Dotty new year new notebooks at the ready? I'm going to whizz through a load of the UK's best short courses and classes, perfect for realising those new year resolutions. I bloody love evening and weekend classes (if only I'd skipped into school with such enthusiasm). As well as being great for trying something new, they give me the motivation when otherwise I would have thrown my knitting needles into the bin in a sulk. True story.
Space here means I'm only going to be able to skim the very surface of what's out there. A good place to start, though, however niche your interest is Floodlight where you can search for classes in your local area. Or you could try one of the massive adult education hubs, such as City Lit in London (where I've taken classes in dressmaking, creative writing and HTML) or West Dean College in Sussex.
Needles and Threads
If you want to - eventually - be able to whip up something as gorgeous as the coat shown above, there are plenty of introductory sewing classes to try: Kat mentioned Craftsbee yesterday, or there's Spinster's Emporium in Nottingham (who also make these gorgeous Habersdasher Me sets), Brighton Sewing Centre Birmingham's School of Sewing, Norwich's Makeplace and York School of Sewing.
The more advanced seamstress can learn how to make the 60s coat pictured at the top of the post at London's Sew Over It or a cape at Materialise in Edinburgh. Ministry of Craft in Manchester can help you make a classy A Line skirt, like the one shown above, while you can learn how to use your skilling skills to revamp your existing wardrobe at Leeds Fabrication. And a special mention for the blazer workshop at the gorgeous Guthrie & Ghani space near Birmingham: uniting the lovely Laurie Guthrie, off last year's Great British Sewing Bee, with Victoria from Sluttery Faves By Hand.
Once you are feeling a bit more confident, it's not just clothes on offer: learn how to make your own curtains and blinds at the Sewing Shed in Ilkley. I'd love to go to Ray Stitch's quilt workshop with the inspiring Jane Brocket, author of Quilt Me!
Onto my craft nemesis, knitting. Bristol's The Paper Village offers a beginners 'knitting lab' which sounds exactly what I'd need, along with beginners crochet classes too. Meanwhile, there's a whole range of classes, for all levels at the Knit Studio in Newcastle. The Rowan website is a good place to look for friendly knitting groups in your area.
You've knitted a jumper, crocheted a shawl and are showing off your new coat to anyone who cares. How about the shoes? I can't make shoes, you might exclaim. But you can make shoes. I Can Make Shoes is based in East London and hold a range of courses for those who are extra fussy about what they put on their feet - I especially like the sound of their ballet pumps for beginners class.
Now, while I suspect we've all made a fascinator or five on a hen do in the last year, how about taking your hat making skills to a whole new level? The British School of Millinery in Cheltenham have a marvellous selection of courses.
For a touch of sparkle to your ensemble, while there's hundreds of jewellery making courses to pick from (I'd start with a search on Floodlight), I particularly like the look of the courses at the Artshed in Hertfordshire.
Finally, everyone knows a look isn't complete without a spritz of perfume. Why not try your hand and your nose at making perfume at Homemade London? Or making natural beauty products is one of the many varied courses on offer at Artison in the Yorkshire Dales.
You'll be everyone's new best friend after going on a food course. Simply pick your cuisine and there's a course for you. Jamie Oliver's Recipease offers classes in everything from Vietnamese street food (yours will look exactly like the picture above, promise) to making the perfect Beef Wellington in his Clapham Junction, Notting Hill and Brighton stores. London's School of Wok also serves up a range of courses in Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese cooking skills. Or head west to Rick Stein Padstow Seafood School to sample one of their day seafood courses.
For sweeter stuff, Cookie Girl runs both cupcake and biscuit baking and decorating classes, while there is surely a cake decoration course for every need or want on offer at Confection Perfection in Kent.
For a more intensive experience, you could also take yourself on your very own minibreak. Skylark holidays, specialise in that kind of thing, with photography, cooking and crafty breaks all available. Or Travellers Tales is devoted to travel photography and writing. And, although most their classes are London-based, if you are further afield it's still worth taking a look at the School of Life website for their weekend courses and tours.
Sian and I can vouch for the joy of the bread making weekend at the Bedruthan Steps hotel. You can also spend your day painting, butchery, customising clothes (and presumably multitasking) at this pretty Cornish spot. For more cookery in scenic surroundings, I'm lusting after the classes at the Ballymaloe cookery school in Cork.
Something Entirely Different
I'm convinced there's a class for just about every niche out there, whether that's mouse taxidermy or electronics - yes, I would like to attend a DIY synth workshop with Technology Will Save Us, thank you. There seems to be more and more classes catering to strange demands. While the How To Academy has a very serious side with business related classes, it also holds a session called 'Master the Telegraph Cryptic Crossword' - that'll set me up nicely for my retirement in approximately 50 years time then. And then there are things I didn't even know I wanted to know about until I saw them at Indytute, including extreme garnishing (as pictured), basic ukelele and a two hour class on demystifying poker.
That's my 2014 evenings just about booked up then, guess I'll see you this time next year. What are you going to learn this year? And have I left any amazing places off this list?