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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#TheWardrobeChallenge – New sewing machine

Ok so in #TheWardrobeChallenge Introduction – Part II, we have my new sewing machine investment.

For the last few years I’ve had a Brother machine which I bought second hand on ebay for about £40. It’s done what I needed it to do, which was to get me introduced to sewing and has been fine for the basic things I’ve made so far.

But, for more technical sewing or for sewing with better fabrics, and especially for making clothes, this really wasn’t going to cut it in the long run.

I’ll admit, until I did the Refining Dressmaking Techniques workshop by Celia Banks at the Knitting and Stitching show earlier in March, I had no notion of needing a new machine. But during the workshop we used the Janome CXL301 and I was blown away. It had adjustable speed, tons of stitches, a needle up/down button, a lock stitch feature…and beyond this is was quieter, smoother….just fantastic. As I explained to mum (who drives both), a bit like driving an Audi as opposed to a Skoda.

So then it was just fate that I got a newsletter offer for a very similar model, Janome 8050XL, delivered with 2 years warranty and accessories, with £100 off the marked price. It took me all of 24 hours to make my mind up! I think the CXL301 must be the model replacing this one, as many of the features are the same, including all those listed above.
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It is just so much better – a proper free arm for sleeves and fiddly sewing, horizontal spool so you don’t get crazy spin going on, a clear bobbin case and much easier bobbin replacement than my old machine, loads of stitch features including decorative patterns, buttonholes, and straight stitches with automatic locking at start and end…the list goes on.
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I am yet to take the plunge with my first big project on it but to try and get used to it and break my old machine habits (such as reaching for a reverse stitch lever that isn’t there instead of pressing the reverse or lock stitch buttons) I sewed up some pattern weights from a copy of Love Sewing magazine.

The Spring Knitting & Stitching Show Olympia

I’ve been lacking in posts again, mea culpa. Busy life and lack of inspiration to write about anything. But last weekend I went to the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia, so I thought I would write a review.

It’s run by Twisted Threads events and they have a few other dates – Autumn at Ally Pally as well as Dublin and Harrogate and the Festival of Quilts at Birmingham NEC in August. See: http://www.theknittingandstitchingshow.com/. I will definitely be going to the Ally Pally event and I vow to be more organised, for reasons I shall explain.

I can’t remember how I found out about the show, but I know it was in the new year and probably via an advert in Mollie Makes or similar. I bookmarked it and noted that there would be workshops, but at the time the program was not yet announced. It was in the back of my mind but I planned to buy tickets on the door and play it by ear, forgetting completely about the workshops.

A week or so before I caught a Mollie Makes promo code and got discounted tickets, and then the workshops hit me in the face. There was a great variety offering tutorials on things like concealed zips, different craft techniques right up to a 2-hour dressmaking essentials workshop – which I was desperate to get into. Unfortunately the online pre-booking had closed, and it was now first come first serve at the show for places left. The dressmaking workshop was first thing on the Sunday and I suspected it would be sold out, so I contacted the organisers who were eventually able to tell me that yes, it was sold out. So I didn’t break my neck getting there on Sunday and instead decided to have a nice mooch about the stalls and just see what there was to see.

Photo courtesy of TwistedThread on Pinterest

There were very many stalls, with a good variety of products and prices. Particularly popular were the fabric stalls, with rows four deep fighting to see the bolts and queuing for the cutting staff. No doubt Great British Sewing Bee has helped a resurgence in homemade clothing! Quilting was also a popular theme, and various hand-sewing crafts from knitting to cross stitch to crochet and needle felting. There were a few stalls with clothing patterns, including some vintage-inspired ones, but I would have liked to see more in this category and I didn’t spot any stalls with a good range of machine equipment except a couple selling particular brands of machine (sadly not mine).

Photo courtesy of TwistedThread on Pinterest

As for facilities, although it was a busy Sunday and last day of the show, the several catering outlets were still fully stocked and there were enough of them for there not to be much of a queue, even at peak lunchtime. There wasn’t really enough seating but that’s always the case at Olympia events.

As well as the stalls, there were various exhibition spaces for craft guilds, and besides the workshops there were also some demonstration areas which seemed to be mainly quilting.

I was quite restrained with my purchases, although I committed the cardinal sin of buying fabric for a pattern without knowing what I needed! Another point where I will take a shopping list next time. I bought a metre each of four cotton fabrics which I plan to make sleeveless blouses from, using a Great British Sewing Bee pattern. I laid out the first one yesterday and am pleased to find that it does fit onto 1 metre! I also bought two pattern packs; Burda trousers with two waistband styles and New Look for two blouse styles, skirt and trousers.

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So, next time I will make sure to book some workshops in advance, and I will go prepared with a shopping list! Definitely worth a trip if you live near one of the event locations.

Crafting and Upcycling Backlog

Ok, so I haven’t been feeling very inspired by my clothing recently, there are plenty of things in my wardrobe that I like but I feel I’ve been recycling the same outfits and colours again and again. However, I also don’t feel justified in doing the traditional thing at this time of year and hitting the new season lines with my plastic card.

Therefore, I seem to have piled up a few upcycled clothing ideas in my crafting basket!

Way back in May sometime I picked up some Ikea fabric from a car boot (I think I posted about it) and started making a skirt. I lost patience with attempt 1 based on a loose pattern, ripped it up (not quite literally) and started again. Yet, attempt 2 still isn’t to my liking and sits abandoned in the basket. I think the fabric is wrong for the skirt design I want, it won’t hang properly.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a cardigan from Roman Originals in the sale, which has a really fun dressmakers model print. It had some naff sequins and beads on some of the models which I’ve unpicked, and I wanted to change the buttons. I really liked the ones I got with my free Home Barn copy of Mollie Makes, but they were too big to go through the holes. The cardigan comfortably goes on with the buttons done up anyway, so I decided to just stitch it closed with these buttons. Much better I think, the buttons really stand out.

Model cardiganSo that’s one down…many to go! I have my outfit for the Gatsby themed work christmas party to prepare – silver dress was found in a charity shop last week for £8.95, and just needs the straps and the length taking up a little. I’ve got some length of black lace and some emerald and blue-green beads to embellish with, but beyond a geometric design I’m undecided on the exact changes.

I was also given a really nice skirt this weekend that was mainly for the lovely fabric, beige silk with a geometric pattern, and a wide mint coloured band and sash. Lots of useful bases for ideas – at the moment I’m thinking of transforming it into a top.

No doubt this will be with the help of a recent sale shelf find – Little Green Dresses which is all about upcycling, recycling and generally repurposing fabric and clothing. The eco ethos behind the book is no doubt worthy, but beyond that it looks to be a great bible for both ideas and techniques.

Jewelled nails

An oddbits post tonight, as I haven’t particularly been feeling the outfit inspiration this week. That said, I have had several lovely things turn up in the post this week, some expected, some not – more about that soon no doubt.

However, one of the things on my crafting to-do list for some time has been a jewellery roll. Whenever I travel I always take many rings, necklaces and earrings and they always end up in such a mess. I once spent an hour on my return from holiday untangling a ball of jewellery – longer than it took to unpack everything else!

Ages ago I bought a fat quarter of pale turquoise paisley print fabric, which I used to make a phone sleeve but still had loads left. Then I picked up a remnant of blue & white floral print fabric in the charity shop, and the idea was born for a contrasting fabric jewellery roll.

To make this I used:

  • Two coordinating but contrasting fabrics
  • A piece of medium thickness felt
  • A ribbon (reused from my Glossyboxes)
  • Blue bias binding
  • White and pink cotton
  • Press studs

Firstly I cut out the felt and fabrics to size, then a small rectangle & two thin strips of the outer fabric (the turquoise), and a rectangle of felt. These I used to make the earring flap, and the ring and necklace keeper (by rolling up the strips and then sewing down one edge). The two keepers were stitched to the inner and felt layers at one end, and the press-stud attached at the other end. The earring flap was also stitched in along the top side. Then I added the outer face, stitched all round the edge, trimmed and sewed the outer edge of the bias binding. The final edge stitch to finish the binding I hand stitched in pink thread to match the pink tie-ribbon. This was doubled up and stitched in place in the centre of the outer end when the roll is folded up. Ta -dah!

inner jewellery roll

 

 

 

 

 

The other bit of this post relates to nails – I had another splurge on my favourite nailcare brand. When I last when on holiday to Barcelona I discovered two European stores that I wish we had over here – SIX Jewellery and KIKO Cosmetics. KIKO do absolutely amazing nail colours, I have never seen so much choice, and some great nailcare products like a cuticle exfoliating pen and nail polish thinners that I’ve never come across elsewhere for such great value.

You can order online – there’s a minimum £25 order, but delivery is free. It’s just more of an excuse to stock up on great stuff! Here’s my loot:

279 Yellow; 310 Golden Orange; 209 French Baby Pink; 389 Mint Milk; 325 Gray Green; 323 Milk Chocolate; Nail Cuticle Scrub Pen; French Manicure White Nail Pencil
279 Yellow; 310 Golden Orange; 209 French Baby Pink; 389 Mint Milk; 325 Gray Green; 323 Milk Chocolate; Nail Cuticle Scrub Pen; French Manicure White Nail Pencil

A thousand apologies…

I have been severely lacking, in fact it’s been a month since my last post. However, there has been quite a bit going on not least of which a new job and a relocation in the pipeline for me (more on that soon!)

To make a start again, here’s the fruits of my labours earlier this month for the St Piran’s Day Ball. St Piran being the Cornish saint, the theme of the evening was Cornish dress. Lots of people went with accessories in Cornish tartan both traditional and hunting, black and white outfits, or official outfits with kilts and sashes.

I decided to go a little more creative, and picked up a dark turquoise cocktail dress from the second-hand dress shop in town – it’s one of those throw-it-on and go dresses that’s just really comfortable to wear. The beads round the neckline were knackered but that gave me the idea to replace them – you can see the stages of this in the photo collage below. Big square turquoise glass beads broken up by flat glossy black discs and gold glass barrels, with some turquoise faceted beads on the shoulder straps gave a nice Cornish twist (black and gold) without making it a 100% theme dress.

st piran dress

As you can see I also themed my nails with gold and a St Piran flag thumb.

Then I set to work on a brooch/corsage – made of a black flower hair clip I never wear, a St Piran brooch centrepiece, some gold ribbon and some feathers that I dropped on in Hobbycraft while I was looking for beads. I popped the centre out of the flower and worked out the clip from the back, pinned in the brooch and then glued the feathers in place and held with the clip until it had dried. The next night I looped the ribbon and put a stitch in to hold in place, then glued and clipped as with the feathers. Not bad at all!

st piran brooch

They were taking professional photos on the night, sadly the end results were not full length but you can see how I finished the outfit off with a gold shrug, and bronze Cornish St Justin jewellery.

St Pirans Ball_5385 72 cropped

Crafty Weekend

I have spent quite a bit of time on crafts this weekend, but I can’t post about a lot of it for fear of people getting a sneak peek at their Christmas presents!

However, I can most definitely write about the markets I went to! On Saturday, it was The Duchy’s Vintage Party craft fair in St Mawgan village hall – a small but buzzing event with about ten or so crafters and a wonderful tea party. I loved the sign outside as well, that was cute. I didn’t buy anything here but there were lots of things I would have liked if I had a flat to accessorise, or if I wasn’t in present-buying mode for everyone else. Favourites were vintage inspired ceramic tiles and upcycled china from Humble Cottage; embroidered bits and reworked jewellery from Kits’ n’ Bits; and fabric things from Bella and Me.

craft weekend
Clockwise from top left: Town Quay sign; St Mawgan fair sign; singing Pirates; purchases from Sarah Drew; Sarah Drew’s stall; Christmas window in Emma’s Home

Sunday was a rather bigger affair; Fowey Christmas Market, which is spread out across three venues; the school hall, town hall and a tardis-like marquee on Town Quay. I used to live in Fowey but somehow I’ve never been, but it was fantastic with tons of crafts, gifts and local food produce, live music and singing (from Pirates of course, what else would you expect?). I recognised a lot of my favourite stalls both food and craft, but I had a new discovery which I have instantly fallen in love with, much like Reworkd Workshop of Edinburgh – and that’s Sarah Drew. Her stall was covered in unique pieces of jewellery made of sea glass, lace, beads, buttons and all sorts of objets trouvés. I came away with a pocketwatch necklace, and two pairs of flower earrings, one in lace and another of buttons.

I only wish I could justify buying more at these fairs – when I do get my own place I dread to think how cluttered it’s going to end up with reworked, crafted and vintage items!