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Archives: April 2015

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Our favourites from the Simplicity pattern sale!


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


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 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

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

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. 
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

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

Games of Thrones Pattern Review

Winter Is Coming! 

As all the cool cats know, this Monday hails the new season of Game of Thrones and as if to fuel our excitement here at Minerva, Simplicity and McCalls have official Game of Thrones sewing patterns! Our geekiness knows no bounds as you can see. 

It's clear to see who each pattern is emulating but if you look a little further and think a little wider, they're really multi-functional! Simplicity 1246 (now discontinued but there's a replacement here!) and McCalls 6940 are the best examples of this.

This is clearly Her Grace, the Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (I'm really loving the applique!) but if you remove the contrasts, and imagine it completely in a deep wine red, add a cape (velvet, of course) and BOOM! The Red Woman herself, Melisandre, as featured in this post Vicki spotted!

Simplicity 1246 (Now Simplicity 1008) is a personal favourite of mine and I'm sure it will be a favourite of most as it features our Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen.

But what makes it stand out for me is that view A is swaying more towards my favourite character, Margaery Tyrell! Admitted this would be a slightly more modest Margaery, but the use of golds and light aqua's is very Tyrell of The Reach.

Simplicity 1347 (Now replaced with Simplicity 1010) and McCalls 6941 are both Daenerys mixes. For value, the simplicity pattern is winning hands down as it has a great selection of the widely varied looks we see of on the Mother of Dragons throughout the series. 

However! McCalls have really gone to town with accuracy for their adaptation so it really depends which look you're going for with these. 

Another great find on Vicki's part for a simply amazing Daenerys tutorial!

We all know the women are by far the best characters on Games of Thrones but we can't leave the gentlemen out of the fun ;)

If you fancy being a member of the Night's Watch for an evening, Simplicity 1552 has a great themed outfit that can easily make you Sam or Jon with a few added accessories!

Or why not the our Bird in the Vale, Lord Baelish? Butterick 6844 is perfect for this;

Think Baelish, think GORGEOUS fabric, no? I'm thinking our Simone Polyester Satin or Persia Floral Burn-Out Design Stretch Velvet.

You could even be lovable squire Podrick with a tweak to Burda 7333.

Now accessories are everything when it comes to costumes, and we have found the best for you here with Butterick patterns 5580 and 5371.

As above 5371 is great for bags, belts and gauntlets, but I am mesmerized by the armour in 5580. It's simply amazing! I can definitely see it working well with with one of our  fabrics.

Though it isn't screen accurate, I could totally see Brienne of Tarth with this!

I couldn't stop thinking of our pre-quilted fabrics whilst writing this. How much time would this save?! Especially if you're thinking of training in the Night's Watch.

I hope you guys have enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed researching it! Be sure to share any ideas with us, or show us your makes. We truly love seeing them!

Until next time!

Katie Betty 


Our favourite picks from the Vogue half price pattern sale!

Hey guys!

Well with the sun shining (finally!) We're all getting excited for sewing some summer wear! Something we're all excited for here at Minerva is the sale on Vogue Patterns we've had on for the past few weeks. It ends tomorrow so I've done a run down of my favorite patterns to hopefully get you all in the mood!

For me, Vogue patterns embody a classic, timeless style. This is really shown in the Gentlemen's suit selection, my favorites being Vogue 8940 and Vogue 8988

8940 is a Coat, Jacket and Trouser pattern (the jacket being a shorter version of the coat). Admittedly this choice is a little out of season with the summer just around the corner, but the Classic Double Breast feature of the coat is a true classic, and I can just picture it in our Washable Wool Heavy Wool Coat Weight Dress Fabric, or the shorter version in Ex Jaeger Navy Blue 100% Boiled Wool Designer Dress Fabric for something really special! 

The trousers are a simple statement piece. A classic fit with room for experimentation with fabrics. I spotted this write up of the pattern where the trousers were made in this striking plaid fabric, but I was thinking maybe a linen fabric for the summer? You could be super thrifty and get one our our Sale Linens, maybe the Dark Navy Blue Linen & Viscose Blend Fabric at £2.99! This pattern is just £6.50 right now whilst the half price sale lasts!

Vogue 8988 is a great value pattern as it includes two different styles of suit jacket; single button and double breasted. Again, a total classic with a classic fit trouser (an example of the fit can be found here) and now at just £5.99 whilst on sale it's even better value than ever! I'm swayed towards our Navy Blue Ex Next Polyester, Viscose & Lycra Crepe Designer Dress Fabric for this one (now out of stock but we have plenty of Polyester, Viscose & Lycra Crepe Fabrics!). At just £5.99 it's a true classic!

For us ladies Vogue has a great selection, they really are the pattern brand you go to if you want something special and Vogue 1102, designed by Andrea Katz Objects delivers this perfectly! 

A gorgeous dress with a full skirt and a low scoop back, featuring a simply gorgeous bow detailing at the top back. The high straight neckline create a great contrast to the low back and a quick google image search shows so many makes of this pattern. I have plans for this in our Red Stretch Satin Backed Crepe but I think you could easily use a cotton fabric to create a lovely day dress for those special BBQ gatherings! Just £7.50 whilst on sale, too!

Now, as much as we're all excited for the sun let's be honest with ourselves, there are still a few jacket days left and I have the PERFECT pattern. Vogue 8863 by Katherine Tilton (now discontinued but Vogue Jacket Patterns do not disappoint!)  is a superb A-Symmetric, loose fitting, lined jacket with a great feature for the fastening. 

I love a pattern where you can experiment with different fabrics and create good contrasts and this certainly is one of those patterns! It appears as a short sleeve jacket but the long sleeves are fitted creating a faux-layered effect, though I imagine these could be omitted for a chilly spring evening jacket. I had our Ponte Roma fabric in mind for this pattern (with such a wide colour and pattern selections it's hard to find patterns that aren't suitable for this stuff!) but I've been discussing our Linen-Look Polyester Crepe Soft Suiting with a customer recently and I think this could really work, too! (that Cerise Pink is calling me!). The pattern is just £6.50 right now, too, so a great steal.

My other half's sister has just had a baby so I'm really looking forward to sewing some tiny pieces for her! For when she gets a bit bigger, I'm definitely going to be making her some classic pieces such as Vogue 9043

A super classic coat in three lengths, with a choice of single or double breasted front. The shorter jacket option can be a casual everyday coat, or you can really go to town with the long double breasted cost with fur collar! This is such a classic style that I remember having a coat like this when I was younger, just goes to show true style never goes out of fashion. Now at just £5.99 whilst on offer.

Now if you're looking for some thing a little different to create a striking silhouette, the next two patterns are for you. The trousers included in Vogue-1417 have really caught my eye! 

The rear seam detail is something I haven't seen before and it's almost like an updated harem style of trousers. A tapered trouser with a loose fit around the hips is a truly modern style which would go great through summer. The pattern calls for stretch only, so one of our Jersey Fabrics will suit these down to the ground! A classic black, or why not mix it up and contrast patterns with a stripe? I'm tempted by our Hawaiian Palm Trees Stretch Jersey. This pattern is just £6.50 whilst on offer.

Vogue 8955 is my Best of the Best of this sale. A Wide leg trouser, and when we say wide we mean wiiiiide! View C is my personal favorite. A Full length leg with giving the illusion of a maxi skirt but with the security of actually wearing trousers. Great for windy Lancashire days! The pattern recommends a crepe fabric, so I'm definitely envisioning our Polyester Soft French Crepe in Red! Views A and B are short and long length legs respectively, but with a tapered trouser lining so the wide leg is more of a sheer overlay which is a great way to play with chiffonsgeorgettes, or maybe a burn out fabric for an alternative edge? Our Turquoise Gold Tie Dye with Sequins Chiffon is definitely on my list! Three great looks in this pattern and whilst it is on sale for £6.50, you can't go wrong!

What I love about when Vogue have a sale is that you're getting something truly special for a regular pattern price. Where else can you pick up a designer anything for less than £10?! There's almost an exclusivity with a Vogue pattern, it's like joining a club! I'm really looking forward to working with one, I've heard rave reviews from customers!

I really had a lot of fun looking through all of these patterns but remember guys, THE SALE ENDS TOMORROW! So you've only got a day and a bit to get your orders in so if you excuse me, I'm off to purchase some patterns!

You can the entire range of Vogue Patterns here.

Until next time!

Katie B x


Jazzy Washi Dress

Hey guys!

Told you it wouldn't be too long before I was back on the blog ;)

Vicki steered me in the direction of this post from our GBSB fave Deborah!  Now, I have to admit to something rather embarrassing, I actually got to meet Deborah!. My better half went to school with Deborah and are still friends so when we bumped in to her in her home town the other week he was obviously very casual about going over and chatting and I was just "...errrrr!"  She is the loveliest person, and was so excited when I was introduced as working for Minerva! I had to admit to her that I'd been writing about her for the past 6 weeks so meeting her was really crazy, and she laughed so much about it. All went well and we said our goodbyes, then I turned into a total fangirl! I emailed Vicki, I text Rebecca from the office, I even called my Mum! I was laughed at sooooo much when I came back in to work. I'm so terrible! 

Anyway, back to it! I have been following her blog for a little while but I hadn't spotted this post from back in November in which she uses one of our fabrics that she picked up on our Open Day last year (I of course don't need to go into detail about this day because as followers of our blog you will obviously have a) been there or b) read our run down of the day!). She teamed our Multicoloured Aztec Design Stretch Cotton Designer Dress Fabric with the Washi Dress by "Made by Rae", an indie pattern company. 

Now everything about this post really interested me. I've been eyeing our Stretch Cottons up for a while, thinking it would be a good next step in my sewing saga, so seeing this striking Aztec print was right up my street. It's bright, it's brilliant, and having a bit of stretch gives your garments a bit of literal wiggle room, always good for a boogy! The pattern was originally a download only pattern, which is something I'm researching at the moment (I'm planning the By Hand London Polly Top, so stay tuned!).

The dress itself is so beautiful and has a lot of really fun components. The back is gathered with Shirring Elastic, making it giga-comfortable, it has pockets (I love dresses with pockets way more than I really should) and it has an interesting neckline, yet another thing I'm a sucker for! It's a great combo pattern with many different options to make up, and M.b.R have now released an expansion pack so there's even MORE bang for your buck! Comfy, fun and thrifty. It's my perfect dress! Deborah has really sewn up a treat with this dress, and our stretch cotton sateen fabrics really are perfect. It's awesome to see how the fabrics we sell get made up, so I'm very glad Vicki pointed this one out for me!

There'll be lots more to come through the Minerva blog in the coming months and our Network is going from strength to strength, too, with brand new bloggers like Sewchet! So keep and eye out and keep in touch with your makes, we love seeing them!

'till next time,

Katie B x

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