My Minerva outfit reveal: floral crop top and pencil skirt

So it’s taken me FOREVER to write this post, and you’ve probably already heard about the Minerva meetup on a million blogs.

You know about the Raiders Of the Lost Ark style craft warehouse, the amazing dinner at Blackburn Rovers FC, and the red carpet line-up, as well as the realisation that the £3 taxi ride exists when you leave London.

So this post is just about my outfit. Thanks to Katie for taking some of the photos (you’ll be able to spot them, they’re the good ones).

The outfit

I knew I wanted to make something different, and in the end I came up with the idea of a pencil skirt and crop top:


Originally I was going to sew some kind of crazy one-shouldered 60s pencil dress, but when the fabric arrived (this beautiful John Kaldor stretch cotton) I knew I had to do something simpler. The print is huge! And I didn’t really fancy a shift dress. So co-ordinates it was.

The pencil skirt

It’s a By Hand London Charlotte skirt, which is really straightforward to sew. I made these changes to the pattern:

  • Cut a size 12 but added length to the waistband, which I interfaced.
  • Lengthened the darts 1.5cm each at the front, as I was getting a strange fold of extra fabric there.
  • Interfaced the edges of the invisible zip.
  • Added a back vent using this tutorial.
  • Lined it with this stretch mesh.

Stretch cotton is absolutely perfect for this pattern, I’ll be looking for some more to make another one. Although you need to add a vent – not sure how you could walk in it without one!

Minerva outfit 2The crop top

It’s a Burda pattern – 05/2012 #131.

I cut out a size 34 and had to make some serious changes as it was huge. I took the sides in a lot, cut about 4 inches off the bottom, added back darts and neck darts, and swapped out the button band for a zip.

Here’s how it looks on the back:

Minerva outfit backI did make an effort to match the pattern on the back pieces, but I didn’t bother with the sides. You’ve got to pick your battles.

Everything else

Cutting out was an enormous pain. I did it all on a single layer as the print is so huge. I didn’t really want to end up with a massive flower over an anatomical feature.

My inspiration was this outfit from Jonathan Saunders which is slightly more classy:

Jonathan SaundersIt’s pretty tricky to know exactly how much midriff to expose, but I was limited due to zip size.

The separating plastic zipper is from Jaycotts, and I had to choose between the 14 and 16 inch variations without knowing exactly how long the top would be. In the end I went with the 14 inch, which worked as the skirt was so high waisted.

crop top zip close-upZIP ENHANCE

Will I wear it again?

The acid test. As a whole, I reckon the outfit works, and I might get it out for a wedding this summer. It turned out slightly more cartoonish than I intended, but I think I rocked it anyway.

It seems highly unlikely that I’ll wear the crop top with another skirt – the Charlotte is the most high-waisted skirt I own.

I did try the top on with another skirt, but it was all a bit 90s looking. I distinctly remember wearing a tie-dye crop top to a school disco in about 1996, so I think I’ll leave that style the second time round.

The skirt is a different issue. I’ve already re-worn it loads! It looks really good with a denim shirt, if I say so myself:

pencil skirt and denim shirt

Thank you Minerva!

Huge thanks to Vicki and everyone at Minerva for organising such an amazing day. I’ve been a terrible network member lately, massively behind with projects and blog posts, but I really enjoy being part of it all, and I sincerely hope I’ve managed to shift some fabric for them. They deserve it!

Also a big thank you goes out to all the ladies of the online sewing community, for being awesome.  I’d be living a much sadder life if I’d never met all these amazing women. Although I’d probably have spent less money on fabric.

Picture 3
Spoolettes forever

Minerva Blogging Network: Chambray shirt (Vogue 1323)

I’ve finally jumped on the chambray bandwagon!

chambray shirt 1

Yes, I may be five years behind the rest of the blogging world, but at least I got there in the end.

This is my latest Minerva Blogging Network project, and the pattern is Vogue 1323. I’ve wanted to sew this ever since I saw Erica B’s heavenly version in hot pink.

Mine isn’t quite as slinky, but it’s a lovely little spring shirt and was fun to sew. You can read my full post about it on the Minerva network here.

