Top 3 Time-Management Tips for Sewing Bloggers

Blogger Tips

Individually, sewing and blogging are hobbies that can take over your life if you let them – do both, and you may find yourself having no time for anything else. A lot goes into creating a successful blog post – photography, photo-editing, writing, yet more editing, promotion on social media, the list goes on – and when you add the fact that you have to sew in order to have something to blog about, you could end up with blogger burnout.

I still have much to learn in this area, but there are a few rules that I try to live by in order to avoid getting overwhelmed – hobbies are supposed to be fun, after all. Here are my top three tips for sewing and blogging while still having time for work, rest and play.

1. Keep your projects varied. It’s great to challenge yourself and add sewing skills to your repertoire, but trickier projects can take longer to complete so it may be weeks (or, if you’re like me, months) before you’re ready to blog about them. That’s why it can be good to reset your difficulty level to beginner sometimes and include a few quick and easy makes in the mix too to ensure your blog doesn’t look lonely while you’re busy getting to grips with a new sewing technique.

2. Have a back-up plan. Sometimes it’s hard to juggle everything and still have time to sew – working, socialising and spending quality time with your significant other all need to be factored into the equation of life. In the past, I’ve gone months without sewing so much as a side seam, and, while I of course miss crafting and can’t wait to get back to the sewing machine, it can be good to have a break. However, this in turn means the poor old blog can become a bit sad and neglected (and your view stats won’t look too happy either). The solution? Don’t limit yourself to blogging about your projects. For example, you could write about days out, fairs or exhibitions you’ve been to that your readers might like to know about, or a great new recipe you’ve tried recently. These kind of lifestyle posts are fun to read and will keep your blog ticking over nicely while you, well, actually have a life.

3. Give yourself achievable deadlines. This one seems obvious, but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been left without a post because I’ve been over-ambitious with my sewing deadline and not finished a project in time to put it up on the blog when planned. Earlier this year I made a Tilly and the Buttons Megan dress to wear to a wedding, and, in a move that was very unlike me, I started making it well in advance so there would be no last-minute panic-sewing. This meant that when it came to putting together the blog post, I wasn’t already feeling frazzled.

It can be easy to get caught up in the blogging side of things and rush through sewing projects to get them up on the internet for all to admire as quickly as possible, which can result in garments that aren’t finished to quite as high a standard as they could be. Remember, you’re making clothes you (hopefully) will want to wear and keep for many years to come, so give yourself plenty of time to complete your projects and consider the time it will take to photograph them, edit the shots and write the post when you’re planning your blogging schedule.

I’m sure there are many more time-management hints and tips I haven’t covered here. How do you manage your sewing and blogging time? Please do share your advice if there’s something I’ve missed.

Cocktails, Colour & Crafting at the Rainbow Club #MixMatchMake Blogger Event

A couple of weeks ago an exciting email landed in my inbox from Octane PR inviting me to a blogger event on the terrace at the swanky Square Club in Bristol, held on behalf of Rainbow Club shoes. Billed as an evening of colour and cocktails in celebration of Bonfire Night and the launch of Rainbow Club’s latest collection, we were told to wrap up warm and come prepared to turn ‘naked’ shoes into something a little more interesting.

Rainbow Club has been designing and making satin occasion shoes since the mid 1980s and is known for its stunning bridal heels and accessories, but is also branching out into party footwear too thanks to its unique Colour Studio – Rainbow Club shoes are handmade in a beautiful satin that can be hand-dyed to match any item of clothing or accessory. There are so many gorgeous designs on offer, from pretty peep-toes and comfy-yet-chic mid-heels to glitter-covered stilettos, so you’re sure to find a style (or three) you love among them.

As we were asked to choose a pair of Rainbow Club shoes before the event to take home with us, I thought we would be dyeing them on the night, but, in an unexpected twist, our shoes had already (thankfully) been dyed by the Rainbow Club professionals and we were instead asked to take part in an hour-long shoe-decorating competition, with the winner receiving £100 of Harvey Nichols vouchers.

Fashion bloggers certainly don’t mess around when a prize like that is up for grabs, and silence descended on the group as we set about dyeing our plain shoes (with dyes expertly mixed up by the Octane girls) and adding as much glitter, sparkles and trims as possible. I’m not sure the Octane PR girls expected us to take the challenge quite as seriously as we did!

As you can see, the resulting creations were all kinds of weird and wonderful – and, I’m proud to say, after much deliberation from the Octane PR ladies, my shoe (the green, lacy one on the left) was crowned the winner. I still can’t quite believe it – everyone did a great job and the other shoes were so creative and jazzed-up I thought I had no chance. I will of course be sharing my Harvey Nichols purchase here on the blog – I’m trying to hold off on spending my winnings until the sale in the hope of picking up a bargain or two.

After our shoe-designing efforts, we were treated to some tasty barbecue fare, warming crumble and classic Bonfire Night treats like toasted marshmallows and toffee apples – as well as some sparklers to play with too, as, after all, no Bonfire Night is complete without them. Octane PR definitely know how to put on a party – this is the best blogger event I’ve been to so far, and the lovely PR peeps did a great job of introducing the Rainbow Club brand (which was new to me), keeping the fun going and, most importantly, keeping our cocktails topped up. They provided a great example of PR done well, and I’m not just saying that because they chose my shoe, I promise.

On our way out, we were handed our expertly dyed Rainbow Club shoes in a cute candy-striped box; I chose the mid-heeled Jackie style in a rich burgundy colour, which are stylish and super comfy – perfect for the festive season and the weddings I have coming up next year.

Donna Wilson Sample Sale

Donna WilsonDonna Wilson Sample Sale 2014

Fans of quirky homewares, listen up! Donna Wilson will be opening up the doors of the company’s East London studio for its amazing annual sample sale later this month.

On offer will be one-of-a-kind samples, discontinued styles and slight seconds of the much-sought-after woolly cushions, printed cotton cushions, bone-china ceramics, cosy winter hats, scarves, mittens, gloves and blankets, and many more gorgeous goodies. What’s more, there will be mulled wine and some festive music to enjoy while you hunt for a bargain or two (or three or four).

Head over to the website for dates and further info.

 

Exciting News from Colette Patterns

Colette Seamwork

Aside from a few popular titles such as Mollie Makes, Love Sewing and Sew, sewing and craft magazines can, in my experience, be a little twee and uninspiring – since Cloth magazine left the newsstands, there’s very little out there that focuses on trend-led, fashion sewing. This is soon to be rectified, though, thanks to Colette Patterns, who will be launching a digital magazine in December called Seamwork.

Borne from founder Sarai’s need for quick yet challenging projects, each issue will come with two downloadable digital patterns that can each be completed in three hours or less – including useful wardrobe items like knitwear, accessories, lingerie, loungewear, bags and beautiful basics – along with in-depth articles on new sewing techniques, embellishment ideas and fabric guides, plus top tips from designers. The great news is, it’s going to be affordably priced, and anyone will be able to read the magazine (although only subscribers will have access to the patterns).

I can’t wait for the first issue – if you fancy a sneak peek, you can sign up to the mailing list (word is there’s some behind-the-scenes info and pattern previews in store for those who sign up).

Crafting Christmas

Christmas is all about spending quality time with friends and family, over-indulging on food and drink and simply enjoying some well-earned, chilled-out time off – or so those rose-tinted ads would have you believe – but, in my experience, it usually includes a fair few frazzled moments too (let’s face it, battling the crowds in the shops is enough to make anyone’s Christmas cheer disappear). If you’re looking to get crafting for the occasion it can be even more stressful, as there’s the added pressure of getting everything made in time. That’s why it’s good to have a crafty plan (and to start making now – it’s never too early). Here are a few ideas to help you create the perfect homemade Yuletide, so you’ll have everything from the party dress to the decorations all sewn up.

P.S. If you know someone crafty, but aren’t crafty yourself, scroll to the bottom of the post for some great gift ideas.

Sewing a Christmas Party Dress1. Cynthia Rowley dress pattern 2. Black crepe fabric from Fabric Godmother 3. Floral lace fabric from Minerva Crafts

Christmas Party Accessories1. Statement necklace from Cherry Diva 2. Katrine clutch from Duo Boots 3. Naida ring from Regal Rose 4. T-bar court shoes from Dune 5. Petticoat from Etsy

Christmas Bunting

1. Fabric pack from Fabric Rehab 2. Ric rac trim from The Village Haberdashery 3. Dot ribbon from Minerva Crafts

(Bunting photo credit: meg’s my name / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND)

1. Felt fabric pack & 2. Silver ribbon & 3. Embroidery thread & 4. Reindeer ribbon all from Minerva Crafts 5. Buttons from The Little Button Shop

