Updated: Apr 28, 2022
Remember September? There was one perfect late summer weekend when the skies were so blue, the sun warm and we were all quietly chuffed we could wear our sandals for a little while longer (though they were teamed with a cardi as the mornings had a slight chill to them).
That weekend I successfully pulled off my first ever big event - my very own Sewyeah Social Club tent at The Handmade Festival in London's Hampton Court. It was exhausting yet exhilarating and I lived on a diet of fudge, gin, ginger tea and bites of sandwich snatched between workshops.
I've been part of the Handmade Festival family for the past four years running workshops for brands such as Swarovski, Velcro and Mollie Makes but this year I decided to Go Big and rent a tent all to myself. Since the beginning of the year, I've been wanting to turn my crafting side hustle into something more, building on the joy I get from making, creating projects, teaching and meeting people. I've been gradually shaping these thoughts into something more tangible and I felt having a tent at the pinnacle event of the crafting calendar would be a great place to launch the Sewyeah Social Club and see if people liked my particular brand of multidiscipline crafting as much as I do.
Though it's now November I have finally unpacked the last box and have had a chance to properly look through all the photos I took. It went by in such a blur that the photos were a great reminder of what actually happened.
Here are some things I learnt from the experience...
1.BE BRIGHT, BE BOLD, BE SEEN
It was a bit of a family affair on set up day, mum was on pompom and confetti duty and dad built things. My good friend Lottie kept my creative vision on track and we gradually transformed the basic white cube of a tent into a colourful creative haven easy to spot thanks to the giant pompom garland outside.
I had spent a fair few weeks (well, months) planning the look and feel of the tent. I made three giant banners using fabric from my overflowing stash to hang on the back wall and working out the best way to decorate the others. I wanted something that was eyecatching and Instagram worthy. On one side I created a gallery wall filled with pieces of my own work and pieces by other creative friends - I wanted a wall that looked amazing, inspired people and promoted small businesses and makers. Judging by the number of photos taken, questions asked and the good 20 minutes Kirstie Allsopp took to look at everything I think my plan worked!
On the other wall, I wanted something simpler that broke up the big expanse of white canvas, something that would make a good photographic background for crafty selfies. I needed a solution that wouldn't leave a mark as there were fines for damage to the tent which I was keen to avoid! Having used the wonder product Haru Tape in a project earlier in the year I realised it was the ideal thing to use to create a giant wall of confetti. The whole point of Haru Tape is that it leaves no marks. It's a type of oversize translucent washi tape that comes in a multitude of colours and patterns, you can use it to create amazing temporary murals and designs so it was the ideal thing to jazz up my tent.
The final thing I knew was essential to the look of the tent were decent tablecloths! Having run workshops at the festival before I've always struggled to get good flatlay photographs of my works in progress, there's always a reflection or the design is not to my taste. I spent ages looking for the perfect wipe clean stylish cloth and about 3 days before the festival the wonderful team at Minerva Crafts came to my rescue with metres and metres of a black and white spotted oilcloth from Rico Designs.
2. YOU CAN'T DO IT ALONE
The focus of my tent was to run workshops and inspire people so I had planned 5 workshops a day. Early on when I was thinking about the festival I decided I wanted to be able to offer a range of crafts and I wanted to have other makers run classes too. This was partly so I could have a rest and partly because I had a list of people from around the country whose work I admired. Basically I just wanted to attend one of their workshops. I figured this festival was the perfect excuse to bring them all to me. (Cunning huh!)
I had the lovely Rosa (@rosapietsch) and Helen and Alice (@hand.and.eye) from Bristol, Rosa ran a beautiful acrylic brooch workshop and Helen and Alice ran a sell-out Wall Charm workshop but also acted as my right-hand women for most of the weekend. Shikira (Kre8ive Shack) popped over from South London to teach embroidered self-portraits, Miesje (@miesjechafer) bought her vintage sewing machines on a day trip from Southampton to make paper garlands whilst Emma (@steelandstitch) and Emily (@make.e) came up from the south coast to upcycle t-shirts and make Fimo Jewellery. Finally Rachel (@therachelhendersonstudio) flew down from Scotland to make wall hangings and demonstrate how to make yarn from t-shirts. All these wonderful women added to the constant creative buzz in and around my tent and I really couldn’t have done it without them. Big thanks to all.
Which leads me on to ...
3. FRIENDS ARE AMAZING
I don’t think my Handmade Festival adventure would have been possible if it wasn’t for all my lovely friends, family, and the wonderful crafting community I am part of. I had friends who … drove me and All My Stuff across town in their minivan, fed me fudge to keep the blood sugar levels up, let me hide out the back of the tent when I needed 5 minutes Me Time, helped keep the tent tidy (those of you who watch my instastories on Instagram know I am not the tidiest of people so this was a Big One) and shared their skills to make the tent look fantastic. I hate asking for help but you know what, if you ask people pretty much always say yes! (Hannah, Laura, Lottie, Holly, Mum and Dad I'm looking at you)
It was also brilliant to spend the weekend saying hi to so many people I chat to on Instagram but have never met In Real Life when they came to visit the tent. That was very special.
4. KEEP THE KIDS ENTERTAINED
Alongside everything else I had planned I wanted to have something that people could participate in even if they couldn't book onto a workshop. I had bought my large egg chair from my garden (getting that into the van was the first challenge of the weekend!) and with oodles of wool from LoveCrafts I let people go wild decorating it - weaving, pompoming and tasseling to their heart's content. Every time I walked past the chair there was either someone sitting inside having their photo taken, someone teaching or being taught how to make a pompom, someone doing a bit of weaving or someone randomly wrapping themselves up in wool (to be fair these people were mostly under the age of 5).