The last time I laid my hands on a sewing machine I was in secondary school and I was making projects on an old machine, definitely not digital and all the scissors were blunt! I pinned myself to fabric, I threaded the machine wrong, the needle broke and the final result put me off using one again for life…or so I thought! (Should that be “sew I thought?”….heh…)
Since getting into the world of stitch more recently, I stumbled across Tilly And The Buttons via Tilly’s Instagram Page. From there, I digitally dashed off to her website and immediately loved her simplistic branding style, it was all fresh, clean and easy to take in (I do so love a user-friendly site!). So many other sewing-style blogs are full of chintz and fluff, it makes it hard to know where you’re going or what to look at next. After pouring over her site for some time, getting more and more inspired by something which previously I’d thought I hated, I hovered over the ‘Workshops‘ link and clicked it…the rest…a blur of travelling to London in the rain, meeting a terrific bunch of ladies, meeting the fabulous Tilly herself and coming away at the end of the day with cotton all over me, a new headband and a smile on my face!
What’s more, we found out later that we were the very first group to experience a workshop at Tilly’s new place of work, although she has been teaching for a few years, it was still great to christen the studio…I felt honoured!
When we arrived, we were greeted by Tilly herself (she’s super cute and smiley in person too!), and lead straight up to her modern workspace based in Parkhall Studios, West Dulwich. The room was flooded with natural light from the big, industrial windows which made it perfect for working with fiddly threads, and large white benches filled the room with more than adequate space for each member of the workshop to prod and poke at their machines (and sew a project of course!). I immediately felt welcomed and couldn’t help but notice the perfectly put-together theme of turquoises and yellows that echoed subtley throughout the room: from the storage boxes on the shelves, to the magnetic pin holders and the machines themselves! I’m a sucker for the fine detail and it looked like my teacher was too….I instantly knew that she got it. My little creative heart fluttered!
As the ladies arrived with a smile and hello, one-by-one, we affixed stickers with our names on to our tops and took our seats at the machines. We were greeted with a wonderful goodie bag each full of treats! I couldn’t resist sneaking a pink shrimp sweet before we got started (so retro!), a little sugar to get my imagination whirring I thought! The tote bag was such a nice touch (it now proudly stores all my sewing projects), I was really looking forward to getting down to the nitty gritty….figuring out how to turn this machine on!
To start, Tilly walked us through the basics of the machines and soon we were winding our bobbins and threading the needles like pros (I still know how to do it!). The machines were beautiful to work with, nothing like the clunky old things at school, this felt like what it should’ve back then. I was so glad I was getting a second chance.
In no time at all, we were all whizzing away, following a series of lines on fabric to hone our stitching techniques, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that I wasn’t half as bad as I’d feared!…I was building confidence by the minute!
As we all completed the first stage, one-by-one, we were all instructed to pick our favourite fabric from the selection on offer (Tilly has amazing taste in prints!), and an accompanying or contrasting cotton to suit. Tilly then ran through how to make a simple scarf, this allowed us to pick up the basics of using the machine whilst also creating our very first project. Making this cute scarf taught me how to sew corners, using seam allowances, backtacking, top stitching and all sorts! It really was an excellent, well thought out beginners’ project and Tilly’s patient and supportive teaching style really gave me the confidence to feel like I could do this and it really was that simple.
It was lovely to not only learn all these vital, essential skills, but to also chat with the other ladies at the workshop and hear their reasons for coming along. Some of the ladies were even making a weekend of it and coming back the following day to make pyjamas…I was jealous (and will have to return for that class too!).
As the day rolled on, we nibbled tasty treats and sipped at cups of tea as we all made our best concentration faces and cheered as each person as they completed their personalised scarf. Much amusement was had at the programmed stitches on the wonderfully high-tech Janome sewing machines, I just had to use the kitty-shaped stitch of course!
In what seemed like no time at all, we had all finished and were grinning in amazement at the projects we had all created. We clinked glasses of bubbly as we compared scarves, I even popped mine on and wore it right away, the feeling of creating your own piece of clothing, even if it wasn’t a dress, is so rewarding. You could really feel the buzz in the room, we had all had our first proper sewing fix and wanted more!
Spending time with Tilly was an absolute pleasure, she really was a truly perfect tutor, and her own story of how she came to be where she is now (an appearance on The British Sewing Bee, her very own studio, award-winning book and branded patterns!), inspired me as it made me realise that you didn’t need to be born a seamstress to produce amazing results, you could pick it up from a later age and still be just as good!
Before we headed off to make the pilgrimage home and excitedly natter about the day’s achievements on the train, I couldn’t resist but to snap up a copy of her book ‘Love At First Stitch‘ and in a moment of cheesy fan-girlness, asked her to sign it for me!
Note: I plan on returning to another splendid workshop by Tilly and recommend you do too if you’re able to commute to her London based studio! The full list of workshops can be found here.