english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Modified Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

I originally made, and blogged, this dress (The Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress) a year ago, but I was never happy with the fit on me. Apart from a couple of trial outings, this dress hung on my wardrobe door for a year waiting to be altered.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

After that long wait, it took me a single evening to alter the dress and add it into rotation in my wardrobe. The alterations I made were to remove 7 inches from the hem, reduce the width of the shoulders (I temporarily removed the sleeves and cut a crescent shaped section from each shoulder), remove the elastic from the sleeve hems, increase the waistline gathering, and generally improve the tidiness of my sewing.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

The dress is sewn in a crepe fabric from John Lewis and paired here with a matching lipstick and another pill box hat. The construction of the hat is as per my previous post, and the fabric is a pale pink pvc with a snakeskin print and texture, from Fancy Silk Store. I spotted this fabric the first time I visited Fancy Silk Store for hat making supplies; once I had a first pill box under my belt I went back to buy this fabric. These hats only use a tiny amount of fabric so I have plenty left and may use it to make a matching bag.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

Over the recent bank holiday weekend, Phil and I made the most of the sunshine and visited a couple of Birmingham Museums’ venues. It’s easy to forget to be curious about historic sites which are close to home, and we’re slowly working our way around some local sites, including Soho House (home of the industrialist Matthew Boulton) where these photos were taken.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

#memademay2019 is fast approaching. My pledge is to use the challenge to help me reach a point where I enjoy wearing everything in my wardrobe (me-made, second-hand, and ready-to-wear). That means getting rid of clothes which no longer fit or which I no longer enjoy wearing, altering me-made garments which I’m not completely happy with, and finishing my UFOs. This dress is one example of working towards that pledge, and I’m hoping to continue throughout May and beyond.

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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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Velvet Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Two weekends ago we were in Bristol for the Like Sew Amazing shop launch, and last weekend we were in London so that I could attend a meeting of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers GPC. I’ve stuck to my resolution of making time to attend meet-ups and other creative events, and not just those I organise. In just over two weeks’ time we are flying to New York, so that I can attend Male Pattern Boldness Day for the first time. Peter’s long-running event is surely the ultimate sewing meet-up, and I’ve been longing to join in for years.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

The only downside of so much socialising is that I’ve spent very little time at home for the last two weekends. I’m keen to finish one or, dare I say it, two coats before we leave for New York, but it’s going to be a push. I struggle to motivate myself to sit behind the sewing machine after a day at work, but I have been making progress on my knitting in the evening and during weekend travel. It’s a good job, as I also have four knitting projects I’d like to finish for New York (one blocked and ready to go, one in progress, and two yet to start).

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have something new to wear (and photograph, obviously) for my holiday, and I won’t be cutting any corners to complete the projects quickly. As my sewing ability improves I’m trying to make sure I finish my sewing projects to a (slowly but surely) increasingly high standard to match.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

These photos were taken on a previous trip to Bristol, when I was there to attend the Sewcialite Soiree in November. The pattern is the Grace Dress from Simple Sew, and was free with Love Sewing magazine. It’s a lovely simple pattern, which I’ve now made three times. My first version is still my favourite, despite it getting somewhat mangled in the washing machine, as the fabric gives it a simplicity and lightness.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

This version was made in the leftover floral velvet from my version of McCall’s M7154, purchased from Barry’s Fabrics. The long train on M7154 means that it isn’t wearable for many occasions, so I was keen to make a ‘day dress’ with the remaining fabric.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Back to holiday knitting for me, with a glass of cider and an episode of ST The Next Generation.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress


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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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Craftine Box Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Recently, I got the opportunity to try out Craftine Box a sewing subscription box based in France and now available in the UK, which is released every two months.

I’ve recorded a vlog with an unboxing and some footage of my finished project. I’d also recommend having a look at their Blog if you’d like to see inside some more recent boxes (mine was the February edition). In the time since I received my box, Craftine have begun providing two sewing pattern options inside each box which is a great feature, as it’s twice as likely you’ll be interested in making an included project!

I used the fabric in the Craftine Box I received to make a Simple Sew Grace Dress, which I received free with an issue of Love Sewing (issue 30), and which I’ve made previously.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

This is a great simple dress pattern, which I’ve now made successfully in woven and knit fabrics. I have another version of the Grace Dress to blog, as I sewed two at once this time. If I make it again I’m going to try the capped sleeve version, for a slightly different silhouette.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

I’m in the second week of a new job. I was exhausted every evening of my first week – it was a relatively quiet start but something about being in a new environment is so tiring! I’ve got more energy this week and am using the time saved from my much shorter commute to get more done in the evening, such as blogging and vlogging. In my previous job I never had enough energy after the commute home to sew in the evening, so I’m hoping that will change and I might make progress on some of the sewing projects I’m really excited about very soon. I also have lots of (Christmas) knitting planned!

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Despite living in Birmingham for my entire life my new job is the first I have had based in Birmingham City Centre, which, consequently, is also where these photos were taken (in The Custard Factory to be specific)!

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free Craftine Box; all opinions expressed are my own.


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Karri Dress in Malhia Kent Remnants

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

Malhia Kent are a French company who produce woven fabrics for fashion houses. They also have a store in Paris (my personal favourite) where you can buy the fabrics as a consumer – and if you stick to the remnant fabrics they work out very reasonably priced (if you’d like to see inside the store, I previously included it in a Paris fabric shopping vlog).

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

I got carried away in the €1 remnant bin on a couple of previous trips, and decided to make a Karri dress with the remnants on the pattern’s release (back in 2016!). I finally saw that plan through to completion just before spending a weekend in Paris last month, where I was able to photograph the dress outside the Malhia Kent store. I would, inevitably, have come home with more €1 remnants but never managed to pass the shop except when it was closed for lunch / the day.

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

The bodice of the dress is constructed from 8 different fabric remnants. Understandably, the remnants vary in size, so cutting out was a process of trial and error as I placed the pattern pieces on various remnants and figured out what would fit, and how it would look together. I decided to make the top of the bodice, the sleeves, and the centre back symmetrical, and then use contrasting remnants for the other pattern pieces.

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

The skirt of the dress is in a black wool fabric purchased in Barry’s Fabrics. I did cut out a skirt in some larger Malhia Kent remnants, but the clash of colours and prints was overwhelming so I sewed that up separately as a skirt. The wool for the skirt has a glittery silver effect running through it and is more pronounced on one side, so I alternated between the two sides of the fabric when cutting out to continue the contrast effect of the bodice.

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

The fabric for the skirt was a good reminder to treat fabric with appropriate care. Despite it being a wool, I risked throwing it in the washing machine on a low heat, and it shrunk considerably and changed consistency, coming out of the machine much thicker due to felting. The fabric was still usable – just different – but the shrinkage meant that fitting the pattern pieces on my fabric was more effort than it needed to be. On the plus side, the felting that had taken place meant I didn’t need to hem it.

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

I was planning to work on an outfit to wear to the Sewcialite Soirée (which takes place next weekend), but I’ve been having an exceeding lazy weekend and haven’t even made it as far as my sewing machine. Friday was my last day in my current job (after 5 years) and I had a lovely leaving do on Friday night where I had a few drinks, and subsequently spend Saturday napping and recovering. It’s finally dawned on me this weekend that I won’t see those work friends on a daily/regular basis from now on (boo hoo), but I am looking forward to a new work challenge from tomorrow.

I might see if I can summon up enough energy to do some knitting for the remainder of the evening. Enjoy your Sunday evenings all.

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress


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Wedding & Weekender Vogue 9253

Vogue Patterns V9253

I thought it was about time I blogged a finished garment. This is my Vogue V9253 (i.e. that Vogue dress with the really low neckline which everyone raises). I made this to wear to the Sewing Weekender, and to Phil’s sister’s wedding, which was two weeks later.

Vogue Patterns V9253

It’s no wonder this pattern has been so popular; as everyone has told you, it’s a quick and easy sew, it has a flattering fit since the bodice is fitted but it’s loose from the waist down, and it would work in a wide range of fabrics. I think it would make a great winter party dress in a heavier weight fabric like a crepe or velvet, however, I already have a Trend Patterns 70s Dress cut out, which I was planning to wear to last year’s Christmas party, and am hoping to actually sew in time for this year’s.

Vogue Patterns V9253

I love the look of this fabric, but it is a lesson in buying good quality fabric. This is a polyester which cost £2 per metre from Birmingham Rag Market. I love the print, but the fabric feels cheap – it’s sweaty in hot weather, it’s already started to pill (after approximately four wears) and snags easily. Since this was my first time making the pattern it’s not a huge loss, since it basically acted as a wearable toile, but how much better to have made it in a fabric which would last for years. I would say lesson learned, but the Rag Market is so tempting, and SewBrum will be here in a month’s time, so no promises!

Vogue Patterns V9253

I made some exceedingly rookie errors, which may have been due to me trying to sew quickly to finish this before the Sewing Weekender, or may just have been due to me being generally a little absent-minded. I sewed, and overlocked, all the way up the skirt back seam, meaning that I needed to unpick my stitches to insert the zip. I then repeated the same mistake on the bodice, and because the bodice is fitted there then wasn’t enough seam allowance left to insert the zip and for the bodice to fit. I didn’t have enough fabric or patience to re-cut the bodice, so I cut some narrow strips and attached these to either side of the bodice back seam – voila a bodice which fits. I also completely forgot that the dress was supposed to have waist ties until I found them hanging over the back of a chair while packing to leave for the Weekender. I wore the dress without waist ties at the Weekender and added them before I wore it to Lucy and Jack’s wedding; I think the dress works fine with or without ties.

Vogue Patterns V9253

I had an early start yesterday, catching a train to Leeds for Sew Up North. Today I’ve done the opposite, and spent the morning on the sofa, blogging and watching The Fashion Fund on Netflix (recommended, it’s like Project Runway, but documentary as opposed to reality show). I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to everyone at Sew Up North, and am really inspired to sew as a result of seeing what everyone was wearing and my fabric purchases. Today’s task is to make some progress on my Refashioners Project – I’m determined to finish in time to participate in the challenge, and am not letting myself work on any other sewing projects until it is complete, as added motivation.

Vogue Patterns V9253

Vogue Patterns V9253

Vogue Patterns V9253

Vogue Patterns V9253

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018

The Sewing Weekender 2018