(Decorations Photo Credits: English Girl at Home / Foter / CC BY-NC-NDEnglish Girl at Home / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND)DIY Christmas Gifts

Homemade Christmas Gifts

 1. e-Reader cover knitting pattern from Red Heart 2. Nata drawstring bag pattern from Named 3. Bolster cushion pattern from Merchant & Mills

(Gift box photo credit: TamurelloFoterCC BY-NC-SA)Sewing Christmas Gifts1. Sewing machine printed bag from Not on the High Street 2. Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes 3. Thimble necklace by Alex Monroe 4. Seamstress mug from Merchant & Mills 5. Set of two craft storage crates from DotComGiftShop

I Heart Monochrome

On the days when you just don’t know what to wear, monochrome is your friend: it makes you appear well put together even if you got ready in five minutes, and is so classic and timeless that you’ll be in style whatever the trends dictate. Basically, it’s the lazy person’s way to look good, which, quite frankly, I’m all for.

I had planned to make a dress using the Love Sewing magazine’s Brigitte pattern but a quick rummage through my wardrobe told me I have many dresses and nowhere near enough tops (well, I have enough, obviously, but a girl can always have more). However, I loved its simple shape and mid-length sleeves, which are ideal for the in-between weather we’ve been having lately, so decided to make it into a blouse instead, using a lovely heart-print crepe de chine I had in my fabric stash. In fact, the weather decided to coordinate with my monochrome look the first time I stepped out wearing my new top – it was a rather grey day, but at least it complemented my outfit. Another reason you can never go wrong wearing monochrome when you live in Britain.

I’d never sewn with crepe de chine before and I thought it might be a bit tricky to control, but I actually found it pleasingly easy to work with and has definitely encouraged me to be a little more adventurous with my fabric choices in future. The Brigitte pattern is ideal for beginners who may have a couple of easy projects under their belt, like the Colette Sorbetto, and fancy pushing themselves a little, or more experienced dressmakers who want a quick project – basically, this is as close as you’ll get to fast fashion in the sewing world.

Do you like monochrome, or are you a fan of colour? Have you tried making the Brigitte yet?

Monochrome OutfitClifton BristolASOS Chelsea BootsLove Sewing Magazine

Top Handmade Skirt New Look (similar here) Boots ASOS (similar here) Bag H! By Henry Holland (similar hereNecklace By Rachel Loves Bob, available at Objet de Desir Watch Casio

Duo Boots #BootTribe Blogger Event

Duo Boots Autumn Winter 2014

I’m a believer in spending as much as you possibly can on shoes – and no, I don’t mean by buying 50 pairs in Primark, however tempting that may be. I’ve been there and done that (well, perhaps not 50 pairs) and more often than not they fell apart after a few weeks of wear and cut my feet to shreds - but that’s what you have to put up with when you’re a poor student, right?

Now I’m older and (I’d like to think) wiser, I know that a quality pair of shoes is your best friend and will see you through many a walk to work, shopping trip and night out without you having to give a second thought to your footwear and whether it’s rubbing or pinching. As Carrie Bradshaw would agree, good shoes are an investment, which is exactly why you want to the fit to be just right when you’re splashing the cash on a pair.

Cue Duo Boots – their boutiques aren’t just your ordinary, run-of-the-mill shoe shops, but luxurious fitting rooms with an expert team on hand to measure you up and help you find the perfect boot or shoe for you. It’s just as well they really know their stuff when it comes to shoes and style, as Duo offer three width fittings, an amazing 21 calf sizes and a huge array of beautifully crafted shoes and boots, so choosing may be a pleasingly tricky task.

The Frome-based brand has had a boutique in Bath since the 1970s, and has expanded to include stores in Edinburgh and London too. Since it opened its first shop 40 years ago, Duo has built a reputation for the excellent quality, fit and design of its footwear – its in-house designers collaborate with independent European manufacturers, a team of technicians, last-makers and pattern-cutters who use the finest Italian leathers to bring Duo’s on-trend yet timeless designs to life.

Duo Boots Bath Autumn Winter 2014Duo Boots Bath Blogger EventDuo Boots BathDuo Boots BathDuo Boots Bath Boot Tribe Blogger EventDuo Boots Bath Leopard Print

I’ve often gazed longingly at the gorgeous styles on Duo’s website but have yet to add a pair of their shoes to my collection, so I was pleased to be invited to Duo’s #BootTribe blogger event in Bath last week, where myself and other shoe-loving South West bloggers – including the lovely Lorna from raindropsofsapphire.com and Hope from ihopeso-blog.blogspot.co.uk – had the chance to browse the Autumn/Winter 2014 range and choose our #BootTribe. Our blog logos were on tags with little pegs so we could claim our boot of choice.

As much as I’d love to join the long-legged Olivia Palermo types and be part of the over-the-knee #BootTribe, or even Kate Moss and the knee-high-loving gals, my petite stature means I’m definitely firmly in the ankle #BootTribe. But which to choose? I was delighted to learn that Duo offer shoes to fit my little size 35 feet, which is near impossible to find on the high street as most shops start at size 36 – and, what’s more, that all of their ankle boots are available in a 35. Win!

BootTribe BloggersDuo Boots Mandel Ankle Boots

Although extremely tempted by the rather jazzy cheetah-print, in the end I went for these stunning tan Mandels.

I had a sneak peek at Duo’s range online before heading to the event and these were the boots I had my eye on, and they were even better in person – you can tell they are well-made with care and attention to detail, fit, comfort and style. I how versatile these are – they’ll smarten up skinny jeans and a snuggly jumper, and will add a casual edge to a dress and my new fur coat from Dorothy Perkins. In fact, these will be great with the second Megan dress I’m sewing up at the moment, so watch this space.

You can find out more about Duo and browse the latest styles on the website, and follow @DuoBoots on Twitter – be sure to search #BootTribe on Twitter too for all the blog posts and photos from the event.

Collecting a Card Stash with CardNest

CardNest Cards

Receiving a nice card in the post is one of life’s simple pleasures, but it generally only happens on special occasions – and even then, most birthday greetings, thank yous or congratulations come in the form of a quick post or message on Facebook. Let’s face it, it’s something we’re all guilty of doing, often mainly because it’s so hard to find time to look for a card - especially if it involves a dash to the high street during a lunch break, which usually offers a very uninspiring choice indeed.

Monthly subscriptions are rather in vogue at the moment, but few promise anything actually useful – most feature nice but ultimately unpractical products that are likely to end up at the bottom of your make-up bag/desk drawer/wardrobe within a week or so. However, a new subscription service, CardNest, which launched last weekend, stands out from the crowd thanks to its unique ethos: to get us sending more cards to our nearest and dearest, be it for a special birthday, anniversary or just to let them know you’re thinking of them.

It’s a kind of rebellion against the notification-led life we lead, where we’re constantly checking our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and goodness knows what else for likes and messages, yet rarely take the time to thoughtfully connect with the people we know.

CardNest Greeting CardsCardNest Cards

So, how does it work? Well, for just £7.50 a month (£10 for international delivery), subscribers will receive three lovely cards through their letterbox every four weeks. It’s as simple as that. You can even get the stamps included too for the ultimate convenience.

The team behind CardNest have collaborated with talented designers from around the world to create the cards, and each one is exclusive to CardNest so you won’t be able to get them anywhere else. The idea is to build a collection of beautiful cards ready to be written and sent off whenever the occasion arises.

It’s hard to choose a favourite from this month’s CardNest card selection – as I love a good pun, the ‘I’m So Grateful’ card by Anna Hurley is definitely a contender, but they are all truly lovely.

The great thing about CardNest is that it’s not only your intended recipient who benefits – you get to enjoy opening up the pretty packaging and admiring the latest delightful designs, then to pay the fun forward by sending them on to your friends and family (and that’s not to mention the brownie points you’ll get for being so thoughtful). Basically, everyone’s a winner!

Find out more by checking out the website or following CardNest on twitter @cardnest. They’re even offering 50% off your first month’s subscription at the moment with the code LAUNCH50.
CardNest CardsCardNest

91 Magazine’s 10th Issue

91 Magazine September 2014

It’s hard to believe it’s September already, but indeed it is (and over halfway through, no less) and with it brings a new issue of one of my favourite reads, 91 Magazine. The 10th edition of the magazine is crammed, as usual, with inspirational home tours, first-class photography and must-do DIY projects – in fact, the adorable embroidered Liberty fabric napkins might just be one of my favourite-ever craft projects to be featured in 91 Magazine, but then I’m always a sucker for anything involving Liberty fabrics.

If, like me, you’re a Scandi-style devotee, you can feed your Scandimania by checking out the tour of a gorgeous home in Norway, while those with a penchant for all things retro will love the snaps of a beautifully converted Victorian school building in Leeds. There are also a few fab ideas for getting creative with spray paint.

If you’re a creative business owner looking to expand your venture, my feature on growing an independent business will hopefully prove useful, with invaluable advice from three successful homeware designers – Gillian Kyle, who runs an eponymous brand stocked in John Lewis and Liberty; Camilla, founder and designer of Butterscotch & Beesting homewares; and Margarita Lorenzo, who runs a boutique brand of handmade homewares called Chocolate Creative.

You can take a peek at a preview of the 10th edition on issuu, or go right on ahead and subscribe on Magzter for just £7 a year (go on, you know you want to).

91 Magazine91 Magazine91 Magazine91 Magazine

Exploring Bath’s Museums

One of my favourite things to do on a rainy day (aside from sewing and watching my way through the Netflix catalogue in my pjs, obviously) is visiting a museum or two. So on the rather grey and wet Bank Holiday Monday last week I headed to Bath to have a look around the Bath Fashion Museum, where there were no less than three superb exhibitions on show that I’ve been wanting to see for a while.

Our first stop was the Great War in Costume exhibit, focusing on the dramatic changes to women’s lives and roles that took place during World War I. For the first time, women were required to do men’s work and fashion evolved accordingly. Restrictive corsets, elaborate dresses and dainty shoes were impractical for their new roles, so functional trousers and hard-wearing boots were introduced to women’s wardrobes to reflect their new (albeit not entirely accepted by some) status as a part of the workforce. The exhibition featured both work and civilian dress, memorabilia and propaganda, as well as some absolutely stunning costumes from Downton Abbey. It must be so lovely to be an actor and get to wear all those lovely outfits for work. Sigh.

The exhibition has finished, but no doubt there will be another equally fantastic one to take its place soon - there is also so much to see in the rest of the museum.

Great War in Costume Collage Great War in Costume

We then moved onto the Georgians exhibition, which is running throughout 2014. There is surely no better location for such a display than the Bath Assembly Rooms, where outfits like those on show would have been worn by upper-class folk in polite society during the 18th Century.

One of the most interesting things about the exhibition was seeing how much fashions changed across the time period – just like today, fashions evolved year on year (although obviously nowhere near as quickly as they do now thanks to the likes of Primark et al).

It can be easy to view this time period as all bustles and corsets, but fashionable silhouettes changed significantly over these years – arguably, in fact, in a more noticable way than they do now, as they had all manner of structuring undergarments at their disposal. These included the rather comical panniers, cage supports for extremely wide-skirted court dresses that I think are one of the most impractical items of clothing I’ve ever come across. Many were so wide that the wearer would surely have had to walk through doors sideways – I can’t even imagine what trying to sit down in one of those things would have been like! I also loved the display of Georgian-inspired modern clothes, including a showstopping dress by one of my favourite designers, Vivienne Westwood.

While I won’t be sewing up a super-wide dress any time soon, there was still plenty of dressmaking inspiration to be found – the Georgians certainly knew how to work a floral print and embroidery.

Nearly a year ago (how time flies!) I posted about the Glamour of Bellville Sassoon exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see it, but luckily for me the Bath museum has a smaller version on display at the moment.

The 25 evening dresses on show have been assembled by Mr Sassoon, and each one has been kept across the years by Bellville Sassoon’s clientele and borrowed back especially for the display. The centrepiece of the exhibition is three ensembles worn by Princess Diana, including the going-away outfit worn on her wedding day.

I always look forward to seeing the latest Dress of the Year. In a nod to the ever-increasing influence of fashion bloggers, the 2013 dress was chosen by Susie Bubble. A candy pink number from the Christopher Kane Spring/Summer collection, the dress features a perfectly balanced combination of delicate detailing and edginess.

Susannah Lau said: ‘I chose Christopher Kane’s dress because, to me, he is one of the most exciting and brilliant designers to have emerged from London Fashion Week. He manages to take the most unexpected elements and make them work in collections that then define seasons.  The Spring/Summer 2013 season saw Kane take on Frankenstein –crystals, black gaffer tape and white lace shouldn’t sit well with one another but the juxtaposition somehow come off as harmonious.

To accompany the dress I have also chosen young accessories designers who have also contributed to London ‘s rise – unconventional milliner Nasir Mazhar who has segued into street-inspired ready to wear and quirky shoe designer Sophia Webster.’

As we got a joint ticket for both museums, we also visited the beautiful Roman Baths, which looked simply stunning in the late afternoon light.Roman Baths Summer Evening Roman Baths