Category Archives: Fabric

UK Summer Stash

I blogged about my holiday haul from Holland at the end of July. Today it’s the turn of all the crafty bits and bobs that I have acquired during my various UK travels this summer.

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My in-laws moved to Richmond, North Yorkshire in July, and we visited them on their first weekend in their new house. It was a busy weekend, but we did poke our noses into Richmond market where I was delighted to discover Woolmouse*. The pictures on the website really don’t do it justice – it was a large and cheerful stall packed with nice-quality-but-not-extortionate yarns.

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I was tempted by the huge range of local Yorkshire yarns that they had for sale, but they were all in worsted weight which is not something that I’m really knitting with at the minute. It would have been rude to buy nothing, though, so I got some undyed Araucania Ranco and a pack of lovely little mother-of-pearl-esque buttons:

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Then there was Suffolk. We arrived in Southwold on the Saturday. On Sunday I was wandering down the high street and saw a sign pointing to a quilting display and fabric pop-up shop in a room at the Swan Hotel. Who was I to refuse?

In the downstairs, DaisyMay Quilting were showing off an assortment of their long-arm quilting work. They had some fantastic quilts on displays, but there was no contest when it came to picking a favourite:

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Upstairs, Glenroy Designs had a fabric sale. Even though I’m not normally one for quilting fabric, I spent about an hour in there, oohing and aahing over the fantastic range of cottons, chatting to the ladies in charge and trying to decide what to spend my pennies on (because there was no way that I was leaving empty handed). Eventually I settled on three fabrics. Two fat quarters – autumnal leaves for myself and a Japanese-inspired design as a present for K – and 1.5m of a rich berries design, which I intend to turn into a top of some sort.

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I came across some yarn which I didn’t buy, but totally would have done if they’d had it in the 4-ply weight. Dunwich Heath is one of my very favourite places to be and we were there at the very best time of year for it – when the heather is in full bloom and the bright purple sets off the yellow gorse, just-turning bracken and the blue of the sea behind. I think the notice displayed by the yarn speaks for itself really:

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And last but not least, I finally bought Simplicity 1882 because I found it on sale in John Lewis in Norwich!

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It’s been a great summer 🙂

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*geddit?

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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.

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.

BiCraftual

I’d consider myself a sewist first and a knitter second. Chronologically, of course, but also in terms of my identity.

Despite this, my knitting has been getting rather a lot more attention over the past few months. I put this down to several things:

  • Knitting is portable. I can take it with me on car journeys, pick it up at lunch breaks, knit in bed…
  • Knit nights. I dedicate an evening a week to going out and socialising and knitting. This is part of my routine, again in a way that sewing just isn’t.
  • Knitting is still new and shiny for me.
  • Ravelry is a place where I spend quite a lot of my internet-time these days, and the resultant inspiration factor is huge. Sewing doesn’t have the equivalent. PatternReview.com is great for a purpose but it’s not a site that one browses in the same way. I was an avid member of TheSewingForum.co.uk for quite a while but it’s not the same – more of a forum (as the name suggests) than an all-encompassing resource. And I did once briefly venture onto MySewingCircle.com but… meh.
  • I can knit when my hips are grouchy.
  • I can knit when I’m too tired or depressed to entrust myself with electrically powered sharp-moving objects.

So since its inception back in January, I think it’s fair to say that this blog has been all about the knitting. My mind still wanders from one craft to the other, though, on a fairly regular basis.

Yesterday I was in a knitting mood. I picked up some of the newly released Katia Air Lux yarn at a local yarn shop. This stuff feels incredible. It is a viscose/virgin wool 3ply with a beautiful shimmer and it is so light and so soft that there was no way I was leaving it in the shop. In a serendipitous piece of timing, I have paired it up in my queue with Ysolda Teague’s Orchid Thief Shawlette which will totally qualify for the Crafting Library KAL if and when Chrissy launches it!

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Today my head has been all about the sewing. And so it naturally followed that my retail therapy would wander in that direction too. Why yes, of course I need more fabric. *ahem*

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Are you bi/multi-craftual? How do you handle your hobbies vying for attention?

Buying Lining Amongst Bloggers

I have a deadline for the dress that I’m currently making. A schoolfriend, S, is getting married on the 6th July and much as I love the Burda twist dress that I made in John Kaldor crepe fabric last year (those of you who read my old blog may remember it!), I just felt a bit bored at the thought of bringing it out for a fourth wedding on the trot.

With time, fabric, and a clear vision in my head I set sail. I talked in my last sewing post about block fusing the bodice pieces, but forget to mention what pattern I was using! D’oh!

Let me correct that here. I cashed in a $10 e-voucher that I’ve had sitting about for a while, and downloaded the Colette Lily pattern. It had the exact bodice shape that I wanted and I was keen to try out Colette’s upper-body fit (with something forgiving like princess seams should anything go wrong!). Rather than pair it with the slim fit skirt though, which could be asking for trouble with my figure and a shimmery fabric, I decided to draft a half-circle skirt – I think the fabric will handle it beautifully* – so something along the lines of this:

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I’ll talk more about the fit and construction of the dress in a future post.

