The joys of free motion sewing


I was telling you in my last post that during the last week-end in February, I was invited to attend a free motion sewing course at Joy to Create in Hampshire. Well, I finally got a chance to tell you more about this really great experience and the amazing people at Joy to Create.

When I got a-email from Steve Moore at Joy to Create at the beginning of January, asking me if I’d be interested to come and attend one of their courses, I was intrigued at first, but then realised they were based in Hampshire, so quite a long way away from London. Hmm, was I going to go such a long way away, even for a sewing course? But then, Steve mentioned the course will be on free motion sewing, something I had never tried before, and I was hooked!! I decided to take my husband along and make a week-end out of it. So we booked a quaint country pub nearby and planned a lovely walk in the South Downs National Park and an afternoon in Chichester for the day after my course.

I had never met Steve before, but the connection was established because they are one of the top 5 Pfaff dealers in the country, and I am a Pfaff ambassador, as you may recall. So I was looking forward to chat all things sewing and sewing machines with him, as well as learning something new. And I was definitely not going to be disappointed on either accounts, as a few days before I called Steve to confirm that everything was in place for the weekend and we ended up chatting for half an hour about sewing machines and all things Pfaff. And I knew then I was about to meet some amazing people that I would love to be friends with for a long long time to come.

This impression was firmed up when I met both Steve and his wife Joy in person the next day. Just so you know who’s who, they are a family business where Joy is the sewing and crafts specialist, with a wide teaching experience, both in schools and in their own sewing studio. Steve is the sewing machine engineer and the one who handles the toughest repairs that their customers can through at him. Together they manage the Pfaff and Bernina sewing machine dealership, as well as a physical and online fabric and haberdashery store and of course the  in their back garden. And they are really really good at all of them!

Joy to Create (2016) #14.jpg

Now a bit more about the course… As I may have talked about before, I am a stubborn dressmaker. Curtains and cushion making are my idea of hell, I can never imagine ever making quilts and crafts in general have zero appeal to me. So I must admit I approached this free motion sewing thing with a bit of apprehension. In my head, it is something related to quilting, and I really struggled to understand where it would fit in my dressmaking. What I did not realise that free motion sewing is not the same as free motion quilting, although it can be used for quilting as well. It actually is a form of textile and decorative art in itself and could be described as painting with fabric and thread. And it’s darn good fun, a bit like doodling, until you learn what you’re doing that is…

So when I arrived early in the morning in the village of Clanfield, a few minutes drive from Petersfiled. I wasn’t sure the SatNav didn’t take me the wrong way at first, as I was in front of a lovely house on a residential street. I rang Steve to make sure I was in the right place, but that was it. He showed me to the back yard where I was surprised to find the cosiest and really well appointed sewing studio, where I met Joy. There were four other ladies that attended, as they never take more than 6 students at a time (and someone had to drop out). There were both Pfaff and Berninas in the studio, so I could take my pick. I chose a Pfaff Quilt Expression 4.2, as I had never used one of them and I was curious how it compared to my mechanical Select 4.0. And off we went!!

The first part of the course was all about learning how to manipulate the fabric, which effectively becomes your sheet of paper. The fabric can be interfaced, which we did, or used on its own, dependant on the desired effect. We used calico and black thread, which really looked like writing on a sheet of paper. The machines were all set-up for free motion sewing, which meant dropping the feed dogs – it’s you who is moving the fabric, not the machine – and installing a free motion foot (one came standard with my machine, but better to check your manual). You can use any thread, but experienced sewers will use embroidery thread and needles, especially if you’re looking got a particular effect. Joy demonstrated and patiently helped all of us to get going. The trick is to only move the fabric up and down and left and right, not to rotate it, regardless of the shapes you are creating. Also, you want to go fast, as it’s easier to ‘draw’ than when you go slowly.

Joy to Create (2016) #01.jpg

This is a techniques workshop, so after we more of less mastered the simple doodling, Joy showed us various samples of what you can actually do with free motion sewing. And some of them looked like proper artwork! You can do free hand applique, reverse applique with soluble fabric, create thread shapes with that too, draw images that can then be painted on, create 3D shaping, mix and match fabrics of various  weights, and pretty much anything you can thing of. Below a collage of some of Joy’s samples.

Joy to Create (2016) #02.jpg

Felt applique:

Joy to Create (2016) #03.jpg


Soluble fabric artwork:

Joy to Create (2016) #07.jpg


Free motion Monet (sewn version on the left)

Joy to Create (2016) #09


We practiced some of these techniques, like felt applique, using a thicker wool thread in ten bobbin to create shapes and even 3D flowers and the most popular one, making shapes out of embroidery silk on soluble fabric. This last one was really interesting, as you can for example copy an image using a lightbox on soluble fabric (first time I’ve heard about it), then start filling it with thread. When you’re done, you just cut around your finished shape and sink it in warm water. The fabric melt away and when dry, you have your shape ready to be used on its own or applied to another project. I made a leaf and really enjoyed this one!

Joy to Create (2016) #13.jpg

I couldn’t believe when it got to 4 o’clock at it was time to go! But I was really lucky I got a bonus demo of a few features of the Pfaff machines I was curious about, and that was so helpful! When you buy a machine at Joy to Create, to get 2 hours free tuition with Joy to get familiar with your new machine, so she really knows all Pfaffs and Berninas they sell inside out.


All in all, a really great day of sewing fun, and some great skills to add to my sewing arsenal! But perhaps the best things about the whole experience was meeting Steve and Joy and being welcomed into their home. Steve made the most delicious chicken stew for all the students and we ate in their dining room, plus home made rice pudding! Now when was the last time your sewing class came with a delicious meal??!! I am only sorry they are not based in London, as I would love to come and do more course with Joy and I have Steve take care of my sewing babies, aka my sewing machines. But if any of you are based on the South coast, I would absolutely recommend paying a visit to Joy to Create!

Alex xxx

DISCLAIMER: I was invited on the course for free, to experience Joy to Crate and share my impressions with my readers. In all honesty, I probably not have come across them on my own, being London based, but now that I did, I can wholeheartedly recommend both the courses and their sewing machine expertise.




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