Thursday, 19 October 2017

What's it like? Going to the The Knitting and Stitching Show at Ally Pally

I've been trying a few new sewing related experiences this year.  I joined a quilt guild (South West Modern Quilt Guild) which I've loved.  I've also aimed to attend more sewing shows so since September, I've been to West Country Quilt show, the 'Stitching, Sewing and Hobby Craft and last Sunday I went to the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace, London.  This is the biggest show that I've been to and it coincided with a weekend when I was already in London so I thought I'd give it a whirl.


Alexandra Palace is an amazing venue. Sited at the top of an enormous hill, the building is magnificent with spectacular views across London all around.  I opted for Sunday as it's the quietest of the show days - it ran Wed-Sun with Saturday being the busiest. I arrived at 10am and there was a steady stream of people going in.  Although it sells a range of tickets- VIP, with workshops/talks, as well as standard and concessions really it's  about the shopping, all those specialist retailers for quilting, dressmaking, general sewing, knitting, crochet, cross-stitch and more under one roof.  There's one massive hall with the largest stalls and two smaller stalls which tended to house the smaller independent businesses and textile galleries.   There were various discounts for buying online, I got mine from being on the Fashion and Textile Museum mailing list, there is a booking fee though, the total cost is around £12-14 for a basic one day ticket.


It is a money-making machine. If you want to find a specific stand, you'd have to pay £4 for a 'guide', or return to the entry point and study the wall diagram. I made sure I covered every path of carpet and aimed to find a list of people who I knew were there who I've worked with in some way over the years. I saw lots of familiar names from previous shows, like Fabrics Galore with their two stalls covering quilting craft and dressmaking, and The Quilted Bear with a plethora of fabric and quilting/sewing tools. I also saw newer names- Higgs & Higgs had a wonderful selection of jersey, sweatshirt, linen, cotton and more.  Stof & Sill had a well-arranged stall, quite limited variety but interesting, well displayed and staff were helpful.


Girl Charlee had a busy stall with a mix of their familiar and new jersey fabrics. I've worked with Girl Charlee several times since they started their UK journey and it's always been a very positive experience.  Mark and Ben are both focused on a great customer experience and it really showed when I saw them helping newer sewers match their patterns to the right fabric.


I've worked with The Eternal Maker for many years now and Anna is an experienced stall arranger; there's always so much packed into her displays with a buzz of people around the fabrics, pattern and sample garments.


The Cool Crafting stand looked very inviting and they had obviously sold a lot of fabric, kits and patterns - the wrap dress and its fabric had sold out. I've seen their stall at previous events but toy kits, craft fabrics and trims have been their focus. This time, dressmaking was centre stage and they had beautiful cotton, linen and wool selection.


In one of the side halls, there were some interesting indie style stalls including Frances Tobin from The Maker's Atelier.  I wrote about her business early last year for Sewing World mag and she has expanded so much since then with so many more patterns and a successful book. Her stall was beautiful, a palette of caramels and gorgeous patterns. She likes to use an interesting range of tactile substrates like stretch metallics, silk crepes, leather etc.


Grace from Beyond Measure had a lovely stall, packed full of handcrafted sewing gadgets, rolls of wool tweed and an excess of sewing related gifts. It looked very inviting. She had her sister helping her on Sunday, it is a big time commitment running a stall for 5 days plus the set-up and take down, whilst also being away from your family.


Andree of Til the Sun Goes Down  sells a dazzling range of original design silks and wool crepes as well as her own pattern range, 'Now and Then' and tempting kits which combine the two. She had vintage patterns and fabrics too and all her patterns were made up in a multitude of samples. 


For a huge array of the best known names in sewing, it was excellent. I'm no longer a knitter and I can't crochet but both are well served. I didn't buy much, it was more about meeting some people after a long time emailing and enjoying the experience plus my budget is limited and I was carrying my luggage on the train the next day.  I did get some irresistible Homestead Life Cabin Bolt fabric from Girl Charlee which is destined to become jogger style pyjamas. Love the print and it's a slightly drapey cotton/spandex jersey, perfect for lounging and evening quilt snuggling.  I also picked up a short Japanese zip and a mini magnetic seam guide from a couple of sewing stalls.


There were a few odd stalls selling sweets or hair clips- the sort of thing that I see a frustrating amount of at smaller shows and are in no way related to sewing or knitting. It's a long week for the stall holders too and I did feel for them although there is a comradery amongst the stalls and it is great for catching up on news about the business. Some traders reported fewer sales or a lower spend by customers than previous years because of the recent Great British Sewing Bee Live event in September, whilst others said they weren't affected.  The exhibitions were wide-ranging and interesting as well as a break from the busier areas. I felt like I missed some though with the lack of having a map to hand but from the ones I did visit, standouts included Rachael Howard's Red Work, Diana Harrison's Traces in Cloth which I found rather dramatic to look at, and Amy Twigger Holroyd's reknitting gallery.  It was fun, I spent a very happy four hours there and I did get to see all the shops in person that I only ever usually visit online.  

Are there any shows that you would recommend?
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Saturday, 7 October 2017

Spelling Bee Quilt-Along...Are you taking part?

I reviewed Lori's Holt's new Spelling Bee book a couple of month's back and as with all her books, there's a sew-along run with the Fat Quarter Shop.  It's for the cover quilt but there are other quilts in the book that you could focus on instead- e.g. the Picture Day Quilt focuses on the images in the book and can either be a multitude of different pictures, or the same repeated in a different colourway, maybe adding initials too.  I'm one of forty bloggers taking part; I've chosen three blocks but the first isn't until January. I'm getting prepared now as I want to make some of the other blocks too!


There are crib or twin options depending on whether you make 6" or 12" blocks and I'm also going to combine some Sew-Ichigo blocks that I think would work.  Making a smaller quilt makes the schedule a little more forgiving if you struggle for time and there are different sashing suggestions or even mini quilt layouts that could be used for a small selection of blocks (Lori shows some in a picture at the end of this post).


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Monday, 25 September 2017

Merchant & Mills Camber Dress in Nani Iro Double Gauze

September sun, when it actually emerges, gives the best light!  These photos were taken by my daughter this morning, no adjustments needed as the colours are singing and dancing.  I made this Camber dress (by Merchant & Mills) at the start of the month with some Nani Iro double gauze in a gorgeous blue from Eternal Maker that has been waiting for its destiny for over a year! I didn't have sufficient for a standard layout with the pattern piece grainlines following the selvedges so I had to go rogue; the back below the bodice was placed perpendicular to the selvedge with no ill effects and I used all of the 1.5m length, only tiny scraps remained.





Making Notes:
I made a size 8 and a toile first so this dress was made with the following alterations based on 33" bust, 27" waist, 36" hip:
  • Lengthened the bust dart to be the equivalent of size 6 and altered the sides accordingly so the point meets the size 8 dart markings at the side seam.
  • Reduced the front and back bodice pieces and back yoke at the centre fold mark by 1/2" on each piece- the width was too wide for me and my apex to apex measurement is narrow at 7". I adjusted the neckline so it remained the same, so the shoulder seam width is reduced a little at the neckline front and back. This is a significant reduction of 2" around the garment so creates a more fitted look than the original style.
  • I reduced the side seams from below the armhole to a maximum of 3/4" at the waist and blended into the hip line (hipline reduced by 1/4")
  • I reduced the A-line side seams from hip to hem so they were a straight diagonal rather than curving outward.
The neckline and back yoke construction is particularly neat. Bias binding finishes the front neckline and a clever bit of seam work over the shoulders means everything is covered and stabilised by the back bodice.  The neckline is quite high but that's fine by me and it would be easy to lower, just allow a longer piece of bias binding, I used a scrap of Liberty lawn.




It's a great pattern to showcase a beautiful print with minimal interruptions.  The dress is fitted enough to feel flattering and loose enough for comfort. The photos below show the moment where Lottie, our dog, joined in on the photo shoot, hence the facial expressions!




I found the same Nani Iro double gauze Fuccra: Rakuen print here  with more options here and in the UK, here.
Soft Sole clogs are from Lotta from Stockholm, these sometimes come up as seconds too.
Camber Set - top and dress pattern is available at The Draper's Daughter and Village Haberdashery.
I'm really happy with the finished dress and it's a great basis for tops too - it's going to be a much used pattern!
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Sunday, 17 September 2017

September Arrivals at Plush Addict, Village Haberdashery and Eternal Maker

Time to take a look at the new arrivals and offers in my sponsor shops for September...

First Plush Addict and there's been a SALE which finishes midnight tonight, click here for all sale and here for the discounted quilting fabric, (there's some good stuff like Moda Lustre and Dashwood Norrland), meanwhile don't miss these...

  1. Dashwood, Jardin Anglais, 8 fabrics from Pippa Shaw featuring British garden prints with a French twist.
  2. Andover Sun Prints 2018. A new Sun Print range from Alison Glass (this is Diatom in Seaside) all the rainbow colours so this is just one of many, but what a glorious colour!
  3. Makower Spot On Brights.  Kellie's stocking a wide range of colours from this classic spot collection, this is the brighter palette but there are so many including pastels and vintage and all available as yardage as well as in a bundle
  4. Studio E Super Heroes - TVs Cream by Sarah Frederking. I do like a novelty print and this caught my eye. It has a slightly 80s retro feel, echoes of Playmobil and Bob the Builder.  Lovely for children's projects.
Annie's offer this week (ends 19th Sept) is a free Denim Swatch bundle with denim purchase over 1 metres

  1. Dear Stella, Luna Luna.  The sweetest nighttime print on cotton shirting!  Beautiful for bedroom makes.  A storytime book pocket pillow for bedtime stories maybe?
  2. Art Gallery Boho Fusion Knit. 95% cotton 5% spandex jersey blend, rich colours and Art Gallery Jersey has excellent recovery/spring back and works well for tops, leggings, dressings etc. This would make a lovely Agnes top or three-quarter sleeve Moneta dress.
  3. Michael Miller, Good Postures in Celestial (also in grey 'Spa').  I love my Yoga so I couldn't resist this fun print.
  4. Floral Retrospective in Ice.  My favourite of all Anna Maria Horner's Garden Party rose prints. See the other Floral Retrospective prints here, a glorious range of prints in all colours and sizes.

  1. Cosmo Tex Charcoal pink floral, linen/cotton blend, Japanese fabric. I love the soft faded look of this fabric, it's on trend with the large florals on dark backgrounds that you can see on women's wear fashions this Autumn/Winter and would work for decor projects like cushions as well as clothing- maybe Jennifer Lauren Handmade Ivy Pinafore? Or even the new Named Clothing Amber pinafore style dress, don't forget a buckle for the back!
  2. Dashwood Spooktacular.  Get ready for Halloween! Find Spooktacular yardage here
  3. Sewhouse Seven Burnside Bib PDF. I've made this pattern if you'd like a review and to see it sewn up.  Mine have seen plenty of wear over the summer and I'll continue to wear them with boots into Autumn. As the waist is pulled in with ties, the fit is forgiving.
  4. Robert Kaufman Manchester Onyx in Metalic. The perfect combination of sparkle and drape, I would love to make the Burnside Bibs out of this fabric for a more evening look dungaree. Both styles have quite a lot of fullness around the back booty so a drapey fabric wins over a standard denim with this style.
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Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Merchant and Mills Rugby Dress in Linen and Liberty

Each summer I seem to find a dress that I make multiple times.  Last year is was Named Clothing's Kielo dress, I made three- see here, here and here.  This year, the weather was cooler and so I ended up choosing a cross-seasonal choice, the Merchant and Mills Ruby Dress.  This came about by chance.  Merchant and Mills started a small ready-to-wear line, Label, and the Rugby Dress was heavily discounted in their sale. I bought a size 8 and I loved it and wore it a lot and so promptly bought the pattern from Village Haberdashery with some glorious Lady McCelroy linen in Marinee and sewed up this version.





Making Notes:
I made a size 8 with the following alternations:
  • Lengthening the bust dart to size 6 point" 
  • Narrowing the side seam from underarms to pockets by 1/4"
  • Hem reduced by 1"

I find Merchant & Mills patterns seem to differ from each other little in their presentation and instruction style.  The Rugby dress has size 6 cutting lines, the other styles (I have the Factory Dress,  and the Camber) do not.  The Rugby has smoothly drawn digital style diagrams, the others have hand drawn sketchy pictures.  There was a minor error and there are amended extra instructions to cover this (it's to do with the order of sewing in the collar). Check each pattern for seam allowances as they can vary too.  Merchant & Mills designs look simple but there's always a very neat technique or finishing method and the pattern drafting is beautiful, even though I always make alterations, they are simple.  Every pattern I've made involved narrowing the centre in some way: either lengthening the bust darts and shaving down the side seams, or reducing the centre width at the centre fold line (did this on the Camber, more to come on that when I get photos!).  I especially like the closer fit on the shoulders combined with lots of room to move in the skirt section, plus the pockets are placed perfectly for me and disappear into the side seams. I faced mine with Liberty lawn in a blue cross stitch print.  The visible Liberty lawn on the collar, placket and cuffs is a Grayson Perry print (long out-of-print) that I have scraps of from a dress from years back.  It is one of my all-time favourite fabrics.  The Lady McCelroy linen is a lovely weight for this style, it definitely needs a prewash and colour catcher too!


