Designer Iona Barker is known to many as the face of Say it ain’t Sew, Scotland’s free sewing classes. Hoping to expand this network Barker has launched a website to promote the craft’s physical and mental benefits.
She said: “Sewing can be therapeutic; one of the reasons I took it up was to forget my own worries.
“Before I started Say it Ain’t Sew I had moved up from London, after been made redundant from my dream job; so I was having a really crap time. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I wanted to do something to help myself, and others in the same situation.
“I did some research into Glasgow’s sewing movement and found that while there was a lot of ‘stitch -and -bitch’ groups there wasn’t any free classes. So I formed Say it Ain’t Sew and made admission free, so that anyone could turn up and get creative.”
Say it Ain’t Sew is a beginners’ class, where equipment and fabric is provided for students. Barker founded the class in 2010, at the Hillhead Book Club. Then after years of successful tutorials, she established a second class, in Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire. Now the two run weekly (on Monday from 6.30 to 8.30pm in Edinburgh and on Tuesday from 6.30 to 8.30pm in Glasgow).
The classes’ success, Barker said, comes from student’s satisfaction in their finished projects.
She explained: “Making fun things for family and friends gives people a great sense of achievement. The distraction also helps people that suffer from mental ill health, such as anxiety.”
Another way the class helps those struggling with mental health is through philanthropy.
Barker said: “Every year Say it Ain’t Sew does an event for charity, last year it was a 22 hour stitchathon for SAMH (Scotland’s mental health charity). The stitchathon raised about a grand-and-a-half, and made two huge wall hangings.”
She continued: “This year’s stitchathon will be for Scottish Autism. We are going to create an interactive sensory floor map, with electronic components sewn in, which light up.”
This and other Say it Ain’t Sew projects will soon be documented on the movement’s website.
Barker said: “Say it Ain’t Sew is on a lot of social media channels, but they can be limited when it comes to hosting static information; for instance a lot of people ask me the same questions every day, so the website will answer frequently asked questions.”
She added: “The website will also act as a resource for those not on social media.”
It will do this via text and multimedia content, with Barker’s YouTube sewing videos taking pride of place.
She said: “The YouTube Say It Ain’t Sew tutorials are a new addition to the movement. They came as a result of a brainstorm in taxi, between myself and a film-maker called Grant Lynch.
“Grant wanted to produce edgy cooking shows; and I told him that I wanted to create something similar, but covering sewing instead of cooking.
“So we swapped details, discussed it again, and met to shoot the initial videos. Grant has since moved to Canada, but I am now working with a new filmmaker, Sean Gill, on the latest tutorials. As ever, the videos will be fun, short and sweet.”
As well as showcasing design innovations, the tutorials will answer viewer’s sewing queries.
Barker said: “We get a lot of requests from people who want to alter and repair their clothes. For instance, a lot of people manage to rip the crotch of their jeans when lunging, so I am making a tutorial to address this problem!”
Barker’s repair experience comes as part of her illustrious wardrobe career. Recently she worked as part of Glasgow SEE Hydro’s costume relief; prepping touring stars’ wardrobes before they hit the stage.
She said: “The most exciting project that I worked on at the Hydro was Beyoncé’s Mrs Cater tour.
“The show was crazy, it was so much fun, but very stressful.”
Talking of her time at the Hydro, Barker said: “I loved it, but it was very fast paced – for instance sometimes you would only have 30 seconds to repair things – after a while I was tired.”
She added: “I gave up working in Hydro wardrobe last December, after a very busy couple of months. I felt as if I had hit my peak in costume work, and I wanted focus on helping other people get to that level.”
Now Barker encourages anyone seeking sewing advice to contact her via the website.
She concluded: “I hope the website speaks to people who are stressed or anxious and looking for alternative relaxation; sewing really can meet that need.”