The Stitch Festival Diary

The Stitch Festival Diary

My Stitch Festival Diary

Thursday day 1:
It’s snowing, I’ve dropped my son at school and left a long list of things for my husband to remember. I’m just teaching 2 workshops today, but with a dog and child, that still leaves a lot of jobs to be filled. Today I’m teaching how to make a pillow case without an over locker and then how to make a welt pocket. With the pillow cases we will be French seaming and the welt pockets are the pockets you see on tailored jackets. We are doing the double version. I took all my kits and tools to Islington yesterday, as there is no parking, so will need to tube it every other day.

I need to have enough scissors, pins, rulers, fabric markers, needles and thread. I have help sheets for every class and kits that include pre cut materials ready to sew. There is only 15 minutes in-between each class, so I try and make sure I have everything ready to set up in the hope to save on any last minute stress.

I arrived an hour early, so had a quick look around. I spotted some lovely Liberty and jersey fabrics. I need some lining for a coat I am making, so will definitely be popping back to fabrics galore and sew box. I found some vinyl transfer paper at Happy fabric. I picked up a little kit, I will add the cuts to a sweatshirt soon. I spotted some of my favourites;

Tilly and the buttons


sew me something,

Guthrie and Ghani

Fabric Godmother   

My first workshop starts at 11.45am, with 15 minutes to set up. The tutor before me ran over time, so it ended up to be a mad dash. All the threads also needed changing from black to white, so thankfully I had a sewing angel (helper) to assist with the rethreading. I started a few minutes late, so felt a little flustered to start and it took me a little while to get my head in the zone.
The first thing I had to show was a French seam with binding. This was not easy initially, as my head was all over the place from setting up in such a rush. I managed to get my head together and my group were very patient. We all made French seamed pillow cases. It was very tight finishing within the hour, especially with the late start. Next time I think I will make the smaller children’s cot size cases.
I had to dash to another room at the end. My next session was in the very fancy dressmaking studio. Here I will be teaching how to sew a Welt pocket. I had 16 students and quickly grabbed my bag of kits, pulled my trolly of equipment round and again the previous class was still going. I quickly placed tools and kits on each sewing station and the students started to come in. I always start my sessions with a quick introduction and demonstration. The first job being applying your interlining and marking the pocket opening. Everyone managed to finish in the time and all seemed really pleased with the session, lots of positive language at the end, which was really encouraging for the week ahead. I always want everyone to not only learn something, to leave with something to show for the hour and most importantly to have enjoyed them selves. Sewing with lots of people can be stressful for some. The pressure of keeping up and getting it right. I try and put people at ease at the start. I give help sheets for back up, demonstrations and try to make online vlogs to support all my workshops.

I’m on the tube now, as I have to collect my son and take him to his weekly swimming lesson.

Friday day 2:
I am teaching dual zips and fabric manipulation. I’m writing this on the way in to day 2. I’ve just slipped in the street, palms all scratched and jeans soaked. Sometimes I wonder why these things happen. So annoying. Anyway, I have left very early. I really like being early, it helps with anxiety and nerves. As with my fall, you literally never know what will happen, so rather be nice and early and have extra time to be prepared. Although you do only get 15 minutes to set up. In this time you need to get check all machines, sometimes change the thread, put your kits and tools on every work station. I also get my demonstration area prepared and my head in the zone. Sometimes I can be teaching 3-5 different disciplines in one day.

Just moved seats on the train, man next to me was taking over part of my seat and then started nibbling on a carrot like a rabbit.

My two sessions today are thankfully in the same room. This is great, as you don’t need to pack up and unpack in another room. You can also run slightly over, as all your tools are there, so less to do. Sewing can be a really nice way to meet like minded people, while you are sharing an interest you can quickly get to know someone. I have heard people swap email addresses at the end of workshops, so sometimes they just like a chat and are happy to stay and are completely oblivious to what’s going on around them. I enjoy seeing mothers and daughters sewing together. Something I would love to do if my mum was still alive.
Both workshops went really well. We had an hour an a half for my zips workshop. We started doing a lapped zip and then some tips with an invisible zip.
I used to be really scared of zips and avoided sewing them, so I made myself master them. I did this by making endless samples, until I became good at them. We are so lucky to have youtube. I learn best visually and physically. Repeating and seeing. I can sometimes switch between books, youtube and written descriptions on the internet. I always try and create my own videos, written instructions and product examples. I teach how I would like to be taught.
My next workshop was fabric manipulation. Everyone enjoys this one, we make several samples in the hour; pin tucking, a ruffle by gathering and pin hemming, then over lapping triangles and finally if there’s time pleating with a twist. There is less pressure with this one, as you don’t have to finish a final product. You still take lots of samples home. People do like to have a product at the end of a session, so I make sure I use lovely fabrics. We managed to complete all 4 techniques in the hour. I think the triangles was the most fun. Depending on your patience levels.

From here I went straight home and took my son to his basketball club.

Saturday day 3:
Today I am teaching triangle zipped pouches and draw string bags. The bags are a new workshop, I am apprehensive that I won’t get the bag made in the hour. There is a stencil addition and this I think will take too long. So I am ¡º to leave it as an end activity. Something they can complete and add at home. I think it’s better to finish the bag. I am using a waterproof lining too, as they are bags suitable to be a wash bag.

I was right. We all finished the bags, some minus the draw string, but not enough time to add the vinyl letter. I did explain how to do it at the end and everyone seemed very happy with their bags.
One lady mentioned that it was so nice to have an hour uninterrupted. She finds sewing at home really hard with a family. Someone always needs her and interrupts her sewing time. I know what that’s like, when I first started sewing at home, my son was a baby, so I would sew whilst he napped and in the evenings. Now I’m freelance I sew when Freddie is at school. My Thursday and Fridays are my sewing days. This is a luxury, but I still have to stop to walk the dog and the school run. So there is never enough time in the day to sew for me either.

The zipped purse bags workshop was a huge success, everyone finished and again seemed really happy with their achievements. I have come to realise people like the idea of my YouTube videos, so I need to make one for all my workshops. I have one for the purse, but as the drawstring bag is new, I do need to make one for that too. Then if anyone struggles to keep up, they can watch this when they return home. I will strive to make the bag one next week.
I met a friend in the morning and walked around the show with her. I like doing this as they see things that you would sometimes miss. We both bought a couple of wooden printing blocks, me a bee and Day of the Dead face and Maria a bunny and bee. I got some gold fabric paint and a mat to print on. I find without the mat, it can be hit and miss, the mat makes all the difference.
I also spotted some lovely lining fabric. I have been looking for some for a while, as my next project is a black jacket. I also saw on the fabric Galore stall some great Day of the dead fabric. This will be perfect for my next primary school project.

Today I was in room 8, a small room, but bigger than yesterday’s. I was in there for my 2 sessions so relieved I didn’t have to pack everything up in between again. Both workshops were full, 17 in each. So many lovely ladies, a total pleasure to teach.

Sunday day 4:
It’s Sunday morning and I’m travelling in to The Stitch Festival for the last time this week. I am making Macrame pot hanging holders today. It is sunny with a cold wind, relieved there is no rain. I want to get in early so I can make a sample hanger and also go back to the stall for my leopard lining. I am making a bomber jacket and a coat, so need lots of lining.
I am also thinking about another idea. I am currently holding a large Tesco bag for life (not really very fashion) and am thinking I would like to make it out of a thick grey or red felt. Felt doesn’t fray, so could have the raw edges on the outside, so it would be ‘sew simple’ to make! I could even add some vinyl shapes to it to decorate it.

I have also been thinking about clothes today. I have had to choose carefully what I wear each day, compared to my morning school run, grab and dash method. I am in a place now where I love wearing pattern and colour. I wear jeans most days, as I have the school run and need to be comfortable. I spent so many years wearing suits, either trousers or skirts, with heels. I loved dressing in this way, but now don’t feel it is me and not suited to my lifestyle. I see so many stall holders and crafter looking so individual, some more crazy than others, but mostly they have their LOOK and style. It makes me question my style, what is my look? I like to be me and not a slave to fashion. So what is my look? I used to say “it’s taken years to master this look”. That was when I wore heels and suits. When I was a teacher and middle leader, I found students bought into your look. It needed to be consistent and secure. I was known for my heels and for being smart. I suppose now I want to be more creative and try to wear my own clothes when ever possible.
All done!
My last workshop was macrame and the first time I’ve done it as a pot hanger product and it worked.
I am discovering that people do find this one stressful. It is hard to demonstrate, as not all can see me. I did try and support as best I could, I repeated each stage and helped individuals when ever I could see them struggling. Teaching one-off workshops compared to teaching in a school has its own challenges. Pleasing everyone and building relationships in such a short time is sometimes hard. I try my best to put people at ease as early as possible and keep smiling. When in a school you build a relationship, students buy into you and I find you are similar to a reliable product. You have to be positive and calm for the whole hour. The minute you sound negative or appear to lack confidence the trust is gone. I used to say, Jazz hands!
Well everyone seemed happy today, all finished a little early. Better to finish early and finish your product than to not have enough time. This was good for me to see, as at the Country living fair I am doing this again and in only 45 minutes, 15 minutes less than today.
I managed to get my leopard polyester lining for my coat, so will start making that next week.

Festival Conclusion
All in all I really enjoyed the experience. This year I packed each workshop into one bag and each day I took the remainder of the materials from that day home. This worked really well, and now everything is home and I don’t have to travel back in. Also each day I just needed to grab the relevant bag and I was all set to go. Preparation makes all the difference at these shows.
My favourite workshops was? Mmmm, difficult question, I think it was the welt pocket and fabric manipulation. Welt because I was in the dressmakers studio (the best biggest room) and everyone I taught was so nice and the technique worked really well in the hour. Fabric manipulation, I have been doing for a few years now. Each time I have adapted, adding new things and changing it up a bit. We get so much done in the hour and it so creative and has less pressure to finish attached.

Thursday was the quietest day, so I recommend you visit on this day. Obviously most work in the week, so not possible, so come as early as you can. Saturday is the busiest day, 1pm you can’t move in the aisles. I heard a few people say that there wasn’t enough room in each isle, so think that may improve next year. Some of my friends had a stall upstairs and they didn’t like as much. The traffic of people not being as good for sales as downstairs. The sewing studio space were very tight, so hopefully the organisers realise this and make them slightly bigger next year. I do like the Islington venue for the winter show. Although I don’t think the textiles work was show cased as well. That looks so much better at Alexandra Palace.
I’m off home now, to make my weekly Sunday roast when I get home and most of Monday will be spent unpacking all my left over resources and uploading this bog. Then I need to start preparing for the Country living fair. Here I will be doing macrame and sashiko. click the link to book on my workshops.