If you have read my Bio or popped onto my own blog, you will know that I write under the name Picklepiemama, and that I spend far too much time making things (or, at the very least, thinking about making things). I love sewing and, like many of you, have far too much fabric lying around the house, let alone all the other ‘bits’ that are needed. And I still have a ridiculous amount of sugarcrafting stuff from doing my Masters Diploma a couple of years ago.

Anyway, having started sewing again a few years ago, I started became interested in quilting after finding an unfinished quilt of my Mum’s.

Mum’s hexies

Hexies now rule my life, and I have boxes of them lying around. One of these days I will finish the hexie quilt I started over 2 years ago… and Mum’s…

Most of my hexies. I really ought to start sewing them together!

Through Pinterest and blogging, I discovered other types of quilts, UKQU, the Festival of Quilts, and quilting classes. I dragged hubby round FOQ in 2016 and got even more inspired. However, I had to wait a bit to start classes or join a quilting group as there aren’t many near me and I didn’t know any other quilters, or have the confidence, to start my own.

And that brings me to the point of this blog. Why I go to quilting classes and what they have done for me?

I have written about my challenges with mental health on my main blog before. It is a long term thing for me, but has got considerably worse in the last 18 months or so. I have depression and GAD anyway, but once the main cause of my anxiety had gone, it floated around til it landed on something else, and that something else has now taken over my life. I have a phobia which has been an issue for as long as I can remember, but now it has reached obsessional levels and I have OCD on top of everything else.

Just over a year ago, I was really struggling with these issues and trying to combat them through CBT and counselling. One of the things suggested by the counsellor was to do something to distract myself and break the obsessional thoughts cycle. But nothing was working. I couldn’t read, sew, cook, work, function. I was caught in a downwards, destructive cycle of being terrified that I wouldn’t achieve anything, but finding myself too scared to actually complete or even start anything.

And then a chink of light came in the form of a place opening up in a nearby quilting class. I was trying and struggling to make a quilt as a wedding present for hubby’s cousin, so it was ideal timing.

Prepped fabric, using Jaybird Quilt’s Sidekick ruler

The first class I went to, I remember being terrified. I was scared of meeting people (I am rubbish at that and always assume people won’t like me – I forgot to mention the self-esteem issues!), scared of getting stuff wrong, and scared of my phobia. But everyone was welcoming and helpful, and although I didn’t get much completed, I had made it out of the house and had even managed to not think about my obsession for more than an hour.

So I carried on going and carried on working my way through making the quilt I was doing, stopping by on the way to start 2 Christmas lap quilts for my sons (which still aren’t finished over a year later…), getting to know people, and getting lots quilting advice. Some classes were made very difficult by suffering IBS attacks for the whole evening, but I don’t think anyone knew, much to my relief.

By January, the quilt top was finished. It looked amazing (thanks to a great pattern and all the fabric suggestions from Jaybird Quilts – as well as a few Twitter conversations!) and I was so proud of it. It was wonderful getting compliments from the others and goes to show how much little thing can improve the mental well-being of anyone. I was having fewer anxiety problems and my self-esteem had moments of being not quite so bad as usual.

So, the quilt got layered up, with 505 and curved safety pins in use. I made a muck-up up of my first attempt to quilt straight line and decided to draw the rest on to follow. It was a nightmare trying to squash my quilt through the small throat of the machine (I now have a bigger machine). I spent hours making yards and yards of bias binding (not my most favourite job), and eventually I finished the quilt, hand sewing the binding.

Apparently, I can’t sew a straight line without a guide
This quilt *will* go through here!

Meanwhile, I also started working on some of the projects that were being taught in class, and it was great to be able to compare my errors and successes to everyone else’s. And relaxing, and chatting, and forgetting my worries, and, more importantly, to be anxious.

And last summer my quilt went on display at the 2017 FOQ (hubby’s cousin will eventually get his wedding present… At some point!). Having fallen in love with using solids for quilts, I am hoping to attempt more, especially those from Jaybird Quilts, in the future. Watch this space…

‘Arcade Game’, designed by Jaybird Quilts, pieced and quilted me

I still have days where I struggle to make it to class, just because I can’t cope with being round other people or just can’t cope with talking to anyone. But I go, because it would be unthinkable not to. The only times I have missed class is because I or the kids have been ill, or we have been away. Even days where I can barely manage a coherent sentence, I have forced myself to go. Because, no matter how terrible I have felt at the beginning, the friendliness, support, and camaraderie from everyone usually means I have at least started to relax by the end of the evening, and may even have cracked a smile!

So thank you to the ladies of my P&Q class. I bet you didn’t know you were all therapists! And to all of you who suffer from mental health issues, including lack of self-esteem, go to a class, a group, or even a coffee morning and chat to others, or even just watch and listen. It will be, and is, worth it!


  1. Christine Hutchins

    I have just written my March blog – which is along similar lines. I fully agree with what you have said here, and I’m glad that you continue to go along to classes even when it is difficult. I’m lucky, as I am a foster carer, and as the main Carer I don’t do any other work, and I try to make sure (as far as possible) that I never miss attending my quilting group. Now I’m go to spend time in therapy this evening – doing some sewing!

  2. Jo Graham

    Hi Jacqui.
    Well done on an open, honest and transparent blog. I too took up sewing just over 5 years ago following a nervous breakdown. I had no confidence, had lost and didn’t recognise “myself” at all, and felt that I didn’t have any skills or purpose I had previously had to offer were gone.
    I only managed to attend a sewing lesson as the tutor was an old neighbour, but even then it took weeks and weeks to get through that door to ask if I could enrol. At my first session I made a small patchwork cushion and a hanging heart. I cried my eyes out because at last I had managed to do something positive.
    I sew every day, partly because I want to but also because I have to. As you mentioned in your blog, it also stops me falling into my negative thoughts.
    Don’t get me wrong, sewing has not cured my depression, anxiety, panic attacks and multiple other problems, but it sure does help.
    For me, sewing, patchwork and quilting is definitely my therapy, but one that fortunately I love.
    Regards, Jo X

    1. jacqui_cole Post author

      Thanks Jo. And I am so glad you managed that first step. Sometimes everything is so, so hard. I almost aways carry some kind of sewing with me now, so that I have something to focus on rather than whatever my brain is trying to fixate me on. It rarely fails to help.

  3. Pauline Gacal

    As a retired occupational therapist with over 30 years experience I applaud your determination to try and overcome your difficulties by engaging in patchwork and quilting and by joining a group. My working life was spent encouraging people beset with mental health problems to be creative and express themselves through various meaningful activities. We were NOT the “fluffy bunny” ladies but professionals who understood the importance of being productive and achieving success. The NHS has gradually eroded our role as services have moved away from activity based treatments to “support and counselling” . Recent research has proved what we all knew – people gain much from being involved in creative activities. I run two quilting groups now in retirement and I know that my friends gain much from the support, encouragement and socialising being in a group can give when dealing with the problems we all experience in our everyday lives.
    I hope you continue to achieve your goals and overcome your difficulties.