english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


SewBrum 2020 – 24th October

I wanted to pop on the blog to send best wishes to everyone who is being affected by Coronavirus, whether through sickness or risk of sickness, impact on your income or business, or stress at the ongoing uncertainty.

It might sound a bit frivolous, but I also wanted to share a save the date for SewBrum 2020.

This year’s meet-up (which will be the seventh!) will take place on Saturday 24th October 2020. It will be an opportunity to get together in person later this year, and to support independent shops in Birmingham. It’s also a free event so can be a cheap day out (dependent on your travel arrangements). Plus, as a free event, if your plans change nearer the date you can cancel your registration at any time (spaces aren’t limited).

You can sign-up on Eventbrite, and find more information on my blog, including accessibility of the venues we visit.

If you haven’t attended before, SewBrum is a free-to-attend meet-up of people who love to sew in Birmingham, UK. Everyone is welcome. We will start the day in Birmingham city centre and then travel to Guthrie & Ghani in Moseley Village, by bus.

Logo by illustrator and sewist Maike Plenzke.


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Gift Sewing Pattern Suggestions

Vlog Title Screen

Now that it’s November I’m sharing my recommendations for present making. You can see the full list of pattern suggestions on my vlog, and the full list with links is also copied below.

I’ve included lots of free patterns, plus some paid-for patterns which make ideal gifts. I’ve focused on sewing patterns, but have also recommended a few favourite sources of free knitting patterns.

Now I just need to start making some of these rather than leaving it until the last minute…

Sewing Patterns

Bombazine (oven) Mitt: https://www.bombazine.com.au/bombazine-mitt/

Noodlehead, Forage Bag: https://noodle-head.com/2018/10/forage-bag-free-pattern.html

Noodlehead, Tiny Treasures Basket & Tray: https://noodle-head.com/2016/07/tiny-treasures-basket-tray-free-pattern.html

Victory Patterns, Tailor’s Ham & Sausage: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2012/08/how-to-make-tailors-hams-and-sausages.html

Very Purple Person, Reversible Bag: http://verypurpleperson.com/2010/04/making-reversible-bag/

Thread Theory, Wallet Set: https://threadtheory.ca/collections/pdf-sewing-patterns/products/the-wallet-gift-giving-set-pdf

Milan AV-JC, Zero Waste Origami Bag: https://www.milanavjc.com/opensource-en-uamep-origami-bag

Very Sharron, Reversible Box Tote: https://www.veryshannon.com/patterns/reversibleboxtote

Wendy Ward / MIY Collection, various patterns: https://www.miycollection.com/collections/sewing-patterns-digital

Digital Pattern Library, House Tape Measure: https://digitalpatternlibrary.com/blog/2019/4/16/scrap-buster-zero-waste-house?rq=free%20pattern

Sew Over It, Tie: https://sewoverit.co.uk/product/tie-pdf-sewing-pattern/

Purl Soho, Tie: https://www.purlsoho.com/storage/fathersdaytie_FINAL.pdf

FreeSewing.org, Trayvon Tie: https://freesewing.org/patterns/trayvon

Grainline Studio, Stowe Bag: https://grainlinestudio.com/collections/accessories/products/stowe-bag?variant=22533587599442

Grainline Studio, Portside Travel Set: https://grainlinestudio.com/collections/accessories/products/portside-travel-set?variant=22533587501138

Grainline Studio, Hemlock Tee

Tilly & the Buttons, Eye Mask: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2015/07/how-to-make-eye-mask-free-pattern.html

Tilly & the Buttons, Slipper Boots: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2017/11/free-pattern-make-your-own-snuggly.htmlnne,

FreeSewing.org, Bruce Boxer Shorts: https://freesewing.org/patterns/bruce

Thread Theory, Comox Trucks Boxer Shorts: https://threadtheory.ca/collections/sewing-patterns/products/comox-trunks-pdf

So Zo What Do You Know, Pants & Vest: http://sozowhatdoyouknow.blogspot.com/p/free-patterns.html

Madalynne, Lingerie Patterns: https://madalynne.com/product-category/lingerie-sewing-pattern/

