english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

I’ve been knitting less frequently since I started catching the train to work, with colleagues, because I’m now too busy nattering. However, recently I finally picked up and finished this project which I abandoned last summer.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

This is the Point of View Vest by Hannah Fettig from Knitbot Linen. I started this vest to use up leftover Blacker Yarns Lyonesse yarn from my Hancock cardigan (another Hannah Fettig pattern). I didn’t have quite enough Lyonesse to finish this vest, and by the time I realised, the colourway (Rose Quartz) had been discontinued. Luckily, the replacement colourway (Tourmaline) is close enough that the change in shade at the shoulders doesn’t look out of place.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

The Point of View pattern is designed for linen yarn; because I used a wool/linen blend, the edges of the vest inevitably curl up. I like how this looks at the front, but felt the bottom edge of the vest looked sloppy, so hand sewed ribbon along the edges to weigh them down and keep them flat.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

This is a fairly impractical garment since it doesn’t add much warmth or cover, but it does look quite cute paired here with a Megan Nielsen Maker Tee and favourite People Tree skirt, and with an Inari Tee Dress. These photos were taken on holiday at Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, and the Museum of The Little Prince in Hakone.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest


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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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Sheepy Events

Harcourt Rare Breeds

In the last few weeks, I’ve had the chance to take part in a few sheep/wool related events due to being a member of the Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

A couple of weeks ago, I spent Bank Holiday Monday visiting Harcourt Rare Breeds. The Harcourt flock is split over two sites, with one of those sites relatively local to me in Market Bosworth, and the other in Harrogate. The Midlands flock is housed in the ‘back garden’ (fields behind the house) of owner Shaun, so it was very kind of Shaun to welcome some members of our Guild into his home for lunch, and into his garden to meet the sheep.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Suitably enough, to reach Harcourt Rare Breeds we traveled through the parish of Sheepy, which contains the villages of Sheepy Magna and Sheepy Parva. As you can guess from their name, Harcourt specialise in rare breed British sheep, including Border Leicester, which look like overgrown rabbits due to their  upright ears, and Leicester Longwool, which have a beautiful long silky fleece.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds

Harcourt Rare Breeds sell both fleeces and prepared yarn. Since I still haven’t (nearly) finished preparing the last fleece I bought, I instead came away with three skeins of Leicester Longwool yarn. Shaun also gave each of us a goodie bag of fleece! I selected Leicester Longwool fleece, and you can see the before and after shot of the fleece and prepared yarn from the flock below.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

There are quite a few lambs in the flock currently, and one came into the house to visit us to our delight.

Harcourt Rare Breeds

The next outing we had as a Guild was to visit Wooly Week at Sandwell Park Farm. I wasn’t aware of the Farm before but will definitely visit again, it’s located in a restored Victorian farm, with lovely walled kitchen gardens, a tea room, and a number of rare breed animals.

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Shearing demonstrations were taking place throughout the day, and my Guild were attending to demonstrate the process of preparing the fleece to produce yarn. The rare breed animals on the farm include a couple of sheep from a traditional breed (pictured below, the name of which I’ve forgotten) which malts its fleece, rather than requiring shearing.

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Sandwell Park Farm Woolly Week

Finally, last weekend my Guild ran a Back-to-Back Challenge at Lickey Hills Visitor Centre. My understanding of the history of the Back to Back Challenge, is that the initial inspiration for the challenge is the Newbury Coat. In 1811, in the village of Newbury, a Baronet allegedly made a large bet that a local mill owner could produce a tailored coat in one day. In thirteen hours and ten minutes, those involved sheared a sheep, washed, spun and wove the wool into cloth, the cloth was then scoured and dyed, and finally tailors cut and sewed the cloth into a formal hunting coat. The Baronet sat down to dinner wearing the coat at the end of the day.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

The original Newbury Coat challenge celebrated contemporary developments in mill machinery, but in 1992 the Back to Back Challenge was created to raise funds for charity by producing a hand-knit sweater from a fleece in a day (I believe the World Record is less than 5 hours). Official Back to Back Challenge entries need to follow set rules, so our Guild Back to Back challenge was more informal. Rather than starting by shearing a sheep, we started with a local Romney fleece, unwashed but pre-sheared. Participation was open to all interested members of the Guild, with everyone contributing depending on their skills/preference, including carding, spinning, plying, and lots of knitting. My spinning skills are still very basic, so I carded until yarn was available and then mostly knitted.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

We didn’t quite complete a full garment during the day (our event took place from roughly 09:30-05:15), but we got very close, with just a little knitting and seaming left to do to complete an adult’s oversized cardigan, from a pattern designed by a member of the Guild.

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre

Back to Back Challenge Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers at Lickey Hills Visitors Centre


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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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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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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