It’s a stitch up!
Make first steps or improve your skills at fun Sew In Brighton classes
Until I was a teenager I thought everyone’s mum made their clothes. Mine turned out nearly everything my brother, sister and I wore throughout our childhood from jumpsuits to sundresses to school uniforms, to outfits with reversible waistcoats for a wedding and even a tutu. She also ran up soft toys so good that some of her teddies were sold by a shop in Richmond.
The noise of her sewing machine in the next room often lulled me to sleep. Now, she’s into patchwork I sleep under some of her handiwork – this is the bedspread she made me.
So obviously all that creative flair brushed off on me. Err, no
I can hand sew reasonably neatly and do repairs and simple adjustments (wayward hem back up, straps shortened…) but the sight of a sewing machine pretty much breaks me out in a cold sweat. I blame the dragon of a teacher I had for a brief foray into needlework at school.
But as I’ve a friend who’s recently started to turn out fun stuff like make-up bags and metres of party bunting I thought I’d have a tentative try myself.
Sew in Brighton, just of Church Street in Hove, was the perfect place to start. It was founded by Kat Neeser who actually ran her own fashion label in London, sold in the likes of Top Shop, so you know this is no fusty affair.
Unlike some such classes, Sew In Brighton’s are held in the evenings and on Sundays, aimed at people who work – an age group more likely to need coaxing onto sewing machines.
On the night I went, the other women (we were all women, but one reported a bit of a stitch-based rivalry with a male colleague) were mostly in their 30s and all were working on different projects.
Around the room were encouraging examples of what can be achieved in one or two lessons or a block of several. There are also fun hen party experiences to be had making bunting, fascinators, knickers and even nipple tassels! Children’s can meanwhile have parties making soft toy monsters.
The complete beginner’s option (yep, that was me) offers the chance to make a cushion cover or a tote bag. I plumped (geddit?) for the cushion.
Having amassed a bit of a collection of material brought on my travels with the vague intention of turning it into things, I took along a piece of batik from Bali. It still had the shop label and I realised, to my shame, I’d bought it more than 15 years before.
I folded and pinned my fabric then hit my first trauma – cutting the pattern out. It took me back to a pig’s ear I once made at school as a left-handed teen using heavy right-handed dressmaking scissors. I did OK this time however, then it was onto threading the machine and practising sewing on scraps.
On my real fabric I was slow and tentative but kept the line reasonably straight and speeded up considerably over the course of the class. The teacher stuck masking tape on the machine along the line I had to follow – a good tip to keep on track.
There was sometimes a bit of a wait as the teacher did the rounds helping people but a handy step-by-step paper guide meant I could achieve some parts on my own.
I got a great sense of achievement from successfully cornering – oh yes, I’m now the Lewis Hamilton of the sewing world. I hemmed, zig zagged for extra strength and assembled my fabric to make a fold over pocket.
I was the only one on a first lesson on the night but the others weren’t far ahead and going great guns. At the end of the evening one woman showed off the dress she’d made for her toddler, complete with lining and decorative hem, which she’d completed in just two lessons.
Another was trying on a spotty skirt to assess the fit and a third planning next steps on the jacket she was being guided through making.
As for me, I had to race to the end of the class having lost the thread from my needle twice without realising, meaning I had to do a whole side again, but I did finish my cushion.
I promptly texted a pic to my mum for her expert approval.
Now, about those lengths of sari silk I was going to turn into kaftans and curtains…