Last Saturday (September 14th), I was lucky enough to be invited to Needlecase to take part in one of their regular sewing classes, hosted in the new workroom at the Tadcaster store, by the very talented Karen Willatt.
Of course you don’t need to be invited; you can sign up to all the sewing and knitting classes Needlecase run directly from their website 🙂
So, the class began at 9.30, so not too early for a Saturday morning, and thanks to the free car parking in Tadcaster centre, which is also just over the road from Needlecase (which was being freshly painted may I add); I was able to get there and parked up in no time at all after making the short trip over from Wakefield, very convenient indeed – though somehow I still managed to be the last one there.
Karen had already set out all the equipment we needed to make the felt flower garlands that were on the agenda for the morning when I arrived and Judith already had a cafetiere of coffee brewed up and pot of tea ready to go which was great.
So I took my cup of tea and my seat at the work bench next to Amanda, ready to hear the first set of instructions. I must admit, being able to sew a little already, I was looking forward to making the flower garland but I wasn’t expecting to really learn anything new, cocky of me I know, but I am pleased to say I was wrong in that assumption and definitely came away a little better at sewing!
Keep your eyes out for the top tips to follow.
So Karen had provided us with the pre-cut flower shapes we needed to make part of the garland, so our first task was to use the cardboard templates she’d also given us, to cut out the remaining pieces we would need. These were mainly the leaves and the centres for the flowers. As we were working with felt we were able to draw right around the cardboard templates straight on to the felt which was nice and simple.
Once everything was cut out Karen recommended that we organise them in to the pattern we were going to use for our garland. Thankfully, she had brought a couple of finished examples of the garland with her which we were able to follow if we wished unless we wanted to design our own colour pattern. I chose the follow Karen’s design because the balance of colours on her garland were lovely and more to the point, I think I’d have gotten far too carried away given all the brilliant colours of felt and buttons to choose from that I’d have ended up with a multi-coloured mess.
Most flowers for the garland consisted of a small center circle, layered on to a slightly bigger center circle, which then sat on top of the pre-cut, flower shaped piece of felt. A few flowers also had leaves underneath too. So at the very least we had three layers of felt to sew together if not four. All the pieces are secured in place by sewing on a small button (my favourite buttons we used were the star shaped blue buttons available from Needlecase) and it is this point where I learnt the first top tip from Karen.
She taught us that when sewing on a button, to keep it neat at the back, as well as trying to come up through the button in the same place each time, you can, after you had looped through your thread through the button 3 or 4 times, stitch tiny blanket stitches side by side over the threads at the back of your button. This trick not only neatens the whole thing up but it also ensures your buttons will stay on nice and securely! That’s one tip with two benefits and it definitely neatened up the backs of my button don’t you think?
Having never been explicitly taught to sew on a button before, I have to say I have been guilty of having threads all over the place at the back of by buttons before, but not anymore!
I should also say that the great thing about Needlecase sewing classes is that as well as learning tips from Karen (or whoever happens to be leading the class for you), you can also pick up great sewing, knitting and crafting tips from the other people who’ve joined in. And indeed, after sewing half of the flowers for my garland in place, each with a neatly secured button in place, Karen decided we were due a break, so over tea, and a slice of Judith’s amazing chocolate cake, we all got chatting about the crafts we do at home, swapping good sources for materials, tips for certain projects and photographs of things we had made.
This is where I took on board my second tip of the day which, while not related to the amazing flower garlands we were making, is well worth a mention. I learnt that to help when making rosettes from ribbon, something I’ve always struggled with, starching the fabric first helps keep your pleats and folds in place giving you a neater finish! ( That’s the great thing about getting creative people together which is what Needlecase sewing and knitting workshops do, you can learn from each other).
Anyway, after all the cake was polished off I got the rest of my flowers sewn together with their buttons in place and was ready for the next step. We laid our flowers out in the order we wanted them to appear in our garland, then we sewed each flower to the next one by laying one on top of the other, button sides together, we then used a simple blanket stitch along the edge of one set of petals to secure them together. We repeated this down the length of the garland and then we were ready for the final step and possibly most important step.
Karen had provided us all with 2 little plastic loops each, for sewing onto the backs of the two small felt flowers at either end of the garlands, these meant we would be able to hand our garlands up as soon as we got home (something I certainly did). Again we used a simple blanket stitch to secure these in place using the back of the button as a placement guide and then voila! One felt flower garland in beautiful blues, pinks, purples and yellows!
And I took mine to the Wood Street Market with me on the Sunday to decorate my stall.