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The Fabric Selector by Dana Willard – Review

July 14, 2014

‘The Fabric Selector’ by Dana Willard is the second book kindly sent to me for review by Search Press, and what a book it is!  This is a compact reference book which provides information about a vast range of different fabric types, and about different notions, tools and trimmings.

The Fabric Selector by Dana Willard

The Fabric Selector by Dana Willard

This book is so useful, and so interesting, that I cannot part with it, so there is no giveaway this time.  It’s a keeper.  It is essential for a sewing enthusiast who likes to work with a wide range of fabrics, or at least who is interested in a wide range of fabrics.  It’s a really comprehensive guide and is well suited to a sewing geek like me.  I began to flick through the book and ended up almost reading it in full – I couldn’t help but be drawn in by fascinating facts and within ten minutes I learnt so much!

Here are a few (random) things I learnt in that ten minutes.  Maybe you readers already know these particular things, but I’ll bet there’s still plenty you could learn from this book if you bought it because it is crammed full of information!

  • In the section about fasteners, ‘hook and loop’ is listed.  I wondered what this was, and found out that it is more commonly known by its trademark name, ‘Velcro’ (p190)
  • We make ‘toiles’ or ‘muslins’, but we use neither ‘toile’ (a upholstery-weight white printed fabric with red or blue images of vintage farm scenes and people) nor ‘muslin’ (a lightweight gauze).  In the UK we use ‘Calico’ – a plain woven cotton fabric, but in the US, Calico is a printed fabric with very small flowers, stars or miniature shapes (p174).  Confusing, non?
  • Challis is pronounced ‘Shall-ee’ (p92).  I have a French degree and never even realised that so I hang my head in shame.
  • There’s such a thing as ‘Seersucker Thursday': every June, US senators pay homage to the southern seersucker style by donning suits made from this lightweight summer fabric.  Known as ‘Seersucker Thursday’, the tradition started in 1966 when Senator Trent Lott from Mississippi wanted to bring some southern charm to the Senate (p44)
  • There is a difference between ‘interlock’ and ‘double knit': Interlock is a double-sided fabric but not as thick and with more stretch (p141)

The book contains close-up photos of all the different types of fabrics, but of course it does fall down in comparison to books such as ‘Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book’ by Clive Hallett (which I own) due to its lack of tangible swatches.  However, the Clive Hallett book is currently listed on Amazon for £39, whereas the RRP for this book is only £12.99, and I really think that is an absolute steal given the wealth of information it contains.

An example of one of the pages in the book.

An example of one of the pages in the book.

The ‘Selecting Fabrics’ section is split into five parts: woven fabrics, knit fabrics, speciality fabrics, blended fabrics and patterned fabrics.  Each fabric type has a photograph, a description, a list of its properties, tips for working with it and tips for caring for it (laundering etc), plus the occasional ‘Did You Know…?’ or ‘Handy Hints’ bit of information.

The ‘Notions’ section contains a wealth of information about applique, lace, trims, ribbons, buttons, fasteners, buckles, elastic, zips and thread.  The ‘Tools’ section contains information on pattern and planning tools, marking tools, measuring tools, cutting tools, sewing tools, pressing tools, machine presser feet and machine needles.

Basically, I want to conclude that this book is amazing and you all need a copy of it THIS INSTANT.  Over and out.

Cheeky giveaway – Winner!

July 11, 2014

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for Jiffy 1356 and Simplicity 2404, two patterns kindly sent to me by Simplicity in honour of the vintage Simplicity 8203 pattern which was used to make the dress worn in this famous photograph:

'Tennis Girl' wearing Simplicity 8203

‘Tennis Girl’ wearing Simplicity 8203

The original dress and racquet were sold at auction on Saturday 5th July 2014 for a whopping £15,500!  Unbelievable!

Anyway, to pick a winner for each pattern, I allocated each entrant a number and used a random number generator to pick for each pattern.


So, the winner of my giveaway for Jiffy 1356 is Simona!

And the winner of Simplicity 2404 is Stitched Up Sam!

Congratulations to both of you! Sam – please email me your address to  Simona – I already have your postal address!

Will you both be making a plain white, mini version of the dress do you think, to recreate the tennis girl look?!  I think I probably already know the answer to that question ;-)

Thanks again to Simplicity and to Conker Communications for providing the patterns.

Something cheeky up for grabs!

July 5, 2014

Athena Tennis Dress


I interrupt normal service to bring you pictures of bums.  I’m sure many of you will have seen the above ‘Tennis Girl’ image before, but did you know that the white tennis dress worn by the model was home-made using a Simplicity pattern?  The pattern was Simplicity 8203.

Simplicity 8203 - View 4

Simplicity 8203 – View 4

The ‘Tennis Girl’ herself was 18-year old Fiona Butler, but both the dress and the tennis racquet belonged to her friend Carol Knotts, who had made the dress for herself using the Simplicity pattern.  Fiona asked her friend if she could borrow the dress and the racquet in order to pose for the photograph, taken in 1976, by Martin Elliot, Fiona’s boyfriend at the time.  The photograph first appeared in a Silver Jubilee calendar in 1977, and then went into widespread publication in 1978, when it sold more than two million copies worldwide.  The ‘Tennis Girl’ shot has been recreated by a series of household names over the years – from pop princess Kylie Minogue…

Kylie Minogue

Kylie Minogue

…to Alan Carr…
Alan Carr

Alan Carr

…to Pat Cash:
Pat Cash

Pat Cash

…to Keith Lemon:
Keith Lemon

Keith Lemon

Both the dress and the racquet used in the iconic photograph are set to be auctioned today, Saturday 5th July 2014, the day of the Wimbledon women’s single championships, for a reported £1,000-£2,000 price tag.

Although the original pattern is now out of print, Simplicity have released a number of similar styles over the year, such as the simple to sew Jiffy 1356 pattern, the ‘Amazing Fit’ Simplicity 2404, and Burda’s 6918 pinafore summer dress.  Simplicity have very kindly sent me the first two of these patterns to give away to one of our readers!

Jiffy 1356

Jiffy 1356

I’m pretty intrigued by this pattern – it looks like fun to make! It’s a completely reversible wrap dress with no closures to sew.  I really like the version shown on the pattern envelope.  The copy I have been given is H5 size (US 6-14, EURO 32-40, FR 34-42).

I also have the Simplicity ‘Amazing Fit’ 2404 up for grabs.

Simplicity 2404

Simplicity 2404

Again this is size H5 (US 6-14, EURO 32-40, FR 34-42).  The pattern envelope doesn’t sell this dress too well, but look at the line drawings at the bottom and you’ll see what a lovely design it is!

If you would like to win one of the patterns, please leave me a comment below, telling me which one you like best.  Please make sure you enter your email address.  I’ll post to anyone anywhere in the world.  You’ve got just under a week to enter – until Friday 11th July at 12 noon UK time.  I’ll pick a winner at random and announce it shortly after.

If you want to recreate the ‘Tennis Girl’ look with either of these patterns, you’ll have to shorten them considerably!  Thankfully, Simplicity didn’t demand that I recreate the look in order to give away the patterns!

Half Yard Heaven by Debbie Shore – Winner

July 4, 2014

Thanks to everyone who entered our giveaway for the copy of Half Yard Heaven by Debbie Shore.  The winner was…


Congratulations Jane Shore!  I shall email you to get your postal address.  Thanks to Search Press for providing the book.

If you didn’t win, watch this space as there will be another giveaway tomorrow… ;-)

Spring Sewing Swap 2014

July 3, 2014

I signed up for Kerry’s annual Spring Sewing Swap again this year – I mean, who doesn’t love a bit of guilt-free fabric shopping, and also receiving sewing parcels in the post?  Not to mention getting to know some other bloggers!

I was paired with Annika of Naeh Connection, and she was much more organised than I am.  She contacted me early on, and sent me my parcel with loads of time to spare.  I bought Annika’s main thing at the Minerva Crafts meet-up, but didn’t get round to actually posting it until the last minute – but thankfully just in time for the deadline.

From Annika’s blog I could see she likes sewing for her children (who are a similar age to mine), and she likes sewing with jersey for herself.  She likes bright, colourful prints and geometric designs.  At the Minerva meet-up I was so pleased to find some lovely geometric-print jersey, and bought 1.5m of it which should hopefully be enough for Annika to make a top for herself or something for one of her children.  The fabric was the main thing, but I threw in a few extras, of course!

Annika sent me a total winner of a parcel…

Spring Sewing Swap - my parcel from Annika

Spring Sewing Swap – my parcel from Annika

1.3m of gorgeous polka dot Georgette with co-ordinating thread, buttons, zip and trim, and a lovely card.  Thanks so much, Annika, I love it!  Such a happy colour and of course I’m always going to love polka dots :-)  This might end up as a dress for Little Tweedie…watch this space!

I also sent Kerry a little something to say thanks for hosting the swap.  I hope both recipients of my parcels were happy.  I’ll be stalking Kerry’s blog to find out what goodies everyone else received!

So I cut up my dress…

July 1, 2014

…and made it into a dress for Little Tweedie using McCall’s M5032!

McCall's M5032

McCall’s M5032

I recently sorted through a load of old dresses and rediscovered the dress pictured below.  I think I bought it at the clothes show a few years ago, so perhaps it’s made by Uttam/Traffic People/Max C/Yumi or some such brand – I can’t remember exactly.  The crossover wasn’t really the right shape to accommodate my bust, so I wasn’t interested in wearing it.  But that fabric was too pretty to let go…

The original dress

The original dress

The dress was fully lined, and I managed to create a dress for my daughter, also fully lined.  I cut an age 4 but it was too big at the side seams so I took it in substantially, and I’m still not overly happy with the fit under the arms, but it’s fine.  I mean, the skirt is still beautiful and the model is pretty darn cute too, so…win!

McCall's M5032

McCall’s M5032

And here are some other poses… I don’t know which I want to show off more – my sewing or my beautiful little girl!!!


Lying on the rug


Sitting cross-legged


Model pose!

This is not the first time I’ve chopped up one of my dresses in order to make one for my daughter instead: the following two dresses used to be adult-sized dresses!  I made three or four baby dresses too out of my old dresses, but it’s so long ago I can’t find photos of those ones.

Jul 2012 Butterick See and Sew B4956

Butterick See and Sew B4956 – made from a vintage dress from Pop Boutique

Jan 2012 Butterick See and Sew B4956

Butterick See and Sew B4956 – the other view – made with a vintage dress bought in Paris

I love the ultimate uniqueness of these dresses.  I love the memories that they hold of when I wore them, and the memories they make when my daughter wears them.  I’ve never regretted cutting up the dresses – only felt sad when my daughter outgrew them.  But this latest one should last a while yet! :-)

Oh, in case you missed it, I’m giving away a copy of ‘Half Yard Heaven’ by Debbie Shore – if you want to be in with a chance of winning this book you can enter until Friday 4th July, 12 noon UK time.  It’s open to anyone anywhere – see here for more details!


Half Yard Heaven by Debbie Shore: Review, giveaway and soup discussion

June 27, 2014


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.

Half Yard Heaven by Debbie Shore

Half Yard Heaven by Debbie Shore

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.

Padded coat hanger

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!

Coat hanger tidy

Coat hanger tidy

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:

Sewing machine dust cover

Sewing machine dust cover

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.


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