There’s not much you can’t learn from Jo Riddle! Not only is she a qualified teacher with over 16 years’ experience under her belt, she also has a wealth of expertise stashed under her woggle, after volunteering for and now leading the local Beaver troop in all manner of activities such as navigation around the local nature reserve, researching water conservation or tying up shoe laces.
Jo is particularly passionate about teaching sewing so now she has her own sewing classes too. From a very young age, she was helped by her mother and grandmother to make bedding and clothes for her dolls, either by hand or by using her grandmother’s vintage Singer sewing machine so she’s well placed to pass on her traditionally acquired skills to new generations of sewing fans today.
We asked Jo why she loves sewing so much and how she might be able to help you get ahead with a needle and thread!
What do you love about sewing?
I love that you can immerse yourself in sewing. I have a purpose built work space at home and I enjoy the silence when I’m sewing. It is a form of mindfulness and much has been written about this in recent years. Professionally I am a specialist early years SEND teacher and I use sewing to give myself a work life balance and that is why my business is called Sew Happy Stitching. I also love that there are so many different forms. Many people think of sewing as dressmaking but it is much broader. My personal favourites are patchwork and quilting.
Why do you think it’s become so popular again over recent years?
I think there are a number of reasons. I think social media such as Instagram and Pinterest have a place in this as people can see what other people have posted and want to recreate, emulate and explore. The Great British Sewing Bee has played a part in promoting and popularising it, and I think as people become more aware of the environmental impact of fast fashion, it will continue to grow. However I am always keen to point out that sewing is not just about dress making. Some people find dressmaking intimidating and prefer to make bags, cushions etc. I am very keen to provide opportunities for people to explore sewing and become more familiar with it.
Do you prefer to teach sewing by hand or by machine?
I’m more than happy to teach both. The hand sewing that I teach is a method of patchwork called English Paper Piecing which is the most traditional form of patchwork.
What are you teaching at the farm?
So far I’ve taught English Paper Piecing and a two part patchwork and quilting workshop. I’ve also run an introduction to using a sewing machine as a short course, as well as standalone sessions in using a sewing machine. These last two courses came about because of customer requests and enquiries. People are inspired to buy a sewing machine by programmes such as the Sewing Bee and then for various reasons, it doesn’t get taken out of the box. I’m always keen to encourage people to take their machine out of the box and to give them the knowledge and confidence to start sewing.
Why were you keen to run your sessions at Hitchin Lavender?
Firstly it is a beautiful and inspiring location but it also has a lovely roomy workspace which is perfect for teaching. Hitchin Lavender is a supportive local business which helps to foster small creative enterprises such as myself which is really important.