I’ve tried to master hand sewn applique twice. Both times my efforts have ended up in the bin or the recycle stash. However, back in January, I was browsing through Cowslip Workshop’s 2015 programme and spotted a two day machine applique class on the 2nd/3rd July. That sounded more like it – no trying to sew down dainty shapes with my huge fingers, plus the speed of machine sewing.
Cowslip have some really top notch tutors – so I took no notice of who the tutor was, signed up and forgot all about it. But as July drew near, I discovered the tutor was Philippa Naylor! If you haven’t heard of Philippa, check out her website here. She really is a superstar quilter.
The list of course requirements was long – although I did already own most of it. Packed up the night before it took up most of the kitchen table.
Philippa started the first day by talking about threads and needles. I knew the basic theory, that the higher the number the finer the thread and that good thread is smooth while bad thread is sort of hairy and fills your machine with fluff. But Philippa also explained the different properties of cotton, rayon and polyester threads, while we stroked them and snapped them, which made it all so much clearer.
Our first exercise was turned edge applique. This was something I’d tried before – with little success – but Philippa explained how often to cut the darts in the seam allowance, what shape they should be and where not to cut them. Simple tips like this, coming from a wealth of knowledge, made a big difference, although I definitely need to keep practicing.
Next we moved on to circles. Philippa introduced us to nifty perfect circle templates and showed us how to gather our circles to create a perfect applique circle.
Our third exercise was an applique heart. Philippa told us that cutting it on the grain made for a more manageable piece, showed us where to snip into the seam allowance and how to baste so we didn’t end up with that annoying tuft at the top of the heart.
After the hearts, we cut out and played with bias strips, both straight and wobbly.
Our final exercise of the day was rouleux loops. They were a bit tricky to turn, but in the end we all managed to.
On day two we tackled decorative stitches. Philippa first talked to us about threads, stabilisers and tension. Our first exercise was satin stich edged applique.
I cut out my two practice squares, adhered them to my background fabric, changed my presser foot and threaded my machine. And that’s when the trouble begun. Whatever I did, I couldn’t get a satisfactory satin stitch.
We moved on to how to satin stitch around curves. After the demo, Philippa helped me bodge an almost satisfactory stitch, but using a bobbin thread that in theory was far too thick. Everyone else started working on satin stitching curves while I did a little on my squares.
I then almost caught up by stitching part of a circle.
Fortunately the lovely Bernina machine lady from Quilt Direct was at Cowslip that day and bless her, she spent the whole lunchtime playing with my machine. Although she could get a satin stitch with a fine bobbin thread, the long and short was my machine needed a trip to the sewing machine hospital.
After lunch we learned blanket stich edging. The trick here was to pivot at the right point in the sewing sequence.
Finally Philippa talked to us about free motion stitching and we had a quick play at that before it was time to go home.
Philippa sent us away with the message to just spend time playing, exploring and improving the techniques we’d learned. Unfortunately, due to my poorly machine being taken away in the Bernina ambulance, I’m still itching to do that.
All in all, I would say that this was one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended. Philippa didn’t just show us what to do, but shared a multitude of tips and tricks that made our work so much better. Philippa herself had a wonderful common sense attitude, put everyone at their ease and helped build confidence when we wobbled. Her explanations and demonstrations were really clear, she kept us moving at a cracking pace – which personally I loved, but if you like to learn really slowly might not be for you. She was also hugely encouraging.
Overall I had two days of great fun, great learning and great value for money (£110 for two full days – including cake to die for. Oh crickey! Did I not mention the cake before? Oh yes, there’s always is the most scrummy cake with your cuppa at Cowslip Workshops. Can’t believe I left that out. Can’t believe I forgot to take a picture!) Anyway, back to the point, I’d definitely recommend Philippa’s workshops – in fact I’d be tempted to sign up for one even if I didn’t want to learn what she was teaching.