english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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A Tour of Birmingham City Centre

Birmingham, England

With SewBrum coming up next week, I thought I’d share a personal guide to Birmingham city centre, taking in my favourite places to eat/shop/meander.

I’m deeply biased; not only have I lived in the suburbs of Birmingham for my whole life, I have also visited the city centre every week or so since I was a kid. I love to travel, but arriving back in Birmingham always feels like being home.

Birmingham, England

Birmingham’s weakness for many years was that it lacked independent businesses in the city centre, but in the last few years Birmingham has developed a really exciting community of independents. Currently, it feels like there are always new businesses opening, and events taking place.

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with the latest news I’d highly recommend the mailing lists/social media accounts of the following:
Independent Birmingham / I Choose Birmingham / Flatpack

Birmingham, England

If you visit Birmingham and stick to the shopping centres you’ll miss what makes it special. Below is my personal tour around the city.

Hurst Street

The area around Hurst Street contains Birmingham’s Chinese and gay quarters, and a lot of good restaurants. I love to eat at MinMin (Hong Kong noodle cafe), Toppoki (Korean), Jacky’s Kitchen (Northern Chinese), and Cafe Soya (there are two branches but stick to the little one inside the Arcadian). There are three Chinese bakeries in this area, two inside the Arcadian (Wah Kee & Cafe Chino), and one inside the entrance to China Court restaurant; I highly recommend the walnut cookies and sponge at Wah Kee. I struggle to walk past without getting an ice tea at Happy Lemon.

Birmingham, England

Birmingham has a thriving street food scene (focused in Digbeth) and now has a permanent Hawker Yarn, located next to the Arcadian centre.

Birmingham, England

The (National Trust owned) Back-to-Backs are located on Hurst Street (the last surviving court of back-to-back houses in Birmingham) – if you don’t fancy taking the tour you can always visit the sweet shop situated in one of the houses. The UK’s oldest working cinema, The Electric is nearby.

Birmingham, England

The shop where I have spent more money than any other (by a looong way), Nostalgia and Comics, is located close by. I have a comic standing order there – although my comics are often to be found in the debtors box, because I haven’t been in to collect them for a few weeks…

Birmingham, England

Fabric Shops

From Hurst Street, it’s approximately a five minute walk to Birmingham Indoor and Rag markets which are the best place to shop for cheaper fabrics, trims and haberdashery supplies. In the markets, fabric typically costs between £1-£8 per metre. On your way there you might spot Annatomix’s Bowie graffiti.

Birmingham, England

Directly opposite the market is Fancy Silk Store, which is spread over four floors. Barry’s Fabric Superstore, which is my personal favourite, is a 5-10 minute walk away (and just around the corner from Barry’s is EU Fabrics, but I haven’t had chance to visit yet to see what it’s like). House of Fraser and John Lewis also have haberdashery sections.

Birmingham, England

Digbeth

From the market it’s a short walk to Digbeth, which hosts the ever excellent Digbeth Dining Club on Friday nights. Seasonal Markets, which take place quarterly at The Bond, are also always worth attending. The Custard Factory is most fun when there is an event on (antique fair, etc.) as the shop occupants change quite regularly (so clearly struggle), but Clink bottle shop is worth visiting and Cow Vintage is located nearby. One of the most fun things in Digbeth is the frequently excellent graffiti (particular following the City of Colours festival).

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

The Centre

Tilt bar serves a great range of indie beers and loose leaf teas, and has a large and regularly changing selection of pinball machines (I love the Adams Family & Medieval Madness). They have good cake too, and lovely signage by local sign painter Seven 9 Signs (I’m looking for an excuse to commission something from him).

Birmingham, England

Right by New Street Station, 4023 serves super cheap and delicious Mediterranean food and is next door to All Greek delicatessen, and a few steps down from York’s Bakery Cafe. Opposite, the Piccadilly Arcade contains a number of indie businesses and is rather lovely to look at.

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is close by in Victorian Square and always worth a visit, including their Birmingham History Gallery and Edwardian Tea Room. While in Victorian Square, also check out Pure Bar for food and drinks.

