Spotlight On: Sewing Club

We’re launching a series of spotlights on the activities & groups that volunteers from our community run in Monkey Park. First up we have a great story from Christine Redding about the Monkey Park Sewing Club.

When I started going to Sewing Club, it was with the idea of making something for Christmas.  I had no fixed idea what this would be.  I quickly found that others had lots of ideas and magazines with a selection to choose from.  One that caught the eye of two or three of us was a table runner.  So, full of enthusiasm, but without the lingo, I went out to buy my ‘ingredients’.

I’m still not sure whether the pattern suggested buying too much fabric or whether I was just clueless, possibly both, but somehow I ended up with enough ‘ingredients’ for three extra table runners so I decided to make three as Christmas presents: slightly daunting but I didn’t want to waste any fabric.

I received excellent (and very patient) advice from the more experienced members of the group and, after quite a bit of time and effort, proudly had my table runners.  One of them even appeared on the table at the Monkey Park Christmas meal last year! (The photo below was taken before they were quite finished).

Table Runners made at sewing club & used for the 2017 Monkey Park Christmas Meal

Table Runners made at sewing club & used for the 2017 Monkey Park Christmas Meal

Whilst making the table runners, I had discovered something surprising: while I was sewing, my brain had to concentrate so hard, I couldn’t think about anything else.  All the daily niggles of work and home just disappeared for a while.  The world slowed down.  I was also creating something solid.  The table runners had more than their fair share of mistakes and, at one stage, I truly believed my unpicker had become my new best friend, but, at last, they were done.  In time to give as gifts (just!).  And, they were mine.  Not only that, but they appeared to give the people that received them pleasure.  

For Christmas, I got a sewing machine.  No pressure there then!  The group decided to undertake a yearlong project in 2018: a patchwork quilt.  I liked the idea.  A lot.  However, I was fairly sure that my skills would be about as stretched a pair of skinny jeans on Boris Johnson’s legs.  Telling myself I only managed the table runners on a wing and a bellyful of determination, and that I’m a busy woman, not a leisured Victorian ‘lady’, I thought I’d better say no.

Then I saw some fabric I fell in love with.  I also remembered that in September 2018 my daughter would be going to university.  The crazy idea developed.  I could make her a quilt!  IF I could find the skills and the patience and the time.  One block a month might be just about manageable, surely?

To cut a long story short, reader, I did it, with an awful lot of help from the experts Nilufer and Gillian, Maggy and whoever else happened to be on hand!  In addition, a trip to the quilting show in Uttoxer inspired us all.  To date, I have concocted eleven of the twelve blocks required.  The twelfth one will be coming up very soon.  In 2019, we will piece them together and quilt them: slightly scary but possibly possible.  There is a huge difference between my early blocks and the most recent ones but my daughter is adamant she doesn’t want any mistakes corrected as she loves it the way it is.  

The nearly finished patchwork quilt

The nearly finished patchwork quilt

In addition, one sewing club member, Maggy, who makes all her own clothes, was chatting one day and, for some strange reason, decided I might make a dress for the choir I sing with: Aurora.  I wanted a red cord pinafore dress but couldn’t find one in the shops.  I don’t suppose I’d ever have done anything about if she hadn’t given me a pattern.  I ummed and erred for months, until finally I plucked up courage and bought some fabric.  

I have to confess, I did raise a few eyebrows when I opened the packet and didn’t realise the pattern was the pattern: you lay it on the fabric, pin it and cut round it, Christine.  Ah yes.  To be fair, I hadn’t sewn anything bigger than  replacing buttons since school.

Along came a rainy Sunday morning and I cautiously got my stuff out.  It completely sucked me in.  Hours went by.  My spatial awareness being a bit rubbish, the facing was nearly the undoing of me but consulting the flat-pack king in our house actually helped and I was off again.

I’d love to say I did it all in one day but that would be a lie.  I got tired, and excited that I’d managed to do so much, so I dutifully put it away to finish later.  But, I did finish it.  And I have worn it to choir.  (Since then, I have also accidentally cut a hole in it, but that’s another story).

My finished dress

My finished dress

Finally, this Christmas I did something I’ve never done in my life before: I bought a pattern.  You’d have thought I’d have learnt from last year’s table runners, but no; I decided to make some more Christmas presents.  This year it would be Japanese aprons.  Lucky friends and relatives.

Yet again, Maggy and Nilufer, and anybody I could drag in off the street, were asked to help, offer advice or listen to me telling them just how many times I’d had to unpick various bits of the aprons and re-do them.  It feels as if we have become friends and partners in crime and I’m sure I will keep trying to produce stuff.  It doesn’t matter that I’m a ‘learner’.  I am learning!  

The finished apron

The finished apron

In the photo above, I was struggling with the straps, which cross over on the back.

I would have liked to have made a few more, if only so I could have got one apron looking really good.  However, I managed three before Christmas arrived.  Each apron took about a day and I swear about half of that time involved unpicking mistakes.  Lots of mistakes.  Each apron I made I managed to make different mistakes!  However, once again the recipients appeared to like their presents.  They should be careful:, there’s a severe danger they might get homemade presents again next year!