Tag: sewing machine

The Big Giveaway!

The Big Giveaway is finally here! After lots of negotiation I have managed to source a number of very generous sewing companies who are willing to give gifts to help and encourage you guys with your sewing.

Here are a list of prizes and the companies that are offering them:

Mini Sewing Machine from Penguin & Pear

Mini Sewing Machine from Penguin & Pear

As a part of this giveaway I will be giving one lucky winner a mini sewing machine from John Lewis! This sewing machine will be a great gift for a child, someone new to sewing, or just a lightweight machine to carry around instead of lugging your main machine. The machine has a worth of £59.99 and comes in four colours.

Penguin and Pear is my blog for sharing my sewing makes, writing tutorials and discussing anything sewing related. Find me on Instagram, Facebook, The Fold Line and Twitter as ‘Penguinandpear’.

Go to the website

Fabric bundle from Abakhan

Fabric bundle from Abakhan

Abakhan are giving one lucky winner a bundle of fabric, carefully chosen by them for the winner.

Abakhan are a hugely popular fabric shop in the north of England. They have a good range of fabrics on their website at great prices. For more information go to the link below.

Go to the website

Two PDF dressmaking patterns by Sew Over It

Two PDF dressmaking patterns by Sew Over It

Sew Over It are generously offering 2 PDF patterns from their range of dressmaking designs.

Sew Over It are a hugely popular haberdashery shop (they have two in London) and are known for their pretty vintage style. Go to their website (link below) to see what they have on offer. This offer is open worldwide.

Go to the website

£50 Fabric bundle by Minervacrafts

£50 Fabric bundle by Minervacrafts

MInervacrafts are generously donating a £50 hamper of fabric to one lucky winner.

MInervacrafts have a massive range of fabrics on their website and are very helpful if you ask for something in particular. To find out more, follow the link below.

Go to the website

£20 Gift voucher by Fabric Godmother

£20 Gift voucher by Fabric Godmother

Fabric Godmother are offering one lucky winner a £20 gift voucher for their website. You might like to buy a pattern, fabric or notions with this!

Josie from Fabric Godmother has a wide range of fabrics and other products on her website and is well worth a look. Follow the link below to find out more.

Go to the website

Maker's Workbook by Creative Industry

Maker's Workbook by Creative Industry

Claire from Creative Industry is offering one lucky winner her Maker’s Workbook. This is a great prize where you can organise your projects, plan new ones and have as a reference for the future.

Clare also sells Swedish tracing paper and ‘made by hand’ labels. Her products are a very high quality and great additions to your sewing stash. To find out more, follow the link below.

Go to the website

Jean's Kit by SEWN Bristol

Jean's Kit by SEWN Bristol

Marie from SEWN BRISTOL is offering a jeans kit comprising of a metal zip, jeans buttons and a rivet kit. A must have if you are making jeans this autumn.

Marie owns SEWN BRISTOL, a haberdashery shop in the south-west of England. If you are close by, I highly recommend you pop in. Otherwise they also have an online shop which gorgeous fabrics, notions and more. Follow the link below.

Go to the website

Spool holder by Laura ter Kuile

Spool holder by Laura ter Kuile

Laura ter Kuile makes handmade spool holders and she is offering one lucky winner the chance to own a small version of her one-of-a-kind designs.

Laura is an independent maker and you can check out all of her products by following the link below.

Go to the website

To Enter:

To enter, go to the Sewing and Dressmaking Blogger Network on Facebook and request to join. Once you have been accepted you will see a post pinned to the top of the group page that will give you instructions on how to join and explain the rules.

The competition closes on 23/11/16 at 1pm GMT.

Good luck!

Disclaimer: Comments on this blogpost will not be considered entries. You must join the group to be eligible.

Today I want to talk a bit about sewing machines, about my first, my subsequent and my latest… we can’t sew without a machine, there are lots out there and the choices are overwhelming. Here I talk about the ones I have worked with….

I have been sewing now for about two and a half years, my biggest regret is that I didn’t get into it as a child. The option was there, my grandmother always had her machine out and I remember at one point my own mother having one but it just didn’t happen. It is odd that as a child I used to have ‘visions’ (or thoughts and images in my head) of me as an adult sat at a sewing machine in an old factory wearing a big long brown dress that was really dusty. I never knew where that image came from but I used to say I was a seamstress in a previous life (despite not believing in that really). That was my only explanation as I never had any interest in sewing….

I picked up my first machine (by Ikea) just because I thought it would be a good idea to have a machine. I am not sure I had any real ambition to use it at that point. I think I tried once and it just sat in the corner for a good few months.

My first sewing machine – looks like a Tomy toy!

Once I came across the Tilly and The Buttons Love at First Stitch book (and indeed the blog) my interest was ignited. Saying that, I didn’t know how big a learning curve there was, had I known I might never have started. That is not to say you should be put off if you are a newcomer to sewing – I am glad I went with it, in fact it is one of the best things I have ever done.

I began making dresses on my Ikea sewing machine but this is a pretty basic machine and I soon outgrew it. I think I got annoyed with the thread snapping constantly!

When I decided to upgrade I visited a bona fide sewing shop, looked at the vast array of machines on display and became overwhelmed very quickly. So I spoke to the lady in the shop, told her my budget and what I want from the machine and she helped me to chose the Brother XR37NT (you can see my review here). I had this machine just over a year before I outgrew this; apart from anything else it felt clunky, I wasnt a huge fan of Brother at the time.

1aaaaa51FYFMe6eJL._SL1000_ (1)
My second machine – clunky much?

Eventually I managed to purchase the sewing machine of my dreams (with the help of trading in my Brother) and that is the Janome DKS100, which is my current machine. I love this machine and will do a review of it if anyone is interested (let me know in the comments below). It is being serviced at the moment because it needs a new buttonhole sensor and the automatic threader is misaligned. In and of itself this isn’t a problem because I have a 2 year warranty on it and its only 10 months old, but it does worry me that problems are happening already.  On the other side of the coin, I am without a machine and my sewing addiction has really been suffering.

My baby!

I knew I would suffer without my machine so I waited to get it serviced until I was able to secure another machine. I came across a vintage machine in a local charity shop and they only wanted £10 for it. I lugged it home and made myself ill doing so (I have ME and should not exert myself) thinking I’d gotten a real bargain. I sent my Janome into the shop to be serviced and started to use this machine.

Gorgeous colours!

The machine looked promising, it is really solid, a real workhorse. It’d also been checked over by the shop, and it had the original booklet and lots of original assessories. I am not sure when it was made, possibly the 70’s.

It is probably something I am doing, and perhaps my lack of patience, but I did not get on well with it. It is a shame,  we could have had a great relationship! It doesnt help that the book is in French either…

So I gave up on this and even though money is tight after getting married I went and purchased the cheapest ‘proper’ machine I could find: a Brother LS14. I’ve only used it for one evening so far but for the money I paid I am quite impressed with it. It is a basic machine with next to no frills (including a 4 step buttonhole) but it sews quite nicely and is simple to use. I’ll be writing about entry level sewing machines in a couple of posts time so I will leave that here for now.

71tybrnycYL._SL1500_So now I am pleased that I have a back up machine (something I recommend if possible) but I am looking forward to my Janome returning. I am more attached to it than I thought I would be.

What machine do you have? Have you had it from day one or do you upgrade like me? Do you have a back up machine or can you easily not sew for a few weeks if need be? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks for reading,


My blog is fast becoming a place of reviews; I promise I will soon be posting my makes and even a few tutorials. Leave a comment to let me know what type of tutorials you would like to see. However, before we get to this I am going to review Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book and I hope you will love it just as much as I do!

Ultimate Dress coverI have been a fan of Gretchen Hirsch’s for a while now, I first discovered her through Creativebug (a subscription video site for crafters) when I made her Sailor top. She appealed to me because she had a fifties rockabilly look about her (which I love love love) but not only did her style stand out but the way she teaches sewing is instructional, entertaining, informative and developmental. What I mean by this is that no matter how good a sewer you think you are, you always come away from her tutorials learning new skills, methods or ways of working. In this way she is an inspiring creator and her new book is no different.
Ultimate Dress Book was released on the 8th March 16 and I have to say I was dropping hints left, right and centre for weeks before in the hope that someone would get it for my birthday (on the 13th March). In the end I wanted the book so much I didn’t dare chance it; I ordered my copy the day of its release. And the day it arrived in the post wasnt a great day for me but it certainly brightened up my evening when I got home from work!

The first thing I noticed about this book is its spiral bound. It’s my first spiral bound dressmaking book so I can’t comment on whether I like this style but I can see the attraction. Another book (which I recommend for new sewers), Love at First Stitch by Tilly & the Buttons, has become so worn out and bulky that I can’t help thinking a spiral bound book might have been better. Anyway, lets get back to Gertie’s book!


In the front of Gertie’s book she has all of the resources a new or intermediate sewer could need. I really wish I’d come across this book earlier in my sewing hobby. It explains in great detail all the sewing terms, fabric types, techniques and much more. If you have a question about dressmaking then somewhere in this book is an answer for you. There are 23 patterns in total but this is not the best bit – the biggest selling point of the book must be that you can mix and match the skirts and bodices to form any number of different dresses. Not only does this make the book more worthy than the paper patterns stored in the back of the book, but it inspires creativity and individuality too. It really is telling the reader to go with their own creative instincts and make Gertie’s designs your own.


While the resources in the book does lend itself to new sewers, I feel the book is more aimed at an intermediate sewer. There are plenty of books out there that give basic dressmaking construction and I would approach this book once you have been sewing a while and feel a little more confident. That said, if you are happy to learn by trial and error then jump right in.


The book is very much vintage-inspired; this is as much in the fabric choice as in the dress design. Some fabrics I would not have been instantly drawn to on the bolt but they work well nevertheless. What I do like is she doesnt just go for polka dots which has been done to death with vintage design – there’s lots of bright plain fabric, florals, and much more. Check out her website to see for yourself.


Do you have this book? What do you think? What other vintage-inspired books can you recommend? I will post some pictures once I have made something from the Ulltimate Dress Book but until then I will look forward to your comments – the more the merrier!

Have you fallen in love with sewing but have outgrown your entry level machine? Do you wish for a machine that is more stable, can do more stitches and yet is affordable? Do you prefer mechanical over electrical sewing machines? – if so, then the Brother XR37NT could be the machine for you.

Just over a year ago I was enough into sewing that I could justify upgrading from my cheap-as-chips Ikea sewing machine. I’d only had it a few months and although it did what it said on the tin, my frustration at constant thread snaps, re-threading and fabric snagging was enough to send me to my local sewing machine supplier for an upgrade.

I didn’t have heaps of money – I was still working part time then – but my budget was around £250. I headed to the shop still a newbie to sewing and not really knowing what I was doing. I may as well have gone in the shop wearing a blindfold and pointing at the nearest machine.

In the event I did go in with my eyes open but couldn’t see what I wanted so I talked to the staff. I told them I am new to sewing and want to learn and develop the skill. They suggested a few machines and in the end it came down between the Brother XR37NT and the next one down in the series.

I didnt really want a mechanical machine. I wanted a snazzy electrical one despite knowing mechanical is probably safer long term (if an electronic one dies there isnt much you can do). But I was shy and unsure and felt a little out of my depth… the lovely lady encouraged me to sew and told me about this machine. I particularly remember her showing me that it could sew stretch knits (not that this meant much to me at the time). I was happy enough with it, so paid my money and the boyfriend carried it home (much to the chagrin of the local football supporters coming back from a game).

My first machine!

Once I got home and tried it properly I was really impressed – it was a massive step up from my Fisher-Price Ikea model and it was such a relief not to snag the thread every few minutes. In fact, over the year I have had it, its rarely snagged thread. It’s not a huge fan of top-stitching thread (thick) but otherwise no complaints.

One of the reasons I agreed to this machine is the range of stitches. It has 20 normal stitches, both functional and decorative, and another 20 that were similar but for stretch fabric. I really loved this aspect (so much better than my previous 9 stitches) but in reality I didn’t use anywhere near enough of them.

This model also has a 1-step buttonhole. This was a mindfield to me when I first tried to use it and it was quite a learning curve. You can see my buttonhole tutorial here. But it was so cool to be able to make buttonholes. I wasnt always pleased with the results of this, it sometimes seemed to have a mind of its own but I wonder how much was the machine and how much my lack of experience.

1aaaaa51FYFMe6eJL._SL1000_ (1)I would say its a medium-sized machine, not massively heavy although I did find it a little cumbersome at times. It comes with a hardcover for storage, which I didnt use enough probably and a booklet that is rather comprehensive – I turned to it a number of times for help and support and it always came up trumps.

But alas, the time again has come to move on (I’m not fickle at all!). I have outgrown it and am now investing in a mid-range machine that will give me extra features to make sewing a breeze and take my dressmaking to the next level.

While I am excited for my new machine, I am also quite sad to part-exchange this one. I do feel the time is right to let it go but it was the machine that really taught me everything I know (although the amount I do know is negotiable) and is the end of a sewing era.

Would I recommend this sewing machine?

It depends what you are looking for? If you have developed an interest in sewing that you know is likely to last, and you want to learn more, develop your skills, then yes this is a good training machine. Even if you are not massively into sewing but want a machine for repairs, cushion covers etc then you also wont go wrong with this machine. Overall, its a good solid machine that has served me well and enabled me to make some gorgeous things.

If you have any questions about my machine that I have not covered, or about sewing in general, then please leave a comment and I will get back to you.

Disclaimer: I am not being paid, or complemented in any way for writing this post. I have written this review because its a machine I have had and am now saying goodbye to.

Copyright © Penguin and Pear 2017