School of Craft – get stitched up!

Want to get crafty, but no idea where to start?  Luckily for us, Bedford has a wealth of talented crafters just waiting to pass on their knowledge to us less gifted individuals.  Leading the pack is School of Craft.  We met up with the Master Crafter, Jo Flannery to find out what inspired her:

On entering Jo’s home and particularly her workroom, it’s clear that she has a passion for sewing and making beautiful things.

“I’ve been sewing since I was about 10. I’ve always been – how shall we say – vertically challenged and my mates were shopping in Chelsea Girl whilst I was stuck in the kids shops. Fuelled by a need to wear cool clothes I badgered my neighbour who was a seamstress, and she taught me how to make clothes. I still didn’t look cool, but at least the clothes fitted!”

Jo Flannery - She's in Stiches (photo courtesy of Shaun Armstrong)

Following a fashion design degree at Manchester, she was selected by the Clothes Show as one of the most promising fashion graduates in the country!

“That was my 15 mins of fame on telly!” says Jo modestly.  “I then landed a job working for Catherine Walker and the first dress I worked on was a £10,000 hand beaded evening dress for the Princess of Wales! I worked with amazing fabrics and incredibly skilled artisans and worked on stage dresses for Shirley Bassey, outfits for the Duchess of York, the Queen of Norway, even Margaret Thatcher (but don’t hold that against me!). In fact my boss at Catherine Walker was from Bedford!” (We get everywhere -Ed)

So what inspired you to set up the School of Craft?

“I’d left work to have my children and became inspired by the burgeoning craft scene. I started making things again & it made me feel good.  Teaching people how to make simple things is integral to of School of Craft. I don’t want it to be intimidating. There are lots of things I could teach in sewing that are really complicated, but quite frankly who’s got the time? I want fast projects, easy to make, that hopefully will save some money too.”

“My most popular class is my beginners 4 week evening class where we make a simple cushion cover and bag.  All evening classes are for a maximum of 6 people. I provide the sewing machines, patterns and lots of gentle encouragement! Most people whizz through the projects and leave with a happy glow of achievement. Lots of my customers start off with this class, catch the crafty bug and come back for more. It’s great to see the enthusiasm!”

So Jo, what on earth is a ‘Crafternoon’?!

My Crafternoons are held in the private dining room at The Embankment Hotel. The idea behind these was to have social event where like-minded people could get together to chat, sew and eat cake. I design special craft kits with a seasonal theme and it’s a lovely way to take a few hours out of our busy lives and relax with a needle and thread whilst nattering away with nice people.  The next one is in November and will be Christmas themed, so sign up to my mailing list if this sounds like your idea of fun.”

You’ve inspired me!  I’m going to dig out my sewing machine and get crafty!  Can you recommend places to get fab fabrics from?

“For basics, The Singer Shop in Bedford and Dunelm. Sadly, for more interesting fabrics and notions you need to look online or travel to MK, Cambridge or London.  This is one of the reasons I’ve decided to start selling fabric – to cater to the crafty community in Bedford and to offer an opportunity to feel the fabric before you buy. Buying fabric online is a bit of a minefield!  I host a fabric sale event on a regular basis in Bedford, so look out for further information in The Clanger. I’ll have lots of lovely stuff, printed and plains and it will be cheaper than buying online.”  See you there!




Editor of The Bedford Clanger, organiser behind BedPop, an events manager and a freelance copywriter

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