Sew Hayley Jane boxes – 6 months of loveliness

I thought it was about time I reviewed Sew Hayley Jane‘s subscription boxes! I signed up for the Medium/Classic box back in February and just received my sixth box of loveliness.

My main reason for signing up was that I wanted to explore using different fabrics and notions. I have a decent fabric stash, but I find myself attracted to the same kinds of things when I shop. I liked the idea that I’d be presented each month with a curated box of sewing goodies and fabric and then have to think more creatively about what to make – helped of course by Hayley’s monthly blog posts with pattern ideas. Also, who doesn’t love a subscription box? It’s like a present to yourself every month.

What I didn’t count on was the wonderful community and feeling part of a club, especially over on Instagram and especially at the time when everyone’s boxes start arriving! It’s so much fun to see people posting their excitement and ideas for what they’ll make – and of course their finished garments.

I chose to subscribe to the Classic box because the length of main fabric you get – 2.5 metres – is enough for me to make most types of garment; dress, skirts, tops, trousers… At first I thought I would probably have boxes for 2 or 3 months and take a break, but they have been so lovely I haven’t wanted to stop! The £35 price point is probably at the upper limit of what I would pay for a subscription box, but that said I do think it is great value considering the fabrics, notions and other goodies have all been of really great quality and beautifully chosen. If your budget is a little tighter, the Mini box is £20 and the main difference is you get 1 metre of the same main fabric as the Classic and 3 rather than 4 fat quarters. The Luxury box would be a blowout treat for me, at £65/month, but you do get 3 metres of a different main fabric and a printed pattern from a known pattern house (Sew Over It, Closet Case and Pauline Alice have all recently featured).

The themes have all been great fun and carefully curated – you can see full contents of all past boxes here to give you a flavour of Hayley’s style. Unlike some other subscription boxes I’ve had in the past (Glossybox and My Little Box), I don’t think there has been a single thing in any of the boxes that I haven’t loved! My all time favourite box overall so far was June’s Sail Away nautical themed one, so much so that when Hayley advertised she had some extra boxes I bought a Mini one that month as well…

Below are some of the things I have made so far. I still had quite a bit of the purple floral georgette from April’s box left, so I’ve almost finished making a cami top from that as well. I think I had some of the black viscose from February left but not so much. Yet to be cut into are the royal blue swallow print cotton poplin from May (still undecided on pattern for that) and anchor-print chambray from June (definitely becoming a SOI Penny shirtdress) and various of the fat quarters (planning cushions, pattern weights, a pattern-weight storage bag and not sure what else).

Clockwise from bottom left:
Needle case (fat quarter from Feb box)
Earbud pouch (fat quarters from March box)
Wired headbands and origami bag (fat quarters from March and April boxes)
Black shift dress (main fabric from Feb box)
Carolyn pyjamas (main fabric from March box)
SOI Kimono top (main fabric from April box)

So, what was in July’s box? Time to find out…

Classic box of loveliness tied up with string…
Handwritten note…

I love that the boxes are always hand-tied with raffia (yes I keep this too!) and have a handwritten, personally addressed note introducing the box theme. Hayley’s business is getting so popular now, I can’t imagine how long it takes her to write all of these! But I just think it goes to show how much love and care goes into these boxes.

Ooh exciting…nearly revealed!
Everything neatly in its place

Everything is always packaged so neatly in the box, despite the travails of the postal service it still looks lovely when opened. Small notions are often individually wrapped in tissue paper. I admit to a slight frisson of alarm on seeing the jam and the white fabric, but happy to report no leaks! There is always a sweet treat among the sewing goodies, because who doesn’t need a bit of a sugar rush for sewing energy?

All unpacked
All unpacked

So there we have it! July’s Summer Garden Party box all unpacked. 2.5 metres of white broderie anglaise (which will definitely challenge me to think creatively to use), 4 heavier-weight fat quarters which are very Cath Kidston-esque, 2 metres of zingy purple gingham bias tape, super cute Time for Tea notebook, beeswax thread runner (lifesaver when I get back to my embroidery/cross stitch project), matching Gutermann thread as always for the main fabric, and not forgetting the jam! There is always also a little card with links to fabric care info (which I totally always pay attention to…)

I’m looking forward to Hayley’s post next week about the pattern recommendations. White broderie anglaise definitely falls into the category of a fabric I wouldn’t be likely to choose myself, so I’m looking forward to the inspiration and pushing my creative dressmaking boundaries.

TLDR: SHJ boxes are awesome, gorgeously-packaged and chock full of high quality sewing goodies. Pick based on your budget and what you want to achieve with the main fabric, and you won’t regret it!

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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!

Savage Beauty – Alexander McQueen @ V&A

Earlier this month I got around to seeing the Alexander McQueen exhibition at the V&A. I always liked his out-there designs and I had been in two minds whether to go to this show, but having read some very good reviews I decided it was worth it.

The online advance ticket store appears to be sold out until almost the end of the run (2nd August), but there are at least 200 tickets available daily on the desk at the V&A. We turned up at about 2pm on a wet Sunday afternoon and after just a few minutes queuing got tickets for the 3.15pm slot. The entries are timed, but you have unlimited time to spend in the show, I think it’s just to try and regulate the flow of people a bit.

I’m using the word “show” quite deliberately. Exhibitions to me are inherently static things, and this is a piece of art theatre. Right from the entry room, through the several themed rooms introducing McQueen the designer, McQueen the style and the recurring themes of his collections, into the finale showpieces, the whole thing is an immersive experience of sound and video in addition to the couture pieces on show.

I certainly learnt a few things about McQueen that I didn’t know before, but mostly it was an opportunity to appreciate and marvel at the fashion he created. I was particularly taken by the jackets in one of the early rooms looking at his key design features, and by the dresses in the Highland Rape collection. The fabrics from the last complete collection, Plato’s Atlantis, were amazing as well. I resisted buying a £350 scarf from the shop in one of those prints…

Photo credit: V&A

Quite rightly, photography is banned so there’s no clues here – go and see for yourself!

 

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.

My Little Box – Review

I’ve previously posted about Glossybox, a monthly beauty sample box, which I have generally found to be good value and has introduced me to some new products. But, at the end of the day I’m not that much of a beauty product fanatic and I just don’t get through (or use) everything I was being sent via Glossybox.

So, I was pretty excited to hear about a new monthly box concept, My Little Box. Like many cool et chic things, it’s a French import – and in fact when I got my first box I was chuffed to see it was dispatched from the town where I did my year abroad !

Each box has a theme or is guest edited, and contains more of a variety of goodies than the purely beauty based Glossybox.

Box 1 – Diane von Furstenburg

Well, what a first box! Guest edited by designer heavyweight Diane von Furstenburg, the mini-zine was full of features surrounding the brand and the woman, and I was actually quite impressed with the amount of content in such a tiny zine.

The contents of the box didn’t disappoint either – the star of the show for me was a full sized DvF print scarf, but also included were a DvF lips logo brooch, Kerastase Laque Noire hairspray (well used with my new style, more on that soon…), My Little Beauty Eau Micellaire, Occitane hand cream miniature, inspirational postcard – all contained in a useful cloth bag.

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Box 2 – My Little COSY Box

I guess this second box is the usual type – rather than guest edited it’s based on a theme. Lots of cute things here – a ceramic espresso mug, cloth heat pouch, and once again a few beauty essentials – My Little Beauty Mascara ‘Soin et Volume’, Arcancil waterproof eyeliner, Yves Rocher eyeshadow, and another postcard in another little cloth bag.

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At £13.95 per month delivered, these boxes are equivalent cost to Glossybox but I much prefer the concept and feel like the contents are much more interesting and value for money!

Going bare

I have a confession. I haven’t shaved my legs in two months. WHAT ! I hear you all cry, is she mad?! Nope, in the peak of the leg-baring season I have stopped shaving my legs. But I haven’t thrown all conventions out of the window, I just found a new method.

At the county show in June I picked up a nifty new product from the Health & Beauty section. It’s called Sheerskin, and basically it’s a micro-exfoliation pad. You get two in a box, a large (for legs, large areas) and a small (ideal for those moustaches we all pretend we don’t get…) with replacement pads.

The girl on the stand did a quick demo on my (two-day old stubble) leg and I was seriously impressed. Granted she clearly had a fresh exfoliating pad, in which case the exfoliation takes seconds to get to smooth. I’ve found as the pad wears, it can take a bit more elbow grease to achieve the same effect, and that the pads last 2-3 weeks with regular use.

The one thing I’ve found doesn’t work is underarms. Maybe I can’t get the right angle of contact or perhaps my underarms are too sensitive, but I just couldn’t get it right so I’m still shaving there. I’ve seen a great improvement on my legs though, which used to get very dry after shaving and I always had little cuts, now I think they look much better. And the hair which does grow through is becoming finer and is less visible, so if I skip an extra day you can’t really tell visually.

Foyles of Charing Cross

I’ve been meaning to visit some of the big bookshops of London for a while now. A few months ago I went to Oxford and visited Blackwells – mum and I both came out well weighted down with books!

I’d heard a lot about Foyles recently since they’ve just moved to a new premises, next door to their old shop on Charing Cross Road. It’s dead easy to get to – Exit 4 from Tottenham Court Road tube, turn right and follow the hoardings of the Centrepoint building site round onto Charing Cross road itself, then you’ll walk past the old Foyles shop on the right before reaching the new one.

It’s really well laid out – they’ve crammed in as much as they can whilst still having nice display points, and the floors are alternating with stairs and lift shafts in the centre. So you come in at ground level at the front of the shop, then 1st floor is half a level up at the back of the shop, 2nd floor another half level up at the front and so on. This means you always feel like you have a view across the full width of the shop and despite the rows upon row of shelves, it has a open feel.

They also realise that it’s a nightmare if you’re looking for something in particular, so there’s lists of departments everywhere, plenty of staff on hand to help and they even have a shop search on the free WiFi network, which is supposed to guide you to a specific title. Unfortunately when I tried to use this, although the title was in stock, it didn’t know the location!

There’s also a cafe and art gallery on the top floor, with comfy seats, low tables and bench seating. Even at 6pm on a Saturday, it was full of people reading, note-making, and tapping away on ipads or laptops. It seems like a great communal space and will definitely be going in my little black book of hideaways in London.

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So in the course of collecting the above, I visited pretty much the whole store, added to browsing the Fantasy/Sci Fi, Craft and Fashion sections.

From Foreign language study, I picked up the Chinese reader and Benny’s Fluent in 3  Months book. This is what I’m reading first and I don’t agree with everything he has to say, but there’s no doubt he’s enthusiastic about learning languages and has gathered some great resources.

The Circle is one from new fiction, it’s a dystopian genre book that seems to draw on 1984 themes, but we’ll see when I read it!

Flappers I spotted a few weeks ago – it’s from the history section and charts the lives of six ‘dangerous women’ who exemplified the 1920s.

Marc Levy’s ‘Sept Jours pour une éternité’ I’m hoping is another Guillaume Musso. I’ve read through the two recent Musso’s in quick succession so this could be another author to add to my list. I also think if my friend Emma who is currently obsessed with Supernatural could read French, she’d like this since it’s about God and Lucifer each sending an agent to earth with the aim of putting a final end to their feud. Lucas and Zofia have seven days to complete their mission…but of course neither God nor Lucifer remembered to ensure the angel and the demon would never meet…!

Finally, Superteams came from the Management section, I hope it will give me some inspiration in my new Team Leader role at work. It takes examples from some pretty high flying teams, but I think the principles should still apply and it’ll be a good read.