english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England

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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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My Favourite Sewing Pattern Releases in 2019

Favourite Sewing Patterns Banner Image

I’ve published my first vlog of 2020, which is a look back at my favourite sewing patterns released in 2019.

You can watch the vlog below or via my YouTube channel.

If you fancy revisiting some great previous pattern releases, see also my favourite patterns in 2018 and 2017.

Patterns mentioned:

Charm Patterns – Princess Coat

Helen’s Closet – Yanta Overalls

Nina Lee – Mayfair Dress

Carmen Bouchard – La Jupe en Jean

Deer & Doe – Sirocco Jumpsuit

Sew Over It / Lisa Comfort Magazine – Amelia Jacket

Friday Pattern Company – Wilder Gown

Closet Case Patterns – Pietra Pants & Shorts

Closet Case Patterns – Sienna Maker Jacket

Pauline Alice – Ayora Jacket

Tabitha Sewer – Lena Horne Dress

Opian – Pilatus Swimsuit

Vogue – V1648

Vogue – V1650

Noodlehead – Crescent Tote

Noodlehead – Redwood Tote

Sugardale – Len Coveralls


My 2019

Happy new year everyone! I’ve been writing this blog for eight years now and always enjoy looking back at the end of the year.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I started a new job just over a year ago. It has turned out to be not very exciting, but it has meant that all of my free time is my own which has meant plenty of time for sewing. That’s allowed me to sew some of the new pattern releases this year straight away (including Deer and Doe’s Sirocco, CocoWawa’s Raspberry, Alice & Co’s Georgie, Tilly’s Indigo, and Closet Case Patterns’ Pietra).

CocoWawa Raspberry Jumpsuit

It has also allowed me to pick up and complete quite a few projects from my unfinished-objects basket. Including a Yates Coat and faux-fur Tamarack Jacket which I cut out last winter, and a Trend Patterns’ 70s Dress which I cut out for a Christmas party two years ago.

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

In addition to having more time to sew this year, I also began taking more care over my sewing. I really noticed an improvement in my sewing this year – an increased ability to understand how to construct a garment, and to respond to fitting or other issues as they occur. It felt like a sudden change, but it’s of course the accumulation of several years of regular garment sewing. This increased proficiency made me want to take more care, and I’ve not only being putting more care into the garments I made this year, but also revisiting past projects to address small issues with fit or finish which I’ve never been completely happy with.

The Sewing Weekender 2019

Alongside sewing, I continued to organise sewing events. I (jointly) organised the fourth Sewing Weekender (with Kate & Rachel from The Fold Line), and the sixth SewBrum (with Lauren Guthrie), plus the the first Paris Sewcial with Carmen Bouchard. Thanks so much to everyone who attends each event and makes them fun to organise and to attend. Thank you so much also to the sponsors and charity raffle prize donors. In the six years it has been running, SewBrum has raised £3,690 for six charities which is a lovely bonus of organising an event I started because I wanted to attend it!

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

I made sure to make time to attend other events in the sewing community. I get a lot of enjoyment out of organising events, but attending an event you haven’t organised is completely different, and you are able to fully relax and enjoy the event in a way you can’t at an event you have organised. I travelled to New York to attend Male Pattern Boldness day, Leicester for the Dressmakers’ Ball, Leeds for Sew Up North, and Bristol for the Like Sew Amazing shop launch. I’m also a regular attendee at the excellent relaxed monthly meet-up Brummie Yarn Social (thanks so much to @sewsuehandmade for organising us).

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

Online, I participated in two sewing swaps, the #ogdenidaswap and #secretsewingswap. Inspired by the Love to Sew podcast, I set up a dedicated Instagram account @sewcialevents for sharing and curating sewing challenges and events in a single place, and have remained pretty good at keeping it updated.

Closet Case Pietra Shorts

I continued to try new sewing techniques and pattern types, including sewing my first ever pair of shorts, first pair of jeans, and second ever swimsuit. I also had a go at making earmuffs to match my Tamarack Jacket and a hairband to match my Indigo Dress.

