Debra Wade

Senior Lecturer, Specialist Trainer

Debra Wade - Foundation Art, BA(Hons) Design - Constructed Textiles, Post-Grad Fashion Marketing.

As a Designer/Maker, Debra creates to commission in re-claimed materials. Trained in Dundee, London, Utrecht & Paris, she specialised in machine knitting, selling to industry in the UK, EU & USA. Her prize winning work is in magazines, international textile fairs & TV. She recently won a ‘jumbo jet’ Janome sewing machine with her Sustainable Art jacket "Weapons of Mass Re-construction” - by public vote from over 15,000 visitors.

Currently a Stitch Festival tutor (Alexandra Palace & Islington Design Centre), she’s brought art, design & textiles to adults in many settings. These include evening classes, nursing homes, E.A.L. & additional needs groups, private parties and individuals. She’s shared textiles with nurseries, clubs and schools, up to GCSE. 

She loves design concepts & trend forecasting, spinning, dyes, weaving, tapestry, knit, crochet, felt, paper & lace making, knitwear pattern design, stitch, jewellery, art, oya, nanduti & basketry.

How fabric is made is a passion, so she’s an avid collector of antique, vintage & modern textiles. Her own portfolio includes fabric made with plastic binders, metallic wrappers, fruit mesh, t-shirt rugs, jackets from vintage sofas & lace, jigsaw jewellery, bags using chopsticks, feathers & old kites, not to mention an outdoor community project of 100 giant remembrance poppies. This involved re-using footballs, old records, frying pans, knitting, bottles, plant pots, hub caps, plates, vinyl flooring & more. 

She loves sharing design/textiles with everyone.

machine knitting, knitwear, textiles, marketing, craft, spinning, weaving, felt, paper, eco-jewellery, re-claimed, vintage, design, trends, fibre art, beginner, intermediate, advanced, families, children, additional needs, international

Ellen Laye

Specialist Trainer

Ellen is a dynamo who started her sewing journey in a factory in Glasgow at the age of 15 and rose to Seamstress Supervisor making her the perfect trainer to guide and coach aspiring seamsters. She emigrated to Canada 1975 where she lived for 30 years and while there studied Sectretarial Sciences, worked as a Bookkeeper and started her own firm. 

While on holiday here, she fell in love with Eastbourne and moved back in 2005, met Greg in 2008, married the lucky man in 2010 and is as happy as can be.

Ellen is passionate about her town, and has volunteered for the last 14 years teaching computer skills, cooking and sewing. 

Ellen is a delight to know. Her classes and workshops are guaranteed to be fun and with the emphasis on skills transfer, you will be sewing like a champion in no time flat. 

intermediate, pattern grading, sewing, machine skills, dressmaking, pattern cutting, textiles, beginners, advanced

Freya Hawes

Enthusiastic Trainer

Freya is a talented and versatile maker with a special lean towards repurposing and upcycling. She is phenomenal with all things wooly and especially basket making using jute and reclaimed wools.  Recycled furniture, and an eye for spotting collectables, Freya runs courses and workshops with a difference. Freya has a grown daughter, three bonny grand-dogs and a lovely partner. She lives right here in Eastbourne. Having been a qualified primary and special needs teacher for 26 years, her classes are gentle, stress free and always full of laughter.

furniture, upcycling, repurposed, reclaimed, all things wooly, basket making, crochet, knitting, bunting queen

Karen Wintle

Senior Lecturer

Karen Wintle MAEd, BA(Hons), CertEd, LTI. C(Text)ATI, ALCM

Karen has taught Textiles/Product Design to A level in a variety of schools in Kent and Sussex and  held the post of Head of Textiles in two Tunbridge Wells Secondary Schools. She has also worked as a visiting lecturer at University of Brighton.  

Karen was Joint Vice-Chair of the Education SIG group at the Textile Institute and awarded both a Licentiate and a Chartered Associate for work in Textiles Education.  Karen has written articles for DATA and Textile Institute publications and was the Educational Consultant for two Textiles classroom video productions.  She has also run activities at the Alexandra Palace Knitting and Stitching show. 

In 2013 Karen was presented with an ‘Excellence in Subject Leadership’ award by the Design and Technology Association of Great Britain for the instigation of the Young Fashion Designer UK Competition, now in its 10th year.  

Since leaving full time teaching, Karen has delivered Adult Education and Art/ Design & Technology at Primary level.  She is also a member of the schools steering group for the Towner Art Gallery.  

Karen is currently freelance, mainly retired and working in East Sussex with Adult Learning.

beginners, sewing, textiles, machine skills, dressmaking, pattern cutting, pattern grading, intermediate, advanced

Lynette Harris

Specialist Trainer

The Stitch Witch, Lynette Harris, has been quilting for 30 years. It started off as a hobby and grew from there.
The Stitch Witch is her creative identity and the guise behind which her imagination can run wild! ( Let’s face it, it’s a lot more exciting than ‘ that lady that sews’.)
Lynette gained her City and Guilds Patchwork and Quilting qualifications ( tutor Jennie Rayment) as well as the City and Guilds teaching qualifications (Part 1 & 2) and has been teaching for the past 25 yrs, from beginners right through to advanced. Lynette taught on cruises for Fred Olson for 5 yrs, Canaries, Madeira and Norway and is a TV celeb having appeared on Just Hands On TV.... with various projects.
For the last 12 years she and her husband have been trading at patchwork shows, Knitting and Stitching shows and Creative Craft shows, -  from Exeter to Edinburgh, Belfast and Dublin, Holland and France.
Lynette truly believes that patchwork and quilting should be a stimulating, enjoyable and stress busting occupation! she says, "Whether you make a card, a wallhanging or a double bed quilt, the most important part is that you enjoy every minute of it. In my classes we chat, make friends and eat lots of chocolate cake".

quilting, patchwork, beginners, intermediate, advanced

Marie Owen-Smith

Specialist Trainer

Marie has been knitting since she was 7 years old when she got her Knitterbugs certificates and badge!  

She says, "I started knitting toys and then progressed to baby clothes which was a great learning experience and then onto full size garments. I like to keep learning to keep up to date with techniques and have covered – lace, cables, fairisle, intarsia, knitting with beads, socks, gansey knitting, double knitting, brioche and many more.

I learned to crochet in my late 20’s and wanted to do this at the time just so I was able to crochet basic edgings onto my knitting. Little did I know that I would get hooked (excuse the pun!) and have gone on to crochet granny squares, lace edgings, crochet with beads, amigurumi toys, mosaic crochet, mandala blankets and much more. I have also done Tunisian Crochet which uses a long hook and is a combination between knitting and crochet.

Besides these crafts I have also done a number of embroidery techniques over the years including blackwork, hardanger, bargello and sashiko. I have also made dorset buttons and sew small items including bags as well as patchwork and quilting."

Marie is also a technical editor for knitting and crochet patterns and teaches both in East Sussex. She is a valuable member of the Sew Sussex family. Have a look at the courses and classes for exciting new things to learn with Marie.

beginners, intermediate, crochet, knitting, quilting, patchwork, embroidery, amigurumi, tunisian crochet, beadwork

Mercedes Ferrari-Plumridge

Specialist Trainer

Mercedes lives just outside Brighton with her husband Graham and their two cats, Maggie and Erica. Although their two children have both flown the nest, Mercedes ensures that they still remember where she lives by using them as guinea pigs for new designs and fabrics she wants to try out. Having worked in IT for over 20 years and serving as a reservist for 13, Mercedes has a passion for all things technical and wants to know the ins and outs and whys of everything. Having finally conquered her fear of stretch fabrics 6 years ago, it is now her passion. Developing new techniques and encouraging others to use and love this fabric more has become her crusade. Mercedes was a contestant on series 5 of the Great British Sewing Bee and can be found at @ohsewthatmercedes on Instagram and at

beginners, intermediate, sewing, machine skills, jersey, stretch, knickers

Vicky Richards

Specialist Trainer

Vicky is East Sussex born and bred, mother of 4, and wife to Lee. She lives in Eastbourne with her brood, two delinquent German Shepards and a Yorkshire Terrier. Vicky is a qualified fashion designer and a talented costumer, specialising in medeival wear. She is well known on the Heriage Festival Circuit and most years can be seen swanning about as Lady Victoria at Herstmonceux. A founding admin of the very original Sew Sussex group, Vicky is an inspiration to everyone and a lovely person to know. Here at No186 Vicky runs courses and classes for children as young as 5 teaching sewing basics and is a Pickle Sister who can help with any project especially if you are all a tangle. 

beginners, advanced, intermediate, pattern grading, sewing, dressmaking, textiles, pattern cutting, machine skills

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