Review: Make It Today Magazine Issue 3

As much as I love leafing through a craft magazine on a lazy afternoon, they can sometimes be a little too twee for my liking, focusing on quaint little craft projects for the home rather than more trend-led fashion sewing – don’t get me wrong, I like a nice homemade cushion as much as the next crafter, but it’s not necessarily what I want to read about when I’m looking for sewing inspiration.

When I do treat myself to a sewing magazine every now and then, it’s usually because I’ve been drawn in by the free pattern, and that was the case with Make It Today magazine, which came with not one, but three lovely patterns – I especially can’t wait to make the New Look 6231 trousers, which will be lovely for when spring (finally) arrives.

It’s worth getting it for the patterns alone, but the magazine is an enjoyable read too, with useful tips for the novice sewer, interviews with designer-makers, and ideas on how to style the free patterns. All in all, it’s just about on the right side of twee for me – although I can’t say I’d make the clasped handbag project, there were plenty of interesting sewing ideas, including a cute collar tutorial which I might have a go at. Have you read any good sewing magazines lately?

Make It Today Issue 3Craft TipsSewing Magazine ReviewMake It Today FabricCraft Magazine

If you’re a fan of craft magazines, you’ll probably like…

My review of 91 Magazine’s fantastic print issue.

My list of must-read online magazines.

 

Crafty Quotes

When I was a teen, I was an avid quote collector and used to scribble my favourite ones in a notebook – many, many, many notebooks, in fact. Of course, nowadays we have Pinterest and Instagram for these things, but back then it was all about the notebook, or, if we were really pushing the boat out, a clip-art-adorned word document. I know. So, channeling my teen self, I’ve put together a list of a few of my favourite sewing-related words of wisdom.

Mary Kurtz Sewing QuoteElizabeth Travis Johnson QuoteDavid Lynch Sewing QuoteTwiggy Sewing QuoteBeth Ditto Sewing QuoteEllen Birdseye Wheaton QuoteJeff Bezos Sewing Machine Quote

 

My Pattern Picks from Named’s SS15 Collection

While most fashion fans have spent months eagerly awaiting the top designers’ latest collections at LFW, sewing bloggers like myself were probably more likely to get excited about discovering what the Named spring/summer collection had in store this year. Obviously you can’t see Named’s creations on a catwalk, but flicking through their beautifully shot lookbook is almost as good.

As you might have guessed from the name, the Ticket collection is inspired by travelling – it’s intended to be like a trip around the world in sewing patterns (which is great, because my bank balance certainly won’t allow an actual trip around the world). It combines sporty elements and feminine silhouettes and is fun yet grown-up. I love how they’ve styled it in the photo-shoot, with plain pastels contrasting with bold colours and playful prints.

I would of course love to make and wear all of Named’s creations – that amazing kimono, for instance – but realistically that’s never going to happen (see point number 6 of this recent post), so I’ve instead shortlisted a few patterns I know I’d get lots of use out of.

Inari Cropped Tee

Named Inari Cropped Tee

I’ve been looking for the perfect cropped tee pattern for, like, ever. I’ve seen so many ready-to-wear cropped tees on the high street but was determined not to get one because it seemed silly to buy something I could so easily make myself. Turned out it was trickier to find a simple cropped tee pattern than I first thought, though, so my wardrobe has been decidedly cropped-tee-less. Until now, obviously, thanks to Named. That comfy-looking t-dress is a winner too.

Alexandria Peg Trousers

Alexandria Peg Trousers

These are just everything you want from a summer trouser – fitted in all the right places and flatteringly slouchy in others, and smart enough for work but casual enough for a stroll on the beach on sunny days off (I wish). AND you can make a shorts version too. Need I say more?

Keana Piped Blouse

Keana Piped Blouse

Firstly, the fabric they’ve used here is amazing. Secondly, the pattern itself is amazing. I love that it has a 1930s-pyjamas vibe about it, I love the little pocket (for keeping sweets in, obviously), and I love that gorgeous piping detail. Also, just check out the pattern placement of the flower on that collar – bravo, Named, bravo.

Zaria Skirt

Named Zaria Pencil Skirt

Now, this one would likely need A LOT of shortening for a shortie like me, but I can’t help be drawn to its clean lines and top-stitched seams. The full chiffon version is gloriously princessy yet rather chic too.

Like Named? Then check out…

Named’s SS14 collection.

My November wish list.

February’s Instagram Round-Up

February on Instagram

1. One of the blogger clichés – cocktails served in jars. 2. My winnings from the Shoeaholics #Shoefie competition. 3. A delicious and easy-to-make chicken tagine using this recipe. 4. Modelling the jewellery I made at the Blackheart Creatives workshop. 5. Doing the typical blogger thing of taking photos of my breakfast. 6. Amazing pancakes at the Cosy Club. 7. Lovely colourful flowers (not for Valentine’s Day, though). 8. Lip-smacking scallops served in the shell with garlic butter at the Lido… 9. …followed by some of the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever eaten – the Lido’s homemade salted butter caramel ice cream. Drool.

Well that month went rather quickly, didn’t it? It feels like only yesterday I was doing my January Instagram round-up, and here I am again.

It seems February was a month for over-indulgence – food and drink has featured a lot on my Instagram over the past few weeks. I just can’t resist snapping a pretty plate of food. It started with cocktails served in jam jars at Las Iguanas – I know it’s such a cliché to serve cocktails in jars, but I still like it. My main day of indulgence was, of course, Pancake Day, when I had delicious pancakes for lunch at the Cosy Club with the Fed Up & Drunk team, then had them again for pudding in the evening (topped with Nutella, natch). Well, Pancake Day comes but once a year, after all.

One of my highlights this month was the Blackheart Creatives Valentine’s Day jewellery-making workshop – it was such good fun and I came away with two lovely pieces of jewellery. I highly recommend popping along to one of their workshops if you get a chance. Another high point was the fantastic meal I had at the Lido in Bristol (food again). I’ve been wanting to come back to this place since I visited for a spa day last summer, and I think it’s now one of my favourite spots in the city.

So that was February. Here’s hoping next month doesn’t fly by quite as fast – I have lots of sewing projects I want to get done.

Beauty Favourites

Everyone has their own criteria when it comes to buying beauty stuff, and mine is to try and keep things as natural as possible on a reasonable budget. Natural skin and haircare can be expensive, but there are a few brands out there offering some great products featuring organic ingredients at a price that won’t make your heart sink every time you have to re-buy them. These are a few favourites that I use on a regular basis (as you may be able to tell from the not-so-perfect packaging). The only exception to the natural rule is the Boots No 7 Protect & Perfect eye cream which I got in a Christmas gift set.

Neals Yard Hair Treatment Review

This Neal’s Yard hair treatment is the best I’ve ever used. Seriously, buy it. Now. Aside from smelling lovely, it’s really intensive and so is ideal for those who have abused their hair with too much heat styling or dyeing (haven’t we all?). At first look it seems strange as it has a waxy consistency, but it melts into an oil when you rub it between your palms so it’s easy to apply (watch out in the summer, though, as it’ll turn into oily liquid in the heat and can be messy). You can leave it in for half an hour, or overnight for deep conditioning, then shampoo thoroughly and rinse with warm water to wash it out. The best bit for me is the price – it’s only £6.50 a pot and a little goes a long way.

Dr Organics Haircare

For shampoo and conditioner, I always head to Holland & Barrett to pick up something from the Dr. Organic range. I mix and match depending on which one I fancy trying next – at the moment I’m using the cleansing Royal Jelly shampoo with the restoring Moroccan Argan Oil conditioner. Again, these are reasonably priced at just £5.99 a bottle and there’s often a buy-one-get-one-half-price offer on. I’ve definitely noticed an improvement in the condition of my hair since using them.

good-things-face-mask

The Good Things skincare range was developed by beauty writer Alice Hart-Davis. It’s mainly designed for young skin, but I think any age group would benefit from using it as its products contain superfruits and other natural ingredients and are free from animal ingredients, parabens, mineral oils and sodium laureth sulphate.

I try to use the five-minute facial mask at least once a week and can really tell the difference when I do – my skin feels smoother and looks brighter. As you might guess from the name, you only need to leave it on for five minutes, but I sometimes leave it a little longer if my skin is in real need of a boost. The price is a rather purse-pleasing £5.99 too.

Protect and Perfect Eye Cream

A departure from my usual natural-only skincare rule, the Protect & Perfect eye cream is probably not something I would have picked off the shelves myself, but I must admit to being intrigued to try something from this range for a while as it’s had so many good reviews.

It supposedly smooths deep lines and wrinkles and sorts out under-eye bags, but I’m lucky enough not to have any of the first two (as yet – I’ve got lots of grey hairs, though, but that’s another story) so it’s hard to tell whether it’s really working. I do, however, have dark circles from too many late nights in front of Netflix and I can’t say it’s made much difference to them so far.

On the plus side, it feels really rich yet is light enough to suit the delicate eye area and I’ve noticed an improvement in the overall feel of the skin there. At £16, it’s pricier than the other products on my list, but I think it’s worth investing in a good eye cream. The jury’s still out on whether I’d buy it again, though – I think I might go for one from the Boots Botanics collection next.

Burt's Bees

The Burt’s Bees lip balms are the only ones I’d ever use. They’re 100-per-cent natural and leave lips feeling ultra soft for a long time unlike many other lip balms I’ve tried – I find some seem to make my lips feel drier once the balm has worn off, so you have to keep reapplying every five minutes, but that’s not the case with Burt’s Bees. Cost-wise, £3.69 is a small price to pay for a product that works so well in my opinion.

6 Problems Only People Who Sew Will Understand

Sewing Problems

1. You find little bits of fabric and thread EVERYWHERE. No matter how careful you are when you snip the threads and trim the seams and no matter how many times you hoover, pesky bits of thread and tiny pieces of fabric will stubbornly hang around and turn up in random places like your handbag, hair, or shoes, or even attach themselves to your favourite jumper and come along for the ride when you head to work.

2. You know all too well how it feels to repeatedly accidentally stab yourself with a pin/needle. How can something so tiny hurt so much? And there’s always one sneaky pin that embeds itself unseen into the carpet and lies in wait for a bare foot to come along and step on it.

3. You can’t shop like a normal person anymore. I used to love browsing high street stores and little boutiques, but now I usually just look for sewing inspiration. Ready-made clothing has to be truly can’t-live-without-it amazing if I’m to part with my cash for it – it does happen, but not that often. This rule does not, however, apply to shoes, handbags, scarves or jewellery. Those I can very much still shop for.

Fabric Stash

4. Your fabric stash is as big as your wardrobe (if not bigger)… When you find fabric you love, you’ve got to grab it while you can, which can result in a rather extensive fabric collection. But just imagine if you never found fabric as perfect ever, ever again and you missed your one and only chance to add it to your stash. Just. Imagine.

Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

5. …and within that stash will be gorgeous fabric you’re waiting for the ‘perfect project’ to use (but actually never will because you’re too scared to ruin it). Whether it’s some gorgeous but pricey Liberty print you splashed the cash on as a payday treat, or some unique, one-of-a-kind vintage fabric, every dressmaker has a piece of material they just can’t bear to cut into because you couldn’t live with yourself if you made a mistake.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably take it out once in a while, gaze at it while dreaming of all the amazing things you could make with it, then lovingly fold it back up and store it away again. One day, lovely fabric, one day.

6. There will never be enough time to realise all the ideas in your head. With a vast, ever-growing array of fabrics and patterns to choose from in the world, the odds are unfortunately stacked against us crafters when it comes to actually getting round to making every project we dream up.

Even if you had no responsibilities and could happily sew to your heart’s content at all hours of the day (if you can do this, then I hate you but also want to be your friend) you probably still wouldn’t be able to create everything you wanted to. That’s the nature of being creative. This is why it’s totally OK to buy the boring things like plain tees, vests and underwear in the shops and to instead spend your precious free time sewing the fun stuff.

Like this? Then you might like:

10 common sewing mistakes to avoid.

My guide to finding sewing inspiration.

Top three time-management tips for sewing bloggers.

 

Black Heart Creatives Valentine’s Jewellery Making Workshop

Black Heart Creatives’ colourful, fun, kitsch designs are about as far away from the delicate jewellery featured in my last post as you can get, but sometimes a gal just needs a big heart necklace in her life, you know? Especially on Valentine’s Day (although I’ll be wearing mine all year round – hearts are for life, not just for V-Day).

Black Heart Creatives not only make bespoke pieces, but also offer bling fans the chance to create their own unique jewellery at workshops in London and Bristol. I missed the boat on the Halloween-themed workshop, so speedily snapped up a ticket for their Valentine’s one, which was held at The Crazy Fox in Bristol - I had no idea this lovely little independent cafe existed, but will definitely be back. Broadmead was in dire need of a place like this!

Jewellery Making BristolJewellery Workshop BristolBlackheart Creatives Workshop BristolBlackHeartCreativesEarringsCrazy Fox Cafe BristolValentines Jewellery MakingGlitter Heart NecklaceBlack Heart Creatives Heart Necklace

After everyone had settled down with their beverage of choice in hand – tea for some, cider for others – our first task was to make cute heart and arrow earrings. After a tutorial on the correct way to open and close jump rings (which I’m still not sure I’ve mastered!) we were off. Although we all had the same tools to work with, everyone’s earrings were slightly different, and Black Heart Creatives’ Charlotte encouraged us to be as creative as we liked with it.

We then had a short break (for more tea and cider) and moved onto our next challenge: making a heart necklace. Charlotte brought a selection of hearts in different colours, including some amazing glittery ones, to the table for us to use, and obviously we all dived straight for the glitter. While many went for an ambitious design, I decided to keep it simple with a row of hearts, adding an extra length of chain for a layered effect.

I encourage everyone to give a Black Heart Creatives jewellery-making workshop a go – it was such a fun event and I’ve now got two lovely pieces of custom jewellery to add to my collection too. Follow them on Twitter for future workshop dates, or head over to the website to purchase something pretty made by Charlotte herself – I’ve got my eye on the custom name necklace and the heart stud earrings (in glitter, natch).

Jewellery fan? Then you might enjoy:

My Mink & Stone blogger challenge post.

A few of my favourite sewing-themed jewellery pieces.

Delicate Jewellery

Jewellery seems to have gotten bigger and brighter in the last year or so, but, while I do love a chunky statement necklace, delicate pieces in precious metals seem to be my thing at the moment. While costume jewellery is fun, it can have a limited lifespan and tarnish quickly, especially if it is worn frequently (and is of the cheaper variety!), whereas a sterling silver or gold ring can be kept forever if you look after it properly. Obviously bigger brands such as Pandora and Monica Vinader offer some beautiful things, but there are also plenty of great lesser-known designers out there waiting to be discovered. Here are three of my favourites.

Nikki Stark Jewellery

Nikki Stark Jewellery

Nikki Stark’s jewellery is understated and wonderfully delicate and her designs are made to last – she works only with sterling silver, 9ct gold or 18ct gold by special order. As every piece is made to order, each is individual and unique. There isn’t an item on her site that I wouldn’t wear – I particularly like her range of dainty wishbone rings and the Sally midi rings. I also love the Ria design featuring a random arrangement of tiny circles that remind me of little pebbles on a beach – in fact, I’ve just ordered myself one in sterling silver and can’t wait until it arrives. This will be the first of many orders I’m sure.

Minetta

Minetta

Minetta’s minimal jewellery can be worn every day and, as much of it can be personalised, would make a fabulous gift. Designer Sarah Holtom’s designs are pretty, contemporary and low-key, and would look equally stylish with a casual slouchy jumper as a smart work outfit. Channel Carrie Bradshaw with a personalised nameplate necklace, keep it simple with a sweet silver bracelet, or indulge your love for colour with a subtle gemstone necklace. The little heart studs and geometric ring are personal favourites too.

Bloody Mary Metal

Bloody Mary Metal

I promise I didn’t include Bloody Mary Metal in this list just because it has one of the best brand names ever (although it certainly helps) – its stand-out designs won me over instantly. Lucy Wilson started the company because she wanted to create jewellery she couldn’t find in the shops, and her collections reflect the move she made from hectic London to tranquil Cornwall at the beginning of her jewellery-making career; her first collections were edgy, reflecting her love of the London music scene, while her more recent ones are inspired by Cornwall, its history and the glittering treasures pirates once sought along the area’s coastline. My particularly like the arrow and droplet stacker rings and antler necklace.

January on Instagram

January on Instagram

1. My new DKNY bag. 2. Lovely new fabric from a great little fabric shop in Taunton. 3. Did a wardrobe tidy up and just had to have a peek at my gorgeous Rainbow Club shoes. 4. The amazing Kate Spade watch I won . 5. My winning Shoeaholics #shoefie. 6. I’m definitely living by this motto judging by the amount of fabric I’ve bought this month. 7. Delicious breakfast muffins made using a Rachel Khoo recipe for Breakfast Week. 8. Yet more new fabric from Regency Rags.

My January has been rather quiet – the post-Christmas, back-to-work blues combined with a rather sad-looking bank balance and rubbish weather mean January is a month for mainly sitting around and scoffing all the cake (as well as going to work, obvs). In fact, I’ve managed to combine going to work and scoffing cake which is definitely a win.