Here's a little outtake pic, I'm in mid conversation with the photographer, my daughter.  We usually try and take these photos as fast as possible as it's on the road in front of our house so rather visible!  I'm hoping to squeeze in another of these dresses for a little early Autumn wear, this time in Rustica Chambray which has a lovely drape, fingers crossed...
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Wednesday, 6 September 2017

West Country Quilt and Textile Show

I haven't been to a quilt show in a while.  Festival of Quilts always falls in the busiest bit of my summer work schedule, plus travel is costly for a day's experience. There are a few stitchy/quilt shows in my local area.  The annual spring quilt show has declined during the years- it's part of the Grosvenor show group and my experiences there have been patchy. Many smaller stall holders have found themselves priced out over the years- the cost of the show plus accommodation can negate the money made. The curation can be questionable at times- stalls with no quilting relevance e.g. commercially produced scarves - don't make a good quilting show. West Country Quilt & Textile show is a relative newbie and it's the biggest plus is that it appears to be independent. When I booked my ticket and a workshop online, there was genuine hobbyist enthusiasm from one of the organisers. 


Reene of Nellies Niceties had a lovely stall showcasing her English Paper Piecing kits.  I loved her samples in so many colourways and the giant clothes pegs displaying her cushions.


I've not seen Jessie of Sew and Quilt since a Fat Quarterly Retreat years back so it was lovely to catch up with her again and meet her husband Robin. They had a delectable range of fabrics and notions.


 There were lots of small interesting displays including a few exhibits from the National Needlework Archive which I hadn't heard of before and to be honest, their website seems to have no reference to quilts but this log cabin quilt is a beauty!


There were competition quilts and one of the winners was Jo Colwills Happy Scrappy quilt, longarm quilted by Sandy Chandler.



There were lots of small exhibition spaces for quilting groups and textile artists with a diverse selection of textile skills on display. I especially liked this small linen quilt, 'Song of Linen' by Lithuanian quilter, Maryte Collard



One of the booths has some stunning whole cloth quilt hand-quilting, sewn by Sandie Lush. I had a brief chat with Sandie as she was stitching. I asked her how she transferred the designs as they are small scale and intricate and she passed on the most wonderful tip!  She uses a watercolour pencil which tones with the thread she is using.  She was sewing with a pink 12wt Aurifil thread at the time and had used a maroon pencil to trace the design from paper to fabric (before the quilt sandwich stage). The watercolour pencil brushes off as she sews and it can also be rinsed away at the end of the quilting, brilliant!


I'm not really in need of lots of fabric so I made a list of some harder to get items that I have wanted for a while. There was a tiny Oakshott stall selling 'Starlight' bundles (based on an older colour selection) only £20 for 10 FQS. The Tulip Piecing Needles #9 from Sew and Quilt are a favourite, my go-to for binding and there are only a few in a package so I needed to replenish. The Valdani thread is fiendishly difficult to buy in the UK but I knew that Angela Daymond is one of the only UK retailers and she was attending the show with her stall. It has a lovely twist to it, perfect for big stitch detail on quilted projects.  The Derwent watercolour pencil was from Sandie Lush.


It was gently busy rather than bustling. The majority of stalls were for quilting and textile crafts with a few textile related exhibitions e.g. selling silk ribbons or leather for crafts. I attended a Royal School of Needlework workshop which was excellent and a bargain at £12.50 for 1 1/2 hours with materials provided.  There were around 10 of us and we were in a quiet room with a friendly and capable teacher, Chrissie Juno Mann and we learnt a clever stumpwork weaving and rolling technique to produce a 3D rose.


All in all, I enjoyed myself.  I was there from 10-2pm and had to leave then to catch a train home.  I'll definitely be back!
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Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Summer Recap

Waving the summer goodbye ready for a busy September, a quick recap on July/August...




















I've been sewing away too, as well as time spent on my favourite things: beaches, birthdays, cooking, baking, dog walks, day trips and lots of time spent with family.  My sewing has been in preparation for teaching at the Threadhouse Retreat and some magazine work so not much I can show here. Plus, lots of dressmaking, some of which I've shared and other things like pyjamas and track pants which are more everyday basics. September is going to be busy, with a mix of work, family stuff, and my birthday at the end of the month.  I made a conscious effort this summer to live more mindfully. Life is inevitably full of change and I'm aiming to enjoy where I am right now without too much thought to what has already happened and what's yet to come. I hope you've enjoyed some time outside?  We had an amazing bank holiday weekend of glorious warm sunny weather which is not the norm at the end of August so very welcome.  The old work routine returns next week so I'll just enjoy this summer feeling a  little longer...