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Product Reviews

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Prym Turning Tool Set Review

Hi I'm Julie from Sum of their Stories and I'm delighted to be back today to review the Prym Turning Tool Set.
I make a lot of bags and these little gadgets make turning the handles out really quick and easy.
I tested the set out making this denim tote bag.
In the set from Prym you get 3 different sizes of turning tool, Small, Medium and Large. A plastic tube and a pokey stick for each size.
For the denim bag handles I used the large size.
I had cut my handles out, each 2.5" or 6.5cm wide. I use denim on one side and a poly-cotton on the other side for the lining.
When using the turning tool you need to make your handles about 2 cm longer than you would normally. Then you stitch round them along one long side, across a short side and back down the other long side. You are making a pocket rather than a tube. Then you pop the plastic tube part of the turning tool inside the pocket.
You then take the wooden stick and use it to push the closed end of the pocket up into the plastic tube. With this thick denim fabric it took a little jiggling but once it gets started it pushes in pretty easily. 
As you push the wooden stick up, the tube turns itself inside out. 
Keep going until the plastic tube come out of the top, leaving the wooden stick inside. You can use the stick to poke the corners out. 
Then remove the stick and snip across the closed short end.
That's it, your tube is turned and ready to top stitch if required. 
I also tried the Prym turning tool to make some handles from a finer, slippery net fabric for another bag, For this lightweight fabric and smaller tube I used the medium sized tube turner.
Super quick and easy! 
I used to use either a safety pin or the method I'd seen online where you cut a strip of the selvage and sew that into the tube to turn it through. These turning tools work in the same way as the 'selvage strip' method but you can use them over and over. 
The 6.5cm wide denim fabric is about as thick and wide as the largest turning tool can cope with, I think I'd have struggled with anymore thickness of fabric. 
On the finer fabric the tool was amazing, so much quicker than any way I've tried before. 
I made a little drawstring bag to keep my Prym turning tool elements safe and together. I figured it would be too easy to loose one of the elements otherwise! 
To make one you'll need:
2 pieces of fabric 34cm x 9cm (13.5" x 3.5").
Thread - I used a contrast so you can see my stitches but your's will look best with a matching thread.
A length of ribbon.
A bead.
Starting and finishing 6cm (2.5") from the end, stitch round 3 sides of the fabric rectangles as shown in the photo. 
Working on each layer separately, turn and stitch a hem on each side. 
Fold those hemmed flaps in half, and stitch across to form a channel.
Thread a length of ribbon through the channels, add the bead and tie a knot to finish.
Now they all stay safely together.
These turning tools are not a sewing essential by any means but if you do turn a lot of tubes it could be a handy gadget. 
I think it would be a perfect gift for a sewing friend, you know the kind of person who already has everything! You could make them a pretty bag to keep them in too.

Fabric Remnant Bags Review

I love surprises. As a child I could be trusted with Christmas presents and as an adult I know where my birthday presents are hidden but I never go and peek at them.

Added into that my love of working with different materials and reviewing the Fabric Remnant Bags at Minerva ended up being just up my street.

For my mystery pack I got 3 smaller bags of fabric. Each of these bags was in a different colourway and each bag had different selection of fabrics in it. Each piece of fabric was roughly one metre long, so a perfect length for smaller projects like skirts and tops.

The white bag contained:

Plain white cotton – Useful for just about everything.

White eyelet cotton – this is destained to be a cami top of some sort.

Holly print cotton – this is a bit different as its Christmas themed, luckily I do tend to make a few decorations every christmas so I can see it coming in handy.

The blue bag contained:

Pale blue silky fabric – I’ll probably use this as a lining for a posh jacket.

Blue lining fabric – again this will probably end up ling something.

Cat and mouse jersey – I’d actually argue that this isn’t blue so doesn’t fit the theme of the bag however it is very cute. I’ve already used a small amount as slipper linings and I think the rest will be used to try my hand at making a baby grow maybe?

The black bag contained:

Wool suit fabric – this ended up being a skirt.

Black lace fabric – I LOVE this fabric and I used it to make a black lace top.

I decided to focus on the black bag because I wanted to see if I could make an outfit from one of the fabric bags.

Luckily the black bag contained all of the components I needed and I had the perfect pattern sat at home. I love the Newlook 6217 Pattern because it has everything you need in it to make a great capsule wardrobe. You could even extend the top pattern into a cute mini dress [wait let me just write that down in my “to make” notebook”].

Originally I wanted to make the cardigan from the lace however there wasn’t quite enough fabric so I opted for the top instead. It wasn’t too much of a hardship because both either a lace cardigan opr a lace top would have fit into my wardrobe really well.

I also decided to add a pleated ruffle to the bottom of the skirt. I’d seen something similar on pinterest so thought I’d give it a whirl. I do like it but I wish I’d thought to shorten the skirt slightly so it wasn’t so long.

The ruffle is just made up of two long rectangles which I sewed together into a circle and them pleated around the bottom of the skirt.

I did a lot of top stitching on the skirt because I love how the stitching sinks into the wool. It also helps to keep all of the seam allowances down and looking neat on the inside. For the hem I only turned it up once to avoid them looking bulky and I finished the waistband using bias binding.

The majority of the top is made on my overlocker. However if you don’t have any overlocker you could sew regular seams on a sewing machine and trim them neat or you could do a narrow french seam.

The back seam and hems were sewn on my regular machine. I tried to keep them as neat as possible so they wouldn’t be too glaring underneath the lace. The button is from my stash, I seem to own about four million odd buttons so tops like these are very useful for using them up.

All in all I really like them and I’ve ended up with a nice outfit for excellent value for money. I think bags like these are really useful for people who want to try sewing with lots of different types of fabric and learn new techniques.

Much love

Frankie @ Knits Wits Owls



My First Sewing Kit Review

I've always allowed my girls to be around my sewing and use small tool notions and leftover fabrics to experiment. I want them to be able to share in the joy I have of sewing. Of course, many things are just too dangerous for them to use at their age. Or, if I do allow them to use them, they need a lot of supervision to make it safe.
That's why I was excited to try this new kit, My First Sewing Kit. It's billed on the front of the box as "a fun way to start sewing." It contains everything a child needs to make four different projects: a photo frame, pencil case, secret diary, and cupcake handbag. The kit says it's for ages 6+, but my five-year-old tried it out, and I really feel that someone a little younger could attempt the projects with help from you.
The projects are definitely slanted towards typical girl activities. The colors, too, are mainly girly. This isn't to say that a boy couldn't enjoy trying his hand at sewing these projects, but they seem to have limited appeal in that direction. It could be a lovely gift or evena fun activity at a sleepover, with each attendee working on one of the crafts.
The individual projects are divided into their own plastic bags. They each contain the materials for that particular item. Each bag even holds its own needle, so there's no need to worry about losing one. It also means that more than one person can be working on sewing something at the same time. The box states that the needles have functional sharp points, but they really are quite dull. While you could poke it into something if you tried, your child won't be able to hurt their fingers as they work the needle through the pre-cut holes in the project foam.
My daughter immediately chose the most difficult project, the cupcake handbag. The directions aren't difficult, and there are a few drawings to help you figure it out. However, the directions do say that you should look at the color photos on the box for more help, and I would recommend that. Some aspects of the project were impossible to figure out otherwise. 
I did need to help my daughter work on this, but an older child would probably be able to work on it independently. Probably the most difficult aspect was just trying to get the cord through the needle eye. The cord kept unravelling as I attempted to shove it through. Perseverance won out, and I did get it, but my daughter never should have been able to.
Another issue we had was that each kit seems to come with the same amount of cord, and it was not enough for us to finish the handbag. My daughter did make a couple of stitching mistakes, so that may have contributed to this outcome, but I believe it wouldn't have been enough anyways.
We next made the photo frame, which was a straightforward project from beginning to end. In a lot of ways it was a glorified lacing card, but you end up with a cute little frame your child can display. I love that they get a sense of accomplishment that will help spur them on to trying new and more difficult sewing projects.
We haven't completed the other items in the kit yet, but we have been enjoying being able to sit down and work on a sewing project together that is just the right difficulty and size for a child. The projects are cute and immediately caught my daughter's attention. It's a great way to develop finger dexterity. All in all, a great little gift for the budding sewer in your life.

Hemline Deluxe Sewing Kit Review

When I saw this Deluxe Sewing Kit by Hemline at Minerva I thought it would be ideal for the Sewing Bee I’ve just set up at work.  There are a lot of members who are new to sewing and I’ve tried products by Hemline before now and never been disappointed.  I want to give my new stitchers a quality sewing experience!   
This kit consists of a large, sturdy, plastic carrying case with a handle and transparent lid.  There are lots of good quality items included in the case, 15 different products in total, which arrive well packed encased in bubble wrap and an outer cardboard box. 
There is also a handy, internal shaped lift out tray which can hold small items such as buttons, needles and other sundries and which stops them becoming lost in the bottom of the box. 
There is plenty of room inside the sewing box to hold all kinds of equipment in addition to those included and even space left over for a small craft project. 
Included in the basic kit is everything you would need to start out in sewing.  They are all good quality items too.  I’ll go through them all individually. 
A pair of dressmaking shears with shaped handles is included – they are a basic model but do cut cloth well and are fit for purpose.  There are also two large 1000 m reels of cotton in black and white – both useful colours which will last for some time.
Needles in the kit include a set of various sizes of hand sewing needles, handily contained in a round dispenser.  There are also some quality German made Klasse sewing machine needles in different sizes.  Up to now, the hand needles have been more than useful in the Sewing Bee at work and the machine needles will fit our two new sewing machines and no doubt be in use soon.  Two needle threaders are included in the box too – these are sturdy with plastic grips and will last. 
Also included in the kit is a seam ripper – this came in very handy the first time I opened the box – I have some novice stitchers in the Bee and it was in use straightaway!
In the way of pins, there is a set of 40 berry headed ones on a circular card and also a small plastic box of economy straight pins.  I prefer the berry headed variety myself but I can see the straight would be useful for small projects. 
I don’t normally use a thimble, but there is a strong one in the box if you need one.  I was surprised to also find some tailor’s chalk included in the kit as it’s something I wouldn’t expect a beginner to use – this comes in white in a handy plastic casing, so your fingers grip it well and it doesn’t become messy. 
There is a small packet of buttons in various sizes – useful as spares – 5 shirt buttons and 5 larger in white – all useful if you should be short of one and are things you’d expect to see in a sewing box.  Other useful items included are a box of safety pins in different sizes – not what you’d use in sewing but handy for a quick and hasty repair anytime.  Lastly, there’s a good quality tape measure in both metric and inches.   
This is one of the first projects completed by a member of my Sewing Bee – a handy zip topped bag - making good use of the Sewing Kit. 
If you are new to sewing, like my Sewing Bee members, and in need of a set of basic supplies which won’t let you down, then this Sewing Kit is definitely for you.
Thanks for reading,

Review of Merchant & Mills: The Workbook

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.


French Curve Ruler Review

Today my post is about French Curve Rulers. I’ve had different curved rulers along my sewing life. The first one was a flexible curve ruler which I really did not dominate.
After that I purchased a stiff, wooden french ruler, which was ok, but lacked a few curves, so I always had to draw freehand.
My third ruler was a real french curve ruler, made of transparent methacrylate, which I really used because it has loads of curves, and you can practically draw every curve of the pattern with that ruler.
I saw this fantastic french curve ruler with grading rule, which makes this ruler exceptional. I was really curious about it because I had never used a french curve with grading rule, and my suspicion was that this was going to make my life easier. This ruler is the Sew Easy French Curve with grading rule.
As you can see on the wrapping of the ruler, this french curve is perfect for designing, drafting and grading patterns, and adding seam allowances to block patterns. This last part made my eyes blink, as I did not think about it until I read it on the wrapping.
You have clear instructions and drawings, on how to use it.
Designing Patterns: The first instructions you get is on how to use the ruler to design your patterns, which is basic, and if it’s your first time using this kind of ruler, not that obvious. There are ideas on how to place the ruler to draw different parts of the pattern with diverse shapes, such as the neckline curves, or the waistline.
Seam Allowance: The second recommended use is to add seam allowances. You can easily add seam allowances to any part of the patterns as there is a guide around the straight sides of the ruler, as well as the curved sides of the ruler. This is really practical, as you can draw perfect curved seam allowances, which is difficult with a regular ruler.
There are guides marked to add 6mm, 12mm and 15mm seam allowances. You just have to position the line mark with the seam allowances you want outside the edge of the pattern, and start drawing. Once the curve change, you keep on moving the ruler to match the pattern curve, and keep on drawing the seam allowance.
Grading Patterns: This ruler allows you to grade patterns easily. You use it the same way as above, position the line make with the required grading measurement to the edge of the pattern, so this measurement extends pas the edge of the pattern, and you start drawing.
Pattern alterations: In the instructions you have clear ideas on how to alter your patterns easily, by increasing or decreasing shoulder lines, armholes, waistlines; different parts of your pattern according to your needs.
Fashion Ideas: And last but not least, there are a few fashion ideas for your pattern designing, which are always welcoming and helpful.
And this is all I learned about this french ruler! As I said, it has improved my pattern making, grading and adding seam allowances is much easier now!

Furry Sewing Goodness!

Time for some furry goodness today!
I have kindly been given this wonderful little pink Bear Sewing Kit to try out by Minerva Crafts and who could resist that face! Having previous made Nanu The Snail from the Minicraft series I thought it would be great to try another creature and see how the construction and pieces compare. Would it be the Rolls Royce of bear kits? Or a ‘Furrari’ if you will…
The bear comes from a kit make by Minicraft Toy Kits, who have a whole host of lovely cuddlies to choose from. This fella is part of their ‘Cuddle Time Bear’ range and you have the option of blue, pink, green, or the traditional bear shades ‘chestnut and honey’. I initially wondered whether I was properly ‘koala-fied’ to undertake this task but you’ll just have to ‘bear’ with me…… (I heard you all collectively sigh but you’ll have to grin and bear it).
The kit contains all pre-cut pieces of fabric and eye parts together with instructions so that you can get making the bear right away. The only thing you need for this product is a needle, thread and some toy stuffing which can be bought separately. The stuffing goes a long way trust me!

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. 
The last few steps are to hand sew the gaps where you stuffed the bear with a ladder stitch. This gets hidden nicely in the fur and keeps him securely together. The final touch – his nose!

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….
Thanks for reading,

Create-a-Pincushion Kit Review

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


1st Cross Stitch Kit Review

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.

Jenny x



Merchant & Mills ‘Made in Denim’ Heroine Jeans Pattern Review

On seeing the packaging for the Heroine Jeans Pattern, it was love at first sight! The photo of the jeans on the cover evokes, for me, a 1940s ‘Rosie the Riveter’ type of image. These are jeans traditionally designed for work!
The jeans are high-waisted, loose-fitted, very practical and with generous turn-ups (like jeans should be!) When I received the pattern from Minerva, I immediately began to source a heavier weight denim (despite the UK heatwave) and found this great red-backed denim to add a pop of colour to the turn-up. For the top-stitching I used the traditional yellow top-stitching thread in keeping with the retro feel and used navy blue regular sewing thread in my bobbin (your sewing machine will thank you for it!) If your machine cannot handle the top-stitching thread, you can thread two regular threads through your needle instead to give a similar effect. 
I’m a pattern tracer, so I carefully traced each piece so that I can reuse the pattern in the future. According to the pattern’s sizing chart, I was in a different size bracket based on the waist and hip measurements so I decided to make the 10 waist and grade out to a 12 hips and back into a 10 leg again. After making the jeans (I didn’t have time to toile them), I realise that I could have got away with making the size 10 as the jeans are generous in the hips and legs. When I make them again, I’ll definitely make a straight 10. Unlike other independent patterns, the pattern comes with three sheets of instructions (rather than a booklet) and, although this might appear minimal at first glance, they are detailed and easy to follow. The pattern piece even includes the pocket decoration and the instructions tell you how to sew the “M” shaped detail on the pockets including where to start and in which direction to sew each line. I was really impressed with the illustrations, as they are incredibly detailed and helpful. 
This is not the first pair of jeans that I have made: I have made two pairs of the Closet Case Patterns Ginger skinny jeans before – the first was a toile of the second pair. Maybe it is because I have already have experience of making jeans, but the Heroines seemed easier and quicker to make. I made these in a few sessions, and I would estimate that they took around 8-10 hours to make. I think that the pattern cuts out some of the more complicated elements of jeans making to give you a pair of jeans that look great without getting bogged down with run and fell seams, for example. I was lucky enough to be able to have three machines set up (I’ve just invested in a new machine) so that one could be for the top-stitching (with a top-stitching needle), whilst the other did the regular stitching (with a jeans needle). I also used my overlocker to finish the seams, but you can finish these with a zigzag stitch on a regular machine, before top-stitching. As they are a looser fit jean, the only real fitting is to the waist as this is the element that cinches everything in. And the length: I just cut a couple of inches off the bottom before hemming, as I’m only 5’2”. 
Although the pattern doesn’t require it, I added rivets to the outer corner of the front and ticket pockets as I already had these in my stash. The only part that I really found tricky was the buttonhole and this has nothing to do with the pattern (and everything to do with me getting used to a new machine!) In the end, I hand sewed around the buttonhole in yellow thread to neaten it up. Jeans making is great for using up old woven fabric cut-offs too – my pockets are lined with Cotton and Steel fried egg patterned cotton!
Overall, I am really pleased with this jeans pattern. My only regret is that I wish I’d made a straight 10 to take out some of the bagginess in the hip and upper leg. I think they work well in a heavier weight denim and know that they will get a lot of wear in the colder months. The generous turn-up means that you can have fun with a contrast lining and the top-stitching thread can also be customised to add a pop of colour. The pattern is really great. I found the instructions to be well written and well illustrated, making them easy-to-follow; I don’t recall having any head-scratching moments whilst making the Heroines. Because of this (and the minimal fitting involved) I would definitely recommend this pattern for experienced intermediate sewists looking to make their first pair of jeans. 
Dani blogs at pocketortwo and can be found on Instagram @pocketortwo.

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