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A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England

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Aime Comme Magellan

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

It’s a lovely (rare) sunny day in the UK so I’m sat in the garden blogging. That makes it easier to share these photos from a recent weekend break in Amsterdam, without wishing myself back there!

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

These photos were taken in the gardens surrounding the Rijksmuseum, which are free to visit. The museum itself was one of my favourite places we visited; as well as a superb art collection, the museum’s wide ranging collections include a biplane, 17th century dollhouses, and a YSL Mondrian Dress.

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

This is the Aime Comme Magellan blouse from French pattern company Aime Comme Marie. I first saw this pattern when Kirsty made it, I loved Kirsty’s version but didn’t have an immediate urge to own the pattern. It must have been lurking in my subconscious though, as a couple of months later I suddenly urgently needed to make my own Magellan.

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

I purchased the fabric from Barry’s Fabric during a small meet-up with local sewists organised by Rachel. It’s a white georgette, with a pattern of raised golden dots. I had assumed that the pattern would be available as a PDF so went home from the meet-up intending to start making the blouse that very day. It’s actually only available in paper format, and I don’t believe there are any UK stockists, so I ordered a paper pattern from Paris. Given my impatience to get started on this project, you’ll understand my sorrow that, when the parcel arrived after a couple of weeks, I initially received the wrong pattern (Madawan)! Aime Comme Marie didn’t reply to my first email or comment on social media, but once they spotted my second email they sent me the Magellan pattern. So, after around five weeks, I was finally able to start sewing!

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

I’m unsure If I made a mistake during construction or if I need to size up/make alterations to the pattern (I cut a size S), but when I first attempted to try on the blouse (after constructing the body and attaching the sleeves) I couldn’t even get it on as the sleeves and armholes were far too small. To make this first version wearable, I cut new sleeves and reshaped the armholes using pattern pieces from the Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, a pattern which I know fits me. The armholes are still a little tight but it’s wearable, and the fabric is a good match for the pattern – although this georgette pulls very easily so I’m not sure how long it will last.

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

I’m definitely going to make another version as I love the bib section, but I’ll be careful to measure the pattern pieces before cutting out next time. I’m also keen to try this pattern in a knit fabric.

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

If you fancy your own ruffle bib blouse, République du Chiffon’s Suzon Shirt also has a similar aesthetic. Sadly, it’s also only available as a paper pattern, but you can select an English language option. The Aime Comme Marie patterns all have a single page of English translations at the back of the instruction booklet – they were sufficient for this pattern, but with a more complicated pattern might be somewhat basic.

Aime Comme Magellan Blouse

Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

No doubt it’s partly the blogs I follow, but I don’t see a lot of patterns from the French pattern companies on English-language blogs (Julie is my main source of French pattern inspiration). Personally, I forget to sew patterns by the french designers because I’m not seeing the patterns in stores, in many cases a PDF version isn’t available, and also because I don’t find the marketing of new pattern releases very clear. Having said that, I would really like to try the Gladys Dress, Mordue Shirt, and Dita wrap dress in the near future. I’m visiting Paris in September and am planning to use that as an opportunity to stock up on patterns!

Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

Rijks Museum, Amsterdam

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Sewing Weekender Project Suggestions

sewing weekender banner

We have some amazing independent sewing businesses here in the UK, and as organisers of the Sewing WeekenderKate, Rachel & I are lucky to have a number of these businesses sponsoring our event, which takes places in August.

I’m always very pleasantly surprised with the generosity of small indie businesses – who, in my personal experience, often tend to be more generous with both their time and money than larger/public companies.

Attendees of the Sewing Weekender will be bringing along a project of their choice to work on in our Cambridge venue. Below, some of our lovely sponsors have suggested a perfect project for attendees. And for those not attending the event, these are all great weekend projects.

I really enjoyed the variety of projects suggested and hope you will to.

Tilly & Lexy from Tilly and the Buttons:

The Bettine dress from Tilly and the Buttons is the perfect weekend project! Bettine is one of our best-selling patterns, for good reason – it’s quick to sew up, comfortable to wear, and super flattering. Bettine does not require any fiddly darts, fastenings, or set-in sleeves, so is perfect for beginners or those who want something speedy and satisfying to make!


Mark from Girl Charlee:

We recently had Kerry of Very Kerry Berry write a guest post for us about the Kielo Wrap Dress from Named Clothing. Kerry said the dress is “fitted at the top, flowing elsewhere and a dress that I could happily sit sewing in, walking Lottie or wear going out in the evening for drinks”, so we thought it would be a perfect all round wardrobe staple.

The dress is simple to make, with few pattern pieces and only requires 2 – 2.5m of fabric (we suggest a Cotton Jersey, Cotton Lycra, or for a heavier, warmer, dress a Ponte De Roma). Kerry’s post contains a great walkthrough and some helpful hints and tips to make your dress perfect!


Vicki from Minerva Crafts:

We’d suggest the beautiful summer day dress Vogue 1344 designed by Rebecca Taylor for Vogue Patterns. It would be perfect made in a soft flowing fabric such as Crepe or Georgette and it would be the ideal project to work on with friends to help take your sewing skills to the next level, from beginner to intermediate sewist. See our recent blog post for lots more details about the pattern.vogue-1344-a5-vogue-ladies-easy-sewing-pattern-1344-mock-wrap-dressHazel from Remnant Kings:

I’d recommend the Alder Shirtdress by Grainline Studio. It’s a simple shape that lets you be creative with your fabric choice to come up with many different versions of the pattern. The versions we’ve made here at RK have been in crisp chambrays and our favourite Liberty of London Tana Lawns. Not only is this a great pattern style wise, it also has some great techniques in it with the collar and stand, mitred corner option and button front. These are techniques every sewer should learn and if in doubt, at the Sewing Weekender, we’re sure that these skills can be learnt from one another.

remnant kings sewing weekender

Lauren from Guthrie & Ghani:

The Agnes top from Tilly and the Buttons is guaranteed to become a wardrobe staple and the girls in the shop all have several versions! It’s a really nice project to share tips on as putting the elastic in to create the neckline or sleeve rouching can seem tricky. Usually people have their own way to put a neckband into a jersey top so again, its another good one to get advice on and share techniques. You can find the Agnes Top and a wide range of lovely jersey fabrics online. We’ve found the 6mm framilastic to be great for the rouching and we use seam tape interfacing to stabilise the shoulder seams.

And why stop at making your own clothes when you can make shoes?! Espadrilles are a great project to get a quick fix of sewing in the summer – and chances are you already have scraps of fabric in your stash that you can use up to make them. All you need are the Prym Espadrille soles (pattern included but remember to add on seam allowance), your fabric (you may want to stabilise it with interfacing), and we recommend using top stitching thread and a leather needle to sew the fabric onto the soles.

P.S. attendees & blog readers can get a 10% discount at Guthrie & Ghani valid until Tuesday 16th August with code SUMMERSEW16.


Grace from Beyond Measure:

I love to have an oggle at vintage sewing patterns and books, so why not dig out some gems from your collection to inspire us, or even bring along a project that is on the go?  Share your experience of vintage styles, techniques and fabrics, or explore how you might interpret vintage details for a more modern look. You can even bring along any unwanted patterns for a swap on the Saturday!

Vintage Knitting Pattern & Sewing Notions

Karen at The Draper’s Daughter:

We’ve opted for something that isn’t too challenging for the Sewing Weekender to give you time to mingle, make new friends and enjoy the sewing! Suitable for advanced beginners, the Stowe Bag, by Grainline Studio & Fringe Supply Co. is ideal, as it can be cut out and sewn in less than a day, plus it makes the perfect project bag for yourself, or a lovely gift for a friend.

Our fabric of choice would have to be one of the handwoven Ikats that we’ve sourced here at The Draper’s Daughter; there’s either the Black Zig Zag design shown here, or the Abstract Stripes design in tones of Aqua, Teal & Navy.


Frida from Pavilion:

The Freehand Batwing Top from Chinelo Bally’s book Freehand Fashion (published by Pavilion) is a quick sew that uses Chinelo’s signature freehand method. The project can be made in a couple of hours and can be jazzed up by using a fancy fabric such as velvet, can be embellished for extra wow factor, or made in a more casual fabric for lazy-day chic. This project is so versatile and so quick to make, and it’s ideal for getting you into a cordial relationship with stretchy fabric. Chinelo recommends a two-way stretch fabric, because it is easy to handle and is more predictable, fit-wise. This top can also be made as a tunic or a dress.

Subscribe to the Pavilion Craft newsletter and get 20% off all Pavilion craft books (including Chinelo Bally, Merchant & Mills and What Delilah Did).

Chinelo book Day 26326

Clare from Swedish Tracing Paper:

So you have a short period of time, you’ve got your machine and you want a quick satisfying project. How about some very modern bunting? we’re not talking your run of the mill tea party bunting here! You will need some felt in colours of your choice, the felt will need to be cut into shapes and sizes of your choice (so many choices!). For this you have a few options; a pair of scissors (seems like an ideal little job sat in front of the TV or on a train?), a die cut machine if you’re really lucky, or if you’re lazy (like me) you could just buy a bag of felt circles on Ebay😉

Set your machine up with a thread of your choice, you don’t need anything fancy, in fact I just used the white thread I use for tacking things. Start with your first shape, feed it in under the foot and sew through the middle of it as you get to the end of the first shape feed in the next shape. Don’t worry if they don’t completely meet, the thread between the two will form a little chain and will let the shapes twist nicely when it’s hung.

Just keep feeding in those shapes until you get to the end of your pile, and ta dah! you have a beautiful modern bunting! Perfect for draping up your stairs, over your fireplace, on your plants, pets, your desk at work…

Bunting 2 MW

Rae from FabricHQ:

We love the soft feel of jersey knit as a scarf so we suggest using beautiful Art Gallery Fabric jersey knit and a string of pom poms to create an irresistibly snuggly but stylish Infinity Scarf, using our tutorial. Such a quick project to make, you can whip up several in a weekend – one for every outfit!



Hannah and the team at Simplicity:

Choosing a sewing pattern that is simple to complete yet detailed enough to show your signature style, Simplicity’s 6346 pattern, is a perfect choice for any stitcher looking to showcase their skills. This flared skirt pattern includes midi length or mini skirt options, with button front closure and zip detailing.

P.S. 6346 is one of the patterns included in this year’s Simplicity Sewing Challenge competition, entries close 31st August 2016.

Simplicity 6346_env_front

Faisal from Adam Ross Fabrics:

Adam Ross Fabrics are delighted to be sponsoring the Sewing Weekender as we love to hear how our fabrics are put to use. Of course there are a number of things you can make with the fabrics we have provided you with, but how great would it be to whip up a pin cushion which you can use this weekend? You can also make a small transportable pouch to keep some of your goodies in from your complimentary gift box and pop into your handbag. Here, we also love the idea of personalised items, so why not make something for a family member or friend, embroidering their name onto the front. There really are endless opportunities. If you wish too, you can also swap fabrics with each other but we would love for you to talk to each other about your fabrics. Hope you have a great weekend!

Susan from SewBox:

I’d suggest Hot Patterns 1142 – Fast & Fabulous Fiesta Knit Top. Cut this stunning little top out during the day and you can wear it out that evening! This easy-peasy dolman sleeved top is designed for soft, drape-y knits with a little stretch, rayon or silk jersey (just 1.85M of 150cm fabric). Make this in a simple solid colored knit for an elegant look, try a groovy print for a funky feel, or go for a dazzling sequin-smothered knit. This great top is perfect for those casual-dressy looks; you’ll wear your top with a slim pencil skirt, a skinny pant or-of course!-your favorite jeans…and you’ll look quite, quite fabulous.


Lucy from SewEssential:

From the moment I booked my tickets for the sewing weekender I started wondering what I should make and I knew it would involve our gorgeous black and green John Kaldor Hermione fabric, which I have had on my hit list since we received it. By the end of August we will all be starting to think about our Autumn/Winter wardrobes so I thought this black and green (apparently the colour for AW16) medium weight fabric would be perfect for those Indian Summer days and evenings we always seem to have before ‘proper’ winter kicks in.jk_herm_4328_grn

I haven’t yet tackled a pair of trousers and I’m always up for a sewing challenge. I’d normally go it alone with advice sought from my sewing guru and founder of Sew Essential, Angela, so I thought the Sewing Weekender would be an ideal opportunity to try something new and give Angela chance to focus on her own sewing projects!

In the end it was a toss up between this Simplicity 1114 jumpsuit or these McCalls 7415 culottes from their new season collection. I decided to go for the culottes. We have some fabulous John Kaldor plain black crepe I could use to make a nice top to go with them and in the spirit of my sewing career so far I wanted to push myself to try out a new style, something I wouldn’t normally wear. With the culottes revival being relatively new I thought I’d be fashion forward and get on board early. Depending on how much sewing time we get I might even be able to start work on the top. I thought I could adapt Butterick 5948 view F (which I’ve previously made) by making a sleeveless version with a smaller pocket to recreate the silhouette on the pattern packet and pair it with strappy high heeled black sandals.

Choosing to make separates is a win-win approach to a weekend project because it means you have plenty to keep you busy and won’t run out of things to do. You will be thrilled if you complete both projects, but satisfied if you only manage complete one. Can’t wait to see you there!


Disclaimer: All of the companies above are sponsoring The Sewing Weekender. This blog post was not a condition of their sponsorship – I asked them to contribute as a gesture of gratitude for their support of the event & because I was interested to see what projects they would suggest.


Half Metre Tops

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress Top Hack

I’m not normally someone who manages to squeeze projects out of small pieces of fabric. In fact, I normally always buy ‘safe’ amounts of both fabric and yarn, and end up with some left sat in my stash once the planned project is completed.

However, lately I’ve started a few knitting projects where I’ve run out of yarn part-way through (due to using stash yarns, or just not buying enough), and a few sewing projects which have required some creative cutting.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress Top Hack

During a recent trip to London I treated myself to a visit to Cloth House in Soho (very close to Liberty). I wasn’t supposed to be buying any fabric but couldn’t resist these two fabrics from their knits section (housed downstairs). To keep my shopping to a minimum I bought a half metre of each, assuming I’d have enough for a small top. As you can see from the photos, I did have enough fabric – but only just, particularly as I complicated things by choosing two stripey fabrics.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress Top Hack

This top is made using dress pattern V, Mini Dress with Raglan Sleeves from Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori. I’ve previously made and blogged the dress here. For this top version, I placed the pattern pieces on top and cut to edge of the fabric – which worked out just the right length for a top.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress Top Hack

I really like the finished top but squeezing raglan sleeves (particularly pattern matched ones) out of only half a metre of fabric was tight, and one of the sleeves had to be pieced. The fabric is a very lightweight knit which feels lovely, but is extremely prone to creasing.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress Top Hack

For the second fabric, I thought I’d try Grainline Studio‘s free one-size Hemlock Tee. The only change I had to make to the pattern due to fabric limitations was reducing the length of the sleeves. If working with an even small piece of fabric the sleeve pieces could be skipped altogether.

Hemlock Tee

The fabric is a lovely weighty double knit, with raised texture on the white stripes. (I’m pretty sure Zoe used the same fabric for this tunic). The body of the fabric means that it emphasises the boxy shape of Hemlock, and I’d like to try Hemlock in something slinkier for a closer fit.

Hemlock Tee

I currently work in an IT department with mostly male colleagues. They aren’t always the best at compliments (one day when wearing a red dress and lipstick, I was told by one colleague I looked very red, and I’m pretty sure that was supposed to be complimentary). The first time I wore this Hemlock to work a different colleague told me it looked like two tea-towels sewn together!

