A Day in the Life of The Festival of Quilts Children’s Workshops Organiser

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My name is Karen Pearce and I am the person who organises the children’s workshops at The Festival of Quilts. 

How did I get this job? Well, I sort of volunteered to do it!  After attending the first Festival of Quilts, I suggested to the Guild that there should also be children’s as well as adults’ workshops at the Festival. The Guild agreed, and encouraged me to organise and run them, and I have been doing so ever since. The workshops are for any children, not just members of Young Quilters.

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Just like other Guild members, sewing and fabrics are my passion, but alongside this, I believe that it is very important to pass on to children and to adults, the skills and the pleasures and joys of creating something yourself, which can be kept, or given to a loved one.

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Since joining the Guild, possibly around 25 years ago, I have been Young Quilter Rep in Guild Region 4 (where I used to live) covering Cornwall, Devon & Dorset, and Young Quilter Officer for the whole of the UK.

I have been living in Brittany in north west France for eleven years, since retiring from full-time teaching. Here, I run a club for adults and for children, so spreading the magic goes on!

It is important to add that I really could not run The Festival of Quilts workshops without the help of a whole bevy of enthusiastic and faithful quilters from all over the country, some of whom have been helping almost from the outset. Some even volunteer to prepare and run a workshop and help at others. I have met so many lovely quilters over the years, some who have been Young Quilter Reps in their region, others who were teachers or worked with children in other ways, and others who just enjoy helping the children.

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My special thanks to Heather Chalkley who has been my right hand lady and gofer at Festival for quite some years now – I don’t know how she puts up with me! Also since Sarah Illing, the Young Quilter Project Leader, took up office, things became a lot easier for me, as she deals with a lot of the paper work required, as well as our stock of supplies which are kept for us at the Guild office in York. She also deals with getting new sponsors to donate products, fabrics and threads to give to the children attending the workshops, and she attends and helps us at the Festival.

In spring I normally re-contact Brother, who have sponsored the Children’s Workshops since the start of the workshops, many years ago. They are always very happy to help us, and every year provide us not only with a whole bank of brand new, child-friendly sewing machines, but also a ‘goodie bag’ and items to go in it, for each child who attends the workshops. Without Brother’s faithful support, it would be more difficult to offer such a rich experience to the children.

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My preparation work begins in mid to late October, when I contact other tutors to see if they would like to run a workshop for the children. Heather has no choice in the matter!  Some have done it for years and are very happy to continue. Some start off as helpers and then volunteer to run a workshop. The entire programme of eight workshops, two per day, needs to be sorted, accompanied by photos of the projects, and then sent to Upper Street Events, the Festival Organisers, normally by the end of November or beginning of December.

Towards the end of April I then email my bevy of helpers to see if they wish to help again, and by the beginning of June, I try to have the final version of the rota of helpers ready to pass on to Upper Street Events. Then all that is left is to go to the event in August!

We, (Heather, Sarah and me) arrive on the Wednesday to set up our area which is sometimes still being built! Setting up can involve having to be patient whilst the correct furniture is delivered, cleaning it, and waiting for the electricity to be connected before we can fully prepare the sewing machines ready for the first workshop at 10.30 am the next day.

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All that is left is to enjoy! Enjoy meeting up, catching up and sharing with friends and other quilters not seen since last year. Enjoy the fun of helping the children and seeing their pleasure. Some children who have attended in previous years, others who have never sewn before. Job done!

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