Monthly Archives: July 2013

My Experience with Minerva Crafts

Readers in the UK will probably be familiar with Minerva Crafts and Fabrics, an online stockist of crafts materials and fabric (surprise!) based in Lancashire. They have a main website, linked above, and a directly corresponding eBay shop.

This is a blog post that I had been going to write anyway, but I have decided to do so sooner rather than later upon the announcment of the Minerva Crafts Blogger Network, which as far as I can see is an equivalent concept to the Mood Sewing Network in the US.

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Remember the order of fabric that I placed a little while ago? Well that was from Minerva’s.

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Four of the pieces arrived without incident. The mid-blue double jersey isn’t fantastic quality but that’s the risk you take ordering online without a sample. Everything arrived promptly and well packaged. So far, so good.

The problem came with the fifth piece of fabric. See above where I’ve ordered two different colourways of the Morgan crepe jersey fabric? The website description is as follows:“The most fabulous quality Morgan Crepe Jersey. A blend of Polyester, Viscose and Lycra, this medium-heavy weight jersey is perfect for skirts, dresses, jackets and more! Clearance price only whilst limited stocks last! RRP Over £14.00!”

And indeed the tan fabric that I received lived up to this description. It is be-autiful. Soft, smooth, drapy, with a great weight and handle. I want to make sweet sweet love to this fabric and have its babies. It is divine.

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Colour in photo = totally unrepresentative. Fabric = divine.

The camel fabric felt like it came from the 50p/m table at the Rag Market.

Now I didn’t take a picture of the two next to each other. In hindsight maybe I should have done. I did send it straight back with a note that I had been sent the incorrect fabric, in a subsequent email pointing out that the two colourways had been two fabrics were completely different “in not only colour but texture, weave, and composition”.

Minerva’s insisted that I had been sent the right fabric. To start with they tried the line of “Fabrics can differ from colour to colour and may not be the same composition, each batch and colour do vary.”  Er, not that much they don’t. A couple of phone calls later they insisted that it had to be the right fabric because the returns department had checked and it had come from the right shelf (anyone else spot the logical flaw here?)

Eventually I gave up and asked for a refund, which to their credit they did process promptly. I didn’t get a refund on my incurred postage costs, however, due to their continued insistance that they had sent me the right fabric.

I had been considering ordering some more of the said jersey in different colourways. Now I am very hesitant to do so in case the same thing happens again.

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Seeing as Minerva’s are clearly making a real attempt to engage with the blogging community (and hence there is half a chance that they might read this!), I thought I’d offer my thoughts on how they could improve their customer experience. Anecdotal evidence suggests that I am not the only one who has had issues in the past with a company focus on quantity of orders rather than quality per se, but constructive criticism is always better than just plain criticism, right?

So, Minerva’s, here are my suggestions:

  1. Employ staff who know about the product. At the very least, employ a specialist for each area. Anybody cutting my two jerseys with any experience of fabric in the case above should have recognised that they were completely different (and not just in colour). Somebody from the returns department should have been able to see that the fabric I received did not even remotely match up to the description of that which I ordered. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt and blaming the error on ignorance rather than deliberate malpractice, but even ignorance is not that much of an excuse when you’re running a large retail business.
  2. Make it clear on your next-day delivery adverts that this is next day delivery Monday – Friday. Yes, it’s down there in the fine print if you search for it, but a false assumption on my part led to another bad experience some months ago.
  3. Have your phone lines open for at least half a day on a Saturday. Again, this is something that most people expect of a large retailer nowadays and it’s very frustrating for the proportion of your customers who work a standard 9-5 pattern to never be able to get in touch without cramming everything into a lunch break.
  4. Allow people to order lengths of fabric in increments of less than one metre. Maybe restrict it to half metre increments if you’ve got your eye on cutting down waste? It would also be nice to have some direct acknowledgement of the restriction. I’m thinking of the equivalent statement on Gorgeous Fabrics where Ann explicitely states her reasoning behind the policy, at which point it feels a lot less like an underhand sales technique.

Oh, and please don’t patronise your customers when we get in touch with you. It’s really not appreciated, and has left quite a bitter taste in the mouth over here.

Knipmode August 2013 – Pattern Picks

So after my last post where I talked about my general impressions of Knipmode as a magazine, here is where I get down to the meat of things – which patterns I particularly like from this issue!

Most of the technical drawings/ pictures here are from the Knipmode website where, it turns out, you can buy roughly two thirds of the patterns as one offs! (The website claims “alle patronen” from the issue which isn’t strictly true, but the website still beats Burda’s hands down for its ease of use and aesthetic appeal. Just sayin’)

There are six skirts in this issue (or five really, as style 12 is just style 11 minus the bells and whistles, but with slanted hip pockets instead of patch ones). I particularly like three of them. Skirt 27 is in the plus size range, but that starts at a 44 which is what I suspect my hips count as – an advantage for once!

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Blouse 21 and the knit top 22 are completely not my normal style, but I am intrigued by them – they both look as though they have the potential to be incredibly comfortable. Blouse 21 might even pass for workwear in the right fabric (and possibly minus the extra drape – what do you think?)

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There’s a great ‘basic’ jacket (6), and a smart-casual short jacket (3) that looks like it would be really fun to wear – in the same vibe, I really like the look of the shirt-dress (16) and just LOVE the tie-belt jacket (8) .

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None of the trousers do it for me particularly – they’re all tapered styles which are not flattering on my shape to say the least. There’s three dresses and a related knit top which I can see being a big hit in blogland even though I’m not clamouring to make them at this point myself. There’re even two knitting patterns in there, although neither are grabbing me enough to be worth the bother of trying to translate them from Dutch.

Still, the point is that I am definitely glad that I bought this magazine! There’s nothing revolutionary, but there are lots of good, fun basics, which is my favourite type of sewing pattern. I have heard that Knipmode is drafted more for a straight-up-and-down fit than Burda is, so things may require a bit of muslining for my rather extreme curves but it should totally be worth the effort.

Now, just to find some time to actually sew…

Knipmode August 2013 – Impressions

Inspired title, I know 😉

The above issue of Knipmode, bought whilst on holiday, is my first time seeing this particular magazine in the flesh. This is going to be more a review of impressions than anything else, although I will also pick out the patterns that I particularly like the look of. Everything is in Dutch – a fine language of which I speak not a word – so that will no doubt alter the experience somewhat!

I have no idea whether this a regular feature or not, but the magazine comes with a ‘Made by Me’ extra: “mode en accessories van Knipmode & bloggers”. You don’t have to be a fine linguist to translate that. The accessories all come from bloggers, with links to their blogs and brief profiles included. The five simple clothing patterns are all one-dot difficulty level and of the ‘gathered rectangles’ variety, with hand-drawn cutting diagrams, brief schematics with dimensions, and short written instructions.

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This sort of clothing pattern normally annoys me in magazines (“We paid for that?“), but the fact that it’s in a DIY-esque supplement makes all the difference here. It’s not pretending to be a ‘proper’ pattern, basically, but still gives everything you need if it’s a look that you like and want to make.

Onto the main magazine, and the patterns are displayed grouped into various ‘collections’. Most patterns are shown more than once throughout the magazine, on models as well as on ‘capsule’ pages.

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I like the model photos in this magazine a lot more than those in Burda. For one, the backgrounds are nearly all plain colours (with the exception of the amazing hand-drawn doodles in the “Succesweek” section!). For two, they are always in poses that show off the clothes properly and don’t conceal the details. And for three, they are always smiling!

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Instructions and a technical drawing run-down are contained within a paper middle section, and the patterns themselves are on white fold-out sheets stapled in the middle. The pattern sheets feel to be made of a lot sturdier paper than Burda’s and the pattern spacing (in only three colours) is just incomparably better.

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So that’s the magazine, but what about the patterns? Well that’s for another post, before this one gets mahoosive!

Holiday Haul

(Warning – long post ahead!)

Jonathan and I have just got back from an absolutely fantastic week-and-a-bit in Holland. You’re not going to get any photos of the holiday itself, I’m afraid, because I hardly took any. Jonathan takes arty photos of buildings, but getting him in front of a lens is like pulling teeth and when it came to it I decided that I’d rather just enjoy the experience fully in the present rather than always trying to be capturing it for later.

If you’re interested, we went via car and ferry (Harwich – Hoek v Holland) and our rough itinerary was as follows: Delft, dunes south of Schenveningen, Amsterdam, Gouda, Antwerp, cycling in Midden-Delftland, Delft again briefly, Utrecht, Kinderdijk. Monster. Harwich. The A14.

So yes. We fitted quite a lot in to a relatively small space of time.

This is what I bought that may be of interest to you lot (or as Jonathan suggested for the title of this post “Oooo, look, I went on holiday and increased my stash”):

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The August edition of Knipmode. Well c’mon, I was in Holland. It’s kind of compulsory. That said, I have a feeling that this issue may have come out while we were there, because I flicked through a different (presumably July) issue in the supermarket (!!) at the start of the week and was left completely uninspired. August’s issue has several patterns that I like in it, however, and I shall do a separate post on those at some point. I did also eye up August’s Burda, and chalked it down for a maybe-when-I’m-back-in-the-UK purchase.

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Yarn! Namely a Schoppel-Wolle Zauberball and a coordinating ball of cream 4-ply which are totally going into the Ravelry queue as a prospective Dreambird. These were both bought from de Afstap in Amsterdam, mere moments after I had discovered to my dismay that Big Shoe is closed on Mondays (I had trekked across the city with an increasingly grumbly hip to go there specially after a recommendation from a sales assistant elsewhere*). Finding such a lovely yarn shop 100m down was my consolation prize, and whilst they sold mostly Rowan, I was incredibly excited to find my first in-the-flesh Zauberball.

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Fabric. Oh yes. Fabric. I was very restrained and only came back with three pieces. This might have been more, had I not been in Utrecht on the wrong day for their fabric market.

