A crazy patchwork bag and the start of a new journey.

It was about this time last year that I was spending more time that usual looking at the latest fashion trends while working a freelance job as a designer for a young menswear brand. It was great to see so much embroidery and embellishment in the fashion collections. I started to feel inspired to try out some embroidery of my own.

I came up with an idea to make an embroidered and quilted bomber jacket using a pattern I had created for Sew Now magazine.  I began work on it drawing out a floral design, and managed to get a large chunk of it embroidered. However I knew I was mainly winging it and coming across all sorts of unanswered questions.

In the midst of my winging this project I was asked by a friend if I would be interested in joining a new embroidery group that would meet once a month.  It couldn’t really have been better timing and I happily excepted.

I recently completed this piece of embroidered crazy patchwork.  It wasn’t something I was going to write about until I realised I was embarking on quite a new journey in much the same way as some of the people who attend my classes are. From this point of view I thought it might be interesting to write about and chart my progress.

There are about 10 people who attend the group taught by a very skilled and lovely teacher Jane. I am definitely the least experienced in the world of embroidery within the group which makes an interesting contrast to being the teacher in the group environment.

The group is called Mellow Yellow and we meet once a month. We’ve been meeting for about 10 months now. Luckily for me Jane started with the basics.  We all have a piece of wool fabric to test out new stitches. Initially we focused on a new stitch at each session.

For some reason this wasn’t something I did when I started my embroidered jacket. I pretty much just dived straight in. I can see clearly this was definitely a mistake as I would have changed many of the choices I made if I had practiced first!

When my dressmaking customers come to classes I nearly always recommend making a toile (a mock up of the garment, made in calico or other appropriate fabric) before making the real thing. It’s a good way to firstly and most importantly test the fit, it is also a good way to check if you like the style and it is what you were hoping for, you can then make changes before cutting into your real fabric.

Testing the stitches on a sampler is the perfect way to learn the stitches as well as experiment with ideas, colours and design. I decided to let my sampler be exactly for this reason, especially as I am such a novice. I feel I need to find my feet learning techniques as well as finding a style I like. Some of the other ladies in the group have beautiful samplers that could easily become a wall hanging or another item.

One of the things I’ve noticed with the classes that I run is that class members become inspired and get involved with what each other are making. We often have group discussions about fit and style, sharing opinions and thoughts, as well as admiring fabrics or patterns. I think this is one of the great advantages of being in a group with other people who have the same interest. It can help clarify design decisions as well as provoke new ideas for new or existing projects.

Now being a class member I fully appreciate this side of being in a group. Jane and other class members often bring appropriate examples of work with the type of embroidery we are learning in for us to look at. It’s so good to look at these examples at the same time as working with the stitch or technique. Its helped me see what can be achieved as well as inspiring ideas for my own work.

We began work on this crazy patchwork piece a few sessions ago. I can’t say I’m mad about crazy patchwork and I don’t look at this piece with huge amounts of love. However I have learnt a lot through making it. Not just the stitches but also how to approach my embroidery work. I decided with this that I would use it like a sampler and experiment with some of the stitches we had been learning. I used Cretan stitch, blanket stitch and feather stitch predominately. One simple stitch can have a multitude of different options. The shape in which you sew the stitch, different sized stitches, layered stitches, further embellishment to stitches such as beads and buttons. The list goes on! I experimented with lots of the variations. Other than having a colour palette I didn’t really have any other plan for this. It’s very satisfying to complete the project and be able to stand back and look at what I’ve learnt and think about the new project with this new knowledge.

I’m excited to think about new embroidery projects. I like the idea of adding elements of embroidery to clothing as well as making textile jewellery.

Thank you Jane, Rosie and the rest of the Mellow Yellow group its lovely to be part of the group, I’m looking forward to learning more embroidery skills and opening the door to new possibilities.





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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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