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Prym Maxi Square - Product Review

You know when you start a project and it really doesn't go your way? Well, keep your eye on the Blogger Network for my recent one, it's a doozy! A good thing to come out of it, however, was my purchase of the Prym Knitting Loom Maxi Square which I got primarily to create a credible post worthy of the Minerva Blogger Network, and partially because I reeeeeeeeeeally wanted one and I wanted to cheer myself up! So as well as a blog post, I thought I'd do a little product review for you all! Double silver lining.

So, what is the Prym Maxi Square? 

Very basically it's a square of wood with holes strategically placed and doweling  rods put in the holes. So far so Ikea, but like many things I become obsessed with the beauty in it's simplicity. Through the simple act of winding yarn around the dowel you can create wonderful "granny squares" which you then crochet (and I imagine you can also knit) them together to make something dreamy! Now, don't fall into the trap of thinking all you can make with this thing is blankets. You can make so much more. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and I have a good few projects lined up for when my network post is wrapped up.

Point 1 - The Construction

As I said, the design of the loom is very simple, with three levels of holes to determine what size square you'd like to produce; 14 cm x 14 cm, 19,5 cm x 19,5 cm, or 25 cm x 25 cm.  This can be quite fiddly, but I wouldn't let that put you off too much. You do need basic crochet/knitting skills to join the squares together, but nothing complicated. If you're looking into venturing into those fields, this would be a good way to introduce yourself to it! Or you can just use it as a lazy way to do the bare minimum of those two crafts and still get a great result ;)

Point 2 - What You Use

The fun thing with the loom is you can use any yarn up to a Chunky weight, so you can go for a thick snuggly blanket for the colder months, or a delicate lacy shawl for the warmer times. When it comes to colours and such it's so easy to mix it up. You could create a crisp block white item, use different colours for your weave and weft, or really go to town with a variegated yarn and see what you get! It is also really easy to design your own pattern. All it it is a sequence of squares, so grab your pencil and paper and get doodling! I'm definitely going to be rocking some 8 bit geek chic in the future ;)

So easy to transfer these!

Point 3 - How You Use It

Relatively easy in that you're simply winding yarn in a particular formation, tying it in certain points then crocheting it all together. What I did find, however, is it's oddly fiddly because you're working directly from a ball of yarn, as you normally would, but winding takes a lot of yarn so you have to pull out large lengths at a time as opposed to just pulling little and often as you would with knitting or crocheting. This leads to minor complications such as getting yarn caught on other pegs or the yarn slipping from your hand and you having to re-wind the same part over again. So don't let the simplicity lure you into a false sense of security! You need to approach it with the same mind set as you would any other project. 

That being said, once you've got into the flow of it it's really fun and very handy as you can do it on your lap! Though I don't know if you could do it on the commute to work.

Point 4 - Surprisingly Versatile!

As I mentioned briefly earlier, the Prym Maxi square can be used for much more than just blankets. Prym feature a few in their online instruction leaflet (which expands further on the quick start guide you get with your loom) but the possibilities are open to your own imagination really.

Just a few combinations.

 

Cute cosy cowl; I love how this winding creates a flower int he centre of each square!

  

A great use of accent colours with the tying. Imagine this in a lace fine yarn!

 

And of course you can blankets. This is a great example of colour-winding combinations.

A great example of the different winding patterns! So cute.

So as you can see this really is a wonder product. For some (including myself) it may be an investment piece but I implore you to look into it! Prym products are worth every penny and are great value (and, as an insider, I can tell you that sometimes a Prym product is cheaper than a budget brand!) This bad boy is only a little over £20 so it's the perfect price to treat yourself! For that you get the board, enough pegs to create the loom and spares, and a darning needle. Great value, I think. You do need to pick up your own crochet hook to match the size of your yarn but you can pick these up for less than £2 each!

Rating

Price: 4/5 - great gift price

Value: 4/5 - includes almost everything you need, great instructions and online support

Ease: 3/5 - takes little practice, but does require practice

Overall: 4/5 - a fantastic product!

And once you've tried and loved this product you may want to pick up the rectangle version too...that's next on my 'wish list'.

Have you got your own Prym Maxi Loom already? If you have please share pictures of your wonderful creations with us. We love to see what you have been crafting!

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Denim & Chambray Inspiration

From the greasiest workshops to the highest fashion houses, no fabric is so versatile, fashionable and humble as Denim! It's always the understated staple in everyone's wardrobe, so we though we'd shed a little light and give some inspiration on how to use this amazing fabric, and it's sister cloth Chambray.

Vicki was recently featured in Sew Magazine showcasing a few of our key Denim and Chambray Fabrics. The Deep Indigo we all know and love is still going strong, but you can now branch out with some fantastic colours and prints, my personal fave at the moment being our Plum Cotton/Lycra Coloured Stretch Denim, I need some jeans in this!

Or maybe a high-waisted pair with nautical style button down front in our Indigo Blue/Multi Vintage Style Floral for a vintage feel (now out of stock but we do have another colour-way here!)

Don't just take my word for it, though! The web is FILLED with denim based inspiration, and we've scouted out a few for you below;

Jennifer from Workroom Social has made this fantastic version of By Hand London's Elisalex Dress in a Cotton Chambray, complete with some simply divine seam binding.

I am in LOVE with the side panels

 

I can only aspire for my seams to look this neat!

Sticking with Chambray, Heather from Feather's Flight has gone for a lovely twist on a classic favorite. I'm sure nearly everybody currently has, or has had previously, a chambray shirt. What I really like about Heather's Shirt is she's gone for the over-sized style of McCalls 6512 (now discontinued, but New Look have a similar one here!) giving an old favourite a fresh new, and comfy, feel.

 

Loving the different ways you can wear it. I'd never think to tuck it in to trousers!

Carrying on with shirts, we can't leave the a guy's fit out of the equation. Meg of Cookin' & Craftin' did a great post for Imagine Gnats featuring a Men's Buttondown Shirt in a lovely red chambray.

 

Love, love, LOVE the top-stitching detail!  McCalls 6044 has a perfect pattern for this with 4 views to choose from. 

(Meg also did a lovely colour block tee. I can only imagine how comfy this is!)

Steering slightly away from shirts, our dear friend Karen from Did You Make That has made this adorable blouse in a spotty chambray that is simply divine! The sleeves are nothing short of dreamy.

See what I mean about the sleeves?! Divine. Karen also has some lovely advice and tips in her write up so I highly recommend reading it. The pattern Karen used is discontinued now, but McCalls have come to the rescue again with their 6035 pattern. With 3 views (two of which are simply perfect for this project) it's a great all rounder.

Kathryn of Yes, I Like That stayed slightly more traditional with her use of denim and made the Ultimate Trousers (that's the name of the pattern, apparently. As she said, a lot to live up to!)

A lovely classic style, no?

Also, the turn ups are the cutest!

Another great place to look for some denim-spiration is our very own Minerva Crafts Blogger Network! They do love their Denim and Chambray, and one thing they certainly know how to do it make Jeans! Making your own jeans has become increasingly popular of late, and I think it's a great project to get into as it really brings together all the little things you learn as a sewist. My favourite post from our Network is Jo's post (Three Stories High). She goes into some good detail about the finer points, and gives some great hints and tips on top-stitching that I've used myself!

How to stitch back pocket design - how did we not think of this?!

Also be sure to check out Sams Chambray DressKatie's Boyfriend JeansLucie's TopMaria's Baroque TrousersLaura's Over-Sized Pocket SkirtKathryn's ShirtLouise's Circle Skirt..and more!

So do we have you suitably inspired? I hope so, I am! On my travels around our website I've spotted quite a few key patterns that I think would work really well in Denim or Chambray. I've mentioned a few above, but here's the rest!

I'm always on the look out for a good value pattern, and Simplicity 2215 certainly is that. Featuring a button blouse, skirt and a button dress it really includes everything for a gorgeous  Chambray collection. I'm picturing our Striped Chambray Print as the ideal fabric match for this pattern!

Another shirt based pattern which would be fun is Simplicity 1460. I think the peplum and collar structure in view C would hold out quite well, don't you?

In a Pretty Pastel Chambray me thinks!

Burda 6931 has one of my favourite shirt features, a Grandad collar! Perfect is a simple pale blue!

Burda are leading the style pack once again with pattern 7018. Can you go wrong with a denim jacket? We think NOT!

 

Get on this with some 8oz Washed Denim, or maybe switch it up with some Grey Tie-Dye!

 

Now this next pattern, I'm very excited about, because I finally have it! I have been coveting this pattern since I started work at Minerva and never had the guts to go for it, but then the pattern sale came around and I knew it had to be mine. I present...Butterick 5682!

As you can see, it really has everything covered! What I'm quite giddy about is the Slim Leg Ankle Length view as I'm a bit on the short side so these will fit nicely.

Now don't forget your accessories! The problem with an iconic style like this is everyone knows what it looks like, so not only have you got to get the look right, if you want to get the most out of your garments you need to make it up with the right stuff, too. A good Top Stitch Thread and Jeans Needles are a must, (with a jeans thread and twin needle if you want to get super fancy :P). 

An optional (though clearly necessary) extra which is fresh to the Minerva catalogue is our selection of Chambray trimmings! Available in SEVEN colours, we have piping cord and bias binding which are crying out to be used (please support them in their dream to be made into beautiful garments!) Vicki and I discussed possible projects for this stuff at length, and being the genius she is came up with a stunning idea! I instantly thought of using a coloured chambray, but Vicki saw a white linen garment to pick out the weft of the chambray. Inspired or what?! I picked up Butterick 6008 in my sale binge buy (sale still on by the way but finishes tomorrow so be quick!) and I instantly saw Vicki's vision in this dress! Ivory linen, Coral Chambray Bias on the arm holes, neck line and down the button front and our Dill Round Matte Buttons in Coral. What do you think?

Now, my favourite find for this post is by far Louise's make on her blog Sew Sensational. I am in blog-love with this lady, she makes the cutest things for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network and has outdone herself with her Dotty Chambray Shirt!

Using Burda 6849, she shows off our Spot Print Chambray perfectly, and the Pearl Snap Button detailing is equally inspired and adorable!

Her post is a great read, particularly if you're looking to venture into shirt sewing in general.

Well I hope this write up has left you raring to go! I know I now have at least 3 more projects than I did before writing this, and I don't even mind one bit! Keep your eye on the Network, I may end up joining the blogger trend of jean making before long!

Keep on Crafting on!

Katie B xo

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New Look 6022 by The Stylish Stitcher

Howdy!    

Well the weather has taken a turn up north and it's blooming lovely! We're all looking at summer patterns and floral prints at Minerva HQ and Vicki stumbled across this LOVELY make from Catherine at The Stylish Stitcher

She's made up New Look 6022 and it's her first dress! 

How stunning is this in general?! Let alone for her first ever dress make. She picked a lovely vintage floral poplin. We have since sold out of this exact print but we have some gorgeous alternatives that are very similar.

Poplin is always recommended to new dressmakers like Catherine and I as it's "great to work with" and it really is! It's sturdy enough to give you something to hold onto which won't slip and slide, but light enough to make some really wearable items and is perfect for dresses, blouses, skirts and all sorts! As it's cotton you can get some AWESOME colours, prints, and patterns so you can really find something to suit you. I've been eyeing some up for the By Hand London Sophia Dress that's just arrived!

Catherine discusses a lot of interesting dressmaking pointers throughout her post. Firstly, her use of Dressmaking Paper to trace the pattern as opposed to cutting it out. This is generally a good habit to get into, particularly if you need to go between sizes to help fit the garment (e.g. if your bust is a 12 but your hips 14). Once you've done the alteration on your dressmaking paper, it's there ready for the next time you use it and you know it will fit like the custom piece it is.  It also means you get more bang for your buck with your patterns. Not only does it allow for size and shape changes, but you can share/swap them with your sewing buddies! My mum and I are both dressmakers, so we have a shared pattern stash (usually freebies from magazines) so we trace them so we can both use them. However what also sometimes happens is one of us buys a pattern and the other goes "Oo! Oo!" so out of guilt we trace so the other person can use it, too ;). Now I have to admit, more often than not I just cut the pattern straight. However, I've recently started making children's clothing for my S.O's niece and nephew and as we all know kids grow FAST and I don't want to be buying a fresh pattern every time they have a growth spurt so I now have taken to tracing patterns like the good little sewist we all should be. Catherine uses Burda Tissue Paper which is fantastic as it's the same as pattern paper to you can trace the lines clearly and it folds up nicely and neatly to fit in our already bursting pattern drawers. 

However, I now tend to sway towards the Hemline Paper as it's thicker and more resilient to my rhino like grace. It is a bit more difficult to trace the lines but once you've placed a light background beneath the pattern it's a breeze and easier (for me) to keep safe and tear free!

 Another thing she discusses is making up a muslin. One of our network ladies Maria from How Good Is That alters a lot of her patterns and frequently makes muslins to ensure a good fit. A great tip that Catherine and Maria discuss/do is make 'wearable' muslins. Pick up a cheap fabric that looks nice and do a test run. If it works straight away, Great! You've got yourself a lovely piece to wear and no alterations to make for your main item. If not, you tweak away with no worries as it isn't your main fabric . The only dress muslin I've made was my Elisalex Party Dress. I'd never worked with Taffeta before so I picked up one of our clearance taffeta fabrics and it came out so well I didn't make another! Thrifty and practical, what's not to love?!

The last thing Catherine has done is look to others for inspiration! She mentions our loveable Louise from Sew Sensational as she'd also made New Look 6022. Looking to others is the best way to learn. Here at Minerva HQ we're always discussing hints and tips. As well as sewing, Becki, Lisa and Anne are our resident knitters, Catherine is our jewellery making expert and card maker, I'm the crochet gal, and Vicki and Annette are practically perfect in every way and can do it all (not fair is it?) so even though we all dabble in various crafts we always turn to each other for tips and with this wonderful thing we call the internet, more and more crafters are becoming bloggers or setting up forums so it's easier than ever! A true community, which I love! 

What was really nice to see is Catherine went back to the pattern again and re-made is a few months ago here and it looks fab! This is using another of our poplin fabrics and we do still have some of this left in stock!

 

We always say it, but we really do love it when you share your makes with us, so post photos to us on Facebook or Twitter and be a show off or comment here on the blog to let us know what your currently working on!

Katie B xo

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Indie Pattern Month

Hey guys!

I can't believe it's May already. Where has the year gone?! The countdown to June is always an exciting time for me as it's my birthday towards the end of the month, but this year brings added June Joy! Our friends over at The Monthly Stitch (TMS) are hosting a great online event by the way of Indie Pattern Month

Every June, TMS dedicate the whole month to celebrating Independent pattern companies and run a series of competitions throughout, each week being dedicated to a different topic. This year we're proud sponsors of the whole thing! It's such an exciting event and something I definitely want to be a part of. I've only sewn with 2 indie pattern companies (my Wedding Party dress with By Hand London and a Simple Sew skater dress) and it's such a refreshing experience. I know Winnie, one of our bloggers, is a big fan of the company Fehr Trade, and many other of our blogger's projects are from indie patterns and I always wondered what the hype was, but now I know. You can almost feel the blood, sweat and passion emanating from the paper! I highly recommend trying one out, even if you don't enter any on the competitions! Share you makes on facebook and twitter with the hashtags #themonthlystitch #TMSindiepatternmonth 

"What are the themes?!" I hear you cry. Well...

Week one is Dresses! Very simple. Any dress!

For an easy start why not go for an Easy pattern with Simple Sew's Batwing Dress. It's a lovely beginner's pattern, so you can get the feel of working with a new style of sewing pattern.

Perfect for light to medium weight knits, a great jersey is the way to go (we have some lovely jersey's starting at just £2.99 by the way ;D) Being such a simple pattern you can really let the fabric do the talking! ?I'm very tempted by this gorgeous Hawaiian Palm Tree Print!

Week 2 is Separates! Very much a "two birds one stone" kind of thing.

The fun thing with this one is that they don't have to be a complete outfit, they just need to be two garments that can be worn together such as a cardigan and a blouse. On my website travels this morning I found a stunning White & Black Spotty Stretch Suiting Dress Fabric that may have to become the By Hand London Victoria Blazer and Simple Sew's Classic Trouser.

Or why not go on an Eliza M binge and match their Pussy Galore Blouse with their Hop and Swing Pants?

Divine, no?

Week 3 is New to Me! Any garment you like, as long as you haven't worked with that company before, INCLUDING UFO's AND MUSLINS! Has to be a totally new experience.

There are so many great companies to choose from here. If you want some inspiration, check out the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network, the gang love an Indie Pattern! My favourite recent post being Louise at Sew Sensational's 'Tilly Francois' Dress

(I NEED THAT RUG!!)

If I was to recommend from my experience I would always recommend By Hand London. Their designs are fresh, their approach to pattern instructions are even fresher and their pattern packs look GORGEOUS, (skillfully modeled by Vicki below!)

Now Week 4 is One Pattern, Two takes! This is a 'sit back and watch' theme in that this comp. is only for contributors to TM but this is certainly one to pay attention too. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the competitors will go with this one. Will they make the same thing in two different fabrics, or two different views?

Fehr Trades Surf to Summit Top is a good example. Different views to make, but also a good chance to mix up fabrics!

So as you can see The Monthly Stitch is definitely the place to be this June. Even if you're not partaking in the competition or any makes it's certainly going to be a great place to pick up some hints, tips, advice and inspiration for future projects! I'm inspired already (as if I need anything else to make this summer!)

If you make anything inspired by the indie pattern month get on facebook and twitter! Use the hashtags #themonthlystitch #TMSindiepatternmonth to stay in the loop and keep your eye on them to see everyone else's makes!

Keep Sewing!

Katie Betty xo

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The Best of Butterick

"Another Sale?!" I hear you cry! Yes that's right, Butterick have just announced their patterns are now up to 50% off! How will our wage packets cope?! We were told the day after pay day. The day after pay day!! What was Vicki thinking? Needless to say I may be eating beans for lunch until next week BUT I will have fabulous patterns to show for it ;) Then again, with the price of these patterns I don't think I could over spend if I tried.....I must not try!

Here's my rundown/wish list for the Butterick Pattern sale!

I love a pattern that includes a good range, and Butterick 6121 is falling into that category for me. I'd been looking for a good handbag pattern of late and I spotted this the other day, because it bizarrely featured a backpack! Both are bags, admittedly, but not the same type or style so it was strange seeing the two together. I'm very much a modern lass so I like my handbags and shoes but I love a good rucksack so this pattern is bob on for me and an absolute STEAL at £1.59.

I'm generally always on the look out for a good bag pattern. I don't know why, I just am! Butterick 5741 (alas now out of stock but these Butterick Tote patterns are great alternatives!) is a lovely simple tote pattern, which seems to have been born to be made from a quilting cotton! I'm starting to get into my crocheting again, so need a good bag to carry my projects around on my travels and this tote seems to have it all! Front AND side pockets teamed with a 9" depth make it perfect for keeping yarn in (or anything really!). Yet another steal at £1.59 whilst on sale. 

I was only going to feature two bag patterns, but when I saw Butterick 6112 I had to tell you all about it! Three words - Exposed. Raw. Edges! I love incorporating stuff like this, not purely because of laziness, but because I love things with a slightly rough around the edges look. These hit that brief on the head, and with different sizes being included, you can really experiment with textures and double sided fabrics. I feel the larger bags lend themselves to our coat weight fabrics, and I can see the smaller ones in a satin backed fabric for a really unique occasions bag! We have a great selection of bag handles so you can really make the bag your own, and at just £3.99 you can really go to town!

Still working along the lines of a good value pattern, Butterick 5977 is a fantastic pattern which includes some good staples, and at £1.59 is unmissable. I have this pattern, and I can confirm that it truly deserves its title "See and Sew". I made up the trousers in a linen blend fabric and how the instructions are written really allow you to see how the garment is constructed and it made me fall in love with sewing my own clothing. I already have fabric to make the top and blazer for my summer collection! I'm a traveller at heart so the idea of capsule wardrobes really appeal to me. A few key pieces you can mix and match for any occasion! 

Another great "See and Sew" pattern is Butterick 6008, a well structured dress with a feature side button fastening. Dresses like this are what I affectionately term "Danger Dresses". A simple, well fitting piece of clothing that accentuates everything that's good about your body without showing too much, if anything at all! The kind of dress you wear on a night out and eyes follow you around the room because you're owning it and look drop dead gorgeous! Everyone needs a dress like that in their life, and at £1.59 this could be yours! Made up in a stretch cotton to give literal wiggle room, a pair of killer shoes and the night is yours.

Why not test the waters of vintage and use a a polka print? Naughty-cal! (naughty, nautical....get it?)

If you're already well into your vintage, Butterick has you covered with some amazing designs, my favourite being Butterick 6094. A Stunning 50's swing dress with a high neckline and a V-Cut back with button fold detailing. You know me, any excuse to experiment with prints or textures ;)

I also love how you can change it up with a pencil skirt view!

Such a great pattern and a great price at £3.99 while the sale lasts.

My next two vintage choices are very movie themed. The off shoulder view in Butterick 6129 optimises "Grease" for me. The full swing skirts of the dance, but the saucy off shoulder bodice of Rebel Sandy at the end.

Butterick 5708, with its BIG full skirt and cute bows completely screams Enchantment Under the Sea Dance from Back to the Future! Particularly as the stock image shows it in turquoise. I am in love with this film and now this dress! It will most definitely be making an appearance at my Enchantment Under the Sea party. I often wondered how I hadn't had it sooner, but now I know fate was making me wait for me to discover this pattern, made up in a duchess satin, naturally.

See? I'm right aren't I?! 

I love the scene when Marty took it a bit too far on stage. The only thing better than their faces are their dresses!

These movie inspired vintage patterns are just £3.99 at the moment, so get them now and arrive at a theme party in something just that little different than the standard "Pink Ladies" jacket or Jeans and Nikes!

Now we can't talk vintage Butterick without talking about the 1950's Walkaway Dress. Butterick 4790 is a reprint of one of the most popular patterns to date and the most popular in Butterick's history, to the point where they stopped production of all other patterns to solely print this and keep up with demand. History nearly repeated itself when it was featured in the Great British Sewing Bee and sales skyrocketed. Here at Minerva we needed to fly stock in directly from the U.S. to cover demand! It was pretty exciting (is that bad?).

I made this pattern up and I loved having a pattern where the key was it's simplicity. There's no corner cutting with this baby! During the sale it's just £6.39 so get it quick!

If you're wanting to give your tiny ones a little Walkaway style, Butterick 5019 is a great little pattern. Tying at the back instead of the front, you have the option to make up a full dress or a cute little tunic. Perfect for easy wash polycottons, and easy to swap when ice cream is inevitably spilt on it, it's a great go to pattern for young children and for just £3.75 it's great value too! (and yes that adorable hat in included in the pattern!)

Another great pattern for even tinier people is Butterick 5510. A lovely mix of a bit of everything, once again including a hat! (how cute is that tiny belt!!!!!). Again, a value love for me and at just £3.75 right now it's perfect! 

Every blogger I read of late seems to be tackling making their own jeans, quite a few as features for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network. I have a love/hate relationship with the jean. I apparently shouldn't wear skinnies because I'm too short for them, but bootcuts and flares drag along the floor BECAUSE I'm short! I also have a weird shape, apparently, so all my jeans are either up by my belly button or right down on my hips. I can't win! A lot of people seem to have this issue, and if you're one of them then Butterick 5682 could be for you. Quite simply, it has them all! Every cut is featured, including a lovely trouser pattern. Make it your own with some lovely studs, or coloured denim! I spotted this a while ago and had almost forgotten about it until I spotted it in the sale. I was so giddy! Definitely in my shopping bag and the price makes it sweeter. Just £3.99.

My favourite pattern of the entire sale is Butterick 3031, featuring a delicate Camisole, Slip and Panties set. Who doesn't love having pretty little things to sleep in as a change from the oversized t-shirts? I got quite giddy about this pattern, too, as I know we have a great range of stretch lace trimmings I've been dying to try! Team with a lovely pastel jersey and you're on to a winner.

Get it now whilst it's £3.99! Your pyjama drawer will thank you.

On my search through the Butterick catalogue, I noticed that it is quite difficult to categorize them as a company. Simplicity are a star as far as their vintage reproductions go, Vogue is the "something special" brand, Burda are very much for the young market, so where do Butterick fit? They're 150 yrs old and going strong so they must be doing something right! Then during a conversation with Vicki and my office buddy Catherine we found it. Where Butterick fit is their fit! Simple lines, well fitting garments and very well priced. The reason they do so well is because they make up so well! I'm very much looking forward to working my way through my wish list!

All the best sewers!

Katie Betty  xo

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Our favourites from the Simplicity pattern sale!

Howdy!

Well, I don't know how I'm going to top the wedding posts Vicki has done! How stunning does it all look? I get a little bit teary when I see it all. So lovely!

Anyway, let's get down to business before my other half starts to panic about all this wedding talk! The buzz here at Minerva HQ from the Vogue pattern sale has continued with the announcement of the Simplicity Pattern sale! Our note pads are filled to bursting with our pattern wish lists, so here's my run down of my favorites!

Now, Simplicity is very much a "does what it says on the tin" kind of company. the patterns are designed for ease of use and are great for beginners, advanced beginners looking to explore something a bit daring, or for experienced sewists to get back to basics. 

My first pick is an Easy to Sew family hoodie pattern, Simplicity 1261. It includes sizings for children, teens and adults, with a view for hood contrasts and optional ears! 

As you can see there's room for any style here, though why you wouldn't add the ears is beyond me! With so many sizes included it's a great value pattern anyway, but at just £4.05 in the sale it's a steal!

Another staple pattern is Simplicity 4760. For men and boys, this pattern includes trousers and various views for shirts; long sleeve, short sleeve, breast pockets et c.. the trousers seem a bit bland at first sight but there's nothing to stop you shortening the leg and rocking an awesome pair of retro print shorts! Another winner at just £4.05.

Simplicity's range for children cannot be denied. For Boys, Girls, Toddlers and Babies they really do have it covered. This special occasions dress really caught my eye. It's almost costume like in its make up, but using the right fabric creates a fairy tale flower girl, or a dream christening gown. AND, for only £3.25 whilst the sale is on it carries on the dream!

Simplicity 1351 is an absolute smasher of a pattern. I think it would be one of those outfits that you need to wrestle your child out of because they've worn it for days on end! Onesies are a bizarre trend, so whether you want to make unique sleepwear or an interesting costume this is definitely the way to go. So simple, and so very easy to customise to your own needs (I want to be the hedgehog!). Another penny-saver at just £2.80.

For slightly older children (or a compromise for toddlers!), Simplicity 1477 is another winner. We featured this in our Great British Sewing Bee write ups and I feel I need to drop it in again because it's such a fantastic pattern! Everyone talks about children growing up too fast, so for something fashionable but still youthful a Raccoon hoody definitely seems the way to go, don't you think? Now just £3.25!

Now, I am dying to make this little number for my S.O's niece! SO. BLINKING. CUTE! I love a vintage repro, and this pattern is so adaptable. A pretty polycotton for the summer, or a rich velvet for something special. Also, who doesn't love a bonnet? At just £2.80, this is already in my shopping bag!

Continuing on the vintage theme, Simplicity's Vintage reproductions are one of the best ranges I've seen. I'm a big vintage fan (I'm currently gathering wears for Simplicity 3688) and the selection they have is fantastic. They haven't just jumped on the bandwagon and stuck with one decade, they've expanded on the trend and gone back to 1940's repros, as well as the fashionable 50's and swinging 60's (and it's not just swing skirts and shift dresses either!)

For value, you can't fault Simplicity's Day & Evening range of patterns. A collection of patterns that feature 2-3 different bodice and skirt variations so you can mix and match to not only create different styles, but the patterns are designed so you can utilise different fabrics to create completely fresh dresses for the evening! For me Simplicity 1420 shows this off perfectly with recommended fabrics including Linens and Satins! 5 dresses, 10 styles, £4.05. Sold!

I am a HUGE fancy dress fan, I will use almost any excuse to get into a costume of some description. This obsession is not helped by the range of brilliant Simplicity costume patterns. From Game of Thrones to Disney Princesses all of your bases really are covered! My favourite, however, is Simplicity 2172. The jacket in this pattern really has stolen my heart. I would totally rock the entire outfit at every opportunity, but I have visions of wearing this jacket to the pub with skinny jeans and heels! 

I'll let you in on a secret, too! Most costume patterns are cheaper than regular dress patterns, so they're a great place to look for something a little different, you just need to think slightly outside of the box. When they're on sale like this one for just £2.80 you can get a great pattern for even less! (but this is strictly between us, so shh!)

Another great pattern for value is Simplicity 1201, which features 6 different skirts! A very stylish faux wrap in 3 lengths, a straight forward centre seam in 2 lengths or a quirky 'shark bite hem'. Such variation and even better value at £4.05.

Now, there is a tie for my all round favourite pattern in this sale. Contender number 1 is a Cynthia Rowley Dress, Skirt and Blouse pattern, Simplicity 2215. The button front and princess seams have completely stolen my heart! It's the perfect summer dress, for me probably in a broderie anglais. I can see the skirt as shown below in a lovely navy blue, but a cationic chiffon with matching lining?!

Contender number 2 is something completely different. Simplicity 1218 is a selection of plush stuffed animal trophy heads! What house is complete without a trophy mount? I absolutely love the throw back chic of these, but taking the concept and completely turning it on its head (no pun intended). The pattern includes an elephant, a deer, a giraffe and....wait for it.....A UNICORN! I've just got my own room back at my parent's house and I'm sure I don't need to tell you exactly what I'm going to be mounting on the chimney breast!

So that's my pattern run down for this sale. As you can see I'm a bit of a Simplicity fan, and they have their own range of haberdashery and trimmings, too, to compliment their projects. A true all rounder of a company! A few of us office lot lend a hand in the warehouse and we can tell you these patterns are flying out of the drawers so get these soon whilst they're on sale and whilst we still have them! Many of them are re-orderable so it isn't a total travesty if they're out of stock, but be sure to buy them whilst the sale is on!

See you soon sewers!

Katie B x

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My Wedding DIY Project - The Dress

Hi Everyone!
If you read my last wedding post installment, you will know I am getting married!
Now, for someone who has grown up in a craft/fabric shop from the age of 8, you would expect I would make my own dress I think? Now a little confession...when my mum and I were first starting to talk wedding dresses I said to her I was just going to buy one ready made off the shelf. I didn't want the pressure. Let's face it, it's no mean feat setting yourself the task of making a wedding dress! And I was already planning on making everything else (the bridesmaid dresses, table centres, invitations, placecards, table plans, bouquets) so I figured I would have enough here to keep me busy!
Now before I continue, as you may know my fiance Richard works here at Minerva too and knows about me sharing my wedding dress progress with you. Is this stupidly risky as he may see the dress before the day? Possibly...! But he has promised me he will not look here on the blog now until after the wedding so I am free to share my thoughts, plans and ideas with you. However to be on the safe side, I am only going to share limited pictures until after the big day...just in case!
So, we set about looking for dresses on the internet to begin with. I fell in love with a Maggie Sottero dress. Unfortunately they no longer have it on the website and I cant seem to find a picture of it saved on my laptop to be able to show you. To describe the dress though it was a 'trumpet style' dress, which had a pretty big skirt (not gypsy-bride big, but big with a large train) with lovely folds and gathered details in the skirt. It had a lace fitted bodice with tiny cap sleeves and tiny pearl buttons running all the way down the back to fasten. I thought it was perfect! To the point that I stopped looking at all other wedding dresses and wanted to buy this one.
There was no shop anywhere near Darwen that stocked this particular dress. One shop offered to order in a sample for me. It turns out that samples come in a size 8. Now I'm a good size 12 so it was never going to fit, or even get on over my head I thought. I went to the shop with my 'entourage' to try on the dress. I'm sure you can guess - it was awful! I was so sure this style of dress would suit me and I'm usually pretty good at knowing what styles suit my shape, but I got it seriously wrong with this one. It was never going to fit with it being a size 8, but I could look past that. It was more to do with where the waist line fell. I looked so frumpy in this dress. I am soo glad I went to try it on and didn't just order it without having seen it first.
Whilst there at the wedding dress shop, and within 60 seconds of knowing this sample dress wasn't for me, we set about to find me a dress from all the samples in the shop. To be honest my first experience of wedding dress shopping couldn't have gone much worse, the staff were not very helpful to say the least, I was not allowed to try on more than 3 dresses and all in all I left feeling extremely down in the dumps thinking this must be what wedding dress shopping was like.
We hadn't made appointments to go anywhere else, so on a whim we rang 'Wedding Belles' (a wedding dress shop in Blackburn Town Centre). They said it was no problem to just call in without an appointment and so we all headed there as the next stop. This shopping experience was entirely different. I cant recommend this shop enough if you are looking to buy a dress. The staff were so helpful (even when extremely busy). I could try on as many dresses as I liked (which was soo much fun!) and all in all it was everything I had dreamt wedding dress shopping would be. 
The lovely shop assistant who helped me with the dresses soon realised I loved dresses with a vintage feel - lots of lace, beading, diamante and generally lots of detail (my dress was never going to be simple and understated). She asked me to wait a moment while she brought me a dress that she thought would be perfect for me - and boy was she right. This dress again was a trumpet style and it was made from the most beautiful lace fabric all-over. It had an additional piece of lace attached at the back which extended the length of the train. It had three quarter length sleeves (again in lace), a round neckline and at the back it came down quite low to a V shape at the bottom. I felt a million dollars in it. 
I was ready to order this dress but was advised to go away and think about it first just to make sure I was making the right decision. So that was that. I had found my dress and it was perfect.
But then the inevitable thing happened. In the February of 2014 myself, Richard and my mum and dad visited a trade show. This is one of the best parts of the job. We go there to source the latest products and learn about the latest trends to soon hit the UK craft market. The very best bit of course is sourcing new fabrics. And guess what happened...we stumbled across THE most beautiful fabric I have ever seen. Now having worked in this industry all my life, this is quite a statement! Within just 10 seconds of ooh-ing and ahh-ing over this fabric, my mum and I looked at each other and said my dress just HAS to be made from this fabric.
Since then we have started to work more with this particular supplier here at Minerva, and now stock all of their bridal fabrics. The range of laces is simply amazing!
This was the fabric I fell in love with;
Now I have really tried with this bridal lace range to photograph them well enough to do them justice. But I just don't think it is possible. Sure, this fabric looks beautiful in the picture, but in the flesh it is simply amazing! It is called the 'Charlotte' fabric (how lovely to use this fabric if you are called Charlotte!). It is an exquisite 1920's style pearl, beaded and sequined tulle lace fabric which has a pretty scalloped detail on both edges. Decorated with clear sequins, pearl bugle beads, pearl seed beads, silver/clear E beads, round pearl beads and diamante disc beads. All brought together with metallic embroidery. It is VERY weighty, but I was prepared to have a heavy dress, that really did not bother me at all.
It is not cheap - the £239.99 per metre price tag is enough to make some people pass it by, but considering what I was willing to pay for a ready-to-wear dress off the shelf, I would be able to make a dress completely in this fabric for the same amount, if not a bit less.
And my dress will be unique. Made especially for me. There is a value to this that can't be measured. 
So for a while my mum and I were busily searching patterns and sewing techniques for using this beautiful fabric. At first I thought I would make a dress the same style as the dress I had found at Wedding Belles, but then we started playing around with different ideas. This is the beauty of making your own I guess, you really can have exactly what you want.
My mum and I have been lucky in that we have lots of bridal seamstresses who come to us to buy their supplies. There are 3 ladies in particular that we have known for years now and they have offered us so much help and advise. You know who you are! Their kind help and endless enthusiasm in helping us has been so lovely and we are very thankful to you for all your help.
The pattern(s) we decided on (we had to mash a few together, as there was no single pattern that was exactly what I wanted) was this trumpet style dress as the base with the top (round neck line and three quarter sleeves) taken from this Vogue Pattern.
We were also going to make the train longer - I wanted a HUGE train :)
Everything was set to go. We had the patterns ready, the fabric to one side and had researched techniques both in talking to our bridal seamstress friends, reading books and reading information found on the internet.
And then guess what happened. The lovely company we work with who supply us with our beautiful bridal laces introduced some new fabrics into the range. And this amazing paneled fabric caught our eye;
Again these pictures don't do the fabric justice. It is out of this world. I think it is the delicacy that draws me to this fabric. And of course all that amazing embroidery and detailing. I love that it is made up of panels too.
I was starting to panic a bit at this point. We were getting closer to the wedding. My original choices were 'signed off' so to speak. I knew were I was with them. I had a plan. Everything was set to go. If I changed my mind now everything would need to be changed because this was a paneled fabric, not an all-over design like the previous fabric and so it wouldn't work the way we had planned. I tried to put this new fabric out of my mind, tried convincing myself that I didn't want to even consider it. But I couldn't. I kept finding myself day dreaming about it. Imagining what we could do with it. How pretty and elegant and very 'Pride and Prejudice' looking it was! Without my knowing, my mum had been doing just the same. We came into work one Saturday and whilst walking through the warehouse I caught her eyeing the fabric up again. 
We both knew what had to be done. We simply had to use this fabric and so decided to start again!
We struggled a little more with this fabric in deciding on a style and then finding a pattern.
I remember one Saturday night there was myself, my mum and my sister (if you are regular readers of the blog you will know my sister Alison who is also my Maid of Honour - or I believe 'Matron of Honour' is the correct term as she is married) and we were browsing the internet finding ideas for styles of dresses where we could incorporate this fabric. 
After a while of drawing a blank, I started looking at vintage dresses. The period of dress I most love is from the 1900-1910's specifically. Then I started to get excited! These two images below are what caught my imagination, aren't they beautiful;
Oh how I would love to be able to dress like this all the time! (OK maybe not ALL the time, but I would love the excuse to sometimes). I think the only time in my life I might have the occasion and confidence to wear a dress like this will be on my wedding day.
So with these pictures being the base of an idea for creating my dress we set to work. Now I didn't want to 'copy' either of these dresses. I wanted a dress that is unique, made especially for me and my shape, yet that captures the essence of what I love about these photographs. The first job really was pin pointing what exactly it was about these photos that I loved, which was difficult because I quite simply love everything about them, even down to the poise of the ladies pictured. They are so elegant and beautiful and very 'ladylike'.
After much examining and deliberating, I think what I specifically like about them is as I call it 'the coat effect'. There is a base dress with a second layer over the top that doesn't meet in the middle. I love how the train at the back is created from the underneath dress which comes out from under the 'coat dress part'. I love the length of the sleeves. I love how on both dresses the eye line is really drawn to the waist (which co-incidentally happens to be the best place on my shape to draw the eye, because that is where I am the slimmest). I also love all the detail on the dresses and the beautiful fabric and embellishments that have been used.
So that was what we started with. 
The dress is going to be made between myself and my mum. My mum is the best dressmaker I know. She made her own wedding dress and my sisters. There is no doubt in my mind that she wont be able to create the vision I have in my head...and make it fit perfectly. She is a perfectionist through and through - which in the case of making a wedding dress is a quality that is definitely going to help!
At the same time though I would like to be able to say 'I made it'. But I have not really got the confidence or skill to be able to tackle this alone. So we are going to make it together!
We have found whilst planning this project how differently we work. Whereas my mum likes to have the pattern in front of her first, to see how the construction brings it all together and to see how the fabric will work and how it will look, I like to play with the fabric itself first. Playing with the fabric allows me to visualize different ideas and bring together the look, and then afterwards work out how it might come together with a pattern. As it turns out it did help that we both worked differently and between us we figured out what we think the best way will be to put this dress together.
Now I said I didn't want to share too many pictures because I don't want Richard to see them, and also because I still want the dress to be a surprise on the day, but here are a few sneak shots! Bear in mind when looking at these pictures that this is just fabric pinned to a tailors dummy so it's not exactly how it will look in the end, but it gives you an idea on where we are going with this dress.
Above is the back view of the dress. As you can see the bottom part - the skirt - is made up from *the lace* fabric which has been gathered to create a layered effect and it really adds movement to the dress. At the top of the skirt at the back, we have added half of a panel of the lace fabric which is laid flat (in contrast to the gathers of the skirt). I love how this creates a bustle effect - but not, if that makes sense! Then at the top you can see the piece which will sit on my shoulders which is made from piecing together our amazing-ly sparkly diamante appliques.
From the front you can see more of the plain dress underneath. Here on the dummy I used our gorgeous 100% Silk Charmeuse Free Flowing Satin fabric, but since then I have decided to use our Top End 100% Silk De Lux Dupion  fabric. 1) Because I think the slightly-more-structured nature of the dupion will suit the style more and 2) because my mum LOVES sewing silk dupion fabric (it's one of her all-time favourites to sew with) and I know she will feel more comfortable sewing with this than with the very slippery silk satin. 
From the front you can also see the 'coat effect' as mentioned earlier, created from the paneled fabric. We imagine how this will work, is the cummerbund around the waist will have all the gathered lace fabric sewn to it, and it will button up at the front with tiny pearl buttons to fasten it (remember how I mentioned I loved the tiny pearl buttons used on the very first dress I was looking to buy - I think they will work beautifully here). So I will put the underneath dress on first and then the overlay skirt will be put on over the top.
Here you can see in a bit more detail how we are using our amazing diamante appliques to create this piece. This part especially reminds me of the top half of the dress in the second vintage inspiration picture.
And here again in a bit more detail from the front.
As I write this post we are less than 11 weeks away from the wedding and guess what...it was only this week that we have started making up the mock up for this dress! I had my first fitting on Saturday. My mum is starting to panic a bit, but we do still have time.
As mentioned my mum will be doing most of the sewing on this dress (with help from me), so she will be keeping you updated on it's progress here on the blog over the coming weeks, so please check back if this interests you.
Thanks for sharing in my wedding dress plans. It has been really good to type all of this up - in a way its made me feel a bit more organised about things to put it all down in black and white.
Meanwhile, I have started on some of the other handmade aspects of the day so I will be sure to share these with you on the blog soon too!
Bye for now,
Vicki x
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My Wedding DIY Project - Getting Started

Hi Everyone!
Anyone who knows me well will know I am getting married later this year - the fourth of July to be precise. Yes that's independence day, and to be honest, I love the irony! My finance Richard (who also works with us here at Minerva) proposed over two years ago now and since then we have been planning and saving for the big day.
When I say 'we' have been planning... Richard is a very typical guy in that he has no real opinions on colour schemes, themes, or any of the other little details that make a wedding day special. So I have had pretty much a free reign to choose what I like - perfect :)
Now there are massive benefits for someone in my position for planning a wedding. I can buy ready made or make my own handmade. I have endless choices when it comes to ready made items and the choices when making your own grow massively! I am in a very lucky position to have so many sources and choices of products with all the suppliers we work with here at Minerva. There are also endless sources of inspiration on the internet for ideas and sources of where to buy or how to make yourself and I am surrounded by crafty people all the time here at Minerva - many of which have kindly offered to help me out with anything that needs making for the wedding.
All this sounds great except to when you have to start making decisions! 
Anyone who knows me will know I am a very decisive person. I usually always have an opinion and know what I like. However much of this went out of the window when it came to choosing things for the wedding. I can only assume it's because I don't want to get it wrong as the day is too important, or make the wrong decision and it be a very costly mistake.
There was a period of time last year when I went into panic mode as the day felt like it was fast approaching and I seemed to not be able to make a single decision when it came to confirming and booking things! Eventually however it did all start coming together and it started to become fun!
To set the scene, the place we finally decided on to have the wedding breakfast is Astley Bank in Darwen. It's quite simply beautiful.
I love the world of period dramas - Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Downton Abbey, North and South...this list goes on. Astley Bank for me captures the essence of what I love about period dramas. The classic elegance of it all was what set the theme for the day - 'Classic Elegance'.
All the staff at Astley Bank have been lovely in helping us prepare for the wedding. They are family run, just like us, and nothing is too much trouble. We have also been to dine there a couple of times to 'sample the food' (we had to, right?!) and I can confirm the food is out of this world. So even if you are not planning a wedding I would highly recommend them as a place to go to for good food, excellent service and gorgeous surroundings. Price wise they aren't as expensive as you would imagine either. Compared to other places of a similar level they are very reasonable.
So, with a theme of 'Classic Elegance' and the setting of Astley Bank confirmed, it was time to start planning the rest of the wedding...
Ill be back soon to share my progress :)
Vicki x
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Everything you need to know to be a Cross Stitch Pro

Happy Monday everyone!
It was an interesting weekend for me at Minerva HQ this week. We have had so many deliveries of delicious new fabrics recently and I spent my Saturday organising them all, taking photographs and doing all the prep work to list them online soon. It's definitely one of my favourite parts of the job and to be honest I couldn't think of a better way to spend a weekend!
Whilst I was in an 'organising mood' (which isnt all that often!) I re-organised my office. Whilst doing so I came across an old leaflet that my parents designed some 20 years ago when we first owned Minerva. Back then we were very much a needlework shop specializing in Cross Stitch, which, at the time was the most popular form of embroidery. Many people were just getting into this craft back then, so we put a leaflet together to help people get started. 
Cross stitch was the first craft I really learnt from my mum (that I remember). It was certainly the first one that really hooked me. I loved the creating of something from nothing. A blank piece of fabric that could be transformed with a single type of thread. I think it was this first love for cross stitch that spiked my interest in embroidery which many years later led to me doing a degree in embroidery at Manchester Metropolitan university. 
I remember the first 'big project' I did was a Mirabillia chart of a fairy. It had countless amounts of metallic threads, beads and charms, I was so proud of it. My mum offered a bespoke framing service for embroideries back then and she framed it absolutely beautifully for me. She even put it in the shop window - none of our customers believed a child of 12 had completed it with no help at all!
Seeing this leaflet again really made me smile - it was such a blast from the past! I showed it to my mum and dad and we had a bit of a giggle about how old-fashioned it looked now. However looking past some of the out-of-date information on the leaflet and the old-fashioned design, whilst reading it I thought it would be a nice idea to share it (in a more modern way nowadays!) here on the blog.
So here is the Minerva Crafts introductory guide to Cross Stitch Embroidery (from 20 years ago!);
"Cross Stitch is one of the oldest forms of embroidery dating back over many centuries and appearing in traditional embroidery worldwide. Cross stitch is frequently found on folk costumes, household items and samplers and has become increasingly popular for pictorial designs over the last few decades. This guide to Cross Stitch explains the principles of Counted Cross Stitch and will give you the confidence to embark upon large or small cross stitch projects. Both cross stitch and back stitch are explained but we have excluded part stitches as directions are generally provided with designs which include this type of stitch. 
Stranded cotton (known as floss in the USA) is the thread most often associated with cross stitch. Stranded cotton comprises six strands which makes it particularly versatile for all forms of embroidery.
The number of strands used will depend on the count of the fabric - with finer fabrics requiring fewer strands and coarser fabrics requiring more strands. For 14 count aida, two strands of thread are generally used.
Use a working length of thread of about 18 inches (45cm) to avoid the thread twisting and the formation of knots. If the thread twists, let the thread dangle and the weight of the needle will allow the thread to untwist. For an even finish it is recommended that each strand be separated individually and combined again to reach the number of strands which are to be used. 
An ideal means of enhancing all or part of a design, metallic threads come in a variety of thicknesses and textures, several of which are suitable for cross stitch.
Metallic threads are not difficult to use but it is advisable to stitch more gently to avoid any damage which can be caused by the friction between the fabric, needle and thread.
When threading the needle, it is often easier to enclose the ends of the thread in a slither of paper which will guide the thread through the eye of the needle.
Kreinik Blending Filament is the finest metallic thread and is used in conjunction with stranded cotton.
Kreinik Fine Braid and Very Fine Braid are both suitable for cross stitch. They are not strandable threads and are used instead of stranded cotton. Kreinik Fine Braid is particularly suited to 14 count aida whereas Kreinik Very Fine Braid is suitable for 14, 16 and 18 count aida fabrics.
Anchor Lame and DMC metallics are stranded metallic threads which can be used in conjunction with stranded cottons or on its own over various counts or evenweave or aida fabric.
Counted Cross Stitch is usually worked on a fabric which is woven in an even formation - usually referred to as an evenweave fabric.
Evenweave fabrics have a definite number of 'threads to the inch' in each direction. The number of 'threads to the inch' is known as the fabric count - the higher the count, the finer the fabric and vice versa.
Evenweave fabric counts vary from 20 to 32 threads per inch and, as these fabrics are particularly fine, cross stitches tend to be worked over two fabric threads in each direction. The number of stitches per inch is therefore half the count of the fabric e.g. a 32 count fabric provides 16 stitches to an inch.
Aida and Binca are types of evenweave fabrics called blockweave, where the threads of the fabric are locked to form the appearance of squares. As with evenweave fabrics, blockweave fabrics come in various counts - from Binca 6 count to Aida 11, 14, 16 and 18 squares to the inch, all of which are most suited to cross stitch, the most popular being 14 count aida.
When working on evenweave or blockweave fabrics always use a blunt pointed needle known as a tapestry needle to avoid splitting the threads of the fabric.
Tapestry needles vary in size from 18 to 28, with 18 being used for coarse fabrics. Size 24 is the most suitable for use on 14 count aida with two strands of stranded cotton. Back stitches, using 1 or 2 threads, generally require a size 26 tapestry needle.
A pair of good quality, small and sharp embroidery scissors should be used for cutting embroidery threads - avoid cutting paper with your embroidery scissors as this will blunt the blades.
We recommend that you use a hoop or frame for embroidery, as these will keep the fabric taut and help to achieve an even tension.
Rectangular frames are most suited to large designs whereas smaller hoops or rings are suitable for smaller designs
It is best to remove your work from a hoop if you are leaving it for any length of time so that the fabric and stitches can recover.
Working Cross Stitch
It is best to start stitching at the centre of the fabric to ensure that the design will be positioned correctly. The centre of the fabric should relate to the centre of the chart.
After threading your needle, tie a waste knot at the end of the thread which will stop the thread slipping through the holes of your fabric.
There are two recognised methods to start stitching;
1) Take the needle down through the fabric about 3 inches (8cm) from where the first stitch is to be positioned and bring the needle up through the fabric at your starting point. Work several stitches and then cut off the waste knot. The tail of the thread is re-threaded and darned into the back of the completed stitches.
2) Take the needle down through the fabric a few squares tot he right of your starting point and bring the needle up through the fabric in position to work your first stitch. By working several stitches between the starting point and the waste knot, you will secure the starting thread under the back of the stitches. The waste knot can then be cut away.
Cross Stitch
Cross stitch can be worked as individual stitches or in rows as shown in the diagrams below. It is important to ensure that the top stitches of the cross stitches all lie in the same direction.
When working rows of stitches in the same colour it is often easier to stitch a row of half cross stitches and then complete the stitches in the row.
For individual stitches you can work stitches of the same colour in different areas without changing the colour of the thread in the needle but take care not to leave long lengths of thread lying across the back of the embroidery.
To change colours or when you come to the end of a length of thread, darn the remaining thread into the back of some of the worked stitches and cut the end very close to the back of the work to achieve a neat and tidy finish. A new length of thread can easily be darned into the back of adjacent stitches to secure the thread before stitching.
Back Stitch
Back Stitch is often used to outline particular areas of a design and is usually worked along the edges of  square of the fabric or sometimes diagonally across one of the squares of the fabric. All areas of cross stitch should be completed before starting the back stitch.
To work Back Stitch, bring the needle up through the fabric one square in advance of the stitch and take the needle back through the fabric at the 'starting point' of the stitch. Then bring the needle up through the fabric two squares further on and down through the fabric at the starting point of the second stitch. As you are working 'backwards', this stitch is aptly named.
Free Cross Stitch Graph - 'An Apple A Day'
Materials Required;
Piece of 14 count Aida fabric (6" x 7" / 16cm x 18cm).
Anchor Stranded Cotton threads and Kreinik Metallic threads as listed above.
Understanding the Chart
1) Find the centre of the fabric by folding it in half each way.
2) The centre of the fabric should co-incide with the centre of the diagram -as indicated by the two arrows on the diagram.
3) Each square of the diagram represents one cross stitch over one square of the fabric (or two threads of the fabric when using evenweave fabrics).
4) Each colour and stitch is identified by a specific symbol which is shown in the Key to Diagram. For this particular design there are two alternative ways for the Apple - one uses Anchor Stranded Cotton only (A), the other also incorporates some metallic threads for additional effect (B).
5) For 14 count aida we recommend two strands of Anchor Stranded Cotton in the colours receommended.
6) Commence your Cross Stitch at the centre of the design as identified by the arrows  and complete the first colour before starting a second colour.
7) The border pattern can be started at any suitable place but make sure that you count the squares correctly to ensure the stitches are in the right position.
8) The rectangle around the apples and the border line along the sides of the design are worked in back stitch which should be worked once all the cross stitches are complete.
Fabric, Thread and Needle Guide
To get the best results, you need to use the correct thread and needle for your chosen fabric. Here is a guide to the most popular choices of threads for each fabric and which size of needle to use.These are only recommendations and other threads can be used.
25 Count Evenweave Fabric - Use stranded cotton thread with 3 strands, marlitt/satin threads with 2 strands, pearl cotton thread no 12 or cotton a broder thread no 16. Use a size 24 needle. 
27 Count Evenweave Fabric - Use stranded cotton thread with 2-3 strands, marlitt/satin threads with 1-2 strands, pearl cotton thread no 12 or cotton a broder thread no 16. Use a size 24 needle. 
11 Count Aida Fabric - Use stranded cotton thread with 3 strands, marlitt/satin threads with 2 strands or cotton a broder thread no 16. Use a size 24 needle. 
14 Count Aida Fabric - Use stranded cotton thread with 2-3 strands, marlitt/satin threads with 1-2 strands, pearl cotton thread no 12 or cotton a broder thread no 16. Use a size 24 needle. 
16 Count Aida Fabric - Use stranded cotton thread with 2 strands, marlitt/satin threads with 1 strand or pearl cotton thread no 12. Use a size 26 needle. 
18 Count Aida Fabric - Use stranded cotton thread with 1-2 strands or marlitt/satin threads with 1 strand. Use a size 28 needle. 
6 Count Binca Fabric - Use stranded cotton thread with 6 strands, soft cotton thread or tapestry wool. Use a size 18 needle. 
Washcare
Embroidery can normally be washed in hot water using soap powder. Use plenty of water and avoid strong detergents. Rinse very thoroughly then lay the embroidery flat until almost dry. With two thicknesses of towelling on your ironing board, press the embroidery from the wrong side. The towelling will prevent the embroidery from being flattened whilst enabling you to smooth the fabric well. If you have used metallic threads, have a dry cloth between the embroidery and the iron to prevent damage to the threads and do not use steam."
I hope that guide was helpful and food for thought if you are venturing into the world of cross stitch! If you are just starting and need any help please just get in touch by leaving a comment on this post and we will do our best to help :)
See you soon!
Vicki x
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Fan & Feather Jumper in Sirdar Divine

We had an exciting email from Sirdar this afternoon with a free knitting pattern to share with our customers!
The lovely Helen Lloyd of Caroline's Wool Shop, Newtown, has designed this stunning Feather and Fan Jumper in Sirdar Divine yarn, shown here in shade 060 Lucia, and modelled below by Helen herself! 
Why not knit one in your favourite Divine colour? The design is quick and easy to knit if you have some knitting experience and the Divine Knitting Yarn by Sirdar takes this pattern to another level! Not only will this pattern be comfortable it will add a touch of glamour that will take it through to evening wear. 
If you have never seen Sirdar Divine before then you are in for a treat! It is a beautiful, colourful brushed yarn that has a tempting and glistening thread running through the core of each shade. It is a thick and thin yarn that creates the most amazing striped textures as you knit.
Here is the free pattern;
The pattern takes just 4 balls for the smaller size and 5 balls for the larger size. The yarn is priced at £4.49 per ball so you could knit this for £17.96/£22.45 depending on the size you opt for. Bargain!
We love the colour Helen has chosen and here are photos of the colours we have available. There are some beauties - I simply can't pick a favourite.
Colour 060 Lucia (As used by Helen)
061 Floretine
062 Francesca
063 Esther
064 Fortuna
065 Paradiso
A big thank you to Helen for designing this pattern and for offering it as a free download for everybody. It was a lovely surprise for a Friday afternoon.
See you soon!
Vicki x

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