Chambray shirt closeup

The fabric is gorgeous but it does tend to wrinkle. I promise that I ironed the shirt before I took these photos, even if you can’t really tell.

Somehow, even though I spent ages matching everything, the pockets have come out wonky at the bottom. Look at the photo – the pocket on my left is about a cm lower than the pocket on my right.

This is DEEPLY annoying, as I swear they were even at one point. I think I caused the wonkiness when I sewed the placket.

Here’s an in-progress shot, you can see that the left pocket has already started to creep down…

chambray shirt in progress

I’m not convinced that I sewed the bottom of the button placket correctly, as the instructions were brief and v obscure. So that may be the reason.

Oh well, I don’t think anyone will notice.

If they do, hopefully they’ll just think I have one bosom larger than the other. Better that than shoddy sewing skills.

French seams on armhole seams

The instructions for the rest of the shirt were good. They tell you to do french seams all over the shop, even on the sleeves, and I obediently followed. It makes for a lovely clean finish, which is good as this fabric does fray a bit.

chambray skirt back

I don’t always do what it says on pattern instructions, but I tend to think they know best, even if what they’re saying is obviously ridiculous. Also, I always read instruction manuals, which may be a connected habit.

Just a small insight into my psyche there for you.

You can buy the kit for this project here for £34, which includes everything down to the thread (chosen by clever Vicky at Minerva, and it’s a perfect match). You even get a trouser pattern thrown in by Vogue for no extra! How can you resist?

p.s. You might recognise the trousers from a previous Minerva project.

chambray shirt 2

Minerva Project April: Green ponte Anna from By Hand London

I made a new dress!

It’s my latest Minerva project and you can see the write-up on their (new and improved!) blog here.

Green dress 3
Here’s the details:

Pattern: The Anna from By Hand London

Fabric: Ponte in ‘Forest’ from Minerva Crafts (this stuff is the best ponte ever. Highly recommended).

Bookshelves: IKEA Billy

Green dress 1

Verdict: I like this dress but have only worn it once – the boatneck feels oddly formal for everyday wear. Also, I am waiting for bare legs (or at least nude tights) weather to return.

green dress back

green dress 2

Buy the kit here, or visit the Minerva blog for more details.

Minerva Blogging Network: New Look 6180

My second project for the Minerva Bloggers Network is now up! You can see it here. Warning: you might need to wear sunglasses.

pink dress 5

See what I mean? This fabric was described as ‘coral’ but in soft light it turns to a screamingly loud hot-pink. When it arrived I was very dubious about the colour. But in the end, I just had to give in to the pinkness. It won!

Here are 7 things about this project that I didn’t have room for in my Minerva post:

  1. I sewed a straight size 10, as there’s a lot of ease in this pattern. I could probably should have done a tiny FBA but for a last gasp summer project it didn’t seem worth it.
  2. New Look patterns appear to be designed for narrow-shouldered hunchbacks (ie. me). I didn’t do any alterations around the back and shoulders and it fits like a dream.
  3. I really should have added pockets in the side seams but I ran out of time.
  4. I managed to buy the perfect matching thread for this fabric without taking a swatch to the shop, which shows how memorable this colour is.
  5. I used this tutorial for turning out lovely pointy shirt collars, which worked really well.
  6. My shirt stand sewing skills are not good. I need to find a better method of doing this. I’ve got that David Coffin book about shirtmaking but I find it too intimidating to read for more than five minutes.
  7. This is not my usual style – too pink, too full-on retro. Which proves that it’s good to go outside your sewing comfort zone occasionally.

Here’s the back of this dress. This fabric is a dream to sew with. It’s a slubby linen-look cotton that presses beautifully.

pink dress3

There’s a v clever way of sewing a notched cuff in this pattern, which I am definitely going to steal for other projects. Here’s a photo, which also gives a better idea of the colour in full daylight.

sleeve cuff

Here’s a covered button close-up to finish. Originally I chose some lovely white buttons from Minerva which are included in the kit, but by the end of sewing I was obsessed with this fabric and needed the whole dress to be pink, including the buttons. The white ones will find a good home in another project.

pink dress4

You can buy the whole kit here from Minerva – it’s £21 including the pattern, which doesn’t seem bad for a new dress (although I forgot to include elastic and thread, as usual). Alternatively you can buy the linen-look cotton fabric I used in this dress here, or the New Look 6130 pattern here.

Minerva Blogging Network: Simplicity 2258

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments on my last post about my image being used by a styling website. I just wanted to say that I was impressed with how quickly the CEO of the business emailed me, and I’m happy with their response. I’m sure they’ll source their photos more carefully from now on….

Anyway, on to more exciting things, like sewing!

The first thing I made for the Minerva Blogging Network is up today, and it’s a colourful cotton skirt.

photo 4

Initially, when I saw what all the other bloggers had lined up, I felt slightly ashamed of the ridiculously simple pattern that I chose.

But actually, I’ve been reaching for this skirt non-stop! It’s perfect for summer weather and super easy and comfortable to wear.  The ties at the side stop it from looking too elasticated. Also, and this is crucial, it has pockets (and a gigantic bow).

Image 3

For once I matched up the fabric and pattern pretty well. This cotton poplin is delicious to sew with and the print is crazily awesome. It also hardly wrinkles.

If you do buy the kit you’ll have half a metre or so left over once you’ve made the skirt. I’m thinking of using mine for pocket linings or for the yoke on a top like my McCalls one.

I also think this would be the perfect project for beginners. Just please, please, promise me that you won’t try and sew up the long tie pieces right sides together and then turn them out. That has to be the worst, must frustrating sewing task ever.

All I did was iron down the edges, fold the tie in half, and then sew the long edge up. In this fabric nobody is going to notice if your stitching is a bit wonky or if the edges don’t quite meet.

Here’s what it looks like before you fold it in half and sew:

photo 2

You could probably draft this skirt yourself if you have the inclination, but the pattern also includes options for shorts and capris which could come in handy, so I think it’s worth a purchase.

You can buy the kit for this skirt here.

If you like the cotton poplin fabric you can get that on it’s own here, and the pattern is here. I totally forgot to include elastic in the kit as I usually have some lying around, but you’ll need a metre of this 32mm elastic, and some black thread.

photo 1

Thanks again to Minerva Crafts, and you can read my post for the Bloggers Network here. I can’t wait to see all the other projects now!

Minerva Blogging Network

Hello everyone! Thank you SO MUCH for all the lovely comments on my last post.  They properly made me well up.

Also, I love looking at pictures of other people’s weddings because I am incurably nosy, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, so thanks for bearing with me if you come here for the sewing rather than the over-sharing.

I do have some actual sewing news for you! I’m rather amazed and happy to say that I’m part of the new Minerva Bloggers Network, which you may have seen announced on some other blogs this week.


This project was the brainchild of Vicky at Minerva Crafts and the indefatigable Rachel of House of Pinheiro, two super-inspiring women, and I’m very proud to be part of it.

Each month I’ll be sewing up a garment, with all the supplies coming from the Minerva website. It’ll all be documented on their blog, and you’ll also be able to buy the project as a kit.

I’m interested to see if this kit idea takes off – I think people might enjoy the convenience of it, but I also wonder if other sewers will want to make exact copies of an existing garment. It’ll be fascinating to find out! Of course I’ll link to all the separate parts here on my blog as well in case you like the look of something in particular.

Also, I’ve not been the smartest sandwich at the picnic, as I didn’t quite get the whole ‘kit’ concept when I sent off my requests to Minerva. Therefore some of mine do not include essentials like thread, elastic, etc etc. I will link the missing pieces here too. Sorry guys.

On a practical level, I’m hoping that I can test out some lesser-known fabrics and patterns, and help you navigate the enormous warehouse of craftiness that is the Minerva website. I imagine it to be a bit like Hanger 51 in the Indiana Jones films. You could get lost in there for weeks…

The Minerva Fabrics warehouse, yesterday
The Minerva Fabrics warehouse, yesterday

There are 7 other ladies in the network, and they’re all rather amazing (I know I overuse this word spectacularly but for once it’s true).


I’m sure you’re an avid reader of their blogs already, but as an introduction I thought I’d link to my favourite items they’ve made. This is what I would steal from their wardrobes if they invited me round for tea, and I had a bit less moral fibre:

I’m really excited about the network, and I can’t wait to show you what I’ve been making!