Book review: “Happiness for Beginners” by Carole Matthews = 4*

I absolutely ADORED the main storyline of this book. It is set on a farm which offers support and activities for children and young people who struggle within mainstream education. I’ve worked with children and young people who struggle within mainstream education so I know first hand just how good alternative provisions can be and also the struggles that they can face (especially around funding). This book captures it perfectly and it is so refreshing to read a chick-lit novel which also tackles such an important topic which is not typically spoken about within fiction writing. I really, really enjoyed this book. It has the perfect combination of romance, heartache, humour and real-life topics. The only thing I didn’t like (and this is completely my personal preference as I know other readers may like this) were the times when it felt like the main character was talking to me directly as the reader – I much prefer being an external observer to their world rather than being spoken to directly! Nonetheless, it is another fabulous Carole Matthews book!

Product review: Vlieseline Creative Sample Pack

I have been doing lots of machine sewing this week which means I have had the perfect opportunity to start using the Vlieseline Creative Sample Pack from Lady Sew and Sew.

It can be ridiculously frustrating to start a new project and think you’re all sorted with your fabric and thread before then realising you don’t have everything after all because you need a specific sort of interfacing. Well this sample pack is the answer because no matter what your project, there is sure to be an interfacing for you within this pack!

There are 10 sorts of Vlieseline products in this pack (with 20cm of each). Not only is each Vlieseline sample clearly labelled so that you know what you’re using, but there is also plenty of information about how to use the sample and what products it is best suited for.

I love how accessible the sample pack is…you don’t have to sort through them trying to match the sample product to the correct name/information – all of the hard work is done for you!

There are also a range of booklets showing even more products made by Vlieseline!

I have been making the Sew Over It Doris Dress this week which requires a lightweight interfacing so I have used the soft fusible interlining from the Vlieseline Sample Pack.

This is used around the neckline and where the buttons are.

It worked beautifully! It ironed onto the fabric well, it was super soft to sew, and it provided enough strength for the multitude of buttons that I have used!

This is a great sample pack and I can’t wait to start playing with the other samples!

To buy your Vlieseline Creative Sample Pack, head on over to Lady Sew and Sew.

Sew Easy Pressing Ham

I am a little bit addicted to the Sew Easy pressing ham (which is very high praise coming from someone who actively avoids ironing clothes!)

The Tailors Pressing Ham (also known as a pressing ham or a dressmaker’s ham) is tightly stuffed with sawdust and is perfect for ironing curved areas of clothes such as darts, necklines, waistlines and shaping collars.

I’ve been using it for my latest make – a Tilly and the Buttons Bettine dress using Art Gallery Fabrics. I wanted to add some understitching to the neckline and you can see just how difficult it is to iron that curve on a flat ironing board…

It is possible, by all means, but why make life a fiddle when there are tools and gadgets to help make life easier?! The curves on the Sew Easy pressing ham mimicks the body’s contours making it so much easier to iron curved areas of clothing.

You can see how much easier it is to iron that same area by placing it on the pressing ham’s curves rather than placing it flat on the ironing board.

There’s also a Sew Easy Sleeve Pressing Roll.

Using the same principle as the Tailors Pressing Ham, the Sleeve Pressing Roll is perfect for pressing longer seams, hard to reach seams and sleeves!

It makes pressing/ironing/dressmaking so much easier and, dare I say it, I actually enjoy ironing more when I use it…! I can’t wait to show you the finished dress (with the perfectly ironed curves!)

The Sew Easy Tailors Pressing Ham is available to buy from Minerva Crafts here.

The Sew Easy Sleeve Pressing Roll is available to buy from Minerva Crafts here.

For stockists information or if you are a retailer and want to stock these items then please contact groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk

Book review: ‘I Heart Hawaii’ by Lindsey Kelk = 5*

Having read the entire ‘I Heart’ series, I was so excited to read the latest addition! As soon as I started reading the book it felt like no time had passed and I was once again reunited with old friends. With humour and warmth, we follow Angela and Jenny on their latest adventure (and all that ensues)…to Hawaii! This book has all of the Lindsey Kelk trademarks: wit, authenticity, vivid descriptions, down-to-earth characters, and belly-laugh moments! I also love the subtle nods to Lindsey’s other books as an extra something for those who are loyal fans! Whether you’ve read all of the ‘I Heart’ series or whether this is your first ‘I Heart’ book, it is sure to capture your hearts as you fall in love with Angela, Jenny and the whole entourage!

English Paper Piecing with Sew Easy templates

So I know it is only June but I wholeheartedly believe it is never too early to start Christmas sewing!

When I saw the new Sew Easy Template Sets I knew they would be perfect for using in conjunction with the new Makower Merry Christmas collection!

The Sew Easy Template Sets come in a range of popular shapes (squares, hexagons, triangle, right-angle triangles, diamonds and pentagons) with each shape set containing 8 templates of varying sizes. The templates have been laser cut for precision, they contain marking points, they come already on a keyring (so you don’t lose any!) and an additional 1/4″ seam allowance is added to each shape.

Having a range of sizes within one set is really useful as it means you can easily adapt to use the shape most suited to the fabric you’re using! I wanted to fussy cut these reindeers from the Merry Christmas collection because they’re just so cute!

I could then place different squares on top until I found the shape that fit! These reindeers fit perfectly within the 2.5″ square.

Then, using my rotary cutter, I can use the template to cut around as it is made for strong, durable acrylic.

If you’re a machine patchworker then cut out a handful of these fussy-cut reindeers, attach the 1/4″ foot to your machine and you are good to go! I was on a roll but Misha always seems to want to get involved (and it scares the life out of me when I am holding a rotary cutter!) I am definitely taking this as another cat-approval though!

If, like me, you love a bit of handsewing and English Paper Piecing (EPP) then the sew easy templates are great for fussy cutting the fabric and for making your paper templates! So, if you wanted to EPP with the template set I would actually recommend using them slightly differently. A 1/4″ seam is perfect for machine patchwork but it is a bit fiddly for EPP. So I knew the reindeer fit within my 2.5″ square but I wanted a bigger seam allowance than the 1/4″ included on the template. Instead, I cut the fabric out using the 3″ square.

This just gives you a bit of extra wiggle room with your seam allowance when English Paper Piecing. Then, to make the paper template, I went back to my 2.5″ template (as that is the finished size for my reindeer) and placed it on top of a piece of white card.

Using my pencil, I could then draw a joining line inside the marking points so that I would know what size to cut the paper template.

Using my rotary cutter, I then used the edge of the template as a cutting guide to cut out a paper template measuring 2.5″ square.

By using those marking points inside the 2.5″ template I have disregarded the seam allowance and made a paper template that is precisely the size I want it to be for fussy cutting.

Then, I placed the 2.5″ acrylic template onto the wrong side of the reindeer square to make sure I had the placement correct.

Once I have checked the placement is right, I always let one edge of the fabric hang loose. Leaving this gap between the fabric and the sew easy acrylic template means it is easy to slip your paper template inbetween the 2 layers.

Using my nail, I then hold the paper template in place and remove the sew easy acrylic template. Then, I attach binding clips to hold the paper piece in the right place before folding the edges over and thread basting.

I definitely prefer using binding clips to pins for English Paper Piecing because it gives a stronger hold at various points which you definitely need when fussy cutting!

I love how versatile the sew easy templates are because they can be used for cutting, marking, fussy cutting, machine patchwork and English Paper Piecing!

I have made 4 EPP squares using the Sew Easy templates so far and I might make these blocks into a Christmas coaster! With a bit of Christmas green for the binding it will look adorable!

For stockists information or if you are a retailer and want to stock these items then please contact groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk

Book review: ‘You Then, Me Now’ by Nick Alexander = 5*

Wow. Just wow. This book has taken me through every possible emotion and so much more: fear, hurt, heartbreak, loss, anger, frustration, love, warmth, humour, hope, encouragement and enjoyment. I simply couldn’t put it down because I was enthralled from start to finish! There are enough twists and turns that you can never be fully sure about the direction the story will go in next but not so many that you are on the edge if your seat and unable to enjoy the book. There is a perfectly crafted mixture of easy-read chapters and thrillingly surprising chapters. The descriptions are spellbinding and make me long to travel to Santorini! I would highly, highly recommend this book as it truly is a captivating read – 5*!

Available on Amazon as a paperback and/or on your kindle.

Product review – Trimits dressmaking pattern weights = 5*

I am really starting to get into dressmaking now and I recently got some new Trimits pattern weights.

Trying to get the pin through both the paper pattern and the fabric (or 2 layers of fabric if cutting on the fold) can be costly in time (it is a very time consuming, slow process), precision (it is so easy to move the fabric by accident when trying to get the pin through all the layers which means the fabric may no longer be lying flat or in the right place which is especially important if you are cutting directional prints) and durability (lots of pin holes in a paper pattern will no doubt weaken it over time thus its reusability is lessened).

These Trimits pineapple pattern weights are perfect because they remove the need to pin the pattern by simply laying the weights on top of the edges of your pattern pieces at varying intervals. They are deceptively heavy which means that they will hold the paper edges flat against the fabric so that there is no distortion and then you can start cutting straight away! Yay!

You can get lots of different pattern weight shapes but I particularly like the Trimits pineapple shape (more than the flat pattern weights) because you can easily move them about by grabbing the pineapple’s green crown – nothing fiddly about it!

Misha also gave it the big seal of approval as she could bop it about and the weighted bottom meant it wasn’t moving anywhere!

The Trimits pineapple weights come in packs of 2 so I will definitely be getting more because I have really enjoyed using them! For now, I am using Misha as an additional pattern weight…

You can buy these pattern weights directly from Minerva Crafts or contact groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk to find your nearest stockists!

Book review – ‘Love You, Love You Not’ by Jo Watson = 3*

I’m really torn with rating this book because there were times when it was so engaging, funny, heartwarming (the bra shopping for example….you’ll have to read it to understand the reference) and totally worthy of a 5* review. There were also times where the story simply became completely ridiculous and absurd (the pole/blouse bit for example….again, you’ll need to read it to understand the reference!) and I thus had little feelings or care for the characters because it lacked authenticity. So it has to be an overall 3* review. On the whole, it is a very (very), easy-going chick lit read which could be perfect for a sunny holiday pool-side book!

Book review: ‘Spring Skies over Bluebell Castle’ by Sarah Bennett

It took me quite a while to get into this book mainly because it felt like there were lots of characters and I couldn’t tell who was/wasn’t important to the storyline (for those who want to know – Arthur and Lucie are the 2 to focus on!) Once I got into the book I really enjoyed it. It was a fun, easy to read chick lit with a novel twist to the standard boy-meets-girl. Perfect holiday reading!

Makower Fern Garden

I have been playing with the Fern Garden collection by Makower UK over this May Bank Holiday! I adore this beautiful collection which is full of calming and refreshing shades of green, yellow and grey! It definitely brings a stylish botanical feel to your sewing projects.

I have been making a tote bag for a friend of mine who loves everything to do with nature so this felt like the perfect collection to use for her gift! I am English Paper Piecing (EPP) these shapes together and only have the bottom row to go before the bag front is finished!

I couldn’t EPP without sneaking in a bit of fussy cutting! How stunning is this primrose?

I have been using GIANT hexagons to make this tote bag (2.5″ sides) but this collection works just as beautifully with mini hexagons (0.5″ sides). These beauties are cut and ready to be basted so that I can make a matching mini zip pouch!

I love a collection that works so fantastically no matter what size EPP shapes that you choose to use! This collection is definitely a winner!

I like to use coordinating threads for English Paper Piecing so for this fabric collection I am using Gütermann sew-all polyester thread shades 417 (yellow), 582 (green) and 701 (grey). For Gütermann stockists contact Gutermann@stockistenquiries.co.uk