english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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My First Weavers, Spinners, & Dyers Summer School & First Woven Scarf

Handwoven tartan scarf

In the last few years, I’ve become fairly involved with the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers. I sit on the General Purpose Committee (since 2016), produce the Association’s monthly newsletter and manage the social media accounts (including the Instagram account). The Association has a very traditional structure where membership is to a local guild (I’m a member of Birmingham Guild), with local guilds affiliated to the Association (not the easiest when you are newsletter editor but only have one contact per guild). Within Birmingham Guild, I’ve recently jointly taken on the role of programme secretary with a fellow guild member, and am helping (in a very small way) with preparations for the region hosting a biennial conference in 2020.

Handwoven tartan scarf

Given that I am so involved with the Association, it dawned on me the other day when someone asked me, that I can’t really remember why or how I joined! I think I must have found out about Birmingham Guild online when looking for craft groups meeting locally & decided to give it a try. I know that I kept going because I felt welcomed and part of the group right from the start. The women (predominantly, there are only a couple of men) at my guild are a really fun and inspiring bunch, who I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. I do think one of the best parts of getting older is becoming a member of an increasing number of groups or communities.

Handwoven tartan scarf

I’m sure most members of the Association would think of themselves as either a weaver, spinner or dyer (or a combination of the three). I like to try all three crafts during workshops, but I’ve never really taken up any as a hobby. I’ve never felt that I needed to, I’m happy to be involved and to just be a dabbler, but it was exciting to attend a week long weaving course last week and to find it completely accessible and enjoyable – and a potential new hobby. Obviously, I am always open to a new hobby!

Handwoven tartan scarf

The Association coordinates a summer school, organised entirely by volunteer guild members, every other year. As a member of the GPC I receive lots of updates during the planning stages, and this time around it proved too tempting to resist applying when booking opened. I was one of 194 students, with 40% of us attending for the first time (in contrast, Sally, a fellow student on my course, had been a student at nine summer schools!). The course I picked was Weaving Tweeds and Tartan with tutor Jan Beadle which was taught over five full days, with talks, exhibitions and other evening events making up the remainder of the seven day summer school.

Handwoven tartan scarf
Handwoven tartan scarf

I’ll blog separately about the course, but one of the pieces I came away with was this finished woven tartan scarf. We started by selecting the colours for our tartans early in the week, from the selection of wool yarns Jan supplied, made a decision on the pattern repeat, prepared the warp threads, wove the fabric, and finally finished by creating plaited tassels. The width of my scarf on the loom was 12.25″ but once off the loom, relaxed and washed , it is around 10.5″, and over two metres in length. The weaving of the scarf was completed within a day, with approximately half a day before to prepare the loom, and a few hours the following day finishing off (trimming and plaiting the tassels).

Handwoven tartan scarf
Handwoven tartan scarf

Once home, I washed the scarf by hand, air dryed it, and gave it a good firm press with a hot iron and lots of steam. The wool used isn’t super soft, but it’s soft enough (for me) to wear against the skin. Obviously it’s not quite the same when you haven’t got a teacher in the room to ask for help, but the whole process of weaving, and preparing to weave (definitely the more complicated part), this scarf felt completely accessible and repeatable. I’m currently considering buying a loom similar to the one I used on the course, but in the meantime I have two woven samples, also created during the course, which I am planning to cut and sew with. I have over two metres in total (narrow width) so plenty of fabric to play with if I can decide on a pattern or two.

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Woven Kielo

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

I’ve had more time to sew recently as a result of both having a more relaxed job, and Phil starting an online undergraduate degree (in computer science) which is keeping him busy most evenings. Once Phil is settled down to study I’m turning to my sewing projects in the evenings much more often than I have previously, as opposed to watching Father Ted/Red Dwarf/Blackadder on repeat, which is what usually happens when we both have a free evening.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

With my additional sewing time, I’ve made some of those new release patterns which take the sewing community by storm and have to be started immediately, and I’ve also made some of those patterns which have been on my to-sew list for years, including the Kielo wrap dress which has been on my list since it was first released back in 2014.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

The particular motivation to get on with finally trying out the Kielo pattern was the offer of this cream and black Stretch Cotton Sateen Fabric from Minerva Crafts as part of their Maker Team. I remember the launch of their Blogger Network well so it was fun to contribute my first post, which is now live here. I actually managed to write about the construction of the dress, rather than my normal blog waffling (as evidenced here), so check out the MC blog for actual construction details.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

The fabric is a medium weight woven which emphasises the silhouette of the Kielo in a way I really like, although it needs a short jacket in cooler weather as paired with a longer one the silhouette looks a bit frumpy. After waiting 5 years to try the Kielo (and given that it took all of two evenings to sew) I think that another version at least is called for, and I’m keen to try the pattern in a lightweight knit for a different silhouette. I cut a straight size 10, reduced the length (by 9 inches) and consequently increased the height of the vent.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

These photos were taken during a recent trip to London after Phil won two free tickets to see The Who at Wembly Stadium! I’m well aware of the many ways I am lucky, but lately I’ve been lucky in the competition-winning sense. Long may it continue!

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts


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Paper Bag Waist Trousers

Simplicity 8605 Trousers

Just a quick blog post today to share a pair of trousers which I made (and photographed) almost exactly one year ago, but never did share on the blog.

Simplicity 8605 Trousers

These are Simplicity 8605, which were part of Simplicity’s 2018 Spring collection, made in a super soft chambray fabric from Guthrie & Ghani. They’re paired here with a Paprika Patterns Onyx woven tee.

Simplicity 8605 Trousers

I do love a paper bag waist and I also love a quick and easy sewing pattern so I clearly need to make more of these trousers. I wore these non-stop last summer, and now that the weather has warmed up here in the UK I’ve been wearing them lots again. I might have a browse through the stash and see what fabric I have that is suitable for a second pair.

Simplicity 8605 Trousers

The pattern is as simple as it looks; five pattern pieces for the trousers, and four for the skirt also included in the pattern. The paper bag waist is created by attaching a casing, containing two rows of elastic, to the waist of the trousers. They are extra easy to fit. The legs are loose, and you can control the width of the waist by the length of the elastic you add. I appear to have made these in size Small, which according to the pattern envelope is smaller than my measurements, and they fit great.

Simplicity 8605 Trousers


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Starry Sirocco Jumpsuit

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I’ve been getting lots of time for sewing recently, which means I have been trying patterns quite soon after their release rather than a year or so later, as is my usual habit.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

That includes having sewn two Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuits since the release of the pattern in April. The jumpsuit pictured is my second Sirocco. I made both my Siroccos in fabric purchased during the Paris Sewcial meet-up from Bennytex fabric warehouse on the outskirts of Paris.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I made the first Sirocco in a lightweight grey knit fabric grading between sizes 38/40. After a couple of wears I decided that the crotch was too low for me to be comfortable wearing the jumpsuit, so for my second version I still cut a size 38/40 except for the seams at the top of the trousers and bottom of the bodice, where I graded down to size 34 (the smallest size in the pattern). This worked perfectly to raise the crotch without impacting the construction of the pattern (including attaching the pockets to the trousers at the waist seam which I was worried would be affected by a more major alteration). I want to go back and make the same alteration to my original Sirocco in time to get lots of wear out of it this summer.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

This second version was made in a medium weight knit fabric with a gold stars print. This is a sweat-shirting-type fabric, with a soft wrong-side. I really like this jumpsuit in a slightly weightier fabric, and I’m loving white clothes this summer. I suspect this fabric might get marked or start pilling relatively quickly, but I’m going to make the most of wearing it for as long as I can.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

These pictures are a mixture of photos taken in our local park, and pictures taken during a family holiday to Derbyshire, including to visit a nearby well dressing in Cressbrook, inspired by a visit by Karen a few days before.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I always associate holidays with taking lots of nice blog photos. I filled my suitcase with summery clothes I wanted to photograph – and then it was wet and cold all week. We still managed some nice pictures between showers, and the summery outfits worked out fine for exploring Derbyshire paired with some boots, a jacket and an umbrella. We even managed a brief dip in the outside pool in Hathersage while we were there.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I’ll leave you with the obligatory jumping in a jumpsuit picture as I return to binge watching series 17 of Project Runway with a final cup of tea before bed.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit


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Floral McCall’s M7154 in a Field

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

McCall’s M7154 1930s reproduction dress pattern is one of the most involved sewing projects I’ve completed.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

I sewed the dress back in 2017 to wear to my brother’s wedding. You can read the original blog post here.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

I hadn’t worn the dress since the wedding as the long train at the back makes it impractical for events involving dancing, and I don’t attend any evening events with no dancing!

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

When I visited the Confetti Fields a few weeks ago I decided to take McCall’s M7154 along for an opportunity to wear it again to get some updated photos.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

Funnily enough there aren’t many places to get changed in private in a field. I slipped into this dress behind some foliage and got changed back in an (empty) tent provided for baby changing. You can see my bra straps in some of the shots because losing my bra behind the foliage as well as my dress was definitely a step to far.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet

I had to make a lot of tweaks to this dress during construction to make it fit, and that, combined with the impractically of the train, means I’m unlikely to sew the pattern again, but I’m glad I did make it, and I thoroughly enjoyed swanning around in it outdoors on a sunny afternoon.

McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet
McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet
McCall's M7154 in Floral Velvet


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June Sewing Zine Vlog

Vlog June 2019

Yesterday evening I recorded a new vlog with what I’ve been up to over the last month, including craft workshops & sewing swaps.

Things mentioned:

Tina Francis Tapestry

Birmingham Design Festival

Monoprinting with Crafty Bun Studio

Foilco

Knit Sweater – Embroidery Stitch Sampler

Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

The Sewing Weekender

#PatternSwap19 organised by Alice & Emma

#OgdenIdaSwap19 organised by Jen & Samantha

Yanta Overalls by Rach

Yanta Overalls by Olivia

Maven Patterns, The Rochester Dress

The Confetti Fields


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Maven Patterns Rochester Dress at the Confetti Fields

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

Recently, my mom told me about the Confetti Fields in Pershore, part of a farm which grows and sells dried flower petal confetti. For 10 days each year some of the fields are open to the public, and they have pop-up stalls selling cake and tea, and bouquets of the flowers. Clearly this was an irresistible blog photo opportunity, so when my mom and dad visited last weekend, me and Phil tagged along.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

In my enthusiasm to visit the fields I didn’t actually stop to think that Phil – who has severe hay fever – might not be so keen to walk through fields full of flowers, until he reminded me. He did get severe hay fever and it was not his favourite place, but he still took some rather nice photos of my new dress in between sneezes.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

This is the Rochester Dress from Maven Patterns. I bought the pattern direct from Maven Patterns at the Sewing for Pleasure show at Birmingham NEC in March, and picked this fabric to make it with, also at the show, from Higgs & Higgs. The fabric was in the bargain bin and was a total steal, I assume it’s a cotton but it has a linen-like ability to wrinkle seemingly two seconds after emerging from under the iron.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The Rochester is a deceptively simple pattern, as it actually has a number of carefully designed details. I was assuming I would whip this dress up, but following the instructions and taking my time to sew neatly (I’m getting really good at actually taking care with my sewing now!), it took a couple of longish sittings.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The first of the interesting features of the dress is the long curved hem, with side split and modest high-low hem. In addition to hem facing pieces, the pattern includes a template for top-stitching the hem, which I used and which resulted in very neat top stitching if I do say so myself. The pattern also intends for the sleeves to be finished with top stitching, and it looks great on the pattern but I couldn’t see any way to top stitch after the sleeves had been constructed with my fabric / machine, as I couldn’t easily have reached that far up the sleeve with the machine. I slip stitched my sleeve facing by hand, but the effect isn’t as interesting as the intended top stitching.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The other main feature of the dress is the neckline. There are two neckline options included in the pattern, and I had intended to use the alternative (which is a simpler single row of elastic directly at the neckline) due to loving the effect on the pattern cover. I decided, however, that I ought to try the more unusual option and I’m really pleased with the result, which was very easy to achieve with a couple of rows of stitching and a small off-cut of elastic. There’s also a pleat at the back of the dress although it’s not very well shown off in these photos, or in this crease-loving fabric.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

I’d definitely like to make another Rochester dress in a crepe or viscose at some point, and I do think the details of this dress would be shown off to great effect in a solid colour.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

I’m really glad that I finally got around to sewing one of the Maven Patterns. I’ve seen some beautiful versions of the French Dart Pattern (including Susan Young’s) so that might be the next pattern I try, and I also fancy making myself an apron I’m happy to wear out to workshops (i.e. one which isn’t covered in stains from years of wear in the kitchen) using their Maria Apron pattern.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress