english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


A Malachi Vest & an Early New Year’s Resolution

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Hoorah, I finally made it back to my blog. A little more on that below, but first a finished knitted garment; the Malachi Vest from Purl Alpaca Designs.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

I bought the yarn and pattern for this vest as a kit from Purl Alpaca Designs at Yarnporium over a year ago. This make was a case of falling in love with the product photo. I still want to recreate the whole look, as the model looks sooo good. I used the recommended yarn, Purl Alpaca’s 100% pure alpaca medium yarn in colours Alpaca Earth and Champagne.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

In typical fashion I started knitting this last January, but didn’t finish it until April when it was too warm to wear. I was very happy to pack this vest for a recent trip to Rome and Paris, where I finally got chance to wear it, and where these photos were taken. I’m still figuring out what to wear it with, and (thanks to the product photo) I think I need a white shirt – something my wardrobe is currently missing, ever since I threw out the last RTW one I owned.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Knitting, along with sewing, blogging, and all of my other hobbies, had fallen by the wayside this year.

A little over six months ago I was asked to ‘act up’ at work and take on a raft of new responsibilities. Although ostensibly a change of role, in reality these responsibilities were on top of my existing job, since the existing work still needed to be delivered. In fact, over that six-month period the workload only continued to expand, and, as that happened, I made the decision to keep on top of the workload by increasingly extending my working days and retaining less and less time for my hobbies.

As an indication, I’ve published 1-2 blog posts per week for the last five years (an average of 64 –  86 per year), with 2017 the first year I didn’t manage that frequency of posts (or anything like it) since 2011.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Reducing time for my hobbies seemed a sensible decision; the best way to avoid them feeling like an additional task to tick off a to-do list. However, it also meant that I didn’t participate in things I’ve previously enjoyed (like pattern testing or community challenges) this year, and when the lure of a community challenge (like the Refashioners) or pattern test proved too great to resist, I invariably failed to complete by the deadline.

Those hobby-related activities which did have deadlines, like the Sewing Weekender or SewBrum, were less fun this year than previously. As organiser, half the fun of an event is in the preparation (as the event itself always whizzes by so fast), and if you have very little time for that preparation, and not enough to do as good a job as you would like, it takes away some of the enjoyment – and leads you to rely heavily on others (apologies to Kate, Rachel & Lauren!).

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Even trips like the holiday where these photos were taken became less appealing in advance, because when you’re working pretty much every evening you don’t have time to prepare yourself to go away, and are really keen to spend as much time as possible at home.

I was willing to commit time to work over my hobbies for one reason only – I have the best colleagues, who are some of my absolute favourite people, and I assumed by working hard I could make some positive changes which would benefit all of us.

In the last couple of weeks, my role at work changed in a way which meant that the workload (at least in the short-term) would continue, and likely increase, but my ability to actually make improvements to support my friends was further decreased. At the same time my body decided enough hours was enough and required a few days at home, resting and stocking up on vitamins.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

As is often the case, a little distance helped me to see sense. If the one reason I was willing to take on a difficult role was removed, why was I continuing? I’ve returned to my previous role at work and I’ve committed to a New Year’s Resolution starting right away, in advance of the New Year. I’ll no longer be working excessive hours; I’m going to do as good a job as possible during my working hours, and then I’m going to head home and spend my time on my hobbies.

Expect to see a lot more of me in 2018.

Charlotte x

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest


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Alternative Holiday Gift Guide: Pledges & Donations for Makers

I love a sewing-themed Christmas gift guide, but I thought it might be equally interesting to share some places you can currently donate/pledge to support sewing-themed campaigns. Four ways to show your support, and receive a little something in return too!

♥ Stitch in Time

Royal Shakespeare Company Costume Department

The Royal Shakespeare Company is currently raising money to restore and redevelop their dedicated costume department in Stratford-upon-Avon. I was lucky enough to visit the Costume Department last year – you can read about my visit in an article I wrote for Seamwork magazine or on my blog.

The Stitch in Time campaign aims to allow the RSC to maintain and develop what is the largest in-house costume making department of any British theatre. Supporters (£30+) will receive invites to events about the project and costume making. Find out more or donate here.

William Whiteley & Sons EXO Scissors

EXO trio on black

I’m a great lover of a heritage British-made product (see my previous blog post about Ernest Wright & Son); William Whiteley & Sons, based in Sheffield, are the UK’s oldest manufacturers of scissors and shears, since 1760.

The company previously sold to trade only, but have recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to sell a new product (EXO tailors shears) direct to consumers. The Kickstarter campaign has already met its target, but there are still a few days left if you would like to get your hands on a pair of these scissors. Reportedly lighter and more ergonomic, the scissors have a nice modern (and unisex) look, and can be engraved for a small additional cost. Visit the Kickstarter page for more information.

Freesewing Patron


As someone who works in (or, at least on the periphery of) IT, I’m always really impressed by what Joost has created with Freesewing.org. In addition to sharing the open-source code for the site, and free sewing patterns, Freesewing also raises money for charity. You can now show some love to Joost and the other contributors, and donate to Freesewing’s chosen charity/charities, by becoming a Patron and making a small monthly donation.

For more info, read this blog post, and then visit the sign-up page.

In the Folds Printed Patterns


Emily of In the Folds has launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce printed versions of her – currently PDF only – patterns. The Kickstarter campaign is beautifully presented and I love Emily’s aesthetic. I recently made the free Jumpsuit pattern, and am looking forward to trying more In the Folds patterns (P.S. seven of the patterns are free!).

The Kickstarter campaign has already met its target, but there is still time to get your hands on a pattern or one of the other rewards. Visit the Kickstarter page for more information.

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Fabric Shopping in Tokyo


I’ve finally vlogged footage from a trip to Tokyo with Phil, back in April.

My latest vlog contains a few clips from the holiday: sightseeing, plus fabric shopping in the Nippori Fabric District, and in Tokyo Hands.

The vlog also features a few me-made garments which I wore regularly during the trip; my Doraemon Emery Dress (it had to be done), Tilly & the Buttons Cleo dungarees, and By Hand London Victoria Blazer.

The following are great guides to fabric shopping in Tokyo:

♥ Tilly & the Buttons

♥ Cashmerette

♥ Seamwork

A few photos from the holiday are below:























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Nina Lee Portobello Trousers

Nina Lee Portobello Trousers

I do so love having unblogged garments to pack for a holiday! I made these Nina Lee Portobello Trousers a few weeks before heading off for a long weekend in Porto, but altered them the day we left. I spent the morning sewing and generally enjoying myself, so ended up getting dressed in all of ten minutes before flying out of the door, with make-up applied en route, and hair left to fend for itself (i.e. stick out in multiple directions).

Nina Lee Portobello Trousers

These trousers are an example of something I’m trying to get better at – going back and altering ‘completed’ garments if there’s something that is preventing me from wearing them. I made these trousers without alteration initially and wore them to work a few times, but found the crotch very low on me, resulting in lots of excess fabric at the back. I also hadn’t reduced the length of the trousers enough, meaning I had to wear them with heels (I normally wear flats) to prevent them touching the floor. Phil tactfully called them Hammer Pants and requested a rendition of the U Can’t Touch This dance; I of course obliged (not pretty).

Nina Lee Portobello Trousers

On my next version I’ll have a proper look at how the crotch curve fits me, but as an easy fix I removed the waistband and removed a couple of inches at the waist. This worked to raise the crotch and also shorten the length. They are currently back on my alterations pile as the waistband is now too loose, meaning they don’t sit on my natural waist as intended, but I’m looking forward to tweaking and then getting lots of wear out of them. I really love this style of high waisted and wide legged trousers, and the fabric is a lovely drapey wool from Barry’s Fabrics.

Nina Lee Portobello Trousers

My current approach to those garments which do need minor alterations is to have a visible pile in my sewing room. Previously I’ve left garments in the wardrobe until I’m ready to alter them and the result is that they are out of sight and out of mind. For example, I’ve been meaning to make a couple of small alterations (reducing the length and replacing the buttons) to a Southport Dress since I made it in 2015 and finally got around to it once it was sat looking at me everyday. Sadly not in time for summer!

Nina Lee Portobello Trousers

I’ve done so little sewing lately that I’m desperate to catch up with lots of exciting recent pattern releases, and Nina’s most recent pattern the beautiful Kew Dress is right at the top of that list. Like these trousers, I think Kew Version 1 will be perfect for the office.

Nina Lee Portobello Trousers

Nina Lee Portobello Trousers

Nina Lee Portobello Trousers


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Sewing Blog of the Year Nomination

craft awards 2018 vote for me

I’m lucky to have been shortlisted for ‘Sewing Blog of the Year’ at the Immediate Media British Craft Award for the second year in a row.

My lovely fellow bloggers shortlisted are as follows:


Voting is open until Sunday 17th December, and you can vote in one or more of the following categories: Sewing, Knitting, Crochet, Quilting, Cross Stitch and Papercraft.


Jackie Dress

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

It’s taken a while for this dress to make it to the blog, since I made it to wear to The Dressmakers Ball, organised by the team at Crafty Sew & So, back in May.

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

In time honoured fashion, I bought tickets to the ball as soon as they went on sale but left making my outfit until the last minute. I have a lousy memory, so details from May are lost to the mists of time, but I’m pretty sure I whipped this up the night before the ball.

As luck would have it, this dress is perfect for dancing in, the multi-paneled skirt adding lots of volume for twirling. Plus, due to being sewn in a knit fabric, it’s comfier than your average party dress.

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

I think this fabric was a Guthrie & Ghani purchase, and was definitely bought with a Colette Wren in mind, but instead it became a Victory Patterns Jackie dress. It has a really nice weight and a subtle sparkle.

Despite the multiple panels, this dress is actually a fairly quick sew, and would make an excellent Christmas party dress.

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

These pictures were taken in the grounds of a local Jacobean house museum, Aston Hall, during a food festival event Phil and I attended. The event was sold out and the grounds full of people, so I’m impressed at just how peaceful we’ve made it seem in these photos.

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress


Blacker Yarns Brushwork (and a cat!)

Blacker Yarns Brushwork Swatch

As during previous years, Blacker Yarns are releasing a lovely special edition birthday yarn! Brushwork launches on the Blacker Yarns website & in selected yarn shops this Thursday 28 September (£8.40 per 50g ball) and is guaranteed to sell out quickly.

Experts at showcasing the versatility and quality of British yarns, Blacker always take the special edition yarns as an opportunity to include unusual British fibres with limited availability. This year’s yarn, Brushwork, is no exception; a blend of Scottish Bowmont (70%), Castlemilk Moorit (10%), and British Alpaca (20%). The majority of Scottish Bowmont wool goes into luxury garment manufacturing, so it’s particularly rare in commercial yarn, and Castlemilk Moorit is a breed listed as ‘at risk’ by the RBST Watchlist with only around 1,000 of these sheep left in the UK.

Blacker Yarns Brushwork Yarn

I was given the opportunity to swatch with a sample of Brushwork (in the Impasto colourway) and I love it for garment knitting. It would be especially lovely for a knitted top or jumper as it’s drapey but with great stitch definition. I like that Blacker selected to release Brushwork in a Sport weight – which is a less commonly available weight in British yarns.

The colours of the yarn are also very thoughtful and have loads of character. Inspired by watercolours and ink, the colours were achieved by dyeing the fibres in the wool before spinning, and blending as little as possible to preserve flecks of individual colour. The attention to detail stretches to the ball bands, which reflect the watercolour theme, and are very cute.

Blacker Yarns Brushwork Swatch

I was attempting to photograph my swatch (the pattern is a detail from Jean by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne in PomPom Quarterly Issue 14) on Saturday and discovered that it is apparently exactly the right size for a (neighbour) cat to rest on.

Blacker Yarns Brushwork Swatch