It is absolutely not a case of false modesty when I say that I cannot sew. I'm reasonably certain that there is a vital link missing between my brain and my fingers: the link responsible for carrying out crafty activities such as knitting, and crochet, and threading sewing machines, as well as more practical things like wiring plugs and, erm, linking sausages (as Bobby's Bangers Sausage School will confirm). So whilst I liked the look of the Christmassy collaboration between the lovely Zoe from Vintage Afternoon Teas and the equally lovely Jo from French Knots Craft Studio, I did not initially think it was for me, due to the inclusion of an alarming interlude where one would make one's own robin decoration for the Christmas tree. Still, as Zoe helpfully pointed out that what I lack in needlework skills, I more than make up for in cake-eating ability, I enlisted the company of a friend who can sew and set off to a village hall in Dunham Massey to make my very own wonky robin.
And unbelievably, thanks to Jo's patience, the robin wasn't even that wonky - a minor miracle considering that large quantities of mulled wine appeared the moment we sat down at the long communal table covered with pretty scraps of material, buttons, needles and myriad different coloured threads (note to self: it is apparently easier to thread a needle after two glasses of wine). We began by cutting our robins out of felt using the templates provided, and then had free rein to decorate however we saw fit; I actually really enjoyed cutting out little pieces of material and amateurishly applying them to my robin, for whom I felt a shameful fondness as soon as he began to take shape. Jo and her team of helpers were on hand with lots of advice and encouragement but - hand on heart - the only bit I had to have help with were his legs. I found the whole process exhausting (I am not good at concentration, and people were laying out an afternoon tea behind me) but am genuinely both proud and fond of my little bird, seen here below with his new best friend.
Then - hurrah - it was teatime. Vintage Afternoon Teas have been around since 2010 and specialise in providing (you guessed it) afternoon teas for events from weddings to hen parties, and won "Best Event Service" at the National Vintage Awards in 2014. It's fairly easy to see why - everything is homemade and served on beautiful vintage china (I wanted the teapot, but had neglected to bring a large enough handbag), and Zoe's idea of serving size is clearly similar to my own. The finger sandwiches - turkey and stuffing, Brie and cranberry, smoked salmon and cream cheese, egg mayonnaise - were nice substantial affairs, and my friend and I, both experts on the matter, deemed the egg sandwiches amongst the very finest of their ilk that we have ever been pleased to consume. There was a scone each with jam and cream, mince pies (I took mine home, lest I burst), florentines, a show-stopping mulled wine bundt cake and a spectacular red velvet cake which I was too full to partake of. Tea was kept generously topped up throughout and Zoe had even helpfully brought plastic bags to allow the greedier amongst us to take the leftovers home.
In short, the whole thing was marvellous - a properly festive, good-value occasion (£30 per head) where, for once, I actually exercised some skills other than those required for stuffing my face. I would go out of my way to attend another event where the Vintage Teas were catering and, even more terrifyingly, I am seriously considering attending another of Jo's sewing workshops. Now I've mastered the art of the wonky robin, the world is surely my oyster.
- You can find out more about French Knots Craft Studio here - Jo runs a whole raft of classes from her studio in Sale - and more about the Vintage Afternoon Teas here (sign up to the newsletter and Zoe will send you the recipe for the mulled wine bundt cake, which you can then make for me).