery and printing.
A huge ‘well done’ to all my wonderful ‘Bag Ladies’!
I also have 3 part-kits available in my shop, which include the pattern, pre-cut hexie papers, various coloured denim squares (for the hexie panels) , 1 metre of heavy weight sew-in vilene and 4 eyelet rings.
Have you ever wanted to master satin stitch applique, but are too afraid to try on your own?
Why not surround yourself with like minded creatives and spend a Saturday learning this technique with all the help and support you need!
At the workshop you will not only learn how to set up your machine for satin stitch applique, you can also make one of two projects:
Family Tree Wallhanging:
This pretty wallhanging can be made with your favourite treasured scraps, seasonal fabrics, or how about embroidering the names of family members onto the leaves!
This type of applique is called ‘appli-quilting’. The leaves will be appliqued onto an already quilted background. The process of stitching the leaves down combines both techniques of applique and quilting (appli-quilting).
Applique Leaf Cushion:
The same leaf motif can have many applications. How about a pretty cushion in fabrics that co-ordinate with your home!
Once again, we are using the appli-quilting technique here, applique and quilting all in one go! Simples!
And how about making a pretty feature of your zipper closure!
So the choice is yours! Join us for lots of coffee, chat and craic in a fun and safe learning environment at Conway Mill.
Just drop me an email to book a place: email@example.com
This wallhanging covers quilting and applique techniques. You can make it seasonal e.g. an Autumn tree, a Spring tree or perhaps a ‘Christmas Tree’! Or turn it into your Family Tree and embroidery names on the leaves!
Denim Sailboat Cushion:
If you like a spot of up-cycling, then why not turn some of your unwanted denim into this nautical themed cushion!
Have fun with ‘appli-quilting’, feature quilting and a little free motion sketching!
Kits will be available to purchase at the workshop.
Large Toiletry Bag:
This is a sizeable pouch, with room for all your bottles and toiletries!
There’s even a handy toothbrush and toothpaste bag, with wipeable rip-stop lining.
And don’t worry about that zipper! It’s easy peasy to put in!
So those are the fun workshops up for grabs! Places are limited, and a few of the workshops are already half booked, so please don’t leave it too long to sign up! Again, just drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m so looking forward to getting started with my new classes in January. There aren’t many places left, so if you would like to join us for some creative craic, then please drop me an email to email@example.com.
Thank you for your patience in waiting until today for my BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!
Well I can finally reveal that I will be starting up again my own programme of patchwork and quilting classes! Woohoo!
For the past 3 years I have been teaching in Quilter’s Quest, Belfast. But their announcement at the end of October to close gave me the push opportunity I needed to look elsewhere for premises.
Before I joined Quilter’s Quest, I had taught my own programme of classes for 5 years. A sudden change in personal circumstances meant I had to stop, but it was always my dream to one day return to inspiring and motivating others into Quilting through my own programme.
And now that dream is coming true!
Conway Mill is a beautifully converted Linen and Flax Mill (you can read more about their history and ethos here). It is jammed packed with lots of other creative enterprises, from artists, to architects, hairdressers, dressmakers, media tech, charities and much more! It also has the most gorgeous coffee shop & bistro too (that’s lunchtimes sorted then!). I’m on the 2nd floor, but don’t worry there are lifts and lots of convenient parking.
I acquired the last available unit, all 525 square feet of it! No pictures just yet as it needs painted and fitted out. But don’t worry, I’ll give you the obligatory before and after shots!
I will finish out the current term at Quilter’s Quest in December, and start my new programme w/c 8th January (get more details here).
But before that, I will be having an open day on Saturday 9th December, 10am -4pm. This is your opportunity to come and see the newly fitted out premises, get more info on the classes, have a cuppa, chat and a traybake (or two!) and smooch around the room and the Mill.
I hope you can come and share this exciting new adventure with me!
