english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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The Little Book of Sewing

Sewing Supplies

Karen Ball’s book, The Little Book of Sewing, is released on 04 April. I was lucky enough to receive a pre-release PDF copy via a call-out in her newsletter.

It might be a little book but it feels substantial. I read Karen’s book over a few very enjoyable sittings, and I know I’ll be returning to my hardcopy, once it arrives, when my motivation to sew needs a boost.

Sewing Supplies

If you read Karen’s blog then you don’t need me to tell you that the writing is great. Conversational, and regularly funny (it’s dedicated to Tmos), the book shares a love of sewing with its readers. It successfully strikes a balance between advice and conversation (I wasn’t tempted to skim read as I often am with sewing tutorials or instructions), and between providing a little insight into Karen’s personal sewing and reflecting the wider sewing community.

Sewing Supplies

Wide ranging in the information it covers – from basics such as understanding a sewing pattern, threading a needle, or sewing tools, through to careers in sewing, sewing in film and literature and sewing and mental health. The book touches lightly on the areas it covers, never going into so much detail as to risk becoming boring before bouncing on to the next topic.

Sewing Supplies

As a regular / intermediate sewer, I was reminded of lots of things I should know but tend to forget. Practical tips like cutting thread at an angle to obtain a finer point, and a reminder that sewing failures are an opportunity to learn and improve.

Sewing Supplies

Karen’s book will inspire you to pick up a hand sewing needle or take a seat behind a sewing machine. Reading it inspired me to sew for the enjoyment of sewing, as opposed to the promise of a finished garment. The book celebrates both the act of sewing and the hobby of sewing (from the items we collect to the community we become a part of). It contains a reminder of the reasons sewing is enjoyable, good for you, and very doable.

Pre-order here

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The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny Book Review

The Fox, the Bear & the Bunny Sewing book by Olive & Vince

The latest vlog is up with a review of a lovely new children’s clothing sewing book, The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny, from Olive & Vince.

The Fox, the Bear & the Bunny Sewing book by Olive & Vince

The patterns in the book make up a full wardrobe of children’s clothing (for ages 1-5), with a good number of gender-neutral patterns.

The Fox, the Bear & the Bunny Sewing book by Olive & Vince

Full details on the vlog. Watch it here:

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny in exchange for blogging about it, all opinions expressed are my own.


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A Peek Inside “Make It, Own It, Love It” & a Giveaway!

Matt Chapple's Make It, Own It, Love It

The first book by sewing blogger and Great British Sewing Bee 2015 winner Matt Chapple, Make It, Own It, Love It, was released last week.

My latest vlog contains a look inside the book. Check it out here:

I have two copies of the book to giveaway! If you would like to win a copy, leave a comment below the video on Youtube (here) by Sat 29th October at midnight BST. I’ll randomly select two winners on Sunday 30th. And, if you enjoy the videos on my channel, do subscribe!

Matt Chapple's Make It, Own It, Love It

Matt Chapple's Make It, Own It, Love It

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Make It, Own It, Love It by publisher Jacqui Small in exchange for blogging about it, all opinions expressed are my own.


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GBSB Culottes & From Stitch to Style Review

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Woo hoo, The Great British Sewing Bee is back for series four! I won’t ask if you’re excited; I was on Twitter yesterday and my feed was full of GBSB chat:) I hope international friends get to watch it too (p.s. when I used to travel for work, I watched on iplayer live using a UK VPN).

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

Alongside the new series, there’s also a new GBSB book by Wendy Gardiner. If you’re familiar with the previous series’ books, you’ll already be familiar with the format. The book starts with a ‘Know Before You Sew’ section, which contains a brief overview of sewing supplies, machines, fabric types, and the techniques used in the book. The introductory chapter also includes a short overview of common fitting techniques (including bust adjustments and trouser fitting), although you’d need to seek out additional advice in order to really get the hang of the techniques.

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

The majority of the book contains garment projects; there are 27 in total which are split as follows: 20 women’s; 2 men’s; 3 children’s; 1 baby; 1 unisex (kimono). I don’t have any insight into what the contestants will be making in future episodes of the series, but I think we can make some good guesses based on the book! The patterns include a range of basics including the bias-cut top made in episode one, a breton top, palazzo pants, peplum dress, wiggle skirt and camisole top and shorts. There are also some more unusual patterns such as a soft-cup bra (I’m looking forward to that episode!), asymmetric top and skirt, man’s cycling top, and a sequin cocktail dress.

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

My favourite patterns from the book are the YSL-inspired Colour-Blocked Dress, and the Asymmetric Skirt. The children’s dungarees are adorable, and, although there are only two men’s patterns, they are both interesting choices – a cycle top, and a pin-tuck shirt.

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

Full-size pattern pieces are provided on paper pattern sheets in a separate sleeve. Each sheet is labelled with which patterns it contains. Pattern pieces are overlapped, and can be a little fiddly to identify (Burda-style). Make sure to take note of the pattern piece name font colour on the sheet, as the pattern piece outline will be in the same colour – making it easier to identify. Although pattern pieces are full size, some are split in two parts on the sheet due to available space, requiring piecing-together when tracing. I noticed that a few patterns pieces were missing some information, but nothing too misleading (i.e for the Culottes pattern, the waistband piece was missing notches referred to in the instructions, and the pocket piece didn’t state how many pieces to cut).

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

A number of patterns within the book are labelled as ‘hacks’ (e.g the Culottes are a hack of the Palazzo Pants pattern), but helpfully the pattern pieces include cutting lines for the hack variations, so there’s no need for sewers to manually hack the patterns themselves.

In order to try the book for myself, I made up the Culottes pattern (to my mind actually a short-trouser as opposed to culottes, but that’s a matter of opinion).

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

I found the sizing information in the book a little vague. The size chart at the start of the book (sizes 8-20; 32 1/2 – 45 1/2 bust) is labelled as ‘standard ready-to-wear women’s measurement chart’; I couldn’t see an explicit statement that the patterns in the book are based on that chart, although they appear to be. Each pattern has an individual ‘Finished Measurement’ sizing chart, but the amount of ease listed appears to be inaccurate in some instances (e.g. the jumpsuit pattern, which appears relatively fitted in the photo, states that it includes just under 10 inch ease at the bust, as does the Breton Top).

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

For the Culottes Pattern, for example, the overall sizing chart gives the Size 8 waist measurement as 65cm, while the finished measurement chart states the culottes have an 82cm waist (so 17cm ease). I measured the actual pattern pieces and found that the waistband measured 67cm (so a more standard 2cm ease). As such, I’d highly recommend checking the sizing charts, but then measuring the actual pattern pieces before cutting into your fabric.

Other than the sizing information, the Culottes went together easily following the illustrated step-by-step instructions. The only changes I made were to leave off the pocket (the pattern only includes a pocket at one side due to a side zip, which I thought would feel strange), and I gathered the trousers slightly in order to attach them to the waistband as there is quite a significant difference in the width of the trouser front/back pieces and the waistband.

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

I wore these to work today and I think they’ll be a really useful addition to my wardrobe. The fabric is a navy peachskin polyester from new online fabric shop Adam Ross Fabrics, who are based local to me in Birmingham. The fabric has a lovely drape and is super soft; I want to get some more to make a dress.

I’m wearing the culottes in these photos with a Paprika Pattern Onyx Shirt, and a woven scarf from Sancho’s Dress, handwoven in Ethiopia on a wooden loom.

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Don’t forget to read the rest of the posts on the Blog Tour:

MONDAY 16TH MAY
Made Peachy
Cut Out & Keep

TUESDAY 17TH MAY
English Girl at Home
The Sewing Directory

WEDNESDAY 18TH MAY
Sew Over It

THURSDAY 19TH MAY
The Fold Line
Sew What’s New

FRIDAY 20TH MAY
By Hand London

SATURDAY 21ST MAY
A Stitching Odyssey

SUNDAY 22ND MAY
Crafty Sew & So
Guthrie & Ghani

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of From Stitch to Style in exchange for a review, by Quadrille Publishing; I was provided with fabric from Adam Ross Fabrics for use in a project of my choice; all opinions expressed are my own.


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Coat Ogling

Max Mara Coats Book

It’s getting pretty cold here in the UK, and during January it’s Coat Month on IndieSew and Fancy Tiger Crafts are hosting a coat sew-along. Regardless, I’m resisting the urge to sew a coat as I don’t really need a new one (not that I normally let that interfere with my sewing plans), but that hasn’t stopped me from ogling outerwear.

I found this lovely book of Max Mara coats in the library at work. The book was published to accompany a travelling exhibition and features some gorgeous coats from Max Mara’s history, from its founding in the 50s until the 2000s.

If you’re also resisting coat making, one of these might just push you over the edge.

Max Mara Coats Book: F/W 1992-1993

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book

Max Mara Coats Book


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Freehand Fashion Blog Tour: Pencil Skirt & Giveaway

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

I’m very happy to be the first stop on the blog tour for Chinelo Bally’s new book Freehand Fashion. The fun thing about the blog tour is that each participant is making a different garment from the book; I’m kicking things off today with the Pencil Skirt.

Freehand Fashion Book

The book is divided into two main sections: a section covering how to create blocks (bodice, dress, skirt, flare, sleeve), and a project section which shows you how to use the blocks to create 15 garments (plus a couple of variations). The book also includes a small illustrated techniques section which covers key techniques used within the projects (inserting different types of zip, seam finishes, rolled hem, etc.).

Freehand Fashion Book

The blocks section has detailed information on taking a large range of measurements which I really liked and which is usefully generally, not just for the projects in the book. It includes space to jot down your measurements, but as an ex-librarian that’s beyond the pale for me;)

Freehand Fashion Book

It isn’t necessary to create the blocks before starting the garment projects, instead the relevant block steps are referenced in the project instructions (so you’ll need to flick between the two sections when cutting out). However, the blocks could be created in isolation as a starting point for your own designs – allowing you to move beyond the projects included in the book. One key difference from most pattern blocks is that the blocks in the book include seam allowances.

Freehand Fashion Book

It isn’t mentioned in the tools section at the start of the book, but I found having a french curve (or similar) helpful. When drafting the blocks or projects you’ll mark your measurements at key points (e.g. hips, waist) and then draw between the points. Obviously it is possible without, but having a french curve and long ruler helps to achieve neater lines.

Freehand Fashion Book

I’m not including pictures of the other patterns in the book as you’ll see quite a few of them during the blog tour this week! Project instructions are detailed with clear illustrations.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The projects section encourages you to draft the pattern directly on your fabric, which is one of the interesting elements of Chinelo’s drafting style. However, if you are wary you can of course instead follow the instructions with a large sheet of paper and end up with a paper pattern.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The fabric requirement information for the projects is given as a calculation based on your measurements (e.g. hip measurement plus a specified amount for the fabric width) which means you could choose to buy exactly the fabric you require for a project and not have leftover fabric sitting in your stash. It does also mean it is not as quick to check the fabric requirements as you are dashing out of the house, as I am prone to do;)

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

I made the Pencil Skirt project from the book as per instructions, with the exception of leaving off the belt loops. The fabric I used was wool from my stash which I previously used to make an Oslo Cardigan, and I couldn’t resist teaming them up for a few photos (below).

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The fabric wasn’t ideal for this pattern since the pencil skirt doesn’t include a waist band, and the loose weave of this wool could really do with being held in place with a well interfaced band. It would be simple to add a waist band if using a similar fabric, or i’d advise choosing a more structured woven fabric. Near the end of the construction process the book asks you to mark your measurements on the partially constructed skirt to confirm your sewing line; due to the loose weave of my wool I ended up trimming quite a bit off the sides to achieve a nice close fit.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

In keeping with the focus on drafting, the books asks you to decide how high you want the back slit. I should have measured another pencil skirt but just guesstimated (at 5 inches) and it has ended up a little short. I can walk fine but I wouldn’t fancy trying to run.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The construction method for the skirt is different from any I’ve seen; it has you attach the lining to the main fabric at the top and bottom, but sew the main fabric and lining separately at the side seams. It resulted in a really neat inside finish.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

Now for the giveaway!

Pavilion and Chinelo have kindly provided an extra copy of the book to give away (UK only)! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. Let me know your favourite thing about the Great British Sewing Bee (or your thoughts about sewing on TV, if you’re not a viewer). Please make sure to include your email address in your comment if it is not easily available in your profile. The giveaway is open until midnight (UK) on Monday 16th November, after which I’ll randomly pick a winner and announce it on social media. Giveaway now closed!

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

Make sure to look out for seven other garments from the book over the next week, including the Maxi Skirt and Box Top tomorrow on the Pavilion Craft blog.

Friday 13th November
Frida and Amy at Pavilion Craft

Saturday 14th November
Marie at A Stitching Odyssey

Sunday 15th November
Rachel at The Foldline 

Monday 16th November
Lauren at Lady Sewalot

Tuesday 17th November
Amy at Almond Rock

Wednesday 18th November
Rachel at House of Pinheiro

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Freehand Fashion in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own.


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Slow Stitch: A Book Review

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

I recently received a copy of Claire Wellesley-Smith’s beautiful new book Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art. It’s an absolutely gorgeous book from outside in, with a suitably tactile cover. Given the synergy of the book with Slotober, I thought it’d post a short review and some pictures before the month is up.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Claire is a textile artist based in Bradford and the book contains images of her own textile work, the community projects she has been involved in, and her thoughts and reflections on the slow movement and it’s relevance to her work.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Alongside her own projects, Claire celebrates textile arts and hand stitching by profiling a number of contemporary textile artists whose work is in keeping with the slow textiles movement. Each artist profile includes photos and a description of one work by the artist. A section entitled cross-cultural activity profiles a number of textile traditions, such as boro, kantha and mending, illustrated by beautiful examples of each tradition.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

The book is not structured in the format of many craft books, where a large section of the book is dedicated to projects. Instead a more thematic structure is adopted, but with project ideas jotted throughout. There are a number of relatively detailed tutorials included in the book, including solar dyeing threads, log cabin piecing, and creating and maintaining a stitch diary. Alongside the detailed tutorials, the book contains lots of suggestions for techniques readers may wish to explore such as allowing textiles to weather outside, reusing textiles from past projects, sun bleaching, and collecting and reusing locally sourced materials to create a record of a time and place.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Anyone who is interested in slow textiles, natural dyeing and hand sewing will enjoy this book. The book doesn’t contain a large number of tutorials, so don’t buy this book expecting to be taught how to employ all of the techniques it covers, such as mending, boro, hand-stitching, etc. Instead the book aims to inspire readers to engage with the slow textile movement and explore some of the techniques covered for themselves.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Although I’ve been closely following Slotober, I haven’t actively been participating. I have however been plotting and, inspired by Slow Stitch, I am planning to naturally dye some linen thread which was made in Ireland (pictured above). Once I have a few different colours of thread i’m hoping to attempt some hand stitching, which I plan to incorporate in a #1year1outfit garment. That project will take me well beyond October, but in the short term I’m also planning some mending. I have a lovely British wool jumper, purchased from a vintage kilo sale recently, which is full of holes that I can’t wait to darn!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Slow Stitch in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own.