So anyway, L-R above we have:

  • 2m of poly chiffon. Yes, you read that correctly – poly chiffon. I have probably taken leave of my senses having been too scared to even handle chiffon before, never mind sew with it, but could you have left that beauty in the shop? Hmmm? Each one of those black centres has a tiny silver dot in the middle. €7.95/m from one of the shops on Albert Cuypmarkt.
  • 1m of burnout cotton – same sort of weight as a nice quilting cotton. I love the pattern, the warmth of the cream colour, and hello, burnout cotton?! €8.95/m from the same shop. Possibly I should have pressed these fabrics before taking photos? Whatever.
  • 1m of viscose jersey. This was expensive fabric by my standards at €15.95/m (from Stoffenhuis Anja in Gouda) but I just loved it too much to leave behind. I also picked up a couple of 3m of bias binding in navy and cream respectively ‘cos well, it’s probably a useful thing to have knocking about and at €1.25 for 3m I didn’t feel I could complain.

What really struck me was the apparent omnipresence of sewing in the Netherlands. Even towns which didn’t have an obvious fabric shop had haberdashers stuffed to the gills with threads, trims, ribbons, buttons…

As mentioned above, both Burda and Knipmode were standard features on every magazine rack I saw. One supermarket I was browsing in also sold a Simplicity pattern magazine – sort of in the style of the two aforementioned and offering a handful of patterns that I recognised as having already been published in paper format by either Simplicity itself or New Look.

Maybe the grass is greener. Who knows? Either way, it was a wonderful, wonderful holiday, and not just for the purchases. I shall leave you with a few parting shots:

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Necklace designed and beaded by yours truly at Lazuli, Delft

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Suntan!

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What Jonathan brought back to the UK

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The most fabulous tights you ever did see!

‘Tag!

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*It turns out that I even have big feet in Holland. Most UK women’s shoes stop at a 41/UK7. Most Dutch women’s shoes stop at a 42/UK8. I need a 43/UK9. I find the lack of larger shoes in Holland rather odd, given that the average height there is distinctly greater than in most other places and for once I didn’t feel out of place in this regard – or not so much, anyway. My quest for awesome shoes was ultimately successful, however – at the end of the week I bought a pair of these beauties whilst in Utrecht.

Knitting Fizz Buzz

Do you know the game Fizz Buzz? Basically you start at 1 and count upwards, taking it in turn to say a number. So far so easy, but in your counting out loud you must replace every multiple of 3 with “fizz!” and every multiple of 5 with “buzz!”. Multiples of 3 and 5 (ie. multiples of 15) then become “fizz buzz!”.

Why yes, I did grow up in an education-orientated household.

Anyway, I have started work again on my Omelette Cardigan after a long hiatus. This is mainly due to the fact that I knew I was going to have to play a 4-way game of knitting Fizz Buzz in this section and I needed to wait until I had the time and head-space to deal with it.

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I do make life complicated for myself though. The pattern stipulates that you must intersperse decrease rows with buttonhole rows. I decided that this wasn’t complicated enough so added vertical darts and an embossed effect motif to the left pocket area. Oh, and I’ll probably need to grade between sizes by the time I get to the waist too.

It keeps life interesting, no?!

The Difference A Dart Makes

They say that a picture tells a thousand words, so have a somewhat blurry 3000-word essay.

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FO: Colette Lily with Half-Circle Skirt

Me not posting in a little while normally has one of three causes. Either I’m very low, or I’m away, or I’m working frantically on something so I don’t have time to blog. This most recent absence is a bit of reason 1 and a bit more of reason 3. I finished my dress in time for the wedding – on the outside at least – but it was a close run thing.

Jonathan took some photos for me in my parents’ back garden. Unfortunately he crouched down on the ground to do so, so I look like a giantess! They do show off the dress reasonably well, however, so I am still posting them here.

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This is what the fabric looks like when the light catches it (which just about makes up for how shifty the grain was while cutting!):

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And because I am really proud of the fit I achieved:

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I made two really good decisions. Interfacing the bodice and strap pieces gave them a wonderful supportive structure, resulting in a close and comfortable fit without risking major wrinkling. Using a microtex needle meant that the machine flew through each seam smoothly and without issue, even with up to five or six layers of fabric and interfacing at points, and again reduced wrinkling.

So there you have it. Totally can’t tell what the inside looks like in places 😉 I do intend to go back and fix at least some of that, though, and some of the insides are really well finished and look really nice.

Thoughts on the pattern? Well, I used Colette Lily for the bodice and then added a half circle skirt of my own drafting (as far as one can claim to ‘draft’ a circle skirt).

It’s clear that the Colette bodice block does not fit me straight out of the envelope, which I’m a bit disappointed at, and as I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t think that the construction order in the instructions was that sensible. It’d’ve been nice for them to include instructions for an optional lining – I know what I’m doing with that by this stage, but beginners wouldn’t have done.

That said, the drafting is superb. Everything lined up and fit together just perfectly. They’ve produced a gorgeous princess line, and I just love the flap at the top of the bodice. I can totally see myself making this one up again, perhaps as a cottony top.

All in all? I’m pretty pleased with this dress. It garnered a lot of compliments, and will be a great thing to have in the wardrobe for summer events.