Drawing, Fabric Design, Surface Pattern, Workshop

Floral Motif Workshop with Rachel Taylor

On Saturday, 11th May, I took part in a Floral Motif Workshop led by surface pattern designer and teacher of Make It In Design Rachel Taylor at the Reloved Upholstery Studio at the Pear Mill in Stockport. The workshop came at a great time for me, in the midst of my #100daysofpattern project to learn from someone, who was desiging work to be liscenced across the globe, producing her own products and teaching students online through Make It In Design.


It was my first time visiting the Pear Mill in Stockport and it cetaintly won’t be my last. The ground floor is a Vintage Emporium will sellers filling the huge space with their array of clothes, books, household objects, furniture looking for a new home. The Pear Mill, which was built in 1913 was was the last cotton spinning mill to be built in England. Following the end of World War 1 there was a boom in cotton production, in England, but sadly that was not to last, as forigen markets in India, China and Japan increased their spinning capabilty and cotton prices fell by 38%.


The space is now let by local businness of all sorts, including Reloved upholstery . It is ran by Simione who loving breathes lives back into chairs, specialiaing in iconic Ercol designs. The large studio is crammed full of inspiration, from fabric swatch books, a library and a huge workspace with industrial sewing machines. It’s fair to say it was a great creative space to work in.

Floral Print Design workshop 01

Following initial introductions with the other course partipants, who were all women and in the majority looking to the turn their designs into a business, it was great to meet other like minded people. We listened to Rachel talk through her work and design process.  For me, the main take away from the teaching was ‘how are my lines different to anyone else’s’ and what makes my lines and in turn my work individual. If you’re working in fineliners, (FYI I swear by Micon) it’s easy for a line to look like anyone else’s line, but Rachel re-iterated the importance of finding your personal style and one way to do this is to create lines with diffrent marks and textures. From there we got stuck in, using a range of warm up techniques, left handed, eyes closed, different materials and then started to create motif’s on the flowers in front of us.  We worked in black so it’s easier to edit in greyscale in Adobe Photoshop and Illustraor.


It was great to draw a range of plants, all of which were (with permission) from Arley Hall Garden. They were a lot of show stoppers amongst them, Allium were stand out. But Rachel made a good point, these show stopper iconic flowers have been, and will continue to be inspiration for artists across the globe and through time.  One alternative is to create flower hybrids, just like it’s done by horticulturist, with stems from one plant and leaves from another for instance, to create individual designs, that still remain familiar. For anyone who has read my blog from the start,  (yep, I know that’s only you Rob) you’ll know initially I was reluctant to design florals because it’s not really my style, but I am prepared to take that all back.  I love plants, I just don’t like ditsy style prints. So it was about making floral motifs that feel like ‘my style’.


Signature style can feel elusive, but the more work you produce the more you find your voice, so I’m happy to continue to keep making stuff until it feels intuitvely my own, At the moment my best work is a combination of inks and fine liners. I want to create a solid body of work before I digitally print any samples on to fabric. I was able to ask Rachel questions about printing fashion fabrics, how to collate a collection and what were the best studios to approach within the UK.  As someone who followers a lot of home sewists online, I was familair with a lot of names mentioned and reiterated that although it can seem overwhelming, sewing, designing, illustrating all at once, all these pursuits feed into each other. So for now, i’m urged to keep up all the projects.


A rare photo of me caught in the act, happiest surrounded by plants, with a paint brush in my hand, wearing that jumpsuit I made.  (Proof it’s not just clothes I make for Instagram photos, I do actually wear them.)


At the end of the day, I had created heaps of floral motifs to scan and edit and work up into patterns on Illustrator.  But most importantly, I came away inspired, energised and filled with faith, that yep, I could do it too. When you’re creating work and putting yourself on the line, it’s all too easy for self doubt to creep in, you think ‘you’re not good enough’ ‘not talented enough’ ‘too many other people out there already’ and these moments of crisis in confidence can become crippiling. But Rachel instilled some wisdom, to make my work unique and made me feel that there is space out there for everyone, as long as you’re creating from your own authentic voice.


I’ve come full circle on my stance on floral design and now can’t get enough, I’ll be working these up into repeat patterns.  Rachel is running a drawing meet up at Arley Hall Gardens on the 3rd of August, that i’ll be going to for another day of meeting like minded people and stopping to smell the flowers. Eyes peeled for more florals to come.

All for now

Claire & Co.


Christmas, DIY, Workshop

Making a Needle Felt Robin @ The Makers Place Macclesfield

Following a trip to the Silk Musuem in Macceslfield in November, I discovered the newly opened Maker’s Place . The top floor of the musuem is dedicated to the workshops and studios of 8 local makers where visitors can go and watch the makers work, buy their work and even give the craft a go in the workshop space.


I fell for the charm and character of Jo Gardiners needle felted animals, especially her needle felted border terrier. So when I saw a robin workshop advertised I thought it would be the perfect pre-christmas project to do with my mum to help us channel our inner Kirstie Allsop . Infact, needle felt was even featured on this years Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, the Orangutan in the gift round was made from needle felt. Needle felt was new to me, but essentially you stab un-spun wool with barbed needles, so it felts togethers and you can create any shape, or in this case animals you like. The ‘stabbing’ was very theraputic and once you got the hang of it, quite meditative, so if you’re looking for a low impact and low cost craft with great results, I’d say give needle felting a stab.


To start with we used some raw wool, which you can pick up from here or here. For the workshop, Jo had everything we needed and laid out for us, so we could get started straight away, including the barbed needles, awl, sewing needle, eyes and nose and finger protectors. Next we started to shape the body of the robin into a ball, by continually stabbing the wool and moving the wool so it would be shaped evenly.


Next, using the same technique, we shaped the head of the robin. You can see that after a lot of stabbing the fibres felt together and become smooth.



From here, we joined the head and body together, by adding more felt to around the neck of the robin, to hide the join. We used the same technique, stabbing the felt around the join, so the fibres all felt together.



Next we created the wings, first by pulling the wool to create a tear drop shape, then shaping the wing, this time on a flat suface. We stabbed into polystyrene mats to prevent any damage to the table and which allowed your needle to go all the way through. You have to flip the felt every so often so it doesn’t felt together to the board. To shape the wing edge, you need to carefully stab around the edge to give the wing a smooth edge. We repeated the process for the other wing and the tail feather.


Next, we attached the wings, by simply stabbing through the wings onto the body to felt together the wing and body fibres.



From here, we used the coloured wool to create the breast and hairline of the robin. We used some more of the white wool for the belly.


To add the eyes we used the awl to pierce a hole, it looks a little brutal for the poor robin! We used a tiny bit of glue to stick the eyes in the sockets and same for the beak. Jo had moulded the eyes and beak out of clay. It’s important to remember that animals eyes are on the sides of their heads, rather than face on, my poor robin looks a bit bozeyed as his eyes are a bit too close together.


The final stage is to sew a ribbon on, so it can hang from the tree and hide the stitching with a bit more felt on top. And voila, Bobin the Robin is complete.


The workshop lasted about 3 1/2 hours and the time flew by (excuse the pun) and everyone left with a completed robin. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of Jo guiding us, checking the shape was right throughout and for the delicate beady eyes and beak. My robin is now pride of place ontop of my christmas tree and I look forward to getting him out every year, knowing the amount of work that went into making him and reminding me of my morning at the Makers Place in Macceslfield.

Needle Felted Robin

Jo Gardiner has a host of workshops in the new year, the polar bear and the hare really stood out to me, If you’re interested in giving this a go yourself I’d urge you to get signed up.

Happy felting.



Dressmaking, Pattern Cutting, Sewing, Workshop

Making a Bodice Block with Ministry of Crafts

I signed up for Bodice Fitting Class with the Ministry of Craft because I wanted to know more about how to fit the clothes I was making beyond some haphazard pattern hashing that I’d done up until now.  The beauty of making your own clothes is that you don’t have to wear off the peg, but my knowledge restricted me to make clothes out of the pattern packet instead, which defeats the point.

The day long workshop ran on a Sunday from 11.15-16.45 at Fred Aldous in Manchester in the basement workshop. Everyone got their own double desk, sewing machine and tools, and the studio was surrounded by peg boards with neatly organised tools of the trade… A makers dream.

We were guided by the tutor Janette who made everyone feel at ease. There were eight of us in the class covering a range of ages and levels of experience, and that really is part of the appeal of taking an in-person workshop, meeting like minded people. I haven’t found much of a sewing community up North yet, so it was great to find The Ministry of Crafts

To start with, we found a bodice block closest to our high bust measurements, that’s basically from under your armpits and across your chest. You can build your block from scratch, but with just a day to get everyone through the process it’s simpler to use one, or a combination of the industry standard blocks as a starting point, where some of the hard work has already been done for you. 

From here, you find the block that is closest to your waist and chest measurement, this is a common point where you need to grade between sizes and do a full, half or small bust adjustment on your chest. We were guided through this process and although this doesn’t apply to me at present, we all know that body’s morph with time, so it was a really useful skill to learn. I had the preconception that a FBA, as a full bust adjustment is commonly abbreviated to, was a daunting process, but actually it was relatively straight forward. However the process is a little time consuming if you have to repeat this process on every pattern, which is exactly why constructing your bodice block is so useful.

From here we cut out our pattern out of calico and made up the initial bodice before the fitting. I found this the most interesting part of the day, because it’s so hard to fit something on yourself when you don’t know what you’re looking for. I know I have a long body and broad back, but I didn’t know what adjustments to make to counteract this, which I really noticed when making the Etta Dress.  I tried the bodice on and Janette made adjustments to the placement and size of the darts, and even when it was pinned in I could see the difference. It took another round of fitting to get the perfect fit, but to my surprise the bodice started to follow my form completly.

Using the adjusted bodice in calico, the next step is to cut your bodice in half down the centre front, and unpick the darts and seams, and trace around the front and back bodice onto card. You then sharpen the line with a metric French curve, copy any pattern marks and cut it out along with a corresponding sleeve, and your bodice block is done. 


By this point, it was nearly the end of the workshop. Though what I really liked about the workshop was learning to make the bodice block was just the beginning of the process.  Janette talked us through steps of how to turn these blocks into our own patterns, the combinations are endless and I’m sure I’ll never look at a piece of clothing again without trying to work out the construction. We received a handout with step-by-step instructions to repeat the process at home, which saves you from trying to scribble everything down inbetween watching demonstrations, and some recomendations of books to read.

I had already bought The Metric Pattern Cutting for Woman’s Wear over the summer, once I had the idea of making my own patterns, but the textbook is very dry and if I’m honest I took one look at it, scratched my head and it stayed on the book shelf. This class however brought the book to life, it began to make sense and now I’m really looking forward to drafting my own pattern from my block. To start with, I think I’m going to make a long sleeved fitted jumper similair to the Seamwork Astoria jumper but with a longer bodice to fit my proportions.

This class gave me the confidence to try pattern cutting, but it also gave me confidence in fitting things to my body. It reminded me how high street shops employ vanity sizing to make us feel smaller and how working out your measurements in cm’s carries much less conotations than inches, so you can focus less on the number and more on how to get the perfect fit. In the new year I hope to attend the trouser fitting class and hopefully my collection of patterns bespoke to my measurements will begin to grow.

All for now.