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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A Malachi Vest & an Early New Year’s Resolution

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Hoorah, I finally made it back to my blog. A little more on that below, but first a finished knitted garment; the Malachi Vest from Purl Alpaca Designs.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

I bought the yarn and pattern for this vest as a kit from Purl Alpaca Designs at Yarnporium over a year ago. This make was a case of falling in love with the product photo. I still want to recreate the whole look, as the model looks sooo good. I used the recommended yarn, Purl Alpaca’s 100% pure alpaca medium yarn in colours Alpaca Earth and Champagne.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

In typical fashion I started knitting this last January, but didn’t finish it until April when it was too warm to wear. I was very happy to pack this vest for a recent trip to Rome and Paris, where I finally got chance to wear it, and where these photos were taken. I’m still figuring out what to wear it with, and (thanks to the product photo) I think I need a white shirt – something my wardrobe is currently missing, ever since I threw out the last RTW one I owned.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Knitting, along with sewing, blogging, and all of my other hobbies, had fallen by the wayside this year.

A little over six months ago I was asked to ‘act up’ at work and take on a raft of new responsibilities. Although ostensibly a change of role, in reality these responsibilities were on top of my existing job, since the existing work still needed to be delivered. In fact, over that six-month period the workload only continued to expand, and, as that happened, I made the decision to keep on top of the workload by increasingly extending my working days and retaining less and less time for my hobbies.

As an indication, I’ve published 1-2 blog posts per week for the last five years (an average of 64 –  86 per year), with 2017 the first year I didn’t manage that frequency of posts (or anything like it) since 2011.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Reducing time for my hobbies seemed a sensible decision; the best way to avoid them feeling like an additional task to tick off a to-do list. However, it also meant that I didn’t participate in things I’ve previously enjoyed (like pattern testing or community challenges) this year, and when the lure of a community challenge (like the Refashioners) or pattern test proved too great to resist, I invariably failed to complete by the deadline.

Those hobby-related activities which did have deadlines, like the Sewing Weekender or SewBrum, were less fun this year than previously. As organiser, half the fun of an event is in the preparation (as the event itself always whizzes by so fast), and if you have very little time for that preparation, and not enough to do as good a job as you would like, it takes away some of the enjoyment – and leads you to rely heavily on others (apologies to Kate, Rachel & Lauren!).

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Even trips like the holiday where these photos were taken became less appealing in advance, because when you’re working pretty much every evening you don’t have time to prepare yourself to go away, and are really keen to spend as much time as possible at home.

I was willing to commit time to work over my hobbies for one reason only – I have the best colleagues, who are some of my absolute favourite people, and I assumed by working hard I could make some positive changes which would benefit all of us.

In the last couple of weeks, my role at work changed in a way which meant that the workload (at least in the short-term) would continue, and likely increase, but my ability to actually make improvements to support my friends was further decreased. At the same time my body decided enough hours was enough and required a few days at home, resting and stocking up on vitamins.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

As is often the case, a little distance helped me to see sense. If the one reason I was willing to take on a difficult role was removed, why was I continuing? I’ve returned to my previous role at work and I’ve committed to a New Year’s Resolution starting right away, in advance of the New Year. I’ll no longer be working excessive hours; I’m going to do as good a job as possible during my working hours, and then I’m going to head home and spend my time on my hobbies.

Expect to see a lot more of me in 2018.

Charlotte x

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest


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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


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Knitted Socks for #1year1outfit

TOFT DK Oatmeal Bed Socks

Have you seen This is Moonlight’s One Year One Outfit challenge?

I’m in, and these socks are my first make; they are made using the TOFT Alpaca Bed Socks pattern, and TOFT’s DK wool in Oatmeal. I used approximately 80g of a 100g ball. The last 20g is probably going to be used for weaving as I can’t think of anything else small enough.

The #1year1outfit challenge is to make clothing out of locally produced and sourced fabrics or fibres. The challenge is inspired by Rebecca Burgess’ Fibershed project, which began when she decided to source the fibres and dyes for a year’s clothing within a 150 mile radius.

Nicki from This is Moonlight, has set herself the goal of creating an outfit using natural fibres sourced in southwest Western Australia, within a 500km radius of her home. She’s also planning to buy no new fabric that doesn’t meet this requirement.

TOFT DK Oatmeal Bed Socks

Personally, I want to make an outfit made from fibres/fabrics produced in the UK. That gives me a very generous radius, but given that the UK is relatively small I think that’s ok;) I’m starting close to home, as TOFT Alpaca who produced this wool are located only 43 miles from my home.

I’m thinking a jumper with Hole & Sons wool (if I can get hold of some of their next batch) would be a good #1year1outfit addition (they are based approx 179 miles from my home). Harris Tweed is the only fabric I’m aware of that is produced wholly in the UK, so that’s on my #1year1outfit list. Is anyone aware of any other fabric? I’ve also found a local branch of the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who meet monthly, where I’m hoping to pick up some tips.

TOFT DK Oatmeal Bed Socks


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TOFT Alpaca Open Day

Yesterday I visited the open day at TOFT Alpaca. If you live locally (Rugby) I’d recommend a visit, and no need to wait for an open day (which was really busy – they ran out of cake!).

I treated myself to one ball of DK yarn. I went for a light oatmeal colour as I think I’m going to dye it, and then it will probably become a pair of simple socks.

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015