english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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British Fabrics Haul Vlog

British Fabrics

For the latest vlog, I’ve filmed a guide to sources of British-made fabrics. It was a perfect excuse to order lots of swatches!

You can view the vlog here:

For more info on British-made fabrics, see my list of British fibres, fabrics & haberdashery supplies.

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics


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Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda

British yarn maestros Blacker Yarns have two new yarns going on sale today at 10am!

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda Yarns

The first is a range of new colours for Blacker’s St. Kilda lace-weight yarn, hand dyed by Joy of The Knitting Goddess.

Blacker’s St. Kilda yarn contains wool from St Kilda’s (an archipelago which is the remotest part of the British Isles) native Boreray and Soay sheep – two of the oldest and rarest of all British breeds – blended together with Shetland wool.

The St. Kilda yarns aren’t a one-off, but there will be a limited supply annually due to the fact that there’s only a limited amount of Boreray and Soay fleece available. That, coupled with the fact that this range is dyed by hand in small batches, makes this a really unique yarn (and likely to sell out fast).

Blacker kindly sent me a small skein of St. Kilda in the Conachair colourway, and I can report that the dyeing process means the colour has loads of depth – in the photos you can see that there is variation in the colour of my swatch, as opposed to a solid colour. I found the yarn bouncy, easy to work with, and great for showcasing texture and detail.

The range includes ten dyed colours, plus two natural undyed shades, and can be purchased from Blacker Yarns and The Knitting Goddess.

If you’d like to hear more about the yarn, there’s a great interview on episode 66 of the KnitBritish Podcast.

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda Yarns

The second new release is the final batch of Cornish Tin II. This is a one-off, limited edition yarn to celebrate Blacker’s 11th birthday (following the very popular Cornish Tin last year).

The yarn is blended from 100% British fibres from small producers, and contains Alpaca, Portland, Saxon Merino, Gotland, Jacob, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain, Mohair, and English Merino. The yarn is available in a silver grey, plus seven dyed shades (shown on the left in the photos below) all named after Cornish Tin Mines, and in 4-ply and DK weights.

To accompany the yarn, Blacker have released a gorgeous (free) sock pattern (going straight in my Ravelry queue!), and hat pattern.

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda Yarns

I got my hands on some of the original Cornish Tin yarn last year, which was lovely to knit with, and from what I’ve heard Tin II is even more popular.

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda Yarns


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Pink Wool Clare Coat

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Three weeks or so before me and Phil left for a holiday in Reykjavik, New York and Boston, I decided to make myself a warm coat to wear.

I loved the Closet Case Files Clare Coat when it was released and had already bought the pattern, so this was the perfect chance to make it. By the time my fabrics arrived, I was actually down to two weeks before our holiday – with plans to be out of the house for both weekends – so made the coat in short evening sessions over those two weeks. Luckily, the Clare Coat comes together really quickly, but I was still finishing the edge stitching the night before we left. I also attached the press-studs that same night, but obviously wasn’t operating at full capacity since I sewed them all on the wrong way around (meaning they wouldn’t close…) and had to remove and reattach them once in Reykjavik!

Clare Coat

My outer and lining fabrics were both purchased from Herts Specialist Fabrics, who specialise in reproduction fabrics for historical re-enactors. Both fabrics are described as being made in the UK, although I wasn’t able to obtain specifics.

Herts fabrics are very reasonably priced. The pink blanket pure wool cost £19.00 for two metres, and the gold satin I used for the lining cost £15.90 for two metres. Both are 60″ width, and I have enough of each left over for one more project.

As the store focuses on reenactment fabrics you don’t get the same service (in my opinion) as I would expect from a shop specialising in garment sewing. For example, the satin arrived in two cut lengths (without this being made clear in advance), and the wool arrived with some deep creases which I wasn’t able to remove. You can see some of the creases in the wool in my finished coat below – but some were no doubt added by me later! Given their prices and range of UK fabrics I’ll definitely be ordering from them again, but it’s worth knowing in advance.

Clare Coat

Based on a recommendation by Heather Lou in the Clare Coat sewalong, I decided to add a layer of thinsulate as an interlining to ensure my coat kept me suitably warm in Iceland.

I ordered my thinsulate from Point North Profabrics. Two metres plus postage cost just under £30 which I was loath to spend on something that looked like quilt batting, but I still have a reasonable amount left over and it certainly made a difference to the finished coat. We were out and about in some pretty cold weather in Iceland and I never felt cold.

The addition of the thinsulate – along with the thick blanket wool – wasn’t popular with my sewing machine. I think I broke seven needles trying to stitch around the edges of the coat (through all layers). It didn’t help that I was doing this on the night before our holiday and didn’t have time to go slowly.

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

To me, the cutting-out part of coat and jacket making always feels like it takes longer than the sewing. I also had a lot of pattern pages to stick together, since I couldn’t find a reasonably priced copyshop print option in Birmingham or Coventry (If anyone knows a cheap local option for printing individual patterns do let me know). I was spending a weekend in Cornwall just after my fabrics arrived, and thought it would be the perfect time to get all of my pieces cut out so that I could start sewing once I was back home.

We were travelling to Cornwall on the train and I couldn’t find a bag large enough to fit all of the fabric in, so popped it in a bin bag. It seemed very logical to me, but Phil was NOT impressed at the thought of having to lug an overflowing bin bag of fabric all the way to Cornwall on the train. Obviously the fabric did come with us, and was cut out between strolls on the beach.

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Based on the recommended size for my measurements, I graded between a size 2 at the bust, and 6 at the waist and hips. I noticed that other blogged Clare Coats looked quite fitted in the upper body, and was a bit worried about not being able to fit a suitably woolly jumper underneath. As a result (see if you spot the stupid error here), I decided to use a narrower seam allowance to add extra ease; when I got to the point of attaching the collar it didn’t fit, as I’d increased the length of the neckline… Sooo, I unpicked all of the neckline seams and sewed with the recommended seam allowance.

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

I’m really happy with the fit, and fancy making the pattern again in a less bulky fabric for a smarter look. But given that we’re finally getting some sunny weather, a second Clare will probably need to wait until the Autumn.

These photos were taken in Reykjavik, where my coat was put to good use.

In these photos I’m also wearing a Karusellen hat and Cecelia Cowl.

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland


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A Love Story about Scissors

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

The current issue of Love Sewing Magazine (issue 25, on sale now until late April) features my profile of Ernest Wright & Son. The article discusses the company and the steps involved in making their scissors (plus there’s an opportunity to win a pair of dressmaking shears), but I also wanted to talk about my visit here.

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

I proposed the article to Love Sewing and – having received a positive response – took a day off work and visited Ernest Wright & Son during January at their Sheffield factory.

If you’re unfamiliar with the company, they have been making scissors in Sheffield since 1902. Sewing/craft is one of the company’s specialisms (the other major one being kitchen scissors).

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

The factory has a small shop which is open to the public and is well worth a visit. Not only can you select a pair of their scissors in person, the shop also contains a display about the company’s history, and a window onto the factory floor where you can see the scissors being made.

Due to visiting on behalf of Love Sewing, I had the opportunity to go ‘behind the scenes’ to see the full process of making a pair of their scissors, and meet the team.

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

I’ve had the opportunity to visit and interview a few companies recently (mainly on behalf of Seamwork), and absolutely love getting the chance to mooch around factories and see things being made. But very few companies are as welcoming and as generous with their time as Ernest Wright & Son. I knew I was on to a winner when they made me a tea moments after I walked through the door;)

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Despite the fact that I am not a journalist or photographer (my full-time job is as a project manager at a University), the team at Ernest Wright demonstrated the full process of making a pair of scissors for me – including turning on the very noisy ‘rumbler’ and dryer machines which are used to clean and dry scissors, and painting the handles of their dressmaking shears so I could photograph them hanging to dry. (P.S. if you’ve assumed from the images online that the Colours range have coloured plastic handles, they don’t, they are metal handles which are painted by hand).

I left the factory totally in love with this company and their products. Partly, of course, because of the heritage they represent, as a fifth-generation family-owned company  which is one of the last remaining examples of a historically thriving industry. But most of all because of the great people who work there and their enthusiasm for the products they produce.

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

As a small independent business, the company face issues around cash-flow and seasonality of demand, as well as wider issues caused by the decline of the local steel industry and competition from cheaper machine-made imports. Given that their products are guaranteed for life, limited repeat business is also an issue for the firm.

If you are able to support the company (from buying their scissors, to following their social media accounts), they are a company who truly appreciate the support. And if you get a chance to visit them in Sheffield or at a craft show (they typically attend the Knitting & Stitching Show, & the Handmade Fair), do, and I suspect you’ll fall for the company too.

For more information see:

Love Sewing Magazine, issue 25

Two short films about the company: The Putter by Shaun Bloodworth, and Disappearing Art for the BBC

Ernest Wright & Son Website

Ernest Wright & Son on Instagram

The factory:

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Scissor painting in progress:

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield

Ernest Wright & Son, Sheffield


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British & Icelandic Karusellen Hat

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

As you’ll know if you follow me on instagram (I may have gotten carried away posting photos!), I’ve just returned from a holiday in Reykjavik, New York and Boston.

I made four new items for the holiday (one of which I was hemming as we waited for the cab to the airport…) – Closet Case Files Clare Coat, Paprika Patterns Zircon Sweater, a Karusellen hat, and Cecelia Cowl.

I’m going to talk about the knitted items in this post, and follow up with a separate post about my Clare Coat, but it’s also pictured in the images below, all of which were taken in Reykjavik.

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

My hat is the Karusellen pattern by Erica Knits from Pom Pom Quarterly Autumn 2015, which was a particularly awesome issue of the magazine. I used stash yarn – the white is a leftover skein of John Arbon Textiles’ organic Falklands Merino from my Lesley sweater, and the mustard is Ístex Álafoss Lopi in Golden Heather which I bought when I visited Sweden last year. That yarn combination means that I made a British and Icelandic yarn hat for my trip to Iceland – could not resist;)

The pom pom wasn’t from my stash; I treated myself to an alpaca fur pom pom when I visited TOFT recently to attend a crochet workshop.

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

The hat pattern includes two sizes; I selected the larger size based on my head measurement but it’s actually a little bit big. I have the brim folded double here in order to fit, but it does mean that the horses hooves are slightly hidden.

I was worried about my knitting ending up too tight as a result of the colourwork so kept my colour floats quite loose, which may be the cause of it ending up slightly big.

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

The cowl is the Cecelia Cowl by Rachel Atkinson for Loop London. The pattern is designed to use one ball of Freia Ombré Super Bulky. I chose to use the Amaranth colourway as I thought it would complement my coat, without being too close a colour match.

The yarn isn’t cheap, but given that only one ball is required for the project I decided it was justifiable. I’ve already managed to leave this cowl behind in a cafe in Boston, but was able to go back and retrieve it the next day, so I hope I don’t lose it too soon (never is probably too much to hope I think!).

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

The cowl is a really quick knit; I stated it on the flight from Birmingham to Reykjavik, and had completed and was wearing it when I got off the plane.

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

Clare Coat, Karusellen Hat, & Cecelia Cowl in Reykjavic, Iceland

As you can see in these photos, Reykjavik is beautiful. It’s very expensive, but happily yarn is cheap! I bought yarn to knit the Stopover sweater, from the Handknitting Association of Iceland store in the city centre. The store stocks a wide range of Istex lopi yarns, including colourways unique to the store, and the Love Story lace-weight yarn by Hélène Magnússon. I ran out of time to visit the Alafoss Mill store but it’s easily accessible via bus and has even cheaper prices.

Reykjavic, Iceland

Reykjavic, Iceland

We spent one day on a golden circle tour which we really enjoyed – particularly watching the geysers erupt at Geysir, something they’ve been doing 10,000 years. The tour ended at Laugarvatn Fontana spa, which was very nice on a particularly cold day.

Reykjavic, Iceland

Reykjavic, Iceland

In town we particularly enjoyed the National Museum (which includes historic embroidery, and spindles), the Tjornin Park which is a great place for swan stalking, and the Mikkeller bar as a perfect spot to spend the evening.

Reykjavic, Iceland

Info on my Clare Coat, and on our trip to New York and Boston next!

Reykjavic, Iceland

Reykjavic, Iceland


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Tamar

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

As a British yarn addict, I’m always really excited by the prospect of a new yarn from Blacker Yarns. Not only do they produce lovely yarns, they do so using unusual wools, create unique blends, and support small producers in the UK.

The newest yarn from Blacker, Tamar, is released tomorrow, 03rd February.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

Tamar contains wool from four British sheep breeds listed as either ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust: Wensleydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool. These are all historic breeds, with Cotswold and Leicester Longwool dating back to the 13th and 17th centuries. They are also lustre longwool breeds, meaning the sheep’s fleece has a distinctive appearance and characteristics. If you google any of sheep breeds included in the yarn you’ll get a sense of their fleece – it has a long silky appearance, as opposed to the shorter ‘bouncier’ fleece of a cartoon sheep.

Lustre yarns have the characteristics of being smooth and silky, but can be lean and lack ‘give’. To address this, Tamar also contains 30% Cornish Mule, giving the yarn the ‘bounce’ that we expect from wool.

If you’d like to hear more about the yarn and it’s development, Chapter 112 of the Curious Handmade podcast features a great interview with Sonja at Blacker Yarns.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

I was sent a sample of Tamar in advance of release in the Lerryn colourway and DK weight. I already had my eye on the Right Angle pattern by Georgia Farrell from the Spring issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, so decided to test knit a swatch of the pattern using Tamar to see if they were a good match.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

I’m really happy with the result. Tamar has great structure and stitch definition, which showcase the Right Angle design, and it also has a lot of drape, perfect for a short top.

The yarn – and resulting fabric – are silky and shiny, but also feel strong and hard wearing. It has a slight halo, which is just visible in the photos.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

Tamar comes in DK and 4-ply weights; 15 dyed shades plus two natural shades. Each colourway is named after a tributary of the river Tamar, which gives the yarn its name. The yarn is available direct from Blacker Yarns, and BritYarn will be stocking the 4-ply weight. Blacker have released a selection of free patterns to coincide with the launch of Tamar.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

I’m definitely going to knit Right Angle using Tamar, I just need to make a decision on which colourway – I’m thinking maybe the turquoise shade, Tresillian.


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Indigo & Logwood Dyed Silk Dress & One Year One Outfit Thoughts

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

I realised that I hadn’t written a wrap-up post about my experience of participating in #1year1outfit during 2015. It’s partly because using British fibres has seeped into my making (particularly my knitting) to such an extent that it doesn’t feel like there is an end point. However, I thought I should acknowledge the impact that Nicki’s project has had on my making and also highlight that One Year One Outfit is taking place again in 2016 if you’d like to participate.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

At the start of 2015 I was just beginning to explore British wools in my knitting and the use of natural dyes (as part of my own #naturallydyedwardrobe project), so One Year One Outfit tied in perfectly with my own growing interest in local fibres and materials. However, without One Year One Outfit I never would have fallen quite so fast and far down the rabbit hole.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

The project led me to really question and explore exactly what fabrics and fibres are produced in Britain; the results of that search – so far – are compiled here, and I’m continuing to add more resources as I discover them. Exploring currently available British textiles also led me to give greater consideration to the historic textile industry, both to celebrate the beautiful things produced and the skill required to produce them, but also to be aware of the conditions many of these textiles were produced under. In Britain that included child labour, serious health risks for workers, long hours for low pay, and exploitation of the Empire.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

As a result of participating in the project I’ve produced a number of knitted and sewn garments and accessories (you can see them all here), and it also inspired two articles I wrote for Seamwork magazine profiling British companies: TOFT and Cluny Lace. Most recently I visited the wonderful Ernest Wright & Son in Sheffield (I’m holding their pink 8″ scissors in some of these photos), who I’ll be blogging about soon.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

Not all of the garments I made as part of the project were 100% British (for example I used commercial thread), but the important thing to me is that it made me consciously think through what I was using and where it was produced; something I want to be increasingly true of all of my making.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

The dress is these photos is my latest One Year One Outfit make. It is made with British organic silk from Majestic Textiles. I dyed the top portion of the dress with logwood chips, which were gifted to me by a member of my Weavers, Spinners and Dyers’ Guild. The bottom portion of the dress is dyed with indigo from Fabric Treasury. The pattern is my own Lou Lou Dress, view C. I was rather lax cutting this slippery silk so the lines of the dress are a little wibbly, but I love it all the same.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

For anyone interested in exploring British fibres in their own making there is a huge variety of wool (and sheep, mills, dyers, farmers & designers) to explore. Regardless of your chosen craft (knitter, sewer, embroiderer, weaver, etc.) there are British wool products to try. But British fibres don’t stop with wool, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with British silk, lace, linen, and haberdashery supplies, including scissors, needles, pincushions, and buttons. I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can find in 2016.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

My list of British fibre, fabric & haberdashery suppliers is available here.

All of my #1year1outfit posts are available here.

In these photos I’m wearing the following items which meet my #1year1outfit pledge:

Dress: Lou Lou Dress in Organic British Silk naturally dyed with indigo and logwood
CardiganHancock in Blacker Yarns Lyonesse, in Rose Quartz
Socks: TOFT Bed Socks in TOFT DK, in Oatmeal (naturally dyed with turmeric)
ScarfPianissimo in John Arbon Textiles’ Viola Yarn, in Fern
Scissors: Ernest Wright & Son 8″ Scissors in pink
Brooch: Frilly Industries Spool of Thread Brooch

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit