by Jessica Jefferys
One of my best school projects was a sea-themed mobile I made. I dyed the material, cut out two fish and two starfish patterns and sewed them together on a bulky school sewing machine before filling and hand-finishing them. I could never get the mobile to balance properly but I was really proud of my efforts (I still have the little figures now). I also remember making some lime-green culottes I wore and wore (it was the early nineties).
Since those lessons at school, my sewing has been mainly self-taught. I do bits and pieces (like this drawstring bag), hemming and mending on my trusty Janome, but I’ve never mastered anything more sophisticated. I’ve got a Cloth Kits dress ready and waiting that I’m keen to make for my little girl, but it’s taken me a while to start because I want to make sure I get it right.
So when my husband bought me a sewing class gift voucher (a brilliant present—he was inspired by my absorption with the Great British Sewing Bee), I knew it was a refresher session I wanted. I went along last weekend—a sunny Saturday, perfect for the short drive to Wimbledon.
Set up by a mum of two and former fashion designer, Sew Pretty is quite literally a home business. Katya Essery runs classes from the well-equipped and colourful summer house in the garden of her Wimbledon. She combined a passion for sewing (she first started using a Singer when she was eight) with a desire to work more flexibly. She’s been running a range of classes for all levels for the past two years.
Mine was called Essential Skills and I was one of a group of four, which is on the smaller side (rare for a Saturday class) and perfect for us as we got more time to practice. Sew Pretty offer a wide range of classes, from skills-based to project-based, from courses for adults and children to kids’ birthday parties and hen dos. Amongst Katya’s most popular classes are four-week Sew Complete and Soft Furnishing courses, as well as Pyjama-mama, where absolute beginners can take home a pair of homemade pyjama trousers after just 3.5 hours.
After I parked the car (for free as it was the weekend and there were lots of spaces just outside the house), I followed a trail of bunting down to the summer house which was warm and inviting. The session started with friendly intros over tea and biscuits before Katya started off taking us through various skills: choosing different sewing machine feet; the uses for different stitches; sewing zips, buttons, buttonholes and darts. Everything was explained clearly (with plenty of time for questions) before we took to the sewing machines ourselves. I even brought my own machine along (dragged in a wheelie suitcase!) so I could check it was all working correctly, which Katya confirmed.
The atmosphere was lovely and there was plenty of easy conversation and ample refreshments. Everything was supplied for my session, but some courses ask for you to bring materials (all clearly stated when booking). I came away with my sewing to remind me at home, but we were also emailed PDFs so we can put our new skills into practice alone. It’s definitely inspired me to bring out the sewing machine again, as well as to look at Sew Pretty’s other classes to see what else I can learn.
About the author:
Jessica is a new-ish mum living in and loving west London. She’s likely to be seen drinking coffee in Chiswick or on the Askew Road and most places in between. She lives with her husband and, as of March 2012, little girl ‘Scrip’ (not her real name, they’re not that cruel). Find her on newmumblings.com or @newmumblings or instagram: newmumblings