Ohhh Lulu, Lingerie Patterns: https://www.ohhhlululingerie.com/product-category/free/

Purl Soho, Free Sewing Patterns: https://www.purlsoho.com/create/tag/free-sewing-pattern/

In the Folds / Peppermint Magazine, Free Patterns: https://peppermintmag.com/sewing-school/

Sarah Kirsten, Fennel Fanny Pack: https://sarkirsten.com/patterns/fennel-fanny-pack

Kylie & the Machine, Ida Clutch: https://kylieandthemachine.com/introducing-the-ida-clutch/

Pattern Scout, Luna Crossbody Bag: https://www.patternscoutstudio.com/shop/luna-crossbody-pdf-sewing-pattern

Aneela Hoey, Accessory Patterns: https://comfortstitching.bigcartel.com/ / https://shopbeyondmeasure.co.uk/collections/patterns

Knitting Patterns

Purl Soho, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.purlsoho.com/create/tag/free-knitting-pattern/

Fringe Association, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/fringe-association-on-ravelry/patterns

Loop London, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.loopknitlounge.com/category/free-knitting-crochet-patterns/

Arne & Carlos: https://arnecarlos.com/

Tin Can Knits, Free Knitting Patterns: http://tincanknits.com/patterns-free.html

Brooklyn Tweed, Lavender Sachets: https://brooklyntweed.com/blogs/blog/lavender-sachets

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Two Knitted Skating Hats

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

A few months ago, a vintage fashion Instagrammer I follow posted a picture of herself in a ear warmer she had made and I decided I had to have one.

I made a search on Ravelry (ear warmer? head warmer? headband?) and managed to stumble on a free pattern by Julie Bierlein for the Portsmouth knitted skating hat.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in Alafosslopi

This is a simple and well designed pattern, with the option to knit in chunky/bulky or super chunky/bulky yarn. I knit two versions and each one took me two evenings, at a relaxed pace.

I really wanted a pink hat, but I thought I’d test the pattern with some stash yarn first, and used Ístex Álafoss Lopi in Golden Heather for my yellow version. I bought this yarn on a whim during a trip to Sweden back in 2015, and I previously used some of the ball in this hat. I still have loads left so no doubt it will show up on the blog again at some point.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in Alafosslopi

Having tested out the pattern, I ordered some pink yarn for version two. Always keen to support British yarn companies, I chose West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat yarn in the Escape colourway.

Both the yarns I used were chunky weight yarns, but the Alafoss is much firmer, which I think works really well for this pattern. Despite being my test version, my yellow version keeps its shape better and has a crisper silhouette. The soft pink yarn is much softer and has more stretch. I should have compensated for the stretch by knitting the pink hat slightly shorter but I didn’t realise until it was already finished and washed.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

I wasn’t sure how often I would wear these ‘hats’, but I wore them daily during a recent trip to New York. From the perspective of someone with long hair, they do a good job of keeping your head warm, and wearing them doesn’t result in a ‘hat hair’ effect.

For a fairly frivolous looking accessory they are actually quite practical, and easy to roll-up and pop in a pocket or bag when not being worn.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

I’m currently making a hat which definitely can’t be described as practical, a small pillbox hat to wear to the Dressmakers’ Ball next week, using some leftover fabric from my dress.

This was definitely one time when I was glad to have purchased slightly more fabric than I needed for the dress as I’m also planning to make a matching belt, and maybe a bag. There’s only four days left before the Ball now – wish me luck.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat


In The Folds Jumpsuit

In The Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

It’s been a weekend of staring at computer screens, but I wanted to squeeze in a quick blog post before the weekend is out.

I was in the office Saturday and Sunday this weekend for a software upgrade – not as bad as it sounds as the team are lovely, we had a suitable supply of chocolate and cake (kinder eggs included), and ordered in lunch. I have however been robbed of my weekly lie-ins, so we’ll see how I’m feeling by next Friday when I’ve done twelve consecutive 6am starts.

