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Product Review: Plain Stretch Denim Dress Fabric Emerald Green by Eleanor

This month, I chose a new challenge for my gust post on the Minerva Crafts Blog, a very stretchy emerald green Denim Fabric. Rather than opting for a jeans pattern, I decided to try it with the Avid Seamstress City Trousers Sewing Pattern, which I had made once before.
As my first pair was on the snug side, I chose to make some adjustments. However, I hadn’t accounted for just how much stretch this fabric has! It still feels resilient and is really lovely to sew, but has a lot of stretch on the cross grain and bias. It does ravel easily, so I’d recommend finishing the raw edges with an ovelocker, overcast stitch or perhaps a flat fell or mock fell seam.
I love the neat silhouette and elegant simplicity of this pattern, with curved pockets, a straight waistband (easy to alter!) and little split at the side seam/hem.
These are the adjustments I made to the original pattern:
·         Extra seam allowance on the outer leg seams and waistband. This allowed me to alter the fit across the seat and thighs in particular. Once I had tried the trousers on, I then took the sides in again and probably need to do so a little more to neaten the silhouette.
·         Increased width (not depth) of darts in back by 1cm. I’m quite straight at the sides and carry most of my curves at the rear! This is the first time that I’ve attempted such an adjustment and it has reduced gaping at the back waist very satisfactorily.
·         Exposed side zip in place of a concealed centre back zip. I created a zip shield to reduce scratchiness and added a button and buttonhole to stabilise the side opening. The zip shield is simply a rectangle of the same fabric, the same length as the zip, seamed at the top and edge finished at the lower edge, which is sewn behind the zip on one side. It avoids contact between a cold and potentially scratchy zip and the wearer’s skin.
Rather than fold in the waistband hem allowance on the inside, I overlocked and stitched ‘in the ditch’ from the outside, reducing bulk and making any further alterations easier to manage.
I have a little more of this fabric remaining, so will be making a skirt for my elder daughter, who loves all things green and comfortable!
Thanks for reading,
Eleanor @ nelnanandnora

Vilene Multi-Bag Kit Product Review by Diane

I am into bag making at the moment so I was keen to try the 'Vilene Multi-Bag Kit' when I saw it offered for product testing from the people at Minerva Crafts. 
The packaging says 'multi-bag kit' and shows 3 different sizes on the cover photograph which does give the impression there is more than one item to make but there is just one.  It makes a medium sized handbag shaped bag which can be folded out flat into a kind of mat.
There is an instruction leaflet in multi languages – it’s a bit clunky to navigate - and a shopping list of items to buy to complete the bag.  The kit contains the different types of interfacing needed to make your project - you need your own fabric for the outer and lining and handles plus 2 buttons or some ribbon for closures and bias tape for finishing around the edges and decorating the handles.
There are three different qualities of interfacing - Thermolam, Decovil and Bondaweb included.  All are supplied in pre-cut sections.  Essentially, the kit is an advertising tool for the products made by Vilene. 
My bag is destined to be a travelling craft kit and I had this luggage label print in my stash which is ideal as it's on a relatively small scale and is multidirectional.  
This kind of print is wise as the sides of the bag fold upwards during construction and you wouldn’t want a print that appeared to be upside down. I chose a contrast plain swirl pattern for the lining which picks up the navy colour in the print and a purple bias bound edging, again to tone in with the print. Two orange buttons provide a contrast.
There's a lot of ironing involved - learning how to use all the different qualities of interfacing. That's what it's all about really. The pre-cut bag shapes are ironed to the bag outer and a layer of wadding sandwiched between this and the bag inner.
I pinned the whole together and ran round the edge on the machine to keep it all stable.
The two pre-cut handle shapes are ironed to the two strips of fabric which are then folded in on themselves.  A strip of bias binding is sewn down the centre of each to neaten. The handles are then positioned on each bag side.
The only other sewing involved, apart from some hand sewn finishing, is the attachment of bias binding around the whole edge of the main body shape and the fixing of two button loops – which you can make yourself from a scrap of the main body fabric - or some ribbon for fastening.
Bondaweb is first attached to the bias tape to give it more strength.  
Once the sewing of the binding is complete, the handles are then hand stitched upwards to finish.
Two buttons are finally attached in an opposite position to the button loops.
The end product is a pretty thing and I like the idea of using it as a mat for crafting, which I think someone else who tested this kit for Minerva suggested. The internal padding makes a great pincushion and needleholder. After some initial doubts about the kit, I’m glad I persevered and I'm sure it will be admired wherever I take it!
Thanks for reading,

Chunky Padded Rib Coat by Simona

Hi everyone!

