Using a sewing machine for the first time, making visual decisions, design and being selective with materials for creating items from scratch were some of the skills explored in Karina Thompson’s textiles workshop at the Taunton Centre on March 28th.
Karina uses sewing machines to make her own artworks and also works for a business that makes them. Showing examples of how sewing machines can be used in a variety of creative ways, Karina’s confidence put even the more hesitant students at ease.
Students practised with pre-programmed decorative stitches and drawing free-style with the machines. After some initial hesitation one student quickly grew in confidence and decided, “I’m going to make a make-up bag for my holiday,” and began the process of selecting fabric, measuring, cutting, decorating with the sewing machine, structural sewing using pins and eventually adding ribbon to create a draw-string at the top.
This process required a lot of work, time and patience; students made sophisticated visual decisions on which fabrics and buttons would potentially look ‘good’ or not. Karina gave assistance but consistently challenged and reiterated the importance of the students doing as many of the processes themselves, creating a greater sense of pride and achievement. The workshop also explored learning the confidence to make work and not worry about whether the outcome is perfect and that mistakes can be altered or even incorporated into the finished design of a piece of work.
“Can I stay longer?” a student asked, choosing to stay for the whole day so that she could not only finish her own bag but finish a small purse that had been started by one of the staff during the morning. One member of staff commenting, that this particular student had, “focused on this workshop longer than anything.”
“I know what I want to make.”
In the afternoon two more students joined, one making a phone case, the other a camouflage surface using cut-out felt shapes that were tagged on to fabric using a micro-tagger gun. Karina brought with her a book of military equipment that included patches, medals and badges as inspiration for one particular student interested in the military.
There is much potential to take these new skills and ideas further; making products such as bags/purses/phone cases and adding personalised features such as initials, names, words or bespoke hand-finished details with buttons, sequins or thread. “Cool,” as I heard more than one student say throughout the day perhaps best summarises the sense of enthusiasm felt from the students.
Materials were left to finish the work started and the staff also gained by learning new skills, “It’s really helpful for us to have artists like Karina here to show us new techniques and skills that we wouldn’t normally have access to.”