english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Velvet Floral Floreat Dress

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress

Me and Phil are back at home this weekend after a few days holiday with family in the Peak District. We had a fun few days but one thing I am glad to return home to is decent Wi-Fi! I spent hours yesterday catching up with emails, and thought this evening would be the perfect opportunity to write a blog post. I have also left the house a few times in between, and finished a small embroidery project, so the weekend hasn’t been solely spent in front of a screen.

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress

I managed to dodge the rain long enough to get some photos of recent makes while we were away, but the photos here predate the most recent holiday, and were mostly taken in Paris when we were there for #ParisSewcial.

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress

This pattern is the Floreat Dress from Megan Nielsen. The pattern includes a whole host of variations and I was especially drawn to the knit dress version, so made my floreat in this stretch floral velvet from Like Sew Amazing which I purchased with a voucher I was kindly gifted by Sarah for second prize in the Refashioners 2018. I love a velvet, and this is quite an unusual fabric as the florals are smooth and shiny, with velvet in-between.

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress

I didn’t love this dress as much as I expected on completion. After a couple of wears I have determined that the long length, long sleeves, and busy fabric combine to feel a bit overwhelming. Lately I have committed to making sure that I love (and wear) all of the garments in my wardrobe – and I have been altering (or giving away) those I’m not happy with. I worked through a good chunk of my alterations pile during Me-Made-May, and am planning to keep up the momentum now May is over. For this dress, I’ve trimmed the sleeves to a short length and I have a feeling that the new and improved version will be in regular rotation in my wardrobe.

Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress
Megan Nielsen Floreat Dress
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Paris Sewcial

Last weekend was the Paris Sewcial / Paris Coud meet-up, organised by myself and Carmen Bouchard.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

Back in 2014, I attended a Paris meet-up organised by Carmen, and this January I decided it was time for another large meet-up in Paris. Carmen agreed to organise it with me and took on the tasks of arranging our meals, as well as recommending lots of great shops and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent (thanks Carmen!).

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

Around 50 of us met near the Sacré-Cœur on Saturday morning to visit Montmartre’s fabric shops. We had lots of attendees joining us from the UK and France, but also from Belgium, Germany, Canada and America. Phil was roped into taking a group photo in front of the Sacré-Cœur before departing to do his own thing for the day.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

We split into smaller groups as people moved to find lunch and explore further afield, but almost everyone made it to the dp Studio pop-up shop. By coincidence, the pattern company were holding a pop-up to sell their patterns and leftover fabric from previous samples and collections for one day only on the Saturday. The fabric was priced at €5 per metre (although they were generous at rounding down) and we all enjoyed a good rummage. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try one of their patterns for the first time, and picked the Le 600 Blouse which is well represented on Instagram.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

By this point we were well into the afternoon. Paris’ fabric shops are open quite late (until around 7pm) so lots of the group visited one more shop before heading back to hotels to drop off fabric and prepare for dinner. Carmen had arranged a three-course meal, plus musical accompaniment, for us, after which everyone was ready to fall into bed.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

On Sunday, a group of us met for brunch before visiting the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, located in the building where the couture house was based in Paris and where Yves Saint Laurent worked. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the last women standing travelled slightly out of town (by metro and bus) to visit Bennytex Fabric Warehouse. Bennytex made us very welcome, staying open until we finished shopping, and giving each of us a small coffee on arrival and a free metre or so of jersey fabric before we left.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us over the weekend. As always, it was lovely to catch-up with old friends and to meet new ones. As someone who has never lived outside of Birmingham, it’s brilliant to be part of an international community online and – sometimes – in person.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

I’ve published a short vlog with some footage of the weekend, and of my purchases, which you can view here:

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019


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Refashioners Bar Jacket at Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

Last weekend Phil and I had tickets to see two exhibitions at the V&A, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams and Mary Quant. We decided to make a weekend away of it, and spent the rest of the time having a look in the shops, and generally mooching around London.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

When I booked to the see the Dior show I immediately knew I wanted to wear the outfit I made for The Refashioners 2018, to the exhibition. Last Saturday morning I got dressed in the full outfit – imitation bar jacket, pleated skirt, petticoat, long gloves – picked up my refashioned fruit-bowl hat, and set off for London.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

It was fun to wear the full outfit together again for the first time since I got photos for my Refashioners entry in Paris, and to get a photo of the outfit next to its inspiration (first photo). I feel a bit like I’m playing dress-up for the first few moments after putting on the petticoat, but it soon feels completely normal. It’s actually quite a comfortable outfit so long as I’m only wearing a single layer under the fitted jacket, any more than that and I feel squashed in.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

The Dior show is excellent sewing inspiration and I’m hoping to get some sewing done myself before the end of this weekend. I might even work on the 1950s inspired ‘waspie’ corset pattern recently released by Gertie for Butterick (which I was hoping to wear to the exhibition under my bar jacket, until I decided to use up my potential sewing time playing Pokemon: Let’s Go! instead).

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

I do find that galleries always make me want to draw, paint, sew, weave, or generally create. Normally I forget that by the time I get home, but i’m hoping to find time for some other crafts in addition to sewing this year. I’ve booked on a couple of workshops, and I’ve set my drawing and embroidery supplies close to hand. I’ve also started a tap dance class recently, to try a completely different creative hobby for the very first time. Sewing is still number one though, and I’m sure all of those other crafts will end up coming back to sewing and to this blog.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A


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Modified Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

I originally made, and blogged, this dress (The Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress) a year ago, but I was never happy with the fit on me. Apart from a couple of trial outings, this dress hung on my wardrobe door for a year waiting to be altered.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

After that long wait, it took me a single evening to alter the dress and add it into rotation in my wardrobe. The alterations I made were to remove 7 inches from the hem, reduce the width of the shoulders (I temporarily removed the sleeves and cut a crescent shaped section from each shoulder), remove the elastic from the sleeve hems, increase the waistline gathering, and generally improve the tidiness of my sewing.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

The dress is sewn in a crepe fabric from John Lewis and paired here with a matching lipstick and another pill box hat. The construction of the hat is as per my previous post, and the fabric is a pale pink pvc with a snakeskin print and texture, from Fancy Silk Store. I spotted this fabric the first time I visited Fancy Silk Store for hat making supplies; once I had a first pill box under my belt I went back to buy this fabric. These hats only use a tiny amount of fabric so I have plenty left and may use it to make a matching bag.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

Over the recent bank holiday weekend, Phil and I made the most of the sunshine and visited a couple of Birmingham Museums’ venues. It’s easy to forget to be curious about historic sites which are close to home, and we’re slowly working our way around some local sites, including Soho House (home of the industrialist Matthew Boulton) where these photos were taken.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

#memademay2019 is fast approaching. My pledge is to use the challenge to help me reach a point where I enjoy wearing everything in my wardrobe (me-made, second-hand, and ready-to-wear). That means getting rid of clothes which no longer fit or which I no longer enjoy wearing, altering me-made garments which I’m not completely happy with, and finishing my UFOs. This dress is one example of working towards that pledge, and I’m hoping to continue throughout May and beyond.


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Night and Day Dress for the Dressmakers’ Ball

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

For the first Dressmakers’ Ball, organised by the team at Crafty Sew & So in Leicester, back in 2017, I left making my dress until the very last minute and ended up sewing a knit dress the night before the ball.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

This year I was determined to be organised, and finished my dress with so much time to spare that I ended up making a matching belt, pill box hat, and bag (which collectively won me an award on the night for best accessory!).

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The dress is Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress. I have the PDF version of the pattern (a gift from my parents for Christmas) and sent it for A0 printing as the pattern has many variations (including some very full skirts) so is enormous. I printed all of the pages as I’m keen to try some other variations in the near future. The version of the dress I made for the ball was actually decided by my fabric choice.

I was visiting New York – and attending Male Pattern Boldness Day – the month before the Ball, so decided to buy fabric for the dress at the meet-up. I was planning to get something drapey to make the bishop sleeved version of the Night & Day Dress, but once I spotted this double-sided metallic brocade in Metro Textiles I was sold.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Having had pretty consistent body measurements since my twenties, if not before, I’ve increased a few inches in the bust and waist recently. On a few recent projects I’ve cut out on autopilot based on the size I’m used to cutting (and gotten away with it), but for this project I was determined that I wasn’t going to skimp on any steps to a well fitting dress. I measured myself and cut the correct size, only to find, when I tried the work-in-progress bodice on, that it was too large. I took the bodice apart and cut the pieces down a size (to a 4 in the bust and 6 in the waist to hips, the size I would have cut on autopilot) and the fit was just right. I’ve since bought Gertie’s new book, Gertie Sews Jiffy Dresses, which uses the same sizes/block as Charm patterns, and Gertie notes in the introduction that the sizes are generous in the bust and hip.

I should say that I don’t bother with muslins/toiles, so although I always hope patterns will fit first go, I’m always expecting to need to make changes. Personally I prefer to make alterations to a sewing project as I go, in this way, and regularly do. I find that approach works much better for me, and I’m very rarely left with an unsalvagable project.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

After making the dress, I felt that the pattern needed breaking up at the waist so I made a matching belt, using the reverse side of the brocade. I couldn’t find any belt buckles for sale locally in Birmingham, and hadn’t left myself long enough to risk ordering one online. I popped into H&M in the hope of finding something suitable and found an ugly fake leather belt on sale for £3. I cut my fabric based on the width of the buckle (not the belt I removed, which was much wider & horribly bunched up), and punched through some Prym eyelets for belt holes.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Next I started on a hat. I have a couple of hat making books I picked up cheaply years ago and hadn’t yet made anything from. This pill box hat was based on a design in Saturday Night Hat. The book instructions are based on using millinery supplies, but I walked to Fancy Silk Store one lunch break and asked for the closest they had to double buckram. The material I bought feels quite plasticky and is impossible to sew through, so it works to provide a firm structure but is more of a faff than an actual double buckram would be (I assume). The base of the hat is a circle (for the top) and a rectangle (for the sides) which I managed to attach together (the material also resisted all attempted to glue it) by punching holes along the edges of the top and sides, and sewing the pieces together through these holes. The hat is then covered in fabric pieces, which are sewn to each other. Finally, I punched Prym eyelets on either side and threaded elastic through. It’s worn behind my ears / under my hair.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The hat pictured here isn’t actually the version worn at the ball. This is a replacement pill box, as the first was ‘stolen’! The day after the ball, Phil and I were having a wander around Leicester. I was carrying the pill box hat in a plastic bag (along with a cheap comb and a sewing kit) to avoid squashing it in our very full suitcase, and accidentally left the bag unattended for ten minutes in McDonalds. We dashed back to find it but it was already gone! This second version is better constructed than the first, so I’m thinking of the lost one as a rare (for me) toile!

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Finally, the night before the ball, I decided to whip up a matching bag. This bag was based on a pattern included with a recent issue of Simply Sewing magazine (issue 54). I didn’t have time to create/order a strap, so borrowed one from one of my handbags, and I finished hand-sewing the inside of the bag on the train to the ball (in good company, travelling with the lovely Sue).

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The Dressmakers’ Ball was a really fun evening and a great incentive to make a more glamorous dress and a plethora of accessories. I believe Crafty Sew & So are planning to hold the ball every other year, and I’m thinking next time I need to take the word ‘ball’ to heart and create something really dramatic.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress


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DPL Belted

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

Today I took some time out of the office to attend a student-led fashion conference on campus (I work at a University). Sustainability was a focus for many of the speakers and I came away with some ideas of what I could make to commemorate this year’s Fashion Revolution Week taking place 22 – 28 April. Last year I made a Fashion Revolution Tee, and I’d like to create or alter a garment again this year (potentially using my fabric scraps).

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

I also came away with a desire to try growing fabric! Kirie-Lea Cussen presented her project to grow a bacterial-cellulose fabric for garment making using a kombucha recipe, inspired by Suzanne Lee’s work. Suzanne Lee has shared her ‘recipe’ and process online. I just need to figure out where on earth I could store a large container of bacteria at a consistent temperature…

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

I was wearing this top today. It’s Digital Pattern Library’s Belted Sweater in a cotton spandex knit from Girl Charlee. This is a recent favourite which I’ve worn to quite a few meet-ups but am only just blogging. I love the shape of this, which can differ quite a bit depending on how you tie the belt. I tend to tie it at the front, as pictured here, and really like how the back hem fans out as a result. My other favourite feature is the wide neckband.

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

I really want to make another Belted Sweater in a thicker fabric for a more exaggerated silhouette, and I also think it would look quite elegant in a lighter weight and drapier fabric. Two more options for the future sewing queue!

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

All of those projects will need to wait in line though, as my next project is a ‘waspie’ corset to wear to visit the Dior exhibition at the V&A next Month. I’m planning to wear the New Look inspired outfit which was my contribution to The Refashioners 2018 to the exhibition, with the addition of a waspie corset underneath. I was inspired by Gertie’s B6643 release with Butterick, which I finally managed to get hold of in the UK today, to give a corset a try.

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

If you’re not familiar with Digital Pattern Library I’d highly recommend their Instagram account, and their most recent pattern the Ruffle Tee is very cool.

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater