Olfa 45m Deluxe Rotary Cutter Review

Since I started sewing, I’ve always used a pair of fabric scissors for cutting out my fabric. I got them for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I can’t remember the brand but I know they aren’t that fancy. The grip is nice, but they are fairly chunky with a shortish blade compared to many dressmaking shears I’ve seen, and I’m not always that neat at cutting with them. Especially with finer or slippery fabrics, things can get a bit unstable.

I do have a rotary cutter, which is by Olfa, but I think it’s the smallest and cheapest model. I never had much success using it for anything significant. The blades never seemed sharp enough and I had to go over spots multiple times, chewing up the fabric and unable to get a clean line.

Nevertheless, I’ve heard so many people raving about and swearing by their rotary cutters that I thought I should give it a bit more thought. A bit of research online seemed to indicate that Olfa is popular with people cutting fabric for dressmaking and further that the 45m deluxe model came out on top.

I turned to my usual go-to online retail hub, eBay, and sure enough picked up the exact model, plus spare blade for around £20.

olfa rotary cutter

I got the chance to try it out on my latest project, the GBSB circle skirt, so cutting a medium weight soft cotton. The grip is certainly very comfortable and nicely curved into the palm, so it feels secure. The blade release is a very good feature too. There’s a button on the side which locks the blade in the retracted position, or if released the blade only comes down when you squeeze the grip. So immediately you release your grip, the blade retracts. This is primarily a safety feature but I think it’s also resulted in a better designed blade mechanism.

olfa rotary cutter
Blade is recessed, loose grip on the handle
olfa rotary cutter
Blade is cutting, handle squeezed in grip

I still didn’t quite get a clean cut first time everywhere, but I think that is probably just technique and/or my cutting surface wasn’t 100% flat (it has hinges where it folds into a concertina). Certainly cutting the long curve of the circle skirt was much easier than it would have been with scissors and it felt quicker and smoother.

I’ll certainly be testing it on more fabrics but it does seem like this was a good buying decision!

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#TheWardrobeChallenge – Current wardrobe

So I am feeling pretty shocked right now. I just did a critical analysis on my wardrobe and took out everything that wasn’t handmade, secondhand, vintage or by an independent label. This is what I was left with:

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I honestly thought I had more secondhand than that!  Here’s the lineup from L2R:
2 x GBSB basic tunics – handmade
Pair trousers – handmade
60s inspired dress – handmade
Silver beaded dress – 2nd hand upcycled
Turquoise dress beaded neck – 2nd hand upcycled
Gold beaded bolero – upcycled
Fox print skirt – by GetCutie
40s green dress – Collectif
Rocha green top – 2nd hand
Brown trousers – 2nd hand
Purple dress – 2nd hand
White blouse – vintage, reworked

So needless to say I haven’t culled the rest of my wardrobe quite yet, else I’d look ridiculous. It does show me quite how far I need to go though.

And while I didn’t cull it all, I did ditch quite a bit for the next ebay round!

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Now selling on Depop

For many years I have been a devout eBayer, both buyer and seller. Mum and I both have regular wardrobe purges and most of our items are decent high street pieces and in mum’s case, often hardly worn. So it’s a nice little bonus on the months that I list on ebay. I have always tended to wait and take advantage of the free listing weekends, but these are becoming rarer since eBay introduced the automatic 20 free listing per month last year. Well, sorry eBay but 20 per month just don’t cut it for me, and our items are too good to let go for pennies.

So recently I’ve been hunting around for a rival. eBay has such a dominant market share you could forgive the startups for not even trying, but there are a few breaking away from the pack. I was initially attracted by Vinted but put off by the fact that your payment is held in escrow until the buyer receives the item and confirms they’re happy… too much risk there for me, I’m a fair seller but I can all too easily see how sellers could end up with no item and no money.

A few others are more designer-orientated and our wardrobe clearouts aren’t quite THAT good. So I was drawn to Depop, a fun and very social selling platform which is entirely app-based.

I’ve spent a week browsing and following and liking to get a feel for the site, and today listed my first items. The biggest hurdle was the picture format – they use Instagram-like squares which caused me a great headache as I tried to figure out how to get a decent photo showing all of my item… Finally a found a great app called #SquareDroid. You choose or take a photo and it scales it and fills out the square with either a block or gradient colour or blurred version of your photo. I started to pick block colour picking out a colour in my item, which I hope will make my photos eye-catching in the stream.

Not quite what Depop advertises as ‘upload your photo and away you go’, but with online selling the photos are crucial so a bit of time invested here should pay dividends later.

The descriptions are a basic text entry field and the use of hashtags is key, all very simple. Pick the category and size (and quantity if necessary). Set your price and postage (national and international shipping options only, anything more complex and your buyer would need to message you). Choose whether to share your listing via Facebook or Twitter, hit Publish and your item is flung out there into socialmedialand.

depop

You’ll need to download the app to get the full experience but to follow me & see what I have listed click on the Depop icon over in the sidebar –>

I’ll post again once I have some experience of selling and let you know my results.

Gel nail polish

So as you may have gathered already, I love my nail polishes. In fact I have two boxes of them, in all colours and brands.

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But one of my major peeves is that inevitably, you can only go 2 days or so before, at best, they need a retouch and at worst it’s start all over again. I’m busy! I don’t want to be doing my nails every other night! But chipped nails just look naff.

So of course, this new rage for gel nails seemed right up my street, except I wasn’t going to fork out £20+ every week or two and god knows how long in a salon to get them. My dad’s girlfriend Gail has been having them for ages but then she has a salonist friend, so…

Also, I already have a large collection of nail polishes, and I didn’t want to leave them languishing or fork out more for a whole new set of special ‘gel’ polishes.

Luckily, my old friend eBay came up trumps, and I nabbed a UV light box AND a clear Gel polish (Nailene) with solvent cleanser (more on that later) for less than the price of one salon gel manicure.

photo 2

So for my first test, I went for Kiko Mint Milk, which is not a very well wearing polish normally, with a gel top coat. This is after my usual cuticle tidying and base coat of Nail Rescue.

It lasted four days before I felt like it had to come off, and chipped much less. However, I think a lot of this is in the technique and the normal polish you use underneath. My second attempt has been with a Nails Inc polish that is better wearing, and also faster drying. I read that it can take 24 hours for a normal nail polish to truly dry out, and if you gel top coat you basically seal in the solvents and it won’t properly dry.

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Also, you have to be really precise with the gel polish. It will only adhere to your nail (that’s a good thing!) but it does mean that if you overrun, then set it, you end up with a hard edge protruding from the nail which you can easily catch and peel off a chunk of the polish. You also need to be quite firm in sealing along the front edge of the nail, otherwise this is where the normal polish will wear back.

Finally, at first I thought my UV lamp was dodgy because you’re only supposed to set the nail for 1-2 minutes, but it was still tacky. Can’t be right, I thought, so I turned to the internet. Turns out that was what the cleanser sold with my gel polish was for, with some little lint-free wipes – the tacky layer is normal and you clean it off with this to leave a shiny, hard gel surface.

Overall I’m really impressed with my little do-it-at-home kit and will definitely be perservering with the gel top-coat theory!

The Compact Traveller : Cabin baggage review

I was planning to write a review of the weekend bag I’ve been using recently, because I’ve been quite impressed with it and it was sold as cabin baggage. Now this post seems even more topical, with Easyjet’s new cabin baggage announcement today.

From today, you can still use a 56 x 45 x 25cm cabin bag, but if too many other people on your flight also have the maximum size, Easyjet will no longer guarantee that you bag stays in the cabin – instead, it may be put in the hold. Although they say this will be done at no charge to the passenger, they point out the inconvenience it might cause if there are things in your bag that you want during the flight (I would just argue that you take those out before they put the bag in the hold). Alternatively, you can take on a smaller 50 x 40 x 20cm bag and they’ll guarantee this stays in the hold with you.

I’m not surprised that they’ve done this – on our Easyjet flights to and from Pisa, I’d say that 80% of the passengers had a cabin-size suitcase or holdall, and they were all in the maximum range. It was only a matter of time before they had to address the space issue. Half the time now you end up several rows down the plane from your bag, just so they can fit them all in. I think I’d be most annoyed at having had to condense my toiletries to meet the cabin liquids restrictions and then finding that my bag went in the hold anyway!

LYDC London cabin bag

In any case, my cabin bag is an LYDC London purple mock-croc holdall. It’s smart and has carry handles on top and on one end, as well as 2 wheels and a retractable handle that zips away. This makes it really versatile and I’ve trollied it round cities, carried it up and down stairs and lifted it on and off planes and trains with no issue. The extending handle is possibly somewhat wobbly after the battered pavements of Italy but we’ll see, so far it is holding up well. I bought mine on eBay but there seem to be plenty of retailers online.

Like most items retailed as “cabin baggage”, it’s in the larger bracket, advertised at 53 x 30 x 24cm, so I was interested to see how it fared in practical terms on my flights last month. First up was FlyBe (cabin restrictions 55cm x 40cm x 23cm, 10kg), on a Dash-8 which is quite a small aircraft. It was abundantly clear that my cabin bag was NOT going in the overhead lockers, no matter which way I turned it. The opening is really narrow and the lockers are quite shallow in the Dash-8 – fortunately it did go under the seat in front (just) but if you’re long legged and on a long flight, you won’t be comfortable because it takes up half your legroom. That said, on my return FlyBe flight I did have my bag weight checked (7.5kg even when comfortably full) and approved as cabin baggage.

Next up, the airline of the moment – Easyjet. Still under standard rules at that time of 56 x 45 x 25cm and 10kg again, on an Airbus A319. This time the bag went in the overhead lockers with ease. Conversely, if I’d had to put it under the seat in front I don’t think it would have happened, because the seats are 3 across with less legroom than FlyBe, so I think it would have been a jam to get it into position.

Easyjet were banging on about only having one single piece of luggage (as were FlyBe), but that said I tend to have a policy of not putting my handbag into my cabin bag unless asked, which I wasn’t. Besides, I didn’t have any duty free bags so I would argue that me with my cabin bag + handbag is equal to someone with cabin bag + duty free bag, which is allowed.

And the only other thing to mention about this bag is that it was clearly designed by Mary Poppins, because so far I have not managed to fill it! Granted, I am known for my packing skills but I haven’t felt like I was cutting back at all, and in my recent two-leg trip Cornwall-Italy-Cornwall-London, there was some tricky planning involved.