Here in Manchester we are lucky enough to have a large number of historic buildings and houses. Hidden in plain sight on one of the busiest roads leading to the city centre is Elizabeth Gaskell’s House. The house is the former home of the famous author and her family. Her novels include Mary Barton, Cranford, North and South, Ruth and Wives and Daughters. I went along to enjoy a “crafternoon tea” session in the Servant’s Hall. Craft, tea, cake and a beautiful historic house – what’s not to like?
Elizabeth Gaskell’s House have been running Crafternoon Tea sessions for the last few months. I’ve really wanted to go to them but I was a bit worried that my sewing skills were not good enough; but I need not have worried. I went along to try my hand at some Victorian Crazy Patchwork; a craft I’ve never heard of before but one which is ideal for people like me who have fairly basic sewing skills.
The Crafternoon Tea sessions are run by talented volunteers. The Victorian Crazy Patchwork class was run by Margot, a very experienced and helpful teacher who provided everything we needed to create our own crazy patchwork. Margot began by talking us through, step by step through the process. One of the best things about Victorian Crazy Patchwork is if your sewing isn’t especially neat, it doesn’t matter because the stitching is covered by the fabric, making it ideal for beginners.
Victorian Crazy Patchwork, Margot explained, was a style of patchwork which fine Victorian ladies would do to occupy themselves. They usually used scraps of silk from old dresses or from dressmaking to create colourful patchworks. I remember my husband’s Grandma having what I now know to be a Victorian Crazy Patchwork cushion.
Margot gave us all a pack including a template, a piece of calico and a notebook we could cover with our patchwork. There was a large bag of silk pieces on the table and we all selected a few pieces for our patchwork. We cut out our hexagon shaped centre pieces and stitched them onto our calico; then we cut pieces of contrasting silk and stitched them on. Sewing them so the stitches are underneath (this is hard to explain but hopefully you can get the idea from the photo below).
Around half way through the session we stopped and made our way into the tea room for a pot of tea and a slice of really good cake. The tea room is a lovely airy space with the original stone floors from Elizabeth Gaskell’s days at the house. It was the hottest day of the year so far and it was the perfect place for some cool respite from the temperature outside.
After we’d been fueled by tea and cake, we returned to the Servants Hall to carry on with our crazy patchwork. It soon became clear that despite my best efforts, I wouldn’t be able to finish it in the two and a half hour craft session. Thankfully Margot let me take everything I needed to finish it at home. In fairness, it was ambitious of me to try to finish within the time. But I left armed with the skills and knowledge to finish off my work at home.
The Crafternoon Tea at Elizabeth Gaskell’s House costs £19 and includes everything you need to create your craft as well as a hot drink and cake. Keep an eye on their website for more craft and literary events. I do know they have a few limited places left on their Crochet Afghan Squares Crafternoon Tea on 17th May and Paisley Woodblock Printing Crafternoon Tea on 21st June 2018.
I had the most lovely relaxing afternoon. Even though I went by myself, the rest of the crafters around the table were all very nice and chatty. It was lovely to switch off and concentrate on sewing the patchwork and enjoy the peaceful and historic surroundings of Elizabeth Gaskell’s House.