AD – I was invited to Sew Confident to attend this Machine Doodling class for the purposes of writing this honest review.

On Friday 22nd February, I had the absolute pleasure of heading into Birmingham to spend the evening with a lovely bunch of people learning how to do machine doodling at Sew Confident. It was honestly such a treat, for so many reasons. Crafts have long been ‘my thing’. Well, they were. Pre-parenthood. When I had free time, disposable income and energy. I love working hard on creating something from scratch. I love that sense of achievement and pride, especially if you then give whatever has been made as a gift. I love trying to master a new skill: the challenge, the effort and the reward!

Sewing Machine at Sew Confident Birmingham

The best bit about booking into a sewing class is that it guarantees I’ll have the time set aside for sewing. Before Pickle was born, I decided to take a dressmaking class and absolutely loved it. I was particularly proud of the skirt I managed to make although the sizing was way off (I was heavily pregnant during the course so had to guess sizes and I definitely over-estimated!). Sadly, I can count probably on one hand the amount of times I’ve been able to get my sewing machine out since Pickle was born: I made a bow tie for Jim for our cotton wedding anniversary, I made a denim skirt for a Simplicity Challenge (which I blogged about here) and I altered my bridesmaid dress for a friend’s wedding.

Where is Sew Confident in Birmingham?

Nestled in the Jewellery Quarter, it was super easy to get to Sew Confident by hopping on the tram outside Birmingham New Street and getting off in the Jewellery Quarter. The venue was easy to find, and I even walked past where we bought our wedding rings from which was a lovely little blast of nostalgia (and a reminder that I need to go back to get my rings rhodium plated again very soon).

The sewing studio is up on the second floor, and there was plenty of space for us all doing the class. We each had a sewing machine (an Elna 520 S), an embroidery hoop, a practice piece of bonded lining fabric and a ‘real’ piece, an embroidery hoop and a pair of scissors.

The sewing machines at Sew Confident in Birmingham at machine doodling class

What is Machine Doodling?

Machine doodling, often known as free motion sewing or free motion embroidery, can best be described as sewing with your feed dogs down, or in layman’s terms: sewing without the automatic directional feeding a sewing machine usually does, allowing you to sew in any direction. It works particularly well when appliqueing fabric to create clever looking, artistic designs – the possibilities are endless!

First attempts at machine doodling at Sew Confident Birmingham

Our class was taught by Janneene, who welcomed us all with a cup of tea (always a good start!) and was very reassuring despite a lot of nerves from us all. I’d seen some examples of what kind of effects could be achieved on the Sew Confident website, and they looked so impressive. I was setting my expectations for myself much, much lower. She set us off with some templates we could use to practice: including a heart, a cloud, a cursive hello and a lightning bolt. From the very first attempt, I was amazed at how easy it was. Without the feed dogs/teeth, it was the simplest thing to just move the fabric in any direction, using friction pen guidelines that could easily be ironed away afterwards.

Deciding on a Design

I added a piece of red fabric to my lightning bolt to try combining applique with the free motion sewing – it was the combination of the two that was going to help create our finished pieces. All of a sudden, inspiration struck. I wondered how difficult it would be to create a set of wellington boots. I did a quick Google search to find reference images that helped me draw the basic shape of wellies onto my fabric, found a suitably flowery piece of scrap and set to trying it out. And I was so pleased with my little tester!

Machine Doodling ideas - wellington boots practicing

That was it, I decided to try and do two sets of wellies splashing in a puddle – a perfect nod to one of Pickle and I’s favourite past times, and if the resultant embroidery hoop was any good, it would look perfect on the wall above our shoe racks! With another lovely cup of tea from Janneene, and a sugar boost in biscuit form, I got cracking.

Two Sets of Splashing Wellies

To say I was pleased with the finished result would be an understatement. I was so proud! I couldn’t believe I’d gone from having never done machine doodling before to creating a pretty decent attempt that actually looked like what I’d intended. I loved layering the fabric offcuts and adding extra bits of doodles to give the drawing character and style. If I’d have had a bigger hoop, I’d have loved to have had three pairs of wellies: one for me, one for Jim and one for Pickle but maybe that can be a project for another day.

Finished Machine Doodling hoop at the end of the class

What I really loved was seeing how different each of the hoops were for the six of us in the class: everything from watering cans to a kitten with a flick knife! I think it’s safe to say we all surprised ourselves with what we were able to create within the timeframe, and we all came away from the class really proud of our achievements.

I would really recommend the Machine Doodling class as a lovely way to spend an evening – whether you go along with a friend or head along solo, you’re almost guaranteed to meet the nicest of people (we all commented that evening how you always meet the most wonderful people at sewing classes! A special shout out to Louise who gave me some great advice for sewing for your children and who introduced me to Made By Jack’s Mum). If you don’t fancy machine doodling, there’s plenty to get creative with at Sew Confident – I’ve already got my eye on the backpack making class, how cool does that sound? Check out the Sew Confident Birmingham website or have a look on their Facebook page to see what classes are upcoming.

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Machine Doodling class at Sew Confident in Birmingham for the purposes of writing this review. All opinions remain my own and are based on my own personal experience.