Posted in Product Reviews on Wednesday the 26th April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
We have just started stocking these lovely Sewing Patterns from a brand called Machine Stars here at Minerva HQ. They are aimed at teaching children to sew and are supposed to be super easy, in the hope of encouraging more children to take up the hobby and be creative. There are 8 different patterns to choose from and we sent Emma from Sandpiper Sewing a cope of the Apron to have a go! Here is what she had to say....
I tested this pattern with my 7yrs old helper who thought it was awesome.
The pattern comes in really great child friendly packaging, with a clear drawing of the finished product. I think this pattern would make a really lovely gift for a child who’s just starting to sew.
On the back of the pattern packet it listed everything you need to start, note - it does mention later in within the instructions that you might prefer to use ribbon for the neck and back straps, it would be good if they could add a note about this.
So we are all set with our supplies as per the packet.
Next we took out the pattern, which comes on lovely brown paper rather than tissue paper, which I really liked for children as tissue paper can tear and that would have been frustrating for a 7 year old. There’s just one size so much less confusing than finding your size and having to check which line you are cutting. I do think the apron comes up big, that was the first thing I noticed when I put the pattern out on my table, but I guess it’s a bonus that you could turn up the length and then just let down when your child grows taller.
To save time pinning the pattern to the fabric we just drew around the edge of the pattern with a Water Erasable Pen, (a pen that will vanish when you apply water to the marks). You could use an air erasable pen or you could use dressmakers chalk whatever you have to hand.
Next the instructions say to turn the edges under by 1cm, and pin. We used Wonder Clips for this as not only do they hold the folded fabric better, you are able to sew closer to them which helps avoid the fabric coming unfolded, and there’s no sharp pins for a child to worry about catching themselves on. I use wonder clips lots myself when sewing I’d definitely recommend them, great for bias binding.
Next you can either make straps from tubes of the fabric or use ribbon or cotton tape. Because our Fabric was quite a heavy weight canvas I thought tubes from this fabric would result in very bulky straps which wouldn’t tie very well and also would not be soft around the neck when wearing the apron, so we used soft Cotton Tape, which although means an additional purchase I think it's cheaper than using your fabric. The pattern instructions also suggest ribbon for the ties.
When attaching the neck strap we decided to add some Velcro for safety which I’ve seen on lots of aprons we have purchased, this also gives a little room to adjust the size too.
Here’s the finished apron, this is on a ladies size 10/12 dummy so as you can see it does come up fairly big. We are both very pleased with the finished apron!
Posted in Product Reviews on Tuesday the 25th April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
I recently had an opportunity to use the Clover Pom-Pom Maker from Minerva. I had the pack of small and pack of extra small which between the two packs gives you 4 sizes (45, 35, 25 & 20 mm)! They're both cute and colorful little gadgets, and so easy to work with to make your own Pom-Pom's. Why on earth would I want to make my own Pom-Pom's? Surely I can buy any kind of trim I want, right? As we all know many times the exact shade of the color accessory (in this instance the Pom-Pom) of pre-made trims may not be an precise match, and though you search high and low in the end you're better to match to yarn or maybe even embroidery floss than to pre-made. As a sewist, maker and fiber artist, I am more inclined to want to create my own pom-pom's versus buy pre-made. And given how easy these tools are to use, I can even include my little grand-niece in the fun! The possibilities are endless - garment construction trim, home decor trim, tiny toys.... I find these tools to be useful, easy enough to use that even a child can work with them, as a maker the possibilities of use are limitless - open your creative mind and use them in as many different ways as you can imagine!! And have fun!!! Here are a few samples: A key chain (made with low gauge yarn)
A home deco trim similar to a tassel for a hutch door key (made with embroidery floss)
A little animal (sheep or lamb) for a farm scene that Madeline my 5 year old grandniece and I are working through (after she decides which animals will be on our mini farm!)
And one of the many projects that I have underway in my studio is a crochet caplet that I am working on the finishing of currently (made with high bulk variegated yarn). Here are some photos of the step by step process to make 1 pompom;
Thanks so much for reading and I hope I have inspired to have a go at making your own pom poms. If you have any more ideas on how to use them in your crafts please leave a comment below!
Posted in Product Reviews on Monday the 24th April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
It's Spring Time! I look like Cheshire cat with a huge smile on my face. The sun is shining and that makes me happy but more so I have new pairs of knitting needles, and I cannot share them with you.
Prym have designed new ergonomic straight knitting needles. Now, I'm not usually a fan of straight needles due to the hand ache I got, passing my old knitting needles to my Nan whose hands are much more tolerant than mine. So when I was asked to test the Prym straight knitting needles I did think "what's so special about them?" Well, I can tell you now. They are fantastic!
I decided to knit a cardigan for my youngest daughter, who is 4 months old, and a summer clutch bag for myself. For the cardigan I used the 3.5mm (US size 4) and the bag I used 10mm (US size 15), both in length 30cm.
My first impressions were that they reminded me of something out of Star Trek, I mean they are very modern space age looking. A real delight for the eyes. Made from plastic, these knitting needles look and feel durable. The packaging states that they are ergonomic so I could only hope that they are going to be kind to the hands, especially if you are like and have double joints.
I’ll run through the great features in more depth so you can get a good sense of how these knitting needles are really ergonomic.
Straight Not Rigid
Usually knitting a swatch with straight 30cm needles is not a joy. After about 5 rows my hands and fingers begin to ache, but with these Prym needles there was no pain. Seriously I'm not just saying it. I am the skeptic of all skeptics. The whole swatch was knitted quite quickly. The flexible plastic material meant that I was in control, the needles did as I wanted. The needles are not actually tubular, but triangular. This reminds me of school writing practice, using tripods and triangular stem pencils. I think that's the concept here; for the needles to fit comfortably in between the fingers. The slight flat sides give extra grip and again control.
Softly Pointed Tips
Then there is the tip. Normally the thinner the needle the sharper the tip. Here Prym have a slightly rounded tip, which at first would seem that they would never pick up the yarn from one needle to the other. I was pleasantly surprised how easily they did. Often I end up with dimples all over my finger tips from the sharp ends of other knitting needles.
At first I thought it was going to be difficult to pick up a yarn like cotton. But I had no problem at all. Knitting the baby cardigan was easy and fast and my fingertips remain happy too.
The needles have a clever little groove on the top for for the tip of the other needle to fit in. I think this is a fab idea. Not only does it mean your needles can stay together when not in use but when a project is already on the needles, you do not need to worry about the stitches falling off by clipping the needles together. Clever of what!
These needles are very lightweight. Sometimes with larger size needles I have found them to have a little weight on them which can tire the hands. The Prym needles are lightweight which meant that my clutch bag was super easy and quick to knit up.
So what’s my verdict. The biggest thumbs up. I decided to test the largest and the smallest sized needles just to see if there would be a difference in the ergonomics. There was none, and that is what kept me going with the projects. I will definitely be using these for more projects in the future, so keep an eye out.
Thanks for reading,
Teena @ Teenyweenies
Posted in Guest Posts on Saturday the 22nd April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
It's Alex here again and I am super excited to be writing my second guest post for the Minerva Crafts Blog!
In a few weeks, I will be travelling to the streets of Paris in 1899. This fictional trip to Montmatre is to attend the latest Secret Cinema event, a recreation of Baz Luhrman's Moulin Rouge! Having attended other Secret Cinema events in the past, I know that dressing up is all part of the fun. The only thing that could make it even more fun is sewing your own outfit. As with other events, I received an email with my character and costume details. I will be a journalist, and I need to wear a white shirt with red bow tie and top hat and a long red skirt. This is pretty tame compared to the other costumes I have seen! As I already had a white shirt, I decided that I would make the skirt, and what could be better for a fictional trip to Paris than a Sewing Pattern by Deer and Doe, who are actually based in Paris?
I chose to make the Fumeterre Skirt Pattern. This is a high-waisted maxi skirt, with a choice of button front or a fly front zipper. I decided to go for Version B which has the fly front zipper. My fabric choice was a lovely lightweight linen blend in a vibrant red. I chose this particular Dressmaking Fabric because I was keen to wear the skirt again during the Summer, and this has a really summery feel which stops it feeling like a fancy dress item. I decided to cut the pattern a size up from my usual size based on my waist measurements, and I'm really glad I did because the fit is pretty snug. The sheer volume of fabric required for this skirt is quite overwhelming, and tracing off the pattern pieces and cutting out the fabric took a good couple of hours. The skirt is made up of triangular panels, with pockets added to two of the front panels. Piecing them all together was straightforward, but I had to lay al the pieces out so I didn't get confused and attach them together in the wrong order!
Making the fly front zipper was a new technique for me, and I found the instructions confusing at first. I had to edgestitch the fly front from the wrong side of the fabric, rather than topstitching on the right side as I couldn't get it to lie flat. I used co-ordinating thread, so the finish was similar. If I decided to make this again with contrasting topstitching, I would baste in place first from the wrong side to avoid this problem. I really like this effect, and am pleased with how it turned out once I finally understood what I needed to do.
Attaching the waistband was straightforward. The pattern suggests inserting elastic into the back of the waistband, but I decided to skip this as it was a good fit already. The bottom of the skirt is finished with a facing rather than a turned-up hem. This is the first time I have finished a hem like this. In order to shorten the length, I knew I would need to cut off the excess, leaving the seam allowance in place. I was nervous about cutting it too short, so I asked my Mum (a very experienced seamstress!) to pin it up for me, so I would know that the length was right. It was 4.5cm too long, so I ironed it wrong sides together at 3cm so I had a clear cutting line to allow for the seam allowance.
My only slight niggle with the skirt is that the waistband wasn't sitting quite straight at the button fastening. At my Mum's suggestion, I added a popper to hold it together at the top, and this solved the problem.
I'm really pleased with the final skirt - it works well for my Moulin Rouge costume, but the fabric choice makes it really wearable and I can definitely see me wearing this in the Summer. If I was to make it again, I would choose a light denim chambray and I would take the time to use contrasting topstitching which would give a really professional finish.
Now I'm definitely ready for my trip to the Moulin Rouge - Au Revoir!
Thanks for reading,
Alex from Alex's Adventures in Fabric
Posted in Product Reviews on Friday the 21st April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
Pom-poms, fluff balls of wool scraps perfect for trimming gifts, jazzing up a beach hat with some colour or even adding to your shoes! My earliest memories of pom-pom making involved my mum showing me how to use two circles of cardboard cut from a cereal box. They were a quick and fun activity, especially on a rainy afternoon. Fast forward to a few years ago and I picked up a pack of the Clover Pom-Pom makers purely for their appealing craft gadget nature. Now Clover have expanded their range to include more sizes, from tiny 20 and 25mm diameter ones to the large 65 and 85mm makers. This means you can literally make them and put them on everything!
For this review I was presented with the extra small pack (20 and 25mm) and the small pack (35 and 45mm) which I had previous experience of. It had been a while since I had last pom-pomed so I was intrigued to see how the sizes would compare when it came to ease and the all important fluffability factor.
Once you get the hang of it they are pretty straight forward to use. Basic instructions in multiple languages and with pictures can be found on the back of the packaging, with a more detail step-by-step guide inside. You basically open up the maker “arches” and wind wool around one set. I found that how many layers you wrapped depended upon the type of wool you were using, but the more you wrapped the fluffier the outcome. You then close the arch up and make a start on the second arch in the same way.
Once that was closed, you firmly hold the maker in one hand and snip up the middle of the wrapped wool on each side with some small snips or embroidery scissors. You definitely need something sharp and pointy, especially for the tiny pom-pom makers.
All that’s left is to tie a longer piece of wool around the centre of the pom-pom to hold it in place, release the pom-pom from the maker by pulling the two halves apart and then snip to preen and shape your new fluff ball!
Once in the swing of things these makers could be said to be better than the retro cardboard rings. They also provide that consistency of size which comes in handy when making multiple pom-poms for multiple products. They are made of sturdy plastic with a steel pin in the centre and only scratch slightly with some aggressive snipping on the tiny pom-poms which I must admit I found too fiddly to use. Perhaps leave the extra small-sizes for smaller hands and get the kids involved!
