english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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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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Knitbot Trail Jacket

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

Having done very little knitting last year after a couple of dissatisfying projects, I had a really productive few months over Christmas and into the start of the new year. One of the projects I completed was this Trail Jacket, by Hannah Fettig (Knitbot). I finished it shortly before leaving for a trip to New York in February, and I bought and attached the buttons while on holiday. These pictures were taken a few days later while visiting the Museum of the Moving Image (see picture with muppet below!).

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

I bought the pattern in 2016 and the yarn (West Yorkshire Spinners Croft Yarn in Boddam colourway) from BritYarn (RIP) in 2017, so I’m glad to finally bring the jacket to fruition. The yarn is aran weight and the pattern easy to follow so the jacket knits up really quickly.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

I don’t have much of a yarn stash. I have the odd ball brought back from a holiday, leftover odds and ends, and a few more substantial amounts of yarn bought for a project, such as this, which it has taken me longer than expected to get around to knitting. I’m hoping to work through those project-quantities of yarn this year, and then buy yarn as I’m ready to knit with it. We’ll see how I do. The same is NEVER going to happen with fabric/sewing patterns.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

My button placket isn’t the neatest (I had to position the buttons quite far across in order for them to sit centrally once fastened), but I know I’ll wear this jacket loads. I definitely wear knitted cardigans/jackets more than sweaters, since they can be worn as a layering piece year ’round. I really like the cropped sleeves (although inevitably they want to ride up when I put a coat on), and I love the specked ‘tweed’ effect of the Croft yarn, which is made with 100% Shetland Island wool.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

The next project I’ve started using my existing yarn stash is a hap in lace weight yarn so I’m expecting that one to take quite a bit longer than this jacket. Wish me luck in keeping on track!

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn


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Rupert’s Tweed Wedding Jacket

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

After James, my brother, announced his wedding, he asked if I would be willing to make him a three-piece suit to wear on the day, to which I – of course – said no! What I was willing to make, however, was a matching jacket for his dog, Rupert.

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

James ordered a suit in a blue tweed, and with the help of the sewing community (who responded to a call for help on Twitter and Instagram with lots of suggestions) I was able to find a comparable Harris Tweed on ebay.

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

I traced a RTW dog jacket for the pattern and tested a toile on Rupert before cutting into the tweed. Like my own dress for the wedding, I left this jacket until the last minute, cutting and sewing it the day before, and attaching the velcro to fasten it under the stomach on the morning of the wedding.

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

I need to make Rupert some more of these, as – apart from hand sewing the velcro when my sewing machine refused to cooperate – the jacket  only took about thirty minutes to make. It’s lined with a cotton from John Lewis and padded with some thinsulate left over from my Clare Coat. The d-ring on the back allows a lead to be attached.

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

Rupert was centre stage on the day, he was very fond of curling up in the train of the wedding dress (above), and at the start of the ceremony was stood with the groom awaiting the bride as she walked down the aisle (below).

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding


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Christmas Party Alix Dress

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet

Happy Christmas everyone! Phil and I spent Christmas Eve with his family, and Christmas Day with my family. We’re having a lazy Boxing Day at home, and I’m intending to squeeze in lots of my favourite things – I read half of a new novel curled on the sofa with a tea this morning, and I’m planning to make a start on a couple of sewing projects, with a movie on in the background, later.

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet

Life has been (happily) crazy for the last couple of weeks. I’m one of those people who really relishes Christmas and likes to slowly build into a festive mood, but this year Christmas was here before I knew it. I finally managed to watch White Christmas and Home Alone while wrapping presents on Christmas Eve, and I have time off work over the next couple of weeks, so plenty of chance to knit in front of Gone with the Wind and It’s a Wonderful Life.

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet

Unlike the Christmas presents I was planning to make (total failure), I did manage to make myself a new Christmas party dress! I actually made this to wear at the unofficial/boozy Christmas party at work, and wore it again yesterday to visit family.

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet

This is the Alix Dress (version 2) by By Hand London. The pattern is designed for wovens but I made it up in a stretch velvet which I purchased from a market stall during my recent trip to Istanbul. Since the design is loose fitting it doesn’t really require a knit fabric, but it does make it very comfy. The only change I made to the pattern was to add an inch to the length, since Version 2 comes up quite short as drafted, and I wanted it to be suitable to wear into work on the day of our Christmas pub crawl.

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet

Since it’s Christmas, I also made a matching bow, which I sewed on to a headband. My team at work thought I should have gone bigger and more Madonna – so that’s the plan for next year!

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet

As I was in a suitably stupid mood on Christmas morning, here’s a suitably ridiculous picture of said bow. Happy Boxing Day – hope you are also doing fun things.

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet

By Hand London Alix Dress in stretch velvet


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Freehand Fashion Blog Tour: Pencil Skirt & Giveaway

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

I’m very happy to be the first stop on the blog tour for Chinelo Bally’s new book Freehand Fashion. The fun thing about the blog tour is that each participant is making a different garment from the book; I’m kicking things off today with the Pencil Skirt.

Freehand Fashion Book

The book is divided into two main sections: a section covering how to create blocks (bodice, dress, skirt, flare, sleeve), and a project section which shows you how to use the blocks to create 15 garments (plus a couple of variations). The book also includes a small illustrated techniques section which covers key techniques used within the projects (inserting different types of zip, seam finishes, rolled hem, etc.).

Freehand Fashion Book

The blocks section has detailed information on taking a large range of measurements which I really liked and which is usefully generally, not just for the projects in the book. It includes space to jot down your measurements, but as an ex-librarian that’s beyond the pale for me;)

Freehand Fashion Book

It isn’t necessary to create the blocks before starting the garment projects, instead the relevant block steps are referenced in the project instructions (so you’ll need to flick between the two sections when cutting out). However, the blocks could be created in isolation as a starting point for your own designs – allowing you to move beyond the projects included in the book. One key difference from most pattern blocks is that the blocks in the book include seam allowances.

Freehand Fashion Book

It isn’t mentioned in the tools section at the start of the book, but I found having a french curve (or similar) helpful. When drafting the blocks or projects you’ll mark your measurements at key points (e.g. hips, waist) and then draw between the points. Obviously it is possible without, but having a french curve and long ruler helps to achieve neater lines.

Freehand Fashion Book

I’m not including pictures of the other patterns in the book as you’ll see quite a few of them during the blog tour this week! Project instructions are detailed with clear illustrations.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The projects section encourages you to draft the pattern directly on your fabric, which is one of the interesting elements of Chinelo’s drafting style. However, if you are wary you can of course instead follow the instructions with a large sheet of paper and end up with a paper pattern.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The fabric requirement information for the projects is given as a calculation based on your measurements (e.g. hip measurement plus a specified amount for the fabric width) which means you could choose to buy exactly the fabric you require for a project and not have leftover fabric sitting in your stash. It does also mean it is not as quick to check the fabric requirements as you are dashing out of the house, as I am prone to do;)

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

I made the Pencil Skirt project from the book as per instructions, with the exception of leaving off the belt loops. The fabric I used was wool from my stash which I previously used to make an Oslo Cardigan, and I couldn’t resist teaming them up for a few photos (below).

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The fabric wasn’t ideal for this pattern since the pencil skirt doesn’t include a waist band, and the loose weave of this wool could really do with being held in place with a well interfaced band. It would be simple to add a waist band if using a similar fabric, or i’d advise choosing a more structured woven fabric. Near the end of the construction process the book asks you to mark your measurements on the partially constructed skirt to confirm your sewing line; due to the loose weave of my wool I ended up trimming quite a bit off the sides to achieve a nice close fit.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

In keeping with the focus on drafting, the books asks you to decide how high you want the back slit. I should have measured another pencil skirt but just guesstimated (at 5 inches) and it has ended up a little short. I can walk fine but I wouldn’t fancy trying to run.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The construction method for the skirt is different from any I’ve seen; it has you attach the lining to the main fabric at the top and bottom, but sew the main fabric and lining separately at the side seams. It resulted in a really neat inside finish.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

Now for the giveaway!

Pavilion and Chinelo have kindly provided an extra copy of the book to give away (UK only)! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. Let me know your favourite thing about the Great British Sewing Bee (or your thoughts about sewing on TV, if you’re not a viewer). Please make sure to include your email address in your comment if it is not easily available in your profile. The giveaway is open until midnight (UK) on Monday 16th November, after which I’ll randomly pick a winner and announce it on social media. Giveaway now closed!

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

Make sure to look out for seven other garments from the book over the next week, including the Maxi Skirt and Box Top tomorrow on the Pavilion Craft blog.

Friday 13th November
Frida and Amy at Pavilion Craft

Saturday 14th November
Marie at A Stitching Odyssey

Sunday 15th November
Rachel at The Foldline 

Monday 16th November
Lauren at Lady Sewalot

Tuesday 17th November
Amy at Almond Rock

Wednesday 18th November
Rachel at House of Pinheiro

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Freehand Fashion in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own.


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RTW Shirt Love & Elsewhere

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

It’s been a while since I got excited about RTW, but I’m madly in love with this shirt from The African Shirt Company. It’s from their Core Range, in print Blue Lagoon.

The African Shirt Company’s shirts are made in the village of Kiteghe in south-western Kenya. The company was designed to provide an alternative source of income for villagers, and has so far employed a small number of local women. The company also supports a local reforestation project, with a donation made with each sale.

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

The shirts are made by hand using foot pedalled sewing machines, without electricity or running water, and ironed using a charcoal iron.

The fabric used is kanga, a traditional East African fabric which dates back to the 19th century. The label attached to the shirt recommends dipping it in the ocean (or cold salt water) to set the colour!

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

As much as I love making as much as my clothing as possible, I also like making an exception for something as special as this shirt. Buying mass produced RTW from a mall, knowing that it has been produced unsustainably, isn’t exciting. But when you know where your clothing was produced and who made it it can be! I love knowing that this shirt has travelled to me from the village of  Kiteghe, and that it was constructed on a treadle sewing machine.

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

Having bought very little RTW clothing recently, I think I’m going to start buying more RTW, from sustainable companies. I strongly believe that you need to support and invest in the things you care about, and independent sustainable fashion and accessory companies need support if they are going to thrive.

The African Shirt Company Blue Lagoon Shirt

Elsewhere

♥ I love the Purl Bee Gathered Skirt for all Ages tutorial.

♥ These Found Paper Memo Books are adorable – each book is made up of various pages of found paper. Plus they have scissors on the front;)

♥ The Spring WestKnits Scarf KAL is now in progress. 2-3 scarf patterns will be revealed each Friday, but I already know that I MUST knit Unicorn Parallelograms.

♥ The latest issue of Pom Pom Quarterly has just been released; I’m considering a subscription… They Pom Pom team also produce a Pomcast (podcast).

♥ There’s a cool event taking place in Hoxton, London on Saturday June 13th. #GRANDFEST2015 will feature a number of people over the age of 70 running free master classes in traditional skills like knitting, jam making, and brewing in cafes and shops around Hoxton Square.

♥ TRAID will be presenting & selling a collection by designer Alex Noble produced with refashioned textiles. The Traidremade collection will be on sale from a pop-up shop at 2 Berwick Street, SoHo, London between May 22 – June 14 2015. Profits will be used to fund the purchase of birth certificates for the children of Bangladeshi garment workers, allowing them to be recognised as citizens.

♥ The latest episode of BBC podcast In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg, focuses on the Cotton Famine in Lancashire from 1861-65. This followed the blockade of Confederate Southern ports during the American Civil War which stopped the flow of cotton into mills in Britain, leading to starvation, mass unemployment and migration. Dramatic stuff!


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Wool-Blend Oslo Cardigan & Happy Christmas

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan

Happy Christmas! I hope everyone has been having a great Christmas Eve. I was going to make a new dress for Christmas day but hadn’t gotten around to it due to making gifts. I considered spending today flat-out dressmaking to get it done but decided it would be more fun to do a bit of everything. So instead, I finished making a few gifts, I baked muffins, played an episode of the Walking Dead game – festive zombies! – with Phil, watched Muppet Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, and I’m just about to start knitting a new jumper. I’d say that was a pretty perfect Christmas Eve:)

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan

We will be driving to my mom and dad’s house to open our presents tomorrow morning. Although me and my brother have both moved out, we get together in the morning, with our parents and grandmothers, to open our gifts. I’m going to take the muffins I baked today so we can eat cake and chocolate for second breakfast whilst gift opening! My family will then all head to my aunt’s house for Christmas dinner this year.

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan

I managed to make this Oslo Cardigan for myself this week, around gift sewing. This was actually a test version prior to a second Oslo I made as a Christmas gift. The Oslo cardigan is one of the patterns included in the first issue of Seamwork. The pattern is designed for knits but I ignored that and made it up in a wool-blend. Due to using a thick woven fabric, I went up a size (to a small) but there appears to be a fair bit of ease in the pattern so it has ended up fairly boxy. I’m fond of it though – despite the fact it is rather reminiscent of a dressing gown…

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan

The only tweak I made to the Oslo pattern was to leave off the cuffs. I did make them but since they are designed to be made in a knit fabric with a bit of stretch they were too tight in a thick woven. I also decided to make a fabric belt to pull the cardigan in rather than adding buttons. The fabric frayed A LOT so I overlocked all of the seams.

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan

I purchased this wool-blend fabric during the sewing meet-up in Paris. I bought it with the intention of using it for a Goldstream Peacoat for Phil but he rejected it! So I got to use it for me instead:) Before we left Paris, I made Phil choose an alternative fabric for his coat to avoid ending up with any more rejected fabric! I’ll be getting started on the Goldstream Peacoat after Christmas. I set myself the loose goal of sewing three new-to-me items of clothing this year – trousers, a swimsuit, and a coat. I managed the first two and I’m planning to make the coat before I return to work on the 05th January so I’d call that a success!

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan

I’m going to try to squeeze in another film and some knitting this evening. I hope you all have a fantastic day tomorrow & get some nice crafty gifts.

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan

Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan