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!

Birmingham Rag Market – Fabric Haul

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time I’m sure you’ve gathered by now that I love a fabric bargain! Sure, I’ll invest when it merits it but I also believe there’s a lot of great fabric out there that doesn’t cost the earth.

However, despite the fact my family hails from Birmingham and I find myself there several times a year, I’d never before made it to the Rag Market. Although the site has a history of markets dating back to the 1800s, the rag or retail market itself is of fairly recent pedigree, and the current market site opened in 2000 as part of the redevelopment of the Bullring shopping sites.

The market today has indoor and outdoor stalls, which span the range from fabric and haberdashery, to clothing, beauty products, household as well as fresh veg and flowers. My focus was clearly on the fabrics and notions. There are several stalls with richly decorative fabrics suitable for saris and the like, along with highly detailed border notions. A few stalls focused mostly on heavier household fabrics for curtains and upholstery. I also found one knitting stall, but I passed over this as the autumn Knitting & Stitching Show is coming up soon.

Most of my browsing was over about three or four large stalls with a wide range of cottons, viscose, jersey and lace. I didn’t have a specific shopping list but I was interested in finding some cotton jersey and stretch lace to make some wardrobe basics such as knickers and vest tops.

Although the range on offer was great, several of the stalls had the same or similar fabrics. The most notable difference between the stalls was in the stall holders. On a number of them I spent more than a few minutes browsing and handling fabric with no interest from the stall holder, if indeed I could even tell if they were around. For this reason, the stall I ended up buying from was definitely a stand out. The two men running it were engaging and busily serving customers, at the same time chatting with those waiting and keeping track of who wanted what.

This was my haul:

Large blue rose printed cotton – £2/m – 3 metres

As soon as I saw this print it reminded me of the sort of print Collectif or Dolly & Dotty use. I have in mind a 50s style fit-and-flare dress for this.

Blue rose print cotton

Grey/Pink busy rose printed cotton – £2/m – 2 metres

Another vintage repro style print, this one says skirt to me more than dress, because the print is quite busy. Or maybe a structured bodice top…not sure yet!

grey rose print cotton

Black & White musical note printed cotton – £2/m – 2 metres

This one is destined to become a tote bag for my flute/music stand/music pack when I go back to orchestra in September.

musical note cottonBlack cotton jersey 60″ wide – £2.50/m – 2 metres

At 60″ wide I’ve got loads of this fabric, I’ll be using it to make a load of French knickers and maybe one or two vest tops.

black cotton jersey

Black stretch lace 60″ wide – £2.50/m – 1 metre

Just 1 metre of this 60″ wide stretch lace as I’ll be using it as decorative trim or panels with the above.

black stretch lace

All in all I’d thoroughly recommend the Rag Market, I’ll certainly make it a regular pilgrimage. Now that I have an idea what there is I might go with more of a shopping list next time – for example I didn’t get any trims or notions, although I did see big reels of cotton for only a few pounds. And if you’re after very decorative trims or fabrics for Asian-style clothing, there’s definitely some bargains there.

The easiest way to get to the market is from the main Bullring plaza, follow the street behind the bull statue (which divides the two halves of the shopping centre, lots of restaurants on it) towards St Martin’s church spire which you’ll see sticking up. Then head down the steps to the right hand side and you’ll see the market straight ahead.

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!