I am back with another review for a product I tested for the huge online store, MinervaCrafts. This time they kindly asked me to test a new fabric, their textured chunky padded ribbed Jersey Fabric.

This is how the fabric is described on the Minerva Crafts online store: 

‘This gorgeous padded knitted jersey dressmaking fabric has a chunky textured stripe rib. This fabric would be perfect for making into chunky sweater tops, cardigans, jackets, skirts and dresses’

It comes in three colours: back, grey and camel. As I had in mind to use some fabric I already had in my stash already to make my Yona Wrap Coat by Named Patterns (pattern range which Minerva Crafts sells also), I chose the back fabric to use in may coat. Because I used a different fabric for the pockets, collar and facings, I had some fabric left over I also made a modified Briar Sweater (by Megan Nielsen Patterns – pattern range available at Minerva also).

I imagined this coat with some contrasting fabric. I could not think of making a full garment out of it, the fabric is a tad too crazy for that so adding it as facing, collar, tie and pockets it just enough for me.

The fabric is easy to work with, though it can get messy as the textured ribbing falls apart when cutting parallel with the ribs. However it feels really soft and it does not fray when cut perpendicular with the ribs.

As this was a new to me fabric and I did not know how it will behave and that stitch will work best, I did some testing trying to decide which is best. I found that for me a small zig-zag or the lightening stitch work best.

I thought I might need to use the walking foot. However this was not necessary. I do suggest you go slow as speed will make the fabric stretch a little and create unwanted wavy seams.

To mark the fabric I cut notches and used a powder tracing wheel to mark my hems/fold lines. The fabric does not suit other methods other than this or thread tracing. If you need precision, it is best to take the time to fully trace your pattern markings onto the fabric.

To make my Briar sweater I used the overlocker mainly.

To finish off it was best to use a triple zig-zag stitch. I did go as slow as I could. This an area you definitely do not want waves.

I am quite happy with the resulting coat. This is because I experimented with the fabric. The pattern asks for wool or wool mix, and I used heavy ribbed jersey.

Oh... I totally forgot to tell you that for the lining used some cotton fabric already in my stash. I went for crazy! Just like me!

You probably noticed on the top I have a pocket. It’s the pocket I made using the Prym Blouse Templates which you can buy from the Minerva Crafts online store and which I reviewed for them here.

I love the soft feel of the ribbed fabric against the skin. It is also quite warm. I have the feeling that both my sweater and coat will get a lot of wear this autumn along with a lot of compliments on the coat!

We would love to hear and see how you have used this fabric in your projects. Please share your makes with us. Tag @minervacrafts on Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my review and happy shopping!

Love Simona @ SewingAdventuresInTheAttick


My Crepe Dress by Anna

Hi there, I’m Anna of Anna Jo Sews here with my second blog post for Minerva - the first was my version of Butterick B6217, and I’m now back with another retro inspired make. This time I went for the Colette Crepe Dress Pattern: a woven summer dress with a wrap closure, that unlike most wrap dresses, wraps at the back. 

I’ve had this pattern in my stash for a while now and was just waiting for the right fabric to make it up. I was over the moon when Minerva offered to send me this gorgeous floral viscose Crepe Fabric to sew it up, as it’s a fairly fabric intensive dress, requiring 3.5m of the main fabric, and another 1.5m to make the contrast waist ties. Thank you, Minerva - I don’t think I’d have been able to make this without your generosity!

The pics of the finished dress were all taken on our recent holiday in the South of France, with a view of the stunning medieval hilltop town of Saint-Paul de Vence. Well worth a trip if you’re ever on the Côte d’Azur.

Crepe is a pattern aimed at beginners because it’s actually very simple to sew, without having any fiddly closures to worry about. The neckline and grown-on sleeves are faced, and there are two different neckline options: round and sweetheart. Of course, I went for the sweetheart version, as I’m a complete and utter sucker for sweetheart necklines. I think the majority of my me-mades now feature this neckline - what can I say? When I find something I like, I stick with it! I also chose to make the contrast waist ties as I thought having a solid navy here would look good against the busy floral print.

While the lazy sewist in me initially contemplated just cutting into the fabric without going to the trouble of making a toile (hey, it’s a wrap dress - you can just tie it tighter or looser to adjust the fit!) in the end I’m glad the perfectionist sewist in me won out, as I ended up making a fair few alterations to the fit of the bodice. The toile was much too big all over, so I took it in by 1cm on each side seam (that’s 4cm off the overall width) and I changed the shape of the darts below the bust to give a more figure-hugging fit. I also decided the front neckline was too high for my liking, and I took it down by 2cm. It’s still high enough not to worry about any accidental cleavage flashing and I reckon I could have taken it a bit lower still - tart that I am - but it’s nice to have a dress in my wardrobe that’s a bit more modest than the rest of them ;-)

My final alteration was to take the curve of the shoulder in a little, as my toile was making me look like an American football player. I will now admit that this might have been a mistake, as my final fabric had much better drape than the bedsheet I made the toile out of, and I think I’ve now made the arms a little on the tight side. Not a problem when indulging in cocktails and general lounging about, but if I make any sudden arm lifting movements I can feel the stitches straining. Note to self: this dress is not one for running around after the kids or doing the housework in!

You can see the alterations I made to the front bodice in the next picture (new lines drawn in within the original bodice), and of course, those alterations changed the waistline, armholes and neckline so resulted in knock on changes to every single pattern piece except the ties and pockets. Gah! Sometimes I do like to make life difficult for myself.

Next up: cutting. I’m going to admit here that I’ve never worked with viscose crepe before. There was that one time early on in my sewing career when I made a dress lining out of silk crepe-de-chine and that was pretty easy to handle, though, so I figured I’d be all right with this stuff. The main Floral Fabric was very like that crepe-de-chine, having a light weight but a bit of body to it, while draping beautifully and having it a tiny bit of stretch. While it took a bit of care to keep the grainlines straight while cutting out, it was a seriously lovely fabric to sew. It behaves well under the machine and takes a good crease under the iron. I made absolutely no attempt to pattern match, by the way, and I don’t think that matters with an organic, irregular pattern like this one.

The plain crinkle Crepe Viscose Fabric was a very different beast, and I have to admit, I didn’t really know how to handle it. It crinkled right up when I pre-washed it, and became this heavily textured, really stretchy fabric. I wanted to preserve that look so I didn’t press it after washing, but I’ll admit now I probably should have, as all those crinkles made it a nightmare to cut out and sew! Luckily the ties are just two simple rectangles, so it wasn’t too big a deal. I do have some of this fabric left over - possibly enough for a tank top - so I’m thinking before I attempt to sew with it again I’m going to need to press it well. It does have a lovely texture to it, though, and I think it would be perfect for a lightweight woven top or swishy summer skirt. Minerva sell it in four different colours, and I have my eye on the red for a summer skirt, although I admit that might have to wait for next year now as it looks like the British summer is pretty much over. Boo!

The construction of this dress is pretty straightforward and the instructions are clear. The only thing that wasn’t mentioned that I thought should have been, was to staystitch not only the neckline and armholes, but the corrosponding facings too. I mostly stuck to the instructions while sewing up, but did add a bit of extra interfacing. With this shifty, lightweight crepe I thought it would be best to stabilise the neckline and armholes on the bodice as well as the facings, so I cut narrow strips of interfacing on the straight grain (I used this lovely Lightweight Woven Fusible Interfacing) and fused them along the stitching lines before staystitching. 

Interestingly, this wasn’t as successful as the staystitching at preventing the edges stretching out, as the facings were all interfaced, but they ended up stretching during construction. I dealt with it by sewing them on with the facing on the bottom, relying on the slight gathering action of the feed dogs to pull in the excess fabric. Worked a treat, but in future I will definitely be staystitching all my facings too.

The only bit of sewing that I found tricky was attaching the bodice to the skirt, as there was just so much fabric to deal with. I tacked the skirt seam allowances open at the top and stitched with the bodice side up, which made it a little easier to handle but I still had to take it really slowly. I also have to admit that I haven’t fully decided on how to treat the bottom hem, and so the dress in the pictures is finished with a simple overlock stitch in black. I’ve already shortened the hem by a good couple of inches, but I’m contemplating taking it up to above the knee and wanted to wear it first a few times first before making the final decision on length.

So, what about the finished dress? Honestly, I have mixed feelings about it. I love the fabric and the way it feels against my skin—cool and with a nice bit of give to it. I also really like the overall shape of the dress, that back neckline with its deep vee, the pockets, and the way those grown on cap sleeves cover up my shoulders. Perfect for the Mediterranean heatwave! The dress has the kind of vintage vibe I was after, and will be great for summer parties.

However, I wasn’t really after a party dress. What I wanted - no, needed - was a dress that I could wear every day, and this isn’t it. The wraps feel too restricting around my middle. Somehow, in all my excitement to make this I’d completely forgotten that there’s a reason I don’t have any wrap dresses in my wardrobe, and it’s because I decided years ago that I found them uncomfortable. Not only are they bulky and hot around my waist, but the tie can be really annoying when lounging back in chairs. I don’t really have the patience to wear uncomfortable clothing any more, and one of the joys of making your own is that you don’t have to!

I’m also conscious that I still haven’t quite perfected the bodice fit. It’s a little loose under the arms, although I have to admit, it looks pretty good in these pictures so maybe I’m being too much of a perfectionist. I also wanted this to be a good holiday dress, but with all the extra fabric with the back wrap and ties it takes up more than its fair share of suitcase room. And it creases too. And I hate ironing - especially when I’m on holiday!

So, I’m in two minds about this make. If I leave it in its current state I doubt it will get worn very often. I already have a wardrobe stuffed with pretty party dresses, and a tragic lack of occasions to trot them out. While the contrast ties look cute, I’m seriously considering going for a fairly drastic remodelling by removing them, cutting it down the centre back and inserting a zip. I reckon that would preserve the look of the dress, while making it much more comfy and easy to wear.

What do you think? Is it worth reworking a partially successful finished make until you have it just right for you, or do you always want to move onto the next project?

Anna-Jo x

Instagram and Blog


A Stunning Cloth – Coral Stretch Denim

I'm always having to alter trouser patterns to get a good fit. So I decided to make my own trouser block that would allow me to get commercial patterns to fit and also develop my own ideas. Satisfied with that, I made a pair of jeans from a pattern I had drafted to my own measurements. Even in a non stretch cotton they are so comfortable. When I got the chance to review this Stretch Denim Fabric for Minerva Crafts I knew exactly what I was going to make.

I chose a the coral coloured denim and when it arrived was rather stiff. As it was cotton I decided to wash it. It was much softer after washing, making it easier to handle. I'd also measured a 10cm test square and there was no measurable shrinkage. The Lycra content gives it stretch across the width of 20%. 10cm of fabric stretched to 12cm.

When I was ready to lay out the pattern I realised that the fabric was off grain. I knew the weft was straight because it had been ripped rather than cut. But when I bought the selvedges together the crosswise edges weren't level. The fabric has a slight vertical texture to it so it was important to get it straight or my trousers were going to twist.

 To straighten the cloth was a two person job! We started at one corner and worked our along the edges, both of us pulling really hard. Gradually we worked down both selvedges pulling along the bias to realign the threads so they were at right angles. It really did take a lot of tugging for it to work! However when folded all the edges lined up! After all that I found it really easy to cut.

 My pattern has a curved waistband that fits snugly to just below my waistline. The centre back is on the straight grain, which means the front is on the bias so I needed to stabilise it to stop the band from stretching. I decided to use a fusible woven interfacing cutting the front on the straight grain.

Because I was making jeans I was going to be doing a lot of topstitching, so I wanted to buy a heavier thread. I didn't want a big contrast in colour, but I couldn't buy a Gutterman topstitching thread that I was happy with. I decided to use two strands of standard machine thread for all the topstitching.

Considering it's quite a thick fabric it was really easy to work with and pressed really well. This was great for making double machined seams, the first line of stitching pressed flat and the edge rolled easily to do the second row of top stitching.

One tip when making trousers with side pockets is to cut the pocket bag so it extends just past the centre front. I used a non stretch cotton and the edge is held in place as you stitch the zip. This gives more support across the stomach and stops the pockets from gaping.

I am very satisfied with this make, really comfortable and the only creases are where I would expect on close fitting jeans. I'd recommend this cloth for adult and children's wear. It's ideal, not only for trousers, but dungaree dresses, straight or A line skirts, shift dresses, jackets and coats.

I already have a design in development to make a casual coat ready for the autumn!

Thanks for reading,

Di @ Sew It with Di


Crocheted Adult Slippers by Emma

Hi everyone,
Its Emma here today guest posting on the Minerva Crafts blog.
I've only been crocheting for about 4 months so bare with me on this one! When I was asked to look at the Rico CanCan Yarn as something other than a scarf , I immediately thought that it would make a really cute little baby jumper. I've done a couple and I was sure this would be great. This shows my complete inexperience though, the yarn is really really thick and it soon became apparent that it would near on drown a little one! As I said, I haven't been crocheting very long and I don't know a lot about weights and thickness of yarn so I really got this one wrong. It was, however, really great to try something new, which wasn't ordinary yarn, it was a pleasure it work with. It felt really simple to use and projects come together so quickly! 
After playing around to see if I could make it work for a jumper for me and then immediately hating it, I looked in to other items you can make with thick yarn and came across a tutorial from Wooly Wonders Crochet on instagram, who I use a lot, for thick adult slippers so I went with that. This is what is so great about crochet, it's easy to unravel and begin again. The tutorial for slippers is really easy and great for thicker yarns like this. 
The Yarn itself is lovely, it's super soft and thick. I got a lovely emerald green and a green and purple tartan and they're really easy to work with. It needs a 8mm hook. I've never worked with a hook this big before - I thought it would find it really difficult or the project really heavy but it actually made things easier.
I had to order more wool as it was obvious there wasn't enough to make a jumper but since the swift change of plan has meant I had more than I needed so... I didn't make one pair of slippers, I made two. My very first venture in to the his and hers world of crafting! 
They have a little and very simple strap across them and I attached some fun buttons for my stash. I'm always attracted to big buttons like this and rarely use them so it was great to get a chance to use them! Mine are made using only green with cute little wooden horse buttons and my husbands have the tartan (green/purple) as a base and the green for round the sides. I finished his off with some, chunky, neutral, wooden buttons. He really likes them so I'm very pleased with this make. 
To do two pairs of adult slippers I need three balls of yarn but I didn't use it all. I adapted the tutorial quite a lot to make then bigger so I think this would be perfect for children too. 
A very satisfying and easy make in the end. Though a struggle for my fingers initally when I returned to my ordinary 4.5mm hook!! 
Thanks for reading,

McCall's 6707 Tartan School Skirt by Angelica

First off - A big thank you to Minerva Crafts for the opportunity to write this guest posts for their blog and off course for providing the materials for this project....
Hi everyone! I'm Angelica, a 26-year old pharmaceutical science student from Copenhagen, Denmark, where I live with my boyfriend, my cat and my Pfaff. 
I have always LOVED the back-to-school season. I'm the annoying type of person who yearns to go back to school after just a few weeks of holiday, and even though 10 weeks of almost unlimited sewing time has been AWESOME, this year is no different. 
One of the most important things to get ready for the new school year, besides books and stationary, is off course a chic and stylish autumn-appropriate wardrobe. And what is more appropriate than tartan? Nothing, that is!
 This beautiful Tartan Suiting Fabric is just one of the many gorgeous plaids and tartans that Minerva carries in a variety of fibers and qualities. This one is called "Arbroath"and is 100% polyester. It feels very durable and doesn't easily wrinkle, while still being nice and soft to the touch. In summary: perfect for everyday wear!
 The skirt is the McCalls Sewing Pattern no 6706, a simple, pleated skirt with a number of length and contrast combinations, a real wardrobe builder. For my skirt, I choose to make view C, but without the hi-low hem. I did this by simply using piece #8 for both the front and back of the skirt. 
I changed a few things to make the skirt suit my taste, like adding a Lining Fabric for wearing the skirt with tights, changing the zipper to an invisible one out of personal preference and ditching the waistband pattern piece in order to use my favorite skirt sewing hack: Waistband Interfacing Tape.
This interfacing tape comes in a couple of widths, makes straight waistbands ridiculously easy to sew and gives perfect, sharp edges to the waistband. You just cut a piece of waistband interfacing tape to the length of the waistband pattern piece and use it directly as your new pattern piece, fusing it onto the wrong side of the fabric before sewing. 
I am personally fine working with both 1,0 cm and 1,5 cm seam allowances in the same seam, but if it bothers you, either add 0,5 cm to one long edge of the waistband piece while cutting out or trim the skirt waistband seam allowance down 0,5 cm.
I made a size 14 based on the finished measurements, but the skirt came out a bit too big. While that would normally irritate me, it is actually really great for wearing chunky knitted sweaters tucked into the skirt and for eating the big, traditional holiday dinners coming up. If I was to make this skirt for summer, I would size down to a 12 or perhaps a 10. 
All in all, I am very pleased with the skirt. I LOOOVE the burgundy color. The straight hem of the skirt pattern works perfectly with the tartan suiting, and the lining gives a lovely fullness without the bulk of a petticoat. I have already worn the skirt to school once, and I have a feeling it will be in heavy rotation this autumn and every autumn to come. 
Again, thank you to Minerva Craft for the materials. If you want, you can find more of me and my makes on my blog and on Instagram. Thank you so much for reading! 

The Butterick Walkaway Dress Pattern Review by Tina

I would call myself an enthusiastic beginner when it comes to dressmaking. I have only recently really been bitten by the sewing bug. So much so that I decided to challenge myself to wear me made every day. 
When Minerva offered to send me a copy of the Butterick B4790 Sewing Pattern, also known as the Walkaway dress I jumped at the chance. The pattern is a reproduction of the original 1952 one that was a huge success. At the time all other designs where stopped going to print to keep up with demand for the Walkaway dress. It is called the walkaway because the idea is that it is so quick to make if you start after breakfast you will be going out in it later that day. There are two options with the pattern. I chose to use one fabric but you can have a contrast front. I thought the dress would be easiest for me to manage in a Cotton Poplin Fabric and would give the structure needed for the dress. I used Instagram to see the dress made in different fabrics to help me decide on the look I wanted. Minerva had the perfect Fabric with little sheep which I thought was fun and made the dress more of a smart day dress rather than an occasion only outfit.
There are only 3 pattern pieces but with a full circle skirt so cutting out was very interesting. I have never worked with this much fabric before. I ended up cutting out on the floor with two cats helping by sitting on it . 
Debbie Shore has an excellent video on Youtube for this pattern. It has a step by step tutorial with lots of help and advice which was fantastic for me. The dress is like an apron which is wrapped around the waist, front and back with buttons. There are no button holes only loops and no zip to worry about. 
The edges of the dress are finished with bias binding. Debbie recommends ironing the bias binding in half to make it easier to sew. I followed this advise but where she had sewn hers on in one go, I found I needed to sew on the bias binding to the inside and then top stitch the front. This gave me more control and a better finish. 
On the pattern it calls for three packs of Bias Binding. Minerva sells it by the metre so I was unsure how much would be in a pack. I ordered 4 meters thinking there would be a metre per pack plus 1 extra. I was way under and needed to order more. I have been informed that a pack would be 3 meters so 9 meters is the required amount. 
I found the dress very easy to make. The main things I had to deal with was fabric management because of the amount I was working with. This is by far my largest project. Also the bias binding was a new challenge making sure I was attaching it neatly and well secured onto the fabric.
The dress was a really good fit. It fastens at the back at waist level. I found this did not hold the front in the right place for me. This may be due to my bust size as I am a D.  I found that putting a few stitches under the arm holding it in the right position stopped the movement. It creates a little arm hole. This does make it slightly harder to get on and off but is a far better finish.
This is by far the best dress I have made and I have had so many compliments. It is really easy to wear and I love the fun fabric. I think the cotton poplin was a good fabric for this dress as it feels lovely but gives the skirt a beautiful shape. I will be making another next year as it gives me so much pleasure to wear it. If you would like to see how the dress moves I have a video on my Youtube channel called Simply in stitches.
Thank you for reading my review
Tina x

The Rockabilly Pirate Top

Hi there, I’m Anna of annajosews here with my third blog post for Minerva—and if you’ve been following my other makes (here and here) you won’t be surprised to see this is another retro-inspired make! What can I say? I’m all about those Rockabilly vibes these days. I should just get me a flaming hot rod tattoo and be done with it!

Anyway, as I’m on a quest for cute clothes that are a little bit bombshell, but not so much that they aren’t appropriate for taking a toddler to playgroups, one of the recent Simplicity patterns instantly caught my eye. 

Simplicity Pattern 8342 is a bumper pattern pack that features a Rockabilly style knit top, pedal pushers and a pencil skirt with an amazing ruffle detail. Honestly, I could see myself wearing all the garments, but it was the top that hooked me in first. Apparently I really can’t say no to sweetheart necklines, cap sleeves and bust ties!

I figured as this was a knit top it should be practical for everyday wear, and it didn’t look too revealing (bearing in mind I’m quite happy with skintight clothes and plunging necklines—your mileage may vary). There are two versions, and much as I love the halter neck I thought the cap sleeves would be good for protecting my shoulders from the sun, and more practical to wear with a bra. You can see the cute retro stylings on the pattern cover models in the picture below—and I’ve got to say, kudos to Simplicity for showing two models of very different sizes on the one envelope—I wish more pattern companies would do this as I think it helps out everyone to see how the same pattern can fit different sized bodies.

And check out the fabric! I have to admit, I thought my first venture into nautical inspired prints would be more subtle—a ditsy anchor print, perhaps—but I fell in love with this Spanish nautical print Jersey Fabric on the Minerva website. While I was a little apprehensive about the pattern scale, I figured this top could take it. And I reckon I was right—what do you think?!

The jersey is a lovely quality—a true medium weight cotton lycra with good 4-way stretch and excellent recovery. The white base will show through the navy if it’s pulled really tight so it might not be suitable for something with a lot of negative ease like leggings, but for this top it’s just perfect. Cutting through it was easy with my rotary cutter and the fabric behaved nicely without too much rolling at the edges. Cutting did take me AGES, however, as I had to think really carefully about pattern placement and matching. Any inconsistencies would have been really obvious in a print with that much contrast in such a large scale. I ended up tracing out the front bodice pattern piece flat rather than on the fold which helped keep everything lined up. I’m pleased with my cutting decisions and glad I took the time to plan it all out. And it meant I didn’t end up with ships wheel nipples, which is always a good thing ;-)

For reference, my measurements put me at a size 14 for the bust, a 16 for the waist, and between 14 and 16 for the hips. Rather than grade between sizes I decided to go for a straight size 14, reasoning that the stretchiness should help it to fit. And besides, Big 4 patterns tend to be sized generously, so I figured I’d be likely to need to take the pattern in, anyway. I did measure the pattern pieces at the waist and figured the size 14 would have zero ease on me there, which seemed fine to me with this kind of style.

This version of the top uses a little more fabric than the halterneck, but can still be made out of just 1m of fabric (for the sizes 14 and below—larger sizes need a little more but it’s still very economical), so it could be an excellent stashbuster for those of us with too much fabric hidden around the house. Come on, I know I’m not the only one who does this!

Making the pattern up was a little bit more challenging than sewing a t-shirt, but that just made it more fun! It’s not a particularly difficult one to sew up and it could definitely be tackled by an adventurous beginner. The only bit that confused my poor little brain was the unusual and clever technique for sewing the sleeve where you end up with all raw edges completely enclosed. I couldn’t visualise how it worked from just looking at the instructions, but The Crafty Pinup has an excellent YouTube tutorial for sewing this top. I watched this through once, figured out the steps were straightforward if unfamiliar, and then sewed it up from the pattern instructions.

The back is held tight at the top using elastic in a casing, and I went for the 19mm Woven Elastic. The pattern specifies 13mm elastic, but as I tend to prefer wider elastic (more comfortable!) I went for this and made the casing was wide enough by simply overlocking and stitching down the casing, rather than turning under the edge before stitching. I cut the length of elastic specified for a size 14 but ended up reducing it by a whopping 3cm after basting the side seams and trying the top on for fit. Definitely a sign that I could have gone for the next size down in the bust!

The only other supply I used for this top was some H609 Vilene Fusible Knit Interfacing for the straps. The instructions do specify hem tape as well, but I decided not to go for that as the jersey behaved itself so nicely, and simply zigzagged my hem. Oh, and I used a 90 jersey needle for this one. I’m sure I could have got away with an 80, but as there are a few places where you have lots of layers to stitch through I’m glad I went with the thicker needle.

At just two and a half hours to stitch up I’d say this was a pretty fast make, although obviously a bit more involved than some knit tops (like I said, that’s a good thing in my book!). A couple of tips should you be thinking about tackling this top yourself: stitching the upper bodice together over the strap is much easier if you sew with the tacking side on top. It’s also well worth basting this seam first through all layers at the strap as it makes it so much easier to handle under the machine. I’d also baste the tops of the side seams to make sure you get them lined up perfectly at the underarm. I did this by hand and it worked a treat (after my first, abysmal attempt at sewing it without and a few minutes spent cursing as I unpicked all those annoying overlocker stitches).

So, what’s my take on the finished top?

Can you tell from the pics that I love it! It’s exactly what I was after to go with jeans or a skirt and it makes me feel like a Rockabilly Pirate with all those anchors on display. My little boy loves it too, but then again, he’s a sucker for anything pirate-themed. Prising him out of his pirate PJs is almost impossible some days, and I have been known to take him out of the house in them (Shhh! Don’t tell!), so he’s definitely getting something made out of the offcuts. There isn’t enough for a whole t-shirt, but I’m sure with some colourblocking I can make him something cute. Then we can be matching pirates! Arrgh, matey!

Before I finished this top I was a little concerned that there might be a large hole under the knot, but it’s pretty tiny on me. I’m guessing larger cup sizes might find it’s pulled a little wider. So yes, you do end up flashing the tiniest bit of bra here, but with the tie pulled down it’s barely noticeable. Still, not a top to make if the idea of random people knowing the colour of your bra gives you the heebie jeebies. Just sayin’.

My only problem with the finished top is the straps. They keep falling off my shoulders. Sizing down in the bust area would help, but what I really need to do is shorten the straps. However, you can only adjust the length at the back and if I shorten these any more they knock the cap sleeve too far back on my shoulder and it looks silly in profile. Next time I will definitely cut a much smaller sleeve, and will experiment with the best size for me. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this is necessarily a problem with the pattern as drafted. I’m used to having to make narrow shoulder adjustments, so I think it’s down to my body shape. I could pick apart my straps and redo the sleeves, but since I’m a bit lazy busy, I’ll probably settle to adding some bra strap carriers (or these ready made Strap Retainers) and call it a day. Or just wearing a close fitting cardigan over it. That works too, and let’s face it, I’m not sure how much more bare arms weather we’ll be getting this year. I’m still hoping for an Indian summer, though. Let’s all cross our fingers for that!

So, next time I make this top I’m going to grade down to a 12 at the bust, and an 8 or 10 for the sleeves. Although I reckon my next one is going to be the halter neck as that’s seriously cute and summery… Or perhaps the next time I make from this pattern I’ll go for the skirt (I’m drawn to that hemline, which is weird as I’m not normally a ruffle girl) or maybe even those skintight pedal pushers… Which would you sew first?

Anna-Jo x

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All supplies for this make were kindly supplied by Minerva in return for an honest blog post. Thank you, Minerva!


Prym Pocket Templates Product Review by Sarah

Have you ever started working on a dressmaking pattern only to think how perfect it would be with added breast pockets but the pattern doesn’t have a piece for that? Do you feel unsure how to draft your own, or like me far too lazy to take the time to do so? Look no further than the Prym Pocket Template Set for blouse pockets. It’s the easier option that provides perfect results every time. What’s not to love? Oh and did I say its super simple to use as well?

So once you decide you want the additional pockets (and who wouldn’t because pockets on everything is the most important thing on any item of clothing in my eyes) you need to decide which style you want. As you can see the Prym pocket set comes in three styles so you can switch it up and choose something slightly different for all of your new shirts and blouses.

My choice was the simple v bottomed pocket. My go to pocket on shirts. The bonus with this set is that you don’t need written instructions as each template has visual instructions on them. Being a more visual person than sensibly being able to follow written instructions I found this really helpful. I always make mistakes if I have to read things!

So how do you use it? Firstly grab the fabric for your pocket, the template with holes in and a no iron sign and a marker of some kind. I used my fabric washable marker though a chalk would also work, just make sure it isn’t something that will leave a mark when you wash it later. Trace around the outside of the template and inside the cut out areas in the template. The cut out areas mark where you need to iron the fabric over to make the pocket shape.

Next you need to cut the pocket shape out and then move on to the smaller template with the iron sign on. Get your iron ready and hot and then with the right side of the fabric face down iron the seam allowance marked by the cut out holes in the previous template up and over the template edges. This should provide nice clean pocket edges.

On this smaller template you will notice a perforated top. You need to bend this over, don’t take it off of the template, and then place it over the pocket shape again. Iron down the top of the pocket to create a small flap.

Now to move to your sewing machine. With right sides together sew the flap down that you just created along the seam allowances on either side of the pocket piece. Turn out the pocket to the right side and then with a pin pull out the little corners to make them crisp and square. I gave it a little press at this point to sure all the seams were lying flat. At this point you should sew across the flap edge, about an inch from the top of the pocket.

Almost there! Grab your garment and pin the pocket in place. Topstitch around the outside edges, leaving the top free for putting things in and then voila! A brand spanking new pocket.

Now it only took me about 15 minutes from start to finish. With something that easy you can go forth and put pockets on everything!

Find these blouse Pocket Templates by Prym here and you can also get them for Trouser Pockets too!

Thanks for reading,

Sarah @ Sewing-Beautifully

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