english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Paris Sewcial

Last weekend was the Paris Sewcial / Paris Coud meet-up, organised by myself and Carmen Bouchard.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

Back in 2014, I attended a Paris meet-up organised by Carmen, and this January I decided it was time for another large meet-up in Paris. Carmen agreed to organise it with me and took on the tasks of arranging our meals, as well as recommending lots of great shops and the Musée Yves Saint Laurent (thanks Carmen!).

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

Around 50 of us met near the Sacré-Cœur on Saturday morning to visit Montmartre’s fabric shops. We had lots of attendees joining us from the UK and France, but also from Belgium, Germany, Canada and America. Phil was roped into taking a group photo in front of the Sacré-Cœur before departing to do his own thing for the day.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

We split into smaller groups as people moved to find lunch and explore further afield, but almost everyone made it to the dp Studio pop-up shop. By coincidence, the pattern company were holding a pop-up to sell their patterns and leftover fabric from previous samples and collections for one day only on the Saturday. The fabric was priced at €5 per metre (although they were generous at rounding down) and we all enjoyed a good rummage. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to try one of their patterns for the first time, and picked the Le 600 Blouse which is well represented on Instagram.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

By this point we were well into the afternoon. Paris’ fabric shops are open quite late (until around 7pm) so lots of the group visited one more shop before heading back to hotels to drop off fabric and prepare for dinner. Carmen had arranged a three-course meal, plus musical accompaniment, for us, after which everyone was ready to fall into bed.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

On Sunday, a group of us met for brunch before visiting the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, located in the building where the couture house was based in Paris and where Yves Saint Laurent worked. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, the last women standing travelled slightly out of town (by metro and bus) to visit Bennytex Fabric Warehouse. Bennytex made us very welcome, staying open until we finished shopping, and giving each of us a small coffee on arrival and a free metre or so of jersey fabric before we left.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

Thanks so much to everyone who joined us over the weekend. As always, it was lovely to catch-up with old friends and to meet new ones. As someone who has never lived outside of Birmingham, it’s brilliant to be part of an international community online and – sometimes – in person.

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019

I’ve published a short vlog with some footage of the weekend, and of my purchases, which you can view here:

Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
Paris Sewcial Meet-Up May 2019
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Refashioners Bar Jacket at Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

Last weekend Phil and I had tickets to see two exhibitions at the V&A, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams and Mary Quant. We decided to make a weekend away of it, and spent the rest of the time having a look in the shops, and generally mooching around London.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

When I booked to the see the Dior show I immediately knew I wanted to wear the outfit I made for The Refashioners 2018, to the exhibition. Last Saturday morning I got dressed in the full outfit – imitation bar jacket, pleated skirt, petticoat, long gloves – picked up my refashioned fruit-bowl hat, and set off for London.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

It was fun to wear the full outfit together again for the first time since I got photos for my Refashioners entry in Paris, and to get a photo of the outfit next to its inspiration (first photo). I feel a bit like I’m playing dress-up for the first few moments after putting on the petticoat, but it soon feels completely normal. It’s actually quite a comfortable outfit so long as I’m only wearing a single layer under the fitted jacket, any more than that and I feel squashed in.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

The Dior show is excellent sewing inspiration and I’m hoping to get some sewing done myself before the end of this weekend. I might even work on the 1950s inspired ‘waspie’ corset pattern recently released by Gertie for Butterick (which I was hoping to wear to the exhibition under my bar jacket, until I decided to use up my potential sewing time playing Pokemon: Let’s Go! instead).

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

I do find that galleries always make me want to draw, paint, sew, weave, or generally create. Normally I forget that by the time I get home, but i’m hoping to find time for some other crafts in addition to sewing this year. I’ve booked on a couple of workshops, and I’ve set my drawing and embroidery supplies close to hand. I’ve also started a tap dance class recently, to try a completely different creative hobby for the very first time. Sewing is still number one though, and I’m sure all of those other crafts will end up coming back to sewing and to this blog.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A


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Modified Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

I originally made, and blogged, this dress (The Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress) a year ago, but I was never happy with the fit on me. Apart from a couple of trial outings, this dress hung on my wardrobe door for a year waiting to be altered.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

After that long wait, it took me a single evening to alter the dress and add it into rotation in my wardrobe. The alterations I made were to remove 7 inches from the hem, reduce the width of the shoulders (I temporarily removed the sleeves and cut a crescent shaped section from each shoulder), remove the elastic from the sleeve hems, increase the waistline gathering, and generally improve the tidiness of my sewing.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

The dress is sewn in a crepe fabric from John Lewis and paired here with a matching lipstick and another pill box hat. The construction of the hat is as per my previous post, and the fabric is a pale pink pvc with a snakeskin print and texture, from Fancy Silk Store. I spotted this fabric the first time I visited Fancy Silk Store for hat making supplies; once I had a first pill box under my belt I went back to buy this fabric. These hats only use a tiny amount of fabric so I have plenty left and may use it to make a matching bag.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

Over the recent bank holiday weekend, Phil and I made the most of the sunshine and visited a couple of Birmingham Museums’ venues. It’s easy to forget to be curious about historic sites which are close to home, and we’re slowly working our way around some local sites, including Soho House (home of the industrialist Matthew Boulton) where these photos were taken.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

#memademay2019 is fast approaching. My pledge is to use the challenge to help me reach a point where I enjoy wearing everything in my wardrobe (me-made, second-hand, and ready-to-wear). That means getting rid of clothes which no longer fit or which I no longer enjoy wearing, altering me-made garments which I’m not completely happy with, and finishing my UFOs. This dress is one example of working towards that pledge, and I’m hoping to continue throughout May and beyond.


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Night and Day Dress for the Dressmakers’ Ball

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

For the first Dressmakers’ Ball, organised by the team at Crafty Sew & So in Leicester, back in 2017, I left making my dress until the very last minute and ended up sewing a knit dress the night before the ball.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

This year I was determined to be organised, and finished my dress with so much time to spare that I ended up making a matching belt, pill box hat, and bag (which collectively won me an award on the night for best accessory!).

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The dress is Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress. I have the PDF version of the pattern (a gift from my parents for Christmas) and sent it for A0 printing as the pattern has many variations (including some very full skirts) so is enormous. I printed all of the pages as I’m keen to try some other variations in the near future. The version of the dress I made for the ball was actually decided by my fabric choice.

I was visiting New York – and attending Male Pattern Boldness Day – the month before the Ball, so decided to buy fabric for the dress at the meet-up. I was planning to get something drapey to make the bishop sleeved version of the Night & Day Dress, but once I spotted this double-sided metallic brocade in Metro Textiles I was sold.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Having had pretty consistent body measurements since my twenties, if not before, I’ve increased a few inches in the bust and waist recently. On a few recent projects I’ve cut out on autopilot based on the size I’m used to cutting (and gotten away with it), but for this project I was determined that I wasn’t going to skimp on any steps to a well fitting dress. I measured myself and cut the correct size, only to find, when I tried the work-in-progress bodice on, that it was too large. I took the bodice apart and cut the pieces down a size (to a 4 in the bust and 6 in the waist to hips, the size I would have cut on autopilot) and the fit was just right. I’ve since bought Gertie’s new book, Gertie Sews Jiffy Dresses, which uses the same sizes/block as Charm patterns, and Gertie notes in the introduction that the sizes are generous in the bust and hip.

I should say that I don’t bother with muslins/toiles, so although I always hope patterns will fit first go, I’m always expecting to need to make changes. Personally I prefer to make alterations to a sewing project as I go, in this way, and regularly do. I find that approach works much better for me, and I’m very rarely left with an unsalvagable project.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

After making the dress, I felt that the pattern needed breaking up at the waist so I made a matching belt, using the reverse side of the brocade. I couldn’t find any belt buckles for sale locally in Birmingham, and hadn’t left myself long enough to risk ordering one online. I popped into H&M in the hope of finding something suitable and found an ugly fake leather belt on sale for £3. I cut my fabric based on the width of the buckle (not the belt I removed, which was much wider & horribly bunched up), and punched through some Prym eyelets for belt holes.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Next I started on a hat. I have a couple of hat making books I picked up cheaply years ago and hadn’t yet made anything from. This pill box hat was based on a design in Saturday Night Hat. The book instructions are based on using millinery supplies, but I walked to Fancy Silk Store one lunch break and asked for the closest they had to double buckram. The material I bought feels quite plasticky and is impossible to sew through, so it works to provide a firm structure but is more of a faff than an actual double buckram would be (I assume). The base of the hat is a circle (for the top) and a rectangle (for the sides) which I managed to attach together (the material also resisted all attempted to glue it) by punching holes along the edges of the top and sides, and sewing the pieces together through these holes. The hat is then covered in fabric pieces, which are sewn to each other. Finally, I punched Prym eyelets on either side and threaded elastic through. It’s worn behind my ears / under my hair.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The hat pictured here isn’t actually the version worn at the ball. This is a replacement pill box, as the first was ‘stolen’! The day after the ball, Phil and I were having a wander around Leicester. I was carrying the pill box hat in a plastic bag (along with a cheap comb and a sewing kit) to avoid squashing it in our very full suitcase, and accidentally left the bag unattended for ten minutes in McDonalds. We dashed back to find it but it was already gone! This second version is better constructed than the first, so I’m thinking of the lost one as a rare (for me) toile!

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

Finally, the night before the ball, I decided to whip up a matching bag. This bag was based on a pattern included with a recent issue of Simply Sewing magazine (issue 54). I didn’t have time to create/order a strap, so borrowed one from one of my handbags, and I finished hand-sewing the inside of the bag on the train to the ball (in good company, travelling with the lovely Sue).

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress

The Dressmakers’ Ball was a really fun evening and a great incentive to make a more glamorous dress and a plethora of accessories. I believe Crafty Sew & So are planning to hold the ball every other year, and I’m thinking next time I need to take the word ‘ball’ to heart and create something really dramatic.

Charm Patterns Night and Day Dress


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DPL Belted

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

Today I took some time out of the office to attend a student-led fashion conference on campus (I work at a University). Sustainability was a focus for many of the speakers and I came away with some ideas of what I could make to commemorate this year’s Fashion Revolution Week taking place 22 – 28 April. Last year I made a Fashion Revolution Tee, and I’d like to create or alter a garment again this year (potentially using my fabric scraps).

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

I also came away with a desire to try growing fabric! Kirie-Lea Cussen presented her project to grow a bacterial-cellulose fabric for garment making using a kombucha recipe, inspired by Suzanne Lee’s work. Suzanne Lee has shared her ‘recipe’ and process online. I just need to figure out where on earth I could store a large container of bacteria at a consistent temperature…

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

I was wearing this top today. It’s Digital Pattern Library’s Belted Sweater in a cotton spandex knit from Girl Charlee. This is a recent favourite which I’ve worn to quite a few meet-ups but am only just blogging. I love the shape of this, which can differ quite a bit depending on how you tie the belt. I tend to tie it at the front, as pictured here, and really like how the back hem fans out as a result. My other favourite feature is the wide neckband.

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

I really want to make another Belted Sweater in a thicker fabric for a more exaggerated silhouette, and I also think it would look quite elegant in a lighter weight and drapier fabric. Two more options for the future sewing queue!

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

All of those projects will need to wait in line though, as my next project is a ‘waspie’ corset to wear to visit the Dior exhibition at the V&A next Month. I’m planning to wear the New Look inspired outfit which was my contribution to The Refashioners 2018 to the exhibition, with the addition of a waspie corset underneath. I was inspired by Gertie’s B6643 release with Butterick, which I finally managed to get hold of in the UK today, to give a corset a try.

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater

If you’re not familiar with Digital Pattern Library I’d highly recommend their Instagram account, and their most recent pattern the Ruffle Tee is very cool.

Digital Pattern Library Belted Sweater


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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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Coat Sewing

Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat

This may be the first ever time that I haven’t blogged in a while because I was too busy sewing.

Sewing and blogging are quite closely linked for me, and, typically, if I am quiet on the blog it’s because I’ve not had the time and/or energy to sew recently.

Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat

The community element is a big part of why I sew regularly. Before this blog, and before being conscious of the sewing community, I did sew, but without the inspiration of fellow sewers, and the added incentive of sharing my own projects and plans, it was intermittent, and just one of many hobbies.

Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat

Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat

The project which has kept me away from the blog this time is a coat for Phil. It isn’t the coat you can see in these pictures – which is the Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat I made for him back in 2015. Apparently I only make him coats, as this Peacoat was the first thing I sewed for him, and the current coat is the second.

Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat

The coat I’m currently working on is the Free Sewing Carlton Coat and I’m looking forward to sharing the coat, and lots of details about its construction, once ready. I was really hoping to have the coat ready for our holiday to New York last week; nothing like an arbitrary sewing deadline to keep you busy! I started the coat just after Christmas and thought a late February deadline would be realistic (ahem, I was actually aiming to make myself a coat too), but it has taken me many, many hours and I’m committed to getting it right.

Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat

In the interim I took some photos of Phil in his Peacoat last week, in New York Botanical Garden. It was the first coat I sewed and I made various small errors during its construction, but the coat has worn really well despite them. The wool, from Barry’s Fabrics, has worn brilliantly with the occasional removal of bobbles from areas where he has carried a bag.

Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat

I do like re-photographing and celebrating long-standing garments, and it was nice to get some updated photos of Phil in this coat, particularly as he looks so young to me in the previous blog post pictures now. Phil wasn’t quite so fond of being photographed – as demonstrated below!

Thread Theory Goldstream Peacoat