Posted in Guest Posts on Thursday the 12th February 2015 by Thalbobbins
During a recent browse of the Minerva website, I came across this gorgeous tartan jersey fabric. As soon as I saw it, I knew that my daughter Jess would love it as it features tartan, but it is not a standard tartan fabric which is in all of the shops, it is something a bit different, exactly what Jess would love!
I showed the fabric to Jess, she also loved it and immediately asked me to make her a jacket in this. (Its unfortunately since sold out, but you can find many other check patterned jersey fabrics here).
Knowing that I am a beginner having not tackled a jacket before, I thought this would be a good challenge!
Jess wanted a casual jacket so she set about looking through the pattern books and chose this ‘easy’ pattern from ‘Kwik Sew’, opting for the long sleeve version.
Having chosen the fabric, pattern and got my cotton, I was excited to start this new challenge!
Sewing for my daughter brings challenges of its own. She is a head strong 15 year old with her own personal sense of style, who will not wear anything that she does not love! Hence, many projects made but not worn (and many clothes bought and not worn) ... no pressure!
The very same night, I set about cutting out the pattern. I measured Jess and opted for the smallest size (XS) but she asked me to make it shorter. I measured where she wanted the hem of the jacket (26.5 inches) and after looking at the measurements on the pattern (31.5 inches), I knew that I needed to take 5 inches off the length. I decided to cut the pattern to the actual length (in case I wanted to make it again in the future) and then cut the jacket down to the desired length later.
The paper which this pattern is made from is much stronger than the usual tissue paper and it made it much easier to cut. I enjoyed working with this pattern for a change.
I decided to wait until the following day to carry on as I did not want to attempt this and make any mistakes due to being tired!
The following day, I laid my fabric out and got all of the pieces which I needed to cut on the fold.
The tartan of the fabric brought even more challenges! As I have mentioned before, my mum Annette is a sewing enthusiast and seen within our family as an expert! This is great and I have my very own mentor but I am also aware of her extremely high standards and I need to work towards these. Whilst this has seen us over the years examining every seam, hem and pattern matching when buying shop items that very rarely match up to mums standards, it has installed into me the need for perfection which I am trying to bring into my work ... matching a tartan fabric up on the seams whilst also ensuring that the ‘stripes’ of the fabric stay straight.
With this in mind, I checked that the ‘lines’ of the tartan matched when it was folded.
Next, I laid my pattern out, pinned the back along the fold and then put the piece for the two front next to the back; again making sure that the back and front pieces were lined up to ensure that the tartan checks were lined up to give me a chance of matching them on the seam when sewing the fronts to the back.
Once I was happy that I had lined up the pieces and the checks, I set about cutting out the two fronts and the back. I always use a good quality pair of scissors which cut through the fabric with ease, avoiding damaging the fabric in any way.
I carried on and cut out all of the pieces, following the pattern’s recommendations until I had all of the pieces cut out. I then made sure that I had snipped all of the pieces as showed on the pattern (darts) to help match the pieces up, ensuring that they are in the correct place when they are sewn together.
What I forgot to mention was that I usually have my mum on hand to help when I need it or provide any advice but my mum was out so I was all on my own, tackling a jacket!
I thought that mum would have been back by the time that I had cut the jacket out but she wasn’t. I was in two minds; should I start it ... but what if I did something wrong? Or should I wait but how long would mum be?
I decided to be brave and start it!
I set the sewing machine up and knew that I needed to use a stretch stitch to sew jersey ... but I couldn't remember which stitch setting this was!! I got some cut offs of the fabric and had a play with the two stitch settings that I was choosing between. I knew the feel of the stretch stitch as the machine seems to sew ‘forwards and backwards’ as it moves along rather than just sewing forwards as with a normal stitch. To double check that this was the correct stitch, once I had sewed the length, I gave a gentle tug on the stitching to make sure that it did not break.
I read the pattern instructions, pinned the shoulders together and sewed them. Quite proud of my work, I admired the seams as I pressed them open and then laid the first part of my jacket out (inside out of course!).
I again checked that the tartan was lined up!
Next, the pattern said to fit the sleeves into place. The thought which went through my head was ‘Eeeeek’ .... ‘Should I wait for my mum?’ I told myself to ‘get a grip’ and have a go ... I can always unpick it if I go wrong.
I have fit sleeves before but with my mum watching me and pointing me in the right direction. I remembered what mum had told me and laid my sleeves along the armhole area of the front and back. I lined up the darts which I had snipped and pinned the sleeves into place.
Nervously, I sat at the sewing machine and started to sew the sleeves in place, constantly checking that the darts were lined up. I also made sure that the pressed hem from the shoulder seam remained open and ‘flat’ to make sure that it didn’t pucker when I sewed over the seam.
Once I had sewed both in place, I sat back and admired my work! I ‘tried the jacket on’ so far to see if I could get the effect and I was sure that Jess would love it ... but as I am sure many of you, especially with teenage daughters, are aware ... you never can tell until they start to wear it – if she wears it, she approves, otherwise it is ‘lost’ in the wardrobe!!!
Now to sew the side and arm seams up ... definite ‘eeek’, this is where I needed to make sure that I had got the sides lined up neatly!
I pinned the fronts to the backs checking the line up of the tartan and then the arm sleeves – I tried to line up the tarten as much as possible but this isn’t totally possible due to the shaping of the sleeve.
Whilst sewing, I sewed the seam slowly, constantly checking that the tartan was lined up. I finished these seams, pressed them open and excitedly turned them around to the right side to check out the lines in my tartan;
Looking at the inside of the seams, I have done very well but when I turned the pieces the right way around, the lining up isn’t as successful but nevertheless, I still think that it is better that some seams in some shop bought items! I know that you can always improve and I hope that with more practice, I will get better but I am proud of my pattern matching.
And here is Jess wearing the finished jacket!
Posted in Guest Posts on Tuesday the 10th February 2015 by Thalbobbins
As the winter weather is well and truly here, I decided to knit my son a warm winter hat. After looking at the different wools, I saw a gorgeous steel grey colour in Wendy Pampas (shade 2215) mega chunky wool which has 30% wool content.
This immediately appealed as I thought it would be lovely and warm, it would look lovely with his black coat and it would grow quickly with being a mega chunky yarn! (I'm all for chunky yarns to speed things up!)
I searched through the Wendy Pampas patterns and saw a perfect pattern featuring a hat and scarf. Being 11, he will not wear a scarf but when it is freezing, he will give in and wear a hat! You could use any super-chunky hat pattern though that suits the person you are knitting for. This pattern knit up on 12mm needles, so check that on the pattern you choose. I noticed there was a free hat pattern put on the Minerva blog yesterday, so you could even use this.
I knew that this hat wouldn’t take me long and I planned to make it in one night. I sat down to watch a Christmas special of ‘Don’t tell the Bride’ and cast on. I knit the rib and then continued in stocking stitch until I had to start the shaping.
The shaping of the crown was different to any other hat I had made before; it consisted of knitting two stitches together in both the front and the back of the stitches as directed. It made it more interesting to complete but I had to make sure that I concentrated so that I didn’t knit two stitches together wrongly.
There were only seven rows of shaping before I was left with eight stitches that I had to thread the yarn through and pull tightly to shape the actual crown.
I was amazed I was still watching ‘Don’t tell the Bride’ and all that was left was the sewing up!! So far it had taken me less than 45 minutes ... not bad going!
I had chosen to use a different needle to sew it up then my usual; they are by Pony and have a larger eye which was ideal for sewing up mega chunky wool. I threaded the eye of the needle and due to the thickness of the two edges together; I sewed one loop from each edge/half the final stitch as I thought that if I used the full stitch the seam would be too bulky.
I am extremely happy with the final result. The crown looks very effective and the hat feels extremely warm!
Knit and sewn up in less than one hour, plus I have half of the ball left, I may even get another hat from the same ball.
Excellent ideas for quick and easy birthday presents! I am going to wrap this up for my son as a surprise... hence why my daughter is modelling it in the picture!
Posted in Free Patterns on Monday the 9th February 2015 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Projects on Saturday the 7th February 2015 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Competitions and Giveaways on Friday the 6th February 2015 by Vicki Ormerod
This week I've been listing lots of new sewing patterns on the website. By the time I've finished we will have over 1000 new patterns on the website. Yep, 1000! They are all really easy to view on our new website too, with great filters so you can narrow down your search easily!
I've really enjoyed listing all the new patterns as I got time to study them all and look at all the pictures for each one. I've book-marked loads of them which have since found their way on to my to-do list...as if it wasn't long enough!
To let you know, we have started a fantastic 50% off all McCalls Sewing patterns offer this week, timed perfectly to coincide with the third series of the Great British Sewing Bee starting soon. So if you are a beginner-sewer, be sure to check out the fantastic range of beginner sewing patterns by McCalls. If your a sewing pro, then you don't need me to tell you that this is the perfect time to stock up your stash!
Like I said, having gone through all these hundreds of new sewing patterns recently, I've drawn up a list of favourites from McCalls, so I thought I would share these with you here. Please let me know if any of you have made these up so far and how you found them.
First up is a collection of patterns, 'The Archive Collection' which is brand new. The Archive collection is a range of beautiful vintage-inspired styles. The only problem is, out of the 6 patterns they have launched with, I really cannot decide on a favourite. Four of them coordinate together which makes choosing just one even harder. If you love vintage styles I really recommend you have a look at this newly designed collection. I am sure you will love it as much as I do. I decided to pick the skirt pattern to show you as 'my favourite' - take a look at that detailing on the waist.
Next up is this AMAZING coat! Amazing had to put in Capitals to describe this sewing pattern. At first I thought it was a jacket and skirt combo, but when you look closely you can see it is indeed a full coat, which swings out at the bottom with so much fabric. It's going to eat fabric like there's no tomorrow, but boy is it worth it! Take a look at that topstitch detail!
Find our best selling coat sewing patterns here.
Next up is this classic shirt dress sewing pattern. I love all the panels in this dress and the way they have been used with the stripe fabric to create interesting changes of direction with the print. I think you could have lots of fun with this pattern, choosing prints that would make the most of the pattern piece placement. But then it would look equally great in a plain fabric too.
Find our best selling dress sewing patterns here.
Next up I've gone for this colour-block top sewing pattern. It is quite a simple style, but the pattern includes so many variations that you could be really creative with it and have lots of fun combining different prints, plain block colours or textures. I love the idea of choosing a colour of fabric and matching up fabrics of slightly varying textures and shades and using them all together in a top like this. Perhaps using something like our co-ordinating chambray fabric range. It would also be a great way to use up your smaller scraps of fabrics.
Find our best selling top sewing patterns here.
And the last pattern I've decided to include on this list is something new to me. Have you ever seen these 'right fit' patterns before? This one is designed to help you get the right fit for when making dresses. It definitely looks interesting and I imagine this sort of pattern could help lots of people out in getting the right fit. Please leave a comment if you have ever used one of these sorts of patterns before, did it help with the fitting process? The second image shows the style of dress you can make with the pattern, but I think I am right in assuming that the 'technique' you learn from this pattern-fit pattern could be applied to most dress styles.
So what do think, do you like my favourite pattern choices from the McCalls range? Have you made any of these up already - if you have please let me know by leaving a comment. I would love to hear from you!
Don't forget all these sewing patterns are currently 50% off the RRP, but the offer will end soon.
Posted in Events & Social on Thursday the 5th February 2015 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Guest Posts on Wednesday the 4th February 2015 by Thalbobbins
Firstly let me introduce myself. I'm Alison (aka 'Thalbobbins') and my connection with Minerva is that I am another daughter/sister of the owners. Annette is my mum and Vicki my sister. I often work in the Minerva Craft Centre shop on Saturdays, so for in-store Minerva customers, you may recognize me. I have been invited to blog some of my projects here on the Minerva blog for you all to see and I am really looking forward to sharing them with you :)
To describe myself as a ‘dress making novice’ is being kind!! I have grown up with my mum making everything imaginable from clothes to three piece suite covers and even my Wedding Dress, yet I have never mastered the art. I can knit and cross stitch yet sewing and dress making is the craft I have yet to master ... and master it I will!!
I have had a go at a few dresses over the past eighteen months but I have always had my mum on hand to do the ‘tricky bits’ whilst I have made her a brew! I have learnt a lot from having a go and watching my mum but I had still to make something that I could honestly say ‘I have made that’ and feel proud to wear my own creation.
I am going to a family party in two weeks where I will be meeting some of my husband’s family that I have never met so I want to wear a dress which I will feel confident in and one that I know no-one else will be wearing! My sister Vicki recently made a gorgeous wrap over dress which I love but after talking to my mum, I have realised that this is something which I can aim for but not tackle yet. Keeping this style in mind, I have chosen a Vogue pattern, V8724 which has a mock wrap around style but is a ‘Very Easy Vogue’ pattern which sounded appealing!
Before I started, I read the instructions on the paper within the pattern to ensure that I had a good understanding of what I would be doing.
I realised that the front of the skirt was cut out in one flat piece; not cut along the fold. The chest was cut in two pieces and the best thing was that the pattern supplies four different cup sizes; A, B, C and D. The back of the dress was cut in three pieces; one central back piece and two smaller pieces for each side of the back.
I cut the paper pieces out of the pattern and decided to cut the skirt part of the dress out on a bigger size than the top of the dress as I am a 8 at the top and 10 at the bottom, so by cutting it into a bigger size at the bottom I was hoping that it would fit better.
I laid the skirt pattern out onto the fabric and positioned it so that I had three of the coral flowers in a prominent position on the front of the skirt.
Once I had pinned the pattern in place, I cut it out making sure that I used good quality fabric scissors which cut the fabric smoothly and easily, ensuring that I snipped the darts so that I could line the pieces up easily when I came to sewing them together.
The pattern then explained how to create the fold at the top of the skirt area. I followed the pattern, created the fold and pinned it into place.
I then cut out the cups, making sure that I turned the paper pattern over so that I had a left cup and a right cup. The pattern had a dart the base of each cup to provide the shape. After watching my mum in the past, I knew to snip the base of the dart and place a pin at the top of the triangle shape of the dart. I then removed the paper part and left the pin, at the top of the triangle of the dart, in place.
I turned the fabric over and folded the fabric from the pin at the top of the dart, matched the two snips and pinned it to create a triangle shape.
I set the sewing machine to a stretch stitch and sewed down the pin line to create the dart and shaping on the chest; I repeated this with the other side and then ironed the darts so that the folded fabric lay towards the middle of the dress.
This created a sharp dart and the shaping of the cup. I laid the pieces out and admired my work so far! So far, all my own work!
Next, the pattern told me to work on the back of the dress. I placed all three pieces into place and pinned them together leaving 5/8 of an inch space between the pins (sewing line) and the edge which I had cut out. The edges of the pieces were not straight so I had to follow the shaping which I knew would form the shaping of the dress, ensuring a lovely fit. First of all, I pinned the top of the pieces, then the bottom. I laid the pieces out flat then pinned where I had cut the darts; lining the snips up. After that I made sure that the pieces were together and smooth and then pinned between the pins, evenly, 5/8 inch in from the edges. I repeated this for the other side then laid the back out flat to make sure that there were no ‘puckers’, the edges were lying flat and it was ready to sew.
I started to sew the pieces together, using a stretch stitch. To make sure that I sewed in a straight line, I lined the edge of my fabric up against the straight line which says ‘15’ underneath the foot on the machine. By following this line, I could make sure that I always stayed 5/8 of an inch in from the edge and the sewing line followed the ‘curve’ of the cut out fabric, ensuring that the shaping of the dress was sewn.
As I am a novice, I take my time and sew at a relatively slow speed ... well, much slower than my mum does anyway!! By taking my time, I have more control over the stitching and I am less likely to make mistakes.
I then ironed the seams open to make a professional finish ... and I have seen my mum do it many times!
Next I was ready to attach the cups to the back of the dress. I pinned the shoulders of these two pieces to the shoulders of the back, keeping the right sides of the fabric together. Again I pinned it at 5/8 of an inch down, making sure that the shoulder pieces were lined up so that they were pinned together at the sewing line.
Once I had sewed the shoulders, I pressed the seam open, like I did with the back seams.
The pattern then told me to hem the edges around the neck. I pinned a hem line around the neck and down the two front edges and I pinned this so that it was narrower than the other sewing lines, making sure that the shoulder seams were open and did not pucker at all, ensuring a neat finish.
When I sewed this edging, I followed the narrower line underneath the foot of the sewing machine, following the line which says ‘10’ rather than ’15’ which I followed on most edges.
I then ironed the edge to create a neat finish. I was very proud that the edges were nice and neat and not puckered in any way. There is nothing worse than buying an item made from jersey from the shops and seeing that the hem or edging has moved whilst being sewn and looking all puckered; it never looks neat and will not iron flat. I had managed to sew this pretty perfectly – even if I do say so myself!!
The next stage was to pin the skirt part of the front to the cups – this was the scariest part as I knew that if I messed this up, I could ruin the whole dress and I was doing well so far! I had to sew the two pieces together, making sure that the folds stayed in place, the fabric did not slip and the sewing line was in the correct place to ensure that the length of the skirt was the same at the front as the back – a lot to get right!!
I pinned the two pieces into place and then, I have to admit, I asked my mum to have a look at it to see if I had pinned it right. My mum suggested that before I pin the skirt to the cups, rather than rely on the pins holding the folds into place, I sewed them down using a normal straight stitch; this way, the folds would not fall out and there would be less pins in place which would be less bulky when sewing the seam. I followed my mum’s expert advice, sewed the folds down and then re-pinned the seam. My mum checked it and said that it was fine to sew.
Very carefully, I sewed this seam, after switching back to a stretch stitch, following the ‘15’ line under the foot of the sewing machine to ensure that I followed a straight line. When I finished this seam, I was scared to look in case I had gone wrong but luckily, it was fine – phew!
Next, I had to iron the inside of the seam to make the fold lie ‘upwards’. Where the fabric was quite bulky, I trimmed some of the excess fabric away and re-ironed it and the seam lay flatter.
The dress was all in one piece now; the back was attached to the cups by the shoulder seams and the skirt was sewn onto the cups. Now I had to sew the side seams up.
As I have grown up with a dress making perfectionist, I was fully aware that the dress needed to be tried on now to double check the fit and see where the side seams should be sewn. I could have just sewn the sides up at 5/8 of an inch but by doing this, I would have run the risk of the dress not fitting me; either being too big or too small!
I tried the dress on inside out and asked my mum for her help in fitting it on me. Whilst I was wearing it (and admiring my work so far), my mum pinned the side seams to check the fit. Luckily, it was a perfect fit, pinning the seams at 5/8 of an inch in from the edge. I unpinned one side, took the dress off and re-pinned it at 5/8 of an inch.
I sewed the side seams and then tried it on again to check the length. The pattern comes in two lengths and I had decided to make the shorter version and wanted the hem to lie on my knee. The dress came a few inches below the knee so I knew that it needed to be shortened.
Again, I asked my mum to help and mum virtually led on the floor whilst I turned around very slowly to check that the bottom of the dress was level all the way around (I have spent many an hour doing this over the years!). My mum was happy that the level was straight so she placed a pin in place which would be my sewing line.
I followed this sewing line and pinned it across then cut the excess fabric off, making sure that I kept a straight line, leaving enough fabric for my hem.
I pinned the hem in place using 5/8 of an inch depth and then sewed all around the hem following the ‘15’ line under the foot of the machine. Again, this seam was a scary seam as I knew that if I messed it up, the hem of my dress would be puckered and uneven which would look a total mess and ruin all of my good work. Luckily, I did well; I pressed it to create a sharp hem and admired my work!
Finally, all that was left to do was to sew a neat seam around the arm holes and my dress would be finished! I pinned a narrow hem, like that around my neck line. This was quite tricky and fiddly as the armhole space is quite a small area. I was quite scared doing this but knew that once I had done it, I had mastered my first dress all on my own! I took my time, sewed it along the ‘10’ line and then pressed the seam flat, again very pleased that I did not have any puckers in the seam.
I can honestly say that I am over the moon with my dress! I have made it all myself with the comfort from knowing that my mum was in the next room if I needed her!
My next project will be a dress for my 15 year old daughter, also for this party. I have chosen another easy pattern whilst I am building my skills and confidence but I will face the challenge of making an outfit for someone else and fitting the dress on a ‘model’.
Roll on next Sunday when I can continue to master this new skill and enjoy my new hobby!!
See you next time,