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The Sewing Bee - Series 4, Episode 8

Congratulations Charlotte. Well done on winning The Great British Sewing Bee. So what did we think of the last episode?
First challenge was the evening shirt. Now although I have made a number of shirts over the years for my husband, I haven't actually made an evening shirt. (The only difference really being the pintucks down the fronts). Now, I have sewn pintucks before, actually on (what is becoming) our family heirloom christening dress. The latest wearer of this dress will be our latest addition to the family, Emily who is now 3 weeks old.  And so I do have experience of this 'make' in a round about way. When sewing pintucks I do find the lining-up to the previous pintuck quite easy in that the said pintuck runs through the foot grooves.
A little like using an invisible zipper foot. The most important thing is to line up and sew the first pintuck perfectly and then as Charlotte said that pintuck will 'sit' in one of the outside grooves (which one depends on how far you want them apart). I felt that all 3 finalists were being too cautious and therefore making it more difficult for themselves. A pattern that is similar is Burda 6931 (which is half price in our Burda pattern sale at the moment). This pattern refers to what look like pintucks as pleats. As with the sewing bee pattern it has a 2 piece collar and full placket cuffs. Another similar pattern is Vogue 8889 and you can read more about this sewing pattern on a previous blog post I wrote some time ago now. 
For me first place without doubt belonged to Joyce. Such a shame there was a hicup with the collar buttonhole. 
Talking of collars I have to say I agree with Charlotte in that if a pattern doesn't state a particular seam allowance then it is the norm to have a 1.5cm seam allowance. Claudia mentioned that the seam allowance for the collar was 1cm and that it was up to the sewists whether this applied to the collar stand or not. I have to say the pattern should have stated that the 1cm was for the stand as well. For me Charlotte did the right thing but unfortunately payed the price for this in that her collar was too small. So due to unfair instructions she came last. I'm sorry Charlotte but I must mention that Patrick said your pintucks were sewn beautifully neatly but I have to disagree. I thought they were quite wobbly. Take a look;
And so on to the middle section.
Charlotte deserved to win, for me it was the only one that could have ended up wearable! I still after 8 episodes don't see the point of this section, what is it that I'm missing?
I suppose the intention for the last section was to end on a high, I'm not sure that was achieved!
Joyce was making an evening dress for her Grand-daughter, now what, I ask, was wrong with her making something that suited her Grand-daughters age, I would have thought it was a little gothic but I stand corrected, I have been informed it is steampunk. Esme said it looked a bit costumy, (surely that's not a word Esme). I felt this was an unfair remark. She used Butterick Pattern 5969 and made it in identical colours.
The bodice was made in Velvet Fabric and for me this would be best made in our Cotton Velvet Fabric, very suited to the period of the dress. For the skirt Satin Dupion Fabric would be ideal in silver grey (and use the matte side). This fabric would prove weighty enough for the folds and tucks in the bustle to hang correctly. The trim was very similar to our guipure Lace Trimming too.
OK something went quite wrong with the fit of the skirt and I don't think the folds and tucks on the bustle were very even but the overall finished effect of this outfit for me was the best. Well done Joyce.
Charlottes fabric looked very similar to our Slinky Satin Fabric which comes in 24 beautiful colours. This for me is not an easy fabric to sew and plenty of time and patience is needed. With time and patience very slinky beautiful sewn garments will be achieved. Therefore I cannot think why Charlotte chose a fabric such as this when they are under so much pressure. I really felt for her! Her zip unfortunately was not very good, I think her main problem was the fabric seemed to have stretched quite a bit. So no amount of pressing would have sorted it out indeed it only made it look even worse.
Jade chose what looked like Satin Backed Crepe Fabric, easier to sew than slinky satin but still not the easiest under pressure. And what about those beads? This fabric was beautiful I have to say but these two fabrics together in the final to me was a no no in the time allowed. Now I have sewn beaded fabrics before but I have to hold my hand up and say I have never heard of hammering the beads. What if you hammer some you were not supposed to? Or am I completely missing something here?
Now many years ago I did my HND in business and finance. I got an A in Financial Accounting 4 x C's and 1 x D. Because I had 1 x D I missed out on getting a distinction (gutted is not the word). My friend got 1 x B and 5 x C's and because she got a B and didn't get any D's she DID get a distinction. Now when I apply that sort of ruling to last night's sewing bee Charlotte should not have won. She came bottom in round 1. Joyce (who has constantly been my favourite) also came bottom in the middle round so that ruled her out. So in my humble opinion (for what it's worth) I think Jade should have won. She came 2nd in the first 2 rounds and her dress was as good as if not slightly better than the other two in the final round. I do feel she would have done the Sewing Bee proud during the coming year and I feel she will without doubt go on to greater things. 
In my eyes all 3 finalists were winners don't you agree? So again Well Done Charlotte and I hope you enjoy being the reigning champ of our wonderful Great British Sewing Bee.
Thank you so much for reading my sewing bee blogs over the last 8 weeks, I have certainly loved giving you my views and receiving yours in return.
Annette xx
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The Sewing Bee - Series 4, Episode 7

Just one week left after tonight ladies (and gents of course). What will we do with our Monday nights then? Exactly more time to sew the wonderful ideas we've come up with whilst watching The Great British Sewing Bee. So now we are down to four contestants, Joyce, Charlotte, Jade and Tracey. All very good sewists and all lovely people, it will be awful at the end of tonights programme to see one go. Whoever it is will be absolutely gutted.
And so here I am just starting to watch GBSB and already I'm feeling bad at Esme saying that Joyce lacked flair. If you look back now at her garments I think that is totally uncalled for. First rant over, now on with the show. I have to say the skirt was pretty amazing and I must admit I can't find anything similar to show you. So let's hope one of our brilliant pattern company's get on the band wagon, so to speak. It did appear very fiddly but certainly doable.
Charlotte's skirt was very good just a pity about the seam not being sewn close enough but to be fair, if she had had time it would just need trimming.
Poor Tracey, I felt sorry for her right from the beginning. Normally I always suggest snipping into the notches but as was seen on this occasion they had to be marked. I think she must have rushed her zip because other times she has made a decent job of zips.
Joyce (I think) chose the wrong fabric in neoprene. I am not knocking neoprene (in fact we now stock this fabulous fabric) and a similar one called Scuba Fabric we do in lots of colours! 
I am just saying I think it was wrong for this skirt. Bits of the inside colour were showing through on the lapped seam. Neoprene has a very thin layer of foam between two fabrics and so you can imagine if sewn one on top of the other (as in the multi-curved seam of the skirt) the stitched line sort of 'squashes' the fabric and makes the edge of the fabric stick up therefore showing bits of the under colour. Hope that makes sense. However her zip was perfect as was the overall hang of the skirt.
Again I think they were a little unfair with Jade's skirt but hey ho someone had to win and someone had to lose and I do agree with their choices.
Now for my favourite section (not). This obviously came from the design element because nothing seemed to be wearable. I always feel so sorry for them, I keep wondering what they did in the first series of the sewing bee in this section. They certainly didn't use duvet covers!! Can anyone remind me? Charlotte's was the best so she deserved to win but overall I still can't help but think this is a silly section. I know quite a few of you agree with me, but then other people love it! 
And so on to the best bit, my favourite section. I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this part, the sewing but also the working from a block pattern and from that creating their own style of dress. 
Charlotte's dress was really nice. I must admit I loved how she created the cowl neckline.
For me personally I'm not keen on cowl neckline's so this gave me the idea that a cowl neckline on a pattern could be made into an ordinary neckline. Many a time I find a pattern I really like only for it to have a cowl so now I have no excuse, it can be changed. It's so true that you learn something new every day!! When trimming the hemline Charlotte used duck-billed scissors, these are amazing in that when trimming quite close as Charlotte was doing it makes it really hard to snip the fabric by mistake. 
The fabric Charlottle used was very similar to one of our Viscose Challis Fabrics and it comes in 3 colourways.
If I was being critical I would say that Patrick was wrong in saying the back waistline was perfect. I'm sorry but the upper waistline was sagging at the righthand side and the invisible zip was showing. (Tracey got pulled for that in the first challenge!) 
Now on to Tracey's. 
Patrick said "I don't know what it is about the collar". Well I would say to Patrick "the collar was sticking out at the back, a few got pulled on this in earlier episodes. Also the left under collar point was lower than the right and the stitching was puckered on the right hand neckline". However, to have created this neckline from essentially nothing - well done Tracey!
Then they both totally missed the puckering on the waistline at the front edge.
So sorry Tracey (just in case you ever read this) but it is so annoying as a viewer watching this - it must be down to how its edited.
On to Joyce and my favourite dress. For me it was the best sewn and the best fitted. What are those two judges on about - it fit perfectly. 
For anybody who follows our blog, take a look at my daughter Vicki's last post. This was a similar shape dress and a similar FIT!!! So are we wrong too? I think Patrick faltered a little and nearly said it was a perfect fit but then must have remembered what he'd said earlier!! And why should the collar be narrower, any reason? Thank goodness Esme mentioned how well the collar had been sewn. It is definitely a sign of a good sewer if the top collar is cut ever so slightly bigger than the bottom collar thus allowing the roll over that Esme was on about. Well done Joyce. 
Last but not least, Jade's dress. 
I feel she made the most complicated design from the block pattern so really well done. Patrick commented about the pattern running down the centre exactly but I think it was cut slightly off grain because as they mentioned the pattern was higher at the right side middle and what they didn't mention was the pattern didn't match at the armholes. 
The back of the dress was brilliant, my next photo shows the back fitting perfectly across the models waistline so how it came to be 'baggy' later on I don't know. But if this was a problem she could have fixed it if only she had had ten more minutes!
If I had a criticism on this dress it would be I think it was a little tight at the bottom of the armholes. But hey let's finish on a positive note. I loved the bias binding she used on the skirt edge. Neither of the above were mentioned by the judges.
Poor Tracey had to go (it gets harder with each passing week doesn't it?) And so who will win? My heart tells me Joyce should win, she is an extremely good sewer and I feel she has been pretty consistent all the way through. My gut tells me that Charlotte will win but my head tells me that Jade will win. Why? Well there hasn't been a young person win yet, we've had a guy, we've had a lady in her middle years and an older lady, the lovely Ann do you remember her from the first series? So roll on next week for the last episode of the Great British Sewing Bee.
Thank you so much for reading,
Annette xx
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The Sewing Bee - Series 4, Episode 6

I don't know about you but I am feeling increasingly sad that the Great British Sewing Bee is drawing to a close. We are now on the quarter finals with just five contestants left, Joyce, Charlotte, Jade, Rumana and Tracey. As I said last week I feel they are quite settled now, into the swing of it so to speak. It was quite sad seeing Angeline go because lets face it each of the contestants have similar strengths and weaknesses at this stage and I think it's gonna be harder and harder for Patrick and Esme to decide who has to go. 
This week they are having to sew active-wear, this usually means working with the stretchiest of fabrics - Lycra! On top of having to work with one of the hardest fabrics (yet again) they now have to contend with figure hugging garments! And so on to the programme.
I started to watch them sewing the Lycra Fabric (I've never sewn lycra in my life) thinking I wasn't going to be too interested in this part of the programme but do you know I quite warmed to it. Although I still think lycra will be difficult to sew, I think my fears of it are growing less! Lycra has become much more popular in recent years especially with programmes like Strictly Come Dancing. These outfits are extortionate in price and so more and more people are making their own. This extends into leisurewear and sportswear and yet again the fact that you can create something quite unique to you is a big plus! I thought all of the cycling tops were pretty good at first glance (that is until Patrick and Esme started pulling them apart, verbally of course). It seemed that the majority of the contestants made the same mistakes, mainly the seams didn't match around the zips. To be fair there would be an element of panic in their sewing and lets face it that's how mistakes happen. Overall though they did really well.
I do think they were being rather 'picky' with Charlotte's. It wasn't too bad at all around the bottom of the zip and what can I say about Tracey's it was near perfect. What the heck was Esme on about "the colour's popped"???
I loved Rumana's colour choice and like Jade's they both had a self coloured fabric with just the zip in a different colour. I recently bought (dare I say that word ha) a dress in grey with an exposed orange zip down the back and the pockets were lined in orange fabric. The way they have been sewn means the orange stands proud to the pockets and the whole dress looks really good. It's a 'modern' thing this with the exposed zips but it can look good.
Joyce's top was really good, personally I am under the impression that the judges were surprised at just how good these garments were because they definitely were quite picky!! Does anybody else think that? 
And now the dreaded middle section, for me at least, but hey yet again I was pleasantly surprised with how well they did. It was like looking back at shellsuit days (the 90's). I just looked at what they had to work with and thought thank goodness it's them and not me. So I have to hand it to them they did a fantastic job. Well done to them all.
The garment from Joyce was my favourite, I thought the embroidery was positioned really well on the back and for me it looked to be sewn pretty good. I think she deserved higher than 3rd place. I wasn't too keen on Jade's jacket, for me it should definitely have had a collar and because of this it didn't look balanced somehow.
When you get a programme like this it wouldn't look good if the same person was the best each week! I just wish it was edited a little better because as I've said before the judges contradict themselves.
My favourite section was the 3rd this week and again I think they all did a very good job. First up was Charlotte and I have to say I thought it hung really well at the back, to me it didn't need altering, again I think it was a case of having to find something wrong. The underneath bra part fit brilliant, the straps at the back were very effective, the choice of fabric was spot on. Well done Charlotte!!
On to Joyce. I seem to be very much a fan of hers and like Charlotte's was a very well made outfit. She used McCalls 7261 which has a lovely hooded version and a very effective lapped collar, version B.
Then Patrick said "it neither fits snug or loose" I go to the gym twice a week and for me this would be perfect because I prefer my gym clothes to be neither too snug or too loose. And so I just thought these were silly comments. Note the judges said to Charlotte "you are the only one who hasn't gone for a tight fitting garment". See what I mean about contradiction!!
Oh boy I loved Jade's and so did the judges. Just a pity she misplaced the straps at the back although did it look that bad?? Talking of these, Jade used a loop turner to turn these straps right side out. She made a great job of this because these can be tricky to turn through especially in lycra! Now for those of us who don't like doing this how about some ready made lycra cord. This comes in lots of bright colours that either match or are a good contrast to the lycra colours. 
A very similar pattern is Butterick 6295. The top seems identical to Jade's but the pants just go a stage further and include pockets sewn within the side panels.
On to Tracey's, again it looked pretty good, maybe she tried to do too much. I did agree with Esme about the colour switch at the bottom of the trousers. They picked up on the teeniest tiniest bit of bagginess at the front edge and then totally missed the bit of bagginess on the back just underneath the crossed straps.
Last but not least, poor Rumana. She used a pattern very similar to Kwik Sew 4163
Now I am not into making sportswear but if I did this surely would be a pattern I would pick. On reading the instructions I find them amazingly easy. I'm afraid I'm going to have to get that overlocker first though, possibly a cover stitch too!! Rumana's binding round the neckline and armholes wasn't good at all but her leggings were brilliant. Did she deserve to go, I'm not sure?
Thank you for reading and until the semi-finals happy sewing!!
Annette xx
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The Sewing Bee - Series 4, Episode 5

I take back whatever Ive said!! I really enjoyed the Great British Sewing Bee last night. I felt that each contestant was getting into their stride and feeling much more relaxed. So last night was all about Vintage sewing, hence the 60's sewing machine's. I have to say I didn't see the point of using these machine's, for some contestants it held them up a little and it wasn't like they were making a feature of it to us the viewers. I absolutely loved the 60's shift dress and just to let you know that Vogue patterns have released a limited edition sewing pattern of a similar Mondrian Dress Pattern. This pattern is now available to order from us here at Minerva and is at a fantastic price of £9.99. With this pattern + pattern hack what you are actually buying Vogue 9048 in a new pattern envelope and will receive an extra page of instructions that will explain how to convert this pattern to how the original Vogue 1557 looked, picture of which is below.
You will need some dressmaking tissue paper, pen, ruler and some adhesive tape. If you've not seen Vogue 9048 take a look because it is very 60's looking in it's own right. I also think that when you've looked at how easy it is to convert the pattern into the above you could also take it a stage further and convert it into the sewing bee pattern. It wouldn't be too hard.
I loved some of the combinations the contestants came up with and it was good to see Jade using the method I mentioned in a recent blog post. This was having a drawing or photocopy of the shape of the dress (in this case the block design) and literally colouring them in to see the different effects you could achieve. I loved Joyce's colour choice, her sewing was spot-on and I think she thoroughly deserved to come first in this section. To me she deserved it even before I'd seen the others. 
They used Cotton Sateen Fabric for the dress but there are quite a few fabrics that would be suitable. One that comes to mind that would be highly suitable is bi-stretch Suiting Fabric. This is a reasonable priced fabric at just £3.99 per mt that comes in a fantastic range of colour, is easy to work with and easy to care for. Here at Minerva we have a brilliant selection of Cotton Fabrics from gaberchino to poplin and from sateens to lawns. Although if a fine cotton is used for this dress it would definitely need to be lined. It is hard to tell from the sewing bee whether the dresses have been lined or not but I can tell you that the Vogue pattern is lined. This could easily be adapted by using bias binding or making your own facings.
I was quite intrigued when Esme talked about the style of the dress being designed by Yves St. Laurent in the 60's as being the Mondrian dress. I had to find out a little more, I mean it's a funny name for a dress is it not. 
The designer took the idea from Piet Mondrian who was an artist, who although he came from the netherlands, he lived and worked in Paris. He developed a style of painting around 1920 of which he became best known for. This style was a form of cubism and this is what you see in the dress. How clever of Yves St. Laurent to bring art and fashion together. And brilliant that the GBSB brought it to our attention! 
So if you google Yves St. Laurent - Mondrian dress, you will find a picture of three models wearing three variations of the dress and there in the background is one of Piet Mondrian paintings. And so History lesson over for today, back to the sewing bee!
I think Joyce showed some of her experience in that where she topstitched, she used the right shade thread, I thought that made all the difference. To be fair both Angeline and Charlotte stitched in the right shade thread as well even changing colours where back met front. What seemed to let a few down was sewing in the zip. Unfortunately I feel Tracey's was the worst, so combined with the hemline stitching, unfortunately for her she came last.
For some reason I quite liked the middle section this week if not for anything else just to show how difficult these types of fabrics are to sew. First up was Rumana and I thought her red top was brill, her ideas were good and looked to be sewn quite well. Next came Jade, again I thought pretty good although I did see their point that she hadn,t changed the neckline. I loved Tracey's, what can I say, those pockets were amazing and it looked so 60's. Esme didn't like the shape! What difference dare I ask is there between this and the Mondrian dress!!! I didn't really 'get' Charlotte's, maybe I missed something and although yet again Joyce deserved to win, that pocket on the front annoyed me because it wasn't straight (how picky is that when they are so short of time). Poor Angeline's work got picked on again, I don't know whether it was fair or not, her outfit wasn't any worse than anybody elses. What do you think?
On to the last section, Tracey's jacket was really nice, she used a current Simplicity Pattern 2154 which is so 60's. Combine that with this stunning Italian Coat Fabric here at Minerva and hey you too could have a jacket like Tracey's. 
I agree with Esme that Charlotte's jacket looked at it's best on the dummy and I also liked the wide neckline. Poor Rumana, her hemline and buttons just didn't work. Again for me Joyce's was superb, am I right in saying they used to call this style of jacket a Reefer? For me it was very 60's like the Mods used to wear I think. Poor Angeline, the hemline was not good but I have to say I absolutely loved the idea. The colours and choices of fabric were fab. And then we get to Jade's WOW I loved it, loved it, loved it. So much care was taken in matching the fabric and to be fair she had enough time to do so. 
Now what I haven't had time to do this blog is work through our thousands of fabrics and sewing patterns to give you some ideas to make your own versions of these amazing projects. For anyone following my blog posts you will know I was about to become a Nanny again for the 5th time. My eldest Daughter has given birth to Emily Iris May this week at 9lb 3oz. We have christened her 'chunky monkey'...
Until next time thank you for reading,
Annette xx
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The Sewing Bee - Series 4, Episode 4

Did you watch the Great British Sewing Bee last night? I'm sorry but I'm feeling a little negative towards it this week. Well actually it started last week with the bras. When the GBSB first started I felt they were making more practical items and it made more people want to actually sew. The tasks seem to be going more and more weird. A beginner to sewing would never make a bra or negligee nor would they make anything in such difficult fabrics like the slippery satins of last week or the chinese silks of this week. So I actually feel there is nothing to encourage a newcomer to the wonderful world of dressmaking. Rant over, what do you think? And so to last night's programme.
My first thought's are "I wonder who made the 'sample garment' Is it me or does that front edge look a little stretched!!
I like the idea of using pattern weights alongside the pins for cutting out the garment. It does help that the main front piece is cut singular as is the right shoulder piece. So the back piece when laid against the fold will be trickier. When using a fabric like this I find it would be easier to recut this piece on the fold, out of pattern paper, transfer all markings and then you can cut this piece out as one piece (not on the fold). There wouldn't have been time for this last night, fair enough, but it does make me think that in a pattern were the emphasis is on using this Chinese Silk Fabric that the back piece would be like I'm suggesting and not on the fold. Hope that makes sense. I do think it is worth mentioning (again they hadn't time for this last night) after you have transferred all your markings etc and taken the paper pattern off your fabric, overlock or zigzag around every single piece. That way you immediately eliminate the problem of fraying. 
I must admit I never knew this type of top was called a Qipao (I googled the spelling) and it was interesting listening to Claudia talking about why the left front goes over the right front. Apparently they consider right over left as 'barbaric'. So that leads me to two gorgeous sewing patterns from New Look and Burda that we sell here at Minerva Crafts. 
Oh dear, on both patterns the right front is crossing over the left front. Someone somewhere hasn't done their research properly have they. However there is an easy remedy just use your wrong side of pattern as your right side, transferring any markings along the way. I love the New Look pattern although apart from the wrong fastening it does steer away from tradition in that it is not fitted. Also there is no zip, either side or back seam. That's actually got me thinking I wonder how the original ones fastened, I must look into that. There are however two ties at the back waist level so these can be tied tighter to achieve a more fitted look. Now the Burda pattern is actually a dress pattern but could easily be shortened into a top. This pattern has princess seams at the front (which many sewers prefer because they can acheive a better fit) and a back zip. I personally always have and always will prefare a back zip to a side zip, mainly because a side zip can sometimes give an uneven silhouette. Added to this a side zip is being sewn into a curvy seam whereas a back zipper is sewn on to a straight edge or only slightly curvy seam. A back zip leaves the side edges to look nice and smooth.
And so to the contestants finished garments, it was brill to see this week that they all finished. At first glance they all seemed pretty good so well done to all of you lovely contestants. On closer inspection from 'you know who' there were some faults. With Josh coming a very close second in this section it was hard to see why he was the one to eventually go. I'm pretty sure there was only Joyce who stay-stitched the neckline and regardless of the fact that she mis-read the instructions for the binding I think she made a brilliant job. Charlotte mentioned that when she placed the garment on the dummy, she pulled the neckline and that was what stretched the neckline. I think the damage was done before that because if it had been done when she said then the stitching line would be broken. This proves the point that you must always stay-stitch ALL curves as soon as you take the pattern pieces off the fabric. I loved the contestants choice of fabrics as many of them were familiar to me here at Minerva Crafts. My favourite was the black Fabric that Josh chose;
I feel each design must mean something in history especially the dragons!
I also loved the red cherry blossom Brocade Fabric that Angeline used, again another fabric available here at Minerva.
Now for the middle section. As I've said before not my favourite section and I have to say last night was no exception. I'm all for recycling as and when needed but lets do this with something you wouldn't want to spoil in the first place. These Sari's were beautiful. Tracey's garment was quite stunning from how she made full use of the Sari's design to adding the decoration at the front neck edge. She certainly deserved first place in this section. 
Tracey didn't do quite as well in the last section. The sewing was good just the fit let her down. I loved Angelina's choice of fabric and thought it looked lovely. Charlotte's dress looked good but I had to agree with Esme in that the fit around the armholes didn't look too good. I loved Rumana's, it was different and looked to be sewn well. I wonder if she got marked down because she hadn't joined the two back pieces together? I loved it as it was with the pattern matching perfectly. I'm not sure that Jade's dress was made in  the right weight of fabric. I know this pattern well but unfortunately it isn't available now from New Look. I just think it should have been made in a softer more flowing fabric and because of this the waterfall peplum at the back seemed to stick out a little too much. Otherwise it looked pretty good. Initially I loved Josh's dress, I thought it looked stunning. Patrick mentioned the pattern matching, on one hand yes he was right but on the other hand I felt it added to the overall abstract feel of the dress. However Esme was right about the fit, the problem on the side seams should have been noticed and remedied and yes it was a little tight on the waist so therefore was riding up.
We were really sad to see Josh go this week, but its getting to that stage now isn't it, where somebody good has to go because there are only good ones left!
Thanks for reading everyone,
Annette xx
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The Sewing Bee - Series 4, Episode 3

Poor Jamie our wonderful blogger here at the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network lost his place last night on the Great British Sewing Bee. On last night's performance I suppose he deserved to go but I do believe that up till last night he showed such promise and could have made it at least to the last 3.
I am so glad I am not a contestant on the GBSB this week, the Lingerie week! I must admit I've never considered making lingerie for myself (certainly nobody else) before. On watching the part last night were they were showing us how it used to be, all I can say is thank goodness for Lucy or Lucille as she became known, the lady who changed the 'construction' of underwear forever.
Part 1, the bras. At first glance all the bra's looked pretty good apart from Angeline's, oh dear. Charlotte's had a bit of an edge over Jamie's. Just the tuck in the back that let her down and with Jamie it just seemed to be the elastic in that more was showing than it should. I thought Jade's looked pretty good at first glance, (sideways) then when looking properly the cups didn't look symmetrical. 
I do think Esme was right in saying Jade should not have pressed it. Now talking of Esme she said Josh's lacked finesse! What did his lack that some of the others didn't lack? His strap was twisted - so were others. Patrick said he'd picked a very textured lace, was there much difference from the others - I don't think so. Poor Angeline, her main problem was she ran out of time but she's still in there so better luck next week. I did really like Joyce's bra but neither Patrick or Esme picked up on the horizontal seam running through each cup. 
On Joyce's bra the left cup seam was much lower than the right and Traceys was spot on. Rumana was told that the back of her bra was very neat but it wasn't hard to see the left side was much lower than the middle fastener! I can't understand why some contestants are criticised for something and then another contestant completely gets away with the same thing. Is it down to editing perhaps, what do you think? 
Here at Minerva we stock a fantastic range of lace fabrics for anybody making their own lingerie.
By far the best sewing pattern for a bra is Kwik Sew 3594 which incidentally are on sale at the moment at half price. 
I do think overall that Joyce was a deserved winner of that round. Such a pleasant lady as well. 
My first impression of the middle part was "it look's pretty good this week" it probably helped because the scarves looked pretty. Charlotte's was very good whereas I thought Jade's choice of two scarves didn't blend together at all neither were they a good contrast. I did however love where she positioned the bow! Rumana's seemed to fit the mannequin pretty good during the sewing time but something must have gone wrong at the end because it didn't fit at all and therefore spoilt it. Poor Josh seemed to get hold of the wrong end of the stick and it looked more like a tabard than a negligee and I agree bad choice of scarves. I thought Traceys was very well thought out at the top and the idea of the contrasting godets at the lower edge was a very good idea.  I must admit I was surprised at Jamie's contribution. He was obviously having an off day because his cutting out and his sewing were not up to his usual standard. But hey wait a minute why was his badly sewn hemline mentioned and Tracey's not!! Angeline's looked quite good again I think she just ran out of time, poor girl. My absolute favourite was made by Joyce. Fantastic choice of scarves, they blended together beautifully with the right amount of contrast. I could not see anything wrong with it and it seemed to miss out on first place by being what Esme called "mumsie" Mumsie indeed!!! Joyce's face was a picture at this remark!
And so to part 3. Over the years I have made quite a few dressing gowns for myself and members of my family. I must say though that, I have made them with comfort and cosyness in mind and so for myself I've made two out of very snuggly fleece. Incidentally these have lasted me years. I only made the second one because I was sick of seeing the first one!! I've also made a cotton lawn one which is above knee level with 3/4 sleeves and a tie belt. This serves me well when I go on holiday especially with it being so lightweight it packs very easily. There are plenty of sewing patterns for dressing gowns here at Minerva, many different styles and for various types of fabric.
I really liked Charlotte's Kimono and the fact that she had done quite a bit of hand sewing on the front edge band. 50.37 The gown looked pretty good in dark colours, I love the combination she chose. As Patrick said the luxury of this garment was not just the cotton lawn but the amount of hand sewing to finish it. 
Jade made a lovely dressing gown and the choice of pink piping was a stunning addition. Sorry but I think Patrick was wrong in saying that the sewing should have been done in pink. Yes definitely on the pink binding on the hemline but not anywhere else. First and foremost the pink thread on the navy and white bits would have took the edge away from the piping and secondly because any irregularities in her sewing would have shown. So well done Jade. 
I did quite like Tracey's but nothing was mentioned about how the darts fit around the bustline.
One minute things like this seem to matter and other times they don't!! For me Joyce was yet again high up in the top two or three. She has a good eye for picking fabrics that combine well, as Esme had to admit when it was finished. Lined as well!! 
Angelines and Rumana's were more unusual than the others, maybe this gained them points, I don't know. And I know I'm repeating myself but poor Jamie, it just wasn't his day was it. I think everything that could go wrong went wrong and we all have days like that don't we? Unfortunately you pay for it when you're on the Sewing Bee! 
Like Esme I loved Josh's choice of Fabric
I wonder where he got that from? Yes here at Minerva Crafts no less haha. I definitely agree a superb choice of fabric (honestly I'm not biased). It isn't actually a silk as Josh said on the show, it is a polyester and spandex blend that looks and feels like silk, but has the bonus of being machine washable. He actually chose a great fabric for a dressing gown because it is the perfect weight and drapes beautifully. It also has that satin-silk look which looks very high-end and expensive.
I also thought his choice of aubergene satin backed crepe fabric as the contrast looked fabulous!
Sew looking forward to next week!
Thanks for reading,
Annette xx
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The Sewing Bee - Series 4, Episode 2

Well my sewing buddies Episode 2 lived up to my expectations. How about you? After the early departure of Duncan, (forgot to say last week I absolutely loved his floral jacket) Ghislaine joined him this week. Again it is so sad to see them go one by one but much as I hate to say it, I think they made the right choice last night. And so last night (in case you haven't watched it yet!) was all centered around babies and children. Their first project was to make a babygro with snap fastenings down an off centre opening. Now I have more or less found a replica of the one used in the program. This is Burda 9434. It has the offset front opening with bound edges.  
Not everybody would like the off centre fastening so Kwik Sew 2433 would be a good option. This looks so cute. And there's no gusset in this!!! Poor Ghislaine I felt so sorry for her when her gusset went wrong.
There are still popper fastenings up the centre front but just in case you don't want to tackle these how about Simplicity 1565.
This has a centre front zip, no gusset and no cuffed edges. How cute are those little hats. I love the pink Bunny! Talking of animals last but not least I must mention Simplicity 1767
This is such a popular pattern for us here at Minerva and no wonder with all the different options.
And so the end product is a babygro but the choice of patterns here shows that there are different 'routes' we can take!! Most of the contestants made a brilliant job of their babygro with Charlotte shining the most and well deserved first place. 
I did feel Jamie should have come higher than 6th place. Personally, I loved how he had attached the binding but unfortunately for him that is what let him down in Esme's eyes. By the way I loved the shirt he was wearing, I'm pretty sure he will have made it himself because if you read Jamie's posts here on our blogger network you will see the quality of his work. 
The middle section (not my favourite) was OK but again I feel the end results showed how rushed the sewers were. If the judges want something 'wearable' from this section then they seriously need to give more time. I feel the contestants are let down with this section and hate showing what they have achieved. I will say that there was a bigger selection of styles this time whereas last week they were mostly skirts. I think I must be missing the point with this section because in my eyes Josh had the best garment. It was better sewn than some of the others and probably wearable too. Please let me know if you agree or disagree. Out of the other 8 I do think Ghislaine deserved to win.
The last section were they had to make a cape was my favourite of last nights projects. My absolute favourite in this section was Jamie's. "Am I a little biased" I ask myself with Jamie being one of our super bloggers here at Minerva. No I honestly think his cape was by far the best. His jet pockets were superb, just an absolute pity he didn't finish it in time. I feel the judges implied he would have won it otherwise. 
First up on the catwalk so to speak was Charlotte's, the tiny pompom trim finished off the edges quite nicely. A pattern which is similar to quite a few of the cape projects is Burda 9475
The nearest to Charlottes version would be the length of version A and the collar off version B. She may even have used this pattern because it has an edging, this could have given her the idea of the pompom edging. As I said earlier Jamies was my favourite, I loved the fabric he used, we have something quite similar in a wool fabric which is a 100% Wool Herringbone Fabric.
Next up was Joyce. As she said Pink and Grey go perfect together and I absolutely loved the applique and buttons she added to the jacket.
Rumana came next, I had to agree with Esme the little bow did nothing for the cape and the time spent making this would probably have been better spent doing some serious pressing. I had to disagree with Patricks comment that it would have been better sewn in a different fabric and then she wouldn't have got that 'bounce'. With a little more time on her side and a good 'wet' press, this cape would have looked much much better and not have had that 'bounce'.
Poor Ghislaine, I felt so sorry for her. I agree with Patrick and Esme that she took on too much. Time and care is needed when sewing a scalloped edge around the hemline of a garment and being exact matters 100%.
Unfortunately she didn't spend enough time on the collar aswell so all in all not a good day for Ghislaine. You are put on the spot in this competition though and with it being a competition everything has to be made in x amount of time so therefore these sewers sometimes are not at their best. I feel this is mainly what happened with Ghislaine because from her film at the beginning she appears to be a very good sewer.
Josh's cape like Jamie's had a 'country look' to it. "Mmmmm this fabric looks familiar" I said to myself. Ah yes Josh purchased this beautiful fabric from us here at Minerva Crafts. Take a look.
I thought he matched the checks perfectly but I did agree the pockets were a little too bulky. Overall though I loved it, am I biased again?
I loved the applique work on Tracey's cape and especially using this same fabric for the pocket linings and indeed the whole lining as I did for a previous blog of mine where I made my Grand-daughter a pink coat.
The large pompoms and the fur edging set off the lovely blue of Jades cape. 
Finally came Angeline's, she had added her own twist to this cape by adding a godet down the back in wool check fabric and a cheeky little bow at the top of the godet really set this off. The construction of the lining seemed perfect but if I was gonna be picky I would say the judges didn't pick up on her collar (sticking up and out a little), whereas earlier they did fault Rumana for the same thing saying it wasn't pressed properly. However Angeline well deserved garment of the week. 
We have a similar red wool fabric here and you could use any of our plaid check wool fabrics as the contrast. I would also recommend our washable wool fabric which looks and feels like wool, but is actually washable and very practical for little ones!
Roll on next week and thanks for reading,
Annette xx
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The Sewing Bee - Series 4, Episode 1

How good was I feeling last night! Apart from having a bad back and not a brilliant nights sleep, I felt amazing. Why was that you ask. THE GREAT BRITISH SEWING BEE is back. I sat in great anticipation waiting for it to come on and I was not disappointed. It certainly lived up to my expectations. 
Sometimes it is hard to accept change and I was wondering what we would all think of the new presenter Esme but no need to worry, I thought she was lovely and fit like a glove so to speak. And then there's Patrick, I certainly hope he doesn't leave, eh ladies, need I say more!! Last but not least there's the lovely Claudia. I just love her presenting style and along with the other two make the show the success that it is.
And now to the contestants, quite a bunch don't you think (I do mean a nice bunch). The only thing I don't like is that one person has to go at the end of the first week. I know this is the rule in these elimination contests but oh it does seem so cruel. I felt so sorry for Duncan.
The first up was Charlotte whose top looked really good, the only thing that seemed to let it down was the stripes just being a little out down the front.
Jamie (one of our wonderful blogger's here on the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network) definitely chose a hard fabric as Esme said. For me the most difficult part would be the cutting out. I think he coped brilliantly and deserved to win that first round.
It was a shame Rumana cut her top upside down. I think the cutting out proved the hardest part for most of the contestants. But regardless of what Patrick said about it being upside down, I do remember reading an article once ( one of these where they point out how to wear stripes - to draw or not to draw attention to certain parts of our bodies) and it stated how to wear chevron stripes. I wish I could just think of it, perhaps you know and could pass it on. So maybe Rumana wasn't wrong afterall! 
Duncan unfortunately did let himself down with some of the sewing but his stripe matching was superb as Patrick said.
Jade then Josh came next, both looked pretty good.
I felt sorry for Josh with his mixed up chevron's.
I think he seemed nervous when cutting out because it kept going wrong but hey he should have said - "I meant for it to be like this, it's a new slant on chevron's".
I thought Joyce (oh my goodness she does not look 71) chose a great fabric because at first glance it looked perfectly matched. Only on closer inspection did Patrick notice some slight irregularities. So here is a good point to make when choosing fabric for chevron's, the more straight the pattern 'stripes' are, the more time must be spent ensuring perfectly matching stripes.
As was mentioned, Tracey unusually chose a chevron fabric to then make a chevron striped top. Certainly different and I think if those chevrons had been matched up more, this garment could have won that round. As Patrick said "It's Natty" (Yes where did he get that word from?) Sounds good though doesn't it.
As Esme said Ghislaine got off to a rocky start. She so picked the wrong fabric for this top;
Incidentally this gorgeous fabric is still available from us here at Minerva Fabrics but in limited supplies. The irregular 'stripes' look fantastic if sewn horizontally or vertically.
She then went on to make a top in a different fabric and did really well in getting as much done as she did.
I couldn't help but wonder if Angeline chose her striped fabric for the chevron top knowing it would be easier to 'match' the stripes. It came across that she didn't know (or was that a secret 'knowing' smile she gave) but I bet she was glad she had chose that particular one! I do think it looked good. As Esme pointed out the roses disguised the stripes. 
The expressions on the faces of the contestants when presented with the maternity dress (round 2) was a look of fear haha (it certainly would have been fear on my face). This is most certainly NOT my forte. I love dressmaking, have sewn all my life but I love to sew a garment from scratch. To alter garments to that extent doesn't appeal to me at all. So I admire the contestants imagination in this round and love to see the outcome be it good or bad. 
Jade's skirt, with the grey side panels, I think reflected her age, just 18. Skirt's in this style are very 'in' at the moment and I'm pretty sure the grey panels were Ponte Roma or a similar stretch jersey and this made it so that quite a fitted stretchy look was achieved. I know she had to rush a little at the end, hence the waistband could have been better sewn but I thought a good idea, well done Jade. I would have placed this garment higher than 9th. I did agree that there were too many skirts made but hey lets give them a chance, it's only the first week. Considering there were quite a few 'gathered skirts' I was surprised to see Tracey's top with the lace frills at the bottom. 
I did think she showed more imagination than some of the other contestants.
Rumana's dress with the orange trims was equally imaginative as Tracey's but came 3rd. Don't get me wrong I think she deserved 3rd place, I loved the orange bias binding which she used on the outside of the garment to encase the elastic and then created a lattice effect back with more of the bias folded in half. Her use of the two colours was brill.

Joyce also used her imagination well in creating a dress with godet's (I must admit I have been pronouncing the word 'godet' wrong all these years!!) and deserved 2nd place.

1st place was well deserved by Jamie (Yes our wonderfull blogger, take a look at his fantastic 'Shacket' over on our blogger network). This dress reminded me of something you would see on a catwalk in that I wouldn't actually wear it, but its really cool. So well  done Jamie on using the most imagination and creativeness.

And now to part 3 of this fab program. 

All the contestants were asked to make a skirt of their own choice and their own choice of fabric.

Joyce's skirt hung really well. I think this was made up in a viscose. Viscose Fabric is well known for floaty dresses or skirts. My only problem was, as Esme said, you couldn't distinguish between the panels therefore not seeing the lovely shaped pieces and how they formed the skirt. An alternative would be to include some plain black panels.

I was very intrigued with the pleating tool that Tracey made herself. (I must look into this in more depth). Her pockets looked quite stunning.

I love Jade's skirt made out of taffeta, tulle and net. It was designed by Jade herself and I think she's made a terrific job. I love the binding on the hem edge of the net.

As Patrick said Josh's skirt wasn't the most complicated of the day but it hung beautifully and although I didn't agree at first about him turning a double hem up on this garment, I must say it was the right thing to do because it makes the skirt hang fantastically well and makes it stick out to a degree. Well done Josh. And he used our floral stretch denim fabric too!!

Angeline's fitted pencil skirt with peplum looked fantastic. It seemed to be made in a stretch cotton fabric with a contrasting bias binding. Stretch cottons with a Floral design are very popular this year. The elastane content in these fabrics helps enormously in getting a lovely fit as Angeline has done here.

Although I had a couple of favourites throughout the program I think Angelina's skirt deservedly won Garment of the Week. Well done Angelina!

So roll on next week when we can watch episode 2 of this compelling show.

Many thanks for reading my fellow sewists.

Annette xx

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Sew British Sewing Awards! #VoteMinerva

Sewists! Crafters! Hear our cry!
Yes, everyone, the British Sewing Awards are back and Minerva has been nominated again, and again...and again! That's right, we have three nominations;
  • Best Online Retailer 
  • Best Sewing Blog 
  • Best Independent Haberdashery Shop: North of England Category
Quite simply, just to be nominated is amazing because it's your votes that have got us into the shortlist, and for that...
Now we of course think we should win these titles, but we need to convince you to go back and Vote Minerva!
I'm in a very lucky position to be able to work in all the categories we've been nominated in so I'm in the best position to give you some behind the scenes info into why we think we're the best!
 
  • Online Retailer
 
Well, I'm going to have to try and show you! 
Our expansion over the last year has been phenomenal. Our gang has expanded to 10 more Team Members, so out with the old packing tables and in with brand spanking new tailored stations! 
Haberdashery has a brand new home in the second warehouse...
...meaning we could expand our fabric range which now takes over a whopping 8 aisles! (and we're not done yet!)
...and our Yarn department is bursting at the seams!
With all this going on Vicki, Daniel, and the Warehouse Team have worked on tailored software to streamline everything to get orders out even faster. Yep, that's right. We've written new software to provide the best service. If you thought we were good last year, you've not seen anything yet! 
The team behind the screens answering your queries are seasoned crafters living the dream. We're like kids in a candy store, we can't get enough! Researching products isn't our job, it's our passion. We want to know the width of the stripes on the mini-stripe polycotton, and the difference between KnitPro Nova and the Nova Cubics Knitting Needles, and if 28 Gauge Wire is better for earrings than the 20 Gauge . This information is important to us, so we know it's important to you. We sweat Sewing Machine Oil and bleed Glitter because that's what we'd want from our craft supplier, so we do it to be your craft supplier.
If you think this means we're the best, Vote Minerva!
 
  • Best Sewing Blog 
 
Well, what can I say about our blog. "The Minerva Blog" is the umbrella that covers our Craft Blog and the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network. Each fantastic in its own right, this community of crafters strive to bring you the most comprehensive 'go-to' on the blogesphere!
The Minerva Crafts Blogger Network has expanded to 43 of the finest bloggers from across the world to bring you unbridled inspiration and unparalleled expertise. We've got Knitters, Crocheters, Sewers, Jewellery Makers, Quilters, Homemakers, all sorts! All brimming with excitement at being able to share their passion with you and the online community. Just when you think you know them, they always pull out a showstopper! How can we forget Nicole and her Red Vinyl Valentine Coat?! 
or that time some weirdo called Katie B wore fluorescent yellow trousers to work ;)
Nine shiny new bloggers have joined the fold since March, and it's so exciting to see their work! 
We've seen Amy return with her best make yet..a son! 
Plus, we have our first gentleman blogger
Then of course we have our home grown talent on our Craft Blog
The dynamic duo that is Annette and Vicki! There's no stopping them. Not even a Royal Wedding! I am, of course, referring to the Minerva Royal Couple Vicki and Richard!
The lead up to July 4th was a great time around here as the blog was flooded with images of Annette and Vicki sewing up a storm! The only person in the blogesphere who didn't see it was the Groom, Richard, under strict instructions not to sneak a peek at the 4 Bridesmaid's Dresses, Flower Girl's Dress, Mother of the Bride Outfit AND The Wedding Dress, all sewn by Annette's fair hands!
Looking back through the blog almost brings me to tears. This is just a snippet! It's been such a great year to have shared, and if you think this means we're the best, Vote Minerva!
 
  • Best Independent Haberdashery Shop: North of England Category
 
Last, but certainly by no means least, we have our award winning Craft Centre nestled in the Pennines of the North of England
This is another category where I need to show, rather than tell you, why we think we're the best
We're a bit bigger than people think! When we explain we're a Craft Shop based in a small Lancashire town just north of Manchester, people expect a little shop, with a wooden front, in a converted terrace house. Not quite! 
First, on your right, there's Quilters corner! "How can you fulfil a quilters needs from just one corner?!" Quite simply...we can't! This is just the tip of the Quilting Iceberg. The Shop Staff work closely with the Office and Warehouse teams to display and rotate the vast array of fabrics and accessories from our warehouse to find exactly what our customer desires! Can't see what you need? Just Ask! Our staff are always more than happy to bring anything you require from the warehouse.
Carring on to the right wall we have fabrics....lots and lots of fabrics! From Polycotton to Bridal Silk, we have it in abundance!
And of course with the wide range of fabrics we carry we need to make sure we have a thread to suit each one...
...and of course the necessary trimmings! This is just one aisle, we didn't want to show off too much ;)
Then of course we have our yarn and patterns...
...lots of yarns and patterns! (this is just chunky and super chunky!) From the chunkiest Scarf Yarn to the finest Lace Yarn we have you covered. On a budget? Try the Big Value! Need something hardy? Premium Acryllic, naturally. Allergic to wool, but want something special? Try the Alpaca! We've got you covered for Knitting Needles and Crochet Hooks, too! From Budget Bamboo to Premium Wood, and everything in between.
Then there's Needlework and Crochet Corner! For those who want the finest lace threads, the latest embroidery floss, or the purest white aida!
From Bundles...
..to bags.
Yarn-spiration...
and just plain inspiration we have everything covered at the Minerva Craft Centre, and this is why we think we're the best! If you agree, Vote Minerva!
And if all that doesn't convince you to go and Vote Minerva, maybe this will
That's right! When you Vote, Sew Magazine enters you into a draw to win £500 worth of sewing goodies! Too good of a chance to miss, right?
If you could Vote Minerva and show us your support, it would be the most amazing thing for us as these are awards from the sewing community, voted for by YOU so if we win we know we're on the track to being the best we can be for you crafty lot! Voting is open until Sunday 20th December so be sure to spread the word (with he hashtag #VoteMinerva) and cast your vote!
See you soon you crafty lot!
Katie B x 
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Knitting and Crocheting with Heart!

Hey Gang!
I'm here with a quick one today to let you know about the latest from King Cole.
They got in touch with us recently to explain their new charity initiative. Now don't all start falling asleep, this really is way more exciting than it sounds! From the 1st of July, a contribution from every single pattern sold will be donated to the Pink Ribbon Foundation. Every. Single. Pattern! How amazing is that?! So now we really can shop guilt free when we pick up that extra pattern. "It's for charity!"
In all seriousness, this is a truly amazing thing. Too many of us know how every little helps when it comes to charities, particularly ones such as these. What also really helps is that donations made to the Pink Ribbon Foundation go directly to the cause and not to cover administration costs, so you can be safe in the knowledge that every penny donated from your purchase goes straight to where it's needed. The new patterns printed will all have the logo and information on them, but even the older patterns without the logo will still have donations made against them! 
It's really nice to see companies doing their bit in such a big way and raising awareness as well as funds, and we're so proud we're able to be part of it. I've included their press release below so you can read all about it for yourself!
So go on, Knit and Crochet with heart!
Katie B xo

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