english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Holiday Snaps & Meandering Thoughts

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

Phil and I dragged out the Christmas holiday as long as possible, spending a few days in Alicante before returning to work this week.

These pictures, of garments I’ve previously blogged, were taken while we were away (Malachi Vest / In the Folds Jumpsuit / Tamarack Jacket). I didn’t spend a lot of time sewing over Christmas, but did start the process of making two coats (one for me and one for Phil). I’m taking my time attaching interfacing and canvas, resisting the impulse to rush ahead to construction, in order to create coats which should look, and last, all the better for it.

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

I wanted to thank everyone who read, or got in touch about, my recent post regarding my experience with my previous employer. A few people who commented used the word ‘proud’ which led me to recall a memory from the time which I thought was worth sharing, and which I didn’t touch on in my previous post, since I kept that largely to a blow-by-blow account.

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

At my lowest point working for that employer I spent one week off work, and in bed, recovering from a combination of stress and anaemia. Amongst the many emotions I felt at that time, I realised that I felt ashamed.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Ashamed because, in a work context, I had come to view myself as a ‘strong’ person, and this had become central to my concept of – and what I valued about – myself. Certainly my concept of what constituted strength in this context (including being willing and able to work as long and hard as anyone, to take on more work and work out of hours without complaint and without getting stressed) was promoted by my employer (in my first interview for the organisation, when I was hired, I was asked about my willingness to work over and above my hours. I told them it wasn’t an issue, and meant it). However, my employer can’t take all the blame, they had simply built on an existing prejudice I held.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

How I felt at that time, physically and emotionally weak, but without a physical cause to attribute my symptoms to in order to ‘justify’ them to myself and to my employer, was incompatible with my own (and my employer’s) prejudice about what it was to be a strong person.

In the Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

Initially I was ashamed because my view of what I valued in myself was challenged, but once I had time to dwell on it I was ashamed that I’d been judging people (predominantly myself, but inevitably, if unconsciously, my colleagues too) against a practically feudal concept. It took being physically weak to teach me that my concept of a ‘strong’ person was a nonsense, and that by judging myself against it I had set myself up to fail.

It was a humbling lesson, but in learning it I hope to be kinder to myself and others in future.

In the Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

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December Sewing Zine Vlog

December Sewing Zine Vlog

Happy New Year everyone!

I’ve just published a new vlog on my YouTube channel, featuring the Christmas swaps I took part in, presents I made, crafty gifts I received and my in-progress projects.


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In Conclusion, My 2018 (Part 2)

Sewing Machine

Having blogged a round-up of my sewing activity, I also wanted to write a little about my experience at work over the last year.

I wrote briefly before about being asked to ‘act up’ to a more senior role at work during 2017. During that time, my workload was obscene, and I was expected to make decisions on the direction of my team within the context of the whole organisation, whilst being wholly excluded from my department’s management team and their plans, and with no support (and a lot of hindrance) from the same management team to implement improvements or reduce my workload. The final straw for me was receiving an email from an external consultant who had been employed without my knowledge to ‘mentor’ me in the role, and had started in post while I was on a training course. This person had been given authority for all decisions on the direction of my team which had previously sat with me, and in my first meeting with them I was assigned a long list of menial tasks. This was when I decided to stop ‘acting up’. This person was a man, and he was included in the department’s management team and decision making process from the start.

I wasn’t yet ready to leave the organisation; I loved my colleagues, and I thought that if I went back to my old job I would be happy working there. A couple of months later my department made a job offer for the same role as mine at a significantly higher salary (approximately 20% difference). It was then I realised that, despite being the longest serving member of the team, taking on some of the most difficult work, and having recently been personally asked to ‘act up’ and manage my peers, I was actually one of the lowest paid staff in my peer group (the vast majority of whom were men). The salary different was significant, and it was highly unlikely (based on the internal scheme for pay increase) that I would ever be able to achieve a comparable salary. The issue was exacerbated by the fact that my department was in the throes of an obsession with external consultants, all male, who were paid almost double my salary for the same work.

Sewing Machine

Obviously, I challenged this. Initially internally within the department, and then via the formal organisational route. Unfortunately my grievance didn’t have a hope. I was assigned a Chair to review my case whose impartiality I highly doubted and challenged in advance of my hearing, requesting an alternative. I was informed that an alternative wasn’t possible, and told that my fears were unfounded. I walked into a hearing (accompanied by a good friend) intending to highlight an issue of fairness, and was made to feel like I was on trial.

My action of raising the grievance was described to me as being ‘unethical’, and the focus was never on fair pay, but on discrediting me and distributing blame. It was a very sad and demotivating experience. There was one small positive to come out of the meeting, which was that I was granted three years of back pay, but on a technicality as opposed to being associated with an admission of unfairness. I bought myself a new sewing machine (a Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0) with some of the money, as a way of creating a positive out of something negative, and to celebrate my willingness to challenge, however unsuccessfully.

Sewing Machine

I retreated a bit further from the management team, and projects which would require working closely with them, after the grievance, but it was seeing friends treated equally unfairly during a restructure over the summer which confirmed to me that I needed to leave. On the day that the restructure was announced I stated my intention to leave, and three months later I handed my notice in to join a new employer.

Now that I have some distance from my previous employer I wanted to write about my experience, since when I briefly mentioned it on Instagram I had many people tell me they have been through, or are currently going through, similar experiences. I know not everyone is in a position where they feel they are able to challenge unfairness. Gender pay gaps (and other issues of unfairness) persist because of organisations which belittle and vilify anyone who challenges the status quo, and people will put up with an awful lot to continue working alongside people they care about (I did, for a long time). I hope you live and work in environments where you feel safe enough and respected enough to challenge, and if not, I hope you are able to move on in the new year, to somewhere where you can be respected for being yourself.


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In Conclusion, My 2018

With 2018 drawing to a close, I wanted to write a round-up of what I’ve been up to in the last year.

National Exhibition 2018 of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

I’ve continued volunteering for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, managing their social media channels and monthly newsletter. It’s an organisation I love being part of, despite personally doing minimal weaving, spinning or dyeing. In the same way that being part of the sewing community introduces me to a wider community of women, being part of the Association allows me to be part of a different community of fascinating, talented women, I otherwise wouldn’t interact with. This year I attended the Association’s biannual National Exhibition for the first time, next year I will be attending the summer school (my first-choice is a week-long course in weaving tweed and tartan), and in 2020 I plan to submit a small (un-juried) piece to the next National Exhibition.

The Sewing Weekender 2018

I (jointly) organised the third Sewing Weekender (with Kate & Rachel from The Fold Line), and the fifth SewBrum (with Lauren Guthrie) in 2018. Both events were the biggest yet, and it’s really positive that people continue to want to attend, that this community continues to grow and that it continues to be supportive despite that growth. For the first time ever I even managed to make a new dress to wear to each of the events! I was adamant that I wasn’t going to let being busy stop me from attending other events in the sewing community this year, and I made it along to (and thoroughly enjoyed myself at) Sew Up North, the Sewcialist Soiree, and Birmingham-based meet-ups including Brummie Yarn Social.

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

I participated in the Refashioners for the second time (the first time was in 2015), and won the runner-up prize for an outfit inspired by Dior’s Bar Suit, which was my most involved sewing project to date. Phil and I visited Paris to get photos based on my inspiration image (we also holidayed in Vietnam, Majorca, Lulworth Cove and Skegness this year). My entry for Tilly & the Button’s Sew a Xmas Sweater Competition was also based on an inspiration image, Vera Ellen’s dress at the end of White Christmas. Back in April, I celebrated Fashion Revolution Week by making a screen-printed tee, which was one of my favourite garments this summer. Finally, in December I participated in two Christmas swaps (Bombazine Mitt Swap & Sewing Secret Santa).

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress Skirt

In December 2017 I started using the Cora App to catalogue my fabric and I’ve kept it up all year (with a few gaps where some retrospective cataloguing was required). Cataloguing my fabric inspired me to take part in MakeNine for the first time in 2018, and to finally sew with patterns and fabric I’ve had in mind for ages. I’ve only made a smallish dent in my MakeNine plans so far (simply because I don’t sew as fast as I plan), but the intention to not forget patterns released (and fabric purchased) in previous years remains, and I did sew with my stash of Mahlia Kent remnants, built up over a couple of previous trips to Paris.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

I’ve had limited success with my knitting this year (I’ve done less knitting, and the projects I have finished have had fitting issues), but in the last couple of months Christmas has inspired me to pick up my (circular) needles more regularly, and I’ve finished knitted baubles for our Christmas tree, and a scarf for my mom’s Christmas present. I’m hoping to stay inspired and to successfully complete a larger project for myself in the new year.

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

Without me really noticing it was occurring, I’ve become more confident in my sewing ability in the last year or so. My ability to complete my Refashioners’ project was a sure sign to myself that I’m no longer reliant on instructions, or thrown when something doesn’t immediately work as expected. I’ve become more confident altering garments which I’m not happy with, and this year that included significantly altering a knitted garment for the first time, taking the scissors to my Wharf Street Pullover to remove length from the hem and sleeves.

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit

My blog photography has also improved (credit to Phil for this one), and I took the opportunity this year to get better photos of my Bombshell swimsuit, on a beach as opposed to in my garden. I enjoy celebrating garments which have been successes by re-blogging them, like last year when I took the opportunity to do so for my Victoria Blazer, which is still undoubtedly my most-worn handmade garment.

Vlog November Sewing Zine

I kept up my vlog in 2018, including a monthly ‘zine’ which I started in September as a way of sharing sewing and knitting related things which interest me, plus a little on my own creative plans. I’ve also kept up a more regular schedule on my blog recently, and I think the blog and vlog complement each other well, with the blog for finished garment and longer posts (such as this), and the vlog for shorter chit chat and recommendations.

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

I tend to think that I don’t sew patterns multiple times, but my love for the Sangria, Linden, and Grace patterns continued unabated this year. More unusually, I am sewing a garment for Phil for only the second time ever, making him a coat while I’m off work over Christmas using the Free Sewing Carlton Coat pattern.

I also bought myself a sewing machine for the first time this year (the previous have all been gifts). There’s a story behind the purchase which I’ll save for a second wrap-up post about my personal/work life, as this post is long enough already.

Thank you for reading the blog and Happy Christmas and New Year!


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White Christmas Freya

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

Happy Christmas / holidays everyone. I hope you have some time off work over the next couple of weeks and get the chance to relax and enjoy yourselves.

This time of year, the run up to Christmas, is always so busy, but thanks to a little lull at work as a result of changing employers, I’m feeling unusually relaxed and organised this year.

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

I’ve taken part in two online swaps (Bombazine Mitt Swap and Sewing Secret Santa) and have managed to complete and post both parcels in good time to arrive before Christmas (definitely not the case last year). I even managed to get some photos in daylight before sending, which I’ll share soon.

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

I’m also making a couple of handmade presents for family, which will be finished and wrapped this weekend. No manic knitting in the car on Christmas Eve for me this year!

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

Since I was feeling ahead of the game, I decided to take part in the Sew a Xmas Sweater Contest organised by Tilly & the Buttons. I wanted to create a casual top which was loosely inspired by Vera-Ellen’s dress at the end of White Christmas.

tumblr_phr8rydQQU1r8177lo9_250.gif

My version is a Tilly & the Buttons Freya Top, sewn as per the pattern, but with the addition of feather trim from Birmingham Rag Market around the wrists. I used a red scuba fabric from Barry’s Fabrics to make the top and a matching cape, which is worn over the top and closes with a button and loop at the neck. To create the cape I used the By Hand London Circle Skirt Calculator, inputting my neck instead of my waist circumference to generate measurements for a full circle skirt. I reduced the length, and had to cut out the cape in three pieces due to available fabric. I trimmed the cape with a White Simplicity Faux Fur trim purchased from Minerva Crafts.

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

The project resulted in a very festive, but also easy to wear, outfit. After Christmas, I can wear the Freya Top without the cape, and the feathers on the cuffs are also easily detachable. I’d like to make this again in more luxurious fabrics – perhaps next year!

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya

Christmas Sweater Tilly & the Buttons Freya


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Drapey Mustard Linden

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

Another week, another Linden!

This Linden features a very simple ‘hack’, and is my entry for the “Stitched with a Twist” Instagram challenge. I’ve been planning to make this Linden since last March when I spotted the sweatshirt below in an email from Uniqlo. I thought it would be easy to recreate using the Linden pattern with the simple addition of some gathering at the neckline (I also fancy recreating the dress on the right with Named’s Inari Dress).

The fabric is from Guthrie & Ghani, and was purchased during their Fifth Birthday Party back in April. I picked an especially drapey knit so that the neckline gathers wouldn’t be too stiff. The fabric feels lovely and has a great sheen to it.

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

I added 5 inches at the neckline of the pattern front to accommodate the gathering. To more closely imitate the inspiration image, I should have reduced the length at the hem and widened the neckband, but I didn’t think about that until after it was constructed.

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

We’ve been to a comic con today, and managed to capture some pictures outside, just in time, as it was getting dark. Birmingham was hectic, so I’m now recovering in my pyjamas, with a mulled drink, and a trashy Christmas film on Netflix. I might even get back to bauble knitting shortly for full Christmassy atmosphere.

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt