Meet my new sewing friend – the Lady Valet Dress Form

I’ve been wanting a dressmaker’s dummy for some time now and, finally, I have one! Despite being obsessed with making bags, I’m keen to have a go at making some clothes for myself. I don’t know if it’s been the amazing Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing or the new series of The Great British Sewing Bee which has spurned me on. I also enjoy all the inspiring sewing blogs out there and I desperately need to improve my Summer wardrobe. Whatever, I think I’m going to enjoy setting myself this new challenge. So, this was the perfect excuse to treat myself to a dress form and here ‘she’ is…

The Lady Valet Dress Form

The Lady Valet Dress Form

You wouldn’t believe how difficult it can be to choose the right dress form! I thought I could just do a quick search, within my budget, and get one ordered up. But, there are so many different ones available, I was overwhelmed. A few that I’d thought would be good, mainly due to being reasonably priced, turned out to be totally unsuitable. They weren’t adjustable enough, had flimsy stands, didn’t have enough padding on the body (for pinning directly into it)… I only began considering all these things after reading through some reviews. I’m so glad I did that, as I started off not knowing the first thing about choosing a dress form. I though it might be helpful to write about it here, in case anyone else is having trouble choosing the right one.

First of all there’s the adjustable features to consider. I’ve had four kids, so I’m far from a standard size. This created problems, whilst a small size dummy was perfect for my hip size, it was no good for my upper half. I’m also quite short, only 5′ and a bit, so I had to look at forms with 8 part bodies, rather than just 4, so that I could also adjust the measurement from nape of neck to waist. I then noticed, from user reviews, that some models aren’t very durable – the stands can be flimsy – and many didn’t have enough padding enabling fabric to be pinned directly onto the dummy. My list of potentials was slowly narrowing…

I don’t have a sewing room (oh, I wish), just a corner of the dining room which is open plan to the living room, so it was important that the form looked nice too as it would be permanently on show. I finally came across a few really good reviews about the Lady Valet Dress Form. The more I read about it and looked over the specs, etc, the more I wanted this one. The medium size would adjust to my sizes – it is an 8 part body with 12 adjustable dials. It was consistently reviewed as being of great quality, very adjustable, enough padding on the body and a good solid wooden stand which offered stability. Then came the price crunch though. It retails at around £149 (GBP), way out of my budget. Oh well, sigh! Not to be beaten though, I did more searches, eventually searching on ebay to see if anyone happened to be selling a second hand one. Well, I was so chuffed when I found a brand new one, boxed and my size, being sold for £99. Perfect! Still quite a bit to spend, but I was happy with saving so much on the one I wanted and reassured myself that it will pay for itself over time. I was so pleased with this purchase, the reviews were right. It adjusts really easily, it’s fantastic quality, it’s robust but looks great too. Well worth the money. Now that I have this, I’d definitely say that even the full price is well worth it.

Lady Valet Dress Form - Review

Now for some easy-to-do sewing patterns and some nice dressmaking fabrics. I have some lovely tops in mind to begin with. Oh, the delights of shopping for patterns and fabric! I’ll also keep you posted on my new dressmaking adventures, or miss-haps  as the case may be!

Bookazine Giveaway! Pro Guide to Sewing

Have you seen the new bookazine Pro Guide to Sewing? I was so pleased to receive a review copy last week, courtesy of Future Publishing, and I can honestly say that it’s well worth getting your hands on. It’s packed with great projects and ‘how to’ expert guides, covering a wide range of sewing techniques. What’s more, I’ve got an extra copy to give away! If you’d like this fab publication to land on your doormat please leave a comment. I’m happy to post it anywhere in the world, by the way. I’ll pick a name out of the hat on Friday 14th March 2014.

Pro Guide to Sewing Bookazine

Pro Guide to Sewing is a 160 page ‘bookazine’ (more than a magazine, almost a book) which includes a wide variety of projects and a range of advanced techniques to learn. When I first pulled this from it’s envelope, I was really impressed. It felt almost like a book! Lovely quality and thickness to it.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the projects or techniques, you know what it’s like when you’re promised ‘expert’ guides? Well, I was pleasantly surprised at the challenges the projects offer and the expert guides really are just that – advanced techniques which are clearly explained and have helpful diagrams to elaborate. I really liked the fact that, following each technique guide, there follows an exciting project to try out the new skills you’ve just learned (or improve on skills that you already have).

Pro Guide to Sewing Bookazine - Contents Page

Pro Guide to Sewing Bookazine – Contents Page

The expert guides have step-by-step illustrations and teach a range of advanced techniques such as seam finishing, zips, piping, interfacing, frills & pleats, buttons & buttonholes, elastic – gathering and smocking, embroidery, quilting, applique, bag making and stuffed toys, all with lovely projects to have a go at too. The 24 patterns have been selected from the best books, blogs and industry insiders.

Bookazine - Pro Guide to Sewing

The Pro Guide to Sewing Bookazine is available from WHSmith and other newsagents, priced at £9.99, or you can get it online (post free) by visiting My Favourite Magazines. If you’re in Europe, the price is £10.99 and for the USA and rest of the world it’s £11.99 (all post free!)

If you’re just starting out in sewing, there’s also a Beginner’s Guide to Sewing bookazine available. It has 28 projects to make!

Beginner's Guide to sewing

FYI – I don’t get any commission for this post or the links it contains, just my complimentary copy of the bookazine. I’m genuinely enjoying this new publication and just wanted to share it with everyone. Also I’m chuffed to be able to offer someone else a free copy too. I’m sure you’ll love it!

Remember to leave a comment if you’d like a chance of winning a free copy of the Pro Guide to Sewing. I’ll be posting it to one lucky reader (anywhere in the world) after I’ve randomly drawn a name on Friday 14th March 2014. Good Luck!!

Love Patchwork and Quilting – Review and Special Trial Offer

A while back, I spotted some trial issues of a new quilting magazine and really liked the look of it. So, I promptly signed up for a subscription offer. I’m so pleased I did! Now, on issue 5, I really look forward to the magazine dropping onto the doormat each month.

Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine review

Love Patchwork and Quilting magazine – issues 1 – 5

The thing that drew me towards Love Patchwork and Quilting was the fresh, modern look. I like to dabble in patchwork and quilting and would like to learn more, however I wanted something with a modern twist. As you know, I love to use vibrant fabrics in my sewing creations and I love the fact that the designs in the new magazine use lots of bright, modern fabrics in their projects.

As well as quilt designs to try, there’s also lots of new ideas for using patchwork and quilting skills to make a variety of craft projects too, such as homewares, accessories, toys and bags. There’s plenty of interesting projects to have a go at. If you want to take a break from sewing and put your feet up, the magazine offers a really good read too. It boasts regular features such as:

Love Life: shopping news – fabrics, homewares, accessories and more…

Stitching Notes: A monthly column, by the fabric designer Jeni Baker. Jeni gives amazing insight into the world of quilting and always has loads of interesting tips and advice to share.

Love Fabric: a round-up of exciting new fabric ranges available.

Feature: inspirational behind the scenes features, fabric designers, fabric shops, etc.

My Space: each month we’re invited into the work space of some very admiral fabric designers and sewists.

Techniques Focus: if you’re new to quilting techniques or still learning, a very useful guide is included each month. It covers all the basics and is extremely well explained.

Exclusive Subscription offer:

When I notified Future Publishing that I was doing a post about their fab mag, they very kindly offered a fantastic subscription deal to offer readers. So, if you’d like to see what all the hype is about, you can try the magazine out too. With Mother’s Day being just around the corner, this could be the ideal gift idea for a crafting/sewing mum.

UK Subscription offer + 6 monthly rates for overseas readers:
UK – Try 3 issues for just £3 when you subscribe today / USA, Europe and rest of world – special 6 month rates offer

Terms and conditions: This offer is for new UK/overseas print subscribers only.
You will receive 13 issues in a year. For full terms and conditions click here: Offer ends: 31st May 2014

Offer for North American / Canada audiences:
Try 3 issues for just $10 when you subscribe today

Terms and Conditions: This deal is for new North American print subscribers only. You will receive 13 issues in a year.
For full terms and conditions please email us at Offer ends: 31st May 2014

Subscription benefits:
– Make great savings on the shop price
– Receive a lovely FREE gift on every issue
– Subscription prices are inclusive of delivery
– Receive 13 issues a year
– Never miss an issue

Sewing Machine Review – Frister and Rossmann Professional Quilter’s Edition QE404

A while back my Janome sewing machine packed in and had to be sent off to be fixed. Meanwhile I was going to be left without a sewing machine for several weeks. Not good! Being an essential part of my business, really can’t work without one, I decided I’d need to buy a new one. The fact that my current machine had stopped working, highlighted the fact that I should maybe have a backup so that I could always have one on standby.

Well, the justification over, the new one I found was a Frister & Rossmann Professional Quilter’s Edition QE404. Not that I’m a quilter, although I dabble in it sometimes, but I was drawn to this one due to all the features it had and there were quite a lot of good reviews for it online. The bonus was that it was priced very reasonably for what you get, £289 and it came with a fantastic freebie bundle. I bought my machine from The Ironing Press Company which has shops on Ebay and Amazon.

Sewing Machine Review

I’ve had a chance now to give it a good run in and I must say it’s been a great choice. All-in-all I think it would be suitable for beginners and experienced alike. One word of warning if you’re buying this. The instruction booklet has been translated into English and has spelling mistakes and bad grammar. There are very clear diagrams throughout, though, so I found it easy enough to follow over-all. Here’s a list of some features:

Stitches: It has 170 plain and decorative stitches, including up to 6m alphabet stitching. I’m not sure if I’ll ever use them all but the range of stitch types is fantastic, there’s even pretty floral ones, animal ones, Japanese symbols, the list is endless. The machine also boasts 5 one-step automatic button holes, with 13 different styles, plus eyelet stitch.

Sewing Machine decorative stitches

Electronic / Computerised: this was a first for me, to have an electronic computerised machine, and I’m very impressed. It has an interactive LCD display screen, small but does the job and shows clearly what has been selected. It’s also helpful if you’ve done something wrong or a glitch arises, as it immediately stops the machine and shows a symbol to indicate what’s wrong. There’s a stitch memory so that you can program your selection of stitching, including number or letter sequences and it can stop at the end of your chosen sequence. Most of the functions are controlled electronically, so at a push of a button you can easily access some very useful features and quickly adjust the stitch length or width.

Electronic Computerised Sewing Machine

Automatic Needle Threader: There’s a lever that you can bring down to help thread the needle. I had this on my old machine but never used it as thought would be fiddly. I tried it on the new one and always use now as it’s really good. It’s a bit difficult to use at first but after you’ve tried it once or twice it’s a breeze. The needle must be at it’s highest position then you bring the lever down and follow the instructions for where to hook your thread. There is a little tiny grabber that goes through the needle eye and, on release of the lever, it pulls the thread though.

Sewing Machine Automatic Needle Threader

Twin Needle Threading: An extra spool pin is supplied which is slotted into place to allow two different threads to be used along with a twin needle. You simply thread up as normal and then put each thread through each needle eye (automatic needle threader can’t be used).

Speed Limiter: I’ve found this to be a really useful feature. You can control how slow or fast you stitch, great for beginners who may prefer to stitch slowly at first and then gradually build up the speed as confidence grows. Even for the experienced though, it’s useful for the times that you need to control the speed you stitch. I like the way the machine starts off slowly and then within seconds it gets up to the maximum speed that you’ve set. If you try to press the foot pedal too fast when you first start sewing, the machine will not start. It stops itself until you lift your foot off and then press it down slower. I found this a bit annoying at first but soon got used to it and I think this would be another good feature for beginners, so that you start off slowly and gradually build up the speed.

Stop/Start FeatureThis function allows you to stitch automatically, without the foot pedal being plugged in. Very useful I think. I tried this on a slow speed to begin with until I got used to using the stop/start button instead of the foot pedal.

Needle Up/Down Function: This is one of my favourite functions on the machine. You maybe wouldn’t think it would make such a difference but it really does. It’s not until you have this feature that you realise what a useful one it is. It eliminates the need to use the hand wheel and makes sewing so much quicker and less fiddly, as a result. A handily placed button is used for setting whether the needle should be up or down whenever you stop stitching. When you start off, you simply position your fabric under the foot as normal and press the button to make the needle go down. Start stitching and whenever you stop, to adjust or move the fabric around, the needle will stop in the down position. When you’ve stopped sewing just press the button to put the needle back into up position.

Reverse Button: Most machines have this feature for back-stitching but, being electronic, this one took a little bit getting used to. It works really well but when you press the button you need to be aware that the machine will slow down (helpful) and there’s a very slight delay (1-2 stitches) before it goes into reverse. So you need to press the button just before you want to go backwards.

Free Arm: This is essential for sewing trouser legs and sleeves. I use this facility a lot when I’m bag making, mostly for stitching around the top edges of bags and accessories. On this machine, you remove the accessories box to allow you to fit trouser legs and sleeves, or in my case bags, over the free arm.

Sewing Machine free arm facility

Quilting and Embroidery: 20 of the stitches have been specially designed for quilting, giving you plenty of variety. The machine also comes with a flat bed table extension to increase working area. The feed dogs can be dropped for doing free hand embroidery or for traditional darning.

Sewing Machine Frister & Rossmann QE404

Sewing Feet: I am so impressed by the range of sewing feet supplied: general all-purpose foot, narrow hem foot, buttonhole foot, gathering foot, blind hem foot, straight sewing foot, overlock foot, cording foot, embroidery foot, walking foot and cutting/sewing foot. I don’t think I’ll want for any other feet ever (apart from a teflon coated one I’d bought separately for sewing laminated cotton).

Accessories and Freebies: I think everything you could need to start sewing comes with this package. As well as all the extra feet (above) it comes with the usual accessories: bobbins, screw drivers, spool caps, button hole cutter, extra spool pin and finger protector. The extra freebies I got were a pack of scissors in all sizes, thread nippers, loads of extra needles in different sizes, a box of 10 large sewing threads, seam ripper and a sewing essentials kit.

All-in-all this sewing machine is a fantastic all-rounder. I love using it and it’s ant-jam rotary mechanism is very quite and works smoothly. It’s capable of sewing all types of fabric, from light weight delicates to heavy denim.