Monday, 28 December 2020

My Top Sewing Accessories for 2020

Hello sewing doves! It's been a while I know. I've been doing lots of sewing but not much blogging. 

I hope despite the challenges of this year that you all managed to find some peace and joy this Christmas time with loved ones near and far.  

So with our pockets bulging with Christmas gift money and many January Sales already underway, I thought I would do a round up of my favorite sewing accessories of 2020.  

Some I bought myself, some I received as gifts from kind and thoughtful friends, and all I love and find to be really useful additions to my sewing room.

Fancii LED Magnifing Visor


So, you probably won't win any beauty prizes wearing these bad boys...in fact I laughed myself silly when I saw this photo πŸ˜‚. However, these fabulous Fancii Magnifying Glasses with LED light are my out and out favorite sewing aid for 2020. (aff link)

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love these and just how useful they are. They are now permanently on my sewing table. I pop them on every time I have a needle to thread, seam ripping to do, hand sewing, precision cutting. In fact anytime I need to do closeup work. They really have proved to be indispensable and well worth the investment of £20. Mine were a birthday present from my fantastic sewing buddy Lesley 😍


Surprisingly comfortable to wear, they come with a range of interchangeable lens of differing strengths all in a handy storage box. Simply pick the lens strength which corresponds best with the closeness of what you are working on. Both the lens and LED lamp can be adjusted to suit the angle of your work. 


Mini Iron

I have a standard iron I hear you say, so why do I need a mini iron? Trust me you do! This iron may be small but it packs a punch in terms of heat, steam, ease of use and overall practicality in the sewing room. 


You're not going to use it to iron meters of fabric. You're probably not going to use it to make a coat or jacket either. Where this little workhorse comes into it's own is making a breeze of everyday seam pressing and in ease of handling. It's small and very light with an ergonomically shaped handle which fits nicely into the palm of your hand. For anyone with arthritis or grip problems it's a godsend and even if you haven't, the weight makes pressing far less tiring on your hands. 

I find mine especially useful and easy to handle when ironing seams over a tailors ham or roll. With a heat proof board on your sewing surface you don't even need to get up to go to the ironing board. How fabulous is that!

I was lucky enough to pick mine up from Lidl at very reasonable price. I've never seen them there before or since however don't despair it is identical in every way to this Mini Iron by Prym (aff link).


The Clover Hot Hemmer

I just love love love this hemming tool by Clover (aff link). It makes accurately measuring and pressing hem allowances a doddle. 


And as if being a lovely hem gauge wasn't enough, this beauty is made from a stiff felted material which can be ironed over. Just turn your hem allowance up over the Hot Hemmer to the desired depth and iron in place. There is even an curved edge for pressing curved hems in place.


I find mine indispensable for all manner of wovens, knits and even narrow hems. For all you imperial gals out there it is worth noting that the measure comes in centimetres only.


Kids Washable Felt Tip Pens


I struggled to find the best way to transfer marks onto pattern pieces, particularly knits. Tailor's chalk just seemed to make an insipid wide mark which soon "fell" off stretch fabric whilst branded indelible sewing markers cost a fortune for one measly pen which dries out before you've got your pdf printed and stuck together...I exaggerate a little. Then urika! I came across this simple solution... children's washable marker pens (aff link). They are cheap; come in lots of different colours, very helpful when marking different colour fabrics and they do what they say on the packet, they wash out completely! Not having school age kids I'm probably the only person on the planet who hadn't already worked this one out. 


They even work great on stretch fabrics. I did also pick up a little trick with tailor's chalk. Wet it before you use it and it makes a clearer, finer and more durable mark on stretch fabrics.


Ultra Sharp Bladed Embroidery Scissors / Snips

I just love these fabulous little scissors (aff link). Not only are they really pretty but they are also soooo practical. With stainless steel blades these babies are razor sharp right to the tip and perfect for all precision cutting. Large rounded handles make them easy and comfortable to grip and use.



I wear them on a ribbon around my neck whilst sewing so they are always to hand for snipping threads, cutting notches and wedges into seam allowances and any other precision work. They are constantly in use and worth every penny of the £7.90 price tag. 


Singer 4mm Twin Stretch Needle

But Linda, I hear you say, it's a twin sewing machine needle, so what! Well I will tell you my little sewing doves that not all twin needles are created equal and this is no ordinary twin needle.... oh no...this is sewing room alchemy!



Look carefully and you can see that this twin needle by Singer has a full metal shank. The twin needles are welded to the shank rather than joined to it by plastic. 

I had been really struggling hemming knits, especially fine slippery ones with my usual good quality stretch twin needles. No matter what settings I used, how often I rethreaded my machine, changed needle, nor how much stabiliser, or buckets of starch I threw at it, my hems remained a mess of skipped stitches and heartache. I found it so demoralising to spend days sewing a beautiful garment only to fall at the last hurdle of hemming and top stitching. I read about this all metal Singer Stretch Twin Needle (aff link) in a discussion group about hemming knits and despite the elevated price tag of £13ish I was at my wits end so decided I'd give it a go. 

I cannot tell you why it works but it just does. No skipped stitches and beautiful hems sewed with no drama, sweat, tears or swearwords. This fantastic singer twin stretch needle is worth every penny all day long! 


This brings me to the final item on my 2020 list of sewing room favorites. Maybe not technically an accessory but fantastic all the same! 


Tilly And The Buttons - Stretch



I love this sewing companion by Tilly Walnes. Whether you are new to sewing with stretch fabrics or if you've already got some experience the Tilly And The Buttons Stretch book has something for everyone. (aff link)

I bought my copy a few weeks back after the temperatures dropped and I started seeing so many gorgeous Stella Hoodies on Instagram and Facebook. I have had my nose in this book ever since! 

Stretch contains 7 fabulous fashionable knit projects complete with full size pattern sheets. Projects include a well balanced and versatile mix of skirts, tops, dresses and a relaxing hoody and joggers. All of which I guarantee you will want to make. The patterns are printed back to back so you will need to trace them. I don't know about you but I always do that anyway. Every project includes suggested hacks to make the garment your own which also vastly increases the variety of garments you could potentially make from each pattern. Step by step instructions are clear, illustrated and easy to follow and each project contains sewing challenges designed to build your sewing skills set. 

There is a useful section on choosing the right fabric, preparing and cutting knits along with lots of excellent advice, tips and trouble shooting on sewing knits using both a classic sewing machine and a serger. It's worth noting that you don't need a serger to sew any of the projects in this book. 

It's also worth noting that Tilly has her own sizing scale from 1-8. Personally I really like this as it helps us to stop thinking about our ready to wear (rtw) size and focus on our measurements when choosing the size to make. A TATB size 8 bears no relation to a rtw size 8. For example a size 1 fits a 30in bust/ 24in waist / 33in hip, whilst an 8 fits a 44in bust/ 38in waist / 47in hip. This gives you an idea of the size range.

I love the concept of this book and I love all the projects. My mind is buzzing with ideas and inspiration and I already cut out my first Bibi Skirt and I'm ready to go! 



I hope you found that rundown and review of my favorite sewing aids for 2020 useful. With so many products on the market it's nice to share those that we find particularly worth investing in. I would love to hear about your special finds so please do leave a comment below with your favorite accessories. It's always great to buy with confidence from recommendations coming from fellow sewists.

Finally I would like to take this chance to wish you all a very happy New Year. Let's hope 2021 brings us the chance to finally reunite and hug our loved ones πŸ’– something I'm sure we are all wishing for.



This blog article contains affiliate links to products. This means that the item doesn't cost you more to buy but I do get a small commission enabling me to keep bringing you pattern and product reviews. I personally own each of the products in this article and the views expressed are my own. 


Friday, 2 October 2020

Pattern Review - The Rhapsody Blouse by Love Notions Sewing Patterns


Looking out my window today it doesn't feel much like summer anymore but I'm assured by a local farmer that we will have an Indian Summer in October. So ever the optimist I thought I'd share with you my version of the Rhapsody Blouse from Love Notions Sewing Patterns which I made a few weeks back.


The Rhapsody has fun and versatile written all over it. I love the cute styling and I just had to have at least one in my wardrobe. I chose the flutter sleeve option in a gorgeously delicate embroidered cotton voile from Minerva Crafts which I had in my stash. Here I've teamed it with jeans for a relaxed look. Depending on your fabric choice and sleeve option it would make a lovely dressy blouse too.


There are some fabulous style details in the Rhapsody which really lift it above the rest. I love the flattering curved hem feature. The soft gathers at the front yoke and box pleat at the back are so feminine. The neckline is bound with narrow bias binding and there are optional ties for a pretty, professional finish.


I enjoyed making this beautifully drafted pattern and I'm looking forward to making more. My Rhapsody isn't perfect. I made some rookie fitting errors but I have learn't so much about making a more fitted and complicated garment in a woven fabric. I know what I will do differently when I make my next one. More on that later!




Pattern Review


Options


So the first dilemma I faced was which of the 9 sleeve options to choose! 


Yes, you heard right.... there are 9 glorious sleeve options to choose from including: sleeveless, cap, short, flutter, 3/4 with cuff, 3/4 with flare, 3/4 land full length bishop and even a Trumpet sleeve.

As if that isn't enough there's also a cute dress option. So it seems the only pattern you need to fill your sunny summer wardrobe to bursting is the Rhapsody! 


Bang for buck this is such a great value pattern retailing at just $12.00.


Pattern Options - Photo courtesy of Love Notions Sewing Patterns


Sewing Competence 


I would describe myself as an aspiring intermediate sewer. I was looking to take on a project with more technical challenges involved and the Rhapsody definitely fulfilled that brief. Not only have I added a really cool and sweet summer top to my wardrobe I've also added lots of new skills to my sewing kit bag. 


I would recommend the Rhapsody as great project for the ambitious new sewist wanting to move up a gear and tackle intermediate sewing challenges. 



Fabric 


This pattern is designed for lightweight and drapey wovens.


I decided to use this pretty embroidered white cotton voile from a wide selection at Minerva Crafts. I love this fabric and it was a dream to work with.


However once I sewed in the flutter sleeves I realised that my fabric choice didn't really have enough drape for this style of sleeve so they sit a bit proud rather than falling nicely from my shoulders. This one is definitely down to me and my fabric choice. A gorgeous fabric but not completely right for this project. A lesson learn't for next time.... listen to the the pattern maker Linda!











































The Pattern

  • This pattern is available in PDF with A4 file to print at home and an A0 version for copy shop printing.
  • A projector file is included 
  • I really like that the file is trimless making assembly much faster 
  • The pattern has layers so you only print the sizes you need. Saves on ink and makes tracing and pattern adjustment much easier and clearer.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Sew Easy Peasy - Cozy Wrap Cardigan by Halla



I have to admit that I've got a huge love affair going on with the Cozy Wrap Cardigan by designer HallΓ₯ Patterns. This snuggly, comfortable and yet elegant waterfall style cardigan is a deceptively quick, easy and satisfying sew.

This is the second one I've made and I'm absolutely hooked on this design and already planning more. I looked long and hard for a suitable wrap or waterfall style cardigan. What particularly drew me to the Cosy Wrap Cardigan is that the back is beautifully slimline and there isn't too much fabric in the front. Being a petite 5ft 2in, too much fabric just looks bulky and unflattering on me.

This cardigan is the perfect mid season cover-up. Great for those chilly evenings when you just need something light and simple to throw on. The beauty of the Cosy Wrap is it's versatility. It looks equally fantastic over jeans and a simple tee as it does over a pretty dress and heels or smart black trousers. A true wardrobe staple. 

I'm planning on hacking the collar to make it slimmer so it doesn't fold over and making some in light weight summer fabrics to slip on over dresses on chilly evenings. 


Fabric

This pattern is designed for knits. The fabric I used came from my stash and is something I "won" in an online auction bundle so I can't really tell you much about it apart from the fact that it is a lightweight ribbed knit sweater fabric which has lovely drape, weight, bouncy movement and good recovery 😁

Recommended Fabrics

For great results Halla suggest the following sweater knit fabrics:

  • Hacci sweater knit
  • Rayon rib knit for cowls and bands 
  • Rayon french terry 
  • Cotton Lycra will work, but will give a different look to the garment.  
  • Light sweater knits 




Pattern Review

Firstly, it's important to say that this is a PDF only pattern. If you don't like printing, trimming and gluing patterns then it's simple to find an online printer or copy shop to order A0 size print outs of your pattern. Personally I don't mind the assembly stage. For me it's a chance to study the garment construction and think about how I will approach the project.

This pattern is layered meaning you only need to print the size or sizes, that you intend using. So less ink and less confusing if you like to trace out your patterns after printing.

As with all Halla patterns there are no pattern pieces supplied for cuffs and bands. Measurements are given and it's simple enough to either draft out your own pattern pieces or if you are like me, measure out on the fabric and cut direct. Just be sure you have your fabric properly lined up and straight before you start. This is where a cutting board, rotary cutter and quilting ruler really come in handy 😊 

Another thing I love is that Halla overlay a ruler on their patterns at the bust, waist and hip points to simplify pattern alteration. Thank you Halla!  

