english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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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


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Lesley in John Arbon Merino

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn

This is my second project from Home & Away by Hannah Fettig (Knitbot), the Lesley sweater. This pattern is the cover star of Home & Away, and the photos of it included in the book are stunning.

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn

I loved the pattern as soon as I saw it. It’s a great basic which goes with everything. It’s also a straightforward knit, and thanks to the aran weight yarn, knits up really quickly. Kirsten knit her Lesley sweater in one week! I wasn’t that quick, but it didn’t take me much longer.

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn

I received the yarn for my Lesley as a Christmas present from my Mom and Dad, it’s John Arbon Textiles’ organic Falklands Merino. It makes for a lovely soft sweater. I have one skein of yarn (plus a little bit) left over which I might use to make a hat – probably one of the gorgeous hats from the Autumn 2015 issue of Pom Pom. According to the patterns I won’t have quite enough yarn, but I’m going to chance it and see how I get on!

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn

I’m wearing my sweater here with a Pianissimo scarf (also in a John Arbon yarn! This is Viola in the Fern colourway), and Stork Scissors by Birmingham-based Frilly Industries.

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn

I swatched for this sweater on Christmas day, and would have started knitting but didn’t have the correct size circular needles for the ribbing – bad planning on my part. I went into Birmingham on Boxing Day to buy needles and cast on that evening. I was very happy with House of Fraser who were open and had the needles I needed – and not happy with John Lewis who were closed altogether. How is a person supposed to start their #boxingdaycaston!

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn

These photos were taken out-and-about in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade (Gillian, I’m listening! #betterpicturesproject). It’s a beautiful arcade with great indie shops but you wouldn’t really know from these photos as you can’t see much of it – I blame the camera man;) One of the most enjoyable film screenings I ever attended was held in the Great Western Arcade as part of Flatpack Festival (p.s. if you’re local, this year’s festival starts 19th April). It was a screening of Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last!, it took place in March when it should have been warm enough for a screening in the arcade, but that day it was very cold and snowed. Note that the arcade is open to the outdoors at both ends. The organisers were fantastic and provided us each with a blanket and cup of tea, along with popcorn and chocolates. Such a fun evening.

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn

I’m finishing up a few small knitting projects currently but looking forward to casting on another sweater/cardigan soon!

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn

Lesley by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot, In John Arbon Aran Yarn


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Hancock in Lyonesse

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

Inspired by Gillian’s Better Pictures Project, and Katie’s guest post in particular, I photographed this recent knitting project indoors. However, I was paranoid the photos would be too dark (it was a grey day) so there is a mixture of indoor and outdoor photos below!

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

This is the Hancock pattern from Home & Away by Hannah Fettig, also known as Knitbot. I ordered the book straight after it was published (self published by Hannah) and love it. It contains eight cardigan/jumper patterns (plus one hat), which can be knitted flat or in the round. The book also contains some great general knitting tutorials, such as gauge, blocking, and weaving in ends. Plus it’s a beautiful book.

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

I knitted Hancock in the round, using the smallest pattern size. The yarn I used is Blacker Yarns Lyonesse 4-ply in colour Rose Quartz. Lyonesse is a blend of linen and Falkland Island Corriedale/Merino wool. Blacker Yarns refer to Lyonesse as their ‘summer range’, and the inclusion of linen in the yarn means it is lightweight and relatively summery. However I’m still wearing it this winter over long sleeve dresses / tops.

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

You can see Hancock is relatively short (this is accurately shown in the pattern photos) and I considered lengthening it, but ultimately followed the pattern without any changes. I’ve found it the perfect length to pair with a dress or high waisted skirt or trousers, but it’s worth bearing in mind if/when knitting it.

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

The pattern is an open cardigan without any fastenings. I’ve been intending to buy a shawl pin (as every knitter surely ends up knitting shawls, despite previously never knowing that you needed one!) and think that Hancock would also look good pinned closed when I want a bit of extra warmth.

Hancock is a straightforward knit, if relatively time consuming (at least for a slow knitter like me) due to the use of 4-ply yarn.

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

I’m classing this as one of my #1year1outfit projects since it is made with a yarn produced by British mill Blacker Yarns, using Falkland wool (it’s unclear from the Blacker Yarns website where the linen was sourced). Given that my 2015 One Year One Outfit pledge already allowed me to use fibre from the entirely of the UK, I might be pushing it by also including Falkland wool. However, BritYarn’s definition of British includes overseas territories, and that’s good enough for me!

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

Hancock by Hannah Fettig, Knitbot

I’m just in the process of blocking another completed project from Home & Away which I’ll be blogging soon.

P.S. If you’re on Ravelry you can find me here.


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British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

My second article for Seamwork magazine was published in their December issue.

The article is a profile of Cluny Lace, the only remaining company in the UK making leaver’s lace using traditional leavers and jacquard machinery, which was also designed and built in Nottingham.

Cluny Lace is a family-run business, and has been in the family for 9 generations. Cluny are based in Ilkeston, near Nottingham where lace-making was historically the dominant industry, employing a third of the city’s working population.

Lace produced by Cluny Lace is frequently used by couture and pret-a-porter design houses, and the company regularly post examples to their Facebook page.

You can read my full Seamwork article here, or download the magazine from the Seamwork website.

I was very lucky to be provided with some pieces of lace by Cluny following my visit.

British Made Lace by Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

British Made Lace by Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

I finally bit the bullet and cut into the lace, plus some organic British silk from Majestic Textiles, to make the Savannah Camisole from Seamwork.

Madder Dyeing

Prior to constructing the camisole I dyed both the (cotton) lace and silk using madder. Before dyeing, both textiles had been pre-mordanted using the methods previously described in this post, although mordanting isn’t strictly necessary with madder. I used a madder extract purchased from Wild Colours, and also followed their instructions for using the extract (one of a number of natural dye recipes on their website). Madder extract is very easy to use; following the Wild Colours guide I simply made a paste with 10g of powdered madder and added this to a pan of water on the hob. After adding my pre-wetted textiles I raised the temperature to 60° C and kept it there for 60 minutes. I left the textiles in the pan overnight, before rinsing and then washing them in the washing machine on a low heat.

Madder Dyeing

I decided to make the Savannah camisole mainly based on Sarai’s gorgeous version and because the pattern features lace.

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

I made up a test version in cotton before cutting into my silk and got a good fit by grading between a 0 at the bust and 2 at the waist and hips. However, I think I stretched out the neckline through handling this silk version as it ended up too wide; I addressed the issue by gathering the neckline to achieve the required width.

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

I sewed the sides of the cami on my machine using french-seams, but sewed everything else by hand. The only changes I made to the pattern were cutting the shoulder straps to the required length (as opposed to creating adjustable straps using bra rings and sliders) and slightly altering the application of the lace due to the width of the lace I used.
British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

The cami is one of my #1year1outfit projects. It’s not strictly 100% British, but I’d say it is close enough;) The lace is made with Egyptian cotton and is finished (washed / dyed) in France, but is woven in the UK. I also used standard Gutterman thread to make it – I do have some Irish linen thread, but I didn’t have any in an appropriate colour. The silk is from Majestic Textiles, a silk farm in Hertfordshire. I ordered the silk direct but they mainly sell by the bolt so a shorter length incurs a cutting charge, as well as a standard UP postage charge of £11. With those costs added on the silk worked out at £17.50 per metre. Botanical Inks stock a couple of styles of silk produced by Majestic Textiles and allow online ordering.

The silk handles well during sewing and doesn’t mind being washed in the machine, but you can see it seriously holds a crease.

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

Cluny Lace mainly sell direct to design houses, but you can purchase small quantities of their lace via a number of UK stockists, who mainly stock lace trims. Magic Round About Vintage clearly state which of their lace trims and fabrics are produced by Cluny in the UK. Little Trimmings and The Ribbon Girl are also stockists, but their website are less clear which laces are made in the UK. You can also buy direct from Blue Riband in Kent or Kleins in London.

A few photos of the Cluny Lace factory which weren’t included in the Seamwork article are below.

P.S. let me know if you have some suggestions for great patterns for the rest of my Cluny Lace. I’m thinking the wider lace would look great on the Papercut Clover dress bust panel.

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston


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TOFT Cable Wristwarmers

In my last post about my Linden Sweatshirt dress, you may have spotted some knitted wrist warmers.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

These are another knitting project which I finished during the summer, and that have been sat in a drawer waiting for winter. It’s pretty mild in the UK (at the moment) but I made good use of these during my recent holiday in Belgium. They are photographed in Brussels Park, where I previously photographed my first Linden last year.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

The pattern is TOFT’s free Cable Wristwarmers pattern. This was my first attempt at cables and it’s a nice easy pattern to practice cables on if you haven’t attempted them before (spoiler for newbie knitters: cables are really easy). The pattern is knitted flat and seamed along one side, with a gap left for the thumb. They are a quick make if you’re still looking for fast Christmas gift knits.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

I used the recommended yarn, TOFT’s DK yarn in Silver. I used approximately half to three quarters of a ball for these wristwarmers, so I have a little left over for a future project. I actually bought the yarn from TOFT’s farm shop when I was there interviewing owner Kerry for an article for Seamwork Magazine.

Having worn these a fair bit over the last few weeks (and also lugged them around in my handbag) they now have a slight fuzzy halo, which you can just make out in the photos. As a result they are likely to pill over time, due to being a very soft wool.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

This is my second time using TOFT’s DK yarn (I previously made socks and later dyed them) and I’d strongly recommend it. It’s lovely to work with and is 100% British, being made with British wool, processed by the Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall, and ending up with the TOFT team in Rugby. As a result, these wrist warmers count as one of my one year one outfit makes.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool