Sunday 22 April 2018

A Sew Different Sewing Retreat

Some time before Christmas, in those long dark days where it feels like Spring might just be a myth, I was having a discussion at work about how I needed to book something to cheer myself up, something I could look forward to.  I was talking to a colleague who I share a love of dressmaking with and I remarked that if only there was such a thing as a dressmaking retreat where I could just sit and sew I would be a happy bunny.  With that thought still fresh in my mind I headed to a well-known internet search engine and lo-and-behold I found exactly what I was looking for.  Sew Different aka Laura Casey, runs a series of sewing retreats.  This year they are based at Cannon Hall near Barnsley which is just a pop up the M1 for me.  I did not really think about it, I looked for the dates I could attend and booked.
I arrived on a greyish morning in mid-April.  I was a little nervous, would I be good enough at sewing to be there was at the fore-front of my mind and would I get on with everyone else?  The latter aspect was settled very quickly, we were a group of like-minded sewists, of course we got on.
First thing on the day was to choose the pattern that I wanted to make, well actually step one was to drink tea and eat a little cake, but following that I looked that the patterns that we had to choose from. I chose the Bell-Sleeve Dress to make on the day, and also left with the pattern for the Scoop Pinafore and the Bike Jacket Cardi, so you can look forward to seeing those two makes at a later date.

Next we were off to Fabworks Mill Shop in nearby Dewsbury.  Oh my giddy aunt it is the most amazing place, literally packed to the rafters with more incredible fabrics at very good prices than you can shake a stick at.  We were given a quick tour around the shop so that we knew where the different types of fabric were and then we were let loose........ and I immediately went into brain-freeze.  I had the pattern clasped in my hand, but wander around as I might, I was not getting inspiration to choose a fabric.  I saw fabric that would make a great skirt (bought it), fabric that would be great for the biker jacket mentioned above (bought it), that fabric that Laura has used to make up one of the sample dresses we had to look at, (bought it) but that elusive fabric I wanted to use on the day, that was at my fingertips yet so far away.
Did I mention the samples rack?  ok, back a step, whilst drinking tea, eating cake and looking at patterns, Laura has a sample rack so you can see the patterns made up and even try one on if you are around the right size.  This was so good, how often can you try a pattern on before you buy it?

Anyway, back to fabric choices, I wandered and wandered and then found what I was looking for.  A lovely muted green check fabric.  I showed it to Laura to see if she agreed that it would work.  After some discussions we decided I would give it a go.  Then, we all went back to the sewing workshop room and had lunch.

After lunch we were settled down with our machines and given a quick talk through by Donna King who was our sewing tutor for the weekend.  I chose not to take my machine, though you can if you want, as I wanted part of the experience to be using a different machine. Of course my hands kept going to the wrong place to lift the presser foot and some of its differences baffled me briefly, but it added to the fun.

Patterns were cut out and then the sewing began.  I got on quite well, there was a little struggling with the pointy bit of the bodice, but Donna talked me through how to deal with it and off I went again happily.

Day two was more sewing.  We chatted and laughed as we sewed.  We stopped for tea and cake.  We sewed and laughed and chatted.  We stopped for the most wonderful lunch with added fizz.  We were definitely being spoiled.
and then by the end of the afternoon we were done.  As each of us finished we tried on our makes and we all admired each other's work.  There were some incredible garments made.
and this is my frock, just look at those wonderful sleeves.  I worried that my dress was a little dull compared to some of the other makes that were going on around me, but I have already worn it for work and people said it was nice.  The pattern itself is really very straightforward.  It comes together well and, best of all, it has no zip.  The shape allows for it to be accessible without a zip, how great is that?

Of course I already know I need to make the pattern again and I have some fabric in my stash that will be perfect for it.  So watch this space.

Remember I said at the start I worried if my skills were good enough?  There were sewists there who were far more experienced than I am but it did not matter.  We all sewed and helped each other and Donna was there to talk us through anything we needed help with.  Donna also let us have a go on an overlocker if we had not used one previously and also showed us how to use rotary cutters and other good tips.  Just sitting there in the room was the opportunity to absorb all the knowledge and experience around me.  I learned a lot and, importantly, I learned that my dressmaking skills are not as basic I had feared.  It helped my confidence hugely.

I left wanting to book again.  There are two more sessions left this year but sadly I cannot make either one.  I will be watching for as soon as new dates are announced as I cannot wait to do it again.

I have to give a big sincere thank you to Laura and Donna and everyone who was there at the weekend.  It was a true pleasure to be there and I left inspired.

Whilst there I found some time to have a wander around the gardens, which is described over on the gardening blog.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Alison, I have followed your gardening exploits for a bit but didn’t know that you sewed too. I love sewing retreats although mine are generally of the quilting variety. I am just going back to dressmaking again with a bit of trepidation. I have found it so difficult to get clothes that fit made with decent fabrics. Much nicer to choose a pattern and fabric for something that may suit. A huge adventure and not too expensive either.


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