Back in May I was lucky enough to attend the Guthrie and Ghani Outerwear Sewing Retreat. Three whole days of unadulterated sewing – just what I had been looking for!
Guthrie and Ghani is an amazing sewing shop and studio located just outside Birmingham in the hip ‘village’ of Moseley. A great location for a retreat – no shortage of coffee shops, bars and restaurants!
The sewing shop itself is a dream – a large range of high quality dressmaking fabrics and independent patterns, plus very knowledgeable friendly staff – the perfect combination to fill up your shopping bag, and empty out your purse!
Upstairs is the studio which is airy and light thanks to the large windows and vaulted ceiling. There’s everything you could want – banks of sewing machines, overlockers, high cutting tables and every sewist tool you could possibly imagine! Plus a kitchen area for essential re-caffination.
When you consider that this mock-Tudor building took over a year to be renovated by the owners Lauren Guthrie (a finalist on The Great British Sewing Bee) and her husband Ayaz Ghani you can tell how much love and passion has gone in to creating the business. Lauren has written a post on the journey of G&G from renovation to their 5th birthday – well worth a read – it’s an inspiration!
Although I live less than an hour away I decided to embrace the retreat experience and stay in Moseley. Although there are no hotels nearby there are plenty Airbnb hosts and I ended up staying at a fantastic coachhouse just a 5 minute walk from the studio. As it turned out one of my fellow retreaters, Becky (aka Notes from the Sewing Room), was staying in the main residence – it was so nice to have someone to walk to and from the studio – and get breakfast with!
The aim of the retreat, aside from meeting an amazing group of fellow sewists, was to sew an item of outerwear over three days with expert tuition on hand. The Kelly Anorak and Clare Coat both by Closet Case Patterns were recommendations but you could choose any pattern you liked.
I went for the Kelly Anorak, actually not something I would normally go for but I wanted a challenge – working with a waterproof fabric, making a hood and adding all those poppers would be new skills for me so it was a perfect opportunity to get the most out of having tutors to hand.
To kick off the retreat eight excited sewists gathered in the shop and unleased a fabric buying frenzy! Thankfully I had pre-ordered my fabric so it was waiting for me but I still needed help to get the trillion notions required – luckily the shop staff had it well in hand! We only really got side-tracked from our purchases when Lauren entered – let’s face it we were all a bit in awe of the sewing celeb!!
We all then headed upstairs to the studio and went through the usual introductions. As it turned out I had actually already met one of the sewists on another course a few months earlier! Obviously everyone was lovely and although I was the oldest person in the room (at the mere age of 46!) I didn’t feel too ancient by comparison.
Layla was to be our main tutor for the three days, with Lauren also helping out. Layla is amazing – she has so much knowledge and energy – and she got us straight to work cutting out our patterns and fabric. To assist with sizing we were able to try on both Layla and Lauren’s Kelly anoraks which was soooo useful and Layla helped all of us to adjust our patterns to get the best fit – no time for toiles here!
The whole day was about cutting, cutting and more cutting. We did however, stop for a delicious lunch which was provided by the local cafe Damascena which serves Middle Eastern style food that tastes amazing. All food dietary requirements were catered for and there was more than enough to go around. Yum!
We topped off a hard days work cutting out with a spot of fizz at the studio and a chance to unwind. Later a few of us headed out for dinner at a local pub which was a great opportunity to get to know each other better.
Finally some sewing! We were all starting with our coat lining and Layla was the ultimate teacher – she seemed to know when we needed help before we did! We also had some short demo’s from Layla and Lauren on sewing welt pockets and bound button holes and they were on hand to help any of us that decided to take the plunge.
Another lunch from Damascena and, despite us being on sewing missions, we all made the effort to take a break and chat. Throughout the day there was plenty of tea and coffee which was much appreciated and, as the first of this year’s heatwaves struck, Lauren kindly brought us all ice lollies hand delivered by her too cute daughter Sophia. You can’t beat that!
In the evening all the sewists met with Lauren and Layla at the Italian restaurant Ponte Di Legno for some fantastic food.
It was all hands to the deck today as everyone was trying to get as much done as possible before the end of the day.
Unfortunately three days wasn’t enough time to complete our coats but we weren’t all that far off and all left not only with a wealth of new skills but our sewjo’s topped up to the max. The retreat was an indulgence which we all appreciated (especially those that left their families to fend for themselves for a few days!) I met an amazing group of ladies, learnt more than I can actually recall and just thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Would I do it again? Already looking forward to next year!
Please note: most of the above photos have been ‘borrowed’ from G&G, I hope I am forgiven, as there was literally NO time to be taking photos!