english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England

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March Sewing Zine Vlog

No new vlogs for two months and then two in one week!

I’ve just uploaded a new vlog about what I’ve been up to lately, including my plans for the Sewcialists Sew Your Birth Year mini-challenge, and attending a soft basketry workshop.

View it below or via my YouTube channel:

Things mentioned:

The Sewcialists Sew Your Birth Year Mini Challenge

Sugardale, Len Coveralls

SewOver50, #so50visible challenge

My The Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

Paper Theory Patterns, Olya Shirt/Shirt Dress

Soft basketry workshop with Averil Otiv

The SewBrum Meet-up (Saturday 24th October 2020)

Little Black Duck, Spools of Thread Mini Quilt

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Online Sewing Events Right Now

With in-person meet-ups impossible for most of us at the moment, I’ve compiled a list of some online sewing events. These are a chance to chat to others in the sewing community or to join in with a live sew-along.

I’m talking about these in my latest vlog, and I’ve also shared the list in the latest post on The Sewcialists blog.


SewBrum 2020 – 24th October

I wanted to pop on the blog to send best wishes to everyone who is being affected by Coronavirus, whether through sickness or risk of sickness, impact on your income or business, or stress at the ongoing uncertainty.

It might sound a bit frivolous, but I also wanted to share a save the date for SewBrum 2020.

This year’s meet-up (which will be the seventh!) will take place on Saturday 24th October 2020. It will be an opportunity to get together in person later this year, and to support independent shops in Birmingham. It’s also a free event so can be a cheap day out (dependent on your travel arrangements). Plus, as a free event, if your plans change nearer the date you can cancel your registration at any time (spaces aren’t limited).

You can sign-up on Eventbrite, and find more information on my blog, including accessibility of the venues we visit.

If you haven’t attended before, SewBrum is a free-to-attend meet-up of people who love to sew in Birmingham, UK. Everyone is welcome. We will start the day in Birmingham city centre and then travel to Guthrie & Ghani in Moseley Village, by bus.

Logo by illustrator and sewist Maike Plenzke.

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Best Beret

Best Beret by James N Watts

Despite the fact that I rarely wear hats, including the RTW beret I have owned for years, at the end of last year I suddenly got the urge to knit a beret. I originally purchased a different knitting pattern, but then James N Watts’ Best Beret pattern was released and was exactly what I was looking for. I made the Classic Silhouette version, in adult small size and with a single stalk.

Best Beret by James N Watts

I think a brighter yarn colour would have made for a more interesting finished accessory. This yarn was a spur of the moment purchase before leaving for a holiday in New York, where I first cast on the beret.

It is the same yarn, West Yorkshire Spinners’ Croft yarn (although in a slightly different colourway), that I used to make the cardigan below – Knitbot’s Trail Jacket. This is my first time wearing them together and, unsurprisingly, they pair well.

Best Beret by James N Watts

I usually pester Phil to take photos of my sewing & knitting projects for the blog, but I took these myself in the local park and am planning to do so more often. A key incentive to taking my own photos (other than being able to take as long as I like over it) has been purchasing a much improved tripod.

A few weeks ago Phil asked if we could visit a new photography shop that had opened in Birmingham. I wasn’t particularly interested but was happy to accompany him. Phil didn’t buy a thing. I left with a tripod and a ring light!

Best Beret by James N Watts

As a glasses wearer I find light sources for photo and video tricky, but I’ve used the ring light to help with a few photos taken in the house so far. It also came in useful as a general light source when I was attempting to set up a warp on my loom into the evening last weekend. It’s much brighter than most lamps and the warping process is liable to give anyone eye strain.

Best Beret by James N Watts

I posted about my first attempt at preparing a warp and putting it onto the loom on Instagram over the weekend. It wasn’t a success – I didn’t get to any weaving and will be starting again from scratch – but I’m feeling more prepared for next time, and looking forward to trying again when I can set aside a weekend for it. Expect to see some weaving on the blog (relatively) soon.

Best Beret by James N Watts

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Two Jarrah Sweaters

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

Pattern: Jarrah Sweater by Megan Nielsen

Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 3 hours each

Fabric: (pink & grey) double-sided sweat-shirting from Bennytex, bought during #ParisSewcial / (blue) Atelier Brunette sweat-shirting from Guthrie & Ghani

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

Sweatshirts are one of my favourite sewing projects. They are really quick and easy to make, don’t use a lot of fabric, and I get loads of wear out of them. Last year I decided I needed to branch out from Grainline’s Linden pattern, and Megan Nielsen’s Jarrah was one of the alternative patterns I tried.

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

One of the benefits of the Jarrah pattern is that it’s very versatile, with neckline, hem and sleeve variations. I’ve made two versions, both using the tie-front option, and two different sleeves. My first version (in blue below) used the standard cuffed sleeve, and my second version (in pink and grey) used the split sleeve hem. I reduced the length of the split sleeve by a couple of inches, as originally my hands were completely hidden (which looked weirder than it sounds when worn & wasn’t very practical).

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

I especially love this pink and grey version. The fabric was a bargain, purchased from Bennytex during the #ParisSewcial meet-up. It’s a double-sided fabric which is such an easy way to add some extra interest to the pattern. Having made a lot of sweatshirts I do think that getting the right weight of fabric makes a big difference. The Atelier Brunette fabric used for the blue version below, although high quality, is actually a little too light weight in my opinion. Resulting in it not hanging as well, and creasing quickly. I find that the Liberty sweat-shirting (as used in this DPL belted) can be a little too heavy weight, ending up in a very bulky sweatshirt. This pink and grey fabric is about right, although veering slightly towards too lightweight. In Goldilocks terms, of the sweatshirts I have made this Linden is the closest to the fabric weight being just right (I think it’s this Fabrics Galore fabric). It has enough structure to hang well, barely creases, and is suitably cosy.

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

Due to the grown-on sleeve, Jarrah has a slightly slouchier look than the Linden (which has a raglan sleeve), and you can see some bunching of fabric around the armpits in these pictures which I think is totally acceptable in a sweatshirt.

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

Another of my other favourite things about making sweatshirts is that, once they are looking a bit too tired or bobbly for wearing out to work or at the weekend, they are perfect for wearing around the house. I’m going to throw one on now (as I’m currently still in pyjamas) to tidy the house and hopefully get to some sewing this Sunday afternoon.

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater


FreeSewing Carlton Coat

FreeSewing Carlton Coat

Back in 2015, I made a coat for Phil using Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat pattern. That coat has been fantastic (and I would highly recommend the pattern), but after five years of continual wear it had started to look a little tired lately. Phil began asking for a replacement around a year ago, and I decided that it would be an ideal opportunity to finally try out a pattern from FreeSewing. I love the ethos (and the coding genius) of FreeSewing and support the site as a patron, but was yet to try out a FreeSewing pattern.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress

If you aren’t familiar with the site, it is community-based, entirely free to use and patterns are generated based on your specific measurements. The FreeSewing pattern I used, the Calton Coat, was released on the site in 2018 and is based on the coat worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock series. It has some really nice details, including a large turned-back cuff, 6 pockets (2 exterior patch, 2 internal patch, 2 welt), and a pleated coat tail.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress

Due to the nature of FreeSewing (i.e. free and community-based), there aren’t currently any instructions for the Carlton Coat (although there are some for the women’s version, Carlita). Some of the more unusual pattern pieces did bamboozle me slightly, but the pattern’s designers Joost and Anneke kindly helped out when I got stuck! I was planning to write up a detailed tutorial for the construction process, but due to having a one year break in the middle I’m afraid that I don’t remember it well enough.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress FreeSewing Carlton Coat

FreeSewing can generate PDF pattern files in A0 format (yippee), so I sent the pattern pieces off for printing and began making this coat roughly a year ago. The main fabric is a wool blend from Barry’s Fabrics here in Birmingham, and the lining is a Liberty cotton purchased from the “Liberty Man” (The Little World of Fabric) in Birmingham Rag Market. I interfaced pretty much every piece of this coat using a coat weight interfacing from the English Couture Company. It’s a great quality interfacing – I’ve seen similar inside RTW outerwear that I’ve refashioned. I used a hair canvas to stablise key areas of the coat (as shown in some of the construction photos above and below), and referred to an old tailoring blog series from Gertie when pad stitching the lapel and under collar. While on the subject of tutorials, I referred to this Thread Theory tutorial when constructing the welt pockets.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat FreeSewing Carlton Coat

I didn’t make a toile for this coat, and I spent ages on alterations as a result. When sewing for myself, I can almost always get away without sewing a toile, tweaking the fit of a garment until I’m happy with it. I shouldn’t assume that I can get away with the same when sewing for others. I also think that it’s a good idea to always toile a pattern, such as this one, which is generated based on the size information you input. The fit of the version you sew isn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s, and it’s always possible that you could have made an error in the sizing information input.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress

I originally set myself an arbitrary deadline to get this coat ready for Phil to wear during a trip to New York in March 2019. I had long enough to finish it if, and only if, there were no fit issues. Of course, there were fit issues, so Phil carried on wearing his Goldstream Peacoat. With the weather warming up, I then put aside the in-progress Carlton Coat until the start of this year.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat FreeSewing Carlton Coat

As first sewn, the coat was generally too large, particularly around the armholes and sleeves. I reduced the length of the sleeves (I didn’t want to mess with the cuffs so took height off at the sleeve caps), narrowed the width of the shoulders, narrowed the sleeves, and raised the armholes (adding in underarm gussetts). I also reduced the length of the coat, and took in the coat at the side seams (which meant needing to detach and reattach the exterior patch pockets). My approach to the alterations was to trust my assumptions on what needed to change and to cut into the coat. It could have backfired, and at one point I did think I had made the coat too small, but the extra effort to get the fit right for Phil (admittedly retrospectively rather than via a toile…) has paid off in a successful coat which I’m sure he’ll get loads of wear out of.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat FreeSewing Carlton Coat

Phil has worn the coat daily since I completed it, and has reported back that the (Prym) covered buttons (used in two sizes, on the front and back of the coat) are not very sturdy. Two covered buttons have already been lost, partially (I think) because Phil is hard on his clothing, and partially because the metal loops used to attach the buttons to the coat are thin. I’m planning to swap the covered buttons for standard buttons, ideally before any more are jettisoned. Phil has also requested an additional button lower down on the coat, claiming that the current button positions left him with a cold belly button while we were walking around cold New York!

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Kate Davies The Observatory Hap

Kate Davies The Observatory Hap

During January, I finished two coat sewing projects which I started one year ago, during the 2018 Christmas holiday. One coat for me, and one coat for Phil. I managed to complete both coats in time for a week’s holiday in New York, which we treated ourselves to last week. The timing felt fitting, since I was originally aiming to finish the coats before a previous trip to New York in March 2019 (which was timed to coincide with Male Pattern Boldness Day). At the time of that trip Phil’s coat had been temporarily abandoned due to fit issues, and my coat was still in pieces, awaiting its construction.

Kate Davies The Observatory Hap

Both coats were worn daily in (cold) New York last week and I got plenty of photos. I was planning to share one of the coats on the blog today, but, like the construction process, I expect that photo editing (e.g. weeding out the photos where we are pulling weird faces) and blog post writing will take me some time. Rather than wait, I thought I’d share a quick blog post about the most recent knitting project I completed.

Kate Davies The Observatory Hap

This is Kate Davies’ The Observatory hap pattern. I purchased the kit for this project (which is currently on sale, 50% off) as a gift for my nan, but, after discussing it with my mom, decided that she probably wouldn’t enjoy the combination of lace knitting and lace-weight yarn. I didn’t want the kit to sit in my stash so decided to start it myself a few months later, when my knitting needles were next free.

Kate Davies The Observatory Hap

The yarn included in the kit (Fyberspates Cumulus in colourway Pearl) is a blend of baby suri alpaca and silk fibre and is the softest yarn I’ve ever worked with. Starting a new ball (the pattern uses 3) was always a treat as each time it felt like unwrapping a tiny cloud. I’m happy to wear fairly coarse yarns against my skin, but there is something very comforting about just how soft this hap is to wear.

Kate Davies The Observatory Hap

I am not a fast knitter, and I have also been knitting much less frequently recently, so this hap took me a good portion of 2019 to complete. The Shetland lace edge of the shawl (which is knitted first) is of course the time consuming part, with the body of the shawl worked out from the edge relatively quickly afterwards. This definitely feels like a wintery accessory to me so I’m glad that I finished it in plenty of time to wear this winter.

Kate Davies The Observatory Hap

I probably wouldn’t have picked to make a lace-weight hap if I hadn’t originally intended to give the kit as a gift, but I actually really enjoyed a brief foray into lace knitting and working with the Cumulus yarn. I am a big fan of scarf knitting and have a growing collection, so it’s nice that this is something a bit different. Having said that, I am planning to start another (rectangular) scarf soon, once I have completed my current knitting project, started in New York, the Best Beret.

Kate Davies The Observatory Hap Kate Davies The Observatory Hap

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My Favourite Sewing Pattern Releases in 2019

Favourite Sewing Patterns Banner Image

I’ve published my first vlog of 2020, which is a look back at my favourite sewing patterns released in 2019.

You can watch the vlog below or via my YouTube channel.

If you fancy revisiting some great previous pattern releases, see also my favourite patterns in 2018 and 2017.

Patterns mentioned:

Charm Patterns – Princess Coat

Helen’s Closet – Yanta Overalls

Nina Lee – Mayfair Dress

Carmen Bouchard – La Jupe en Jean

Deer & Doe – Sirocco Jumpsuit

Sew Over It / Lisa Comfort Magazine – Amelia Jacket

Friday Pattern Company – Wilder Gown

Closet Case Patterns – Pietra Pants & Shorts

Closet Case Patterns – Sienna Maker Jacket

Pauline Alice – Ayora Jacket

Tabitha Sewer – Lena Horne Dress

Opian – Pilatus Swimsuit

Vogue – V1648

Vogue – V1650

Noodlehead – Crescent Tote

Noodlehead – Redwood Tote

Sugardale – Len Coveralls


My 2019

Happy new year everyone! I’ve been writing this blog for eight years now and always enjoy looking back at the end of the year.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I started a new job just over a year ago. It has turned out to be not very exciting, but it has meant that all of my free time is my own which has meant plenty of time for sewing. That’s allowed me to sew some of the new pattern releases this year straight away (including Deer and Doe’s Sirocco, CocoWawa’s Raspberry, Alice & Co’s Georgie, Tilly’s Indigo, and Closet Case Patterns’ Pietra).

CocoWawa Raspberry Jumpsuit

It has also allowed me to pick up and complete quite a few projects from my unfinished-objects basket. Including a Yates Coat and faux-fur Tamarack Jacket which I cut out last winter, and a Trend Patterns’ 70s Dress which I cut out for a Christmas party two years ago.

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

In addition to having more time to sew this year, I also began taking more care over my sewing. I really noticed an improvement in my sewing this year – an increased ability to understand how to construct a garment, and to respond to fitting or other issues as they occur. It felt like a sudden change, but it’s of course the accumulation of several years of regular garment sewing. This increased proficiency made me want to take more care, and I’ve not only being putting more care into the garments I made this year, but also revisiting past projects to address small issues with fit or finish which I’ve never been completely happy with.

The Sewing Weekender 2019

Alongside sewing, I continued to organise sewing events. I (jointly) organised the fourth Sewing Weekender (with Kate & Rachel from The Fold Line), and the sixth SewBrum (with Lauren Guthrie), plus the the first Paris Sewcial with Carmen Bouchard. Thanks so much to everyone who attends each event and makes them fun to organise and to attend. Thank you so much also to the sponsors and charity raffle prize donors. In the six years it has been running, SewBrum has raised £3,690 for six charities which is a lovely bonus of organising an event I started because I wanted to attend it!

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

I made sure to make time to attend other events in the sewing community. I get a lot of enjoyment out of organising events, but attending an event you haven’t organised is completely different, and you are able to fully relax and enjoy the event in a way you can’t at an event you have organised. I travelled to New York to attend Male Pattern Boldness day, Leicester for the Dressmakers’ Ball, Leeds for Sew Up North, and Bristol for the Like Sew Amazing shop launch. I’m also a regular attendee at the excellent relaxed monthly meet-up Brummie Yarn Social (thanks so much to @sewsuehandmade for organising us).

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

Online, I participated in two sewing swaps, the #ogdenidaswap and #secretsewingswap. Inspired by the Love to Sew podcast, I set up a dedicated Instagram account @sewcialevents for sharing and curating sewing challenges and events in a single place, and have remained pretty good at keeping it updated.

Closet Case Pietra Shorts

I continued to try new sewing techniques and pattern types, including sewing my first ever pair of shorts, first pair of jeans, and second ever swimsuit. I also had a go at making earmuffs to match my Tamarack Jacket and a hairband to match my Indigo Dress.

Opian Pilatus Swimsuit in Liberty fabric

Outside of sewing, I listened to 31 audio books (including 14 Agatha Christie books for free via Birmingham Library). I studied English Literature and Librarianship for my undergraduate and masters degrees respectively, which is a pretty good indicator that I used to read a lot. The amount of books I read (as opposed to magazines, blogs, etc. which has remained pretty healthy) has slipped to next to nothing in the last couple of years so I’ve really enjoyed getting back into reading via audiobooks, and it also satisfies my desire to feel like I’m multi-tasking. I was intending to use my audiobook subscription as an opportunity to keep up with new releases and instead have largely been listening to classics and old favourites, but that’s ok too.

Handwoven tartan scarf

I continued volunteering for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers; running the newsletter and social media for the Association, and taking on the role of (joint) Programme Secretary for Birmingham Guild. I attended my first Association Summer School (they run for a week every two years) and spent a week weaving tweed and tartan near York. I really enjoyed it, but also felt like it ‘clicked’ for me and could become a serious hobby. I treated myself to a loom just before Christmas and I am planning to set it up during January and start experimenting with weaving my own fabric.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

During 2019, I tried out other crafts by attending workshops in ply-split braiding, sign painting, foiling, monoprinting, bargello, and hoop earring making. I also attended two terms of tap dancing class. Unlike weaving, I don’t think tap dancing will ever ‘click’ for me, but I enjoyed being challenged, being part of a lovely group, and observing the contrast with the level of comfort and proficiency I feel with sewing.

Thank you so much for reading my blog this year. I still enjoy reading blogs and I still enjoy writing a blog, so have no intention to stop and have lots planned to share in 2020.


Belted Sweater in Liberty Sweatshirting

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

Pattern: Belted Sweater by Digital Pattern Library

Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 3.5 hours

Fabric: Liberty sweatshirting from Birmingham Rag Market (The Little World of Fabric, also known as ‘The Liberty Man’)

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a good Christmas. I’ve had a couple of quiet days in the house following spending Christmas and Boxing Day with family, and a couple of busy weeks in the run up. I spent the days immediately before Christmas focused on sewing a couple of gifts (using Noodlehead’s Forage Bag pattern) and hastily sewing a new dress in a day (Trend Patterns’ 70s Dress). I finished the dress just in time to wear it on Christmas Day (with a spot of hand sewing on Christmas morning and my brother sewing me into the cuffs), but I rushed the last sections so they aren’t finished to a standard I’m happy with. I’m going to revisit the sections of the dress that I rushed, perhaps before New Year’s Eve so that I can wear the dress to a second party asap.

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

These pictures were taken a few days before Christmas, in the local park on the way home from some last-minute present shopping. This is my second version of the Belted Sweater by Digital Pattern Library, sewn in a Liberty sweatshirting bought during this year’s SewBrum meet-up from the ‘Liberty Man’ in the Rag Market (also known as The Little World of Fabric on Ebay).

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

After making my first Belted Sweater in a lightweight knit, I was keen to try it in a heavier-weight fabric. I spotted this Liberty fabric at a bargain price (I think I paid £20 in total) during SewBrum and thought I’d try pairing it with the pattern. The resulting sweater is very cosy and I’m really enjoying wearing it. I think a slightly lighter weight sweatshirting would be more practical though (and is what I’d opt for next time) as this Liberty fabric is very thick and with the ties wrapped around the waist I’ve found that my slim fit RTW coat won’t do up over it! Luckily I’ve now finished the Yates coat I started a year ago which is roomy enough to fit this jumper under.

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

I love how different this pattern can look dependent how the ties are done up, and you can create some lovely pleats and tucks in the fabric. I’m a big fan of a good sweatshirt pattern (evidence: the number of Lindens I have sewn) and I love that this pattern offers something a bit different. I requires a bit more fabric and a bit more time than a more ‘standard’ sweatshirt, but is an equally straightforward project to sew.

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

My brother has been trying to get me into Stardew Valley for a few years (I’m a big fan of the Harvest Moon games) and has bought me the Switch version for Christmas, so I’m going to curl up on the sofa and start farming this evening. Have a great new year everyone and I’ll catch you in 2020!

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater