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Mettler Machine Embroidery Threads Review by Nicky

I’m relatively new to machine embroidery but was lucky enough to get a machine a short while ago so jumped at the chance to try out this pack of festive inspired coloured Embroidery Threads. With 8 different colours it's a great variety pack to produce decorative designs with especially for someone like me who hasn’t built up a range of colours in standard reels yet.

There are 4 fantastically sparkly metallic colours (Gold, Silver, Red, Green) and 4 Poly Sheen (Brown, Green, Red & Ivory). These poly sheen colours have a nice rich gloss to their shade and have 200m on each reel. The metallic reels hold 100m each.

To try these out I made a couple of simple gift wrap ideas ready for the festive season. Firstly a simple bottle wrap. Using Cork Fabric I choose this cute snowman design that is already programmed into my machine, then added the writing underneath. It’s great to watch the design appear before your eyes while you just sit and watch!

Cutting the embroidered cork into a rectangle approximately 25cm wide by 15cm high I cut a matching piece of lining fabric. Laying wrong sides together I then added bias binding to the short edges.

For the two longer edges I cut two lengths of binding at 75cm each. Placing the fabric centrally along the binding I stitched it in place, producing  ties in each corner.

This panel is then ready to tie around the gift.

The threads ran smoothly through the machine. I did have one point where the metallic thread snapped but once rethreaded it carried on happily & didn’t happen again, I just kept in mind that the metallic thread is not quite as strong as the other thread.

I also used embroidery to make decorative gift bags. For this one I cut 2 matching rectangles and stitched them together along top and bottom.

Then adjusting position to match seams I pinned and stitched side seams leaving a small hole in one corner to turn through.

One turned out the right way the hole was closed and the bag pressed. Pushing the lining section inside outer fabric the bag is ready to fill & tie with a a matching ribbon.

Of course these colours don’t have to be limited to Christmas. I used the silver to personalise an anniversary gift.

And the autumnal colours to make leaves, these are sewn on 2 layers of tulle and backed with water soluble interfacing. Once sewn they were simply trimmed, placed in water to remove interfacing then dried.

I still have plenty of thread left over from these makes so just need to think what to decorate next! Happy sewing :)

Thanks for reading,

Nicky @ Sew and Snip

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Crafting Tilda’s Friends Book Review

How do you make a decision and pick one of Tone Finnanger’s Tilda books to review? There’s an amazing choice! Should I choose Crafting Christmas Gifts, or Tilda’s Winter Ideas, or one of the other books? I had a long look at the cover of each one, and eventually decided on Crafting Tilda’s Friends. With different 30 sewing projects, it sounded like a great choice. There’s plenty to keep me busy and who knows, it may even solve my Christmas present ideas!
The first two pages include guidelines on how to turn and stuff the characters as you make them, plus how to add detail to faces. As the characters are designed as decorations not children’s toys, there are even instructions on how to mount the figures on a stick so they can ‘stand’ in a plant pot. I felt the fabric requirements were a little vague - there are no details on the amount of fabric you’d need, and I haven't a clue what fabric "with a flaxy structure" is! Instead of hunting for this, I decided to raid my fabric stash and make a few of the characters from various fabrics, so you can see how they turn out. You definitely don't want to pick a cheap fabric, or one that frays easily.
The patterns are included in the back of the book for each character, from cats to bunnies, and flowers to snails. They are full size which is helpful, but you do have to trace them off and add in a seam allowance. A couple of the pieces are actually labelled incorrectly - the bunny ear piece is labelled as "leaves" while the flower leaves are labelled "ears", and the small centre and large centre for the flowers are mixed up on the labels, so you do need to be careful when tracing the pieces!
To add in the seam allowance in the relevant pieces, I taped two pencils together which gave me just over 1/4” for the seam. That meant the seam allowance would line up to one of the lines on my regular sewing foot, so I could align that with the edge of the fabric to make it easier to sew the curved shapes.
Let's start with the snail as that's one of the easiest characters to sew. Because the snail shell and the snail's head contain some fiddly shapes, I actually traced off the pattern on a couple of sheets of A4 printer paper without a seam allowance.
The snail uses less than a fat quarter of fabric, and a relatively small amount of stuffing.
Cut two pieces of fabric that are slightly larger than the snail's shell. Pin the fabric pieces right sides together, and draw round the no-seam-allowance pattern to mark the sewing line. I used a regular biro for the snail, but really you should use a proper washable or air dry marker.
Starting from one side of the base part, using a short straight stitch, carefully follow the traced line around the shell until you reach the opposite side of the base part.
Trim the seam allowances, following the line of stitching around the inner curve of the shell, but making sure to not cut too close to any of the stitches.
Turn the shell the right way around. The very end of the shell can be quite fiddly to turn out, so I used a cotton bud to gently push the fabric without risking the stitches being damaged.
Now it’s time to start stuffing! It's tempting to just take a large handful of stuffing and cram it into the shell in one go, but it's much better to use smaller pieces. Using the cotton bud again, push the small pieces right into the far edge of the shell. Once that bit is stuffed, you can use slightly larger pieces and just push them in by hand. The amount of stuffing is partly down to personal preference – I was aiming for a “just squeezable” amount of stuffing. Using less stuffing would give a very cuddly feel, whereas cramming in more stuffing would give a very firm figure.
Because my snail’s body and shell are identical colours, I decided to stitch a ribbon to the edge of the shell just to break up the block of colour. I stitched it onto the right side of the shell, with a small amount overhanging. Then, when the base of the shell is turned in, you get a small ridge of the ribbon showing.
The snail’s body is slightly unusual in that the turning gap is at the top rather than the bottom seam. But there's a good reason for that, as the shell will cover the gap once it's attached - so strictly speaking, there's no need to stitch that gap up. However, I prefer to sew the gaps and not leave them open.
As with the shell, cut two rectangles of fabric that are slightly larger than the body pattern, and pin them right sides together. Starting from one end of the turning gap markers, and using a short straight stitch again, sew around the body following the traced lines, stopping at the opposite end of the turning gap.
Carefully turn the snail body the right way out, using the cotton bud again to turn the head turned accurately.
Stuffing the head first, I used very small pieces of stuffing and pushed them into place with the cotton bud. You want to make the body reasonably firm, but the smaller the pieces of stuffing, the easier it is to get a smoothly stuffed body.
You can leave the body with the turning gap open, but I chose to stitch that up with a ladder stitch. It doesn’t need to be particularly neat looking, as the shell will cover the stitches. I used a dark green thread to hand sew the shell onto the body, as I wanted the stitches to be visible. However, if you used a matching thread, those stitches would end up being almost invisible.
Last but not least, this little snail needs some character, and what better way to achieve that, than giving him some eyes? For the true Tilda look, these should be painted on, but I’ve never had much success with painting on fabric, so I decided to stitch some French knots for eyes instead.
Tone suggests a way of mounting the snail onto a piece of wood, and even attaching a small cart if you wanted to use it as a practical decoration for storing sewing supplies. I like sewing rather than woodwork, so mine is left plain to either be used as a decoration, or sit on the table and help out as a pin cushion when I’m sewing.
Moving on to the bunnies, this pattern is a little more challenging than the snail, although there’s not any tiny fiddly pieces to sew. I traced the pattern off with the added seam allowance, but on the back piece, I traced off the sewing line for the inner leg seam, and left that particular seam uncut. The bunny pattern uses less than a fat quarter of fabric, and a small amount of stuffing.
I made one bunny in a polycotton fabric, and decided to try using a textured lightweight fleece fabric for the second one. That fabric did have a small amount of stretch, which results in a slightly fatter bunny once it was stuffed. This meant the dress looks a little snug compared to the version in the book!
The front two bunny pieces are sewn together from the top edge of the head, down to the top of the leg. I found it challenging to know just how far that seam needed to go – the instructions are mostly line drawings, with little detail in the text. I think I struggled with this part because I’m unfamiliar with the Tilda books. If the stitches don’t go quite far enough, it’s not too challenging to just add in a few stitches before turning the bunny the right way round.
The instructions say to sew the arms, turn and stuff them, then stitch them to the body before turning the body the right way around. I find it more challenging to stuff the arms first like that, as I never know quite how much stuffing to use! So, I changed the sewing order a little at this point.Take one of the arm pieces, placing it on the body front, right sides together.
Sew the body/arm seam, so the arm is joined to the body. Repeat for the other arm, and do the same for the back piece with the other two arms.
Lay the arms out flat, and place the front and back pieces right sides together. The front and back arm seams should line up with each other. Add lots of pins to ensure everything stays lined up correctly! If you have the back piece facing up, it’s easier to get an accurate sewing line on the inner legs.
Using a relatively short straight stitch, sew around the bunny starting on one side of the marked turning gap. Once you get to the heel, follow the marked seam line for the inner legs. When you reach the start of the arms, the first turn is quite a sharp angle, but using one or two diagonal stitches rather than just going straight into the angle, should make the seam look more natural once it’s turned out.
Once you reach the other side of the marked turning gap, turn the bunny the right way around, and check all the seams are accurately sewn before stuffing.
As with the snail, use small pieces of stuffing, gently pushing them into the arms, legs and face to get the correct shape.Trace off the ears (remember they were actually labelled as “leaves” in the patterns!) with a seam allowance. I stuck with the short straight stitch for the ears, but you could use a slightly longer stitch if you wanted.
Turning the ears is slightly more fiddly, but you can use a cotton bud to help poke the fabric out from the inside. Tone recommends using a stick, but if you’re using thin fabric, or a fabric that has a high chance of fraying, you want to use something rounded to ensure you don’t jab a hole through it!
Sew the turning gap with a ladder stitch, and if you’ve used a long enough thread, you can continue the stitches to sew the ears onto the head. I folded the ears up, so I could stitch underneath them which meant that the stitches aren’t visible from the top.
The bunnies are designed to stand unaided, but to achieve this they need a few stitches to sew the base of the legs together. I found that I needed to sew the base of the heel as well, otherwise my bunny just toppled over. The polycotton bunny stood much better than the Fleece bunny, so Polycotton Fabric is a better choice if you want the bunny to stand on a shelf without needing to lean against anything.
Because I used a fleece fabric, I didn’t want to risk using interfacing to attach a nose, so I stitched it on before adding in French knots for the eyes. It’s not quite the same look as in the book, but part of the fun of making characters like these, is adding in your own style to what you create.You can either leave the bunny like this, or make a pair of dungarees, sun hat or a dress for it to wear. I decided this fleece bunny needed a dress, and I had a small amount of a summery fabric in my stash that looked the perfect shade of blue to compliment her fur. I was going to add in a sun hat as well, but I couldn’t figure out the fabric origami involved to get the hat shape working properly. I left out the pouch pocket, so the dress is simply made of two identical pieces. Again, I traced them off with the seam allowance. I was curious to see how they avoided any sign of visible stitches on the hem, and it was a surprise to find iron-on interfacing used to achieve this!
Sewing the dress itself it quite easy, compared to the bunny. Marking off the openings for the head, arms and body, simply sew the other seams. You can use a longer stitch than on the bunny itself as these seams don’t need to hold the stuffing in place.
I zigzagged the edges of the fabric, although if you’re using the creatures as decorations like Tone suggests, it’s not really essential to do that. At this point, I deviated from the instructions, and added in the strip of interfacing before folding the hem at the base. However I didn’t find my hem stayed in place without any stitches, so it’s probably better to stick with the instructions for this!
Fold the hem seam allowance and slip the small strip of interfacing into place. Iron it on, so the hem has a crisp edge. Do the same with the neck and sleeve hems.Turn the dress round the right way, and press to make sure the hems are neat. Once the dress is on the bunny, you might need to add a few stitches just to hold the base hem in place. If you followed Tone’s though, you shouldn’t need to add any.
And there you have it – a dressed bunny!
Decorations are commonly arranged in threes, so the bunny and snail needed a friend. The Whimsy Cat looked cute, but I didn’t think a cat really would work with the bunny, so I settled on a frog.
I started making a frog with 100% polyester craft fabric which frayed like crazy. Unfortunately once I got as far as turning and stuffing the arms, the fabric split open at the seams. So, it’s especially important for the frogs to be made from a fabric which doesn’t fray quite so easily. You can’t zigzag the edges as you need to clip the curves on some of the pieces to get them to turn properly.
For my second attempt at frog making, I used lightweight fleece fabric, as I knew it could be turned without fraying. The frog requires almost an entire fat quarter of fabric in total, and much the same amount of stuffing as the bunny. I used the same colour for the body front and back with a contrasting colour for the face and legs, but you could make the frog entirely in one colour, or use a contrasting colour for the body and face.
Trace off the face and both body pattern pieces with the added seam allowance again. I marked off the sewing lines for the inner leg seams (like I did for the rabbit). Trace off the arms and legs with no seam allowance – those digits are too fiddly to sew accurately unless you have the stitching lines drawn in place! Sew the face to the front body – although the seam is curved, both pieces curve in the same direction so the pieces lie flat while you sew them.
Cut two rectangles of fabric, slightly larger than the arm pattern piece, for each arm and do the same for the legs. Place two of the arm rectangles of fabric right sides together, and pin the arm pattern piece to one side. Starting at one end of the arm, sew around the pattern piece with a very small straight stitch. Because I used a fleece fabric, I picked a straight stretch stitch for the arms and legs, but a regular straight stitch should still be fine for non-stretchy fabric. Do the same for the other arm, and both leg pieces. It doesn’t matter which way you have the pattern piece facing as both arms and legs are identical. As long as you have sewn two arms and two legs, it will be fine.
Turn the arms and legs out, using a cotton bud to carefully poke the digits out fully.If you have used a fabric which frays easily, this will be really challenging. I gave up with my first attempt, as after I’d turned and stuffed the fingers, I realised the fabric had frayed past the seams.
Using very small pieces of stuffing, poke the stuffing into the digits then stuff the arms and legs. I left a gap at the body end of all the limbs, to allow for a little movement – if you stuff right to the edge of the limb, the arms and legs will stick out at a sharp angle from the body, rather than dangling casually.
If you follow the instructions exactly, you would now sew the frog’s front and back body together, leaving spaces for the arms. However, I found it quite awkward to get the arms positioned correctly this way, so I would recommend tacking both arms to the body back piece now, so you know they’re lined up properly.
You obviously would have the arm right sides together with the body back, but this is the angle you’re looking for.
Starting at the base, and leaving the leg seams open for the moment, sew around the frog’s body. If you tacked the arms in the previous step, you can just sew over that seam as well, but if you’re following Tone’s instructions, you need to leave the gaps for both arms.
Once the main seams are stitched, the inner legs need sewing – I pinned the body pieces together at the legs just to make sure they didn’t slide around as I was sewing. Follow the sewing line you traced off, using a short stitch to allow you to follow the curve.
If you haven’t done it already, now’s the time to add in the arms. It took me a couple of attempts to get them to line up just so, but once they’re aligned correctly, it’s just a question of sewing a line to join the side seam from the neck down to the body.
Unlike the bunny and snail, the turning opening is actually the gap left for the legs. Turn the frog the right way round, making sure the face seam is poked out from the inside. Starting with the head, stuff the frog using small pieces of stuffing. I stuck with stuffing all the way through mine, and he doesn’t always stay seated on the edge of a shelf, so I would recommend using some plastic pellets in the bottom of the frog just to help weigh him down a little. You can use rice, but over time that could go mouldy, so personally I’d stick with plastic.
The legs are added in a relatively unusual way – the base of the body has a gathering stitch run around the leg opening.
Then the legs are inserted, and the gathering stitches are tightened to hold them in place.
I wasn’t convinced that just gathering the stitches would make the legs secure enough for my liking, so I ran a few small hand stitches through from the front of the body, through the legs, and out of the body back just to ensure they would stay in position.
That just leaves us with the face of the frog to go! Again, I chose to sew two French knots for the eyes, but you could use some fabric paint on the head of a small pin, and dab that onto the face for the authentic Tilda-style appearance.
Overall, the book was a really great choice. Although it is mainly based around sewing, there are also patterns for card making, plus a couple of suggestions for painting the characters - such as the snail being painted onto a watering can!
It was fun to step out of my comfort zone of detailed written sewing patterns, and dive into the quirky characters of this Tilda book. None of my characters look exactly the same as they do in the book, as there’s plenty of scope to use different types or colours of fabric, or add a different facial expression, to make your characters look truly unique.
I’d never made any Tilda patterns before, and did find some of the instructions a little challenging to follow at times (like the angle for the arms to be attached on the frog), so a little knowledge or prior experience of sewing a plush toy, while not essential, might come in handy for the more complex characters. Perhaps I’ll add another Tilda Book to my wishlist and try some new characters to add to my sewing corner unit!
Thanks for reading,
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The Blossom Dress by Naomi

Hi, Naomi from Naomi Sews back again, and this time with a slightly festive make. I was offered the chance to test out this beautiful self-lined Crepe Fabric. On one side the fabric has a matte, crepe texture and on the other it is shinier and feels more like satin. This makes it great for dresses and occasion wear because there is no need to line it making the process much quicker.

I decided to make a dress for an upcoming wedding. The aubergine colour seemed like a lovely choice for a winter wedding, being autumnal but not dark or dull. The colour is really rich and the fabric has a beautiful drape which is perfect for what I had in mind.

I had had a few thoughts about which pattern I would use before the fabric arrived. Maybe a By Hand London Alix dress for full length drama, but then I learned that I was pregnant, and with the wedding still a couple of months away, I was a bit worried about sewing something up which would fit beautifully now, but might not be so comfortable a couple of months down the line!

Fortunately, a couple of indie pattern makers have recently introduced maternity patterns to their range, and I thought this would be a good excuse to have a go at the Sew Over It Blossom dress. The blossom dress has an empire line shape, elasticated waist and a big pleat and dropped front hem to make space for a growing belly. I figured that no matter how much a grew, this should still fit me at Christmas for (non-alcoholic) drinks and new year’s parties!

When I took these pictures, I was still quite early on in my pregnancy, so my shape hadn’t really changed much and there is perhaps a little too much room at the moment. When I first tried it on, the dipped front hem looked a little odd, but with heels and a belt to break up the solid colour I actually like it already. The advantage of this dress is that I know I will be able to wear it right through to the end of my pregnancy and beyond too, though I might take up the front a bit afterwards. The only change I made was to shorten the sleeves to elbow length. There was just a lot of purple, and I’m not the biggest fan of bracelet length sleeves.

I don’t just want this to be a special occasion dress though - I’m not sure how many occasions I will have to go to while pregnant, so I wanted to be able to style this in a more casual way too. I think it will look great this winter with boots and thick tights, and I will probably still be wearing it when the weather warms up for spring again too.

I still have a little of the fabric left over, and I have been planning maternity hacks galore. I think it is probably destined to become a hacked By Hand London Anna top. The fabric is so soft and smooth I think I am going to enjoy wearing it as much as possible and a top is more versatile than my dress, lovely though it is. Wish me luck!

Thanks for reading,

Naomi @ Naomi Sews

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Mermaid Sequin Fabric review with Emma

I’ve never sewn with sequins before.

I’ve never self drafted a pattern before.

I’m not an experienced or skilled stitcher.

All very good reasons why I’m the wrong person to review this Sequin Material.

BUT they’re also all very good reasons WHY I’m the right person to review it, because if I can create with it, then so can you.

The fabric is very tactile; it’s hard not to play with it, and everyone who has seen it so far has done so. The sequins catch the light and glimmer delightfully, and the fabric has a lovely swoosh to it.

The sequins are sewn onto a thin, colour coordinated net, so if you’re thinking of clothing, you would probably want to line it for comfort and decency. The net is quite delicate, and I did tear it a little by accident, so lining would add strength and longevity too.

My idea for this fabric was mermaid tail; but not just any mermaid, one that could transform into an orca. Or rather, an orca that could transform into a mermaid. 

I’ve never self drafted a pattern of this type or size before, but it was quite fun. I’m lucky enough to have a large roll of tracing paper that my husband bought me a few years ago as a surprise gift. It is a very useful part of my sewing tool kit, and it certainly helped to have a large piece of paper to plot the pattern onto. I’m not a fan of stuck together patterns, but if I hadn’t had this large roll, I’d have used newspaper stuck together.

I had planned to make the tail for my tween, but decided to make it adult sized so all the family could use it. I did have a play with the fabric first though, to check I’d have enough!

To create the pattern, I lay on the paper and marked where my middle was, and where my feet ended. I did have some help with this. There was then a top, and a minimum length. This was where the body would nip in a bit before becoming the tail. I wanted it to be roomy all round so it was more of a cosy sleeping bag than a constrictive outfit. The tail adds extra length, but I hoped it would be ‘splashable’ too.

I did freehand draw the shape I wanted. It was adjusted slightly to ensure I had sufficient fabric, but my first attempt is largely what I went with. It was not symmetrical, but not far off, and I chose the side I thought was best, folded the paper in half and cut out using that side as the guide. The pattern was then symmetrical. 

The next step was to create a pattern for the markings; the sequin part. I drew on the main shape, and again, chose the side I thought worked best, and traced that out. I wrote on these pieces which direction the tail was, and which colour fabric to use. 

Something to consider if you are using reversible sequin fabric is which colour is the main, and which direction do you want to swap colour. If you’re using different colours like me, this is even more important if you want to be able to transform in ‘one’ swipe, which I did.

I pinned the pattern pieces to the fabric, and cut round.

Carefully. Sequins will ping off at random directions, so you may wish to protect your eyes. I used scissors rather than a rotary cutter as I’m not as adept with a cutter. I did cut some pieces out on the floor because of their size; can you tell?

I realised I hadn’t included a seam allowance on any pattern pieces. Oops! I wasn’t too worried because I’d been quite generous with the size of the tail, and I’m quite comfortable with a 1/4 inch seam.

It was at this point that the project became a work in progress. Yep, I became somewhat overwhelmed by what was ahead. I had yards of sequins to unpick before I could sew, and it took several hours over a few days to do this. This was something I did in front of the television, and didn’t care where the sequins went. We had a very glamorous carpet! I saved what I could in case I needed some spares, but the rest went up the vacuum.

I was wary of sewing it. It took a few days and a bit of confidence, but I started to sew the sequin fabric together. I realised that I hadn’t removed enough sequins for an adequate seam allowance, but my machine sewed through the sequins effortlessly. I hadn’t even swapped to a denim needle. Please don’t assume that all sequin fabric is this accommodating though!

The pieces went together easily. I used a black thread that would match the black Fleece Fabric backing, but would also stand out on the light coloured net, just in case I needed to unpick anything. Once the first two pieces were together, it looked good, and I knew I could do it. 

Just like that, it went from work in progress, to work on the road to completion.

It’s a large project, and I had to use the floor to lay it out fully. 

Oh I couldn’t resist showing the family the sewn tail, and they couldn’t resist checking the transform.

I was pleased to see every piece was oriented as I’d intended, and even at the seams, it’s still a continual swipe. 

To make it easier, I pinned the tail directly onto the fleece, sewed it, then cut round it. I pinned across the top, but didn’t sew it, and left it pinned whilst I cut. This worked well, particularly in my small sewing space. It is a lot of fabric, and I was careful to balance it whilst sewing so that it didn’t pull on the area being stitched.

My tail is three layers. Sequins, fleece, fleece. The two fleece layers make a pocket, and the sequins are front decoration. The fleece was folded in half, and the sequin fabric pinned face down on top. Once sewn and trimmed, I turned the sequin layer the right way round. This enclosed the seam between the sequins and fleece layer behind it, so that inside it is all smooth.

I cut a length of 3cm wide fleece to bind the top.

I completely misjudged the depth required, and had to unpick and cut another length, this time 5cm depth.

Yes, I rolled my eyes at the irony of needing to unpick black thread from black fleece rather than the expected cream net!

My family love the orca tail, and it’s very fun to wear.

It helped calm a four year old with earache, and is relaxing and warm when worn. I probably oversized it a bit, but this makes it more comfortable to wear, and means it can be pulled quite far up the body for the shorter wearers.

I used:

As you can see this is quite a large item! I don’t have much fleece left, but have some good size sequin fabric off cuts which I’ve got plans for. It would be easier to make a smaller version, or a simpler version using just one sequin fabric.

I hope that I’ve shown how versatile and easy to use this fabric is; if I can create with it, then so can you, and I hope you’ll share your #MinervaMakes.

Thank you to the wonderful people at Minerva Crafts for trusting me with this fabric!

Thanks for reading,

Emma @ Hot Tea on a Hot Day

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Q&A with Diane from Sew Create and Recycle Blog

Can you tell us a little bit about you and your blog?

Hello I’m Dianne and my blog is called Sew, Create and Recycle. My blog is mainly about sewing and dressmaking but with quite a few other bits thrown in here and there. I love charity shops so finding and refitting items from there is featured, as is upcycling old furniture, a couple of caravan makeovers and lots of recipes for vegan food to keep me going while I sew! When I read blogs I enjoy the mixture of content and finding out about fellow crafters lives, so I believe there is something to be said for variety and sharing more than just the sewing.

Can you show us a photo of your crafting space?

My sewing space has changed over the years with the arrival of children, and then a house move.  Many years ago I had a bedroom dedicated to sewing, then when the children came along I moved to a draughty extension (more of a tool store) on the side of the house. In my current home I use one end of the sunroom, it is just a large desk with my machines, various sewing boxes and tools all over it.  My dress form stands beside it and I have a box for fabric under the desk, not being much of a fabric hoarder it contains mainly leftover pieces.  There is usually only ever a couple of full size pieces of fabric waiting to be brought to life and I’m usually amazed when I see photos of fabric stashes piled high.

When did you start crafting and what inspired you to start?

When I was a child I always enjoyed making things, cardboard boxes to houses, clothes for dolls and all the usual craft sets. My favourite that I remember was a doll printed on to flat fabric that my auntie bought me for Christmas one year, my mum couldn’t really sew so I had to figure it out for myself. It was quite a crude make but I loved it. When I left school my first big purchase was a sewing machine, I went straight to the market, bought some fabric and had a go freestyle. I’ve been making clothes ever since.

What is your favourite craft?

Sewing has to be my favourite craft as I love the way you can just have an idea in your head and then be wearing it within hours. There is also the money saving element of it, making my own clothes has saved me a fortune over the years while at the same time keeping much of my wardrobe unique.

 

What made you decide to start to blog about your crafting?

I started a blog as a way to catalogue things I made and share with others who enjoyed the same interests as me. None of my friends or family sew, so it is good to be part of this community, read other blogs, leave comments and get feedback on my own projects

Do you have a favourite snack when crafting?

I don’t usually eat while I’m in the middle of a project but I do drink lots of Earl Grey Tea.

What 3 sewing or craft items/tools could you not live without?

I wouldn’t be without my seam ripper, good scissors and needles/pins. If the machine breaks I can carry on by hand but those things are essential everything else is just icing.

What are your favourite fabrics to sew with any why?

Cotton has to be my favourite as it is so easy to work with, then jersey as it is so forgiving if you make things a touch too tight. I have a collection of jersey dresses and often have to remind myself to make something different but it is just so comfortable to wear too.

What is your favourite pattern you have ever followed?

I don’t use many patterns as I like to do things my way and figure it out as I go, sometimes more structural items benefit from following a pattern so I do own a good one for a formal shirt and a denim jacket.  The shirt pattern was my favourite to follow Burda Young 6849, the finish is just so neat.

What is your favourite product on the Minerva Crafts website and what would you make with it?

Art Gallery Fabrics Jersey Fabric called Tiny Dancer Midnight, I have had my eye on this and would make a top for Autumn with long sleeves and either a granddad or scooped neck. I love the patterns in this range as they are a little different.

What’s your favourite thing you have ever made?

It really would be my wedding dress as I designed and made the pattern myself at 22, all my photographs are glossy and dated so it would be a poor quality image to share here so after that it would be my black denim jacket. This was made from another Burda Young pattern 7018, it originally had Paul Walker shirting as lining just because I loved it, that didn’t really work though as it grabbed on clothing. It has since had an upgrade to some nice turquoise satin.

Do you watch TV or listen to music while you craft?

I always listen to music while I sew, mainly rock, indie rock but not too heavy. It keeps me company while I lose track of time, I sometimes listen to TED talks if there is something that interests me.

What/who do you go to for inspiration before you start crafting?

Quite often I just see a certain fabric and I have in mind what I would like to do, other than that I like browsing on Pinterest and saving project ideas for later. Blogs are good to see what everyone else is up to

Do you have a crafty tip you would like to share?

Always experiment with your old clothes, take apart a good fitting item rather than trashing it once it wears out.  This is the best way to learn and you will have a pattern you know fits. Also remove zips, buttons and any other useful bits from all items of clothing destined for the bin that are not good enough for the charity shop.

What are your crafting ambitions?

I would love to make more of a business from my sewing, I have sold one of a kind bags in the past and I sew for others when requested but having a day job I suppose I have never really taken the plunge to push myself out there. I would love to have a go at designing a pattern for sale as many of my own makes are from my own ideas.

What would you say to anyone looking to start a new craft?

Jump in and have a go, there is lots of good advice out there on various blogs. If you want to learn how to do something, somebody out there has tips, photographs and tutorials on their blog. Be flexible if you don’t enjoy the first thing you try have a go at something else, there is something very peaceful about creating something for yourself.

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Clover Bag Template Review by Simona

Hi everyone,

Yes I am back with another product testing review here on Minerva Crafts blog.

This time I chose to challenge myself and chose to review the Clover Trace n Create Bag Template design 'Hobo'. I am not a bag maker. The closest I’ve come was to make a messenger bag (in which I used no interfacing or other bag making supplies). So, this was a gamble. This is the first proper bag I have ever made. The parcel arrived as always quite fast.

The pack contains 2 plastic templates (quite sturdy and one can use them time and time again without fear they would break), used to make 3 different bags. The instructions are in 4 languages: English, French, German and Spanish. They are a combination of wording and diagrams. The only thing that I found a bit strange was that when you first start making your bag, you only cut your main fabric pieces. The rest of the fabrics/interfacing is cut as you go along. Usually, I cut all pieces before I start construction.

The Clover pack suggests other supplies from their line to make the bag. However I replaced them as they tend to be a bit pricey and not always available. So, to make my back I used: Vilene Fusible Fleece (to give some body to my soft canvas fabric), stiff Irish linen (to make it stiffer and more bag like – I was advised to use this by someone who makes bags), Prym Base Nails for BagsBias TapeRibbonMetal Rings and a Magnetic Bag Clasp.

I chose to make version B on the pack, but using the same fabric. To mark my fabric I used a water erasable pen before cutting. I am not a fan of rotary cutters. The plastic template is very well marked and give clear instructions on how to place it on your fabric depending on the view of the bag you want to make and has channels to mark pocket stitching lines or bag feet placement of the finished bag.

After sewing up my first seam and having 2 main pieces for the main bag (if you make the other versions you will need to do 3 or 4 seams), I placed them on the fusible fleece, to reinforce the fabric and give it some body.

Once this was fused, I used some ribbon to hide the seam (not necessary but to decorate the bag a little). I pinned it in place first and then cut to size before stitching it.

Once you get to this stage you are advised to cut your lining pieces and other interlining materials you want to put in your bag. I constructed my lining as per instructions.

I found that, because I added the fleece, the 1/4” seam allowance was a bit too small, and struggled a little to sew the bag together. When I am making my next on, I’ll either skip on the fleece or add a little to the seam allowance.

Once both sides of my bag were stitched together I added the Irish lining, to make it stiffer and added the bag feet.

As the lining fabric is not the strongest, before I inserted my magnetic clasp, I stitched a square of Irish linen in place, before. This is done to keep the fabric from ripping while using the bag.

I had a bit of trouble adding in my bias tape, because I used some I had in my stash that is a little narrower than what is advised in the instructions. However, with a little hand stitching I got there.

The straps are a combination of bias tape and ribbon.

Throughout the process of making your bag/tote you’ll be using the plastic template to make sure you add your element to the right places. I am pleased with my finished tote. I’ll probably be making a few more to give as presents when I have the time. This is a good stash buster as well as it does not require a lot of fabric.

We would love to hear and see your totes using this pack. Please share your makes with us. Tag @minervacrafts on Instagram and @minervafabrics on Twitter.

Like always, thank you so much for taking the time to read my review and happy shopping and sewing!

Love Simona

SewingAdventuresInTheAttick

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Erika Knight British Blue Yarn Review by Nadine

In a recent email from Minerva Crafts they announced they were looking for reviewers for the Erika Knight British Blue Yarn that they were now stocking, I nearly bit their hand off in eagerness to give it a try. Not only is it 100% wool, it is also British wool and made from a breed other than the much more mainstream merino. As far as ticking my boxes go it was already off to a flying start.

OK the technical bit, Erika Knight British Blue knitting yarn is a DK weight yarn made from 100% machine washable wool from Bluefaced Leicester sheep. It is available in 25g/ 55m balls and Minerva Crafts stock 17 shades of it.

As much as I wanted to request to review them all I managed to rein in my inner wool pig and settled on 2 balls each of the 106 and 109 colour ways. The ball bands only list the colour way number but the website lists the actual colour way names, always much more interesting I feel. In this case colour way numbers 106 and 109 are actually given the names “milk chocolate” and “Steve” respectively.

The brown really is the colour of milk chocolate and quite frankly any yarn company that is willing to call a colour way “Steve” with no explanation if pretty awesome in my book!

Let us get the negatives out of the way first – ball size. At 25g/ 55m per ball these are tiny, one ball fits perfectly in the palm of my hand with room to spare and I have the hands of a child. Having said that it is surprising how far 55m goes depending on your projects. Whilst weaving/ splicing in ends on a adult garment knitted in this wool might become a bit of a chore, baby garments and accessories should be a lot more agreeable.

Moving on to the positives, this wool is soft like kittens! For those of you interested in the more technical description of this softness you might like to know that Bluefaced Leicester fleeces typically fall in to a 24-28 micron count range. To put that in to context merino fleeces generally fall in to the 11.5 – 26 micron count range. This puts Bluefaced Leicester yarn at the coarser end of the merino range but it is still definitely next to skin soft and very suitable for baby knits.

The characteristics of the breed give the yarn an excellent drape, meaning that this yarn would be ideal for shawls or garments with a more relaxed/ softer silhouette. As Bluefaced Leicester fleece is a long wool it also has a natural lustre which really comes through in the finished dyed yarn.

Given these characteristics you may well have expected me to knit a sample shawl or baby garment to test it out but instead I chose to knit a stranded colour work sample. It really is not as off the wall as it sounds, I knew from the breed characteristics alone that the yarn would work well for certain things but I really wanted to test it out of its comfort zone. I was worried that the natural drape would be counter productive in colour work mittens but actually my sample worked up really nicely and it was a pleasure to knit with in this way. My attempts at stranded colour work nearly always involve a fair amount of frogging or ripping back of knitting and I wanted to know how well the yarn would cope with this. Long wool breeds (which Bluefaced Leicester is) generally make a yarn that is durable and hard wearing so I was expecting it to do well. What I did notice though was that ripping back a project more than twice in the same spot caused the yarn to fuzz up slightly and start to develop neps. This doesn't have to be a major problem provided you aren't particularly prone to making mistakes when you are knitting.

Not all wool lovers are knitters so I decided to try out the Erika Knight British Blue Knitting Yarn using my crochet skills too. I have to say it was an absolute dream, I used a bog standard metal crochet hook and the yarn just glided over it as I was working my stitches, I was able to build up a real rhythm. I was even more pleased to note that the lustre you can see in the samples knitted in plain stocking stitch was still visible in the more ornate crochet stitches in the sample below.

Unfortunately my weaving skills aren't up to the task of putting the yarn through its paces in this sphere but I have every confidence it would perform well there too (as a weft yarn at least).

Overall I would highly recommend the Erika Knight British Blue Knitting Yarn because it is soft yet durable, has a wonderful lustre and drape and comes in a nice range of colours. Good for knitting and crochet alike it would be an ideal yarn for accessories and garments (adult or baby). Added to this is the fact that it is 100% wool, British and from a non-merino sheep breed. With all this in its favour I think small ball size can be forgiven and if not then you'll be pleased to know Minerva Crafts stock it in 100g/ 220m hanks too.

Thanks for reading,

Nadine @ The Many Knits of Nadine

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Prada Crepe Ultimate Shift Dress by Tina

Hello, my name is Tina, I'm a YouTuber (simplyinstitches) and  an enthusiastic beginner dress maker. I was very lucky in being offered some gorgeous Prada crepe by Minerva crafts to review. This beautiful luxury Fabric is lined with a stunning shiny satin. This means it is matte on one side has a beautiful shine on the other. The matte side still has a slight sheen that means it gives it lovely tones as it drapes. The choice is yours which side and look you want to use for your garment. There is a slight stretch and it is super soft and has a lovely drape. There are 11 colours to choose from. They range from neutral black and beige, aubergine and royal blue to striking purple and pink. I chose the red which is a true red. The perfect festive colour. 
My first thought was to make a Christmas party dress as this would be the perfect fabric as it feels very special and luxurious with the satin lining. My problem with party dresses is that I socialize with the same people. This means I'm not getting the wear out of a dress that has taken a long time to make. I don't want to go to a Christmas party in the same dress as last year. This Prada crepe would however make a beautiful occasion dress that would be treasured for many years. This fabric would be perfect for weddings, bride or bridesmaids, proms and other special events. 
I thought why not make a dress with the matte side of the fabric and make accessories with the shiny. This would make it a dress to wear at a party and then casually for the rest of the year. The accessories could be used with a little black dress to change the look of that too. I chose to make the Sew Over It ultimate shift dress Sewing Pattern. This is a favorite pattern of mine that I find very wearable and now have perfected the perfect fit. 
I have mainly used cotton in my sewing so this fabric was very different to cut out. The satin side was on the outside while cutting which does make it slippery. I used extra weights to hold down the pattern. This made it much more manageable and I got on fine after that. The same was true for the sewing of the dress. I found the more pins I used the easier it was to guide through the sewing machine. I was a little worried how the fabric would cope with pressing the seams. I started cooler and kept on increasing the heat but the fabric was fine and pressed nicely. Not as shapely as cotton but I knew this would be the case with this type of fabric.
I decided to make a wide sash belt and a little bag as my satin accessories. The Prada crepe would also be fantastic as a little jacket or bolero which would be perfect for a wedding outfit as well. I love the idea that the accessories match the dress perfectly. The little clutch bag was made following a tutorial on You Tube. There are so many tutorials available but I wanted something simple and small. I had a sparkly brooch that I pinned on for some added interest.
The dress is so lovely and comfortable to wear. The satin lining makes it feel glamorous and expensive. The colour is beautiful, striking but not too bright. The Prada crepe has a PU coating which makes it anti static. This really does work as I have worn it  all day with thick tights and haven't had that annoying cling problem. The dress works perfectly as a day dress with boots and thick tights and I'm so happy I went down this route so I will be enjoying this little item of luxury on a regular basis.
That you for reading my review of this Dress Fabric. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful.
Tina @ Simply in Stitches
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‘Cheers’ Christmas Coasters by Michelle

Christmas coasters, perfect for a glass of fizz and a mince pie

Traditional Christmas fabrics, and a fabulous use for this amazing cork fabric…

Materials:

- 1 metre of Christmas Holly Fabric on white

- Half a metre of Iron On Fusible Wadding

- Quarter metre of Cork Fabric

- Quarter metre of Gold Fabric

- Black DMC Embroidery Thread

Gutermann Metallic Gold Thread

- Small piece of White Fabric

- Quarter metre of Fine Interfacing

Cutting:

- 8 x 8” Christmas holly fabric squares

- 4 x 7” wadding squares

- 4 x corks, cut using the template and fused to the interlining and cork fabric

- 4 x pieces of white fabric measuring 5” x 3” fused onto the interlining

Haberdashery items:

  • Iron-away marker pen

  • Quilters ruler, rotary cutter/scissors

  • Iron

  • Templates for champagne cork, explosion design and the ‘cheers’ wording

  • Basic sewing supplies

Finished size of coaster: 7” each (makes 4).

Making the Christmas Coasters

Using the cork template, draw this out onto the interfacing, cut out and fuse them onto the back of the cork fabric. Using an iron-away marker pen, draw on the details of the cork.

Fuse the wadding pieces to four of the holly fabric pieces.

Take the 4 white pieces of fabric and fuse them onto the interfacing, trace the writing onto the fabric using your iron-away marker, stitch using a small darning needle and black embroidery thread (6 threads at one time) small running stitches.

Trim your white fabric to measure 4” x 1 ½”.

Take the ‘explosion’ template and draw these out on to the interfacing, then fuse them onto the back of the gold fabric (use a low heat when bonding onto the gold fabric). Repeat this process 3 more times. Cut out all the gold shapes.

Position the items onto the fabric without the wadding.

Blanket stitch in gold thread the white block, and the champagne cork.

Using the gold thread, sew along the markings you made on the corks.

Sew 1/8” around the edges of the explosion pieces.

With right sides together, sew ½” around the coasters, joining them together. Remember to leave a 2-3” gap for turning the right way out.

Turn right way out, press and using a ladder stitch, sew up the gap.

Using the gold thread, stitch curved lines, this will hold the wadding in place and add extra glitter to the explosion.

You can download the templates here.

(Make sure the 1” square measuring 1” after printing)

Thanks for reading,

Michelle @ creativeblonde

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Tilda’s Studio Book Review by Tone Finnanger

Hello, Victoria here. Today I’m reviewing the Tilda’s Studio Book by Tone Finnanger. The book is a beautiful satin-finished paperback with 160 pages and the promise of over 50 fresh projects for you and your home.

I am a newcomer to the Tilda Brand, and this book was a little bit of a mixed bag for me. I have six nieces aged four and under, so I was hoping to find a treasure trove of ideas for handmade gifts for the inching-ever-closer Christmas list. The book was beautiful to look at, with lots of inspiration and ideas, but on closer inspection I was somewhat disappointed in some aspects of the book.

As a coffee table book and source of inspiration, this truly is a lovely book. When I flicked through it I was impressed by the range of images and ideas. I was taken with a pointy pair of slippers on the Pretty in Pink spread, which (funnily enough) was dedicated to the colour pink, and the stuffed cockatoos were another favourite. There are some beautiful quilts, and a host of Tilda Angels, which seem to be a bit of a brand trademark. I was quite satisfied that there would be plenty of projects to keep me busy.

On my second reading, I read the book from cover to cover, and was a little less excited. Perhaps most disappointing was the lack of instructions; there is a page dedicated to quilts and cushions, but it simply explains the images are there “to give you inspiration and ideas, so there are no specific instructions for them”. There are tips on quilting, but I found this section a little redundant; as a quilting newbie the tips aren’t enough to grasp the basics of quilting, and for experienced quilters, the tips are too simplistic to be of any use. This was a big disappointment to me, as I was excited to try to recreate some of the quilts in the book. I planned to make the pointy slippers, but on closer inspection I realised that it was the fabric rose embellishment that there was instructions for, and the slippers were not one of the projects.

The tone of the book is whimsical and light, and I very much enjoyed sitting and reading the book; something I rarely find with craft books. Most craft books are a compendium of projects, to be dipped in and out of, but this was a very pleasant read from cover to cover. I had a little to-and-fro between wanting to make the cockatoos on sticks and the Tilda angels, but in the end I decided I didn’t really have a home for a cockatoo on a stick (and plus I had no white felt), so I set about making my own angel.

My biggest issue with this book was the bare-bones instructions. There was no direction on how much or what type of fabric I would need, so I ended up using scraps of white cotton sacking for the limbs and head, and pink felt for the body. I didn’t know how well these would work together as they are different weights, but as it turned out, they worked nicely together.

The patterns for projects are printed in the book, and one of my favourite things is that each piece is clearly drawn in a thick line, which I could trace off onto printer paper with no problems at all. This was a major thumbs up. The only thumbs down of the pattern pieces is that they are printed quite closely to the join of the pages, which made it fiddly to get into, and impossible to photocopy accurately without damaging the book’s spine.

After tracing off and cutting out my fabric, I was ready to go. The instructions are extremely simplistic, and I must admit I struggled to follow them. I have sewn a lot, but I am new to stuffed toys, and I was baffled by some of the instructions such as “sew on the arms close to the body underneath the shoulder parts”. You can see in the close-up of my finished angel, she has a number of visible stitches that I just couldn’t figure any alternative to, as her shoulders were fully sewn up and stuffed, so there was nowhere to attach them to (if you have any ideas, I’m all ears).

I made a quick skirt from some corduroy and a tape measure ribbon trim. And then she was finished... and I was really quite pleased with her!

From weird, spiky-looking pieces that didn’t seem to fit together, a charming angel appeared. After searching online I decided to give her embroidered auburn hair and freckles. The book recommends using a Tilda Paint Kit, but in the absence of that I used fineliners for her eyes and freckles, and used blusher to tint her cheeks pink.

She is by no means perfect. Her arms have very obvious stitches holding them together, but I’ve actually grown to like it; I love Nightmare Before Christmas, so I’m calling it an unintentional Sally homage!

In short, I had a bit of a rollercoaster with this book. At first I was in love with the whimsy and inspiration, but was disappointed with the lack of projects. I was frustrated by the lack of detailed instructions, and then came back around to liking the book when my project turned out well after all. If you’re a detail person, and prefer concrete project instructions and a book that teaches you new techniques, this probably isn’t the book for you. If you’re a bigger-picture person, and enjoy a beautifully designed book full of inspiration, gorgeous photographs and themed concepts and ideas, then I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Thanks for reading,

Victoria x

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