As I enjoy the wide open windows and the washing on the line, I’m also progressing well with packing up ready for moving house at the end of this month. A small challenge when there’s 15 years worth of ‘stuff’ to thin out ready for our down-size!
I have also packed up my sewing room, but not before I got a class sample finished for classes in the new term.
I’m a great admirer of Anna’s fabulous bag designs and patterns, and her Maker’s Tote is a particular favourite of mine. I’ve had it bookmarked for a while, but am only now getting around to making it!
I thought this would be a good bag pattern to teach in class because of the variety of bag construction elements and skills involved.
But of course I couldn’t just stick to the pattern, could I!
I love using denim for bags, it makes them more durable and useable in my view. And besides, I already had 2 ‘uneven brick’ panels sewn together for another project long forgotten! They were the perfect size, so I got to *quilting them, first in the ditches, and then some feature quilting using Aurifil 12wt wool thread.
*the original pattern uses a foam interfacing like Bosal to give structure and reinforcement to the bag. I wasn’t able to get any in time, so substituted with a layer of wadding and heavy weight sew-in vilene spray basted together.
The front and back of my bag are slightly different. I didn’t think the prescribed front pocket would work on my version of this bag, but I did include the zippered back pocket.
One of the joys of working with recycled denim is thinking of ways to use the loops, tabs and unusual features attached to a pair of jeans.
I decided my Maker’s Tote could be used as my everyday bag, not just a class sample, so I incorporated another one of my favourite textiles, vintage chintz linen.
A few vintage style Lecien prints coordinated beautifully for the internal pockets and facings.
The handles are made from a re-purposed denim belt, reinforced with webbing and lined with more of the chintz linen.
The belt was a little on the wide side, so by cinching in the edges along the top section, they are now the perfect fit for my hands and have lovely structure too!
The bag is finished off with self-made bias binding, another great skill to have under your belt. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that the first lot of bias binding I made is different to the one on the finished bag!
I decided I didn’t like choice no.1 (after I had attached it!). In my opinion the chintz linen binding works much better, even though it was a little trickier to attach.
So there we have my version of Noodlehead’s Maker’s Tote! A fabulously roomy bag, gorgeous shape, and versatile elements.
And I’ll leave you with an ‘out take’ of the ‘helper’ on my photo-shoot!
Today saw the end of another year of teaching my Patchwork and Quilting classes!
I teach 4 (sometimes 5) classes a week and the topics of conversation that take place are varied and entertaining!
To give you an idea, here are a few of my favourites:
English football (the less said the better!)
The Great British Sewing Bee (and the ‘unique’ dress code of one of the judges!)
How hot and wrinkled Egyptian cotton sheets can get (don’t ask!)
How to treat achne!
How to get rid of garden snails!
How to disable your hockey opponent!
Birthing calves and lambs (& babies!)
50 ways to deal with an unhelpful doctor (un-printable!)
Of course there are many serious and thought-provoking conversations too!
Today one lady said ‘getting old isn’t for wimps’, which was swiftly followed by murmurs of agreement from around the room.
I’ve just had another birthday, and while ‘half way to 90’ isn’t old, neither am I young.
My daughter and nephew also celebrating birthdays this month!
In truth this statement could apply to life – ‘doing life isn’t for wimps’. Among the 48 ladies I have the privilege of teaching each week, some are battling cancer or illness, divorce and loss, children with special needs, caring for elderly parents, teenagers, anxiety, worry and fear and many more life challenges.
One of our recent chats in class was about how to get through life with a positive attitude, seeing good and bad times as an opportunity to grow and learn, and how to have courage to live life with intention and purpose. How inspiring!
Doing life, and doing it well, isn’t for whimps! But each week my ladies turn up to class with a smile; they laugh, chatter, encourage, cajole, drink tea, eat biscuits and even sew a little!
They are choosing to do life, and do it well. There are certainly no wimps in my classes!!
Thank you ladies for sharing your thoughts, talents, hearts and authenticity each week.