english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Wardrobe & Identity

Me

I always enjoy blog posts which reveal a little about the writer, and have been meaning to write something a bit more reflective for a while now. I’m interested in the role clothing can play in expressing identity, and thought I’d share a few examples from personal experience:

Clothing has always been important to me.

I had two obsessions while at junior school; I desperately wanted a dog, and I desperately wanted to wake up one day as a boy.

I don’t analyse the second of those obsessions, where it came from and why it left me as I approached finishing junior school; I think there is a danger of devaluing and explaining away the emotions in the process of analysing them. I suspect, in part at least, I had subconsciously assimilated a limiting view of what is was to be a woman, and was attempting to circumvent it. I read a lot of Enid Blyton (actually obsessively – I had hundreds of her books and a picture of her in my room) and books of that era, where the only girls who did anything of interest wanted to be boys.

Joe, Char & Steven

While awaiting my overnight transformation, I nagged my mom to have my hair cut short, and only buy me boy’s clothes. She consented to both, with the exception of underwear; boxer shorts were a step too far. It was important to me that the garments weren’t simply not explicitly feminine, but that they were purchased from the boy’s section of the clothes store. I had a zealous commitment to my dress code, which speaks of my desire to prove my seriousness to others, and to myself.

Joe, Char & Steven

In my experience, while young children are extremely accepting of difference, teenagers are pack animals; during secondary school, clothing was important as a means of fitting in. I remember a few occasions where friends and I bought the same t-shirt, which involved making a solemn pact never to wear them at the same time. Even in school, where we wore a uniform, it was important to be aware of the current tweaks to that uniform required to fit in; for example, this week, you might need to wear your tie backwards and extra short.

Me

As a teenager, clothing was also about declaring our musical affiliations. I was an indie-kid, and Damon Albarn was my style icon (as well as my main celebrity crush). A treasured possession was a grey Kappa jacket, the closest I could find (pre internet shopping) to a blue jacket which Damon was photographed in. I wore a silver identity bracelet because Damon did, and would have killed for the jacket he wore in the Parklife video.

Family Photo
A rare photo of the Kappa jacket

Towards the end of secondary school, and through sixth form, my friends and I expressed our lack of interest in fitting in, by adopting wardrobes of the least flattering and most ill fitting clothing possible. Thankfully, our fleeces and jeans era was short lived, and minimal photographic evidence of that period survives.

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New Pyjamas & Crochet Mitts

This week I finished a new pair of pyjama trousers.

Handmade Pyjama Trousers

I made these using a pattern in the Great British Sewing Bee book. My mom couldn’t resist buying the book and getting it signed when we visited the opening of Guthrie and Ghani. Being a lovely mom she leant it to me before getting chance to make anything herself;) I’ve got my eye on a few patterns but started with the pyjamas trousers after spotting some soft cotton fabric in Ikea (Smaborre) that I thought would be perfect.

Smaborre Ikea Fabric

The pattern was straightforward and the Sewing Bee book contains quite detailed instructions. However, due to the pattern being unisex (and me being short) the pattern/trousers needed quite a bit of alteration to fit. In particular, the width of the leg and height of the waist area in the small pattern size seemed far too large even for a small man. My brother fits a men’s small and there’s no way he would have been broad or tall enough for these. I needed to remove 9 cm from the bottom of each trouser leg and 5 cm from the waist of the trousers in order to achieve a reasonable fit. I should really have also taken in the side seams but couldn’t be bothered thought that I could get away with a loose fit on pyjamas. It seemed a shame that quite so much alteration was required, given that a lot of people new to sewing are likely to buy the book and may get put off if they find it difficult to get a good fit on one of the simpler patterns, but you can’t have everything and I guess it’s somewhat inevitable with a unisex multi-sized pattern.

Handmade Pyjama Trousers
(Slacking in the living room with my handmade Jake)

Having previously cut out the fabric, I made the trousers one evening after work. By the point I finished I was obviously past my best as I managed to sew two pins inside the hem at the bottom of a trouser leg and had to cut my stitches to release them… I did however finish them in time to wear them to bed so it was worth it.

Given that I have a lot of clothing sewing projects on the go / planned I’ve been trying to buy less clothes lately. However I did make an exception for this amazing pair of cycling gloves with crochet backs. Aren’t they gorgeous? They are made by the Altura cycling brand.

Crochet Cycling Gloves

Having bought them I though I’d better put them to use so cycled to my favourite local park (Cannon Hill) with Phil on Thursday and Friday evening after work. We may have treated ourselves to a 99 or two as well…

Crochet Cycling Gloves