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Canal

From Victoria Square, you’ll pass the Library of Birmingham and Birmingham Rep (who are very affordable & put on some great productions) on your way to the canal. It’s worth seeing what is on at the (free to visit) Ikon Gallery, and popping into their shop and/or restaurant. The walk along the canal path between Brindley Place and the Mailbox is lovely on a sunny day, and Gas Street Social in the Mailbox does a popular all-day brunch. The Craven Arms must be one of Birmingham’s most attractive pubs (The Pig and Tail in the Jewellery Quarter is another) and has a good beer selection.

Birmingham, England

Snow Hill

St Philip’s Cathedral (set in a park known locally as Pigeon Park) contains stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones, is one of the smallest cathedrals in the UK, and occasionally hosts movie screenings as part of Flatpack Festival. Neighbouring Great Western Arcade is beautiful and home to a number of indie businesses. The Coffin Works (factory museum who produced accessories for coffins) is nearby.

Birmingham, England

Moor Street

Probably the best burger in Birmingham is available from Original Patty Men’s restaurant located in an arch under Moor Street Station. Nearby you’ll find veggie restaurant The Warehouse Cafe and Polish restaurant The Karczma. Eastside City Park, the first park built in the city in 130 years is close by.

Birmingham, England

Jewellery Quarter

I was really excited by the extension of the tram line into the city centre as it’s now extremely easy to pop to the Jewellery Quarter (catch the tram from outside New Street Station, a ticket to the JQ is £1 one-way). The Jewellery Quarter is a lovely place to walk around as it’s peaceful and the architecture is really interesting. It also contains two well regarded museums, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter and the Pen Museum. More places to eat and drink are popping up in the Jewellery Quarter, the Pig and Tail and 1000 Trades are my favourites, and The Button Factory – as the name suggests – is located in a former button factory building.

If you’re interested in Birmingham’s textile-related history see my post here.

Birmingham, England

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The Seamworker’s Guide to Fashion Museums

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

I have an article in the August issue of Seamwork, released today.

The article is a guide to some of the best fashion and textile museums around the world. I’ve visited some of these museums in person; others are on my to-see list. I did my best to squeeze in as many museums as I could within the article word count!

You can read the full article here, or download the magazine (for free) from the Seamwork website.

One of the museums included is the Fashion and Textile Museum in London, which is one of my favourites. Below are a few photos of their recent Liberty in Fashion exhibition which I visited back in January. I’m especially looking forward to their upcoming Jazz Age fashion and photography exhibition (23 September 2016 – 15 January 2017).

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum

Liberty in Fashion at The Fashion and Textile Museum


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New York

Graffiti, NYC

Back in March, Phil and I spent two weeks visiting New York and Boston (travelling there via Reykjavik).

It was our first time visiting both cities (and the US for that matter) so I’m far from an expert on what to see, but I still thought it would be fun to share what we did.

As a first-time visitor I made a couple of discoveries:

  1. No-one could understand what I was saying! Clearly my accent is stronger than I realise as I had to repeat myself a lot in restaurant & shops. One guy on the street asked if I was speaking ‘Deutschland’.
  2. Jay walking isn’t a big deal, as I had been led to believe by the movies (in fact everyone walks into traffic all the time).

We managed to visit a respectable number of museums: the Met, Natural History, Frick Collection, Guggenheim, Cloisters, African Burial Ground museum, FIT and National Museum of the American Indian. In Boston, we really enjoyed the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (which is housed in a stunning building), MIT museum (lots of kinetic art & holograms), and Fenway Park.

Met, NYC

Met, NYC
The Met

Make sure to check a list of museum free & pay-what-you-choose days (like this one). There are also great museums, including FIT and National Museum of the American Indian, which are free every day.

The High Line, NYC

The High Line, NYC
Views from the High Line

As first time visitors, we took in lots of the most famous sights, including Liberty and Ellis Islands (and would highly recommend the free ranger tours – there are signs on the islands where you wait for the next tour to begin), top-of-the-rock, the Highline and walked across Brooklyn and Queensborough Bridges.

Statue of Liberty, NYC

Statue of Liberty, NYC

We visited a few movie locations, including from Home Alone, and Ghostbusters. 55 Central Park West, where Dana lives in the film, is a luxury apartment block off central park (residents have included Ginger Rogers, Calvin Klein, and Donna Karan). The Ghostbusters headquarters was a working fire station, but is now sadly shut down and currently surrounded by scaffolding.

55 Central Park West, NYC

Ghostbusters Firehouse, NYC
55 Central Park West, where Dana lives in Ghostbusters, & the Firehouse

For shopping, we really enjoyed Brooklyn Flea, ABC Carpets (which reminded by of Liberty’s homeware sections), various green-markets, the second-hand shops on West 17th Street, and the Strand Bookshop, which has an excellent mixture of new and second-hand books.

MOMA, NYC

MOMA, NYC
MOMA

I had prepared a long list of doughnut & ice cream shops to try. We especially loved Donut Pub, which is a family business, open 24/7, and Chinatown Ice Cream Factory, which is open late. We also enjoyed doughnuts/cake at Sullivan Street Bakery, Dough (at Brooklyn Flea), Doughnut Plant (who have fabric doughnuts on the wall), and ice cream (sold from a converted firehouse) at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. We got a giant slice of pizza at Ben’s Pizzeria, near to the Comedy Cellar, which is featured on the opening credits of tv show Louie. And we ate giant portions of macaroni cheese at Kellogg’s Diner in Brooklyn (right by Barcade).

National Museum of the American Indian, NYC

Natural History Museum, NYC
National Museum of the American Indian & Natural History Museum

We loved the original Barcade (bar & arcade) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where all of the vintage arcade machines cost 25 cents. We visited Dave and Busters arcade in Times Square to play newer arcade machines, and happened to visit on Wednesday when the games are half-price. We would have also visited Coney Island arcade but it was closed for the winter. And on the subject of gaming, we couldn’t resist Nintendo World Store in Rockefeller Plaza.

Brooklyn Bridge, NYC

Coney Island, NYC
Brooklyn Bridge & Coney Island

And, last but not least, I also visited a number of sewing and knitting locations. I had (restrained) shopping trips to beautiful stores Purl Soho and Brooklyn General Store. I met up with AmyKarenSonja, and Emma Jayne to visit the Garment District (Mood and Elliott Berman). And, amazingly, we managed to bump into Peter en-route to Mood! I went to look at the ‘Little Singer Building’, which was once the Singer headquarters and has a beautiful wrought iron facade. And, I popped into Workroom Social in Brooklyn. I should note that I (dozily) had just assumed that Workroom Social had a storefront where I could just turn up. It doesn’t, but luckily Jennifer spotted a tweet of mine saying I was planning to visit, so let me into the studio, where a sweater knits class was in session with Olgalyn Jolly of O! Jolly! The studio is beautiful and when I get to visit New York  again I’d love to actually take a class there – rather than just crash one! (P.S. If you’re visiting Workroom Social, nearby Covenhoven (recommended to us by Jennifer) is a good spot for a grilled cheese and craft beer).

In Boston, Jenny took time out to meet us for tea, and to shop in Gather Here. Gather Here have a beautifully curated fabric selection, I could have bought lots but restricted myself to one length of fabric, which is in the process of becoming a Kenedy Dress.

Workroom Social, NYC

Workroom Social, NYC
Workroom Social

Further post to follow with photos from the textile exhibitions I visited while in New York and Boston.


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Spinning Your Own Yarn

Creating yarn

I have an article in the April issue of Seamwork, released today.

The article is a guide on creating your own yarn, and includes stages from buying and washing a fleece, carding and spinning fibre, plying spun singles, and washing your yarn.

That’s a lot of information to squeeze in. If anything is unclear in the article let me know. I’m only a beginner, but I’ll try to help.

Creating yarn

You can read the full article here, or download the magazine from the Seamwork website.

Oh, and I also pop up in another article in this month’s Seamwork! Nicki has written a great article about her #oneyearoneoutfit project, & I’m included as one of the participants.

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn


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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.