Thursday, 30 September 2010

100 Followers - 100 blog posts

Blog Giveaway

Wow that was great timing with my 100th blog post I reached 100 followers too.  Now at 102 followers and 102 blogposts.

I thought this was a great time to celebrate and to thank one of our lovely blog followers. 

The winner will get a copy of Make Me I'm Yours Simply Sewing a fab little project book with some handy hints and tips too.  Click on the link to get more details.

To enter you need to be a follower of this blog and comment below this post to tell us what you would like to see in future blog posts.   Feel free to make more than one suggestion in your post.

Closing date is the 13th of October as i'm off on holidays for a week :-)  Prize can only be shipped within the UK or Ireland.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

N is for Needle

Sewing Machine Needles

This is a massive subject! So I have decided to concentrate on the basics of domestic sewing machine needles.

Sewing machine needles come in a variety of different packaging styles. Buying the correct needle for your machine is essential if you want your machine to work correctly. For example Singer needles can only be used in Singer machines. The needles themselves are slightly longer than standard machine needles and will then not correctly form a stitch in a non singer machine. However please do not despair! There are far more needles out on the market for machines that are not Singer, than there are singer needles.
The correct size and type of Sewing machine needle is essential to produce a good quality stitch. The old adage of you get what you pay for really is true with machine needles. In my opinion the Schmetz range of needles is by far the best for value for money and longevity. Schmetz was established in 1851 and is still a family owned company. The Schmetz sewing machine needles are manufactured to the highest possible standards to offer unrivalled performance in just about every application.

Needle Sizes and their uses.

Needles are sized in metric and imperial. The smaller the numbers the finer the needle. The size of a needle is calculated by its diameter, thus a 90 needle is 0.9mm in diameter.

Size 8 = 60,
Size 10 = 70,
Size 11= 75,
Size 12 = 80,
Size 14 = 90,
Size 16= 100,
Size 18= 110,
Size 20 = 120.

No.60 – Silks, cotton lawn, organza and sheer fabrics
No.70 – cotton lawn, lining fabrics

No.80 – cotton shirting, quilting cotton,

No.90 – linen, linen union curtain fabrics, cushion fabrics, cotton sateen curtain linings,

No.100 - Denim

No.110 - Upholstery fabrics and canvas weight fabrics, leather, pvc and vinyls

No. 120 –thick Denim and Heavy Canvas, thick leather

Within the different sizes are different types of needles.

Sharp Needles

Natural materials i.e. cotton, linen, wool, cotton jersey you will need to use a ‘sharp’ needle. Now I’m not being funny they are referred to as sharps!
Ballpoint or Jersey Needles

Man made materials i.e. poly cotton, polyester and viscose or other mixes, most lining fabrics then the needle of choice should be a ballpoint needle. Sometimes ballpoint needles are referred to as jersey needles.

Stretch Needles

Stretch needles are ballpoint needles that are coated to allow them to slip through difficult fabrics. Stretchy fabrics are tricky for the needle to separate the fibres and sew well. The result is puckering and or missed stitches in a seam. The coating on the stretch needles just enables them to slide through the fibres and maintain a good stitch

Leather Needles

Leather needles are spear shaped to help cut the leather as the stitch is being formed. If you try to sew leather and faux leather with for example an ordinary size 110 needle the machine will struggle. So by using a leather needle the machine will be able to sew more easily.

Machine Embroidery Needles

These are again available in a variety of sizes and are generally used in the top end embroidery machines. These machines produce intricate designs at a significant speed. The needles enable the machine to sew dense designs without snagging at the fabric or breaking the needle. More recently Titanium needles have become available. The titanium needles are able to cope with the intense heat that is created by the rapid movement machine to create these designs and not break as an ‘ordinary’ needle would. Embroidery needles also have larger eye’s to accommodate the slightly thicker nature of embroidery thread.

Microtex Needles

These are usually the cure all for all problems! Either with stetchy fabric or embroidery or waterproofed fabric, it is the get out of gaol needle!

Why do Needles Break?

Needles break because they are not right for the application that you are doing. If you tried to sew Denim with a size 70 needle it would just break. Denim needles are slightly angled at the end so that instead of penetrating the fabric at a 90 degree angle it does it at a reduced angle thus going through the layers at slightly less tension.
How often should I change my needle?

Needles should be changed after 6 hours of sewing or at the end of a project, whichever comes first.  If ever you have a stitching problem, the first thing you should do is to change your needle.

Written by Ann Haughton of Suffolk Sewing School providers of expert one to one sewing tuition plus check out their Facebook page for more great tips and competitions.

Images from

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Sew Magazine giveaway

Sew Magazine Competition

Sew Magazine, which provides fashionable projects for your wardrobe and your home exclusively created by some of the UK’s leading stitching designers, are offering an annual subscription to their magazine for one lucky winner worth £60!

In order to enter we would like your response to the question below:

What would you like to see in future issues of Sew Magazine?

It could be something they already do that you would like more of, a particular type of project/pattern, more information/advice on a particular type of sewing or something they have never done before. To see some of their current projects and find out more about the magazine please visit .

All entries need to be sent through our competition entry form. Please note that all data will be shared with Aceville publications who may like to keep you informed of other services and publications that may be of interest to you if you would not like to be contacted please add the words 'opt out' to your entry.

Terms & Conditions

Staff and family members of The Sewing Directory and Aceville Publications are not permitted to enter the draw. Your details will be processed by The Sewing Directory and Aceville Publications in full accordance with data protection legislation. Aceville Publications may wish to contact you with information of other services and publications we provide which may be of interest. Please add the words ‘opt out’ to your entry if you do not want to be contact by Aceville Publications. One entry allowed per person but you can make more than one suggestion in that entry. Subscription to be sent to an address within the UK only. All entries to be received by 6pm on 5th October 2010.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Focus on.....

Focus on.....Never Forget

Never Forget offer embroidery services and specialise in personalised gifts. If you are looking for a baby gift they have baby gift baskets, personalised bibs or bedding. For adults there are bags, towels, cushions and tea towels amongst other items.

Plus of course Christmas is just around the corner so if you want a personalised stocking or Santa sack they can also provide that. For the business owners amongst you they offer personalised work wear, with a minimum order of just one it’s a great way to make your brand name visible.

Furthermore they can digitise your logo or photo and then embroider it onto a garment or gift item for you.

For more information on any of the above or to view their full range please visit

Thursday, 23 September 2010

M for Muslin

M for Muslin

The word Muslin means two separate - but related - things in the world of sewing.
1. Muslin cloth
Image from
Those of us who have had experience with children will be well familiar with the muslin cloth. Muslin fabric is a very loosely woven cotton fabric which is almost always white in colour and may be soft or stiff in drape. This will vary from one supplier to another.

Muslin was initially introduced to Europe via France in the late 17th Century from the middle East .The lightness of the fabric made - and makes - it perfect for cotton slips and undergarments and may be used as a light and breathable lining for clothes. It is often used in hot and dry climates as a lightweight, breathable covering.

As well as for clothing, muslin is also often used to make curtains, as padding in furniture and even to wrap cheeses and filter red wines.

2. Muslins -

Photo from 
Often also known as toiles - are essentially "drafts" of clothing made to assess the fit of a garment. Muslin is traditionally the cloth of choice for this as it is cheap and readily available but any cloth may e used. In fact, the pratice of calling a toile a muslin has become so ingrained and commonplace that any fabric may be used and the test garment will still be called a muslin.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to make a muslin (what a waste of fabric!) it is highly recommended for any garment, but especially one that is to be constructed from the final fabric. In this way it also helps prevent expensive mistakes that might be made when using the actual garment fabric. You never know, your first draft might even turn into something you would be happy to wear (There is a war raging amongst sewing circles between the wearable vs non-wearable muslin campls, but I'm not getting into that here!) if you so desired.

Finally, and most importantly, making a mulin of your final item will help you iron out any problems with fit or form, dape or creasing etc. It will help you find out where the problems like and will show you how to fix them. You can cut and chop into your muslin where and whenever you want. You can add bits in and you can take bits out. You can do whatever you like to it! And since you're making you own clothes, surely you want them to fit you. Making a muslin is the best way to try this, and an ideal place to try out new techniques.

For further informative reading (and not just on muslins!) I suggest reading Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing ( Gertie is learning, just like the rest of us, and she has wonderful tuturials and vlogs of her experiences. You'll find this site highly addictive once you start reading it: be warned!

This post was written by Aileen McKenna sewing enthusiast and author of

M is For Measure

M is for Measure

Yes, that ever boring but ever necessary part of any project: measuring. For all you disbelievers out yonder, there's a reason the phrase "measure twice, cut once" exists. And everyone will get to know why in time, if you don't measure and mark!

So, measurements. For any project, these are crucial: and take this from someone who has made both an ill-fitting dress a really rather wonky patchwork quilt!

Taking accurate measurements is an abolute given for creating a well fitting article of clothing and a professional looking project, no matter what it may be. Measurements should always be taken when wearing underwear but not with outer layers of clothing as this can skew the measurements dependent on what type of fabric you are wearing.

For example, when wearing a thin top this measurement is 38 3/8"

But when wearng a thicker cardigan it is 38 7/8"

Although this measurement may not seem much, when taking into account the ease of the finished garment it can mean the difference between a well fitted or a baggy outfit.

When making clothing and choosing the size of your pattern (and thus how much fabric you will need), there are a number of different measurements to take. The measurement that is most crucial to getting a correct fit is the bust measurement. All others can be adjusted, but this is the hardest to make work. Most commercial patterns available tailor to the lady with a 'B' cup. I am not a B cup, nor will I ever be, and so I often have to adjust my patterns. There are many ways to do this (whcih there simply isn't the room for here!) so I suggest hoking out your faourite sewing book and following the instructions in that. As for the adjustments themselves, they fall into two categories: small bust adjustments or full bust adjustments. These methods may be used where the discrepancy between bust and waist size is so large it will make grading a pattern too difficult.
Measurements that should be taken when choosing a pattern to make include:

BUST: This is the measurement around the fullest part of the bust as shown on the purple cardigan above.
WAIST: This is the measurement around the slimmest part of your torso, as shown below. If you own a dress dummy it might be pertinent to mark your own natural waist on it so you can refer to it in future.

HIP: This is the measurement around the fullest part of the hips, as shown below. For some patterns - such as those incorporating a circle skirt into a dress, or for a circle skirt itself - this measurement is not as important. It's always useful to make a note of it anyway, for future reference.

Other measurements which are of importance when making or designing your own clothes are explored in detail elsewhere (people have written tomes on this, so only expect the basics here!). You can find out this information from books such as S.E.W Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp and The Perfect Fit: A Practical Guide to Adjusting Sewing Patterns for a Professional Finish are two personal favourites of mine. Other books or guides may be just as helpful and be more to your stylle so find one and go with it!

I haven't gone into tremedous detail about measuring for dressmaking because there have been tomes written about it elsewhere, and I could write a tome about it myself. The crux of it is, what you're making is to fit you, so make sure any pattern you buy will either fit or be adjustable to your own measurements, then make sure you actually make those adjustments. There is no better way to do this than to make a muslin - see the sister post to this one for more details!

This post was written by Aileen McKenna sewing enthusiast and author of

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Celebratory 6 month Giveaway

We are celebrating our 6 month Birthday on Saturday so this week we are giving away 6 prizes to celebrate.
6 month giveaway:

-£15 voucher plus free p & p for The Cloth Seller

-Korbond dressmaking shears

-Fat quarter bundle of fabric

-Free advert on our blog for your sewing or craft related shop/site/blog

-3d Cross Stitch Cards by Meg Evershed from Rainbow disks

-Two from one Jelly roll quilts by Pam & Nicky Lintott

We ask you to do one thing before entering, please spread the word about The Sewing Directory either by blogging about us, posting a link on Twitter or Facebook, inviting friends on Facebook or even just telling your mates. Also we’d love it if a few of you would post a review on Facebook for us here. The more fans and site users you bring to us the more great giveaways we can do – so please spread the word.

Then to enter the competition please tell us your first and second choice of prize, if you win we will try to match you up to your chosen prize if it is still available when your name is picked. You can either send your answer through our entry form, or comment on our blog/facebook/Twitter.

Terms & Conditions

Only one entry allowed per person. If you enter through Facebook/Twitter/Blogger you must send your postal address through within 2 weeks of the closing date to claim your prize or it will be re-drawn. All entries must be received by 6pm on 28th September 2010. Prizes must be shipped to an address within the UK or Ireland.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Focus on.....

Focus on...Gypsy Lace

With over 35 years experience in the lace industry Gypsy Lace are the lace experts. They have 7,500 patterns and registered designs that are unique to them. Whether you are looking for lace trimmings or motifs to add to an outfit or all over lace fabrics (pictured) you will find them on

The all over lace priced from just £2.25 a metre is perfect for this season’s lace tops or dresses. The lace trims start at just 8p a metre and would make a nice touch to an outfit. The motifs (priced from 19p each) include hearts (pictured), teddies, flowers and more. Plus don’t forget to check out their reduced section to grab a bargain.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

L is for Linen

L is for Linen

If you’ve owned a linen skirt or shirt for a long time, you’ll know that linen is a truly fabulous fabric. It is stronger than cotton and actually improves with age, the fibres softening the more it is washed. It’s also cool on the skin, and, amazingly, it doesn’t rot. Many of the linen bandages used to wrap mummies in ancient Egypt some 4,000 years ago are in almost perfect condition! Why is it cool on the skin? It’s because linen will absorb a lot of moisture and still feel dry, unlike cotton that develops large damp patches rather quickly.

Linen is a natural fabric, its fibres harvested from the woody stem of the flax plant. A field of flax, a reed-like plant, grows up to about waist height, and has been a familiar sight in many countries for at least 5,000 years. In fact, flax was one of the first fabrics to be used for clothing. After harvesting the plants, they have to be soaked in water to release the soft fibres from the woody outer coating. Each fibre can be up to 90 cm (3 ft) in length and these are spun into fabric, ranging from coarse to finer grades. Course linen has ‘slubs’ or small bumps in its texture. Higher grade, fine linen has none of these. Both are perfect for a variety of uses, from all sorts of household items, including cushions and covers, to clothing.

Linen has a natural stiffness. It makes it wrinkle easily – that’s why some linen clothes are made of a blend of linen and manmade fibre, which helps prevent such bad creasing. It is naturally white.

You may have wondered why sheets and pillowcases often referred to as ‘linens’? It’s simply because most bed sheets were once made of linen.

There’s more to this super-fabric. Linen is an eco-friendly fabric: the making of linen uses a lot less water than is needed for the production of cotton (or other man-made fibres). And once harvested, the parts of the plant not used for cloth can all be used in some way, from providing oil to making paper.

It is a lovely fabric to use for all sorts of projects, large and small, from lavender cases to cushions to hearts. A plain linen can be effectively embellished with all sorts of additions, from ribbons to buttons. For illustration here I’ve used a piece of white linen, matched it with a voile and made small lavender sachets.

Very easy and very effective! If you’ve never used linen, give it a go – it’s a lovely fabric to work with.

L is for Linen was brought to you by Sew Happy – visit at Sew Happy is an small online shop selling pretty, handmade items for the home. Especially popular are the unusual fabric letter buntings. Place an order before 31 December 2010 and mention The Sewing Directory to receive a 10% discount.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Saints & Pinners Competition

Saints & Pinner’s Competition

Online fabric store Saints & Pinners are celebrating the arrival of Forest Friends Flannels - Cloud 9’s newest organic range - with a giveaway! If you enter, you can win either:

* A fat quarter pack of the entire range, or

* Your choice of any combination of Forest Friends flannels,

Totalling up to two metres.

In order to enter to win this great prize you need to answer the question below:

What would you make with Forest Friends Flannel?

If you want a few ideas, Saints & Pinners have some great inspiration


You can submit your answer using our competition entry form or by commenting on our blog/twitter/facebook pages. Plus don’t forget to become a fan of Saints & Pinner’s Facebook page, or to register on their site, to be kept updated with their latest fabrics, offers and tutorials.

Terms & Conditions

Staff & family of The Sewing Directory and Saints & Pinners are not permitted to enter. Only one entry allowed per person. If you enter through Facebook/Twitter/Blogger you must send your postal address through within 2 weeks of the closing date to claim your prize or it will be re-drawn. All entries must be received by 6pm on 21st September 2010. Prizes must be shipped to an address within Europe.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Focus on.....

Focus On...Lush Lampwork

Lush Lampwork offer unique handmade beads and buttons to add character to your sewing projects. They offer a range of buttons including spotty ones, heart ones, flowers and even themed buttons such as the seaside buttons pictured here.

Every button is made one at a time, from coloured glass rods which are melted and shaped in the flame, then slowly kiln-cooled for lasting strength, so two buttons can ever be the same.

You can choose to have buttons with a shiny or etched finish and are approximately 15mm-16mm wide. You can also buy larger focal buttons to use as a feature on your designs, they sell button and bead sets such as the one pictured. They can also make to order if you contact them with your request.

Julie Fountain, the artist behind Lush Lampwork, also gives one to one tuition in the art of glass bead (and button!) making from her home studio in Malvern, Worcestershire. See the website or phone 07906 651846 to book.

***Special offer for readers of The Sewing Directory Blog – spend £10 or more at and quote “SB Blog Button Offer” to receive a free handmade button sample with your order. Offer ends 31.12.10 ***

You can view their buttons and beads on their website:

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

K is for Kits

K is for kits

Kotori Kits Pin Cushion
Sewing kits are great for the novice sewer as they generally contain most, if not all of the bits and pieces required to make a project, and in just the right amounts. For example, an appliqué project may require lots of small pieces of different types of fabric. Novice sewers are unlikely to have a handy scrap bag so would have to buy all the fabric for the project. Since most shops sell in minimum quantities of half or even a full metre, such a project could quickly become very expensive. The Fairy Tale height chart kit by Kotori Kits is a perfect example of an appliqué project with many different types and colours of fabric and felt.

Kotori Kits needlecase
Kits are also a good way to gain confidence in sewing. Having everything to hand and step-by-step instructions makes the whole process of making something much easier. Kits contain everything you need, explain what each element in the kit is for and exactly what to do. Trips to the sewing shop or haberdashers can be somewhat intimidating if you don’t know exactly what it is you need, or how much of it you need! Furthermore, using a kit avoids the painful discovery, halfway through an absorbing project, that you are missing a crucial piece of material!

An all in one kit from Sewbox
Kits are not only for beginners though. There are many kits available for the accomplished and advanced stitcher, for example the brilliant ‘Pattern Packs’ by These convenient packs contain all the items needed to make a particular outfit, including fabric, interfacing, notions etc, and actually cost less than buying all the items individually. More advanced still are the fabulous corset kits from These kits offer the opportunity to make beautiful vintage made-to-measure underwear at a fraction of the price it would cost to have made. On the other hand, an eye-catching or exclusive fabric might make a simple kit irresistible to the advanced sewer, such as the pincushion and needle case kits by Kotori Kits.

This post was brought to you by the letter K and Kotori Kits, chic sewing kits for adults and children alike.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Liberty Fabric giveaway with Sewbox

Sewbox Giveaway

Sewbox have just introduced a great new range of fabrics from Liberty, Alexander Henry and Westfallenstoffe and to celebrate they are giving away 2 metres of Liberty Fabric to our lucky winner.

In order to enter we want to know:

Which Liberty fabric would you like to receive 2 metres of?

You can view Sewbox's Liberty fabrics here:

You can enter here on our blog by commenting below or on Sewbox's blog:

If you would like an extra entry please blog about the competition and put the link below so we can see it and add your extra entry or you can get an extra entry by Tweeting or Retweeing about the competition, just make sure you enter @sewingdirectory or @sewbox so we can see it.

Terms and conditions

Staff & family of The Sewing Directory and Sewbox may not participate in this competition.  Prize can be shipped worldwide  Any prize unclaimed within 2 weeks will be re-drawn. All entries to be received by 6pm on 14/09/2010.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Focus on.....

Focus on....The Cloth Seller

The Cloth Seller is a new website offering exclusively organic and fair-trade fabrics. Organic fabrics are no longer plain and boring as they were a few years ago, they are now funky and modern and The Cloth Seller have some great ranges. They stock designers such as Cloud 9, Westfalensoffe, Mod Green Pod and Daisy Janie as well as organic plains in a great range of colours.

They stock varying types of fabric including jersey, cotton, velvet and upholstery fabrics. You can purchase by the metre or you can buy their fabric bundles if you are looking smaller pieces of fabric for quilting or craft projects.

They not only sell retail through their site but they also sell wholesale so if you are looking for some organic fabrics for your store click on the wholesale tab. Become a member of their Cloth Club to be kept updated on the latest ranges and exclusive discounts. If you are seeking inspiration for things to make with your organic fabrics check out The Cloth Seller’s Facebook page.

You will find their website here:

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

J is for Jelly Roll

J is for Jelly Roll

Jelly rolls are a collection of quilting cotton materials which co-ordinate together. Jelly rolls are pre-cut pieces of materials which are 2.5 inches by 44 inches in stripes. The term Jelly Roll was invented and trademarked by Moda Fabrics.

You can also buy a pack called a charm pack which works in the same way as a Jelly roll pack but the quilting materials in those packs are 5 inch square pieces.

Jelly rolls are popular as the measurements are a pre-measured consistent size internationally so it makes it easy to mix and match from different shops sticking to your own colour scheme but keeping and buying the same measurements each time.

Jelly rolls are used for a very wide variety of things, people make patchwork quilts, smaller items like pin cushions some people just buy them as they use such small amounts of materials in their handmade goods they come in handy for a wide variety of uses.


1. Jelly roll material should not be washed in the washing machine due to the fabric only being 2.5 inches wide to start with so you will end up with smaller sized pieces if they unravel or fray. So make your item and then cool wash the item allowing for small shrinkage of the cottons.

2. If you want to wash your material before using it use small amount of washing powder in a bowl in luke warm water. Swish around the fabric gently using hands (would recommend wearing some plastic gloves) or small wooden spoon. Allow fabrics to soak for around 15 minutes and then drain out and wash again under running cold water to rinse washing powder out of materials. Squeeze out excess water and then allow to dry and iron flat again before use.

There are several sites which provide free Jelly roll patterns to help you decide what to make with your jelly roll including:

Book wise Pam and Nicky Lintott have jointly authored several books about making quilts with jelly rolls, you will find them here on the RU Craft website and you can find them on Amazon too.
If you have a good idea for a quilt using a jelly roll you can win the chance to feature in the next Pam & Nicky Lintott quilting book with the Jelly Roll Dream Challenge here:  

The Letter J was brought to you by Amanda from Handmade By Button which offers great craft supplies.
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