In The Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

I recently started studying an undergraduate degree in IT one day per week, in the hope of being less bamboozled by my colleagues in future. For some reason, I decided it would be a good idea to try to fix an EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING log-in page issue, which has been bugging me for a week, on my return home from work this evening. I’m still at that stage where I understand so little that I quickly feel overwhelmed and slightly panicky, but I guess I’ll get to the stage where it all becomes a little clearer, and where I waste less time going around in circles, eventually.

In The Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

I thought it best to end the week with something much more familiar; blogging about sewing. This is the (free) Jumpsuit pattern by In the Folds, in collaboration with Peppermint Magazine, in size B.

Like everyone else I was inspired by the pattern sample, and picked a similar fabric, a green chambray from Guthrie & Ghani, which my Mom treated me to during last year’s SewBrum meet-up. The fabric is very soft and has a lovely sheen. It is a little prone to creasing, which is exacerbated in these photos by the fact they were taken when I was hot and sweaty in Vietnam.

In The Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

This jumpsuit is a suitably loose and comfy garment for travelling in. I like the contrast of the relatively-fitted bodice with the loose trousers, and the deep v of the back neckline. I decided part-way through the holiday that I much prefer the belt tied at the back.

In The Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

I’m going to close the laptop and treat myself to an early night. See below for how quickly my blog photos degenerate when I have a boat practically to myself and baggy trousers to hop around in.

In The Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

In The Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit


A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Favourite Online Resources

Natural Dye Seeds

My dye plant seeds are sprouting!

As part of my #naturallydyedwardrobe project, I wanted to share some favourite online resources about natural dyeing:

Folk Fibers – I love both the beautiful naturally dyed products, and the blog posts about natural dyeing (use the search bar and keywords ‘natural dye’ to locate them). In particular, see the blog posts about dyeing with pomegranates, osage orange, red onion, yellow onion, and mushrooms.

The Botanical Colors website contains lots of information on natural dyes and how to use them, via the instructions section and blog. The shop (US-based) contains a wide range of natural dyeing supplies and workshops.

A Verb for Keeping Warm – The blog contains a huge amount of information on natural dyeing, including the work-along for the Modern Natural Dyer book.

Jenny Dean has written a number of excellent books on natural dyeing, and her blog also contains lots of detailed information about natural dyeing.

Various Woolful podcasts (and associated blog posts) focus on natural dyers.

A number of One Year One Outfit participants have been doing some really interesting natural dyeing with a focus on local plants, including: Nicki, Sue, Carolyn, and Mari.

Kelly Ruth creates a beautiful naturally dyed clothing line, available from her Etsy store.

The Wild Colours (UK-based) online shop is a good source of natural dye materials, and also contains lots of information about dyeing. A sister site, dedicated to Woad, also contains lots of background information.

I love the Seasonal Color Wheel, which depicts the dye colours produced from seasonal foods. I might attempt a sewing project inspired by it…

I’ll be back with my favorite books about natural dyeing soon.

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TOFT Cable Wristwarmers

In my last post about my Linden Sweatshirt dress, you may have spotted some knitted wrist warmers.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

These are another knitting project which I finished during the summer, and that have been sat in a drawer waiting for winter. It’s pretty mild in the UK (at the moment) but I made good use of these during my recent holiday in Belgium. They are photographed in Brussels Park, where I previously photographed my first Linden last year.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

The pattern is TOFT’s free Cable Wristwarmers pattern. This was my first attempt at cables and it’s a nice easy pattern to practice cables on if you haven’t attempted them before (spoiler for newbie knitters: cables are really easy). The pattern is knitted flat and seamed along one side, with a gap left for the thumb. They are a quick make if you’re still looking for fast Christmas gift knits.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

I used the recommended yarn, TOFT’s DK yarn in Silver. I used approximately half to three quarters of a ball for these wristwarmers, so I have a little left over for a future project. I actually bought the yarn from TOFT’s farm shop when I was there interviewing owner Kerry for an article for Seamwork Magazine.

Having worn these a fair bit over the last few weeks (and also lugged them around in my handbag) they now have a slight fuzzy halo, which you can just make out in the photos. As a result they are likely to pill over time, due to being a very soft wool.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

This is my second time using TOFT’s DK yarn (I previously made socks and later dyed them) and I’d strongly recommend it. It’s lovely to work with and is 100% British, being made with British wool, processed by the Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall, and ending up with the TOFT team in Rugby. As a result, these wrist warmers count as one of my one year one outfit makes.

