Online learners meet in person for the first time at Powis Castle

10-October-2023
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Learners from across Wales who have been studying online textile courses tutored by Adult Learning Wales’ (ALW) Maria Parry-Jones met for the first time in person this August in the beautiful surroundings of Powis Castle. The educational trip was arranged by ALW to allow the learners to see the wonderful quilts, needle-point cushions, and knitwear designed and created by Kaffe Fassett*, which are currently on display at the National Trust site.

The learners were asked to bring or wear a piece they had created within the classes, and it was great to see the items, ranging from bags to quilted jackets, and even, as can be seen in the photos, a purple dress. The learners were joined by their tutor, Maria, wore a Japanese style quilted jacket that she had designed and made as one of the class projects. By coincidence, the squares of the jacket were made using fabrics from the Kaffe Fassett collection.

Those who attended came from some of the online textile courses tutored by Maria Parry-Jones. The range of courses cover patchwork and quilting, hand-embroidery, knitting and crochet, needle-felting, and upcycling textiles. Since starting during the Covid-19 pandemic, the learners have made many creative textile pieces, including quilted items inspired by the works on display. It was an emotional event for the learners and Maria, who have previously met on Zoom for over 3 years. Meeting in person was a joyous event and allowed the learners to spend some quality time together.

All those attending had a thoroughly enjoyable time, and we would like to thank Sue Whitehouse, who works as a volunteer at Powis Castle and also attends the patchwork class, for giving a talk about the castle.

One of the learners who attended on the day at Powis Castle is Vanda who gives this wonderful insight into the days’ events:

“When it was first suggested us learners meeting up for the day, it could be seen as a ‘mission almost impossible’ with everyone spread across North, Mid and South Wales. But being determined, we wouldn’t give up on the idea. Six months on, with the financial and logistical support from ALW, on Wednesday 30th August 2023, we finally had ‘lift off’ when it all came to fruition and everyone met up for the first time in person at Powis Castle for the Kaffe Fassett Quilt Exhibition.

After 3 years or so on Zoom, meeting Maria and my team mates was kind of surreal and it was visible how some of us look so much different in real life now there was not an electrical device separating us. For me too, it was nice to meet fellow learners from Maria’s other classes whom I’ve not seen before. I even met someone who lived just 20 minutes away from me which we both said was uncanny. As we began to move from our meeting point, barriers of meeting for first time were soon broken when we walked to the entrance of the beautiful Powis Castle, which then lent itself …at my insistence …for an ALW photo shoot with everyone. After all, this event would be ‘a first’ for ALW and its learners and should be recorded, and who knows, a start of more to come.

Walking through the inside of the castle in pursuit of the Quilt exhibition, would be a first for me, as I had never been to an actual quilt show exhibit before. So, experiencing this with Maria and other learners made it extra special especially in one room where numerous quilts were displayed, we could actually touch and share our thoughts with each other. There were techniques in the quilts we had already learnt or knew, but also some not seen before. Tie Quilting secured one quilt, which confirmed seeing a completed piece, ‘would not do it for me’ with any of my works as not stable enough when finished. What stood out for me, some were not ‘perfectly sewn’ for an exhibition, but that’s ok as every patchwork and quilter has their own style and perfectness which therefore makes each piece so unique.

Walking round the beautiful, coffered grounds afterwards and having a coffee, we sat and reflected on the day with one another. First and foremost, what a wonderful day it had been and meeting up in person. Ideas and suggestions too were being made for our future projects, and I could see Maria’s cogs going round with ideas on future projects she has in mind for us this coming term.

By the time it came to say our goodbyes spirits had been lifted from the whole day and even a closer bond between us all had formed. Some hugs were given at the end compared to the morning when we rucked up, slightly nervous or shy expressing words of ‘hello, how are you, nice to meet you’.

Three weeks on and writing this we are already talking about next year’s meet up. Maria already has a place in mind but not as visitors, but as exhibitors. I told you her cogs were working at Powis. Maria’s ideas and passion just seems to rub off onto her learners and so watch out Cecilia and team, her Tuesday afternoon Patchwork and Quilting class has risen to the challenge and being executed as I write.

Apologies for the war and peace, but I felt a few lines of feedback would not be suffice or express fully my experience at ALW Powis Castle Meet and Greet Day

Thank you Cecilia Forsythe (CDC South West & Mid) and your team, and to Jordan McKavett (IT Support Assistant) who work tirelessly in the background, but barely gets recognition. Huge thanks to our teacher Maria for sharing your vast knowledge, your hospitality, kindness and support on our course days. When our Zoom call ends, we’ll have come away having learnt at least one new thing with feelings of pride of what has been conquered and achieved in those three hours. The word PRICELESS describes this for me.

Lastly, much appreciation to ALW as a whole organization in securing local government funding to help fund these courses, which no doubt has helped so many learners with their emotional wellbeing both past and present to this day. Tablet medication is not required when ALW offers its own form of therapeutic therapy for their learners. Thank you again.”

The online textile courses led by tutor Maria Parry-Jones are just some of the many in person and online courses offered across Wales by Adult Learning Wales. If this story has inspired you to start your learning journey, why not find out more about the wide range of courses on offer through ALW? Click on the link here

*San Francisco born Kaffe Fassett is an internationally renowned textile designer whose bright and vibrant quilts, cushions and knitted garments have been displayed all over the world.

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