Month: September 2017

The Great British Sewing Bee Live, ExCel London

London docklands at sunset

View across the Thames to the Docklands after a long but lovely day

Ever since I found out the BBC hadn’t re-commissioned the Great British Sewing Bee this year, I have been very pissed off. The Bee has been a highlight of the year for me ever since it started. Back during the very first season, it encouraged me to get my sewing machine out again and have a go at sewing. I remember that summer I sewed two skirts, one of which still gets used every now and then!

So, when I heard they would do a Bee event instead, it seemed like some consolation. After some humming and ha-ing about whether I should go because of the cost of travelling to London, and the amount I have going on in my personal life, I got pushed over the edge as Melissa from Fehr Trade kindly gave me tickets to go. So that made me make up my mind, however then I couldn’t go on the day I had the tickets for and needed to get tickets for Saturday… anyway, I made it there in the end.

Highlights

The Liberty exhibition area was fantastic – and I now have a plan to visit the Fashion and Textile Museum in London (I didn’t know such a thing existed).

Clothes made from Liberty fabrics

The green and purple art nouveaux patterned dress from the 1960s is my favourite!

Bolts of fabric on sale

Just a little snapshot of the fabrics on sale at the Sewing Bee

I particularly loved the fabrics on the Fabworks stand, and I got two ginghams from them that I am quite excited about. Their staff were lovely too, they even gave me a little sewing kit which was sweet. Other special buys included a Mavern Kitty dress pattern, which has the most lovely packaging I’ve seen on a pattern, and some denim chambray to make it with.

Gripes

Although it was a great day, and it was lovely to go with my friend from work, Leila, I was a wee bit disappointed by the event. It seemed smaller than I had expected, and the stands that were there, were either totally overloaded or quite spartan. I was glad I had bought the tickets when they were half price because I’d have felt a bit sore if I’d paid full price. Other gripes I had included no map of the exhibitors (these had to be bought) and no where to sit except for the very minimal seats around the champagne bar. I sound like a complete old lady, but I don’t care, I like to have a sit down!

Would I go again? Probably? I think if it was bigger I’d be more committed to going. It needs to be worth it to travel so far and spend so much just to get there.

Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts at Westpoint Exeter

The Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts show is held on, or around my birthday each year, and its a tradition for me to go with my Mum. We’ve been going for what must be 15 years now and I look forward to it so much. It is a craft event that has stacks of craft stalls selling lovely goodies at the Westpoint centre in Exeter.

Every year they have a slightly different set of exhibitors – it seems to change as crafting trends come and go. This year they changed their name from ‘Creative Stitches & Hobbycrafts’, to be ‘Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts’ and I was happy to see some of the papercrafting stuff had been replaced with more sewing and fabric, yay!

Rolls of dressmaking fabric

The Rosenberg Fabrics stand: Crammed with dressmaking fabric

Rolls of fabric on a table

This stand had everything from wool, and cotton, through to beautiful jerseys

This stand (unknown name!) had some great jerseys, and I picked up one of their reduced remnants to make another Agnes top.

Striped jersey fabric

I love stripes but hate the idea of pattern matching them – this striped jersey is perfect because the stripes go in all directions!

There was another fabric stand had the most wonderful selection of fabrics, I went back about three times and bought more from them. So many bargains to be had! I’ve picked up a lovely Ponte Roma geometric print in black, green and white, the softest jersey I have ever felt in a floral pattern, a soft and drapey black floral viscose and a floral fabric which I don’t know what it is, but its destined to be made into a Tilly and The Buttons ‘Bettine’ dress for my sister. How much were these fine dressmaking fabrics? A mere £4.95 a meter! I think the stand I got these from was called Lili Fabrics, however, when I’ve looked at their website they don’t sell the same fabrics online. What a shame!

I really fell in love with The Tartan Reel’s stand – they had the sweetest staff. I picked up some of the stunning Rifle Paper Co fat quarters, including the one below:

Alice in wonderland fabric

I treated myself to a couple of fat quarters of this sweet Rifle Paper Co Wonderland fabric

Knitted beach scene

This knitted beach was created to raise awareness of Alzheimers and Dementia

Balls of multicoloured wool

These balls of yarn at The Black Sheep stall almost had me reaching for my knitting needles!

I’m super eager to use the fabrics I bought here, and I know I’m going to love using them already – each one is earmarked for a project already! Also, I’m already looking forward to next years show of course 😉

Tilly and The Buttons Agnes and Clemence

Tilly and The Buttons Agnes in red jersey
Last week I managed to sew and complete two garments: another Tilly and The Buttons Agnes top, and a gathered chambray skirt made using her Clemence pattern from Love at First Stitch as a starting point.

Agnes is so easy!

Making a second Agnes top was very quick and easy. Being able to sew it up with only a few checks of the instructions made the process so much faster and enjoyable. Have a look at my first Agnes top here. I used up some thin red jersey from my old sewing stash to make this. I think it will have been a remnant I picked up from Heathocoat’s, maybe four years ago?(!). Nice to finally get it used up. Because its quite thin, sewing the neckband in was a little tricky but fine in the end.

I love the fit and the look of this top – I don’t have any other red tops like this and I have already been wearing this straight from the sewing machine. Is there anything more satisfying than making something and getting to use it straight away?

Tilly and The Buttons Agnes top in red and Clemence skirt

I like to accessorize my makes with cats and novelty socks

I used the Clemence ‘recipe’ from Love at First Stitch to start making this gathered skirt, however, I found the instructions confusing, so I finished it off using what I have learned from making other gathered skirts in the past. I used the lovely soft chambray I picked up in Malbers Fabrics and I love how it looks – its exactly what I wanted.

A hat trick of firsts

I added pockets using the template in Love at First Stitch, and they are the perfect size. These were my first ever in-seam pockets. I also did my first ever invisible zipper (it could be a bit more invisible than what it is) and my first ever buttonholes!

ZIp and button closures on Clemence skirt

Yes, the zip could be hidden better, but I am happy to have got it to work!

Buttonholes! Buttonholes! BUTTON. HOLES.

I’ve been scared of trying to sew button holes for as long as I can remember – it just looked like it was going to be so difficult to make them work, and my fear has been that I would mess up my final garment and ruin hours of work. I decided to knuckle down and try them with this skirt as I had my heart set on having some wooden buttons on it. It turned out to be totally OK! I need to learn from this, and just give things a go.

Buttonholes

Some of my practice buttonholes – can you see where I realised I needed to change the width and it magically worked?

It took me a few YouTube videos to finally work out how my buttonhole foot worked and a bit of twiddling with the stitch width, then suddenly it magically worked and I was sewing buttonholes!

The chambray frays a lot. I’d have liked to have French seamed it, however because I added the pockets, I had no idea how to do that with pockets and my little brain couldn’t work it out. I’ve folded the seams inside and zig-zagged them to try and keep the fraying under control, but I’m expecting a lot of bits once it goes through the washing machine. I need to do some research into French seams and pockets before I make another one of these.

Tiverton Fabric Haul

Stack of fabrics

Lots of lovely fabric!


I’ve spent several days staying with my Mum in Devon which has been a real treat. I have been settling my two gorgeous cats in with her. They need to stay with her for a bit because me and my other half have moved into a rented house while we finish selling my flat and look to buy somewhere together. Sadly our landlords have a strict no cats policy. Although it was sad to move them down to Devon, I know they are in the very best place they could be and they already know and love her.

My Mum lives in Tiverton, which is in mid Devon/East Devon, and isn’t far from where I grew up. I love going back to visit her and spending some quality time together. It also means I get to visit my favourite fabric shop too! Heathcoat Fabrics is an absolute hidden gem. I also visited Malbers Fabrics which is in Tiverton town centre and they did not disappoint either! I’m on a real Tilly and the Buttons pattern kick at the moment and so I was hunting for suitable fabrics for her patterns. Here goes with what I bought.

Heathcoat Fabrics Haul:

First off, I had bought some denim from Fabric Land in Bristol, for the Tilly and The Buttons Cleo pinafore dress. Once I’d washed it, I realised I didn’t like it: its far too thick and textured and is just too heavy to be comfortable… so I wanted something much lighter. Heathcoats had several denims I really liked, but I settled for this one:

Closeup of denim fabric

I love this shade of denim


It was £9.99 per meter and I bought two meters. I’ve since cut out the Cleo pattern and found I have enough to make another one which was a happy accident.

Blue striped cotton drill fabric

Bright blue striped cotton drill


This cotton drill was a bargain at £4.99 per meter so I have snaffled it up to make another Cleo. The shade of blue is so bright and summery, I hope it will carry some summer feelings on into Autumn.

Striped jersey fabric

Lots of stretchy stripes


So I’m not really sure what this fabric is: its a stretchy jersey that is quite thin and has a light crumpled texture. It has a drape to it which makes me think I will use it for some sort of dress. I have so many navy and white striped tops (at least 10P), I definitely know I like this sort of thing so at £7.99 a meter I thought ‘why not?!’. I’m going to start looking for a pattern for it once I check if I bought 1.5 or two meters.

Black needlecord with cherry pattern

Sweet little cherry needlecord


I’ve been looking for some needlecord to make an autumn skirt with. I have my heart set on making an A-Line, finishing above the knee with a button placket down the front. I’ve never done buttonholes and want to have a go and make something I know I will wear a lot. This sweet little pattern won me over, I especially like the polka dots that break up the cherry pattern and that it is so soft. I think this was about £8.99 per meter.

Black polyester fabric

And the random buy of the day is: black polyester!


This is a bit of an odd one. I don’t know what sort of fabric this is, its a knit, but not a normal one, and its quite heavy. I’m sure this is something nobody else would want, but when I saw it, I saw the potential to make a skirt I have wanted for years: I want to make a skirt like Daria’s!! I adore Daria. I watch episodes in bed when I’m ill and it always cheers me up.

Finally, I also picked up some sewing accessories from Heathcoat’s:

Sewing accessories and zips

Useful bits and bobs

Malbers Fabrics Haul:

I wasn’t expecting to spend anything in here as I had thought it was a quilting fabric shop, but I was wrong! I talk through this in my review here: Malbers Fabrics.

Fabrics drying outside on a washing line

I might not be good at many things in life, but I am a hero when it comes to pre-washing fabrics!


So, I was more restrained in Malbers after I had already spent quite a lot in Heathcoats. I bought 1.5 meters of lovely, beautifully soft chambray in pale denim which I love. I’ve been looking for some just like this but they all fell short in some way, so this one is great. It cost £8.99 per meter.

I also found some lovely quality striped Ponte Roma which will be perfect for a Tilly and The Buttons CoCo dress. This was just £6.99 per meter.

Sewing tools on denim

Some more practical sewing accessories


I picked up some more basic accessories in Malbers – most importantly the sewing scissors as I have ruined mine cutting paper with them. Very naughty.

One last thing, I picked up this playsuit pattern in a charity shop:

Playsuit sewing pattern

This is quite sweet, no?

So yes, I realise I have spent quite a lot of money from this trip to Tiverton, but I am very happy with what I have picked up, and even more excited about what I can make with it.

Malbers Fabrics – Tiverton, Devon

Malbers Fabrics is a small, but well stocked sewing shop in the centre of Tiverton. Despite it’s small proportions it is incredibly well stocked with many fabrics, haberdashery and general craft items.

Malbers Fabric shop window

Malbers Fabric Shop

Malbers has a very unassuming exterior – you really couldn’t guess how great the inside of the shop is from the outside. It looks like it might just be a quilting shop, but no! It has many more fabrics and notions to enjoy. It does stock plenty of quilting cottons and poly-cotton prints, however there are ample dressmaking fabrics to make it worth visiting for dressmakers.

Rolls of fabric in Malbern Fabrics

The middle of the shop is stacked with rolls of fabrics!

The small floor size is absolutely packed with sewing goodies – the centre of the one-room shop has roll after roll of fabric stacked up on it, with plenty of diversity.

Bolts of fabric in Malbern Fabrics

Bolts of denim, chambray and cotton drills

When I visited (1st September 2017), they had a lovely stack of denims, cotton drills and chambray which made me instantly think of the Tilly and The Buttons Cleo dungaree dress I have planned! The soft denim chambray was so perfect I immediately bought some to make a simple gathered skirt. I can’t wait to sew it up!

Rows of fabric bolts

Fabric shops like this are so exciting to browse!

There are a good range of solid colours too, and ginghams – perfect for summer dresses and skirts.

Rolls of thick fabrics

Rolls of fleece, corduroy and chambray

Continuing the Tilly Cleo theme, Malbern also has some excellent corduroy fabrics: a soft claret coloured needlecord and a thicker olive cord had me lusting after them. Very affordable too, at about £8.99 per meter.

Different tartan fabrics stacked on top of each other

These tartans are crying out to be made into some A-Line skirts!

I’ve been wanting to make a tartan A-Line skirt for years, and its definitely something I will be sewing in the future, so I was also tempted by these lovely tartans on display.

Cotton Christmas Fabrics

Stacks of Christmas cotton prints

The Christmas quilting cottons are not necessarily something I would buy, but I was amazed by the volume of patterns they manage to stock in such a small shop. If you wanted to make some Christmas gifts, these would be perfect – you’d be sure to find something suitable with this selection!

Sewing and haberdashery tools

Lots of useful haberdashery items!

The shop manages to not only cram in hundreds of fabrics, but it also has a great selection of haberdashery products too. All the standard tools are here, and some I didn’t expect to see like sewing machine feet.

Colourful ribbons on display

I love looking at ribbon displays like this

Prices:

Most of the fabrics are fairly priced, and affordable. Here are some sample costs I noted from my visit today (1st September 2017):
Soft cotton chambray £8.99 per meter
Striped Ponte Roma jersey £6.99 per meter
Cotton prints £7.99 up to over £10 per meter (varied for different prints)
Needlecord (lovely) £8.99 per meter

Summary:

Don’t let the outside fool you – this is a lovely, and really useful fabric shop that is great for affordable dressmaking. The owner is really friendly and helpful and has a loyal following. I’ll definitely be visiting Malbers Fabrics again eagerly!

Address:

Malbers Fabrics, 10 Bampton St, Tiverton EX16 6AA

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