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Belgium: Next stop, Antwerp

The next stop on our Belgium adventure was Antwerp.

After a couple of days in Brussels (if you haven’t read my Brussels blog post yet, take a look here) we hopped on the train and headed to Antwerp. The first thing to say about Antwerp is that the train station is stunning. As we came off the train there was a huge traffic jam of people as we all stopped to take a photo.

Antwerp train station
The architecture of Antwerp train station is amazing

While studying fashion design at university we were told about the magical Antwerp Six. These were six super influential fashion designers that graduated from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the 80s who had a huge impact on the avant-garde fashion world. Since hearing about them, I’ve wanted to go to Antwerp to soak up all the fashion-y goodness.

Unfortunately when we went the fashion museum was having a complete remodel and there were no fashion exhibitions on anywhere. However it was still fun to walk around all the fancy designer shops and peek through the windows.

I love a good stroll around the fashion district

Museum time

Although we found no fashion exhibitions, we did visit the brilliant Plantin-Moretus museum. It’s a museum all about printing and it was totally fascinating! The museum is based in the building where the Plantin Press made all their works and it talks through the history of printing.

Plantin-Moretus museum in Antwerp
It was really interesting to see the old printing machines

As well as being able to walk through the old printing studios, there were thousands of examples of their printed works. They made everything from maps, to bibles, to scientific textbooks. They also had a section about the history of different fonts which was super interesting to me having studied typography as part of my degree.

Plantin-Moretus museum in Antwerp
I was completely nerding out in the printing museum

We spent so much longer there than we expected so if you ever visit Antwerp I would 100% recommend visiting the Plantin-Moretus museum (even if you’re not a printing nerd like me).

Another museum we visited was the MAS museum. I’m not going to lie to you, we went here more for the building than for the exhibitions.

MAS museum Antwerp
The MAS museum is a really interesting building

The building itself is this crazy mix of styles. Plus if you can face a whole heap of escalators, the view from the top is one of the best in Antwerp.

Bird's eye view of Antwerp
You can see the whole of Antwerp from the top

Even better, it’s free to get to the viewing platform at the top! It’s super windy up there so hold on to your hat.

I don’t know who felt the need to attach these huge climbers to the side of this building but I love them.

You also get a great view of these fab fellas climbing a building opposite the museum.

The old town

Speaking of architecture, the buildings in the old town are stunning. The whole main square is edged with beautiful buildings like this. Each one has different little features that represent what used to be made in them when they were first built.

Antwerp old town main square
The main square in the old town had the most wonderful buildings

The main square is also home to the famous Brabo fountain statue. The figure is throwing a giant’s hand which is the basis story of how Antwerp got its name. Don’t you just love folklore.

Brabo fountain statue and cathedral
The brabo fountain statue and cathedral in the background

Mixed in with all this super old historic architecture there are little splashes of fun modern sculptures. My personal favourite was this guy. No explanation as to why it’s there but I love it.

How cute is this sculpture?!

After walking almost every single street over the three days we were there, we moved on to our next stop. Stay tuned for the next instalment of our Belgium adventure coming soon!

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Top 10 sewing tools

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - scissors

Through my fashion design degree and running my own business, I’ve done a lot of sewing over the years.

I’ve picked up all sorts of tips and tricks (plus a lot of bad habits that my tutors would be ashamed of) that make sewing much easier. Here I’ll list my top picks of sewing tools and where you can buy them.
Please note I’m not being paid to promote any of these items. These are all tools that I have bought myself and would highly recommend.

1. Sewing clips

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - sewing clips
Sewing clips are great for holding together fabrics without leaving pin marks.

The first thing you will discover about sewing is that most of your time is actually spent pinning. Not only does pinning take forever but it can also leave pin marks in your fabric. Fabrics like oil cloth or water resistant fabric that I use to make the wash bags are particularly susceptible to nasty pin marks which will show up in your finished item. So forget about all that and try sewing clips! These fab little guys are surprisingly firm and will stop your fabric slipping without leaving holes. Just be sure to keep them out of the way of the sewing machine foot, or move them as you sew so that they don’t get smushed. The ones I have were actually free with a knitting magazine but you can buy similar ones here.

2. Magnetic pin dish

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - magnetic pin dish
The magnetic pin dish holds all your pins together

Sometimes it is best to use pins over sewing clips. You can get some really pretty pincushions but I would highly recommend a magnetic pin dish instead. No more pins scattered everywhere or treading on them when they’ve fallen on the floor. This pin dish has a good strong magnet in it which will hold all your pins for easy access. Take a look at it here.

3. Water erasable pen

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - water erasable pen
The water erasable pen makes marking fabric so much easier

This is something I’ve only recently started using and I can tell you it’s fantastic! Much better than using a pencil as the marks will just disappear when you dampen them. This would be great for quilting, or if you’re a little unsteady on the sewing machine and want your seam line marked out to follow. Just always make sure to test it on a bit of spare fabric first. Find out more here.

4. Stitch ripper

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - seam ripper
Making mistakes when sewing is inevitable so seam rippers are a must

Seam ripper, stitch ripper, quick unpick… whatever you call them, they’re an essential part of any sewing box. It doesn’t matter how experienced you are at sewing you will make mistakes! These handy little guys are ready to take out the messed-up stitches and start over again. They’re available in a range of styles and I would recommend one with a longer, tougher handle but the basic little ones are handy too. Check them out here.

5. Point turner

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - point turner
A point turner will give corners nice sharp edges

This may seem a bit of an odd one if you’re new to sewing, but a point turner is a really handy bit of kit. If you’re making anything that has a corner, it will look 100 times better if the point is poked out properly. For years I used a knitting needle or a pair of scissors, but neither work as well as a proper point turner. Get yours here.

6. Scissors

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - scissors
All sorts of different kinds of scissors are important for sewing

Decent scissors are one of the most important bits of kit in a sewing box. Ideally you need a great pair of dressmaker’s shears, pinking shears, paper scissors, and embroidery scissors.

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - scissors
From left to right: embroidery scissors, paper scissors x 3, pinking shears, tailor’s shears

It is super important that you have different scissors for fabric and paper. Fabric scissors need to be nice and sharp to make sure the fabric is cut cleanly and cutting paper with fabric scissors will blunt them. Paper scissors don’t have to be anything fancy but I would recommend getting a couple of pairs as they seem to disappear… Something like this would be fine.
Pinking shears are scissors that have a zigzag edge which helps to stop fabric fraying. The ones I have are similar to these.

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - embroidery scissors and dressmaker's shears
These scissors have been with me since day one and I couldn’t do without them!

My most used scissors are my dressmaker’s shears and embroidery scissors. These have been with me since I started my fashion design degree and they’re still going strong! If you’re serious about dressmaking it is worth investing in a decent pair of shears. I got mine from here. Embroidery scissors are super handy for snipping little threads to tidy up your finished project. They come in different shapes and patterns so see which takes your fancy here.

7. Tweezers

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - tweezers
Tweezers come in really handy for detangling sewing machines

Sewing machines can have a nasty habit of tangling themselves up with thread so a set of tweezers comes in really handy for the untangling. I’d recommend a specialist longer pair like this so you can reach right in to the depths of your machine. (If you have an industrial machine, having a pair of pliers handy can be very useful if the machine jams and you have to yank the wheel round. I don’t think this is officially what you’re supposed to do so please do not take my advice as word on this!)

8. Handy storage

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - handy storage
Repurposing kitchen storage for your sewing space can be a great idea

This one varies a bit depending on what space you have and what you need to store, but having some handy storage near you for sewing machine bits and bobs is really useful. For me it’s all the spare bobbins and machine needles that could otherwise get lost in a sewing box. I found this rail and containers that were designed for the kitchen were just the job. Take a look at some ideas here.

9. Fray stop glue

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - fray stop glue
Fray stop glue is a quick fix for repairing clothes

OK so this one is technically a bit cheating but it’s certainly a very handy item to have in your sewing kit. This glue seals fabric edges but is still flexible when it’s dry. If an edge of your clothing is starting to fray, glob a few little drops of this on it and it will seal up and make your clothes easy to repair. I use this for sealing the ends of the aprons straps and also the edges of the fabric labels. Find out more about it here.

10. Daylight lamp

Drawn by Rhiannon sewing tools - daylight lamp
Daylight lamps give a bright clear light for any craft project

Finally the last thing I would recommend for your craft area is a daylight lamp. These come in all sorts of sizes depending on how much space you have so there’s the right lamp for everyone. The daylight lamps produce a super clear and bright light which makes sewing or any type of craft so much easier. I bought this one that has storage in it because you can never have enough storage in a craft space. Take a look at a selection of them here.

So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed a run down of my top 10 sewing tools and found some useful new tips. If you’d like me to do any more blog posts about top tips let me know below.