Monday, 25 August 2014

Introducing Miss Stitch's Sewing Academy


I'm so pleased to announce our newest schedule of classes for the smaller sewing people.  Miss Stitch's Sewing Academy is a sewing club for Key Stage 2 children (school years 3 to 6). We will run classes every month on a Saturday morning at The PlainStitch Workroom.



Miss Stitch is our very lovely and talented Victoria Main who is both a mum and a sewing teacher and has lots of experience teaching children to sew.  She will be working with the children to make beautiful, useful items each week. Visit Victoria's blog to see more of her very lovely tasteful work - no neon acrylic felt craft to be seen!


We pride ourselves on being a proper Sewing School. They'll be using needle and thread, scissors and marking pens,sewing machines and stitch unpickers. They'll learn how to make a pattern, follow a pattern, cut out pattern pieces, pin accurately, sew running stitches, back stitches, decorative stitches. We will use glue guns and sewing machines. We'll sew on buttons, add trims, embroider and fill. We'll make all sorts from hair bands and bobbles to mothers day presents. We'll make useful thing, seasonally themed. The kids learn to be confident with colour, to be imaginative, to trust that they can make real their imaginations in fabric, felt and buttons. 



At Miss Stitch's Sewing Academy no idea is a bad idea. We love creativity. Our kids will work hard on their sewing to make beautiful things they're proud of. Sometimes our sewing might go a bit wrong -but we'll also learn how to put it right. By their graduation next summer we would expect the children to be able and confident to make their own simple patterns and execute them independently. However as well as developing their technical skills we hope to inspire their sewing imaginations. When they start to feel that they could MAKE anything they want, the doors of imagination blow open and we can't wait to see what they start making next!


We keep our classes small so that we can give lots of help and instruction. Therefore there will be a limited number of club memberships available each year. When you join the club you will receive your own Miss Stitch Academy sewing kit.



 All other supplies are included in the class fee. Classes will be on one Saturday morning a month 10.30am - 12.30pm at The PlainStitch Workroom. You can book whichever classes you prefer, and that work with your family schedule throughout the year.


To join The Miss Stitch Academy or for more details please e mail deb@plainstitch.co.uk to receive our Information Sheet with the full list of classes and Booking Form.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

My Guilty Sewing Pleasure


Given that it's mid August and everyone seems to be on holiday, the Workroom was unexpectedly packed this weekend. It seems the PlainStitch ladies have not downed tools for the summer but instead are upping their output with the long hours of summer and perhaps a slight slowing of lifes pace in the summer months.

Isobel bought in her fabulous Simple Sampler. It's just such a joy. We were talking through basting ( it's her first quilt - did anyone else first quilt look this amazing?! Mine certainly didn't!). I was trying to explain why I baste by hand. It got me thinking about why we patchworkers often take a perverse pleasure in taking the slower, more challenging path? We could knock up a strip quilt every week for each new fabric collection if we wanted to. But instead a much more enjoyable path is the slightly off centre one. The little tweak to a quilt that might add hours of work, but that MUST be achieved to make it look it's best. We were talking about what people put on the backs of their quilts. I was recounting some of the epic backs we've seen at PlainStitch recently - the Mega-Swoon, the Modern Applique Pieced square back, all HAD to look like that and hang the work!

I've been working on the class samples for my Bee in My Bonnet class this autumn. I just ADORE this quilt. It's been almost as much fun to make the blocks again as it was the first time - i say almost because the fun has had to be severely limited by my very strict instructions to self to make only 1 or 2 blocks of each row instead of a whole other version of the quilt! I have to stop making multiple versions of the same quilt - it's getting beyond a joke!


This quilt is so so many little pieces of fabric. It would be mind blowing if you stopped and thought too much about it. But against a backdrop of massive complexity so many of the blocks come together with such clever twisty simplicity as to take your breath a little bit away when you cut and sew and twist and cut again then realise that you've made the block you were planning without even noticing - it's a joy - honestly - if you like machine sewing do this class - you'll love it I promise!




Although having said all of that about taking the long but more satisfying route - this week at The Workroom we had a very exciting delivery. In that very enticing looking picnic hamper, wrapped in a an old fashioned sweetie paper bag is my new guilty pleasure. We have commissioned a new local product - pre cut freezer paper EPP templates from Weston Turville no less!