Hemlock Tee

The next tee I fancy trying is Fancy Tiger Crafts’ Adventure Tank which definitely looks doable in 1/2 metre of fabric from my stash.

Hemlock Tee

Hemlock Tee


SewBrum 2016 Sign-Up

Sew Brum Meet-Up Logo 2016

Sign-up is now open for the SewBrum meet-up on Saturday 24th September: Sign Up Here!

♥ What? ♥

A (free-to-attend) meet-up of people who love to sew. Everyone is welcome, no need to be a blogger, just sign-up using the form above/below so we know to expect you.

♥ Itinerary ♥

The planned itinerary for Saturday 24th September is below. Attendees can feel free to dip in and out, or only attend for part of the day.

10:00 – 11:00: Meet at the Edwardian Tearooms

We’ll be meeting in the lovely setting of the Edwardian Tearooms at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where we’ll be able to drink tea and/or eat brunch while everyone arrives.

11:00 – 13:00: Birmingham Rag Market & Fabric Shops

We’ll spend a couple of hours shopping for fabric at the Rag Market and nearby fabric shops,  Barry’s Fabric & Fancy Silk Store (who are also on Facebook).

13:00 – 13:30: Reconvene and travel to Moseley Village (Guthrie & Ghani) by bus

The journey between the city centre and Moseley only takes 15 minutes by bus, and buses are every 5-10 minutes.

13:30 – 17:00: Guthrie & Ghani / The Dark Horse

In the afternoon we’ll have access to two venues so that there’s plenty of space, with attendees able to move between the two throughout the afternoon.

At Guthrie & Ghani we’ll have time in the shop which sells a wide range of sewing and knitting supplies, and we’ll have use of the studio above the shop where we will be able to natter, compare purchases, hold a pattern & fabric swap, and a raffle.

At The Dark Horse bar/restaurant we’ll have use of the upstairs space where attendees can enjoy lunch (order at the bar), and sit and chat with a drink.

♥ Sign-Up Form ♥

If you’re planning to attend the 2016 meet-up let us know by filling in the Sign Up Form.

Everyone will be welcome. Hope you can make it x

Logo by illustrator and sewing blogger Maike of Sew & Illustrate & on Tumblr.

We also have a Facebook Event page.

P.S. Rachel is organising a Rag Market meet-up on July 30th. Details here.


Supporting Independent Businesses / Ernest Wright & Son Kickstarter Campaign

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Given the referendum results, I think those of us in Britain currently feel awkward posting anything which sounds like it celebrates Britain. In the wake of an isolationist result, we don’t want to look insular or nationalistic.

However, regardless of UK and international politics, it’s important that we celebrate and support our independent businesses, our manufacturing industry (and the jobs it creates), & our artisans and craftspeople.

In fact, the referendum results make it even more vital that we support independent businesses, who are themselves facing a lot of uncertainty and new risks.

I keep in mind how much pressure independent businesses are under, and that it is often a real struggle for small businesses to keep operating, let alone profitably. If we don’t support the independent businesses we care about (with our time & support as well as our money) then they won’t be here.

That’s part of the reason why I’m supporting Ernest Wright & Son’s Kickstarter campaign. The other part is because I fell head over heels for the company when I visited them on behalf of Love Sewing magazine. I’m totally biased, not because I’m sponsored by them in any form, but because I think they’re a lovely bunch who made beautiful products.

P.S. If you’re outside of the UK, maybe take advantage of the current drop in the pound to support their campaign, or purchase a pair of scissors direct.

P.P.S. Have you seen the glorious gold plated scissors Ernest Wright & Son make on behalf of the New Craftsmen.


British Textile History: Birmingham – Leather, Buttons & Thimbles

This is the first in a blog series I’m planning exploring the history of textile and related industries in British cities. It’s something I enjoy researching, and I hope you’ll enjoy the blog series. For this first post, I’m writing about my home city, Birmingham. If you can add anything to the info below, do get in touch.


Birmingham has been a market town since 1166, when the local Lord, Peter de Birmingham, was granted a royal charter by Henry II to hold a weekly market. By the 14th century, Birmingham appears to have had an establish trade in wool, textiles, and leather working.

Key industries explored in more detail below are leather, button-making, and thimbles. However, Birmingham has had a wider impact on textile industries not explored in detail, such as the 1732 invention, by Lewis Paul and John Wyatt of Birmingham, of roller spinning (a process of spinning cotton into yarn or thread using machinery), and their opening in 1741 of the world’s first cotton mill in Birmingham’s Upper Priory.

Tanning & Leather                

Tanning was one of Birmingham’s first industries in the 14th century. By the 16th century there were at least a dozen tanners operating in Birmingham, and a dedicated leather hall where business was transacted. Evidence of the tanning industry has been found during excavations, with clay and timber lined pits discovered in the city centre at Edgbaston Street, Park Street and Floodgate Street. The pits would have stored lime used to remove hair and fat from hide, or water and tannin for preservation. The Birmingham tanning industry was in decline by the early 19th century, with the leather hall removed and trade restricted to the making of bellows and harnesses.

NOWP&Co have a selection of Leather Goods currently produced in Birmingham. The following video shows these being made:

Buckles and Buttons

Birmingham specialised in the production of small items (hinges, buttons, buckles, hooks, etc.) in a range of materials including metal and glass, which were collectively known in the 18th century as “toys”.

Matthew Boulton, an entrepreneur in the toy industry, described the Birmingham buckle trade to a House of Commons select committee in 1760, estimating that it employed at least 8,000, and generated £300,000 worth of business, with the majority of stock destined for export to Europe.

The buckle trade collapsed in the 18th century as a result of people starting to wear slippers or shoes fastened with strings. In 1791, bucklemakers petitioned the Prince of Wales on behalf of the 20,000 bucklemakers in distress, and the Prince of Wales and Duke of York responded by ordering their own entourage to wear buckles. Further petitions were submitted in 1792 and 1800, and bucklemakers are rumoured to have paraded a donkey, its hooves adorned with laces, to insult wearers of the new fashion.

Although the market for buckles didn’t revive, the button trade flourished in Birmingham in its place. “It would be no easy task”, William Hutton wrote in 1780, “to enumerate the infinite diversity of buttons manufactured here”. In the 1800s there were over one hundred button makers based in the Midlands.

Originally, the button was a by-product of the slaughter-house, with buttons produced from animal hoof and horn. The raw hoof and horn had to be heated and moulded, and then turned and polished by hand. However, the Birmingham button trade was diverse including pearl, shell, metal, cloth-covered, and later plastic, buttons. Shell and pearl were imported for the production of buttons, with so much waste shell produced by the process that pits were dug in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter to bury it. Many buildings today are said to have their foundations built on mother of pearl.

The button trade is one in which the development of assembly line processes and division of labour developed. In the 18th century, it was calculated that each button would pass through fifty pairs of hands, with each individual worker handling up to 1,000 buttons per day. By 1865 machines began to be introduced into the button trade, with the number of workers employed reducing to around 6,000 compared with about 17,000 in 1830, with a large number of women employed. Even after mechanisation was introduced, it took around 14 workers to put together a single button.

Buttons were attached to a piece of card, fourteen buttons on each card, with one worker capable of sewing 3,600 buttons onto cards in one day. Pearl buttons, because of their frailty, continued to be made entirely by hand.

Birmingham led innovation in the button trade; between 1770 – 1800, 21 patents were granted for improvements in the fastening of clothes, with 19 originating in Birmingham, including flexible shanks, and fancy silk, and porcelain buttons.

James Grove & Sons Horn Buttons

Perhaps the most famous button company in Birmingham, and the longest running, James Grove & Sons was established in 1857 by James Grove, previously apprentice to another leading button maker Thomas Harris. James Grove specialised in uniform buttons, supplying the Ministry of Defence, Post Office, police, railways and both the Confederates and Yankees during the American Civil War (although neither side ever paid). At its height, when every button was made by hand, the firm employed around 600 people, but sadly went into receivership in 2012.

A new Birmingham-based company, Grove Pattern Buttons, was founded in the Jewellery Quarter by an entrepreneur who spotted James Grove & Sons pattern books and dies being sold online following their closure. Unfortunately Grove Pattern Buttons also appears to have closed down.

A number of writers wrote contemporary accounts of the Birmingham button industry, including Charles Dickens, and The Penny Magazine (including illustrations). The Coat Route by Meg Luken Noonan includes a chapter profiling James Grove and Sons. A large number of children were employed in the buttons trade; this website contains records of inspection of their working conditions carried out in the 1800s.

NOW: I don’t believe there are currently any Birmingham-based buttons manufacturers, although vintage buttons are widely available on ebay. A Jewellery Quarter building, dating from  1824, which originally housed William Elliott’s button factory (which specialised in a silk-covered button William Elliott patented) has just reopened as a restaurant and bar called The Button Factory.

UPDATED: Rachel updated me that George Hook, based in Smethwick, whose family have been involved in the trade since 1824, produces pearl buttons and gives talks about pearl button making.



Another item produced by Birmingham’s “toy” and jewellery industries were thimbles. Initially produced in brass, silver thimbles began to be widely produced in Birmingham following the founding of the Birmingham Assay Office in 1773; founded with the support of industrialist Matthew Boulton, to prevent silver items having to be sent to London for taxing.

In 1769 Richard Ford of Birmingham patented a process known as ‘deep drawing’, which was taken up by thimble manufacturers. Instead of casting in a mould, the process forms the thimble shape from a sheet-metal disc. The process needed less skilled labour, was faster and used less metal.

NOW: I believe thimbles are still being produced in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, and vintage thimbles are widely available on ebay.

P.S. I maintain a list of current British fabric and haberdashery manufacturers, here.


Onyx Dress Hack

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

This post is a prime example of sewing blogger problems. The dress was a quick and easy sewing project, getting photos for a blog post, ridiculous difficult!

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

I originally took the camera out when me and Phil visited Resorts World shopping centre in Birmingham. We got some photos by the lake there, but every picture Phil took – with the exception of a couple included in this post – was blurry!

Phil and I rarely argue – the only things we ever argue about are whose turn it is to do a chore in the house (obviously, we each think we do more than the other), and blog photos! He hates taking them, and I think it requires very little effort given the amount of effort it takes me to sew a garment.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

We tried taking further photos in the garden, but again almost every photo was blurry. I’m sure fellow bloggers will know the horror of realising that a photo which looks perfect – great photo of the garment, and no strange faces being pulled – is just out of focus. I can’t face a third attempt, so you’ll have to take my work that this dress is cuter in real life than in these photos!

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

Having made Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt twice before (previous versions 1 and 2), I thought it would be a good candidate for a dress hack. I also used the full length sleeve from the sleeve add-on pack.

To create a dress variation, I just extended the front and back pieces from the bottom of the pattern pieces down to the edge of my fabric, making sure to allow enough ease at the hips.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

The fabric I used is lacy and not very strong, so to reinforce it (and for the purposes of decency) I also cut the front and back pieces in lining fabric. I constructed the lining separately and then attached it to the main fabric at the neckline. I left the sleeves unlined to make the lace effect more visible. As the lace fabric doesn’t fray, I left the sleeve and hem edges unfinished.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

Suitably, I purchased this fabric (and the matching lining) as a coupon in Paris while shopping with Lisa of Paprika Patterns, Sabine, Carmen and Olivier. Olivier spotted it originally, but kindly let me buy it, and found me the matching lining in the same coupon bin!

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

Making this has tempted me to make a couple more summery Onyx Shirts – perhaps in a crepe this time.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack


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