english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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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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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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Polkagris Kerchief

Polkagris Kerchief

I hope everyone reading is enjoying the weekend. I had a great day attending the Sew Up North meet-up yesterday, and am thoroughly enjoying sitting on the sofa in my pyjamas this morning, with plans to sew while catching up with vlogs once I’ve clicked publish on this post.

Polkagris Kerchief

It’s been a while since I shared a knitting project on the blog. This is the Polkagris Kerchief by Kate Davies, which I bought as a kit when it was released in summer 2018. The kit (pattern, yarn and bag) was £10 so it was a really affordable project and gift to myself.

Polkagris Kerchief

The kit sat in my stash for a little while before I decided to knit it as an easy wind-down project at the start of 2019, once Christmas (and associated present making) was over and done with. With no fit worries, an easy pattern to follow, and good quality yarn to work with, I thoroughly enjoyed this project from start to finish.

Polkagris Kerchief

Since finishing knitting the kerchief, however, I have rarely worn it. I loved the original launch photos – which inspired me to order the kit in the first place – but I find it quite difficult to style. The kerchief won’t stay put without being knotted (or a pin added), but a knot looks very bulky on such a small scarf.  I’ve had a look back at the product photos and have spotted that it tends to be worn with a small knot at the very ends of the kerchief or tucked inside a high neckline, so I’ll have another go at pairing it with some outfits in the next few weeks. This is the perfect time of year for the scarf if I can find a way to be comfortable wearing it, while the weather is cooler but not yet cold enough for my larger scarves.

Polkagris Kerchief

These photos were taken just after I finished the kerchief, during a holiday to Alicante in early January. Not long after, Kate Davies was challenged for failing to make clear her stance on racism and diversity in the knitting community, and then reacted badly to criticism, posting defensive blog posts and deleting her social media accounts. As a result I wasn’t comfortable sharing this project at the time, but since then her business has clearly taken steps to diversify, in terms of people referenced in Kate’s writing, and featured in product and other imagery.

Polkagris Kerchief

I purchased another Kate Davies kit last year, for a much more involved project, which I’ve just finished knitting and am looking forward to sharing soon. It’s also a shawl, but couldn’t be more different from this kerchief.

Polkagris Kerchief


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Knitbot Trail Jacket

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

Having done very little knitting last year after a couple of dissatisfying projects, I had a really productive few months over Christmas and into the start of the new year. One of the projects I completed was this Trail Jacket, by Hannah Fettig (Knitbot). I finished it shortly before leaving for a trip to New York in February, and I bought and attached the buttons while on holiday. These pictures were taken a few days later while visiting the Museum of the Moving Image (see picture with muppet below!).

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

I bought the pattern in 2016 and the yarn (West Yorkshire Spinners Croft Yarn in Boddam colourway) from BritYarn (RIP) in 2017, so I’m glad to finally bring the jacket to fruition. The yarn is aran weight and the pattern easy to follow so the jacket knits up really quickly.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

I don’t have much of a yarn stash. I have the odd ball brought back from a holiday, leftover odds and ends, and a few more substantial amounts of yarn bought for a project, such as this, which it has taken me longer than expected to get around to knitting. I’m hoping to work through those project-quantities of yarn this year, and then buy yarn as I’m ready to knit with it. We’ll see how I do. The same is NEVER going to happen with fabric/sewing patterns.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

My button placket isn’t the neatest (I had to position the buttons quite far across in order for them to sit centrally once fastened), but I know I’ll wear this jacket loads. I definitely wear knitted cardigans/jackets more than sweaters, since they can be worn as a layering piece year ’round. I really like the cropped sleeves (although inevitably they want to ride up when I put a coat on), and I love the specked ‘tweed’ effect of the Croft yarn, which is made with 100% Shetland Island wool.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

The next project I’ve started using my existing yarn stash is a hap in lace weight yarn so I’m expecting that one to take quite a bit longer than this jacket. Wish me luck in keeping on track!

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn


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Two Knitted Skating Hats

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

A few months ago, a vintage fashion Instagrammer I follow posted a picture of herself in a ear warmer she had made and I decided I had to have one.

I made a search on Ravelry (ear warmer? head warmer? headband?) and managed to stumble on a free pattern by Julie Bierlein for the Portsmouth knitted skating hat.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in Alafosslopi

This is a simple and well designed pattern, with the option to knit in chunky/bulky or super chunky/bulky yarn. I knit two versions and each one took me two evenings, at a relaxed pace.

I really wanted a pink hat, but I thought I’d test the pattern with some stash yarn first, and used Ístex Álafoss Lopi in Golden Heather for my yellow version. I bought this yarn on a whim during a trip to Sweden back in 2015, and I previously used some of the ball in this hat. I still have loads left so no doubt it will show up on the blog again at some point.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in Alafosslopi

Having tested out the pattern, I ordered some pink yarn for version two. Always keen to support British yarn companies, I chose West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat yarn in the Escape colourway.

