New adventures in teaching

I’m so excited to let you all know that I am going to be teaching sewing classes at my local fabric shop, the excellent Hollies Haberdashery, here in my home town, Newcastle-under-Lyme (near Stoke-on-Trent) in Staffordshire. I’ve been busy making samples, writing class step-by-steps and generally getting everything into place for what I hope will be some really fun classes.

Simple cushion class sample. How cute is this sweet dachshund fabric by Jillian Phillips for Dashwood Studios?

The first class is going to focus on learning how to make a simple cushions, with lots of tips and tricks on how to get a really nice finish by selecting great fabrics, using interfacing, and adding trims, cute details and top-stitching.

Hopefully we will get time to include some cute little details like this.
Same pattern – different style. I really wanted these cushions to show what a difference using different fabrics can make. These are from the Guess How Much I Love You collection by Clothworks.

I’m also going to teach an Absolute Beginner’s Sewing Machine class – keeping the class-size very small (only 4 people), and focusing on my strong belief that students do best when they are learning by doing, we will make a really simple ring binder cover. I really want people to go home with something to show for their hard work as well as becoming confident about using their sewing machine.


Although there are more classes in the pipeline (and coming very soon, check back next week), for lots of fun makes like tote bags, zippy pouches, clip-frame purses, English Paper Piecing, and hopefully a weekly evening patchwork class, the only other course available for booking right now is Beginning Patchwork: Nine-Patch Cushion class.

My aim here is to provide a really fun introduction to basics of patchwork, whilst giving people the chance to actually finish something on the day. Here’s the cushion I made using the pattern I’ve created for the class:

I loved fussy cutting these adorable animals for this nine-patch block. The fabric collection is called Foxtail Forest and it is designed by Rae Ritchie for Dear Stella Fabric.

I am really looking forward to sharing the fun that you can have with very straightforward patchwork designs and simple straight line quilting.

If you’re interested in coming along to a class (which run on Tuesday mornings and on Saturdays at the moment – do let me have any feedback about times because we are super-flexible and can put on more classes to suit), here’s where you can read more and make bookings. I really look forward to meeting some of my blog friends in real life!


Support Very Berry Handmade by visiting my sponsors Prinfab – where you can create and print your own fabric!


Open-top bus celebrations…

Well, not quite… but, I am really delighted to let you all know that Very Berry Handmade was voted Best Quilt Blog in the 2017 British Craft Awards. Thanks so so much to everyone who voted for me, I was absolutely delighted to be nominated in such brilliant company in the first place, but to come out as the winner was something else entirely. Thanks so much to all of you for your support – you are all so fabulous!

Sadly, I couldn’t get to the awards ceremony, but lovely Sarah, who is the owner of my local fabric shop Hollies Haberdashery was off the CHSI Stitches Show, where the ceremony was held, and very kindly picked up the award (and a bottle of fizz – yay!) for me. Here’s my very fancy award, in pride of place down at my studio at ACAVA Studios Spode.


And here’s me – I just will not be parted from my trophy 😉


Thanks to Immediate Media, and to all of you, for this lovely bit of recognition, it means an awful lot.

Making Space and Decluttering- part 1

Like most sewers, I do a self-deprecating routine about the terrifying extent of my fabric stash on a regular basis. But, much as I joke, the clutter of fabric, trims, habdash, books and the rest, really does cause me quite a bit of anxiety and frustration. Here’s why:

  • I feel guilty that there is stuff there that I *know* I will never use – why did I buy it? I am such an idiot and so wasteful… blah blah blah (I am specialist at negative self-talk – something else I am working on this year…)
  • I don’t have the space to store loads of stuff I will never get round to using
  • It’s always messy and unmanageable – I am not great at working in untidy surroundings – I find it distracting
  • I can’t find the lovely inspirational fabrics, haberdashery and trims that are definitely there, in amongst all the rest

All of this clutter-related negativity really gets me down. So, working towards my goal of moving forward in the positive, unapologetic pursuit of creativity this year, I’ve given myself permission to spend some money on storage, and I’ve started a big declutter.

Here are some of my larger fabric scraps – mostly sorted by colour, although the top box here is for larger pieces of linen prints. I was delighted to discover that 2 9L Really Useful Boxes fit nicely on my IKEA Kallax shelving.

I started yesterday, working through the contents of one of my big storage baskets. At first I hummed and hawed, dithering about how to sort things in a way that made most sense, and, in a weak moment, almost decided to put it all away again. But, spurred on by spotting lovely fabrics amongst the clutter, rendered unusable by my inability to find them, I reminded myself that done is better good (no, it really is), and got started.

Low volume scraps stored with linen prints, and blues and greens sorted together. I may need to get a few more boxes…!

As I worked through the fabrics, I started to develop a system. I haven’t read Marie Kondō’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I have friends who are very deeply enthusiastic about it, so I know all about her idea of only keeping the things that bring you joy. Although I wouldn’t necessarily choose to apply this idea to the contents of my garage (the car would definitely have to go, and that could be a problem), I really see the value when it comes to sorting through the materials I use for my creative work.

I have been building up a stash of magazines, fabrics, haberdashery, notions and books relating to sewing, crochet and textiles for over ten years now, and a fair proportion of what I have relates to other enthusiasms and interests. They feel irrelevant to me as I move forward, so I am putting them to one side, enthusiastically, choosing to give them away to people who will be inspired by them anew. Hopefully they will bring joy to other people, even though they don’t do it for me any more.

As I was working, I thought more about creativity and how it works for me. The more I read and research, the more I am coming to see that creativity is born out of curiosity – a spirit of ‘what if?’. I have thought of this, with typical negativity, as my butterfly mind, but actually, it’s about me pursuing ideas with interested enthusiasm – and sometimes these ideas (which often involve acquiring materials to work with) go somewhere, sometimes they don’t. There are many failures along the way, and that’s ok, I’m learning all the time.

Tiny scraps that I am going to sort into low volume and high volume for starters. I might sub-divide by colour too at some stage, but done REALLY IS better than good.

So some of the stashed away materials are reminders of those old ideas that didn’t work out and it’s good to get rid of them and just move on. But sometimes, as I work through the boxes and baskets, I find stuff that reminds me of ideas that I wanted to pursue, but didn’t because I didn’t have time. Or I find materials that could be re-purposed, or half-made pieces that could be used in other ways. I find it is really important to have a notebook to hand, to record the ideas as I work.

So I’m going back into the studio tomorrow to do some more sorting. Although I’m not exactly enjoying the process, I am beginning to feel a sense of freedom and clarity that will hopefully increase as I get closer to the top (bottom?) of the fabric mountain. Keep checking back because I’m hopefully going to sort out some fabrics to give away over the next few weeks, in the hopes that dispersing my collection can bring some inspiration elsewhere.