**PLEASE NOTE THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED**
Many, many months ago I was sent three books of my choice to review from Search Press, and I have finally gotten around to posting a review of the first book: ‘Half Yard Heaven’ by Debbie Shore, which I am told has been one of Search Press’s best sellers of 2014.
As its title suggests, the principle of the book is putting to good use leftover scraps of fabric, or, as the author points out, ‘the fabric could equally as well come from an old tshirt, duvet cover or tablecloth as from a fabric store’. Using up left-over pieces of fabric is a very appealing prospect, as I’m sure it would be to lots of you who also sew and often find yourselves with the odd half metre left over – too pretty to throw away, but too small to use.
The visual style of the book is very Cath Kidston inspired – florals, polka dots and stripes abound in pretty pastel colours. The photography is good. Step by step instructions are accompanied by clear photographs, and the layout is well designed and not too fussy or overcrowded.
The projects vary in appeal, at least to me! I really liked the Sewing Machine Dust Cover, so I made it, and found it was easy to make, with good, clear, customisable instructions. There are other projects that I could see myself making as gifts for other people. The projects that stand out to me are the slippers, the child’s apron, the owl and the pussycat stuffed toys, the chicken doorstop and the padded coat hanger.
I’ll admit that there are some projects in this book that make me yawn, because they’re the sort of project that appears in every crafty sewing book ever, such as glasses case, make up bag, tote bag, apron etc. But then if you only owned this one book, that would be a good thing, and a very worthwhile way to spend £9.99! The peg bag and the coat hanger tidy are both much too small to be of any practical use, you would need more than half a yard to make either of these worthwhile!
The string of hearts has got that very home-made, lumpy, bumpy, imperfect kind of look – a look which I personally try to avoid in the things I make, and therefore it doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. The most risible project, however, has to be the wet-wipe sachet cover:
Every parent or pet owner knows how useful wet wipes can be when you are out and about for cleaning sticky fingers or muddy paws! So why not pop the sachet inside one of these easy-to-make covers and transform it into a stylish accessory? (20)
Please make it stop. My eyes are about to roll out of my head.
Surprisingly (and thankfully), there is no bunting project to be seen… that’s because Debbie Shore has published AN ENTIRE BOOK about bunting, called: ‘Sew Bunting’. As if you need a whole book about sewing bunting! Having said that, I once scoffed at Aileen for having several soup recipe books. I said to her something along the lines of “As if you need a whole book of soup recipes!!! Anyone can make soup!” Then I started leafing through one of them, and suddenly I was rather impressed by the range and inventiveness of the recipes within, and I even went so far as to order a copy of the very same book for myself. So, call me a hypocrite if you like. Perhaps there is a whole world of bunting techniques and inspiration that truly necessitates a book dedicated to the subject.
Anyway – back to the good points of this book! It is choc-full of inspiration for making gifts with small pieces of fabric, and all the projects are suitable for a beginner. Debbie writes in the introduction:
All the projects in this book are designed to be easy to make, even if you are a complete beginner, and can be created in just a few hours for very little money (8)
And the blurb claims ‘You will not fail to find something in this book to delight and inspire you’, and, reader, I cannot disagree with that. Here is the sewing machine dust cover that I made with the help of this book:
I asked my daughter for a critical, unbiased review of this book, and this is what she said: “I like the pictures and all the writing. There’s nothing I don’t like about this book.” So there you have it – the wise words of my four year old daughter.
If this book is the kind of book that appeals to you, or you know of someone who might like it, then you have come to the right place because I am giving my review copy away! The competition is open to anyone, anywhere in the world and will close on Friday 4th July at 12 noon UK time. All you have to do to win is to tell me what your favourite soup is.
The by now legendary meet-up that occurred on June 14th 2014 at the Minerva Crafts Centre in Darwen has been thoroughly documented through a variety of social media platforms, and there is not much more I can say about it that hasn’t already been said…but I’m still going to tell you a bit about my day, and of course, show you in more detail the dress I made for the evening do! On the big day, I awoke at 4am, and I confess I was simultaneously excited and nervous about the day ahead, so instead of getting up at 6am as planned, I got up at 04:30am knowing I could then take my time and be less stressed about how long it would take me to apply my eyeliner. No, seriously.
I arrived in Darwen just after 8am, and was able to check into the hotel mega-early, which was great. I donned my most recent Minerva make – my fifties-style halter neck dress – and got a taxi over to the wonder that is the Minerva Crafts Centre, grabbed some Bucks Fizz, and got stuck into a crochet workshop which was fun. Winnie (of Scruffy Badger fame) and I both chose the same wool for our bags – we were drawn to the sparkly!
The crochet workshop ended just as Karen’s presentation began, so I had a good seat for that. It was excellent – well done Karen – a very nerve-wracking thing to do! Karen wanted to find out who the Queen of Sewing might be – if she even exists. She asked us to all raise our hands and then she asked a series of questions about our usual sewing habits – for example ‘Have you ever sewn over pins?’ or ‘Have you ever used your fabric shears to cut paper?’. If our answer to any of these questions was ‘yes’, we had to put our hands down. After three or four questions, the only person who still had their hand up was Amy (kudos!) – can you believe she has never skipped making a muslin?!?! Impressive :-)
After that I milled around and chatted to loads of people – some of whom I had met before but a lot of new people too. There were so many people to chat to that I could barely concentrate on what I might like to buy – plus I was totally overwhelmed by choice! I got to go into the warehouse and I gave a short interview where I became embarrassingly nervous, and I took a few photos of two of the aisles. If you can believe it, there was even more than what is pictured here!
Elisalex and Victoria, two-thirds of the pattern company By Hand London, were there and they gave a presentation talking about what it’s like to work in their business, and how they got into it in the first place. It was really fascinating and inspiring. I particularly enjoyed their reasons for working: ‘I work because I love this shit’:
I got to have a lovely talk to Claire from Eliza M and Simple Sew patterns, which was nice after so much emailing back and forth when I did the Brigitte dress sewalong. I did not leave her pattern stand empty-handed…so watch out for some more fabulous frocks soon!
Anyway, what I’m really here to show you is the dress I made for the evening dinner. As you may know from my ‘teaser’ post, I chose a gorgeous John Kaldor printed ramie – not the obvious choice for evening wear, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make something with that print: it was love at first sight! I chose a Simplicity Cynthia Rowley pattern: 1801, and went for the sleeveless, maxi version.
Once I had made my toile, which revealed I needed to cut a larger size, the sewing was straightforward. I didn’t bother to pattern match except for the centre front bodice seam – I spent ages lining up the two halves of that flower! It didn’t seem worth matching the rest because the gathering would have thrown any matching out of line anyway. I used French seams pretty much everywhere, apart from the side seam which has the zip, which in the end I overlocked in red. My invisible zip went in really well – you can see a tiny peek of it at the midriff band where there are several layers of fabric involved, but I’m happy with it.
It was only when I’d almost finished the dress that I realised it was going to be a bit too short, especially as I wanted to wear high heels with it. Luckily I had just under half a metre of fabric left, and that allowed me to cut two extra panels for the bottom of the dress which I made sure I pattern-matched exactly to make them less noticeable.
The bold print means that some of the details of the dress are lost: it has separate shoulder yokes and an upper back yoke, and the bodice pieces gather into these yokes at the top and then also gather into the midriff band at the bottom. It would look lovely in a solid colour and I’ll definitely be making another of these at some point.
Initially I was worried that I was going to feel underdressed for this special occasion, but having spent the day wearing a boned, halter-neck dress with a full petticoat underneath, I was relieved to change into something which felt effortlessly glamorous but totally comfortable for the evening.
It was so nice to see what the other bloggers had made too: to be amongst such a talented bunch of people, and to see how everyone managed to express their own unique sense of style. I was sitting on a table with Amy, Emmie, Elisalex and Victoria, Vicki of Minerva and Marie, and it was great to spend some more time with these ladies.
The lovely thing about this meet-up was that it really was a full weekend – there was no leaving early to get the train back – in fact we were all out until 1am and came back to the hotel all together, and many of us met again at breakfast the following day. It was an event full of fantastic opportunities: the opportunity to make such a special dress, to spend time with fellow sewing enthusiasts, to meet new people, to dance the night away, to travel to new places! Thank you, Minerva, for an unforgettable weekend!
I finished my Deer and Doe Belladone dress! I started making it this time last week and spent most of Friday on it, tracing the pattern, making the toile, fitting it and cutting the fabric. I started to get the bodice sewn up the same day, but the rest I’ve been finishing off throughout the week in a couple of naptime slots and a few evenings.
The fabric is an African wax print I picked up in Fancy Fabrics on Goldhawk Road, at Rachel’s epic #NYLon2014 meet-up in May. I love the stars and the bright colours – I couldn’t resist the hot pink! The price was pretty good too: 6 yards for £15, and the fabric is 44″ wide. KERCHING! Plenty left over to make the whole family some matching clothes… ;-)
I bought the hot pink bias binding at another (mini) sewing meet-up – this one in Leeds which is OMGAWESOME for fabric shopping (and shopping in general). I bought 10m of the stuff for £3, and used 8.5m of it for this dress! I plan to shop in Leeds more often from now on…and meet up with the Northern sewing posse! And perhaps return to Mrs Atha’s and eat some more of their delicious cake mmmmmmmmmm caaaaaaakkkee….
Anyway. The zip!!! Ah, the zip! This is my first exposed zip. I wanted to do it to make the back of the dress EVEN MORE EXCITING. I bought this at the Minerva Crafts sewing meet-up last weekend (which was FABULOUS), and it was one of those zip-on-a-roll-types (more new territory for me). You buy 50cm at a time and then cut it to your desired length. I was told to be careful not to slide the zipper too far up or down or I’d lose the pull, but without even thinking when I got it home I merrily pulled it right up to the top… and off the end. Oh, the japes I get up to in order to provide interesting reading content for you all! After rather a lot of fiddling about I managed to get the thing back on and after that I was very careful not to repeat my mistake.
So the main elements of this dress all came from socialising – the pattern from my dear friend Aileen, the fabric from the London meet-up, the binding from the Leeds meet-up and the zip from the Minerva meet-up! And the thread, specifically the pink thread, came from my Gran’s sewing stuff which I inherited last year, and it’s worth a photo simply because of its name:
Anyway, onto the construction! I must admit, I hardly followed the instructions at all. I came across a few criticisms of the instructions but I’m afraid I can neither agree nor disagree because I basically ignored them: the construction of this dress is simple to me. The cut-out back is totally straightforward and is assembled exactly how you’d think. The fact that the dress isn’t lined and that all the raw edges can be bound is what makes it simple. I bias bound everything in sight as I really wanted to feature the pink! I added flat piping at the waistband, I bound the edges of the pockets and the hem, and on the inside I bias bound the pocket bags and the waistband.
I take great pride in making my dresses look as nice as possible on the inside as well as on the outside. My seams are all turned and stitched on the inside because I couldn’t be bothered rethreading my overlocker (ha!), except for the centre back seam which is pinked because by the time I had sewn the invisible zip in (on?!) there wasn’t much choice! I bias bound the ends of the zip so that they wouldn’t rub against my skin.
I’m glad I’ve had my hair all cut off now – it helps show off the back of this dress!
I also love an excuse to wear these frankly RIDICULOUS shoes. Even if it was just for the photos.
I think I may wear this dress (and shoes!) to my sister-in-law’s hen do – the evening bit – as we’re off to a Take That tribute band party! I totally dissed Take That at the time: I was an Indie girl, and my heart will always belong to Jarvis. I didn’t really like boy bands, but I guess with age comes nostalgia and now I’m the ripe old age of 33(!!) I don’t mind admitting that Take That were a pretty good example of a pop group, and the song ‘Never Forget’ reminds me of uni nights out with the 6 other girls I lived with :-) So yeah, I think this dress is fun enough to wear to that! The shoes may cripple me though, so I’ll have to get drunk to numb the pain!
I’m currently working on making my first ever Belladone dress, by the very chic French pattern company Deer & Doe. Yes, I am super-late to the party, but what of it? I loved this pattern when it first came out, and have been wanting to make it for quite some time, but I never seemed to get around to buying it.
Well, this time I didn’t need to buy the pattern, because my dear friend and general sewing enabler Aileen (and co-founder of this blog under the pseudonym of Julia Bennett) sent me the pattern in the post! Thank you Aileen :-) In fact almost everything about this dress was Aileeen’s idea: I bought the fabric and she sent me the pattern, and she suggested using hot pink bias binding. That girl knows me so well!
Anyway…the dress isn’t quite finished yet, but I wanted to show you some of my favourite Belladones that kept on tempting me to make my own. The sewing community is full of so much inspiration and creativity, and it’s nice to recognise that from time to time by writing about what other people have made rather than about what you have made!
So, in no particular order, here are 7 of my favourite Belladone dresses. I’m only showing the backs of them, because that’s the best feature of the pattern in my opinion! It does feel a bit odd to be posting photos of other people’s backs…but I sought everyone’s permission first!
First up is Jo’s ‘Brighton Belladone’ - (The Amazing Adventures of Taracat) – I love this classic floral with the black contrast, and I like how Jo chose to use exposed bias binding on the upper edge of the lower back bodice pieces, too.
Amanda’s black and white polka dot Belladone - (Bimble and Pimble) – An absolutely classic choice of fabric here…might I even say ‘totally rad’!
Lizzie’s first of three Belladones (Busy Lizzie in Brizzy) – I love the bold colours of the fabric and the contrast bias-binding in this version, and the piped waistband!
Rachel’s reflective Belladone, aka ‘The Tron Dress’ (My Messings) - Rachel made this dress with reflective bias binding trim and used it everywhere she possibly could, for a practical but super-cute cycling dress! Click through to her post to see how it looks in artificial light for the full reflective glory!
Lynne’s ‘Lagoon’ Chambray Belladone (Ozzy Blackbeard) – a great example of how good this dress looks in a solid colour without contrast binding on the raw edges.
Lauren’s stripy Belladone (Lladybird) – I love how Lauren has played around with the stripe placement on this dress to get really cool effects!
And, last but by no means least, Sonja’s lace Belladone (Ginger Makes) – the fabric choice makes this a wonderful special occasion dress – very elegant!
And that’s my top 7! What beauty, what talent, what inspiration! I don’t know how well my version will turn out yet – hopefully it will look good! I’ll be back later in the week to show you! If you’ve made a Belladone and you have a link to it, feel free to post it below in the comments so I can have a nosy at it!
Bye for now!
In case you haven’t already heard, Minerva Crafts are hosting a meet-up on Saturday 14th June, and some of the bloggers from the network are going to be there (including me). We’ve been asked to make something special to be revealed on the day, so that’s what I am currently working on… and I don’t mind admitting that I am relieved to not have to reveal my garment to you just yet, as I haven’t actually started making it! I am very last minute this month!
My project is going to be a floral print dress made with ramie. No big surprises there, as dresses are my preferred thing to sew (and wear), and I’m partial to floral prints.
The fabric I am using is a John Kaldor ramie. I’ve never sewn with ramie before, so first of all I consulted my ‘Fabric for Fashion: Swatch Book’ by Clive Hallett and Amanda Johnston. There is a swatch of ramie and a description as follows: ‘Ramie is an ecologically sustainable plant that has an exceptionally long fibre-producing lifespan and can be harvested up to six times a year. It is a strong fibre with a high tensile strength and holds its shape well, although it tends to wrinkle easily and can be brittle. It shares several of the visual characteristics of linen and has been used as a less expensive alternative.’
I have another reference book about fabrics called ‘The Fabric Selector’ by Dana Willard, and this is what that book has to say about ramie: ‘Ramie is made from plant fibres that are native to Eastern Asia. It is soft, cool, eco-friendly and comfortable to wear, but just like linen, can wrinkle excessively and is costly to produce.’
The thing I love most about this fabric is the print – a large scale floral with a red, cream and brown colour scheme. The saddest thing about this fabric is that Minerva have now sold out of it. I snaffled the last of the bolt – lucky for me, but not so lucky for anyone who wants some for themselves!
The pattern I’m going to use is a Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity pattern – 1801. I’m hoping to make the maxi version of this dress, but as yet I haven’t cut the fabric so I don’t know for sure that I’ll be able to squeeze it out of the length that I have. Although I haven’t started making the dress yet, I have already made a toile, which was too small, so I traced the bigger size ready to start sewing this week.
When I made my toile I didn’t just baste as normal, I made the bodice as if it were the final garment (minus the arm facings) – I even French –seamed it all! So I’m feeling pretty confident about sewing this up in a short space of time, and confident about the fit, too. Wish me luck!
Howdy partners. Here I am to show you this month’s project for the Minerva Blogging Network. Hopefully blogging will distract me from the call of the Rocky Road that Little Tweedie and I made this morning…
This month I wanted to make something fancy-pants, something a bit more formal to wear for a special occasion, but this is me, so it pretty much had to involve a fun print. I have some hen parties and weddings on the horizon, and although I have an epic selection of RTW party dresses from back in the day when I had more money and didn’t sew, I’ve already worn all of those and I want to be sporting me-made pretties. It feels weird to me now to wear an entirely shop-bought outfit (and I feel guilty about it too!).
I have a Vivien of Holloway red polka dot halter-neck dress that I have worn on several occasions (including a dear friend’s wedding) and I truly love it. One evening, whilst browsing through Minerva’s impressive collection of fabrics (seriously, thousands of fabrics – choosing takes me hours!), I came across some royal blue dressmaking fabric with large white polka dots, and the idea of replicating the Vivien of Holloway dress was born. I don’t think they actually stock this fabric any more, I think I may have got the last of it!
I would now need a halter-neck, full-skirted, fifties-style dress pattern: enter Simplicity ‘Amazing Fit’ 1606. I was thrilled to find this because I really like the Amazing Fit patterns and the way you can customise the fit without too much of a headache. I’m getting better at fitting all the time, thanks to my pattern drafting course, but if there’s an easier route, I sure as hell don’t mind taking it!
I made a toile a size smaller than usual and a cup size smaller too, and found I needed to let it out a bit at the waist, so I tapered the side seams from the 1″ included down to 5/8″ at the waist and that was enough to get a good fit.
I used Rigilene boning for four of the bodice seams as instructed. I’ve used this a lot on my pattern cutting course with various toiles of corsets etc so it was nothing new to me and it is so easy to handle. It only provides light support, especially as with this dress it’s only used on the side front and side back seams, but I planned on wearing a halter-neck bra under this dress so it was just enough to give a bit of extra definition and a nice shape. You can see on the photo below how it still curves towards my body even if I’m leaning back!
I used horsehair braid for the skirt hem. I machined it to the bottom edge of the hem and turned this in, and then hand-stitched the top of the braid into place so that no stitching can be seen from the outside of the dress. Surprisingly, I didn’t need to gather it up that much at the top (perhaps because this dress is not a full circle skirt). I so very, very rarely hand-stitch a hem, but a machined hem would have looked ridiculous with the horsehair braid, especially with it being so deep. Ideally I would have used white braid, but black is what I had so black is what I used!
I did a centred zip at the back but I really wish I’d done a lapped zip instead or my usual concealed zip. It doesn’t look that great, but having said that it doesn’t look so bad that I could be bothered to unpick it! I usually strive for perfection, but this time I guess I was in too much of a hurry to finish the dress.
The fabric is, if memory serves, a polyester rather than a cotton, and it has a beautiful drape and is nice and soft, much nicer than my Vivien of Holloway dress which seems to be made out a quilting cotton. In the photos I’m also wearing a fifties-style tulle petticoat for extra fouff! I would also like to either make a white bow belt using Tilly’s tutorial, or get one of those white vintage-style wide elasticated belts with the metal clasps at the front. Then a nice white hat or fascinator, a little clutch bag, and I’m ready for a wedding!
Thanks once again to Minerva for enabling my dress dreams to come true!
Hi hi! Finally I get to show you my finished Brigitte dress! Here it is on Delilah, my dressmaker’s dummy:
And here I am wearing it:
And here are some of your versions:
Wow, what a beautiful set of dresses! Well done everyone :-)
I want to say a big thank you to Simple Sew and to Love Sewing for asking me to run this sewalong – I’ve really enjoyed it and I hope you have too.