OK, hands up, who else has a sewing machine gathering dust somewhere at the back of a cupboard? Mine is coated in a layer of dust and good intentions, but as of Wednesday, I will be dusting it off, as I have found something I can actually manage! And the really good news is that if you don’t own a sewing machine, or are just a bit scared, you could even cheat and a bottle of PVA school glue will do the job for you!
I was lucky enough to spend a day in the calm, creative and beautiful workshop at Boarsbarrow Design, on an appliqué course. Appliqué is the art of sewing fabric onto fabric, layering colours and textiles to create totally unique designs.
Boarsbarrow Design is the brainchild of two ladies, who like so many of us, struck up a friendship at the school gates. Lucy is a secondary school teacher by profession, and her love of textiles and appliqué goes back over 15 years. Rachel was a professional florist with a particular love of wreath-making, and is also a trained pattern cutter, with a flare for crafts which now also includes working in driftwood. Located in the picture-perfect village of Loders, only 5 minutes from the middle of Bridport, it is an easy place to get to, and Lucy can recommend accommodation nearby if you’re coming from further afield.
Lucy had asked us all to email her a picture of our house before the event, which she cleverly made up into a template, so that when we arrived we each had a template, a big colour photo and a pile of fabric samples ready to get started. There were five of us that day – two of us doing our houses, one lady doing Colmer’s Hill, which is the view from her kitchen window, and two ladies who had already done their own homes in previous workshops, so one was doing her brother’s house as a Christmas present and one a lovely harbour scene. It all looked pretty ambitious for a day’s work to me, but Lucy seemed confident!
After coffee and introductions we got straight down to business, selecting textiles from the piles and baskets of every colour, texture and pattern you could wish for. I chose a natural jute for my stone cottage, but there were spotty trees, stripy cottages and all sorts going on! Rachel showed us how to stiffen the fabric by ironing on a backing fabric, then cut and stick the pieces in place, layering as we went. These then got sewn into place, although not everyone bothered with the sewing step. Flourishes, details and texture were added with almost anything – my fascia boards are wool, there were string mullions, embroidered flowers, woolly bushes and all sorts!
I have done a few courses over the years, and a very important part of any course is always the food! We were kept stoked with homemade flapjacks in the morning, then at lunchtime sat down to homemade soups, lovely bread and a delicious pavlova to finish. It was a great opportunity to get to know the other learners better, and have a good chat (we ended up on the subject of fake green-card marriages, as you do!), but we were all keen to get back to our projects.
Mop, who lives in the village, has already done a brilliant little appliqué of her thatched cottage, so she did a busy harbour scene, with cottages, boats, seagulls etc. I don’t know how she managed such a lots in such a short space of time! We all got to a point where we had either finished, finished enough to go home and add finishing touches if we fancied it (I will, I think, mine lacks a few finishing details) or were brave enough to take home the pieces and carry on. I have to say, I am quite proud of mine, and I would certainly have another go at something different now that I know the basics, as pretty much anything goes – with a pile of scraps, the only limit is your imagination.
If you are tempted, they have just added some new dates, with a half-day Christmas workshop, a whole day appliqué workshop and two wreath-making workshops in the run-up to Christmas. They can also run private courses, where you can choose what to make. Or, if you’d love an appliqué but really think you’re too busy/hopeless, they are happy to take on commissions, perfect for yourself or for a very personalised present.
Boarsbarrow is not just a workshop space, though – it is a carefully stocked shop full of interesting, often handmade items, including textiles, driftwood, ceramics and jewellery, and lots is by local makers. The shop is usually only open on Wednesdays, but they are opening on Thursdays and some Saturdays in the run-up to Christmas, even having a dedicated Men-Only shopping night on Thursday 14th December!
The shop is online too, so if you can’t make it in person, it’s well worth checking out for a totally different range this Christmas. Plans for the future include new classes, and new skills to be taught.
I would really recommend one of their courses to anyone – however much sewing you have or haven’t done, you will get the help and encouragement to create something unique and personal to take home. As well as a lovely day meeting some interesting people, you get the daily satisfaction of looking at something and thinking “I made that!”