english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Spinning Your Own Yarn

Creating yarn

I have an article in the April issue of Seamwork, released today.

The article is a guide on creating your own yarn, and includes stages from buying and washing a fleece, carding and spinning fibre, plying spun singles, and washing your yarn.

That’s a lot of information to squeeze in. If anything is unclear in the article let me know. I’m only a beginner, but I’ll try to help.

Creating yarn

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

Oh, and I also pop up in another article in this month’s Seamwork! Nicki has written a great article about her #oneyearoneoutfit project, & I’m included as one of the participants.

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

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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 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 Profile in September Seamwork Magazine

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

Woo hoo, my first article for Seamwork is included in the September issue, which is released today.

The article is a profile of TOFT, a British knitting company who produce alpaca and wool yarns, and knitting and crochet patterns.

TOFT yarns are produced in the UK using British fibres, and the business is based on an alpaca farm in Warwickshire, not too far from where I live. Taking part in #1year1outfit has made me really conscious about trying to use locally produced fibres, so it’s great to have such a fantastic business close to home. I also had the best possible day when I visited the farm to interview owner Kerry for the article. In order to photograph the alpaca I was allowed into the pens for some close-ups, so I spent a blissful afternoon climbing into pens and being surrounded by young, curious alpaca.

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

A few photos that weren’t included in the Seamwork article are below.

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm