english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England

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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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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


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


Velvet Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Two weekends ago we were in Bristol for the Like Sew Amazing shop launch, and last weekend we were in London so that I could attend a meeting of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers GPC. I’ve stuck to my resolution of making time to attend meet-ups and other creative events, and not just those I organise. In just over two weeks’ time we are flying to New York, so that I can attend Male Pattern Boldness Day for the first time. Peter’s long-running event is surely the ultimate sewing meet-up, and I’ve been longing to join in for years.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

The only downside of so much socialising is that I’ve spent very little time at home for the last two weekends. I’m keen to finish one or, dare I say it, two coats before we leave for New York, but it’s going to be a push. I struggle to motivate myself to sit behind the sewing machine after a day at work, but I have been making progress on my knitting in the evening and during weekend travel. It’s a good job, as I also have four knitting projects I’d like to finish for New York (one blocked and ready to go, one in progress, and two yet to start).

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have something new to wear (and photograph, obviously) for my holiday, and I won’t be cutting any corners to complete the projects quickly. As my sewing ability improves I’m trying to make sure I finish my sewing projects to a (slowly but surely) increasingly high standard to match.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

These photos were taken on a previous trip to Bristol, when I was there to attend the Sewcialite Soiree in November. The pattern is the Grace Dress from Simple Sew, and was free with Love Sewing magazine. It’s a lovely simple pattern, which I’ve now made three times. My first version is still my favourite, despite it getting somewhat mangled in the washing machine, as the fabric gives it a simplicity and lightness.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

This version was made in the leftover floral velvet from my version of McCall’s M7154, purchased from Barry’s Fabrics. The long train on M7154 means that it isn’t wearable for many occasions, so I was keen to make a ‘day dress’ with the remaining fabric.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Back to holiday knitting for me, with a glass of cider and an episode of ST The Next Generation.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

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Paris Sewcial / Paris Coud 2019 – Registration Open!

Paris Sewcial

Carmen and I are organising an international meet-up in Paris over the weekend of the 18th – 19th May 2019.

On Saturday 18th, we’ll be touring Paris’ fabric shops and ending the day with a group dinner / drinks. On Sunday 19th, we’ll be starting the day with brunch, visiting the exhibition Yves Saint Laurent: Dreams of the Orient” at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, and heading out of town to visit the Bennytex fabric warehouse (check out Annie Coton’s blog post, it sounds amazing).

Sign-up is now open (to give us an idea of numbers to expect for planning purposes): Sign Up Here!

A quick note to say that everyone is very welcome, and you can attend as much or as little of the weekend as you like. I’m conscious that two reasons people sometimes don’t feel comfortable attending meet-ups are anxiety and mobility. If you would like to join us but have any concerns do get in touch with me and Carmen. I’m already thinking that we should have some group shopping trolleys ready as when I attended the previous Paris meet-up Carmen organised in 2014 I got carried away buying heavy wool fabrics and could barely carry them!

♥ What? ♥

A free-to-attend meet-up of people who love to sew, in Paris.

Following in the footsteps of the 2014 meet-up organised by Carmen, Paris Sewcial / Paris Coud will be a chance to get together with an international group of sewcialists and to explore Paris’ fabric shops.

Organised by Charlotte Powell (English Girl at Home) and Carmen Bouchard (CarmencitaB).

♥ Itinerary ♥

The planned itinerary for Saturday 18th – Sunday 19th May is below. Attendees can feel free to dip in and out, attending one or both days, or parts of the day.

Saturday 18th May

10:30 – 11:00: Meet in Montmartre

We’ll be meeting in Square Louise-Michel, located below the Sacré-Cœur and in the heart of the Montmartre fabric shopping district.

Multiple metro stops including Anvers, Abbesses, Pigalle, and Château Rouge are located within ten minutes’ walk from the square.

11:00 – 17:00: Explore Paris’ Fabric Shops

We’ll spend the day exploring Paris’ numerous fabric shops. A map will be provided to help attendees navigate the city, and we’ll visit the shops as a group, or number of smaller groups, dependent on the number of attendees.

17:00: Dinner / Drinks

We’ll carry on the conversations over a group dinner / drinks (location tbc dependent on number of attendees).

Sunday 19th May

11:00 – 12:30: Brunch in Montmartre

We’ll start the day by returning to Montmartre for brunch and chatter.

13:00 – 15:00: Visit to Musée Yves Saint Laurent

At 13:00 we’ll visit Yves Saint Laurent: Dreams of the Orient at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent. It isn’t possible to book a tour on Sundays, so we’ll be joining the queue outside the museum. A visit to the exhibition takes approximately 90 minutes. It’s also the perfect opportunity for a stroll past the Eiffel Tower, which is located 15 minutes walk from the museum.

15:00 – 18:00: Visit to Bennytex

Those willing to join us in a trip outside of the city centre on the hunt for fabric will catch the bus to Bennytex fabric warehouse. The journey is approximately one hour each way by public transport. For more info about shopping at Bennytex see Annie Coton’s blog post.

We’ll start the journey back from Bennytex at approximately 17:00, with attendees back in the city centre for 18:00.

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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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Favourite 2018 Pattern Releases

Vlog Icon Fav Sewing Patterns

I’ve published a vlog of my personal favourite sewing patterns releases during 2018.

I’ve only sewn one of these so far, but I suspect I’ll get around to a fair few eventually. I have a couple in progress currently, including a Yates Coat.

In no particular order, my favourites are:

Night and Day Dress – Charm Patterns: https://charmpatterns.bygertie.com/shop/night-and-day-dress/

Yates Coat – Grainline Studio: https://grainlinestudio.com/shop/women/yates-coat-paper-pattern/

Myosotis Dress – Deer&Doe: https://shop.deer-and-doe.fr/en/sewing-patterns/65-myosotis-dress-pattern.html

Eloise Dress Sewing Pattern – By Hand London: https://byhandlondon.com/products/eloise-dress-pdf-sewing-pattern

Zelie Shirt – République du Chiffon: http://republiqueduchiffon.com/en/home/118-chemisier-zelie.html

Honeycomb Shirt & Dress – CocoWawa Crafts: https://www.cocowawacrafts.com/shop/sewing-patterns/honeycomb-shirt-dress-pdf-sewing-pattern-eng/

8605 – Simplicity Pattern: https://www.sewdirect.com/us8605a/

I AM Félicie – I AM Patterns: https://iampatterns.fr/en/sewing-patterns/116-felicie.html

Audrey – Seamwork: https://www.seamwork.com/catalog/audrey

Pinnacle Top/Sweater – Papercut Patterns: https://papercutpatterns.com/products/pinnacle-top-sweater

Justine (Free Pattern) – Ready to Sew: https://www.readytosew.fr/en/store/dresses-and-skirts/the-free-pattern-justine

Fika Tote – Noodlehead: https://noodle-head.com/product/fika-tote-pdf-pattern

TPC21//Drop Shoulder Coat – Trend Patterns: https://www.trendpatterns.co.uk/shop/tpc21drop-shoulder-coat-1

Len Coveralls – Sugardale: http://sugardale.net/sewing-patterns

“Karma” Trench – Milan AV-JC: https://www.milanavjc.com/zero-waste-karma-trench-en

Jarrah sweater – Megan Nielsen: https://megannielsen.com/products/jarrah

Floreat dress & top – Megan Nielsen: https://megannielsen.com/products/floreat