Category Archives: Recommendations

Fibre Flurry 2013!

I’ll be going to my first yarn/fibre festival this October, and I’m so excited!
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Fibre Flurry is run by a friend of mine, and it’s been a real education seeing how much work goes in behind the scenes and how many different things have to be thought about.

After months of preparation already, the tickets have now been released along with the comprehensive list of workshops available. I’ve signed up for Beginner’s Spindle Spinning, but if I had unlimited finances I would totally be doing Stranded Knitting, Steeking, and Chart Magic too.

A girl needs to save up for pretty yarns, though, right?

As the festival is spread over two days, there is Saturday night entertainment in the form of the Fibre Flurry Frolick – a meal, competitions, live music, fundraising for p/hop and QEHB Charities, and a talk from none other than Amy Singer, the founder of knitty.com .

Are you excited? I’m excited! A knitting, crochet and fibre festival, right on my doorstep! Will I see any of you there?

For those wondering – yes, Fibre Flurry is run by a friend. No, I am not getting paid for this post (or indeed any kickback other than possibly a bit of pizza when I go round tonight). Yes, of course I want to see her do well. But Fibre Flurry stands up for itself – this is K’s third time at running the event and it would not be where it is today without people attending, enjoying it, and crucially, coming back for more fibre-y goodness 🙂

Lesson Learned

I can be a bit of a glutton, especially when it comes to fabric.

Even after everything that happened with Minerva’s a fortnight ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about my tan jersey and its luscious handle. I kept thinking what a perfect match it would be for Vogue 1329, perhaps paired with a beige contrast. I kept salivating over the thought of a navy shift dress in the same soft, smooth, weighty jersey…

Well you know what happened, don’t you. I decided to risk it, ordering through the eBay shop this time so at least I’d have Buyer Protection. I opened the package and… it was the really crappy stuff. Bummer.

Then I got confused. Maybe it’s the tan fabric that they got wrong (to my benefit) in the first order. So I went back to the website again, and zoomed in on the pictures in detail. And look what I found. Click on the images below and it’ll hopefully bring up the full size versions.

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Look closely at the weaves. I know that computer monitors can play tricks and stuff but those are two different fabrics, right? Yet the website descriptions are exactly the same: “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!”

After discovering this morning that eBay Buyer Protection isn’t worth the storage bytes that the title occupies, I’m just sucking up the wasted postage costs and sending the whole lot back (along with the polyester print that was cut so far off grain that there was only 88cm usable fabric in the metre:

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I’m sorry guys but there’s no excuse for that, especially in a fabric that is eminently snip-and-rip-able.)

That’s a part of me which is tempted to call Trade Descriptions on their asses, but at this stage I really can’t be bothered. I can say this with authority, though: I will never, ever be ordering from Minerva’s ever again.

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!

Pod-Casting About

The day so far has been spent doing this and that – bit of tidying, bit of cleaning, going with Jonathan to Halfords and Homebase because I wanted the company and hey, it’s an outing. I’m not horrendously low but I’m not in a great place either, and when that happens I often find that pottering about doing useful bits and bobs is quite soothing.

However I do want to do some work on my dress this afternoon. I’ve discovered recently that I can sew or knit whilst in this particular frame of mind (which I used not to be able to) – provided that I have the company of a knitting podcast.

I’m very much a newbie to the world of listening to podcasts. I was aware of their existence, obviously, but I couldn’t really see their place in my life. I don’t have a particularly long commute to work, or a portable music player that works. When I tried a sewing podcast a while back, I became frustrated at the visual reference that was missing compared to my blog-reading. I also don’t ‘do’ just sitting and listening with nothing else in my hands.

But then I discovered Chrissy’s podcast at Stitched Together, and I loved it! It turns out that all along I was just trying the wrong podcasts. I don’t want to have to be hanging on every last detail of a fast-moving narrative. I want it to feel like chatting at Knit Night, with the added benefit of a few judiciously written ‘show notes’ which provide a few pictures and links to patterns or websites discussed.

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I’ve realised that Chrissy’s podcast is the first British podcast I’d listened to, and I’m not going to lie – I find her soft East Midlands tones much more relaxing than some of the American accents out there (although I’ve no doubt that I could tune in to an American accent if I was enjoying the show enough). There’s also something reassuring in listening to someone else who doesn’t have three new FOs every week, and who does have to count the pennies, and who does have to count spoons too. She’s lovely, and having her playing while I sit down at the machine feels like great company.

I’ve no doubt that I will find other podcasts that I want to recommend at some point… but for now I am going to stop rambling and start sewing. I’ve already listened to Chrissy’s latest episode, so I’m going to be exploring her list of recommendations on Ravelry for this afternoon’s entertainment.

If you’re into knitting and not familiar with podcasts, then go on – do give them a try!