All sewn up: Capital’s new class for sewing

The popular classes are heading east after their success in Glasgow. Picture: comp
The popular classes are heading east after their success in Glasgow. Picture: comp
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THEIR excited faces light up, their beaming smiles and expectant eyes waiting eagerly for your reply.

You can’t let them down. “Of course I can make you Elsa and Anna dresses” is your reply, as you force a reassuring smile through gritted teeth whilst glaring at the Frozen memorabilia taking over your house.

Little do they know that your sewing skills can just about stretch to repairing a sock – a far cry from the fantastical princess costumes dreamed up by the wardrobe department at Disney HQ.

But never fear because help is at hand to equip you with the sewing skills you need to whip up kids’ costumes at a moment’s notice.

Say It Ain’t Sew – a new free weekly sewing class – is riding to the rescue of wannabe seamstresses and tailors across Edinburgh to give masterclasses in how to stitch everything from a Hallowe’en pumpkin to a Christmas tree decoration.

The concept was devised by seamstress-to-the-stars Iona Barker, who has worked with pop music icons including Beyonce, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Prince.

“It pretty much started because sewing is becoming so popular,” explains Iona, 29. “There are lots and lots of courses to meet this demand, but they are really expensive.

“My whole thought is that classes should be accessible to anyone, no matter what their income.

“There’s been a massive rise in interest with TV shows like the Great British Sewing Bee. The only place you can really learn it is YouTube, or if you’ve got a couple of hundred quid for a class.

“There was nothing for people who couldn’t really access those expensive workshops and classes. I have always been passionate about creativity and don’t believe people should have to pay to be creative.”

Iona set up the sewing classes in Glasgow five years ago, and they have become so popular she decided to launch a second set of classes in the Capital, which will take place every Monday at Cabaret Voltaire in Blair Street.

Her eager students will learn sewing techniques, with each class tailored around a specific theme – during Wimbledon little felt strawberries are the order of the day while little bunnies are made at Easter time.

After each lesson, participants can take their handiwork home to impress family and friends.

“I have had an amazing five years establishing Say It Ain’t Sew in Glasgow but the evening is constantly over capacity and I wanted to stretch out further,” Iona says.

“Every week, people travel from Edinburgh, so it seemed a natural progression to have a presence in the city. Edinburgh is a hotbed of creativity, so I’m excited to see what quirky items we can all create.”

All materials and equipment will be provided at the drop-in classes, mainly from Iona’s personal collection which she has “hoarded” over the years.

The Glasgow classes have attracted a range of participants – male and female – of all levels of experience and abilities, and Iona hopes this will be the case in Edinburgh.

“We get a whole range of people from complete beginners to those who have done a little bit of sewing to retired people who have been sewing all their lives and are experts. It’s so good to have them involved in the group because they pass on their knowledge.

“We have all the material and equipment here and work on the basis that if you’re sitting next to a person who can’t sew and you can, then you can help them out.

“Recently there’s been a lot of guys coming along because of the positive effect of the Great British Sewing Bee. We also see boyfriends dragged along by their girlfriends – and they often end up having more fun!”

She adds: “I’m keen to start repair cafes where people can come in and bring in a piece of clothing that needs altered or mended so I can show them how to do it.”

Iona started sewing at the age of three after her granny, a dressmaker in Castle Douglas, near Dumfries, passed on her skills, which is why she is so passionate about sharing these skills so future generations can benefit.

As well as working as the local seamstress for the Hydro in Glasgow for touring shows, Iona also works in primary schools throughout the country teaching the benefits of creativity and stitching.

• Say It Ain’t Sew kicks off at Cabaret Voltaire on Monday, April 6 from 6.30pm to 8.30pm on a “first come, first sew” basis. For more information, e-mail