Opian Pilatus Swimsuit in Liberty fabric

Outside of sewing, I listened to 31 audio books (including 14 Agatha Christie books for free via Birmingham Library). I studied English Literature and Librarianship for my undergraduate and masters degrees respectively, which is a pretty good indicator that I used to read a lot. The amount of books I read (as opposed to magazines, blogs, etc. which has remained pretty healthy) has slipped to next to nothing in the last couple of years so I’ve really enjoyed getting back into reading via audiobooks, and it also satisfies my desire to feel like I’m multi-tasking. I was intending to use my audiobook subscription as an opportunity to keep up with new releases and instead have largely been listening to classics and old favourites, but that’s ok too.

Handwoven tartan scarf

I continued volunteering for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers; running the newsletter and social media for the Association, and taking on the role of (joint) Programme Secretary for Birmingham Guild. I attended my first Association Summer School (they run for a week every two years) and spent a week weaving tweed and tartan near York. I really enjoyed it, but also felt like it ‘clicked’ for me and could become a serious hobby. I treated myself to a loom just before Christmas and I am planning to set it up during January and start experimenting with weaving my own fabric.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

During 2019, I tried out other crafts by attending workshops in ply-split braiding, sign painting, foiling, monoprinting, bargello, and hoop earring making. I also attended two terms of tap dancing class. Unlike weaving, I don’t think tap dancing will ever ‘click’ for me, but I enjoyed being challenged, being part of a lovely group, and observing the contrast with the level of comfort and proficiency I feel with sewing.

Thank you so much for reading my blog this year. I still enjoy reading blogs and I still enjoy writing a blog, so have no intention to stop and have lots planned to share in 2020.


Belted Sweater in Liberty Sweatshirting

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

Pattern: Belted Sweater by Digital Pattern Library

Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 3.5 hours

Fabric: Liberty sweatshirting from Birmingham Rag Market (The Little World of Fabric, also known as ‘The Liberty Man’)

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

I hope everyone who celebrates it had a good Christmas. I’ve had a couple of quiet days in the house following spending Christmas and Boxing Day with family, and a couple of busy weeks in the run up. I spent the days immediately before Christmas focused on sewing a couple of gifts (using Noodlehead’s Forage Bag pattern) and hastily sewing a new dress in a day (Trend Patterns’ 70s Dress). I finished the dress just in time to wear it on Christmas Day (with a spot of hand sewing on Christmas morning and my brother sewing me into the cuffs), but I rushed the last sections so they aren’t finished to a standard I’m happy with. I’m going to revisit the sections of the dress that I rushed, perhaps before New Year’s Eve so that I can wear the dress to a second party asap.

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

These pictures were taken a few days before Christmas, in the local park on the way home from some last-minute present shopping. This is my second version of the Belted Sweater by Digital Pattern Library, sewn in a Liberty sweatshirting bought during this year’s SewBrum meet-up from the ‘Liberty Man’ in the Rag Market (also known as The Little World of Fabric on Ebay).

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

After making my first Belted Sweater in a lightweight knit, I was keen to try it in a heavier-weight fabric. I spotted this Liberty fabric at a bargain price (I think I paid £20 in total) during SewBrum and thought I’d try pairing it with the pattern. The resulting sweater is very cosy and I’m really enjoying wearing it. I think a slightly lighter weight sweatshirting would be more practical though (and is what I’d opt for next time) as this Liberty fabric is very thick and with the ties wrapped around the waist I’ve found that my slim fit RTW coat won’t do up over it! Luckily I’ve now finished the Yates coat I started a year ago which is roomy enough to fit this jumper under.

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

I love how different this pattern can look dependent how the ties are done up, and you can create some lovely pleats and tucks in the fabric. I’m a big fan of a good sweatshirt pattern (evidence: the number of Lindens I have sewn) and I love that this pattern offers something a bit different. I requires a bit more fabric and a bit more time than a more ‘standard’ sweatshirt, but is an equally straightforward project to sew.

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater

My brother has been trying to get me into Stardew Valley for a few years (I’m a big fan of the Harvest Moon games) and has bought me the Switch version for Christmas, so I’m going to curl up on the sofa and start farming this evening. Have a great new year everyone and I’ll catch you in 2020!

Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater Digital Pattern Library Liberty Belted Sweater


Tilly & the Buttons Indigo

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

Pattern: Indigo Dress by Tilly and the Buttons

Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 5 hours

Fabric: Gifted by Kate at The Sewing Weekender 2017

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

After a busy week and a rubbish election result, I decided to treat myself to a weekend at home. Apart from a couple of excursions out for sustenance – and to take these photos – I’ve stayed in the house, watched films, and sewn. It’s meant being able to finish a Yates coat for myself and getting back to the blog after a couple of weeks absence.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

It was a bit chilly taking these photos in the local park, but I wanted to share my Tilly and the Buttons Indigo Dress – and the hairband I made to match it. I’ve been making good progress through both my unfinished-object pile, and my fabric stash, this year. This fabric was a piece which Kate (of The Fold Line) gifted to me at The Sewing Weekender in 2017, so it was really satisfying to sew with it and to be able to start wearing it at last.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

My Indigo is graded between sizes 3 and 4, I made the dress length version and included all of the ruffles (although they aren’t easy to see in the pictures due to the business of the fabric). It’s such an easy and comfortable dress and I’m sure it will get lots of wear once the weather warms up again. I have to credit Joy, Amy & Marie‘s version of the Indigo in particular for tempting me to make my own.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

I wear headbands regularly, and decided to have a go at making one to match this dress using my fabric scraps. For the base of my headband I ordered wide plastic headband bases from Petershams Millinery Supplies. To cover the band I cut a rectangular strip of fabric, sewed it up as a tube and secured it around the band with a few stitches. I then made two more rectangular tubes, and attached them on top of the band to form a bow. It’s a really cheap and easy way to make a matching accessory and uses very little fabric. I’ll definitely be making more.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

Now that my Yates coat is finished my next (sewing) priority is finishing a Carlton Coat for Phil which I started last year, and a dress for me to wear on Christmas Day which I cut out two years ago. If I can get those projects completed I will be starting 2020 with a very healthy (i.e. small) unfinished-objects basket, and loads of plans for working through more of my fabric stash in the new year. But first I’m going to go back to a weekend of films and relaxing on the sofa beside the Christmas tree.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress


Faux Fur Tamarack

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Pattern: Tamarack Jacket by Grainline Studio

Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 4 hours

Fabric: Faux fur from Samuel Taylors / Sew Up North 2018

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

This faux fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket was a long time coming. I first decided to make a Tamarack in faux fur in November 2015, after seeing a RTW faux fur jacket in a similar shape. It then took me until 2018 to spot a faux fur fabric I liked enough to buy it – in Samuel Taylors, Leeds during the 2018 Sew Up North meet-up.

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

I cut out all of the pattern pieces for this jacket (including interfacing and lining) last winter but didn’t find the time to sew it. A few weeks ago I plucked the pattern pieces out of my unfinished objects basket and after around four hours sewing time I finally had a finished jacket. Further evidence that sewing only makes up a small part of many sewing projects!

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Despite having planned this jacket since 2015, the high street is full of faux fur jackets in similar styles this winter, so it feels very on-trend. I had fabric left over after finishing the jacket (I still do, but I’m not sure I need any more matching accessories) so I decided to make matching earmuffs, by covering a pair I already owned. I cut two circles of fabric to cover each ear, sewed them right-sides together and pulled them over each side of the ear muffs, finally I hand-sewed the top of each side closed around the headband.

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

For the jacket, I didn’t want to finish the edges with bias binding – as per the pattern instructions – as I thought it would flatten the faux fur. Instead I cut a lining (using the standard pattern pieces with a slightly trimmed seam allowance to prevent the lining peeking out) and sewed the main and lining jackets together at all seams except the centre front. The lining fabric is a Liberty cotton lawn bought from Birmingham Rag Market (specifically The Little World of Fabric, also known as ‘The Liberty Man’).

