Posted in Product Reviews on Sunday the 2nd December 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Wow what a treat. That was my first impression upon receiving this beautiful book for the first time. It is one of those books that just feel wonderful to hold – it has a reassuring weight to it and lots of details that show the love that went into its creation. Am I the only one who feels like this when she gets a beautiful book? I hope not or you’re all missing out! Let us now go into a quick description of this book created by the wonderful Merchant & Mills, a lovely company based in East Sussex and you can find all of their haberdashery and patterns at Minerva. The Merchant and Mills Workbook itself is crafted in a quality brown card cover, which includes an envelope in the front cover containing all the pattern pieces on paper so they are not flimsy. The pages are matte and are the perfect weight and texture for stroking and lazily flicking through. In my head I sit in my dappled sunlit living room sipping black rose tea as I curl up to be immersed in this little world on my lap. Reality is harsher as I fight to keep my cold tea from being stolen by my youngest whilst yelling at my oldest to give me just a few minutes peace! Don’t believe everything you see on Instagram folks…
Back to the book! It claims to not be for beginner sewers and I agree. The instructions are plenty adequate and good but if you don’t understand certain terms or descriptions, i.e. which part of your deconstructed pieces is the facing then it can get confusing despite the illustrations. Once you get it though, the illustrations are great, the instructions are straight forward and so obvious it leaves you dumbfounded as to how you didn’t understand it to begin with. I can only emphasise that it is important to read the instructions very carefully and not add things from your head to it, say like adding sew in place when it actually only tells you to pin in place. What did help was reading a few steps ahead so I had an overview of what I needed to do.
I attempted the Bantam vest and Strider shorts – so one of the most basic followed by the most advanced patterns in the book. I will share with you my Bantam and notes of construction of the Striders, but unfortunately no photos. My venture into tailored punky yellow plaid shorts was a failure as I stood forlornly in front my mirror, remarking to myself that they look like a complex version of pyjamas in the style of Muhammad Ali’s prized shorts. Except on me they made me feel more like Humpty Dumpty rather than an award winning boxer. Not all was bad though, I learned how to sew in a zippered fly and with the right heavier weight PLAIN fabric next time I intend to make a pair of trousers for the cooler months - maybe in dark denim to take it back down to casual.
Bringing us back to the Bantam vest, I made mine in orange linen from my stash. It was a lovely sew and the instructions were so easy to follow. The only thing I would add is that before step 11, you need to measure you bias tape around the armhole and neckline because the pattern piece appears to be one length for all sizes so I had to cut quite a lot of excess off. Despite the Vest’s simplicity or maybe because of its simplicity the quality of the construction really shone through. The bias bound neck and armholes and French seams looked amazingly professional and is a delight to wear. I wore mine a lot during the hot summer days revelling in the coolness and breathability of linen. In terms of undergarments (an important issue for some!), due to the racer back it is quite hard to wear a standard bra underneath without the straps showing oddly, but felt a bit too breezy to go without. Next time I will pull out my Madeleine for Simplicity pattern out to make a racer back bralette to go with it. Bring on the summer!
For the Strider shorts, the instructions on the pattern pieces refer to page 137 of the book where it teaches you to some basic drafting so that the shorts can be hemmed without loosing width. It would have been useful to state on the pattern pieces where this extra bit of information was since I spent ages looking for it in all the wrong places. Once again, with this book it is very important to read all the instructions before starting.
Another thing I found confusing was that the pattern pieces labelled as facings were not the only facings in the instructions so I spent many a minutes scratching my head and trying to make see the pieces in the diagrams which just confused me more. The facings referred to in the books ended up referring not to the pieces but the places with facings on the main trousers. Another thing I love about matte pages though is that they invite you to scribble and draw in them all the more. After a moment of hesitation I gleefully drew in arrows and labels to avoid confusion next time and thus marked my book as mine.
I love my Merchant & Mills Workbook and I want to make everything inside it. From this advanced beginner’s point of view, everything in the book is highly doable and you will be left with a wardrobe of classy garments from a couple of tops, a bias cut dress, a very posh looking cardigan/”coatigan”, tailored trousers to a laid back drawstring skirt with grommets. I love how woven fabric is celebrated in this book and highly impressed that a woven top was designed that looks great on, doesn’t gape, but has no openings. I am a woven girl at heart so I try to find woven versions in everything including t-shirts. The bias cut top in this book even covers that! If you’re like me and love the world of sturdy woven over stretchy knits, then this book is definitely for you.
Thank you for reading! Follow me @MadameShannanigans on Instagram.
Posted in Product Reviews on Saturday the 1st December 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
This particular bear is 35cm high and the fibres are 100% acrylic. The pack indicates that the product is not suitable for children under 3 years as there are small parts for assembling the eyes. To be fair if that’s the only reason that making a bear from scratch can’t be done by a 3-year old I‘d be pretty impressed.
Let’s unpack this hairy beast.
The bear comprises of 16 fuzzy pieces, 4 pieces of felt whose purpose is yet to be revealed and 7 facial components.
As you can see from this picture it does look like something pretty sinister kicked off down at teddy bear’s picnic and CSI: 100 Acre Woods is about to rock up and conduct an investigation.
The great thing about this is that you can sew it on the machine or easily stitch it with needle and thread, by your own ‘bear’ hands. I made this on the sewing machine but to be honest there were times where hand-stitching would have given better control, especially with so much fuzz flying around and the kit’s tiny 5mm seam allowance. I tacked where it said to – they were pretty serious about that.
The ears came together really quickly, and after that, the head started to take shape after a bit of read and re-read of the instructions. I think with a bear and all these weird pieces there’s no frame of reference so it's tricky to see if you’re on the right lines and not sewing a leg to a head bit etc. With a dress at least, you can see if its ‘about right’. I was flying blind here people. The instructions and diagram of the pieces are however very clear and give good guidance. I would also give these instructions 10/10 for hilarity factor as it references such classics as ‘the furry head gusset’ which for some reason I could only read in the voice of Joe Lycett. (Side note: Yay to the sewing bee coming back!)
Tip for sewing the head together – keep the fur tucked inside, right sides together, otherwise when you turn it out and the fur catches in the seam allowance, your bear looks like he’s got a bit of a toupée centre part going on.
At this point, I did wonder if I’d made a possum or other such small rodent until it was time to attach the eyes. The instructions say to sew around the eye hole to reinforce it. I did not. I could barely see the eyehole due to all the fur let along jet that under the machine so just gave that a miss. The eyes take some force to pop into place securely so don’t be afraid to go for it.
This is the only time I ever want to see what the insides of a bear's head look like.
The arms and legs were relatively straightforward if a little fiddly. All was going fairly smoothly UNTIL I turned the arm out, it got stuck on a thread and this happened. Not sure Minicraft has made this themselves… I think they need to revise that age limit. Absolute panda-monium.
Now lets paws for a second…. The rest of the body construction is great, it whips up like a little pimp jacket!
Looking good so far but we’re not out of the woods yet…. (and we all know what happens there). The legs are attached to the body and the whole thing gets turned inside out so you can attach the bear’s bum. Weird but true.
The head goes on quite easily as at this point its just a straight seam to attach the head to body, as the back remains open for stuffing.
Now fill that bear up! I used some multi-purpose washable Polyester Filling which is certified safe for toy stuffing.
Meet Terri. Here he is channelling his inner Yogi.
I thoroughly enjoyed making Terri, it was a lot of fun, especially as it's not something I usually sew. This kit would make a wonderful gift – a toy presented ready-made for a kid or even the kit itself for those a little older, so they can enjoy the process of making and keeping their own woodland friend.
Just watch where you put those pic-a-nic baskets….
Posted in Product Reviews on Thursday the 29th November 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Hello everyone. For today’s blog I will be telling you all about this amazing little Create-a-Pincushion Kit by Clover.
The idea of this is you can very easily make a customisable pincushion using whatever print fabric you want. As you can see here, I used a cross stitch embroidery as my choice of fabric, however I do like the idea of changing the fabric to coordinate with your project, or with the changing seasons. Sometimes you just can’t find sewing accessories in your favourite colours.
The kit is available in either brown or white and comes in at around £10. The package contains the plastic inner container and cover for the main structure of your pincushion, and the silicone ring that will eventually hold your choice of fabric in place. It also comes with instructions in four different languages – English, French, Spanish and German – with step by step photo instructions. You will need to supply the fabric, stuffing and scissors.
So the first step is to select your fabric. This needs to be 5 1/2 inches square. If there is a particular part of the fabric you like, make sure this is in the centre, as you will only see the centre 3 inches of fabric when it is complete. For my pincushion I selected a cross stitch design that would produce a 3 x 3 inch embroidery. Once you have your fabric you need to grab 5g of stuffing, or a big handful like I did, and ‘loft’ it by pulling it apart to reduce the chances of getting a lumpy pincushion.
Next you need to grab the inner container, the silicone ring and your fabric. Shape the stuffing into a ball in your hands then squash it into the container. This is the tricky part. Whilst holding the stuffing in with one hand, you need to place your fabric centrally over the inner container and whip your hand out from underneath, using the fabric to hold the stuffing down. Put the silicone ring on top and push it down so it stretches over the sides. You should have a little squashy fabric dome. At this stage you can readjust the position of the fabric if you need to, to centralise a design for example. It recommends evening out the creases in the fabric below the ring so there are no really bulky bits.
Next you need to cut the excess fabric off. I cut it to the level of the bottom of the container so the fabric won’t stick out the bottom when finished. Next, simply push the cover over the top, the silicone ring will hold this on, and TA-DA your gorgeous, customised pincushion!
This took me minutes to put together, and was pretty easy. I was worried the cover would be lose, as it is when the kit arrives, but it is tightly secured on there with the addition of the fabric. Saying that, it is easily removed by holding the sides and pushing down the cushion in the middle, for when your pincushion needs a revamp. I can see me keeping this pincushion forever as I can keep changing its look, and the casing is really good quality. Do not hesitate to give this product a try.
Until next time, you can catch me on Instagram and YouTube as Stitching_Joanne
Posted in Product Reviews on Monday the 26th November 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
I remember doing cross stitch when I was younger, I used to get a kit for Christmas and make it up for one of my grandmothers for the following year. When I saw these 1st Cross Stitch Kits I was really intrigued. The colours are so bright and cheerful and the designs are simple, but interesting enough to keep a beginner busy.
I chose the multicoloured heart design Cross Stitch Kit and asked a friend’s daughter if she would like to have a go at it. She had never done a cross stitch kit before, but had done a sort of stitch sampler at school so knew some of the basics.
In the kit there is everything you need to make the design and present it in a cardboard frame. It includes the fabric, threads, needle, stitch design, instructions and card board mount.
My friend’s daughter is 9 and a quick learner, I started her off, showed her how to change colour and secure the ends and she went home to complete it. She struggled slightly placing the flowers within the blue section of the heart, and admitted she had to undo a few stitches, but it’s perfect now.
She really enjoyed doing the kit and I actually felt very proud of her for completing it so neatly. I think the kit would be perfect for someone of a similar age who has good concentration skills. It would work equally well for an adult who is new to cross stitch or embroidery. The thread is a lovely quality, nice and thick and smooth, so the finished pattern looks full of colour.
Another good aspect of the kit is how compact it is. It comes in a resealable plastic bag so it can all be kept together. It’s a really slim pack so easy to post as a present for someone who lives further away. I’m always on the lookout for decent presents that don’t cost a fortune to post!
Overall this is a cute kit and a great starter set for anyone wanting to have a go at cross stitch.
Posted in Product Reviews on Monday the 19th November 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Product Reviews on Friday the 16th November 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
I’m beyond thrilled to be writing my first ever blog for Minerva – and what an array of delights I have to tell you about!
With all the goodies on offer at Minerva, I’ll admit to being a bit spoiled for choice, so I plumped to review a range of Lucky Dip Fabric Bundles. If you’re not familiar with the lucky dip bags, they’re a random selection of remnants and roll ends, and they’re available in a range of colours and designs. I opted for the polka dot, stripe and stretch fabric choices – the first two because I love love love them, and the knits because, as a newbie sewist, I’m just getting into sewing with jerseys and wanted some practice.
I must admit to being a little worried that the pieces I received would be too small for me to make anything useful and I was pleasantly surprised that this wasn’t the case at all. My goodie bags contained large pieces of fabric, most of which were over a metre in length - and because jerseys are normally 60” wide you get even more bang for your buck with the stretch fabric bundle!
Here’s what I got in my goodie bags:
Stripes: two pieces of stripey silk of around 60cms, and a over a metre piece of black, white and silver striped ponte roma.
Spots: A metre each of black sequin and red and white polka dots (very Minnie Mouse!)
Stretch: A metre of black wet-look stretch fabric which would be perfect for leggings, and a really large piece of this stunning floral fabric. I’ve already worked out I can get a little playsuit out of this one!
I decided my first make should be a cami top from the very elegant turquoise silky fabric.
I really love the True Bias Ogden Cami Pattern but I didn’t have that pattern to hand, so I decided to borrow the bodice part from this New Look Jumpsuit Pattern which I’ve had on my to-make list for a while.
It’s a simple pattern with bust darts and neck facings. I’ll admit that trying to squeeze the pattern pieces onto my 60cm remnant was something of a challenge (and I sadly had to forgo the lovely flounce) but I persisted with my pattern tetris, and was rewarded with this beauty which is just the ticket for hot summer nights.
The construction was beautifully simple, and to be honest the cutting out took longer than the actual sewing! As ever with commercial patterns, keep an eye on the amount of ease and try and go by the finished garment measurements to make sure you get the right fit for you. According to the pattern I should have cut a size 16 but I’m not keen on such a loose fit so I cut my standard 12 which fitted well.
I finished the hem off with a pretty decorative leaf stitch to complement the aqua stripes.
I’m really pleased with how my cami top turned out, and over the moon that I managed to get it out of such a tiny remnant. It’s definitely a pattern I’ll be using again next time I have an odd half-metre of fabric left (and if you follow me on instagram @thecamdenstitch you can see the full jumpsuit I made a couple of weeks later!)
My next project was to try my hand at sewing knits, and this striped ponte roma was ideal. It’s an interesting fabric because it has a silver lurex thread running through one side, but on the flip side it’s just black and white stripes. I decided I’d get more wear out of the non-sparkly side which must be a sign that I’m growing old and boring!
I decided to use this Beginner’s McCall’s Pattern. The pattern has a few options to choose from but I went for the simple boat neck version.
Again, it was a bit of a challenge fitting my pattern pieces on the fabric, which was made even tougher by the stripes…I don’t like to make life easy for myself! I cut a size medium, which came up much too big. The loose fit actually works OK with the ponte but if I wanted a close-fitting t-shirt next time I’d size down to an XS.
The top was simple enough to put together using a combination of my sewing machine stretch stitch and my overlocker. Everything was going swimmingly until it came to the neck facings. Now to be fair to the pattern manufacturers this style is designed for a lighter weight jersey rather than a ponte, but despite me clipping, pressing and understitching the life out of the thing I could NOT get the facings to lie flat.
After a stressful half hour I decided to improvise. I removed the facings and cut two bands of fabric, one for the front and one for the back neckline. I folded each one double and overlocked the raw edges to the front and back of the neckline.
Then I grabbed my trusty snap set and added four snaps to the each side of the collar. I went for my favourite colour – egg-yolk yellow!
The finished top has a collar that can be worn up in a faux funnel neck style, or down to emphasise the boat neck. They say necessity is the mother of invention and I’m delighted I came across this little workaround – I love my funky top (and matching boots!)
Overall I loved the variety of the lucky dip fabric bundles. I’ve been following the #sewingleftovers hashtag on instagram and have been really inspired by other makers to be creative with small amounts of fabric – and hopefully these couple of projects will inspire you, too!
Posted in Product Reviews on Thursday the 15th November 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
The base patterns are two tops (a tank top and a T-shirt), two pairs of trousers (a wide leg trouser and a lounge pant), a cardigan and an unusually draped skirt. All the patterns are simple and a relaxed loose aesthetic which unfortunately isn't my normal style but I was torn between the tank top and cardigan when I first saw the book. All of the patterns can provide great basics to build up you handmade wardrobe. And everyone knows that anything made in jersey is basically secret pajamas!
The hacks vary from simple adjustments e.g. using longer sleeve lengths right through to the more complex of adding in a shirring detail or a pieced patchwork section for colour blocking. The book also neatly shows you how to combine patterns e.g. the tank top pattern and the skirt pattern to create a dress. All these options allow you to personalise what you make. The creativity of developing or changing your patterns is a great skill builder for more advanced sewists.
For those looking to improve or build their skill set, when selecting a pattern there is a box on the first page which tells you the skills you will learn when making the garment which allows beginners to assess whether the pattern is too complex but also to build up a list of skills they've mastered.
The book has a great section on understanding different types of knit fabric which can get quite complex. Often, I buy jersey fabric over the internet and it can be difficult to work out what you might end up receiving in the post. Jersey can range from synthetic firm jersey like scuba right through to light weight silk or viscose jersey. The book talks about fibre content, best uses and the advantages and disadvantages of each type. here is also a section on understanding stretch percentage which can be vital when sewing with knits for fitted garments. Beyond the normal description there is a section where you can look up the type of garment you want to make and it recommends types of jersey which are suitable, an alternative way of looking at it which might suit some sewists more than all the technical jargon.
Speaking of buying fabric over the internet, the book includes resources for where to buy jersey fabric in the UK including Minerva. It also highlights links to social media and YouTube links for Wendy Ward including video tutorials. If you're having trouble picking which of the patterns you fancy making I would recommend searching the hashtag on Instagram or reading through all the blog post reviews on Minerva as you'll be able to see the garments made up in different fabrics and on different body types.
I really like the explanations of stitch types and where they should be used as I think this is a useful resource for both new and experienced sewists. And there is even a section on matching stripes which can be a big challenge when trying to make the classic Breton style top which is all the rage.
The only downside to the book is that the patterns are nested on sheets of paper. You need to trace the pieces, but harder still the pages are too small for the full pattern pieces so you need to line up where you finish tracing on one page with the next part on another page. Thankfully, Wendy has thoughtfully provided a page which explains which parts are on each sheet which is helpful for making sure you've traced all the right bits!
I used an old roll of dot and cross paper to trace mine but Minerva sell rolls of Swedish Tracing Paper which is highly recommended by various people in the sewing community. On the plus side unlike some patterns you trace from paper the seam allowance is included and being thicker paper rather than the traditional tissue they are easier to see and less liable to tear or crease #winning!
I picked this angora look stretch knit Jersey Fabric because I had visions of a lovely big snuggly cardigan to wrap up in cold weather. There are 6 different colour ways and it was a tough call to narrow it down. I went for the wine colour and it's beautifully soft and snuggly. I was excited to get cracking and cut out the cardigan when it arrived. I didn't pre-wash the fabric as often with jersey it can distort the way it lies when trying to cut out. When using a woven fabric pre-washing is a must but given jersey has good stretch then any slight shrinkage after washing it will likely stretch back out. However, if you're concerned about shrinkage or it's a precious fabric then I would recommend pre-washing to reduce the risk of issues later on!
Once cut out the cardigan was straight forward to sew together. The book shows step by step guides with drawings to show the process. I sewed mine together entirely on the overlocker but you could easily use a normal sewing machine using a stretch or zigzag stitch. The Wendy Ward book has a page which talks through the best needle type and tension when using a normal machine for sewing jersey.
I left the pockets off because I wanted the cardigan to stay smooth lined, I was worried the pockets might bag out too much being a softer knit fabric but I'm slightly regretting my choice as you can never have to many pockets! I may go back and add them later.
The fit of the Kinder cardigan is quite boxy and loose. I had originally planned to make the longest version but when I measured the fit I realised it might swamp my petite 5 ft 1 inch stature and so opted for the medium length instead. The only other change I made to the pattern was to leave off the cuffs because the sleeve length was already too long. Having made it up the only thing I'm tempted to change is to narrow the arms. They're designed in the wider kimono style and I prefer a closer fit (mainly so I don't dip it in things like my tea). Otherwise it's a great staple pattern as I suspected and given the length options can help build a range of cardigan or lightweight jackets depending on the fabric content you choose. I can't wait to see more of other people's versions!
Thanks for reading,
Jennifer @ dontbesospoolish
Posted in Product Reviews on Tuesday the 13th November 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
Posted in Product Reviews on Sunday the 11th November 2018 by Vicki Ormerod
So, I am really excited to review this pattern for Minerva Crafts.
I love the style and appearance of Merchant & Mills Products, the fabrics, the garments, tools, everything.
They have such a strong brand identity, but I’d never made one of their patterns!
So here I am, a first for me!
When the Sewing Pattern arrived, I must say I was not disappointed.
The envelope, pattern sheet and instructions were really good quality and very clearly printed. It stated on the envelope that its an “experienced make” but the instructions are clear and there are lots of steps. Interestingly Minerva have this as, difficulty average, and I think that’s fair. But if you are looking for a quick and easy make, then this is not for you.
However, if you have some experience and are ready for a challenge then I’m sure you will really enjoy making the Clementine.
I love the way I can totally design my own garment when I make my own, don’t you?
The Clementine has a lot of top stitching, I bought the Gutermann Jeans Denim Sewing Thread Set then sewed a series of lines on my grey denim to compare. So, the next choice I had was decide which of these delicious Gutermann jeans threads to use!? I had previously bought this lovely set of jeans threads from Gutermann, so I was spoilt for choice!
Well, it was a close call, but my favourite was the dark blue, which one do you like?
The instructions are very precise even down to the tapering of the top stich lines on the back pockets. So, I carefully marked with a sharp new tailor’s chalk and my tiny stainless ruler. Don’t you just love that the pockets have a giant M, for Merchant & Mills!
Here you can see my completed back pocket complete with its navy top stitching.
I used a scrap of contrast cotton poplin from my stash for the pocket bags.
I know no-one will ever know they are there (except you guys) but I can’t resist using up my left overs, and so pretty too. Incidentally they even have French seams in the bottom (as instructed on the pattern)
I decided to keep the skirt quite long, at just below my knee. I think it’s a good choice as I think this will be great with tights and boots, as well as bare legs and sandals. I am 1.75m tall and this was plenty long enough for me at calf length however if I wanted longer it would be very easy to lengthen.
The sizing I found quite generous, I thought when I first checked out the sizing that it would be too small for me. So I first made a muslin out of an old sheet after having made some pattern adjustments (I added 2.5cm to each of the 4 pattern pieces) however this was much too big, and I actually cut my denim in the standard size 18 on the pattern. This was perfect on me and I’m a 16 in RTW. But check your size against the garment measurements.
The pattern actually recommends making a muslin or toile, not just to check for fit but also to have a run through to understand all the steps. I personally didn’t complete the muslin, just used it to check for fit, but I am a very experienced dressmaker.
All in all, this was a bit of a labour of love, and I really do “love” my new Merchant & Mills, Clementine, made in denim! Do you??
Thanks for reading,