Third Time Very Lucky – Philippa Naylor – Applique Workshop

CowslipI’ve tried to master hand sewn applique twice. Both times my efforts have ended up in the bin or the recycle stash. However, back in January, I was browsing through Cowslip Workshop’s 2015 programme and spotted a two day machine applique class on the 2nd/3rd July. That sounded more like it – no trying to sew down dainty shapes with my huge fingers, plus the speed of machine sewing.

Cowslip have some really top notch tutors – so I took no notice of who the tutor was, signed up and forgot all about it. But as July drew near, I discovered the tutor was Philippa Naylor! If you haven’t heard of Philippa, check out her website here. She really is a superstar quilter.

The list of course requirements was long – although I did already own most of it. Packed up the night before it took up most of the kitchen table.

I admit a lot of this my stash of fabrics - easier to leave them all in their boxes and know you've got all you need than shuffle through deciding.
I admit a lot of this my stash of fabrics – easier to leave them all in their boxes and know you’ve got all you need than shuffle through deciding.

Philippa started the first day by talking about threads and needles. I knew the basic theory, that the higher the number the finer the thread and that good thread is smooth while bad thread is sort of hairy and fills your machine with fluff.  But Philippa also explained the different properties of cotton, rayon and polyester threads, while we stroked them and snapped them, which made it all so much clearer.

Our first exercise was turned edge applique. This was something I’d tried before – with little success – but Philippa explained how often to cut the darts in the seam allowance, what shape they should be and where not to cut them. Simple tips like this, coming from a wealth of knowledge, made a big difference, although I definitely need to keep practicing.

Turned Edge Applique

Next we moved on to circles. Philippa introduced us to nifty perfect circle templates and showed us how to gather our circles to create a perfect applique circle.

Perfect Applique Circle

Our third exercise was an applique heart. Philippa told us that cutting it on the grain made for a more manageable piece, showed us where to snip into the seam allowance and how to baste so we didn’t end up with that annoying tuft at the top of the heart.

Applique heart

After the hearts, we cut out and played with bias strips, both straight and wobbly.

Joined bias strip Wobbly bias strip

Our final exercise of the day was rouleux loops. They were a bit tricky to turn, but in the end we all managed to.

Rouleau Loop 1 Rouleau Loop 2

On day two we tackled decorative stitches. Philippa first talked to us about threads, stabilisers and tension. Our first exercise was satin stich edged applique.

I cut out my two practice squares, adhered them to my background fabric, changed my presser foot and threaded my machine. And that’s when the trouble begun. Whatever I did, I couldn’t get a satisfactory satin stitch.

Tension Trouble

We moved on to how to satin stitch around curves. After the demo, Philippa helped me bodge an almost satisfactory stitch, but using a bobbin thread that in theory was far too thick. Everyone else started working on satin stitching curves while I did a little on my squares.

Satin Stitch

I then almost caught up by stitching part of a circle.

Satin stitch definitely not perfect yet!
Satin stitch definitely not perfect yet!

Fortunately the lovely Bernina machine lady from Quilt Direct was at Cowslip that day and bless her, she spent the whole lunchtime playing with my machine. Although she could get a satin stitch with a fine bobbin thread, the long and short was my machine needed a trip to the sewing machine hospital.

After lunch we learned blanket stich edging. The trick here was to pivot at the right point in the sewing sequence.

Blanket stitch applique heart Close-up Blanket stitch Applique heart

Finally Philippa talked to us about free motion stitching and we had a quick play at that before it was time to go home.

Philippa sent us away with the message to just spend time playing, exploring and improving the techniques we’d learned. Unfortunately, due to my poorly machine being taken away in the Bernina ambulance, I’m still itching to do that.

All in all, I would say that this was one of the best workshops I’ve ever attended. Philippa didn’t just show us what to do, but shared a multitude  of tips and tricks that made our work so much better.  Philippa herself had a wonderful common sense attitude, put everyone at their ease and helped build confidence when we wobbled. Her explanations and demonstrations were really clear, she kept us moving at a cracking pace – which personally I loved, but if you like to learn really slowly might not be for you. She was also hugely encouraging.

Philippa Naylor Workshop

Overall I had two days of great fun, great learning and great value for money (£110 for two full days – including cake to die for. Oh crickey! Did I not mention the cake before? Oh yes, there’s always is the most scrummy cake with your cuppa at Cowslip Workshops. Can’t believe I left that out. Can’t believe I forgot to take a picture!)  Anyway, back to the point, I’d definitely recommend Philippa’s workshops – in fact I’d be tempted to sign up for one even if I didn’t want to learn what she was teaching.

21 thoughts on “Third Time Very Lucky – Philippa Naylor – Applique Workshop

  1. What a great sounding workshop! And cake!! 🙂 Absolutely nothing worse than a poorly sewing machine though – I ditched my old one a couple of years back in favour of a middling smart new one and have so loved learning what it can do and using it! I hope yours comes back soon as good as new.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s actually quite new. I’m told these super-doper new ones can take a bit of settling down, but I think the truth is the factory doesn’t pay so much attention to the finer tension adjustments and leaves it for the service guy to do it under warranty! Although that may make sense as there is the machine and two different bobbin cases involved in creating tension, so the overall combination matters. But a pain in the bum if you don’t have a service engineer close by. Fortunately I do.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Blogging from my notes certainly helped me remember, so fingers crossed that settled it in my rain a bit harder.


  2. Sounds as though it was money well spent Bekki. I had my machine serviced a couple of years ago and it made so much difference. Abi has her new machine so I keep sneaking a play on that 🙂 You certainly seem to have learnt loads and shall look forward to seeing the results when you put it all into action 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Primarily I’d like to make an applique/patchwork quilt for our bed. And since we’ve not that long moved there’s a few quilts and cushions I’d like to make for various rooms after that. I’m also wondering what else I might be able to stick a bit of applique on.


    1. Bet that was a lovely course. It’s a shame life always takes over once we’re back home. Pity we can’t make a bit more time to fit all these things in 😦

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s all in the way you cut it. I’ll do a post on it when I have a practice. Although I confess I know the theory, but did end up with a tuft on my practice one!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Applique work is very beautiful and can enhance so many things. (It was used a lot by Anglo Saxon and Viking women to decorate ‘best’ tunics.) You do seem to have a lot of excellent classes available in your area. Up here I’ve never seen any advertised – but then, nor have i actively sought them out. My eldest daughter made some wonderful pieces for framing as part of her Art ‘A’ level many years ago (she’s 42 now). It was all done on machine and we had to buy her her own sewing machine to do it all. As you say, selecting suitable materials and threads is very important.
    Glad you enjoyed the course and your machine is soon back home from the ‘sewing machine hospital’.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. machine is now home 🙂 I think maybe it’s partly because people come down here to retire, so it’s a more viable business and then there’s the tourists too. Cowslip, is an amazing place though – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anywhere like it.


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