TOFT Cable Wristwarmers in Silver DK Wool

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Customised button badge felt brooches

Last year, me and Phil visited Tallinn in Estonia. While there I bought a selection of retro button badges with the intention of doing something with them.

Making button badge brooches

This week I finally got around to it, creating some felt brooches with the vintage button badges at the centre. I’ll be selling these at the charity craft fair me and colleagues are currently organising for August.

Making button badge brooches

These were really easy to make. If your interested in giving it a try instructions are provided below:

1. Cut seven felt circles a bit larger than the button badge and the size you want to brooch to be. I used two colours of felt for my brooches – with 4 felt circles in the colour that was also used to back the brooch & 2 circles in a contrasting colour.

Making button badge brooches

2. Select one of your felt circles as the base of the brooch and sew four of the circles to the front of this to form the four quadrants or quarters of the circular brooch. To do this you’ll need to fold the circles being attached in half and then half again. I attached these to the front of the brooch with a few stitches but you could also use glue.

Making button badge brooches
Making button badge brooches

3. In order to make your brooch sturdy cut a circle of cardboard slightly smaller than your felt circles, so that it won’t be visible once the brooch is assembled, and glue this to the reverse of your brooch.

4. Sew a badge back accessory to the remaining sixth felt circle and glue this on top of the cardboard circle you have just attached. I tided the edge of the two back pieces and ensured the cardboard wouldn’t be visible by sewing around the edge of the two back pieces with blanket stitch.

Making button badge brooches

Making button badge brooches

5. Finally attach your button badge to the front of the brooch. You could just pin it on or, for extra stability, attach with glue.

Making button badge brooches

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Crafts, tea and free books in London

One of the places me and Phil always visit when we’re in London is Carnaby Street. Although you probably already know Carnaby Street (make sure you check out Cha Cha Moon for lunch), you may not have found Kingly Court which is hidden behind Carnaby Street itself. All the shops are independents and there are quite a few crafty ones, as well as some nice cake shops and an amazing tea house. Basically it has everything I like:)

Kingly Court, Carnaby Street London

Kingly Court also contains the Carnaby Book Exchange, where you can swap a book you’ve read for any other on the shelves. When I was there they had a good selection of fiction as well a few art books. The Exchange is a project curated by Fashion Curation students at the London College of Fashion, and they’re done a really good job of creating a stylish and welcoming space to stop for a browse and a read. Make sure you remember to take along a book to leave behind next time you’re planning a trip to London.

Carnaby Book Exchange, Kingly Court, Carnaby Street London

P.S. If you’re interested in tea shops also make sure you visit the Tea House in Covent Garden. It’s normally packed to the rafters with shoppers, but it’s worth fighting your way through to have a look at the selection of teas. I’m working my way through a ‘Strawberries and Cream’ sencha at the moment which is rather nice, and  I’ve had a lovely ‘Wild Cherry’ green tea from them in the past.

The Tea Shop, Covent Garden London

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Quick and dirty Chinese New Year paper cut

This week my Mandarin teacher taught our class a quick and easy method of creating paper cuts to celebrate the Chinese New Year or Spring Festival.

This paper cut features the Chinese character 春 (chun) which means spring and is the first part of the word 春节 (Chūnjié) which means Spring Festival.

All you need to create the paper cut is a piece of A4 paper, preferably in red which is the colour typically used due to its associations with good fortune and happiness in Chinese tradition and culture.

Fold the paper in half lengthways and draw the following shape onto the paper in pencil, drawing along the fold in the paper. Make sure that the middle stroke in the ‘E’ shaped section at the top of the character is shorter than the strokes above and below it.
春 Chinese Spring Festival paper cut pattern
Cut around the line you’ve drawn and fold flat.
春 Chinese Spring Festival paper cut pattern

Now stick onto a window to celebrate the New Year:)
春 Chinese Spring Festival easy paper cut

You can also create the paper cut in different sizes by using different sizes of paper – including the tiny paper cuts below:
春 Chinese Spring Festival paper cut