If you're an EPP-er I know you're literally squealing a high pitched yowl of delight as you read this. Imagine the joy! Pre cut freezer paper! Just a smidge of glue and you are ready to sew! It's been a personal bug bear(sp?) of mine for years that you can't seem to buy pre cut freezer paper EPP templates. I tried the pre cut cardstock ones, but I'm just not a baster of EPP. I really just can't stand the double sewing element. I'm wedded to my glue pen. So when a friend of a friend at a school gate said they had the means to die cut great swathes of freezer paper into any shape our hearts can desire I knew exactly what I wanted!

So - now available in packs of 100 we can offer you hex's in 4 different sizes from the chunky to the teeny tiny ( anyone going to patchwork vintage purse along with me a la Jackys?). We also have the much loved ( but terrible to cut out by hand and scissors) clamshell which would make a fabulous cushion front for anyone taking that class this autumn? Plus a versatile diamond which would EPP up into an amazing Lone Star Quilt which might just be next summers Boy Quilt EPP project for me?!

Speaking of next summer....Now the weather has taken a little bit of a chilly turn my this summer long obsession is looking a little less bonkers and my lovely scarves are getting some warm wear in, rather than causing me to doggedly pass out stubbornly wearing one in the heat. I have donated one ( the September Blue one) to The Workroom for a week or two as there was a major risk that me and Miss Stitch the Elder would be walking out dressed in the same fabric - which is a little too Vonn Trapp for my liking! If you'd like a nice warm neck this autumn the class is online now due to popular demand! I didn't realise my scarves would generate such interest and from so many sources. Fancy that.




 Anyway, with a slight tang in the air and a whiff of seasonal change starting to creep in on early morning dog walks I'll end by mentioning that we do have a very spooky box of Halloween fabric deliciousness lurking under the counter if anyone has an All Hallows kind of a craft urge starting to brew...spooky pillowcases anyone...?!




Sunday, 10 August 2014

Quilted Tea Cosies - an Ode to a nice Cuppa

Brr the weather has turned a bit strange this weekend. We've had a very un-English unbroken run of glorious weather this summer and it's been fabulous. Today its been black overhead, wind whipping about, dark in the furthest corners of the house. The kids have declared it 'winter' which is such a fun game in the middle of summer, but makes me shiver just thinking how the summer has to end.

The unseasonal weather does have one, no two, major upsides. Firstly it makes you realise just how crucial to the British psychic a warming cup of tea is. It's definitely a 'nice cup of tea' kind of an afternoon- there's just no better antidote. Of course the second upside is that its perfect sewing weather when you can't be outside doing anything else. By the way, I stress this point as in my eyes its one of the most fabulous, but unforeseen upsides, of taking up sewing as a hobby. Where as bad weather, heavy rain, freezing temperatures used to be a major downer - when you sew you have a miracle 'look on the bright side' gene that kicks in that sees every housebound day as a huge treat! It's very good for your general sense of well being! Believe me.

Anyway, tea. So of course I have lots of other sewing awaiting me - but on my list of things to do was to make some new samples for my Quilted and Patchwork Tea Cosies Class this autumn (the class is at the end of Sept - see details here). Today was the day!

I can honestly say that I could just make tea cosies quite happily for the rest of my life - such is the joy of this little project. It has all my favourite things.

 i)Patchworkyness - the need to choose fabrics in little piles that go beautifully together. You really can indulge that fabric sorting urge for this project - it's no-fear choosing!

ii) Mini scale. I like sewing, and cutting and all elements of making a quilt - but some days I like it so much more in miniature! It's just a joy to cut out a handful of strips instead of a huge pile needed for a quilt.

iii) Take-away sewing. What I mean is that lovely guilt free - take the easy route - kind of sewing that you can do with this project. It's all quick, simple and labour saving!

iv) It's a super practical project.Now I like a lavender bag or a framed wall hanging or suchlike as much as the next person -but there's a limit to how many your life and home can take. But a tea cosy is a proper practical make. If you don't need one, you definitely know someone who does!

v) You definitely need to make them in threes ( or fives??). Some projects ( lets be honest all projects for me!) just aren't enough to make one of. This is one of those projects that you really need to see your dream tea cosy in several manifestations! Is it wrong to be thinking ....humm that one will be for when I have a tea pot  in the kitchen...but that one is for when I have a tea pot in the sitting room? he he.


Anyway......... I can definitely recommend this little one day class, it's all about the feel-good. Now pop out and pop the kettle on and get yourself a nice cuppa (or a brew, for all my fellow north of Watford gap-ers) as I've a few more bits and bobs I need to tell you about! The summer holidays does mean that I struggle to string uninterrupted sentences together on my blog so if you follow us on Twitter or Facebook you might already know some of this ( as you don't really need to 'say' anything there!) but for those of you still in blog world or been off on your hols a little photo montage of all that been going
over the last week or so!

We've had lots and lots of fab new fabric ahead of the autumn so there's lots of fresh new choices for new projects. We've just received Birch Farm by Joel Dewberry which would make a fabulous autumn/winter quilt if you wanted to make something seasonal but not Christmassy. I just love that teal and citrus colour combo, pair it with soft greys and crisp whites. plus the mixture of funky geometrics with the beautiful hydrangea print....hummm..It's on my list!

Coming soon we have the much anticipated Brambleberry Ridge which is one of our favourites coming in this autumn. Its all soft muted dusky sorbets with flashes of funky gold. It's going to be a favourite if you want your Christmas table to be light and sparkly rather than traditional red and green.

We're also expecting new ranges from Denyse Schmidt, Lori Holt, Emily Herrick, lots of pretty feedsack style prints for scrappy projects, big blowsy florals for lampshades and fabric baskets and purses and bags and so much more! We've been building new shelving to accommodate it all! Having said that lots of our most popular fabrics are selling out before they make it to the shelf. We're all out of Heather Ross ( little bit of blue frogs left on the bolt if you're quick) and Ameo's Halton Stags ( just a FQ and a 1/2m left of that) but the good news is that we've re ordered ( for the third time now!) the Emmy Grace dark grey flowers, plus we are also getting it in voile on Monday so if you want to wear it too.....as you can see I couldn't resist it.......



If you're taking one of our classes this autumn where lots of variety is crucial ( Farmers Wifers and Bee in Bonneters in particular) or if you're just starting out and you want to build your fabric stash economically ( Simple Samplers, Get To Know Your Sewing Machiners etc etc) then we've been working hard all summer to help you.

We now have a staggering array of precut bundles, from the always popular scrap packs which are a lucky dip of fabrics, often old and hard to come by classics, grouped by colour to allow you to plug the colour gaps in your stash quickly. We also have a new pre cut 1/8th bundles, made up of 5 half-fat-quarters so you can buy more of your favourite range for less when you only need a little. Again colour bundled. We are so enjoying that little colour rainbow above our cutting table!

Then of course lots and lots of the old favourite fat quarter bundles. There's a reason that the FQ is always in fashion! It's the goldilocks of fabric collecting -not too much and not too little!


We are also stocking a growing selection of wider bolts - perfect for economical dressmaking and home decor projects and a great value super-wide FQ for patchworkers. We have lots of voile and lawn coming into stock through the autumn especially for a Pop Up Scarf class later in the autumn when your neck is calling out for a bit of colourful comfort.

Lastly we have a hugely expanded solids range now, which is always a stash essential - and good value too-my girls have been choosing brightly coloured clashy skirt linings this summer with glee!

We have a really exciting autumn programme of events on top of your classes here which we will be rolling out over the next few weeks so do follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook or check in here so you hear all about it.

We are open Thursdays and Saturdays through the rest of August and back to normal opening Wed - Sat 10am - 2pm in Sept so we look forward to seeing you at The Workroom soon.....any excuse to make a pot of tea and give those tea cosies some action x



Thursday, 7 August 2014

The Patchwork Cushions Class




I'm working on samples for my autumn classes at the moment. It's such an indulgence having the time in the summer to really revel in making every variation of my imagination as samples for my classes.


Even though I'm now the teacher I feel as much excitement as my students for the possibilities of what a class can bring! I try and make my classes the perfect class that I always wanted to take but could never find.


This patchwork cushions class is a great example of this. It's a 3 class beginners workshop style class where we will work alongside each other to make a patchwork and quilted cushion, fitting a neat zip closure and making really professionally finished cushions that can withstand life in a busy household and all the trips through the washing machine that that may entail!

I've always been a huge fan of the quilted cushion. What's not to like? You get to try out a patchwork technique in miniature -no major investment in a whole quilt - just a little single block or panel. It's super simple to machine or hand quilt and who doesn't need an extra cushion or 10?


Also the beauty of the quilted cushion cover in my eyes is that its the perfect gift. I've made  lots of quilts as gifts over the years but they are a really big gift, you know? Time and money. But a quilted cushion is a fab pressie. You can totally personalise it. You get to use up your stash a bit, experiment, build your patchwork and quilting skills and end up with something super practical. Also I have a bit of a thing for handmade items having to be better than the bought item, otherwise what's the point? The joy of a patchwork cushion is that you just can't really buy one. It's not a high st category!


Given that the usual cushion in my house gets sat on unceremoniously, scrunched, thrown, stood on and generally maltreated in a household with 3 kids and numerous pets - the fact that its quilted makes it super resilient too.

For many people the only barrier to making squillions of them is what to do with the back closure. Lots of patchworkers are allergic to sewing zips and other perceived 'fiddly' sewing ( hilarious! as if patchwork isn't fiddly to everyone else?!). Some resort to just sewing closed their cushion cover. Others brave the envelope closure - but it's never hugely satisfying as it always tends to gape a bit and never looks as finished as a zip closure. Never fear. In our class I will hand over to Jeanne our resident sewing expert in all things clothing and furnishings and she will guide you gently through the mechanics of fitting a zip.


We will also add a neat, super smart lap closure over the top - just to show off a bit! Once you've made one you'll be off! Orphan blocks that may have not made it into a final quilt, unfinished projects, patchwork offcuts - they're all fair game to be whipped up into cushions in no time. I'm planning to sew along with this class and make a set of Christmas cushions - the ultimate Christmas decoration - form and function!

If you'd like to join us there is still space on the daytime and evening classes so drop me a note and i'll send you the details.







Wednesday, 30 July 2014

September Blue Cotton Lawn Girls Skirt

We picked up a bolt of the new September Blue in Lawn today from Dashwood. We couldn't resist cutting straight into it before it even made it to the shop! There's a real fabric trend into other 'substrates' ( got to love using that word whenever you can!). There will be so many Lawns, Voiles, Rayons and other great fabric types about next season and we're loving the choice it brings and have some fab fabric on order and great projects to use them through the autumn.

I've always been a huge fan of lawn. Obviously Liberty fabric is most famously available in a lawn and I've used it for dressmaking, quilts and the occasional luxurious homemade hankie! Anna Maria Horner was one of the first designers to embrace the options of other fabric types. Her Little Folks Voile was a real favourite of mine.I made a favourite quilt with the softest buttery feel to it which still sits over my kitchen chair. I love a quilted lawn.


 I just dropped off at the long arm quilters a quilt I made about 5 years ago, I made the top and never finished the quilting. It's Liberty lawn, Single Wedding Ring to the modern pattern Single Girl by Denyse Schmidt. I loved making it. I don't really know why it never got finished. I think I had a baby. It can really mess with your WIP scheduling you know! I'll share it when it comes back. I'm really excited about having it finished at last!


Anyway, I digress. Lawn. I love it. Turns out so do my girls. They see a lot of fabric which means they are pretty much my most discerning customers. This one they LOVED. It feels so nice. It's such a nice blue. It's got little pink birds on it. Mummy can we make a skirt? By the time we stopped the car on our drive we had it all planned out.

September Blue Lawn. A light grey voile we had in stash as a lightweight summer lining. A free pattern from Kaufman that we always return to for a quick easy summer skirt - try it it's a doddle and you can whip up a whole batch if you have lots of daughters/ their friends round/ neices etc!

45mins later they were swinging in the sunshine in their skirts (un hemmed - I'll have that job tonight, they couldn't wait!). We're not Blue about September when there's so much summer sewing fun to be had first. Now I'm off to make another 4 skirts. phew

x

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Making Pillowcases




I love teaching our summer holiday kids classes. I get to hang out with my biggest Girl who teaches the class alongside me, she's 11 and has a serious amount more credo with the girls than me, you know!



These classes are always such a blast.

Often times the girls have never sewn on a machine before. No probs. Foot down and away they go. The confidence of youth. How hard can it be when, you know, you've spent the morning building a whole new world on minecraft? (!). They just don't sweat it like we grown ups do. They figure that they'll be fine and they are. We should all Think More Kid now and again don't you think?


We had a laugh, some cake, and some serious frowny concentrating faces and two hours later we had a pile of delicious pillows ready to be taken home, chucked on the bed and flumphed into for a bit of cool afternoon summer holiday book reading..........what could be nicer? New bed linen and a good book?


If the sewing is anything to go by these girls will be nonchalantly running the world in a few years time and I don't know about you, but that makes me feel very happy. Well done girls, sleep tight on those pillows. There's just a bit more growing up to do first ................x

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The Farmers Wife Class


Yesterday was one of those wonderful whirls of a day in The Workroom. There's just so much amazing making going on around our classes. Every day brings a new excitement as someone shyly reveals their work in progress. The Farmers Wife class is one of my favourites and it's turning out some of the most amazing work. Yesterday a lady from my class bought her work in progress into the Workroom and we literally gasped it was so beautiful. She said that she'd never sewn a stitch 2 years ago, but Simple Sampler followed by Farmers Wife had opened up a whole new world for her. Someone else came in and asked about classes - where do you start she asked? How do you choose?


We're really proud of the array of classes that we offer. But scrolling through the classes for the autumn I can see why you might get overwhelmed!

I'm going to write a few blog posts over the next few weeks  talking about why you might choose different classes. I thought I'd start with Farmers Wife.....


Why would you choose this class?

This class is for people who love hand sewing. It's made completely by hand in little bite sized 6 inch block chunks.

This class is for people who like to chat while they sew! It is a class that runs for 9 months, meeting once a month to sew for 2 hours. However these classes become little friendship groups in themselves. Come to any Bee and there will be a chatty Farmers Wife table getting on with their blocks whilst have a good old natter. The beauty of hand sewing is that it is completely sociable, and portable. I can't promise that Farmers Wife won't take over your life because it's the sort of project that you wake up in the morning thinking about....but it will certainly fit into your life. You can take your blocks anywhere - there's lots of sewing on commuter trains, in the car while waiting for kids, in front of the TV in the winter. This year we are running an evening class (Tuesday evenings) as well as a morning one (Tuesday mornings) for those of you who work or have daytime commitments. This is the perfect project to do if you work full time as its only once a month, can be taken anywhere, it's commutable and lunch-breakable sewing!


Why is it called The Farmers Wife Quilt?

This famous traditional quilt is based on a book of the same name. The book is a compilation of letters written in to a women's magazine in the 1920's called The Farmers Wife. It ran a competition where it asked it's readers if they would recommend that their daughters marry a farmer. Each week a letter would be published alongside a quilt block. These have been compiled into this book. The quilt that this makes is a joy, no block is repeated, but the letters themselves are wonderful to read. If you're interested in social history this book is fascinating - but more than the differences of 90 years between us it shows how similar, timeless women's hopes and aspirations are for their daughters. If you are a daughter or have a daughter, you'll love it x

What sewing is involved?

This quilt is made up of small 6 inch blocks. No block is repeated ( although lots of people make multiple versions of different blocks as it's too irresistible to not repeat favourites!). In the class we make 64 or 72 blocks. The blocks are divided up into Fun, Fiddly or Fiendish and you can pick and mix depending on your mood or as your confidence grows.


You don't need lots of patchwork, or sewing experience. Although this quilt can look daunting, it comes together in small chunks so you can definitely 'learn on the job' as you progress through the quilt. If you've already completed Simple Sampler you'll love this class- it's the perfect follow on project. We're really proud that the last class is turning out 12 of these wonderful quilts, many made by women who were worried that they'd be unable to make it - but now so proud of their work!


It's all made by hand. This means hardly any equipment, it's not much more than just a needle and thread and a bit of beeswax. No need to haul the machine out on the kitchen table so no one can eat meals!It's simple, old fashioned sewing at it's best - but it makes a classic modern quilt.



My last class enjoyed the class so much we've had to invent a new one - The Farmers Second Wife (!) to run alongside our new entry of FWMers so that they can keep coming if their quilts not quite finished yet. It's definitely a quilt that gets under the skin......I love it x



 If you would like to enquire about joining this class drop me an e mail or use the Get In Touch box in the side bar. The class starts in Sept.