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

I fancied a zip closure (see also: Meg and Katie’s versions with zips) but was a bit worried about the faux fur getting caught in the zipper teeth. In the end I decided to go for it, and fitted a 22″ zip (a 21″ zip would have been preferable but they didn’t have that in the shop). I attached the zip with a generous seam allowance to give it a little distance from the faux fur and I haven’t had any issues with the fabric getting caught.

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

The Tamarack pattern is a great simple shape for hacking and I’ve been wearing this version loads since finishing it so I’m glad I finally brought it to fruition!

Faux Fur Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket


Alice & Co Patterns Georgie Dress

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

Pattern:  Georgie Dress (free) by Alice & Co Patterns

Time taken (excluding cutting out): 20 hours (including lots of alterations)

Fabric: Masson Mills cotton

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

When Alice & Co Patterns announced they would be releasing a free pattern based on Mary Quant’s Georgie Dress, to coincide with the recent Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, I got excited. I got even more excited to make my own version of the Georgie Dress when I realised that I had a fabric in my stash which was a reasonable approximation for the fabric used in the original dress held in the V&A’s collection.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

My fabric is a cotton woven at Masson Mill in Matlock Bath. Mason Mill was a working cotton mill from 1783 until 1991 and now houses a museum (amongst other things) which produces a small quantity of fabric for demonstration and sale purposes. The fabric is sold very cheaply (a few pounds per metre) as offcuts or cut from the bolt. It’s narrow width due to being woven on traditional mechanised looms, but I managed to make this dress from three offcuts of the striped fabric (all 1 metre+) and a small amount of a purple cotton, also from Masson Mill, for the ruffles. The bodice is as per the pattern but I had to reduce the volume of fabric used in the skirt.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

Although I rarely sew vintage, it was vintage patterns which first got me interested in garment sewing before I discovered indie designers. I still find vintage (and vintage inspired) designs visually really appealing, but often find them less appealing to actually sew. The construction of this dress took 20 hours (due to me making various alterations to fit and style), which is by far the longest I’ve spent on a sewing project since I started timing myself a couple of months ago, and by the end I just wanted it finished.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

I started by cutting a size 12, but after basting together and trying on the bodice in my lining fabric (as helpfully recommended in the pattern instructions) I decided it was too big and trimmed my bodice pieces down to a size 10, grading to a 12 at the waist. I think I could have gone down a size again in the bodice, so suspect the pattern contains a reasonable amount of ease but it’s probably also the result of using a loosely woven cotton fabric.

My fabric choice wasn’t the easiest to work with. The striped fabric is loosely woven, slightly shiny (meaning it really shows any fit issues), and very lightweight. The purple fabric I used for the ruffles is slightly heavier weight which caused them to droop and pull on the bodice, which I mitigated by sewing them in place along the neckline seam. I was aiming for a retro look, but when I first tried this dress on the pattern and fabric combination looked very frumpy. Reducing the length of the skirt made a huge difference to making it look more 60s and less Victorian.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

A sign to myself that I had moved beyond being a beginner sewer was when I became confident making alterations to sewing projects I wasn’t completely happy with. Before that point I would finish construction as per the pattern instructions, hang the offending garment in my wardrobe and then rarely wear it. I’m still going back to those previous sewing projects and fixing the aspects which annoy me, now that I’m better able to guess what it is I don’t like and how to fix it. I’ve actually been making small alterations this evening to two garments which I do wear but which annoy me a little bit every time. I started tap dancing classes recently, I’m really bad at tap and it makes me appreciate all the more having a hobby (sewing) where I do feel like I know what I’m doing and never feel completely at a loss – even if some projects do take more effort than anticipated.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

I’m glad I got this dress to a point where I am happy wearing it, and if I make the pattern again I’ll try it in a more modern fabric for a completely different look.