Pom-poms are definitely on trend at the moment, with them popping up in colourful clusters around straw beach hats, on the edges of spring scarves and as key rings on handbags. For a fun do it yourself project, stitch a couple to some shoe clips and have some funky interchangeable, fluffy shoes!
Posted in Product Reviews on Thursday the 20th April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
Today we have the lovely Elaine from That Random Madam product testing the new Prym Ergonomic Knitting Needles for us that have recently arrived here at Minerva Crafts. This is what Elaine had to say...
I really am very very excited, I have just joined Minerva Crafts universe and become a product tester. They sent a shout out to makers to join them and I quickly applied and was delighted when they said yes!
My first mission is to test a product from Prym, a large German craft supplies company. Most of us will probably have used something of theirs in the past, my local stores stock their goods such as poppers and buttons and other notions. Now they have launched an innovative take on the Knitting Needle.
"How can you improve on the humble knitting needle?" I hear you ask, as did I but I was intrigued and that's why I requested to have a go with these. The Prym needles are hailed as 'ergonomic' and as an RSI sufferer, I am very mindful of seeking solutions which take into account the fact that we are flesh and blood and consider looking after our bits and pieces.
So what's so special about these needles and what makes them 'Ergonomic'? Well as soon as you see them you can tell that they are different. They appear relatively long compared to standard needles and the first thing you notice is that they have a bulbous knob on the end and they are not uniform thickness along the length.
Usually knitting needles have a screw on cap at the end, which in my experience means they come unscrewed. Now I'm a loser, I don't mean that I'm a loser - I just mean I'm good at losing things. Lids, caps and all manner of attachments generally fall off and roll away when on my watch. So this feature appeals to me. These needles appear to be moulded from one piece of material so there is no cap to fall off and get lost, in addition to this the needles clip together, this will help with storing and keeping pairs intact.
Another feature of these needles is their shape, rather than being cylindrical the main shaft is in fact a triangle, not unlike the shape of a Toblerone (...ahhh Toblerone... need to get me to an airport sometime soon so I can get large multi flavoured Toblerone...) Sorry, where was I? Oh yes shaped like a Toblerone. Am I the only one whose knitting needles frequently fall on the floor and roll away? I think this may help with that problem.
I was asked to try two different sizes of needle so I went for a 4mm and a 7mm. I tried the 7mm first with a chunky yarn that has been working its way towards a coatigan for a couple of winters now, the needles feel comfortable in the hand and that triangular shape does seem easier to keep hold of . The needles also seem to hold the wool better as well. My regular needles are smooth and I've had work simply slide off the needle dropping stitches everywhere. These Prym needles seem to have a slightly less slippery surface and this together with the toblerony, knobbly endedness makes it less easy for the work to slide off. I really enjoyed knitting with this, so much so that I've made a vow that these needles will see to it that my coatigan will be worn next winter without fail.
Then I tried the 4mm pair on another (yes another) piece of Work-in-Progress; this is a lighter cotton yarn. This pair have the same novel qualities of the clip together bulbs at the end, the triangular shaft and a slight knob at the point which allows the needle to slide into the loop of the yarn easily. Again I liked the feel of the needle in my hand, however this needle was sent to me in the longer length (the 40cm ones) and I did feel these were a little long for me and it's much more bendy than the thicker shorter needle.
The needles are pitched as ergonomic. Knitting was very comfortable with both sets of needles although I'll need to get used the flex in the thinner needles. Overall I really enjoyed using them, they are lighter, comfortable and they also hold your work well, which means that the overall knitting experience is nicer. I can definitely see myself adding these to my set of needles next time I need some.
Posted in Product Reviews on Wednesday the 19th April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
We are huge fans of the Clover Pompom Maker Tools here at Minerva HQ so we decided to send some off to our Minerva product reviewers to see what they thought and to see what creative ways they could come up with for using pom poms! Here is what Lucie from Love, Lucie Craft Blog had to say....
The fad for pom poms shows no sign of fading. Adorning bags, shoes, necklaces and home decor, the pom pom looks here to stay for a little longer at least.
My daughter had seen some pom pom garlands on Pinterest so when Minerva Crafts asked me to review their Clover Pom Pom makers I knew just what to make.
I was sent 2 sizes, small and very small. Together these make pom poms from 1 ½ inch to ¾ inch.
The beauty of these pom pom makers is that it takes all the time out of making the pom poms. I made this lot in just an hour, one evening.
They are sturdy little gadgets too. Snuggly fitting together and coming apart just easily enough to release your pom pom.
My tips for making pom poms;
Wrap more yarn around the maker than you think. Then you get a firmer fuller pom pom.
To really tightly tie your pom pom’s centre, holding it together, use string or cotton. The acrylic or wool blend tends to have some give in it and you need to tie it really tight.
Trim your pom pom after making to get a lovely round even shape.
You’ll need small sharp strong scissors to cut the yarn when making the smallest pom poms.
The garland was very simple to make. A child could easily make one of these. Just make your pom poms, these are using the 1 inch pom pom maker, and thread them on some cotton string using a large eye tapestry needle. The pom poms tend to stay where you place them at so there is no need to knot your string to keep them in place.
For the star I bent a wire coat hanger into a star shape and tied on my larger pom poms using the string that I had used to tie the pom pom centre which I then trimmed off. I secured the pompoms to the coat hanger with a glue gun on the back of the star. This stopped the pom poms twisting around to the rear. I then added the smaller pom poms to the front, just using the glue gun.
Then just add fairy lights! I chose to use ‘ice cream’ colours to match my daughter’s room but bright primary colours would be great too.
At night it looks like this.
Perfect for a teenagers bedroom.
Thanks Minerva Crafts for sending me these ace Clover pom pom makers to review. They were great fun!
Posted in Product Reviews on Tuesday the 18th April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
I was delighted to be asked to review this Needlecord Fabric. Not knowing what to expect I was rather surprised when I opened my delivery ….. beautiful quality stretch needlecord but the colour and design was not something I would normally choose.
I quickly decided I wanted to make a Tilly and The Buttons Cleo dungaree dress – the fabric is the perfect weight for this pattern.
I laundered it at 40 degrees and left it to dry overnight. It washed and ironed beautifully. Cutting out the pattern proved tricky for my scissors because of the thickness of the fabric. I was also slightly unnerved that the pattern design and the nap seem to be running in opposite directions! So I have cut out with the nap going upwards - it's not a strong nap and because of the colour and the design, it doesn't notice at all.
This fabric sewed beautifully. The stitches just sunk into it so neatly and evenly. The overlocker coped admirably with the seam finishes too.
Preparing the pockets involves folding the edges over, so the corners are therefore quite thick. A little bit of hammering with my craft hammer made those corners very simple to sew.
I cut out a full lining instead of the facings and understitching this made it very straightforward to press flat with no peaking out.
I made two buttonholes instead of buckles this time and they sewed well on the needlecord too.
The hem was made clean and neat by using my clapper, a new sewing tool that I love!
The finished Cleo looks great, despite my reservations about the colour and design! It hangs well, is comfy because of the stretch. I have teamed it with a cream top I made some time ago and will wear it with brown tights and brown boots.
I would love to use this fabric again if it were available in different colours and designs. It would make fabulous skirts and jeans and pinafore dresses and maybe even a coat. The weight of it makes it warm and the stretch means it's very comfy to wear.
Posted in Product Reviews on Monday the 17th April 2017 by Vicki Ormerod
I enjoy quilting. I liked the look of this little postcard Quilt Pattern from Minerva Crafts - much easier to refer to while sewing than a big book or an online pattern. So I followed the instructions and made the quilt. The instructions are minimal and the measurements given are inadequate to make the quilt unless you are an experienced quilter. Even so, most people buying the pattern probably expect to have the measurements given without having to do the maths themselves!
I chose a pretty fat quarter set to cut my pieces from and some plain pink for the sashing strips and borders.
At the start it states what size to cut the pieces but unfortunately leaves out vital measurements half way through. It says to cut 7 strips from the background fabric of 2.5 inches in width, leave 5 whole and cut 2 into 9 smaller strips of 8 x 2.5 - but it does not say what length the strips are initially!
Looking at the picture I can see that the 5 whole strips are the width of the sewn quilt before the borders are applied. This involves some careful maths to calculate how long the strips should be, adding up the width of the pieces across and the subtracting the 1/4 inch seam allowance. The pattern does not specify the seam allowance (usually 1/4 inch) so for a novice quilter working out the finished width could be tricky. It might be tempting to just cut strips longer than you need, sew them on and cut off the excess, this however is not good quilting practice as the strips should always be measured to exact length and then sewn as this stabilises the quilt.
Having worked out my strip lengths I cut them out and tried them with the fabric. This is called "auditioning" the fabric! It's trying out the different colours and patterns in different places to see what you like best! Having cut out all the pink strips I then placed the fabric rectangles on a green piece of fabric and decided I preferred this colourway. It would have been better to have laid out the rectangles on the pink fabric too, before cutting it out! Then I could have saved myself some time when I changed my mind.
Having sewn on the strips I cut out the borders. Again no lengths are given just width of 3.5 inches. The pattern also says cut 5 borders but should say 4! The side borders are sewn on first and then the top and bottom ones, which need to be longer, are sewn on last. This is not mentioned in the pattern.
The pattern gives no suggested quilting design and no information about wadding as it only mentions fat quarters, background fabric and binding. The amount of binding is given as half a yard. This is only sufficient to cut narrow 2 inch strips to make single binding. It's completely inadequate to make my preferred binding of finished width 2inches double sided. If the finished quilt after you've trimmed it does end up the stated finished measurements of 47 x 61 inches you would need 6 yards of binding in length. I would cut 4 inch strips to fold into 2inch double sided binding as this gives a sturdier binding where the quilt is held. Alternatively you can back the quilt with fleece and fold this over to the front to make binding.
This pattern would be ok for an experienced quilter, but I would not recommend it for a complete beginner as too much information is left for you to decide upon yourself and too many measurements are missed out making the project lengthier and more complicated. Having said that, they are reasonably priced patterns with lots of choice, so if you do have quite a bit of quilting experience you will probably like this range!
Alison @ The Patchwork Fairy
Posted in Product Reviews on Friday the 14th April 2017 by Annette
Anything that gives you a hint of 'tropical' is in at the moment. None more so than this beautiful silky Jersey Fabric which has just landed at Minerva HQ this week! This is one of our clearance fabrics and is priced at just £3.99 per mt.
Something long and quick to sew for your holidays perhaps? New Look Sewing Pattern 6210 fits the bill. This is one of those patterns you could sew up in an hour or certainly not much longer. So if you are thinking "I could do with just one more dress for the hols" look no further!
Alternately this fabric hangs so softly and drapes beautifully, why not make a very drapey top/jacket such as Butterick Pattern 5529...
This pattern has been around a while but jackets like versions D and E never date and always seem to be in fashion. I would imagine making one of these jackets in this vibrant leaf design would set off many a dress or top/trousers on your hols. The lineart shows the two jackets a little more clearly.
Version E is lined on the pattern but I would omit the lining if making in this fabric. Lining it would limit the amount of drape and I feel this fabric is at its best when draping as much as possible.
I can never resist showing you anything scuba and today is no exception. Take a look at this brand new Scuba Fabric and just imagine it being made into McCalls Pattern 7122 (yet another exceptionally easy pattern) Version B is pretty stunning don't you think?
And wait for it... the price is a superb £11.99 per mt!
The pattern is from the 'learn to sew for fun' range so if you are a beginner or just need a refresh after time spent not sewing, this is an ideal choice for you. Take a look at the lineart of version B
Note the raglan sleeves (these are much easier to fit for a beginner) and the ever so slight flare, again easier to fit.
If my fabric choices for you today are a little too bright, this last fabric should please your eye. Again this one is a brand new Scuba Dress Fabric, but this time in gentle shades of peach and grey on a black background at just £11.99 per mt. This fabric would truly take you through day wear or evening wear, it will keep its shape as scuba does and look absolutely stunning, don't you agree?
I will finish with a little thankyou to one of our lovely customers Lesley who came to the craft centre today. She hasn't sewn for some years and said she had spent most of the weekend reading my blog posts. She loved them and found them very helpful. So again thankyou for your lovely comments and thankyou to you all for reading.