Juliet West enrolled with us back in February 2021. She chose to study our Skill Stage 3 Textiles course because she wanted to study machine embroidery and patchwork & quilting. For Juliet, our textiles course was an ideal choice as it combines the two. Having completed her course Juliet was selected by her course tutor to feature in our 2023 Student Exhibitions Awards, Skill Stage 3 Exhibition. She was put forward in recognition of her progress and creativity. This is her #MyStitchJourney.
“I wanted to develop the confidence to follow my own ideas to completion and see what I could produce.”
I have always been a ‘maker’, which I think lots of people will relate to! In the past I have made clothes, hats, knitted a lot, dabbled with crochet. I recently found an unfinished piece of hand pieced patchwork from when I was about 13 using 1980s Laura Ashley fabrics! My mum loved to sew and I learnt from her and from school how to use a sewing machine, but I have had long fallow periods, where life has seemed too busy to carve out the time and space to create.
I had some very happy times when we lived in Melbourne, Australia, spending Saturday afternoons with a group of like-minded stitching and knitting friends, which got me going again in a creative direction. My mum was a quilter in the 1980s, but I think I rejected it for a while and only recently came back to it and discovered modern and contemporary styles of quilt that I like and want to make.
I did complete one module of an online Textile degree with another college, but decided that not only would it take me 12 years to complete part-time, which I struggled with, but I also wanted to spend more time doing and less time writing about what I was doing. I was really excited when I found the SST courses as I liked the emphasis on the practical aspects of the course.
I really felt I needed to do the course. For me, it was important to make an external commitment to the course, to give me the motivation to get the samples and modules ‘done’ and submitted, rather than putting it aside in favour of a new project. I felt that I had some skills, but knew there were lots of gaps in my knowledge and wanted to explore that further. I wanted to develop the confidence to follow my own ideas to completion and see what I could produce.
I wanted the credibility that the City & Guilds accreditation offers, as I didn’t personally know anyone who had done that course. The course materials on the website gave me the confidence that the modules would be well structured and logical and that I would enjoy the course.
Sometimes it is hard to work out why you are being asked to do a particular task in a module, but there is usually a good reason, even if you don’t discover it till a few modules later. The content of the course builds on what you have already done, so just go with it! I have also learnt a lot about myself and my own need to be creative, and I am claiming the time and space to do that!
I am planning to study SS4 Patchwork and Quilting as I have discovered a love of modern and contemporary quilting and want to improve my skills further, as there is so much more to learn! I do have a business idea too, but am not quite ready to share it yet.
I would definitely recommend the course to others, as I think the way the modules are written start off by giving you lots of direction and structure, then gradually you have to become more self-sufficient, using the skills and experience you have been building up from earlier modules. I like the way in the later part of the course you can go back to earlier work and develop it further.
Advice for New Students?
I would advise a new student to try to adopt a ‘little and often’ approach as sometimes it seems like there isn’t a big enough block of time in the week to do any study, but I found that even 10 minutes could be helpful to keep things moving. I found the timing for each module of 6-8 weeks was a good measure, as you can plan out your target submission dates for each module, then try to break down each module into a list of tasks. I didn’t always do things in the recommended order either!
I also found it very useful to have a notebook/sketchbook/workbook with me to jot down any notes, ideas or sketches that might be useful at a later date. I think I used to think that my work wasn’t good enough for a sketchbook, but now I have about half a dozen on the go at any one time, and am no longer precious about what it looks like, as it is just for me!
I think perhaps I rushed the course a little, but I was conscious that I wanted to make sure I finished within the allotted time of 2 years, but I know a lot of people feel they have ‘fallen behind’ but we all work at different speeds and some people will take longer over the design element or a particular sample. Plus for me, there were only a couple of other students on the same course, so I didn’t feel under that pressure to keep up with others.
I think a good piece of advice would be ‘done is better than perfect’, particularly for the sampling and technique modules, because it can be tempting to try to perfect your sample or the technique, rather than just submitting it, learning from it and then moving on the next task or module.
I would also recommend taking lots of photos! I found it easier to save them to a cloud storage service like Google Photos, so that you can easily access them on your computer for end-of-module submissions. You can also copy across your PowerPoint module from the previous module, then just populate it with the relevant content as you go, rather than starting from scratch each time.
I would also recommend engaging with other students on the Facebook group or with other textile enthusiasts on Instagram and being brave enough to show your work. It can be helpful for yourself and others to see your work out in the world! Try to find others who share your love for textiles, or who at least appreciate what you do! Use Pinterest and Instagram, but know when to stop looking and start doing!
Above all – enjoy it!