english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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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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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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Christmas Making

Sewaholic Stanley Tree

Happy Christmas all; I hope you’ve had some time at home relaxing. I’ve been doing quite a bit of gift making over the last week or so, and am now planning to get back to selfish sewing/knitting. I’ve already made a decent start on a Lesley sweater & I have a load of sewing patterns printed.

I actually finished the last of my Christmas gift making this morning. I was planning to make my Dad a tie but ran out of time before Christmas. I showed him the pattern pieces on Christmas Day (as proof a tie was in progress!) and finished making the tie today.

Handmade Tie using Purl Soho free pattern

I used the free Purl Soho tie pattern and fabric from Guthrie & Ghani, with scraps of Liberty fabric for the lining. This was my first attempt making a tie and I really enjoyed it – It’s all pressing and hand-sewing, so quite an enjoyable project while watching a movie.

Handmade Tie using Purl Soho free pattern

Handmade Tie using Purl Soho free pattern

The other gift sewing I did, was making a copse of Sewaholic Stanley Trees, another great free pattern. I made one tree using the larger version, and five using the smaller version of the pattern.

Sewaholic Stanley Tree

I found that I needed less fabric than is listed in the pattern. I managed to make one large, and three small trees from two metres of fabric. All of the Christmas fabric I used was also purchased from Guthrie & Ghani.

Sewaholic Stanley Tree

I thought the trees would be really quick to make, but they took longer than I expected as they involved quite a bit of hand (as well as machine) sewing, to seal the underside and attach any decorations. For decorations I made bows from ribbon in my stash, and attached either bells or tiny baubles from Ikea.

Sewaholic Stanley Tree

The most involved gift project this year was a scarf for my Mom. I used the Pianissimo scarf pattern by Thien-Kieu Lam from the Autumn edition of Pom Pom Quarterly (which is a brilliant issue). I made Version Two of the pattern (I’ve also made Version One for myself), shortening it slightly since – as written – it would be very long. The pattern uses an easily memorised cable pattern to create a really interesting effect.

Pianissimo Scarf

The photos don’t do the pattern or yarn justice. I used West Yorkshire Spinners Illustrious DK yarn in the Garnet colourway. The yarn is 70% Falkland Wool and 30% British Alpaca. It was lovely to knit with and resulted in a really drapey scarf.

Pianissimo Scarf

The other gift I knitted was a little decoration as part of the #Christmasdecswap2015 organised by Marilla Walker. I was swapping with Ingrid and made her a Tiny Sweater using the free pattern by Malia Mather. A bit like my Dad’s tie, I finished it very late, but Ingrid can hopefully put it on the tree next year!

Tiny Sweater for #Christmasdecswap2015

I’ve made Christmas cards for a few years (some previous years here: 2014 / 2012 / 2012), so got the lino printing supplies out from under the bed and created an angel lino block for this year’s cards. Multi-colour prints are time consuming to create, so I used metallic pens to add colour.

Lino Print Handmade Christmas Card

Lino Print Handmade Christmas Card


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Sewcialist Gift Guide

Sewcialist Necklace by English Girl at Home and Working Clasp

With my birthday just gone and Christmas approaching, I’ve spent a fair bit of time recently selecting gifts, many of which are sewing or knitted related, for my own wish list. I thought I’d share my list of lovely gifts for people who sew, with the odd knitting gift thrown in.

First up though is a little project of mine. I’ve teamed up with Birmingham-based jewellery designer Rebecca Cowley of Working Clasp to create a sewing-themed necklace.

Sewcialist Necklace by English Girl at Home and Working Clasp

The Sewcialist Necklace is made from perspex and wood, and hangs on a silver-coloured chain. It was made in Rebecca’s studio in Digbeth, Birmingham.

You can purchase a necklace via my shop. I only have a small number in stock (as I wanted to see if you guys liked the idea!) so if you fancy one asap get in quick.

Sewcialist Necklace by English Girl at Home and Working Clasp

Other lovely gifts on my wish list are :

♥ Jewellery

Sewists Christmas Gift Guide

1. Another Birmingham-based independent brand, Frilly Industries make adorable Stork and Swan Scissor necklaces (33% discount and free shipping until Tuesday 1st December using the code BLACKFRIDAY!)

2. I also love Frilly Industries Spool of Thread Brooch which is an exclusive design for Not on the High Street (or available direct at craft fairs if you live in Birmingham)

3-4. Wool and Wire make jewellery with in-built stitch markers. Given that I knit on the train and often forget to pack supplies this is perfect for me. I’ve requested a Stitch Marker Bracelet (3) plus a set of Stitch Markers (4)

♥ Haberdashery

Sewists Christmas Gift Guide

1. I treated myself to one of these stunning porcelain dogs by artist Eleonor Boström for my birthday. They have a pin cushion head and thread holder tail! They’re available to buy from Beyond Measure

2. I also fancy one of Beyond Measure’s exclusive wooden pincushions, which are made in Yorkshire from wood, wool cloth and stuffed with wool. These sell out really fast, I know a new supply is expected about now but you’ll need to order quick if you want one

3. I have some darning projects on my to-do list, and one of these vintage bakelite darning eggs from Loop would be perfect

4. As would this Sajou darning thread, also available from Loop in the UK

5. Coloured dress making shears by Ernest Wright & Son, a Sheffield brand since 1902. The pink edition supports Breast Cancer Care

♥ Books

Sewists Christmas Gift Guide

1. The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar is a lovely addition to my natural dye library, which includes a range of projects as well as lots of info on dyeing with both protein and cellulose fibres

2. Boundless Style by Kristiann Boos is at the top of my Christmas list. I really want to make the cover dress in particular

3. Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith is a beautiful exploration of slow sewing and decorative stitch and textile art. Read my full review of the book here

♥ Wool

Sewists Christmas Gift Guide

1. I’d love to make a winter coat in a British wool, woven in London by The London Cloth Company. Their British Wool is sourced from small conservation flocks, and spun into yarn in Halifax. The resulting yarn is un-dyed, with cloth designed by breed of sheep and natural colour. They also produce a range of rope-dyed indigo fabrics

2. I was alerted to Fabworks by Marilla. Their range of Avoca wool is woven in Ireland using Australian wool

3. Dashing Tweeds also produce a range of fabrics using 100% British wool, designed in London and woven in the UK

Disclaimer: (almost) all photos included in this post are the property of the respective shops.

No affiliate links are included in the post; the Sewcialist Necklace is a product in my own Etsy shop.


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Handmade Christmas – Gifts Given & Received

Screen Printed Tee

While I’m still feeling suitably Christmassy, and before the cards and decorations need to come down, I thought I’d post about the handmade gifts I gave or received this year.

I like to make Christmas gifts for close family and friends, but I normally combine these with bought presents, to avoid having unrealistic amounts of presents to make.

The tee pictured was a gift for Phil. The tee is RTW; I screen printed the text on the front, which is a snippet from a Barenaked Ladies song. To do this I typed the text in Word and altered the size and font until I had what I wanted, then printed a copy. I attached the print-out to an A4 sheet of acetate and carved the letters out to create a relatively sturdy stencil. I then used the stencil with my printing frame and fabric ink to print onto the tee. To save Phil from needing to pose in it, it’s pictured here on my dress form.

Screen Printed Tee

For three friends, I made Linden Sweatshirts by Grainline Studio, in identical fabrics but different sizes. Both the jersey and ribbing used were purchased from Minerva Crafts. The Linden is a good pattern to make as a gift as it isn’t too fitted.

Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studio

Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studio

For my two Grandmothers, I used the Madrid tote pattern from the first issue of Seamwork. I simplified the pattern slightly due to available time and missing a few supplies. I made these totes in plether and wool-blend, with a wax print for the lining and handles.

Madrid Tote Bag

Madrid Tote Bag

Madrid Tote Bag

I also took part in two online secret Santas this year: the Bloggers’ Secret Santa organised by Dino Princess Char and the Crafty Secret Santa organised by Kat. I sent buttons, ribbon and handmade baubles.

I received an amazing selection of Tiger goodies from Sarah in the Bloggers’ Secret Santa.

Bloggers' secret Santa Christmas 2014

And some lovely fabric from a mystery Santa:) in the Crafty Secret Santa.

Crafty Secret Santa 2014

I also took part in the Christmas Decoration Swap organised by Marilla Walker. I was paired up with Fiona, who sent this gorgeous decoration.

Christmas decoration swap

In return, I sent two knitted baubles. I made quite a few of these in different wools using a pattern included in Mollie Makes. I like the baubles made with multi-coloured wool best as you get a great effect with no effort. The white and red baubles below were made with wool which included glitter and sequins – it looks suitably festive but was a pain to knit with as the glitter thread had a tendency to snap and the sequins could get caught in the wool.

Hand Knitted Baubles

Hand Knitted Baubles

Hand Knitted Baubles

I have one more present to show, but I’m saving that for its own post.


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Vintage Postcard Christmas Cards

Handmade Christmas Cards using Vintage Postcards

While in Paris recently, I picked up a selection of vintage French holiday postcards for €1 each from Marché aux Puces, Saint-Ouen. I made them into Christmas cards for my family by cutting slits in the corners of blank cards (rather messily, with a pair of scissors I might add…) and slotting the postcards in. Super simple:)

Handmade Christmas Cards using Vintage Postcards

Handmade Christmas Cards using Vintage Postcards

Handmade Christmas Cards using Vintage Postcards

Handmade Christmas Cards using Vintage Postcards

Handmade Christmas Cards using Vintage Postcards


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Christmas Day Anna

I made an Anna dress, by By Hand London, to wear on Christmas day. I had a very pleasant Christmas Eve making it, while watching lots of old movies. It was going to be a birthday Anna as I’ve had the pattern and fabric for some time, but I missed by birthday (back in November) and it took me until the Christmas break to find the time.
Handmade Anna Dress
Now I know why everyone loves this dress so much. It was a really quick make and it fits perfectly! I love the front pleats, they give a lovely finish & are a nice unusual detail. I graded between two sizes to get a smaller fit on the top, grading to a larger size at the bottom of the bodice and on the skirt. As you can see I cut the fabric along the selvedge for the skirt and against the selvedge for the bodice. I was too lazy to attempt pattern matching!
Handmade Anna Dress
The fabric is a President Holland fabric, an African-style wax block print. It has a lovely waxy feel to it. I bought it from a shop on the Goldhawk Road when I was last in London. I was actually there for a friend’s birthday so didn’t get to the Goldhawk Road until Sunday when most shops are closed:( Luckily there were a couple of shops open so I did manage to treat myself. I bought quite a few metres so have lots left – I’m thinking this fabric would make great cushions.
Handmade Anna Dress
And, as it was made for Christmas, here is the dress in front of our Christmas tree.
Handmade Anna Dress