Posted in Product Reviews on Thursday the 8th March 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Product Reviews on Wednesday the 7th March 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Projects on Tuesday the 6th March 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
When the Stylecraft Eastern Jewels Blanket Pack arrived on my doorstep I have to say I was rather overwhelmed by just how much yarn was included and a slight fear of how long this project might take! This seemed like a rather large project to undertake but it has actually only taken a month of spare time to complete, unlike many of my other projects which lie unfinished for a much longer length of time.
The pack comes with 14 balls of Stylecraft DK yarn and two instruction booklets; the original Persian Tiles instruction booklet by Jane Crowfoot and an additional booklet showing the new Eastern Jewels colourway by Lucia Dunn.
I like the fact that it comes as a pack - someone else has worked out all the colours to use and created a beautiful design for me to follow so I don’t need to think about what will go where, what colours look good together or worry about if I’ve got enough yarn to finish the project. My usual process of making blankets is to find a pattern I like, start using up the balls of yarn I have in my stash and then run out of yarn mid-way through!
The design is formed of 16 octagons, 9 squares, 12 triangles and 4 corners, joined together with double crochet stitch and 7 rounds to create the border. I started with the octagons since the instructions take you through the octagons first. I was really happy to find that the instructions were all written in UK terminology as this is my preferred and familiar language, although a crochet chart is included with US equivalents and it’s quite easy to switch. The stitches used are only just beyond a beginner level, involving working in a round, chain, slip stitch, double crochet, half treble crochet, treble crochet and double treble crochet. If you can confidently work a traditional granny square then you can give this a go.
The instruction booklet is easy to follow and has photographs showing just about every step of the construction process. You have to use both booklets at the same time which might appear confusing but is actually very straightforward. The Eastern Jewels booklet shows the layout of the crochet motifs and lists the colours used for each round of each shape. You start with this booklet, selecting the right colour for the motif and round you are working on and then turn to the Persian Tiles booklet for the instructions on what to do with your hook.
I did think that the colours depicted in the photos on the Eastern Jewels booklet are not quite the same as those in the pack and I think someone has used some filters on their publicity photos. I’ve had to lighten my photos too due to mostly working on this in the evening without natural lighting so you’ll only truly know what the colours of this project are if you buy one or search it out in a shop. The colours are really lovely though, regardless of photographic alterations.
The equipment required is stated as 3.5mm, 4mm and 4.5mm hooks, locking yarn stitches and a yarn needle. Hook sizes are written in bold so you can clearly see which to use and the instructions also explain when to use the stitch markers. This pattern calls for a lot of stitch markers – 214 in total as one is used in each corners of the motifs. I had about 10 stitch markers in my craft bag that came free with a magazine some time ago. They were such poor quality that they snapped when I used them and I was left with about 2 useable ones. I decided to invest in some new ones from Minerva Crafts – the Knit Pro Plastic Markers £2.59 for a pack of 30. These were perfect for the job but they didn’t go very far so I resorted to my usual choice of stitch marker – a bit of scrap yarn, I certainly have plenty of that in my craft bag. I thought I might skip the bit about using stitch markers and leave these out but they really are very useful when you come to the making up part.
I would advise reading through the instructions for each round before starting. I tended to start the round, think I knew what I was doing and then go wrong, having to undo and start again. As such, the first octagon was a bit slow to make and took me nearly all day to do. I also realised that it would be really important to keep track of which motif was which, so I could match them up correctly according to the diagram once I’d finished so I pinned a label to each one as it was completed.
Another technique I use (as instructed by my late grandmother) is to take the yarn from the centre of the ball, rather than the outside, thus keeping the ball band in place and making it easier to identify which colour is which. This is quite important in this project since there are so many different colours.
The pattern suggests that you sew in the yarn ends as you go along – this is certainly worth adhering to as if you leave all the yarn ends until the end it would be a nightmarish task to darn all the many ends in before you can then piece the motifs together. Where possible I tried to crochet in the ends, forming my crochet stitches over loose yarn ends, to save time in having to sew in the ends.
After completing all the motifs, I blocked them to flatten them out and make it easier to pin and crochet them together. It is a lot easier to block them at this stage as individual motifs rather than trying to find a large enough platform to block and press the entire blanket once it is completed.
To do the blocking I used a pattern cutting board and a towel – the pattern cutting board is made from corrugated cardboard and you can pin into it (a cork pin board would work perfectly too.) I laid a towel over the top of the board and took each motif one by one. I used the water spray function on the iron and squirted each motif with water (you could use a spray bottle if you had one) and then stretched out and pinned the pieces to the towel / cutting board.
I pinned some motifs on top of each other to save space and also to help keep them all the same size. The suggested tension and measurements of each motif are included throughout the pattern but as it is a blanket and not a garment it doesn’t matter too much if your tension is off, so long as all your pieces are worked with the same tension. While pinning out the pieces I measured them and was really pleased to see that my tension was pretty much bang on what it was supposed to be! Success!!
After pinning out all the motifs I stood the towel board up in the airing cupboard and left it there overnight. Once the motifs were dry I unpinned the pieces and then began laying them all out in the order shown in the Eastern Jewels booklet.
I did notice an error on the chart at this point – S3 is shown twice but one of these should be S4, it’s quite obvious which one so not really a problem. I pinned the pieces together using safety pins and some tiny hair clips I have – these hair clips are really the perfect thing for pinning together knitted or crocheted pieces and I usually use them for the making up phase of yarn projects.
I then started the process of joining all the pieces. This is done with a double crochet stitch from the wrong side of the work.
This results in a really neat finish on the right side
and a few more yarn ends to darn in.
After the pieces are put together the border is worked. I was a bit confused by the instruction ‘you will probably have uneven blanket edges… to make an even edge you need to work a round of stitches before working the edging...’ Does this mean to work a round of stitches to even up the edges and then follow the border instructions? Which stitch am I supposed to use? Or am I meant to follow the instructions from round 1 and this will even up my edges as I go…? On the Persian Tiles original blanket, it looks like there are 6 rounds for the border but on the Eastern Jewels version it looks like there are 7 rounds and indeed the pattern shows colours for 7 rounds, including a ‘foundation round’. I decided to go with my instincts, following the instructions for round 1 – as this round combines double crochet and half treble stitches I thought this would fix my uneven edges. I then worked a round of half treble and then followed on from round 2, working treble stitches and so on to the end of round 6 (or my round 7). This method worked out well, regardless of whether it was right or not and I’m really pleased with the results.
There’s quite a lot of yarn left. I wonder if you could actually make two blankets out of this amount of yarn, substituting some of the buttermilk and storm blue used in the making up phase for another colour. I’ll be adding the left overs to my ever growing yarn collection for a future project!
I’ve been waiting for the rain to stop and some sunshine to appear so I could take some decent final photos but I’ve not quite managed the level of brightness outside that I wanted. I thought I’d try to recreate the photo on the front of the Easter Jewels booklet by standing in front of my fence.
I think the model in the booklet pictures is a lot smaller than me so when she holds the blanket it appears rather large but when I hold it up, due to my size, the blanket looks a bit smaller. I’ve photographed it on my 2-seater sofa for another size comparison.
Thanks to Minerva Crafts for the Crochet Kit, this has been one epic project and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making this blanket – once you get started it becomes highly addictive. I think I might add a backing of fabric and wadding to make it thicker and therefore warmer… I’ll add that to the growing list of project ideas that I might get round to one day… for now I’m very happy with is as it is.
Julia @ Julia Hincks
Posted in Projects on Monday the 5th March 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
When the Named Earth Science collection was released I immediately fell in love with the entire collection but my eyes kept returning to the Agate Dress Pattern – it is a semi-fitted kimono sleeve dress. At first sight the sillhoutte looks clean and simple but the contrast panels, belt and invisible zip at the front for adjusting the depth of the vent make this pattern stand out from the rest. I couldnt wait to get started!
I chose two beautiful crepes from Minerva – perfect for making this pattern into smart workwear. The Peach Linen Polyester Crepe Fabric in black has a lovely feel to it but its the texture that makes it stand out from the crowd and gives it a bit of a smarter feel. The grey fabric is a Polyester & Viscose Blend Crepe Fabric and is actually black and grey threads woven together to give a lovely textured colour.
Unusually my measurements put me squarely in a size 12 – no need for me to grade between sizes at the bust, waist and hip! Yippee! However, on further inspection of the finished garment measurements I decided I would be happier with a size 10 given the large amount of positive ease (a size ten still give me 1 inch at waist, 2 inches at hip and 3.5 at the bust – note the kimono sleeve adds a lot of extra room at the bust). Despite the bodice length being just right the skirt was crazily long on me and so I did take 4 inches off the skirt length!
The instructions are realy clear and easy to follow with simple diagrams helping to clarify the more complicated steps. I would, however, say this pattern is not for a beginner sewer but it is definietly achieveable for someone who has some confidence with dress making and wants to try something a bit different. With two invisible zips to insert and lots of seams due to the contrast panels it is not a quick sew but is definietly worth the effort!
The belt is also a nice extra but not essential. I had never made a belt before but the instructions were pretty clear and I had it done in no time (I didnt have eyelets to hand so I made the buttonholes on my machine instead!) but I love the way it makes the outfit feel so finished and professional looking.
I am really pleased with the finished dress – the fit is just perfect and it is a really flattering shape. The colour blocking is one of my favourite features, especially around the arms. Given the smart look of the dress it is not one I will make over and over again as I wont be wearing it for every day but it will be my go to outfit for days when I have meetings or need to be dressed very smartly. If I was to make another I might even take a bit more off the length – the style is for it to be calf length but as I am quite short this would just make me look shorter and so I think a skirt finishing just on my knee might work a bit better.
I really enjoyed making this dress and I think I am going to love wearing it just as much but now I cant wait to get my hands on the rest of this Sewing Pattern Collection from Named Clothing!
Thanks for reading,
Helen @ H's Handcrafts
Posted in Projects on Sunday the 4th March 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
It’s Spriiiing!! The sun is actually out and he might stay around for a while (fingers crossed) so I am full of all the joys as it really my favourite time of the year! Yay! It’s also a great time because I get to hide away the dark winter wardrobe and get out my cotton summery clothes so this latest make, the Deer and Doe Cardamome dress, is finished just in time!
When I got asked to do this review I had just sent off my 3 makes wish list for the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network and I had a really hard time deciding between this dress and another, pair of shorts, from Deer and Doe, so it was perfect timing as I got to choose both. I’m so pleased I did as the Cardamome dress is a lovely pattern and a dress that will get a lot of wear - in fact I have already worn it twice since making it last week!
This is my first foray into using Deer and Doe Sewing Patterns but I have wanted to try their gorgeous designs for a while, in fact I have a couple in my stash that I will get around to making… one day! The Cardamome dress has been one that I instantly fell for as it’s such a unique silhouette with great details and the chance to really put your stamp on. It’s also a good one to challenge yourself as a sewer - there are a few techniques that aren’t quite ‘beginner friendly’ which makes it a really interesting make. I have to say, the more I sew, the more I like to test myself and try and make things that teach me new techniques as much as possible. Of course I also love a quick simple sew… I guess it just depends on my mood!!
This pattern is brilliant - it’s beautifully laid out, has great illustrations and, like all of their patterns, the packaging is modern, chic and clean. The front cover is a detailed line drawing and I have to say, the geek in me, really loves their fonts, logo and whole aesthetic - it really stands out.
You get the option of a long sleeve or sleeveless and that’s always a hard choice for me as I really do love a long sleeve and pretty much always choose it. I think it gives a garment more wearability and I get cold easily but I had a good look around the internet at lots of lovely versions of this dress and preferred all the sleeveless versions, I personally think that it just suits the details more that way so my mind was made up and I went against the grain with a sleeveless version. I’m so pleased I did, I absolutely love it this way.
The instructions, I think, are translated from French and are mostly thorough and helpful but I have to admit that I found it frustrating at times… The sections where I needed the most explanation were the ones with the least! Luckily with google and common sense I worked it all out but I think these head scratching moments could be avoided by a little extra help from the instructions.
There was no mention of interfacing the collar until the second last step, not even on the pattern pieces, so I didn’t know to even cut it out and had already put all my tools away by this point. That’s why I should always read through the instructions completely at the beginning of the make … bad Gabby!
Apart from those few moments though it went together without a hitch - I’m so pleased I added piping to the yoke seams as it’s my favourite part.
I used my truly brilliant piping foot and the pre made piping to make this lovely detail which really ties it all together.
The trickiest bit of this pattern is the ‘smocking’, which I always assumed was shirring from the pictures and I loaded a bobbin full of hand wound elastic thread for, but actually it’s a new technique for me where you lay the elastic thread along the waist of the bodice and zig zag stitch over it, pulling it so it’s nice a stretchy. Actually I really enjoyed this bit and got into the swing of it pretty quickly and it gives a great effect to the dress.
I didn’t make any alterations on the pattern and it fits really nicely. The collar is a little tight around my neck so I had to sew on the top Impex matt smartie button further in to give me some breathing room but to be honest I like the ‘top button undone’ casual look on me more anyway! I have just noticed in the pictures that the bottom one had undone itself too - now that’s a whole new look that I’m not as onboard with!!
This daisy plaid print Viscose Fabric is gorgeous. It’s so so soft and I think the delicate daisies look so pretty against the navy blue background. The ‘stem plaid’ is a really unique touch that stops it being super ditsy which I love. It sewed and pressed up like a dream and really behaved itself during the elastic smocking and button holes which I find sometimes viscose can be a bit naughty here. In fact it did a great impression of being a cotton that I was convinced it was a cotton lawn until I just checked the website for it’s name!! There is the slightest transparency to it so I will be wearing a vest and slip with this dress but I do with all my dresses anyway so that’s no problem for me!
All and all I love this dress I made it in a day and will get many many days in the sun wearing it so I am very happy bunny! Huge thanks to Minerva Crafts for supplying all the lovely materials and for supporting this make.
Now, get your hats on and enjoy the sun!
Hip hip hip horraaay!
Posted in Product Reviews on Saturday the 3rd March 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Product Reviews on Friday the 2nd March 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Product Reviews on Thursday the 1st March 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
An Iron has been on my sewing want list for about a year now. I sew in our dining room and there is absolutley no room for my proper ironing board and big iron in there. Which means every time I need to press a dart or iron the seam on a quilt or dress I have to trek from the dining room into the living room and into the kitchen. Which doesn’t seem like much but then I have to go back and sit at my machine and then I usually have to go back into the kitchen to make sure I’ve actually turned the iron off. So when this Habico Mini Iron came up for review I jumped at the chance to make my sewing life easier.
For starters the iron came in a box marked fragile which is sooo important when your dealing with something small and electrical and when your local postman has a history of just chucking parcels over the fence! It was also wrapped in lots of bubble wrap which kept my five year old nicely occupied whilst I undid the rest of the packaging and worked out how to use it.
The actual packaging was easy to undo I just cut it open with a pair of non fabric scissors. But then I was faced with a small issue.
Yep its a got a European plug on it. Now initially this filled me which dread because I live in a strictly three pronged plug house. Luckily my Grandad had an adapter that meant I could plug a two prong into a three prong so I was back in business! [you can buy these from most shops and online] I have considered changing the two prong to a three prong [my fella is pretty handy with electrics] but then I decided to just leave it and that way I can take it on holiday with me.
Size wise it is dinky! Its fits in the palm of my hand is is very lightweight to use. My first test was to see how it would cope ironing all my scrap pieces of quilting fabrics. [Oh I also purchased myself a cheeky mini ironing board to go with it but you could also use the Prym Ironing Sheet which also has the bonus of having some quilting markings on it and a measuring guide]. It coped really well Ironing my scraps of fabric. I was ironing for maybe an hour and a half and I filled the tank about 3 times, but I did have to steam on constantly. I love that such a small iron has a steam feature because I do tend to use a lot of steam when I’m sewing, so it just makes it a more viable option for repeated use.
The iron comes with a small jug for filling the tank up which is helpful because the hole to get the water in is quite small. And you have the ability to turn the steam on and off via a central button. You can also change the temperature of the iron which will work nicely for if I’m ironing more delicate fabrics. I don’t have a way of testing how hot it gets on maximum but lets just say I managed to burn my hand at one point! Not the irons fault I hasten to add, but being a clumsy person I do tend to burn myself on irons quite often!
After it passed the 1 and half hours of ironing scraps test I decided to give it something a bit different to try. This piece of patchwork was made about 2 years ago and has been crammed into a drawer since then. As you can see its fairly worse for wear and very wrinkly. Mainly I wanted to see if it would be able to remove the wrinkles and if it glide smoothly over some of the areas where the seams are thicker.
Obviously because of the size of the iron I had to do a small area at a time, but I think that encourages me to be more careful about making sure all my seams allowances were going in the right direction. I think if this was a queen size quilt top I might have had to have use my bigger iron and ironing board but for smaller topper it worked really nicely.
I’ve also been finding the little stump handle very nice to use and I think I might prefer it to the traditional iron handle. Personally I just find that it fits my palm a bit more ergonomically and doesn’t make my arm ache as much as a big iron does.
As you can see the iron took all of the wrinkles out of my patchwork and the plate on the bottom slide over the fabric and seams really nicely. I also didn’t have any issues with it sticking to the fabric even though I was using it on the highest setting.
All in all I’d say its a brilliant little iron. My only two quibbles with it are that 1. it has a European plug [easily fixed with an adapter] and 2. there is no switch to turn it off on the iron which means you need to remember to unplug it when you’ve finished with it but I have all of my sewing electricals plugged into one extension strip so when I finish sewing I tend to just unplug everything in one go when I tidy up.
And the pros of the iron definitely out way the cons. Its lightweight to use, doesn’t take up a lot of room on my sewing table. I can change the amount of heat it uses and quite frankly its adorable.
I’ve also found its got a couple of secret uses up its sleeves, i.e. Ironing school uniform quickly in the morning [When I've forgotten to do it the night before] and sorting out collars that have become rumpled in the wardrobe. In general its just a lot easier to get out and use than my big iron.
I hope you like it as much as I do!
Frankie @ Knit Wits-Owls
Posted in Product Reviews on Wednesday the 28th February 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Hi everyone! I'm Isa, writing to you from Portugal. Usually you will find me over at my blog Uma Crafter Portuguesa Com Certeza but today I'm overjoyed to be writing my first product review for the Minerva Crafts blog.
When Minerva launched a call for reviews for the Fall-Winter collection of Named Sewing Patterns I jumped at the chance to try them out, as I never had the chance to try a pattern from Named before. I chose to test out the Stella Shirt Dress Pattern as I was already interested when I saw it at the pattern launch.
I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the printed pattern: it comes in a sturdy paperboard package, and it’s printed on a nice quality hefty paper. Both the shirt and dress patterns are composed of 7 pattern pieces.
I decided to go for the dress so I traced only those pieces and cut them out of a Georgette Fabric – a swishy sheer fabric that seemed similar enough to the recommended chiffon. For lining I used the light Stretch Lining Fabric that allways feels nicer against my skin than other acetate linings.
I cut out a size 42 and made a 3cm full bust adjustment, and shortened both sleeves and hem, as I’m definitively not a Finnish beauty ;) (I’m 1,64 m tall). Each sleeve is composed by two pieces and I pondered on cutting the sleeves on one piece only, but as it was for testing purposes, I decided against it. In this pattern you’ll find a seam down the front, so you should consider it if you’re pattern matching. There’s only one piece for the back skirt and one for the front.
I was really pleased with the quality of the instructions – the instructions not only contain instructions for lining your dress, but also included instructions for French seams at the sleeves, and the waist is beautifully finished by the casing. But alas I wished they had found out a way of bagging the lining for the bodice, or gave enough room for French seams at the raglan seams. These seams are only 1cm wide, so if you’d like to get a nicer finish than a serged or zigzag seam consider enlarging that seam.
Even though I didn’t make the shirt version I gave a look at the instructions and the sleeve placket construction looks quite interesting – there are no openings and the excess fabric to let your hands get through the cuff is folded in and secured closed with snaps. This sounds like a great alternative to whoever loathes sewing sleeve plackets. For the shirt dress the cuff hems work as casings for a bit of elastic.
The finished dress is super comfy, really light and airy. I think the fabrics I chose work really nicely with the pattern. I’m quite happy with the quality of the dress yet to be truthful about it I think it isn’t really me, I’m quity busty and I think the blousy raglan seams only enhances my bust, or maybe I should have just gone with my default navy and black colors for the fabric, I was trying to choose something different but the print really overwhelms me :S. But, if I use a cardigan over it, I think I can pull it off, what do you think?
Happy stitching everyone :)
Posted in Projects on Tuesday the 27th February 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Hi, Naomi from Naomi Sews again! I sometimes feel that my lovely husband Matt gets all the negatives associated with my sewing. I disappear into the sewing room for a couple of hours on a weekend, make myself something nice and leave him to entertain himself! One of my make nine plans though was to make him a Seamwork Paxton, and amazingly only a month or two down the line it has materialised into reality!
I spotted this really interesting Quilted Jersey Fabric and loved the teal colour. I thought that it would be a great option for this sweater. The fabric feels quite thick, because it is made up of two layers bonded together with some batting between. It still has a good amount of stretch, though the cut edges do fray quite a bit.
I decided to solve the fraying by making this up entirely on my overlocker. This was a great idea in theory, but in practice the fabric was a little bulky to feed through neatly, especially in areas like the neckband. This unfortunately meant that in a couple of places I didn’t quite catch all the layers in the overlocking. Mostly I’ve been able to go back in and sort it, but I think next time I would baste the layers in place first or consider using another less bulky fabric for the band and cuffs.
One of the options with the Paxton sweater is to add elbow patches. I thought that would be quite fun and wanted to try out these pre-cut Patches from Prym. They have a ‘mock-suede’ side, and a side that looks a bit like fusible interfacing. There are some rudimentary instructions with the elbow patches, indicating iron temperatures and timings. I made sure to test a scrap of my fabric under the iron before going ahead just to check it didn’t change the fabric properties. I didn’t have any problems, and the patches adhered to the fabric really well.
Having the patches already fixed in place did make topstitching a doddle! I didn’t have a suitable colour of topstitching thread, so I used two strands of ordinary gutermann sewing thread which has worked fine. As indicated in the Paxton instructions, I increased my stitch length to 3.5mm, and used a new topstitching needle to give the best chance of sewing smoothly through this slightly thicker layer. As you can see, it has turned out beautifully.
Overall I’m pretty pleased with this sweater. The elbow patches ended up a touch low on Matt using the pattern markings, but it is very quick and simple to put together. The only part I'm not totally happy with is the neckband. It doesn’t quite sit right, and I think it might be a touch too long. I don’t mind enough to take it off and do it again though, and Matt seems to like wearing it anyway!
I guess that is my sewing good deed done for now. Does that mean I can go back to sewing for myself again now?