Our learner Vanda Woodward shares her artistic achievements! | Adult Learning Wales

Our learner Vanda Woodward shares her artistic achievements!


Our learner Vanda Woodward shares her artistic achievements lead by our sewing tutor Maria Parry-Jones. Vanda tells us how she has progressed and what she plans to do next. . .

Vanda says, “My sewing machine skills were very basic pre Covid; I didn’t know how to wind a new bobbin or change a sewing foot, the only stitch I knew was the basic running stitch. A friend told me how she kept busy during the pandemic by undertaking various craft and sewing classes via zoom with Addysg Oedolion Cymru | Adult Learning Wales. I explained that I’m a complete novice with my sewing machine, but I was reassured it didn’t matter – any level of ability could start the course!

In May 2021 I signed up on two courses for beginners. Learning Textiles with Kate Philbin and Patchwork and Quilting with Alison Chapman. From the onset, I was shown how to use various stitches, understand four sewing settings, how to change the foot on my machine and more importantly how to wind a bobbin! Believe it or not, these were life changing skills to learn; they gave me confidence to start using my sewing machine, and parallel to this, start to build a portfolio on my new sewing skills. By the end of each course, with both Alison and Kate’s immense patience in teaching and their ability to keep me going when I was almost ready to give up, I was ready to sign up for more courses!

In June 2021 I joined the Upcycling Textiles and Beginners Patchwork and Quilting courses with tutor Maria Parry-Jones. Upon our first meeting I was very quick to point out my weaknesses where the words of ‘I’m not very good’, just naturally flowed out from me. Maria responded with ‘no one is a failure on my course, you are all achievers’. I came to learn as the weeks went by some of my fellow learners, we’re students of Maria’s pre Covid, having taught them in the community. They understood my sewing anxieties having once been there themselves. My struggles, frustration, and dilemmas when tasks weren’t going according to plan, were vented out loud with words of ‘that’s it I give up, I can’t do it, I’m taking 5, I need a coffee!’. Maria always reassured me with her calm voice. She would say ‘You can do it, I’m not giving up on you – There’s more than one way to skin a cat, we’ll try another way!’ In my case, two or three ways were needed, but; Maria was right of course, I can do it, and I did do it!

In December 2021 there was a momentous moment when everything I’d learnt from the past 7 months came to fruition, bar one – I’d not tried Quilting yet. Maria suggested we make a Christmas Tree Skirt and have a go at quilting it ourselves. This was by far my proudest achievement – especially as I chose one of the hardest stitching techniques called stitch in the ditch! Afterwards, knowing my fetish for sewing straight lines and symmetrical patterns, Maria suggested I try a new approach called Foundation Paper Piecing and use stitch in the ditch to quilt it. Initially I hesitated, but then I decided to make a car blanket for my grandson. So, that was my second piece of quilting achieved and completed – I’m now on a roll and there’s is no stopping me now!”

Vanda has progressed from her initial sewing creations as features in our last arts and crafts article during the Christmas period https://www.adultlearning.wales/en/news/361/our-south-west-and-mid-wales-regions-learners-have-been-creating-a-range-of-wonderful-textiles

Vanda continues, “Finally, in February 2022, whilst chatting with Maria in our online class, my fellow learners and I were casually told ‘we are no longer classed as beginners having now moved on to advanced classes’. Maria explained, as beginners we undertook small projects and would need step by step support, whereas now, she just tells us what we’re making, and we more or less get on with it on our own. Needless to say, my fellow learners and I were all chuffed to bits and extremely surprised on hearing our new status!

Today, I feel very proud about all my completed projects. Many are not perfect I admit, but they’re perfect to me. They’re my learning journey projects. Without those frustrating dilemmas and tantrums of ‘I can’t do it and ‘I give up’, and Maria’s own mantra back to me, ‘You can’ I’m not giving up’, I would not have known how to overcome these trials and tribulations and move forward. I realise now it’s been my learning curve journey equipping me for the next task in hand. The step-by-step guidance took me on a ‘believe in self journey’ as new skills I didn’t know existed, subconsciously emerged. The little confidence I had just grew in leaps and bounds.

My final pièce de résistance is my second piece of quilting and the embellishment of buttons to enhance the quilt overall. It will be gifted as a car rug to my 3-year-old grandson who just loves Paddington Bear and dinosaurs. I think Granny Ra Ra will be making one little boy very happy and who knows this car rug could become a family heirloom should the sewing stand the test!”