I’ve been rather naughty and added quite a few pieces of fabric to my stash this month. I also spent the Harvey Nichols voucher I won at the Rainbow Club #MixMatchMake blogger event a couple of months ago. Speaking of winning, I was also lucky enough to win a gorgeous Kate Spade watch last month, as well as £100 to spend at Shoeaholics thanks to my leopard-print #shoefie – share your own on Twitter or Instagram and tag Shoeaholics to be in with a chance of winning. So, all in all, it’s been a pretty lucky month for me! How was your January?

Common Sewing Mistakes

Common Sewing Mistakes

Some say there are no mistakes when it comes to sewing and that everyone has their own unique way of doing things, and while that is partly true there are a few errors that many – including myself – sometimes make when starting out that can really affect the outcome of a project. I’ve compiled a few key ones here, partly in the hope that a beginner will be saved a few hours of unpicking, and partly to remind myself not to make them.

1. Forgetting to pre-wash your fabric. Imagine spending hours and hours on a project and ending up with something you’re really happy with, only for it to shrink in the wash and no longer fit comfortably. This is what will probably happen if you don’t pre-wash your fabric – it’s the first thing you should do when you get your fabric purchase home. I use the same washing/spin setting I usually use for clothes (depending on the fabric, obviously), sometimes twice so I know what it’ll look like when it’s been washed a few times.

2. Choosing the wrong fabric. Fabric shopping can be overwhelming – SO MANY pretty prints and colours and textures – but before you make a purchase (in fact, before you even step into the shop), make sure you read the pattern sleeve closely for the fabric recommendations. That’s not to say these are gospel, but it will give you an idea of the types and weights of fabric that the pattern will suit. I also like to scope out the high street shops to see what types of fabrics they use, as it can be a really useful way to see how different fabrics hang and drape.

3. Slap-dash cutting, measuring and marking. It’s easy to be over-eager to get started on a project, quickly cutting out the pieces and using guesswork for the rest. I have to admit, I have had some success with this method, but that’s more down to luck than judgement and I wouldn’t recommend it – it’s just not worth the time it will take to put any mistakes right. Measure yourself, check your measurements against the ones on the pattern, and always transfer the markings properly.

4. Using cheap, it’ll-do sewing equipment. I recently made the error of buying a cheap zipper foot from eBay. One side of it worked fine, the other not so much (the groove wasn’t deep enough so I kept sewing over the zip – oh, the rage) resulting in many hours of sewing and unpicking, sewing and unpicking, then more sewing and unpicking before I eventually got the darn zip in. Never. Again.

5. Not ironing your fabric before you use it. Ironing your fabric before you get started seems like a really boring task and, I’m not going to lie to you, it is. Unless you’re a big fan of ironing, obviously. But, as with many boring tasks, it’s unfortunately necessary. Bumpy fabric can result in inaccurate cutting, pinning and sewing, and no one wants that.

6. Not pressing your seams. Again, another thing that seems dull, but it really does make a difference to the overall finish of a garment. Pressing seams reduces the chance of puckering where the seams meet and cross over, and helps the stitches sink into the fabric so it looks more professional. Don’t over-press, though, as that can distort your fabric.

7. Not having everything you need to hand. Realising you need more thread/bias binding/a zip when you’re midway through a project and in the sewing zone is just the worst, especially if you don’t live near a sewing shop and rely on online retailers for your sewing bits and bobs. It is also maddening not to have scissors, pins, a pin cushion and a seam-ripper nearby at all times when sewing, so do yourself a favour and grab them before you start.

8. Altering patterns and not testing them before you sew. If you’re going to make major alterations to a pattern, taking time to test it out by making a muslin is a must. End of. You don’t want to go wasting lovely fabric on a garment that doesn’t fit, now, do you?

9. Rushing to get a project finished. When the end of a sewing project is in sight and you can’t wait to get it finished so you can show it off, it can be tempting to rush through the finishing touches. Yet these finishing touches are often the most important, as they are usually the bits that people will see when you’re wearing your creation – the hem, the collar, the topstitching, and so on. You don’t want to end up with a top or dress that looks quickly or badly made (let’s face it, you might as well buy something from Primark instead if you’re going to do that) so take your time throughout the sewing process.

10. Sewing when you’re not in the mood to sew. While we’d all love to be super-productive all the time – and get loads of sewing done in the evening even if you’ve had a hard day at work – it’s sometimes better to admit defeat and chill out with a cup of tea and a film on Netflix. If I try and sew when I’m tired or just don’t fancy it, I find that I’m more likely to cut corners and not sew to my full ability. It’s much better to leave it until you have the time and inclination to get it just right.