english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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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


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Blue Wool Fairy Tale Cape

Blue Wool Fairy Tale Cape

Dear blog, sorry for ignoring you, things have been a bit crazy around here lately…

Phew, so life has been even busier than normal lately – although mostly due to positive things. I’ve spent the last two weekends away, first in London for my friend Emma’s birthday plus some shopping, & then in Manchester to see Video Games Live at the Apollo (which is amazing by the way). I’ve also been offered an new job (woo hoo!) which I start at the end of November, & I’m currently in Istanbul for work (and typing this in my hotel room). I’ve had a really lousy cold for the last week which has slowed me down, & is still clinging on. Oh and I’ve had a few sales via my Etsy shop, including my first sale in Saudi Arabia.

But before all of that happened I did manage to do some sewing! This is the Fairy Tale Cape by Audrey & Me Patterns / This Blog is Not For You. Worn here with my Maya Dress.

Blue Wool Fairy Tale Cape

This was one of those sewing projects where I had a sudden urgent craving to make a cape, despite never knowing I needed one before! The Fairy Tale Cape is a ‘pay as you wish’ pattern so you can check out the pattern & instructions first and then make a donation if you decide to go ahead and make it.

If you fancy some seasonal sewing, this is a really quick satisfying make. There are only a couple of pattern pieces & it would be easy to customise.

The only alterations I made to the pattern were cutting my cape slightly shorter, as my fabric wasn’t quite wide enough to fit the pattern piece (oops), and trimming some depth off the back of the hood as it was looking a bit jedi for my liking. I also went with a smaller number of buttons & made functional buttons, as opposed to simply sewing the cape closed and attaching decorative buttons as suggested in the pattern.

Blue Wool Fairy Tale Cape

The fabric is a deep blue wool I purchased from Barry’s Fabric during the SewBrum meet-up. Charlie from This Blog is Not For You attended the meet-up so I was able to ask her to ok my fabric in person:)

The buttons were purchased in Birmingham Rag Market. I love clover shaped buttons & jewellry so couldn’t resist. One of my favourite possessions is a vintage clover shaped brooch I received for my birthday a few years ago, which I picked from a shop in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. Officially it was a gift from my brother, but I think my Nan and Grandad actually bought it:)

Blue Wool Fairy Tale Cape

I was lazy and didn’t line my cape although lining in the hood would look cute so I may go back and add some. The fabric doesn’t fray so I didn’t hem the bottom of the cape. I did fold a small hem along the edge of the hood although It wasn’t really necessary.

IMG_6516

Right, now I need to go for some autumnal walks in the park (followed by hot chocolate in the park cafe) to put my cape to good use.

Blue Wool Fairy Tale Cape


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Sew Over It (not) Silk Cami

Sew Over It Silk Cami

You know that misconception that people who don’t sew have that sewing your own clothes is really cheap? Well this is one of those examples where it is true! Sew Over It’s Silk Cami only uses a tiny amount of fabric so I managed to scrape this project out of the scraps left over from my recent Kimono project. I also received the pattern free with a recent issue of Mollie Makes magazine (issue 44), the magazine is still on sale if you get in quick or you can purchase the PDF pattern from Sew Over It. The fabric is a John Kaldor polyester so not a silk (as suggested by the pattern name) but it has the required drape to work with this pattern.

Sew Over It Silk Cami

I love quick and easy sewing projects. Due to not having enough fabric left to cut out facings I actually simplified this pattern even further, scrapping the facings in favour of rolling the edges of the neckline and armholes and hand-stitching in place. I’ve actually developed a bit of an addiction for hand-stitched hems lately, everything I make is getting a hand-stitched hem at the moment regardless of how necessary it is. I’m going to claim this is due to hand sewing being relaxing, but it may also be due to the fact that I can do my hand-sewing while sitting on the sofa in front of the TV as opposed to having to walk all the way upstairs to my sewing machine…

Sew Over It Silk Cami