There is a real buzz at the Woking Centre: the sound of sewing machines; learners comparing skill and design; beautiful fabrics, concepts and patterns; counting and threading and camaraderie. The atmosphere is upbeat and vibrant as each individual learner cracks on with their personal project.
Tutor Kim makes sure that everyone feels part of the class and is a source of guidance and encouragement to all. Kim was given subject options for school and the choice to pursue cookery or sewing. She said, "I remain forever grateful to the teacher that encouraged me to learn this craft as she said you can always learn to cook but you can't learn to sew."
The range of soft furnishings is incredible; from exquisite patchwork art using fabric cut-offs to silk roman blinds, kitchen blinds, curtain-making or even a cushion made with love as a gift.
Learner Adriana Denison is busy completing the finishing touches to a beautiful roman blind that was made with meticulous attention to detail in class. Learner Sylvia is working on a gorgeous patchwork cover using leftover bits of fabric including designs of birds, cheeky monkeys and delicate flowers – a gift for her daughter. One learner is completing a smart-looking roman blind to go up in an office. Another was proud to complete a cushion, using up spare fabric. The sources of inspiration are endless. A visit to a soft furnishing class is soothing: as the learners apply their skills with dexterity, they are focused on their projects and although there is a relaxed atmosphere and happy banter in the group, the focus of each individual to produce work to their personal best standard is clearly visible.
Sylvia has been attending Surrey Adult Learning (SAL) courses for over six years and is a real champion for learning.
She said: "My career with Surrey Adult Learning is ongoing and I have benefitted enormously from many courses and skills that I have acquired. I have learnt to cook and passed City and Guilds examinations. I have attended embroidery classes, creative writing courses, upholstery furniture restoration, and pianoforte. Currently, I am attending soft furnishings classes at the Woking Centre. I am in a lovely class, with a great tutor and delightful company. I have learnt so much and I have lots of fun. I am a firm believer in education, and would have liked to go to University, but my father had different ideas for me - I became a nurse, training at St Mary Abbot's Hospital in Kensington, where I was very happy."
SAL is extremely proud of the loyalty and commitment that our learners have for their courses and equally proud of the amazing outcomes which are the reward for all the hard effort.
Progression from SAL courses
Some learners continue to progress after attending a soft furnishing courses with SAL. This was the case for former learner Sophie, who set up her business 'Sophie Sews,' in Horsell - a small local company that creates bespoke curtains and blinds made-to-measure in Woking and Surrey. They also make a range of co-ordinating soft furnishings to compliment the made-to-order curtains and blinds, including cushions and upholstery. Sophie attended about 18 months of SAL courses to refine her skill in curtain-making.
She originally studied interior design at Guildford College and worked in visual merchandising. As her family grew, she took her interest more seriously, initially kitting out her house with homemade curtains. That made her realise that this was her future career. In order to finance her business plan, she worked at the local estate agent. Sophie found suitable retail premises to rent, chose niche fabric brands to use for her work, and designed a business website. Orders steadily flowed in to the point where Sophie has recently outsourced curtain making to a bespoke company in Norfolk, who are most efficient and offer a seven-day turnaround service.