infographic of feedback from first Ventnor Sewing Group

I led a workshop and it wasn’t a complete disaster

Yesterday I facilitated the first ever meet up of the Ventnor Sewing Group at the Ventnor Exchange.

room set up for ventnor sewing group workshop

I’d had the idea to organise something after seeing a #sewcial being organised in York on Instagram and then looking at a map and realising how far away York is from the Isle of Wight.

To cut a long story short (unusual for me), I approached Mhairi and Jack at Ventnor Exchange and they said that they had been wanting a sewing group to meet at the Exchange for a while. It was all quite serendipitous.

Grandma Came to Work

Jack inspired me by introducing me to the Grandma came to work collective in Portugal. This is a group of sewers who create a range of interesting items, that they have chosen to make, who then collaborate with young(er) people to market their wares in a very cool, modern, funky graphic design led way. Their products are then sold to make money to sustain the group. Their whole ethos seems to stem from rebranding ‘old age’ and celebrating the cool, hip, creativity that these fabulous women exude.

portugese grandma with flowers in her hair from grandma came to work sewing collective

I thought Jack’s ideas sounded exciting but that was a big leap from the smaller, more organic way of developing a group that I had envisaged.

Between the three of us we made a plan and Saturday 27th April was set in the diary.

Sold Out

The day before the workshop all 10 of the (inexpensive) tickets sold out, which is lovely knowledge to have as an event organiser. It also made the inaugural Ventnor Sewing Group MeetUp suddenly very real.

Although I had been mulling the idea over in my head and collecting an assortment of fabric, I hadn’t pulled many of the physical supplies together.

I also realised that although in my vision of the afternoon everyone would be chatting and sharing the equipment on a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio, that could be quite frustrating so I decided to take all three of my machines down plus my overlocker (just in case and just for the experienced people).

Continuing with my dream of it being a relaxed, chatty, afternoon I even baked a cake that morning (it didn’t get served though, we were all too busy and I hadn’t put the jam in the middle yet and it never seemed quite the right moment. I think I may just buy some biscuits next time).

Everyone came who’d bought a ticket (apart from one person who had already let me know they could no longer make it) plus one more!

With ten people, two tables, 4 machines, fabric and a basic haberdashery this room at the Ventnor Exchange soon felt very cramped and a bit claustrophobic:

The backroom at Ventnor exchange

The backroom at Ventnor Exchange

Everyone was friendly and patient though, which was very kind of them considering they were packed in like sardines and there wasn’t enough equipment to go round.

Having changed the design for the project at the last minute (why, oh why Lewis?) I didn’t have any samples made up, unfortunately. This would have made my initial introduction to the project much more clear and was picked up in some of the feedback I received. Lesson learnt!

Mindfulness and Sewing

For the first hour the atmosphere was that familiar determined silence of sewists, intent on choosing fabrics, planning and cutting out. Although I recognised it from previous workshops and classes I have attended, when you’re running the workshop yourself it’s hard to gauge whether people are enjoying themselves.

I reminded myself that this is just what most sewists are like, myself included, and certainly by the second half of the workshop it was a lot chattier and the group seemed to have found its groove.

Sewing is definitely a very mindful activity and I’m drawn to it and sewing whenever I need to just take time, slow down and pay attention. They are certainly my preferred forms of meditation.

Post-it note feedback

I used one of my favourite method’s of collecting feedback – post-it notes and asked two questions:

What would you like to do / learn about in future sessions?

What suggestions do you have for improving the workshop?

example of post it note feedback

62.5% happy crafternoon rating

I was grateful to receive a lot of constructive suggestions which will really help me improve the format of the workshop for next time. At least 5 people of the 8 who were still there at the end of the session said they enjoyed it so that’s a 62.5% happy #crafternoon rating in my eyes. A good start but something I shall definitely work to improve upon.

I will also change the format in future and do 1 – 2pm – Introduction to using a Sewing Machine (each time) and then extend the rest of the session to 3 hours(ish) from 2 – 5pm and ensure that the project / objective is achievable in that timeframe. I will also make it clear that people are welcome to book in just to use the material and machines freestyle.

Future workshop ideas

The suggestions for future sessions included:

  • Using sewing machines / the Overlocker (x5 mentions)
  • Quilting (x2 mentions)
  • Crafty Projects (x3 mentions)
  • Sewing with stretchy fabrics (i.e. jersey)
  • Freehand machine embroidery
  • Cushion covers
  • Toys
  • Children’s clothes

If anything the afternoon certainly showed that there is a space on the Island sewcial scene for establishing this group and that with a few tweaks the format will work well and be enjoyable.

Although I was nervous and didn’t ever properly relax into the flow of it I really enjoyed planning the session, putting it together and meeting everyone so I shall get some dates in the diary and plot the next few Ventnor Sewing Group sewcials!

Funky feedback infographic

To sum up the rest of the feedback and my responses I made this pretty (in my opinion anyway) infographic on Canva (for free!):

infographic of feedback from first Ventnor Sewing Group

5 thoughts on “I led a workshop and it wasn’t a complete disaster

  1. thedementedfairy says:

    Interesting- I’m being constantly asked to start a sewing group at school for staff and 6th form. Time and space are of course limited, so I’m looking for projects that can be made up in an hour or so, or at least achievable in one hour stages.
    It’s not easy!

  2. Lewis Wheeler says:

    Thank you, I’ve led lots of drama and dance workshops before (I’ve never tried tap dancing BTW, you look like you have fun though) but never anything with so much equipment and resources before!

    Also, having such a mix of experiences was both great but brings its own things to think about, as you know.

  3. Irene says:

    We need inspiration! Looking for a sewing group! Sounds great! We live in Chale green
    Let us know when your next group is on!

    • Lewis says:

      Hi Irene, I’m sorry that I didn’t see your comment previously.

      I hadn’t actually been able to organise any events myself since that initial one. However, excitingly some other people have set up a sewing group at Ventnor Exchange which starts on the 7th of March. There is more info on Ventnor Exchange’s website but I’ve copied and pasted the blurb here for convenience:

      Want clothing that fits you and expresses your unique style? Say goodbye to fast fashion and start creating your own garments, with the support of fellow sewists and knitters.
      Slow Fashion Makers is a monthly get-together to share skills and experiences on the journey to achieving a hand-crafted wardrobe that will be the envy of family and friends.Join us on Saturday 7 March, from 2pm-5pm at the Ventnor Exchange in Church Street, with subsequent sessions held 2pm-5pm on the second Saturday of the month.
      Whether you want to try your hand at making a garment for the first time, be more mindful about your fashion choices, or you want support to be more adventurous with your sewing or knitting projects, all are welcome. We have lots of exciting ideas covering everything from fitting adjustments and problem solving, learning new techniques and up-skilling, to refashioning and up-cycling.
      If you’d like to get involved, ring Gilly Jenner on 07976 685281 or email

      I’m definitely going to go and check it out. I hope to see you there.

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