I would rate this as an easy project for a beginner. With only six pattern pieces (wrap cardigan version), clearly detailed and illustrated instructions to follow and very little technical difficulty it's a doddle and a super fast make. 
  

Options

photo courtesy of Halla Patterns


All HallΓ₯ Patterns include a huge range of options and at just under $10 for the pattern that represents great value for money.  

This versatile pattern includes several options for waterfall/open front, crossover front cardigans and sweaters and a button down cardigan as well as hem and sleeve length and cuff options. There's even pockets !

I chose to make the hemmed open front version with long hemmed sleeves.




Sizing and Pattern Adjustments

Halla pattern sizing is a very inclusive US 00 to 30 and I find their patterns fit true to size.

Based on my measurements and finished garment size I graded between sizes :

Shoulders - US 6-8 / UK 10/12
Bust  -  US 6/8 / UK 10/12 front panels   plus   US 10/12  / UK 14/16 back panel 
Hip  -  US 6/8 / UK 10/12

I shortened the arms by 2 3/4 inches which is a standard adjustment for my petite stature. I did the shortening at the pattern adjustment stage. In the pattern instructions the sleeves are hemmed BEFORE they are sewn up and inserted. I didn't do this as I always need to fine tune sleeve length again when finally hemming.   



Work in progress

Sewing Challenges

This a really simple sew even for a beginner with no real technical challenges. 

I used an overlocker for the main construction and hemmed on my standard sewing machine. 

My only complaint about Halla patterns is the lack of alignment markings for matching up pattern pieces. I would have liked some markings for aligning the collar with the garment as it is a large piece of fabric. As you can see from the photo I used lots of clips to ensure the collar matched up and stayed in place whilst I serged it. I find clips really good for stretch fabrics as they don't mark the fabric.

 


Hemming Top Tip : The hems I turned up to about an inch. I first ironed on a stretch interfacing before turning up and sewing. On the sleeves I used a stretch stitch to avoid the hem popping when putting the garment on and off. However on the bottom I just used a standard straight stitch. Applying interfacing gives a lovely finish to a stretch garment hem and helps to stop hems and sleeves stretching out with wear.



And Finally....

I really love this pattern. It's the perfect easy to wear mid season cover up. I get so many compliments when I wear it and already a request from my dear sister in law to make her one...... that's Christmas sorted! I will be making many more of this great wardrobe essential.







Sources & Links 

Fabric was sourced from Knitpop one of my favorite online shops for knit fabrics. 

If you would like to make the Cosy Wrap Cardigan the pattern is available here


This is blog contains affiliate links and whilst your purchase doesn't cost you more I gain some credits which help feed my sewing addiction! Thank you 😍




Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Pattern Review - Uvita Top and Add-On Bundle by Itch To Stitch




This is my second time making the Uvita Top by Itch to Stitch. The first time it was also my first ever knit project. I stitched it up on my regular sewing machine in a springy ribbed stretch jersey knit. What should have been a simple, quick and fun sew turned into a sweaty, frustrating swearathon induced by my machine munching the fabric every third stitch 😫 If I could go back and give some advice to my newbie self it would be, set your presser foot pressure to 1, stabilise your fabric and use a walking foot ...... and if all that fails buy a serger πŸ˜‚ 

So 2 years on, armed with my beloved serger and more knit experience under my belt I thought I would try this pattern again. I was especially inspired when I saw the fabulous Uvita Top Add-on Pack available and all the wonderful ways I could jazz up this essentially simple top.


Pattern Review




The first point to make about about the Uvita Top pattern is that it is free.... yes you heard right, this lovely pattern is free! What's more the add-on pack is only $5. So for fantastic value for money it doesn't get much better than this. 


Style Options

The basic top features flattering dropped shoulders and a wide neck combined with a relaxed comfortable fit. There are two sleeve length options, long and 3/4 . I have also seen lovely examples without sleeves where the drop shoulder is finished forming a pretty cap sleeve perfect for a lightweight summer tee.


 
Floppy Stand-up Collar

image courtesy of Itch to Stitch
Add-on features, including wonderful fit and flare sleeves, cute kangaroo pocket, a relaxed floppy stand-up collar and thumb hole cuffs, offering plenty of scope to make this pattern your own. With all this choice the Uvita is a versatile pattern you can use again and again to create a wide variety of mid season tops and sporty garments all with their own unique style.


Sewing Competency

If you are making the basic top it is a really simple and quick sew with no special challenges for even the newest sewist. A great first knit pattern for the beginner. If you dont have a serger remember to use a stretch or ball point needle, of the correct size for your fabric weight, and walking foot on your standard machine. Set your presser foot pressure to 1 if your fabric is very stretchy. You may also need to stabilise your fabric with spray on starch or by laying tissue paper between the layers which you pull away afterwards. You may find a more stable knit like Ponte del Roma more easy to handle on a standard machine for a first knit project.

The Add-Ons represent a bit more of a challenge and are perfect for adventurous beginners looking to develop their skills. Skills include top stitching and bar stitching, fitting grommets, edge binding and pocket placement. 

The instructions are very clear so just take your time and work through methodically. I find it always best to read through all the instructions first before starting. Commence with the add-on instructions and you will see where to fit in the standard top steps.


Sporty thumb-hole Cuffs


PDF Printing & Pattern Assembly 
  • This pattern is available in PDF format only...no biggy! Personally I like the stage of piecing and sticking together 😁 It's time I use to get to know the pattern and think about how I'm going to approach the make. However, if you don't fancy that you can send the large format A0 version for printshop or online printing.
  • The PDF is layered meaning you only have to print the sizes you need making it super easy to cut or trace out your pattern pieces after. 
  • Pages need to be trimmed before sticking together but the page guidelines and corner circles make lining up a cinch. 

Fabric

Itch to Stitch recommend using a two-way or four-way stretch knit fabric with 25% to 50% horizontal stretch. French terry, cotton Lycra jersey and double brush poly are good choices. They also recommend that if using rayon spandex knit, you may need to go down one size or more. 

I chose a lightweight Cotton Poly Viscose Triblend from my existing stash, mainly because I love the colour and floral pattern. I snagged this lovely knit fabric from Knitpop one of my favorite online shops for quality knit fabric. They ship lightening fast too.

Triblend isn't a particularly springy knit as it doesn't contain lycra / spandex. I was concerned it wouldn't have good recovery but after a few days of wearing it's fine. Without lycra the finished garment does have a more relaxed fit. If I was using this type of fabric again I might go down a size. 

Sizing

I feel this pattern sizes a little big so I would recommend measuring the pattern pieces before deciding on which size to make. 

Sizes range from US 00 to 20 

Using my measurements I made a US size 6 and graded down to a 4 on the hips. If I was making a more sporty version I would probably grade down to a 4 on the neck and shoulders for a more streamlined fit, which is normally a standard alteration for me. I didn't do it this time as I wanted a relaxed fit.





The Uvita is a flattering fit for all body shapes as it's gently shaped to skim in all the right places πŸ˜‰


Making up & Newbie Challenges



Uvita is a well drafted pattern with super clear, illustrated instructions making garment construction a doddle. Thank you Itch to Stitch πŸ’–



It's worth noting that if you are adding pockets the first step is to construct and sew them into place on the front pattern piece so do make sure you are happy with the anticipated finished garment length before doing this as once they are in place shortening or lengthening will require removing the pocket piece...difficult and likely to ruin your fabric after having bar stitched the pocket corners.



Once pockets are in place the basic garment is constructed. I particularly liked that the sleeves are sewn into place before sewing up the sides. So no fiddly insert sleeves to do ... happy bunny 😁 Makes serging much easier too !



I added thumb hole cuffs as I've always wanted to try making these. I found the process straight forward but a little fiddly attaching the binding around the thumb hole ... this is more to do with my hands than the pattern !


If like me you have an aversion to basting it really is worth basting the cuffs into place to get the right placement of the thumb hole before stitching into place. Poor placement is likely to result in twisted sleeves.

For me the sleeves and cuffs seem a little looser than I would like. This is probably just due to the fabric I chose. Something to consider when I make this pattern again.

.... and finally


I really do like how my Uvita turned out and I shall be making more of these. A great mid season addition to my wardrobe which can be individualised using the range of options in the add-on pattern pack. I'm already planning my next Uvita using a cosy french terry.



Sources & Links

If you feel inspired to make your Uvita Top you can pick up the patterns here:

Uvita Top Pattern  - Free pattern

Uvita Add-On Pack

Fabric sourced from:

Knitpop online store


This article contains affiliate links which don't cost you any more but do give me credits and help feed my sewing addiction.

#sewfrenchseams #uvitatoppatternreview #patternreview





Make Nine Challenge 2021

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