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Sewing, mindfulness, and the joy of creating

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Interest in all forms of crafting was boosted during the Covid lockdowns of the past two years, and patchworking and quilting was no exception.

Stroud Times visited the Friday morning patchwork class at the long-established In Stitches shop in Cainscross, led by City and Guilds-trained tutor Gail Smith, where students work on their individual projects. The class has a mixture of experienced patchworkers as well as beginners.

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Class tutor, Gail Smith. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

“This class is weekly, and people choose what they want to make. We have a variety of projects, from bags to table runners to quilts and they work on them every week, a little bit at a time,” explained Gail.

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“We also do Tuesday evenings and Saturday workshops once a month to make specific projects and I’ve just started a monthly sampler quilt course, aimed at beginners. It’s a bit like doing your apprenticeship so you work on a different technique each month.”

A sampler quilt features many different styles, techniques and fabrics and giving a beginner a chance to trying them out to make a finished quilt.

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Clare Bassett. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

Clare Bassett joined the class last September: “I started because I was expecting a grandson and I wanted to make a quilt for him. Gail told me that, with her help, I could get it finished by the birth (which we did).  I’m also an artist so I’m trying to bring images that I want to make into a textile format, combining quilting at the back with an applique on the front.”

What does Clare get out of being part of the class? “It’s joy – it’s lovely to do and to have great company. There’s the design side of it, then piecing it together to see how it looks, and finally sitting and sewing, which is very therapeutic and calming.”

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Sharon Goodson started sewing three years ago when the Friday morning class began.

“I used to sew when I was a child – my grandmother was into a lot of crafts and I sewed with her, but then as you grow up you have less time, and when my children came along I stopped sewing completely – that was 30-odd years ago.

“Gail mentioned she was starting a class so I came along as a beginner doing simple projects and things that could be completed quickly – I did cot quilts first of all, using up fabric I already had. I moved on to making scrap quilts and now I’m working on a sampler quilt.

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In Stitches in Westward Road, Cainscross. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

“Learning something new helps keep your brain active. When you’re working all your time is taken up but in retirement, you almost have to learn to ‘play’ again, and that’s where this class comes in.”

Fellow student Linda Ellis has sewn for a number of years. “My mum was a seamstress so when I’m sewing it reminds me of her. When I’m cutting fabric the sound of the scissors on the table always makes me think of her.

“I like patchwork because I like the geometric shapes of it. I’ve made blocks that will go together to make my sampler quilt. We’ve had three new babies in the family, so I’ve made cot quilts for them. I’ve also made a bag for my granddaughter who has just been given a place at Cardiff University.

“I also really like the history of it, finding out the American history of quilting and how they made quilts for special occasions – birthdays, weddings – they’re heirlooms and they are all so personal.”

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Christina Hinder, owner of In Stitches. Picture: Matt Bigwood.

Christina Hinder bought In Stitches last October: “I always refer to it as my ‘happy place’. I love it here – I look around at the beautiful fabric and help customers solve a problem or find something new to do, which gives me a great deal of pleasure.

“The classes bring vibrancy to the shop with people sharing a common interest, bouncing ideas off one another – it’s not about money, it’s about having fun together.

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A sampler quilt features a variety of fabrics and techniques.

“There is a joy in creating something – whether you think it is a thing of beauty or not, the mindfulness of the process is healing, restorative and fun. In a world where of late we have been constantly bombarded with news of death, be it the pandemic, or now the invasion of Ukraine, there is a certainty with patchwork and quilting that life sometimes doesn’t deliver on. From the first idea and planning stages, right through to hand-sewing the binding, a quilt tells a story, not always literally, but it is a moment in your life that is captured in fabric.

“Personally, I love patchwork and quilting, it enables me to concentrate on shape, form and texture. You can either follow the quilting ‘rules’ or you can play with the fabric and colours, textures and patterns and see what happens. Painting with fabric is how I think about it. It’s my happy place, one of the things I love to do and when you gift your creations, what makes me very joyful is to see the look of amazement and happiness my creation can bring to someone else.”

And if you are looking for a way to complement visits to In Stitches, you can watch online classes about patchwork and quilting at justhands-on.tv.

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Steve Barton, CEO of justhands-on.tv, said: “We all needed a little inspiration during lockdown. Still need it. Quilting provides that. Views of our videos increased by 200 per cent during lockdown.”

He added, “Our online classes feature Britain’s finest tutors who help you learn how to quilt. You get to learn at your own pace, from the comfort of your own home. And after watching a tutorial, many of our viewers head into local shops to buy more supplies and trade stories.”

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Places on the classes are in high demand at In Stitches, though places arise from time to time due to cancellations. For more details contact In Stitches.

Get unlimited access to over 1,800+ online classes from £5/month. For more details, go to justhands-on.tv.

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