Thursday, 16 March 2017

Fashion and Embroidery / Sewing for Pleasure / Hobbycrafts – NEC Birmingham 16-19 March

The NEC in Birmingham knows how to put on good shows – just last week, millions of people up and down the country watched Crufts. I stayed with my family, and even the kittens loved it:

They were both shy when I arrived on Friday, but by Sunday they trusted me and curled up on my lap together. It was crushing to leave these little guys behind when I went back the following day.

This week, the NEC hosts the Sewing Show. The opening day can often be the quietest day to go, as most people don't book a day off and visit on the weekend. Featuring Fashion and Embroidery, Sewing for Pleasure and Hobbycrafts shows (Cake International is also included in the price but is only open fri-sun). Last year, I went with my mum to the show at Alexandra Palace, and this year we wanted to try the NEC as it's easier to get to from Banbury.

I didn't get the names of all the artists/stalls, and I'm sorry about that. If you recognise any of the textile pieces, please let me know and I will credit them.

Getting Ready

Making a picnic the night before means you save money for fabric shopping. We packed sandwiches, bananas, mini cheddars, apples, and I made these special heart biscuits for the trip back.

It's important to be comfy as getting around the exhibits takes a long time and a lot of walking. I wore an Otome coord, and got a lot of compliments on both the H&M sweater and Cath Kidston skirt.

The Exhibitions

The exhibitions are the best part of the shows for me, as it's so interesting to see what other people create, and to be able to see the fine details so close up. Nothing is behind glass, so you can really get in properly and have a good look. It's very inspiring.

The embroidery exhibits were captivating and displayed a range of skill and imagination.

This child's dress is so cute – the smocking on the bodice looks like buildings on a London street.

A reimagining of a vintage postcard by Janet Humphrey.

These beetles must have taken weeks. Look at the intricate beadwork embroidery.

Beautiful stitches on this piece for the Madeira Competition.

Fish. The fabric and silver thread is so shimmery.

This Japanese-inspired cherry blossom quilt is beautiful. The moon and rays are very delicate.

This quilt is very magical looking, and reminds me of the Viking tree of life.

The French Dressing exhibition by Ollivier Henry and Jean-Noel Lavesvre, who have both created costumes for the French Opera, features very detailed and delicate costumes.

Jackets by Maria Thomas, an alternative quilter who transforms every day objects into works of art, runs workshops in Warwickshire.

Game of Thrones: The Hardhome Embroidery, commissioned by HBO for the Season 5 DVD boxset, and created by The Embroiderers' Guild, Royal School of Needlework, Hand & Lock and Fine Cell Work. Nothing prepares you for how huge this piece was, and couldn't get it all in the frame – see it in person if you can, it's not going to have the same impact on a DVD cover! This was taken as high as I could hold my phone camera, and I'm still looking up at it.

Costumes from the King's Speech. This is probably the nearest I'll ever get to Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth.

A Cardigan for Cardigan, designed by Lisa Hellier to celebrate of the 900-year anniversary of Cardigan town. This would fit the ice giant nicely. Maybe if he was a little warmer, he'd be less bent on destruction.

Let's Go Shopping!

My mum's a keen dressmaker, so her favourite part is fabric shopping. We are extremely limited where we live for decent fabric shops, and venturing further afield can be tricky in terms of knowing where to go. As a result, we both usually buy fabric online. As you know, this doesn't compare to seeing and handling fabric in real life. Fabric shops from all over the midlands, and London, were gathered in the same space. We do the "monopoly method" of shopping – don't buy anything on your first trip around the hall, then make a plan of attack at the end...

It's always nice to see lace trim. Strangely, there wasn't any at the Alexandra Palace exhibition last year. I don't have a specific project that needs any at the moment, though.

The first stall we saw on entering the fashion part, Bombay Stores, is really pretty, and has fat quarters, fashion fabric and lots of silks and materials for sari making - these trims would also look lovely as a skirt border or waist ribbon. Bombay Stores is "the UK's largest Asian department store" and is based in Bradford.

Fabrics Galore was one of my favourite stalls. From Lavender Hill in London, they had Liberty print fabrics, lawns and cottons, all with beautiful prints. The dresses they had on display are simple but hang so nicely – I plan to copy the right hand one. Other people must have had the same idea, because the stall was running low on that fabric by the time I got around to buying some. So no points for originality, but I need this dress in my life, and it looks fun to make.

Higgs and Higgs was another gem. The name is so charming, I know it's someone's surname, but it conjures up cosy Hygge feelings. Look at all these florals! Ultimately, I didn't buy anything from this stall, but the fabrics available are really pretty, so I saved their website for later.

Cats. In space. Why? Because of reasons.

I regret not getting a better photo of this stall – Til the Sun Goes Down is run by a very impressive woman who creates patterns inspired by vintage clothing, sources fabrics, and designs printed fabrics all with a unique vision to inspire dressmakers to create vintage-based designs. My mum bought the blue fabric here. 

Alison Smith, author of The Sewing Book (a dressmaker's bible that has saved multiple projects of mine) was there and I was prepared to be a little awe struck – but it turns out she is really nice makes you feel so comfortable around her that there is no room to feel intimidated. She runs a lot of workshops, online and offline, which is interesting to see. She complimented Mum's handmade coat, and Mum walked away beaming, saying "write that down, I don't want to forget that".

The Aftermath

My fabric haul! I'm making a dress with the bird fabric, blouses from the lavender and perfume prints (although a sleeveless dress uses the same amount, so I can change my mind later), pretty tartan fabric for headbows and accessories, four fat quarters either for bags, accessories, or Blythe doll clothes (I haven't decided), and a couple of trimming remnants just because. I have to make up practise runs of the blouse and dress before I start on those (to make sure the pattern fits correctly and make any adjustments), but I can't wait to start cutting into these.

Are you going to the Sewing Show? Where do you like to buy your fabrics?


  1. Great post. And a lovely haul. I'm in love with the bright flashes of colour in the bird fabric.

    I'm looking forward to going to the Stitching show in London in April with my sewing group.

    1. Thanks Jac! It's such lovely fabric. It's so soft and buttery too. It's a shame the company that makes it isn't printed on the selvedge, I'm interested in seeing what else they come up with.

      The stitching show in London is always good, I hope you have a great time. Have you got plans for buying fabric for different projects, or will you take the magpie approach?

  2. Those kitties are so cute *_* Cat cuddles are the best!

    I like to pack my own lunch for days out, too! It's just so expensive these days to buy snacks when you're out and about, particularly at big venues.

    I really like the outfit you put together-- very stylish! It's simple and comfy, but has a nice whimsical edge. I'm sure it looked lovely on you, and I'm not surprised people went out of their way to tell you! ^_^

    The embroidery work in the exhibition looks incredible, and very inspiring! I've never heard of the Sewing Show before but it looks like a very interesting event, and I've enjoyed your pictures from the experience! Definitely looks like something I'd be into, especially for the fabric shopping. I'm currently boycotting my local fabric shop because of how rude they are. I know there's meant to be a few good fabric shops in London but that's not very cost effective for me! Are there any online shops you'd recommend? I've currently been making do with eBay for plain fabrics, but I'm struggling to find nice prints!

    Haha, The Sewing Book is such a life saver, and it's so cool you got to meet the author!

    I look forward to see what you end up making with your haul <3

    1. They are adorable, if Mum got them so I'd visit more often, it's definitely working!

      I didn't make a packed lunch when I went to the one at Alexandra Palace, and as well as being expensive, the food options were very limited. It's good that you're always organised like that ^_^

      Thank you for the compliment on my outfit, there is nothing better than comfy clothes with fun prints some days!

      I think you would really like the Sewing Show, it's great for fabric shopping and seeing different prints and fabrics is inspiring for thinking of project ideas. There was a stand selling printed jersey fabrics for example, and I immediately wanted to try and make a cutsew. I stopped myself because I need to tackle some easier projects first. I find it definitely helps to go with an idea of what you want, so that you don't get overwhelmed with choice.

      For online shops, there are a few places I like to visit, and you've inspired me to write a new blogpost about that, so I hope you don't mind me not listing them here to save time – I'll have the post up tonight or tomorrow ^_^

      Have you got any projects you're working on at the moment? I see you're reaching quite the worldwide audience with your bloomers, which is really great!

    2. Haha, I do try to plan ahead! I've had way too many experiences of being in a dire food situation so I've definitely learnt my lesson now!

      Ooh, I'd have loved that stand and would have wanted to do exactly the same thing! *_* And that's a good tip about having something planned out beforehand. I expect it's easy in that environment to get carried away and want to buy everything and make everything! I need to be more on the look out for events like this. How did you hear about it?

      Awesome! I look forward to seeing that post ^_^

      Ahh thank you! It's really exciting for me as I never would have expected to have such a strong US customer base but people are surprisingly fine with paying for international postage! At the moment I'm working on skirts, as I want to get a new collection in my shop in time for the summer. For some reason I'm super into gingham at the moment so that will probably feature quite heavily and I've already purchased some in pastel. I've always been about that retro and fruit print life, so I feel I need to include that too! Currently on the lookout for prints that speak to me and then I'll go for it!

      I'm really looking forward to seeing the dress you make with the bird print fabric! Do you have any plans to make a dress for the TPC event this year? You did a great job with the flower fairies print at Regalia <3

    3. That sounds so nice, I can't wait to see it. Gingham can look so cute ^_^

      I found out about it as the NEC sends me leaflets when shows like this are coming up – I went to a Christmas Crafts fair with my friend a couple of years ago and signed up for their postal mailings. It's good as they don't send much post, only for shows like this that I want to go to.

      I'm not planning on making a dress for TPC as I want to wear Angelic Pretty, but I'm planning on making accessories and maybe a blouse – I have two outfit ideas in mind so I just need to make a decision on which one I'll go for (my main reason for being bummed at missing the second day, haha). I'm torn between wearing Cirque Du É'toile, with black/white and a victorian circus/pierrot theme, or wearing Wonder Gallery in yellow, with pink and a "princess that went to sleep and woke up in a dreamland" theme (it sounds weird but it makes more sense in my head, haha).

      I'm really happy you liked the flower fairies dress and you've given me more confidence to keep sewing! I stopped for a while because I wasn't happy with the fit, and the fabric didn't hang well due to it being quilting fabric, so since then I've made countless "practice" pieces from calico fabric trying to sort out fit issues, and haven't finished anything I can actually wear! I have a good book to follow now, and I'm going to focus on things being "close enough" fit-wise. The pattern I based the dress off was Innocent World, and we all know about their bodice issues...

      How about you, are you making any accessories/clothes for TPC? ^_^

    4. Thanks for the heads up! I'd like to go to more events relating to my interests so I'm trying to be more up to date with what's happening at different venues.

      I actually love the idea for your outfit concept for Wonder Gallery! That's very beautiful, mysterious imagery so I would enjoy seeing what you'd come up with for that ^_^
      I keep changing my mind about making things for the event! On the one hand, I'd love to wear a super sweet AP coordinate, but on the other hand, I'd like to challenge myself to come up with something completely original. I may compromise with an idea I've had for an overskirt, and wear it over an AP dress, and wear all my own accessories ^_^

      Sewing is a continuous learning process and we can only get better ^_^ Gosh, I don't know why IW are incapable of making decent bodices! Hopefully all those test pieces mean you've cracked the fit issues you were having? I'm the same and I have test pieces (I went for old bedsheet fabric!) and nothing ready to wear! I still don't know how to do pattern making in the "official" way. What I do is trace over the bodice of something that fits me well and create a pattern from that!