But back to today, I realised that I needed some lining. Even though the bodice is effectively underlined, that skirt was clearly going to benefit from the bit of extra body and flare that a lining provides. Rather than faff about with trying to squeeze circle skirt pieces from the various bits of anti-static polyester in my stash, I decided that a trip in to Barry’s Fabrics was in order.

Barry’s is fantastic. Barry’s is amazing. It’s a single warehouse in Digbeth (in the centre of town), and it’s basically stuffed to the gills with fabric. The prices are pretty good as well. Not dirt-cheap but thoroughly affordable, and more to the point is it’s all proper dressmaking fabric – none of this novelty quilting stuff for £eye-watering/metre.

Walking through the door, I was struck by how full the shop was. I mean, sure, it’s a Saturday. But even so – the aisles were full of excitable young people, most of whom had clearly travelled some way. And then I caught sight of the button rosette badges and it clicked. I had stumbled onto a sewing bloggers’ meet-up, a bit of Googling of which has revealed to be the one organised by Claire of Sew Incidentally.

I exchanged pleasantries with one or two of the bloggers whilst we were waiting to have our fabric cut, and I found myself wondering whether I want to get involved in the online sewing community too, more than just leaving the occasional comment. They all seemed like lovely people and what fun it would be to be able to share my hobby with others on a real-life basis!

And I realised that actually I don’t. The number of people in Barry’s completely overwhelmed me. When I got out of there, purchases in hand, the anxiety was racing and I drove home needing comfort and quiet reassurance from Jonathan. I love sewing and I love being able to discuss sewing, but in many ways it’s quite a personal activity. Me and my fabric. Me and my sewing machine. Chatting about patterns with a friend or pawing over somebody else’s fabric choices – fine. But being part of a huge group just isn’t me, and I think it’s quite important to be able to recognise that.

What did I come home with?

Three metres of a light-coloured mystery fabric from the £2/metre table. It’s feels like a cotton-poly mix, possibly, and it’s very light with quite an open weave. It wouldn’t be great for using as a fashion fabric, but as lining for a summer dress it’ll be perfect. Clearly I bought way more than I’ll need for this project, but it’ll be useful to have on hand for future makes.

Half a metre of muslin (as in actual muslin) for Jonathan to use in the kitchen.

And two metres of a gorgeously soft charcoal 100% acrylic ponteroma.

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Some people are bright satin prints. I’m a charcoal ponteroma, or a pale gold/ pewter shimmer lined with light polycotton. I’m cool with that.

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*And I clearly wasn’t going to have enough fabric for a properly full skirt nicked from the one of the Vogue dress patterns that I own. C’est la vie.

Farewell to Abakhans

My in-laws are moving away from Lancashire in the summer to a new pastorate*. I must admit that neither I nor Jonathan will miss it terribly, but there are four things which will be a shame to be leaving.

Top of the list has to come P, Jonathan’s best friend and college roomate from university who just happened to live in the same small town that his parents and brothers had moved to at the start of his gap year – lucky indeed.

Third on the list comes such easy access to the sea and fourth, the Lake District within day-trip distance, although I daresay that the North Yorkshire moors will make up for that one.

But the main concern (bar P) for me at least will be my lack of semi-regular access to Preston Abakhans. I wouldn’t say that Abakhans’ fabric is either high quality or predictable in its nature, but you simply can’t beat some of the bargain bins! Fabric is sold by weight – priced by the kg – and you can get the assistants to cut it down for you so long as they’re left with at least a metre.

So basically, it would have been rude not to.

1. Fab lightweight poly knit print, just shy of one metre. I’m thinking a top along the lines of BWOF 09-2010-121. £2.09.

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2. Bubbles lace (as I’m calling it). I’ve been on the lookout for a fun and not too traditional lace for ages! It isn’t stretch, alas, but but I have had t-shirt dress envy ever since Tanit-Isis made hers yonks ago so I may try and futz around with M5661 or similar. It could also be a fun waistband accent. Didn’t measure, but there’s quite a bit of it, by which I mean at least over a metre. £1.89.

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3. This fabric actually came off the bolt. It’s a lightweight woven of unknown compostion in a beautiful pale gold/ pewter colour and it’s got a gorgeous shimmery sheen to it. I bought two metres envisaging a shirtdress, but I could also see it working as a simple skirt and jacket combination if I could squeeze it out. £7.40.

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4. Cherry-coloured cotton poplin. Probably about a metre. Definitely a smart blouse of some sort. £2.74.

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5. A thin, baby-pink t-shirt knit, a bit under a metre. Totally Vogue 1141. £1.55.

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Bargainous. I was very good. I didn’t even look in the yarn section.

*Both Jonathan’s parents are ministers. Dusty Springfield was included on the wedding reception playlist, but I fear it got too lost amongst chatter to raise any particular reaction.