english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Handmade Christmas – Gifts Given & Received

Screen Printed Tee

While I’m still feeling suitably Christmassy, and before the cards and decorations need to come down, I thought I’d post about the handmade gifts I gave or received this year.

I like to make Christmas gifts for close family and friends, but I normally combine these with bought presents, to avoid having unrealistic amounts of presents to make.

The tee pictured was a gift for Phil. The tee is RTW; I screen printed the text on the front, which is a snippet from a Barenaked Ladies song. To do this I typed the text in Word and altered the size and font until I had what I wanted, then printed a copy. I attached the print-out to an A4 sheet of acetate and carved the letters out to create a relatively sturdy stencil. I then used the stencil with my printing frame and fabric ink to print onto the tee. To save Phil from needing to pose in it, it’s pictured here on my dress form.

Screen Printed Tee

For three friends, I made Linden Sweatshirts by Grainline Studio, in identical fabrics but different sizes. Both the jersey and ribbing used were purchased from Minerva Crafts. The Linden is a good pattern to make as a gift as it isn’t too fitted.

Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studio

Linden Sweatshirt by Grainline Studio

For my two Grandmothers, I used the Madrid tote pattern from the first issue of Seamwork. I simplified the pattern slightly due to available time and missing a few supplies. I made these totes in plether and wool-blend, with a wax print for the lining and handles.

Madrid Tote Bag

Madrid Tote Bag

Madrid Tote Bag

I also took part in two online secret Santas this year: the Bloggers’ Secret Santa organised by Dino Princess Char and the Crafty Secret Santa organised by Kat. I sent buttons, ribbon and handmade baubles.

I received an amazing selection of Tiger goodies from Sarah in the Bloggers’ Secret Santa.

Bloggers' secret Santa Christmas 2014

And some lovely fabric from a mystery Santa:) in the Crafty Secret Santa.

Crafty Secret Santa 2014

I also took part in the Christmas Decoration Swap organised by Marilla Walker. I was paired up with Fiona, who sent this gorgeous decoration.

Christmas decoration swap

In return, I sent two knitted baubles. I made quite a few of these in different wools using a pattern included in Mollie Makes. I like the baubles made with multi-coloured wool best as you get a great effect with no effort. The white and red baubles below were made with wool which included glitter and sequins – it looks suitably festive but was a pain to knit with as the glitter thread had a tendency to snap and the sequins could get caught in the wool.

Hand Knitted Baubles

Hand Knitted Baubles

Hand Knitted Baubles

I have one more present to show, but I’m saving that for its own post.


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My First (Owls) Jumper

Handmade Kate Davies Owls Jumper
I finished my first jumper! Owls by Kate Davies. This is only my second ever knitting project and I wouldn’t have been brave enough to try a jumper (or anything else wearable) so quickly if not spurred on by Kat and Sabs’ knit-along.
Handmade Kate Davies Owls Jumper
I actually think it was a good early knitting project as I learned TONS making this jumper. It was my first time using circular needles, knitting ribbing, cabling, etc., etc. When I started this project I was finding it difficult recognising individual rows and recognising the difference between the knit and purl side of a piece of knitting and now at the end I feel so much more confident. I’ve already jumped into my next knitting project – Andi Satterlund’s Myrna cardigan. I’d totally recommend Owls to other relative beginners.
Handmade Kate Davies Owls Jumper
I made a ton of mistakes of course. I spent quite a bit of time unpicking stitches and re-doing things (including re-doing one whole sleeve), but there were also errors I was too lazy to redo. In particular the bottom band… It was my first attempt at ribbing and it definitely isn’t ribbing! I was obviously feeling lazy that day as I left it be. I’d figured out ribbing by the time I got to the cuffs and neckline – I’m looking at the jumper as proof of the learning process:)
Handmade Kate Davies Owls Jumper
The wool is an acrylic and I think the wool for the whole project cost less than £10. I decided not to attach button eyes to my owls. I bought 32 tiny buttons from Birmingham Rag Market but decided I liked it without. I’m looking forward to seeing the other Owls knit as part of the knit-along:) Ok, on to Myrna!
Handmade Kate Davies Owls Jumper


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Burda Style Waterfall Top

Today the Christmas/New Year holiday ended for me and I went back to work. The Christmas holiday is my absolute favourite time of the year. Partly because I’m crazy about Christmas (I watched the documentary about Liberty recently and their staff plan Christmas all year! Clearly I should be working there). Partly because I get a couple of weeks off work (the benefit of working at a university) so have two solid weeks to do whatever I want (e.g. sewing, crafting, gaming & watching loads of old movies!).
Handmade Burda Waterfall Top
Along with an Anna dress and Archer shirt, I made the Waterfall Top from the January issue of Burda Style. I made this right at the beginning of the holiday. I read the Paunnet review of the January edition of Burda one morning, went out shopping that day and picked up a copy, and had the top finished by the evening. I thought it would be a nice speedy sewing fix and it was.
Handmade Burda Waterfall Top
The only alteration I made to the pattern was to reduce the height of the waistband by half, as I found that my fabric wasn’t draping well with the very high waistband. The fabric is a 100% Viscose, purchased from Guthrie and Ghani. It’s perfect for this blouse, nice and drapey. As you can (kind of) see from the photo below it features a retro print.
Handmade Burda Waterfall Top
The January issue of Burda features a few other projects I fancy giving a go. If only I were still on holiday I could have them sewed up in no time!
Handmade Burda Waterfall Top


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Handmade Christmas Stockings

Handmade Christmas Stocking
I’ve been meaning to make Christmas stockings for a few years but for some reason – given that they are a pretty quick make – have never gotten around to it. This year I finally made a pair for myself and Phil.

I made the pattern for the stockings myself (e.g. I drew a large sock shape and cut the fabric around that to ensure the sizing was consistent).
Handmade Christmas Stocking
I purchased the rather amazing fabric and the ribbon from Guthrie and Ghani. The fabric is Hip Holidays by Josephine Kimberling. I love that it isn’t immediately obvious that it is a Christmas print – it takes a second glance to realise. I actually purchased it at the Guthrie & Ghani Christmas Party. The shop had been decked out for Christmas and looked great, and Lauren wore a very cute elf outfit!

The stockings are backed with a thicker fabric to keep their shape and the top of the stockings is covered with some bias binding I made from the front fabric. Each stocking has a nice big bell in the top corner next to a ribbon bow.
Handmade Christmas Stocking
To personalise the stockings I printed our names on the front of the stockings using a stamp pad that can be used on paper or fabric.
Handmade Christmas Stocking

Handmade Christmas Stocking
This week I also finally got around to making some Christmas cards for family. These were made by cutting shapes out of leftover felt.
Handmade Felt Christmas Cards


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Craft Fair Makes

I had my last craft fair of the year last Sunday at the MAC. I lucked out as I got a nice pitch which came with its own bench (good for wrapping items on as well as sitting) & was in the perfect position for watching what was happening in the centre.

Craft Fair Stall at MAC Christmas 2013
I made a few new items especially for the stall. I had a few items left over and finally managed to time it right to get enough natural light to take some photos today. The worst thing about winter is definitely the limited opportunities for getting enough natural light to take photos!

Small Mouse Lavender Bag:
The little mouse design on this lavender bag was printed using a small stamp I carved in lino. I stuffed it with a combination of lavender & polyester stuffing to get a nice shape.
Lino Printed Mouse Lavender Bag
Lino Printed Mouse Lavender Bag

Tweed Door Stop:
I used the same little mouse design to decorate door stops I made up in a lovely pink tweed fabric.
Door Stop with Lino Printed Mouse
Door Stop with Lino Printed Mouse

And as it was a Christmas craft fair I had to make some Christmas items!

Robin Stamp:
These little stamps are carved out of lino & then attached to a plastic base.
Handmade Robin Lino Stamp
Handmade Robin Lino Stamp

Heart Bauble with Robin Design:
I used one of the robin stamps myself to decorate these heart-shaped baubles, made in cotton & decorated with a Christmas ribbon.
Lino Printed Robin Heart Bauble
Lino Printed Robin Heart Bauble


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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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Yum Taffy (Blouse)

Handmade Colette Patterns Meringue Skirt and Taffy Blouse
This is my second make from the Colette Patterns Sewing Handbook, the Taffy Blouse. I made it up in a polyester mix purchased from Barry’s Fabric during the Birmingham meet-up back in June. It’s pictured here teamed up with my Meringue Skirt.
Birmingham Sewing Blogger meet-up June 2013
I had a look at other blogger’s taffy blouses after making this up and quite a few people weren’t fans of these sleeves but I really love them. I’m already planning my next taffy. I want to wear it to work so I’m planning to increase the length and have a less low-cut neck-line, but I’m keeping the sleeves. I also loved how quickly this came together – it’s a really quick make. It does require a lot of bias binding for the edges of the sleeves and neckline. Luckily for me the fabric I was using was really wide, which meant I could cut one strip of fabric for each sleeve – no sewing separate piece together required!
Handmade Colette Patterns Meringue Skirt and Taffy Blouse
Handmade Colette Patterns Meringue Skirt and Taffy Blouse


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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