It’s an age thing, I know, and that’s fine. The thought of a day sewing under the tuition of someone who knows what they are doing, has got me all excited.

It used to be nights out with the drinks flowing and late nights. Now it’s the gentle burr of a sewing machine and the promise of a good lunch that keeps me happy.

The day out is at Karelia House, near Kenmore, in Perthshire. Already a four-star crafting destination, both for the crafting, knitting, and sewing necessities it sells, but also for the range of Brother sewing machines that it offers too. They are so fancy, they practically take the garment out your hand and sew it for you.

I am booked onto a dressmaking course. I had it in my head it was quilting and I had a thought that it was going to be a fairly easy day. Not so. The 10am start was on your marks, get a cup of tea and go.

The pattern was for an Ava dress. With the option of making it a knee, calf or ankle length tapered summer dress.

Now, let me confess my level of experience with patterns is nil. I have never made clothes, let alone from a never ending unfolding pattern. I am proficient with a sewing machine, but not like the computerised Brother machines that we are sitting in front of.

I am working alongside three ladies from Fife, all friends from the ‘rural’ and they have been on a few courses here at Karelia House already. They have come organised, with their own sewing bits and pieces. There’s no need really as alongside my sewing machine there is a little box with everything I need, pins, scissors, measuring tape... all I need throughout the day.

The ladies are old hands at dressmaking and discuss the different projects they have made here at Karelia House before. Some have taken one day, and some more detailed items, like coats, were completed over two days.

We kick off with a bacon roll and tea. Fab. This is going to be my kind of day.

Our tutor for the day, Tracey, is a font of sewing knowledge. She is so lovely, and I try her patience with my continual blank expression as she talks me through the pattern, but she is eternally helpful with everyone.

I discover I learn quicker from being shown rather than reading it. Show me once and I’m away. If I could throw away the pattern I would. But it’s essential to keep me right.

Cutting out the pattern takes most of the morning, it’s fiddly but you really have to put the time in here to get it right. Then it’s onto the machines.

Now, I’m not big on gadgets, but the sewing machines are something else. More like the cockpit of a space ship than what I am used to. They even cut the thread for you. I love that!

I’m shown the basics and off we go (plus I’ve not got a foot pedal, which I thought would bother me, but it was fine). One of the other ladies opted for the foot pedal as she found the change a bit too confusing.

Even if you are not into sewing, knitting or crafting at all, we are all into eating, and Karelia House has a popular café. I see lots of ladies browsing the shelves for their crafty fix while their other halves sit contentedly in the café with a newspaper and a coffee with cake.

They have an extensive menu, all overseen by Rena Clough, who runs the café. She says: “Being in a rural location, we also have many local people who come here to enjoy a coffee and a catch up. It’s been proven that adding a cafe to your business will increase visitor numbers and it has. Many of our customers also enjoy baking as well as crafting so they are always very interested in what we have on offer.” Whatever she is doing, she is doing right as the place is going like a fair.

We put in our lunch orders and then it’s back to the sewing. Working from a pattern takes more time for someone like me who likes to ‘freestyle’ when sewing. That means I usually just make it up til it looks vaguely right.

The other ladies are really helpful too with their tips. We are in a nice room with huge tables and we are surrounded by shelves of fabric, there’s a terrific selection here for any project you are working on.

Lunch comes within a blink of an eye, time is flying by. We have lovely home-made soup and a selection of sandwiches. The offer of cake is made, but incredibly for me, I don’t have space.

Back to the dress. The sewing it together takes up most of the afternoon, and tests my brain power but Tracey talks me through it. And after more tea and cakes mid-afternoon, I am on the home straight.

The ladies that work at Karelia House pop in from the shop to see how we are all getting on, there’s a lovely friendly atmosphere in the place. And if you have a mind to make anything I would think you could make a serious dent in your bank balance coming here, as there is so much to buy.

Harriet Gray, the general manager here, has a quick chat about the popularity of sewing these days.

“There’s a continuing, and very welcome, trend at the moment, towards making time for yourself these days, and very much disconnecting from mobile phones and other technology to pursue crafts our mothers and grandmothers used to enjoy.

“Our courses are an opportunity for ladies to dedicate times to themselves, learning some new techniques for a hobby they already enjoy, or for some guests, it may be something they want to try out for the very first time.”

“Like the “Great British Bake Off” boosting the bake school market, our sector has been fuelled by the popularity of TV programmes like ‘Sewing Bee’ and Kirstie Allsopp’s Crafting programmes.”

Workshops on different crafting techniques are regularly held in the work room to the rear of the retail area at Karelia House, and the business has hosted many leading craft authors and experts who have come from all over the world to hold masterclasses and promote their latest books and ranges.  This has included top Australian crafting group, Sweet Peas, who chose Karelia House as the only Scottish stop off on its UK tour, attracting its biggest audience.

Karelia House also goes out on the road, taking the business to customers as far afield as the Western Isles. It’s also a regular at events like the Aberdeen Wool Show.

Karelia House has been an extremely successful business diversification for Shirley Shearer and her family who, since 2005, continue to run a thriving underfloor heating business, Magnum Heating Ltd, from the same location.

Having approached Brother Sewing Machines to become an exclusive stockist, Karelia House’s unique proposition as the only dedicated crafting destination in Scotland, saw it quickly become a top performing outlet for Brother. The retail space at Karelia includes a workspace area where customers can sit and try out a range of Brother models.

I check the clock, it’s after four and the heat is on to get the dress finished by five. The hem is sewn up and I pop into the loo to try it on. Amazingly, and I am stunned, it fits me.

Without Tracey’s help I can only imagine what kind of disaster was awaiting me, but it is something that would be recognised as an actual dress. I’m chuffed, and I am also completely shattered. So much concentration for so long has really taken it out of me. Ideally, I would have booked a hotel for the night, particularly if I had gone along with some friends. I mention this to Shirley Shearer, the owner, and she tells me that they have had the same thoughts.

Karelia House are in the process of putting together craft retreats. The plan is to offer short breaks for crafters. Karelia House will recommend somewhere to stay in the area, such as Mains of Taymouth country estate at Kenmore or The Townhouse in Aberfeldy. She continues: “Our plan with these new retreats, is to provide weekends of top end experiences incorporating craft, relaxation, fabulous scenery, heritage, and not forgetting proper afternoon tea!” said Shirley.

“We have a number of accommodation partners we know and trust. If those on the break want to get out onto the hills during the break we would suggest a 4 x 4 safari with Highland Safaris, nearby at Dull, another local firm we have connections with. It will be fantastic to see the sights, engage with our amazing natural environment, and perhaps gather inspiration and photographs for the craft projects which can be completed here at Karelia House.”

It sounds idyllic and I wish I didn’t have a two-hour drive back home. However, it was a terrific day. I learned so many tips and tricks from Tracy and the ladies that I would never have figured out myself, particularly as Tracy had already made the dress up herself so she knew exactly how to put it together. I will keep an eye out on the course page on the website and see what else is coming up and will make a weekend of it.

Karelia runs courses throughout the year in dressmaking, quilting, patchwork, felting, and machine embroidery. The price varies per course but a typical dressmaking one is £65. This includes your pattern, lunch, teas and coffee.

For further details and prices for Karelia House exclusive crafting retreats, please visit the website at or call Karelia House on 01887 822027.