Both the yarns I used were chunky weight yarns, but the Alafoss is much firmer, which I think works really well for this pattern. Despite being my test version, my yellow version keeps its shape better and has a crisper silhouette. The soft pink yarn is much softer and has more stretch. I should have compensated for the stretch by knitting the pink hat slightly shorter but I didn’t realise until it was already finished and washed.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

I wasn’t sure how often I would wear these ‘hats’, but I wore them daily during a recent trip to New York. From the perspective of someone with long hair, they do a good job of keeping your head warm, and wearing them doesn’t result in a ‘hat hair’ effect.

For a fairly frivolous looking accessory they are actually quite practical, and easy to roll-up and pop in a pocket or bag when not being worn.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

I’m currently making a hat which definitely can’t be described as practical, a small pillbox hat to wear to the Dressmakers’ Ball next week, using some leftover fabric from my dress.

This was definitely one time when I was glad to have purchased slightly more fabric than I needed for the dress as I’m also planning to make a matching belt, and maybe a bag. There’s only four days left before the Ball now – wish me luck.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat


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Altered Wharf Street Pullover

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

During 2016 (and following being one of the winners of the We Wear Knitbot Competition), I was extremely flattered to be asked to test knit a pattern from Hannah Fettig‘s upcoming book, Texture.

I selected the Wharf Street Pullover, and it was a reminder that I am still a relatively inexperienced knitter as it took me far longer than the testing period to knit and I missed the deadline for feedback, plus my finished jumper (blogged in 2017) ended up excessively long in the body and sleeves.

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a lot of wear from a tunic length jumper, so last year I built up the courage to finally alter it. Since the pattern is knit bottom-up, it isn’t possible to unravel from the bottom. Instead you need to decide where you want to remove length from, cut into the jumper at this point, and then unravel downwards, towards the hem. Due to the honeycomb cables it wasn’t quite as simple as that, since the yarn didn’t want to unravel and needed quite a lot of untangling.

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

As it was my first time removing length from a jumper in this way, I started by cutting into the jumper lower down and unravelling that section, then repeated the process higher up. Once the jumper was a length I was happy with I picked the stitches back up and replaced the ribbing. I repeated this process for the body and the sleeves, and the resulting jumper is much more wearable and flattering

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

These pictures were taken in front of a warehouse which is located right by Barry’s Fabrics. No wonder I look happy in the picture below, I’m probably plotting what fabric/s I am about to buy.

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

My current knitting project is a Hannah Fettig design, Trail Jacket, which should be a relatively quick knit. My all-time most worn knitting project, the Hancock Cardigan, is also by Hannah and at some point I really must knit another as it’s the perfect cardi for throwing over any outfit.

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

Phil is busy laying tiles in our kitchen as I type, so I’ll leave you to show solidarity by preparing some lunch. I’m awaiting the imminent arrival of an embossing label ‘printer’, with which I plan to annotate a book of my sewing plans – sounds like a perfect Sunday afternoon.

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

P.S. the yarn used was the yarn suggested in the pattern; Quince & Co’s Owl (worsted 50% American wool, 50% alpaca, which is spun and dyed in USA) in the ‘mesa’ colourway.

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig


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Holiday Snaps & Meandering Thoughts

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

Phil and I dragged out the Christmas holiday as long as possible, spending a few days in Alicante before returning to work this week.

These pictures, of garments I’ve previously blogged, were taken while we were away (Malachi Vest / In the Folds Jumpsuit / Tamarack Jacket). I didn’t spend a lot of time sewing over Christmas, but did start the process of making two coats (one for me and one for Phil). I’m taking my time attaching interfacing and canvas, resisting the impulse to rush ahead to construction, in order to create coats which should look, and last, all the better for it.

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

I wanted to thank everyone who read, or got in touch about, my recent post regarding my experience with my previous employer. A few people who commented used the word ‘proud’ which led me to recall a memory from the time which I thought was worth sharing, and which I didn’t touch on in my previous post, since I kept that largely to a blow-by-blow account.

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

At my lowest point working for that employer I spent one week off work, and in bed, recovering from a combination of stress and anaemia. Amongst the many emotions I felt at that time, I realised that I felt ashamed.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Ashamed because, in a work context, I had come to view myself as a ‘strong’ person, and this had become central to my concept of – and what I valued about – myself. Certainly my concept of what constituted strength in this context (including being willing and able to work as long and hard as anyone, to take on more work and work out of hours without complaint and without getting stressed) was promoted by my employer (in my first interview for the organisation, when I was hired, I was asked about my willingness to work over and above my hours. I told them it wasn’t an issue, and meant it). However, my employer can’t take all the blame, they had simply built on an existing prejudice I held.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

How I felt at that time, physically and emotionally weak, but without a physical cause to attribute my symptoms to in order to ‘justify’ them to myself and to my employer, was incompatible with my own (and my employer’s) prejudice about what it was to be a strong person.

In the Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

Initially I was ashamed because my view of what I valued in myself was challenged, but once I had time to dwell on it I was ashamed that I’d been judging people (predominantly myself, but inevitably, if unconsciously, my colleagues too) against a practically feudal concept. It took being physically weak to teach me that my concept of a ‘strong’ person was a nonsense, and that by judging myself against it I had set myself up to fail.

It was a humbling lesson, but in learning it I hope to be kinder to myself and others in future.

In the Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit