english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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T-Shirt Re-Fashion

I have a stall at craft fairs in November and December so have had to put sewing clothes for myself on hold (boo) while I make items for the stalls. However, I remembered a mini-alteration I made earlier this year that didn’t previously get blogged.

Never one to throw things out, when a basic summer dress basically fell apart – I’m not sure exactly what happened but it had an elasticated waist which suddenly ripped through – I thought I’d better find a way to re-use it.
Dress Alteration

The dress had a large lace collar so as an easy re-use I removed the collar from the dress and combined it with a basic tee from H&M.

Customised Tee - Work in Progress

Customised Tee - Work in Progress

Add a couple of buttons on the sleeves for detail and ta-da a very easy make & something saved from the bin. I’m planning to cut off the skirt section of the dress to wear as a skirt, and to see if I can find a way to re-purpose the fabric from the bodice for a small project.

Customised Tee - Work in Progress

Perfect for hanging out in the park.

Hand Made Top

Hand Made Top


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Linen Mathilde

Linen Check Handmade Mathilde Blouse

I feel like I’ve been waiting to make the Mathilde Blouse, by Tilly and the Buttons, for ages! I knew I’d love it as it’s totally my style – big sleeves, buttons down the back, high neckline. I bought the pattern weeks ago, cut the fabric out and then it sat around for a while, but last weekend I finally sat down and got sewing. It’s a pretty simple make especially with the online instructions available from Tilly’s site. It does take a good few hours though, or at least it did for me. I started machine sewing in earnest last Saturday evening and next thing I knew it was 1am and there was still lots to do! That’s what happens when you’re busy sewing – time passes faster!

Linen Check Handmade Mathilde Blouse

Being too lazy to make a muslin, I did at least go with a reasonably priced linen-blend (about £5 per metre) instead of the Liberty fabric I picked initially. Now that I know it fits me (I cut size 2 with no alterations) I’m planning to pop back for some of that Liberty fabric for version two. Although this was a first attempt I didn’t skimp on my finishes. I used French seams absolutely everywhere and bound the edges of the facing and sleeves. Look how neat the inside looks:)

Linen Check Handmade Mathilde Blouse

You’ll notice the blouse looks a little creased, but I had just cycled to a local park. For a linen it doesn’t crease too badly. The buttons I used down the back are handmade oak buttons by Against the Grain. I bought these from Sue, the artist who makes them, at a craft fair where we both had a stall back in August. I think they’re a great match for the checked fabric.

Linen Check Handmade Mathilde Blouse

Linen Check Handmade Mathilde Blouse

Linen Check Handmade Mathilde Blouse


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Time For Tea (Dress)

Handmade Tea Dress
This week the new Library of Birmingham and the refurbished Rep theatre opened. I had a family trip to the theatre with my family to see the new Alan Bennett play People so got to have a little look around. It was really busy (there was a queue to get in, which can’t happen very often in a library!) so I’m planning to pop back for a better look around soon.

Speaking of libraries, I borrowed The Great British Sewing Bee book from Coventry City Council’s Main Library (having previously borrowed it from my Mom to make a blouse with peter pan collar!). This time I decided to make the tea dress pattern from the book. This was a pretty simple make. In fact the most difficult thing was deciding which size to cut. According to the size guide in the book I fell between a size 12 and 14. I was a little suspicious of that sizing. I know that RTW sizing is inaccurate and minimised but a size 12-14 sounded quite large, particularly as the patterns in the book only go up to a size 16. I was also suspicious because I made the blouse pattern from the book in a size 8 (as I didn’t check the size guide that time & just assumed an 8 based on what I typically fit in RTW, oops!). However, the tea dress was a slightly more fitted make than the blouse so I was concerned about cutting too small. Obviously what I should have done was cut a muslin, but being lazy I decided to cut the dress out in a size 12 and then size down as required. The fabric was a relatively cheap floral cotton from Barry’s Fabric (purchased during the Birmingham blogger meet-up) so I didn’t feel too bad basically making a wearable muslin. I pinned the dress pieces on and found that the size 12 was way too big, no surprise! I wonder if the size guide in the book is actually misprinted as it’s miles off. I trimmed the pieces down to the size 10. The dress is still quite loose so I think the size 8 was probably a better fit but by cutting the larger size I avoiding adding a zip. Yippee!
Handmade Tea Dress
It’s quite a sweet simple dress and I like the capped sleeves so I might make it up again in a smaller size, perhaps altering the neckline slightly as personally I prefer a slightly higher neckline in front and back.
Handmade Tea Dress
I’m off to Istanbul tomorrow for a business trip – my very first outside the UK! I’m planning to pack some hand sewing for when I’m sat in the hotel. I’d like to do some fabric shopping too but I’ll have to see if there’s time.

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My First Craft Fair

MAC Contemporary Craft Fair August 2013

Last weekend I had a stall at a craft fair for the first time, at Midlands Art Centre. I’m not used to having to make up so much stock, as I only make the items I sell on Etsy when I receive an order. I have a stall booked for a couple of Christmas craft fairs so it was a good practise run at laying out a stall and testing what would sell. I was visited during the fair by my friend Jo, and my family which was very nice:)

MAC Contemporary Craft Fair August 2013

As well as selling a few items, I also came home with a couple of lovely things.

I traded one of my plush Geek Chic Panda for an amazing necklace by a fellow stall holder Working Clasp. It’s my new favourite necklace and is going to get worn with EVERYTHING!

Working Clasp Necklace

I also bought some awesome handmade oak buttons from Against the Grain. I picked a small-sized button as I’m going to attach them to a skirt or blouse as soon as possible. Sue, the artist who makes them, can make buttons to order for specific sewing projects. Tempting:)

Against The Grain Wooden Buttons


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Found in Brighton – a Pink Pencil-Shaving Dress & Some Fabric Bargains

Brighton
A couple of weeks ago me and Phil spent a weekend in Brighton. Phil’s dad has recently started running a hotel in Brighton so we got to stay for free (yippee!).

Having not visited Brighton before we did the sights: Brighton Pavilion, the electric railway, the museum and art gallery, the pier, a walk into Hove, etc.

The small fashion section of the Museum & Art Galley is worth a trip. The highlights of their collection are a one-piece bathing suit with bloomer-style bottoms (1920), silk camiknickers with appliquéd ballet dancers (1940), a Schiaparelli dress in a gorgeous printed silk (1936), and a lovely Ossie Clark yellow shirt dress (1969-74). Very nice indeed.

Brighton
Brighton
Brighton
Brighton
Brighton is amazing for shopping. As sewing bloggers who have visited Brighton will know, there are a number of sewing and fabric shops.
Brighton
Brighton
Brighton
Brighton
Brighton
There are also loads of other great vintage (check out Snoopers Paradise), comic, homeware (Utility, Tiger), and charity shops.
Brighton

Brighton
Brighton
In an Oxfam shop I bought a great handmade dress. It’s in an amazing silky pink fabric, with a pencil shaving design. I love the thought of having a dress handmade by someone else. I’d love to know who made it.
Brighton
Brighton
Brighton
Brighton
However, the best find of the weekend was a couple of pieces of fabric which I picked up at a car boot sale which we stumbled upon in the car park of Brighton Marina. A stall at the far end of the sale had a huge pile of fabrics on the ground, with everything £1. I picked out a piece of patterned polyester (I think) which should work for a blouse.
Brighton
Even better was a great old curtain panel in a purple floral pattern. I’m planning to make some peg bags & other items for an upcoming craft fair, but if there’s enough fabric left I’ll also be making a skirt for myself from it.
Brighton
Phil was horrified when I picked up the curtain, which, admittedly, was truly filthy and smelt pretty bad but it’s washed up pretty well and I love it!

P.S. Me And Phil realised one day that we’d unintentionally dressed rocker and mod style, which seemed very suitable for Brighton.

Brighton
Brighton


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My First Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

Batik Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

A couple of weeks ago I attended my first workshop at Guthrie and Ghani in Moseley. Having visited on their opening day and had a nose at their upstairs studio, I was keen to go back and try a class there. A friend at work was attending a Batik Taster Session so I decided to tag along.

The course was run by Layla Tutt who is a local batik artist and, as she told us herself, first and foremost a rock chick and musician. Layla introduced us to batik by showing a number of her own works as well as pieces created in previous teaching sessions she has run with children.

Guthrie & Ghani Grand Opening
Guthrie & Ghani Grand Opening

(Batik pieces by  Layla Tutt)

Batik Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

Layla then introduced us to the tools of the trade. The key tool is the tjanting which is used to create outlines in hot wax. This wax serves as a resist, creating an area protected from the paint which is then applied.

Batik Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

We were given the opportunity to dye either one large or four small pieces of batik. I went for the one larger piece but it did mean that my very first attempt was my only attempt, and by the time I had got to grips with the tjanting I had run out of fabric. On a single layer image (which was all that was really possible in a short session as we didn’t have enough time to allow the paint to dry) batik can be quite a quick technique. However, Layla stressed that a large, multi-layered image can take a long time to create; largely due to waiting for each layer to dry before starting the next. The tjanting appeared to be one of those tools that does take a bit of getting used (wax coming out too fast, not enough wax coming out, etc) so it was difficult to achieve much in a short session, but it was good fun to have a go. I really enjoyed it but think I’ll probably stick to lino/screen printing and direct fabric painting at home due to the additional barriers of getting to grips with batik (the need to purchase a wax pot and tjanting, and to learn a new technique).

Batik Workshop at Guthrie & Ghani

Anyway, here is my batik piece from the evening. As I said, I only had one piece of fabric so I made use of every inch to squash on a fair few patterns and colours. Layla mainly creates floral patterns and her pieces inspired us to do the same – I think every single member of the class painted flowers!

Handmade Batik Print
Handmade Batik Print

Having finished painting my piece of fabric quite early in the evening I took advantage of the opportunity to pop downstairs into the Guthrie & Ghani shop to do some shopping.  I treated myself to some lovely Sevenberry fabric which I’m in the process of making into a blouse with a peter pan collar. Assuming I don’t slack off and spend too much time watching TV / reading blogs you’ll be seeing it very soon.

Sevenberry Fabric
Sevenberry Fabric


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Handmade Cards for Phil

Yesterday morning I had to pop to the doctor’s before work for a regular blood-pressure check. I was wearing the brooch I made at the Made in the Middle Craft Taster day and the doctor asked me about it. Well, that quickly led to a discussion about craft and sewing. The doctor was getting into craft (she’d just bought her first issue of Making magazine and a sewing machine) and I attempted to provide some tips on taking up her curtains and easy starter sewing patterns. I’m not sure if it’s a sign of how popular craft has become or just a sign that I’m so obsessed I manage to bring every conversation (even a medical consultation!) around to sewing… anyway it wasn’t a bad start to the day.

I spotted a couple of interesting links out and about on the web today:

  • I spotted an interesting post on Craftsy about independent sewing pattern designers.
  • Colette patterns have posted the short listed entries to the Laurel contest. Luckily they are asking readers to vote for 5 entries, there’s no way I could pick just one!

Now for the real subject of this post, the handmade birthday cards I made for Phil over the last few years. I only just rediscovered these in a box under our bed recently so haven’t posted pictures of any of these before. A couple are looking a little worse for wear for being squashed under the bed…

Shamefully I made all of these before me and Phil moved in together. Since we bought our house I’ve not made him a decent card. The excuse for this is that it’s difficult to secretly make him a card when we’re both in the house. Truthfully though I could sneak up stairs for an hour or so. I’ll try to ensure I make the effort this year.

Home Made Card

Home Made Card
Two Doraemon cards – one in felt and one in paper

Home Made Card
Superman card

Home Made Card
KISS Paul Stanley card

Home Made Card
This is the piece de résistance, a recreation of a famous anti-drugs Green Lantern/Green Arrow cover. I continued the comic theme on the inside with speech bubble text boxes.

Home Made Card


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Craft Shops Et cetera in Paris

Paris Navigo Card

(Our Paris Navigo travel cards)

Me and Phil spent last week in Paris. While we were there gay marriage was legalised, with France becoming the 14th country to legalise gay marriage.
French Newspaper Headline, April 2013

It was only the second time we’d visited Paris, so there was lots we wanted to see. Amongst the sites and galleries we managed to squeeze in some shopping. This post outlines some recommended shops and will be followed by a more general photo post showing some of the inspiring colours, patterns and shapes I photographed whilst in Paris.

Craft Shops

At the foot of Sacre-Coeur (near the funicular and off Bd Rochechouart) you’ll find Paris’ fabric shop district. Once you get near you can’t miss it as you’ll spot the colourful rolls of fabric lined up outside the multitude of fabric shops. The largest of these (and the largest fabric shop in Paris) is the Marche Saint-Pierre, which is visible from the steps of the Sacre-Coeur.

Paris

Marche Saint-Pierre Location

If you don’t find a suitable fabric in Marche Saint-Pierre, there are many similar shops located in the surrounding streets. In these stores you’ll find Liberty fabrics, as well as a wide selection of fabric types (printed cottons, felt, toile, lamé…).

Paris

Paris

For designer fabric brands (Michael Miller, Kokka, etc) and just for the pure joy of it, visit Moline Mercerie. Moline Mercerie is a truly lovely shop which stocks a full range of haberdashery supplies including lots of buttons, ribbons, books and patterns.

Paris

I was very good and restricted my shop to some offcuts of a couple of the lovely fabrics they stock.

Moline Mercerie Fabric

In the streets around Sacre-Coeur the focus is largely on fabric but you’ll also find shops stocking knitting and embroidery supplies, and cute boutique shops.

Paris

Paris

Embroidery fans should also visit Bonheur des Dames located in the Viaduc des Arts (near the Bastille and Gare de Lyon metro stations). The Viaduc des Arts is a row of beautiful glass fronted shops but the majority are only used as displays for artists and businesses so there isn’t much shopping to be done.

Paris

While in France don’t miss the chance to check out the wide selection of craft magazines available.

French Craft Magazines
(Craft magazines in a supermarket – you’ll find lots more in a decent newsagent)

I purchased two Burda magazines while there (also available in English and a number of other languages, but I couldn’t resist getting them while there to read on the metro).

Burda Magazine

If you haven’t bought one of these magazines before they are well worth a look. They contain a huge range of patterns so there is bound to be something you’ll like. The patterns inside range from easy (pyjama trousers) to mid-difficulty (reprinted vintage dress pattern).  A few pictures of the patterns on offer, and the instructions and pattern pieces are below.

Burda Magazine

Burda Magazine

Burda Magazine

Burda Magazine

Burda Magazine

Burda Magazine

Burda Magazine

I did eye up some other sewing magazines but they focused more on children’s clothes or some (like Simplicity) seemed aimed at an older audience.

Comics

I’ve long loved the Album comic store chain. As children/teenagers me and my brother used to look out for Album shops when holidaying in France with our parents. The very best place in Paris for comic shopping is on and around the Boulevard de Saint Germain (near Notre Dame) where there are three Album and two Pulp comic stores.

General

More generally, Faubourg St-Antoine, previously a furniture-maker district, (the end nearest to Opera National de la Bastille and Bastille metro) has a number of home ware stores (Habitat, Muji, Maisons de la Mode) as well as high street fashion (Petit Batou, Kookai, Gap, etc).
Petit Bateau Catalogue
Petit Bateau Catalogue
(Petit Batou catalogue)

The streets around Centre Pompidou (Rue Rambuteau, etc) are good for cheap eats and high street shopping, and it is generally a bustling neighbourhood with shops open late – no doubt influenced by the  Centre Pompidou’s late opening hours.


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Made in the Middle Craft Taster Day

Today Phil and I attended a Made in the Middle ‘craft taster day’ at Bilston Craft Gallery.
Made in the Middle Craft Taster Day

Made in the Middle is a touring exhibition which I previously blogged about while it was showing at MAC. Made in the Middle is currently on at Bilston, and today’s taster day was a related event with five of the artists with work in the exhibition demonstrating their techniques and allowing visitors to have a go.

Clare Willard allowed visitors to create a version of her laser cut brooches. The brooches me and Phil created are pictured below. Phil’s is the neater one (on the right). Clare provided the laser cut pieces which we stuck together based on a pattern provided. The reverse of the brooches were specially made up with the text ‘Bilston 2013’ which was a lovely touch. I’m pictured modelling mine below (and pulling an awkward face as is my habit when photographed) in the park surrounding Birmingham Cathedral.

Made in the Middle Craft Taster Day
Made in the Middle Craft Taster Day

Me wearing my Clare Willard brooch from Made in the Middle Craft Taster Day

We also spent time with sculptor Ruth Spaak who creates sculptures from glass and found/recycled objects. Ruth talked about how she visits car boot sales to find objects to recycle into works of art or for her pupils to recycle into works of art at the various classes she teaches.

In the session with Ruth we threaded beads, buttons and other interesting bits and bobs onto crocodile ties to create the objects pictured below. As you may be able to guess Phil’s is the one on the right (browns & greys) and mine is on the left (pinks and purples)!

Made in the Middle Craft Taster Day
Made in the Middle Craft Taster Day
Made in the Middle Craft Taster Day

We also got chance to talk to Charlotte Clark about her process for creating glass sculptures. Charlotte is participating in a very cool upcoming Urban Pony Exhibition, taking place at Art Space Dudley from 24th May, where various artists will customise a vintage My Little Pony in a way which reflects their own artistic practice. There are workshops taking place as part of the exhibition where participants will have the chance to customise a pony. I’ve definitely got to attend one of those!


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What (Not) to Watch While Crafting

I tend to do quite a bit of making with the TV on. It actually makes me a lot slower, but it does allow me to feel as if I’m multi-tasking (sort-of) and allows me to work through a few things I’ve recorded before the Sky box gets full!

However, there are certain types of movies/TV shows which don’t allow multi-tasking. You have to give them 100% concentration if you want to enjoy them. When deciding what to watch while crafting I follow the following simple rules:

What Not to Watch

  • Slapstick comedies (you’ll miss all the best jokes looking down to thread a needle)
  • Silent movies (you’ll have no idea what is going on)
  • Foreign-language movies/TV shows (you’ll drive your partner mad asking them to read you the subtitles while you finish a tricky section)
  • Natural history (you won’t appreciate the amazing photography)
  • Animation (this one is borderline as it can be done but you’re not really getting the full benefit if you’re only looking at the screen 50% of the time)

Chaplin painting

What to Watch

Anything else is acceptable, however the following are particularly recommended:

  • Crafty shows (good for inspiration. In particular I’d recommend Next Great Artist, but at the moment I’m enjoying Great British Sewing Bee)
  • Shows your partner loves but you think are only so-so (only deserving of 50% concentration anyway, plus you’ll win some brownie points)
  • Wordy shows with less than amazing visuals (e.g. history shows, some documentaries)

And of course you could always just listen to the radio…