english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Refashioners Bar Jacket at Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

Last weekend Phil and I had tickets to see two exhibitions at the V&A, Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams and Mary Quant. We decided to make a weekend away of it, and spent the rest of the time having a look in the shops, and generally mooching around London.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

When I booked to the see the Dior show I immediately knew I wanted to wear the outfit I made for The Refashioners 2018, to the exhibition. Last Saturday morning I got dressed in the full outfit – imitation bar jacket, pleated skirt, petticoat, long gloves – picked up my refashioned fruit-bowl hat, and set off for London.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

It was fun to wear the full outfit together again for the first time since I got photos for my Refashioners entry in Paris, and to get a photo of the outfit next to its inspiration (first photo). I feel a bit like I’m playing dress-up for the first few moments after putting on the petticoat, but it soon feels completely normal. It’s actually quite a comfortable outfit so long as I’m only wearing a single layer under the fitted jacket, any more than that and I feel squashed in.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

The Dior show is excellent sewing inspiration and I’m hoping to get some sewing done myself before the end of this weekend. I might even work on the 1950s inspired ‘waspie’ corset pattern recently released by Gertie for Butterick (which I was hoping to wear to the exhibition under my bar jacket, until I decided to use up my potential sewing time playing Pokemon: Let’s Go! instead).

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

I do find that galleries always make me want to draw, paint, sew, weave, or generally create. Normally I forget that by the time I get home, but i’m hoping to find time for some other crafts in addition to sewing this year. I’ve booked on a couple of workshops, and I’ve set my drawing and embroidery supplies close to hand. I’ve also started a tap dance class recently, to try a completely different creative hobby for the very first time. Sewing is still number one though, and I’m sure all of those other crafts will end up coming back to sewing and to this blog.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A
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Knitbot Trail Jacket

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

Having done very little knitting last year after a couple of dissatisfying projects, I had a really productive few months over Christmas and into the start of the new year. One of the projects I completed was this Trail Jacket, by Hannah Fettig (Knitbot). I finished it shortly before leaving for a trip to New York in February, and I bought and attached the buttons while on holiday. These pictures were taken a few days later while visiting the Museum of the Moving Image (see picture with muppet below!).

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

I bought the pattern in 2016 and the yarn (West Yorkshire Spinners Croft Yarn in Boddam colourway) from BritYarn (RIP) in 2017, so I’m glad to finally bring the jacket to fruition. The yarn is aran weight and the pattern easy to follow so the jacket knits up really quickly.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

I don’t have much of a yarn stash. I have the odd ball brought back from a holiday, leftover odds and ends, and a few more substantial amounts of yarn bought for a project, such as this, which it has taken me longer than expected to get around to knitting. I’m hoping to work through those project-quantities of yarn this year, and then buy yarn as I’m ready to knit with it. We’ll see how I do. The same is NEVER going to happen with fabric/sewing patterns.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

My button placket isn’t the neatest (I had to position the buttons quite far across in order for them to sit centrally once fastened), but I know I’ll wear this jacket loads. I definitely wear knitted cardigans/jackets more than sweaters, since they can be worn as a layering piece year ’round. I really like the cropped sleeves (although inevitably they want to ride up when I put a coat on), and I love the specked ‘tweed’ effect of the Croft yarn, which is made with 100% Shetland Island wool.

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn

The next project I’ve started using my existing yarn stash is a hap in lace weight yarn so I’m expecting that one to take quite a bit longer than this jacket. Wish me luck in keeping on track!

Hannah Fettig Trail Jacket in West Yorkshire Spinners Croft yarn


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Holiday Snaps & Meandering Thoughts

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

Phil and I dragged out the Christmas holiday as long as possible, spending a few days in Alicante before returning to work this week.

These pictures, of garments I’ve previously blogged, were taken while we were away (Malachi Vest / In the Folds Jumpsuit / Tamarack Jacket). I didn’t spend a lot of time sewing over Christmas, but did start the process of making two coats (one for me and one for Phil). I’m taking my time attaching interfacing and canvas, resisting the impulse to rush ahead to construction, in order to create coats which should look, and last, all the better for it.

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

I wanted to thank everyone who read, or got in touch about, my recent post regarding my experience with my previous employer. A few people who commented used the word ‘proud’ which led me to recall a memory from the time which I thought was worth sharing, and which I didn’t touch on in my previous post, since I kept that largely to a blow-by-blow account.

Purl Alpaca Malachi Vest

At my lowest point working for that employer I spent one week off work, and in bed, recovering from a combination of stress and anaemia. Amongst the many emotions I felt at that time, I realised that I felt ashamed.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Ashamed because, in a work context, I had come to view myself as a ‘strong’ person, and this had become central to my concept of – and what I valued about – myself. Certainly my concept of what constituted strength in this context (including being willing and able to work as long and hard as anyone, to take on more work and work out of hours without complaint and without getting stressed) was promoted by my employer (in my first interview for the organisation, when I was hired, I was asked about my willingness to work over and above my hours. I told them it wasn’t an issue, and meant it). However, my employer can’t take all the blame, they had simply built on an existing prejudice I held.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

How I felt at that time, physically and emotionally weak, but without a physical cause to attribute my symptoms to in order to ‘justify’ them to myself and to my employer, was incompatible with my own (and my employer’s) prejudice about what it was to be a strong person.

In the Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit

Initially I was ashamed because my view of what I valued in myself was challenged, but once I had time to dwell on it I was ashamed that I’d been judging people (predominantly myself, but inevitably, if unconsciously, my colleagues too) against a practically feudal concept. It took being physically weak to teach me that my concept of a ‘strong’ person was a nonsense, and that by judging myself against it I had set myself up to fail.

It was a humbling lesson, but in learning it I hope to be kinder to myself and others in future.

In the Folds Peppermint Magazine Jumpsuit


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Cats & Flowers Tamarack Jacket

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Before these pictures no longer look seasonal, here is my Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket, photographed during the brief period of snowy weather we had here in Birmingham in December.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

I’ve been planning to make a Tamarack Jacket for some time, but was waiting to find a pre-quilted fabric, which I haven’t seen on sale very often in the UK. I suspected I would have more luck in Japan, and, sure enough, during a trip to Tokyo last year I found that the large Tomato store in the Nippori Fabric District has a wide selection of pre-quilted fabric (and pretty much everything else too). I picked this dark floral print, which has hidden black cats (see below). I would note that the downside of bringing 4 metres of pre-quilted fabric back from a holiday is that it takes up a lot of case space! For reference, I have found Miss Matatabi the best place to order pre-quilted fabrics online, and their recent sale included a few pre-quilted fabrics.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

I must have looked at the fabric requirements for a non-pre-quilted fabric, as when I came to cut out a Tamarack Jacket I realised I had (just) enough for two. As it happened, I was planning to make my Mom a Tamarack as a present for her birthday in November; I had purchased a different fabric for my Mom’s jacket, but decided instead to make us matching Tamaracks.

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Having skipped the quilting stage, I assumed this would be quite a quick sew, but the volume of bias binding to be attached (not a favourite task of mine) and the welt pockets mean that these jackets took me quite a bit longer than anticipated (ahem, my Mom’s birthday present may have been delivered a few weeks late).

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket

Here’s how me and my Mom looked in our matching Tamaracks on Christmas Day. I have some more pre-quilted fabric to sew, and am currently debating between another Tamarack or a quilted bomber jacket – TBC!

Grainline Studio Tamarack Jacket


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Rupert’s Tweed Wedding Jacket

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

After James, my brother, announced his wedding, he asked if I would be willing to make him a three-piece suit to wear on the day, to which I – of course – said no! What I was willing to make, however, was a matching jacket for his dog, Rupert.

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

James ordered a suit in a blue tweed, and with the help of the sewing community (who responded to a call for help on Twitter and Instagram with lots of suggestions) I was able to find a comparable Harris Tweed on ebay.

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

I traced a RTW dog jacket for the pattern and tested a toile on Rupert before cutting into the tweed. Like my own dress for the wedding, I left this jacket until the last minute, cutting and sewing it the day before, and attaching the velcro to fasten it under the stomach on the morning of the wedding.

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

I need to make Rupert some more of these, as – apart from hand sewing the velcro when my sewing machine refused to cooperate – the jacket  only took about thirty minutes to make. It’s lined with a cotton from John Lewis and padded with some thinsulate left over from my Clare Coat. The d-ring on the back allows a lead to be attached.

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding

Rupert was centre stage on the day, he was very fond of curling up in the train of the wedding dress (above), and at the start of the ceremony was stood with the groom awaiting the bride as she walked down the aisle (below).

Rupert at James & Keyla's Wedding


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Quilted Jacket from Basic Black

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

I did the insane blogger thing and took these photos outside while it was snowing (not very heavily) today. I spent the day faffing around and left it until the last 30 minutes of daylight to get these pictures – roll on spring and decent daylight hours! The photos were taken on the patio just outside our garden door, as Phil sensibly stood inside the house and took these photos through the doorway, while I stood in the snow! Smart man.

This is the Blocked Quilting Zip-up Jacket from Basic Black: 26 Edgy Essentials for the Modern Wardrobe by Sato Watanabe, made in size small.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The pattern doesn’t include instructions for quilting the jacket, instructing you to use a quilted fabric, which is what I did. I bought my fabric from Barry’s. The fabric is actually slightly stretchy and is a bit lightweight for a jacket (you can see it stretching in some of the pictures below) but with a lining it’s just substantial enough. The fabric also pulls easily, I had to be careful pinning it during construction, so it may not last too long without getting caught on something…

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The book includes fairly brief written instructions (6 steps for this jacket), but most steps are illustrated, often with multiple illustrations, so you’ll get on better with the book if you’re a visual learner.

The only changes I made to the pattern were reducing the width of the shoulders slightly, and reducing the height of the collar, as I initially found it too high and knew I’d never do it up.

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The patterns included in the book are provided on two pattern sheets. Pattern sheets are double sided, and pieces are overlapped, so patterns need to be traced. The major pieces for each pattern are included, although seam allowances aren’t included and need to be added on; for simple shapes (i.e. squares and rectangles) the book instead provides measurements. For the lined clothing items, including this jacket, the book doesn’t include separate pattern pieces for the lining, but provides instructions on how to re-size the main pattern pieces. Measurements are included in centimeters and inches – which is helpful for someone like me who chops and changes between both systems!

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

I am a bit lazy when to comes to tracing patterns so initially skipped the lining in order to avoid creating the pattern pieces. However, my fabric was too lightweight to get away without a lining, thus forcing me to be good, so I created the pattern pieces and cut a lining in the end.

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

Quilted Zip-up Jacket, from Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The theme of Basic Black is clothes made in black fabric (which I obviously ignored when I picked my own fabric!). With such a broad theme, the 26 patterns included in the book cover quite a wide range, from simple tops and skirts to jackets, shirts and coats.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

The biggest disadvantage of picking black clothes as a theme is that black is difficult to photograph. The book does suffer from this a little, as it’s difficult to make out the more intricate details on a number of outfits.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

Patterns are included in four sizes (S, M, L, XL), and only a finished size chart is included. It would be worth checking that one of the four sizes will be a decent match for your measurements before ordering the book, although a lot of the patterns have a looser silhouette which allows for a little leeway.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

I was impressed at the number of more complex patterns included, including coats (2 patterns), jackets (3), and shirts (3). The book also includes a pattern for a coat dress and a simple Cheongsam, although this is unfortunately one of the patterns where it is difficult to make out the details in the photo.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

I also love the final pattern in the book, this gorgeous raglan coat.

Basic Black by Sato Watanabe

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Basic Black in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own. Post contains an affiliate link.


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Oslo Cardigan Strike 2

I’m a bit slow posting this Oslo Cardigan, which was a Christmas present for my mom. Now that I’m back at work, Christmas feels ages ago. My first week back at work went very, very slowly, but no doubt I’ll be back to my normal routine soon.

Black & White Wool Oslo Cardigan

This is my second Oslo (which was one of the patterns included in the first issue of Seamwork). My first version, which I made for myself, was a test run, prior to making this for my mom. Both versions were made size small, in woven fabrics. The fabric used here is a lovely thick wool, from Barry’s Fabric. I bought all of the fabric left on the bolt, around 2.5 metres I think, so I’m hoping to squeeze a skirt out of what I have left.

Black & White Wool Oslo Cardigan

I think the Olso pattern – although designed for knits – works really well with a thick woven. The result resembles a casual jacket more than a cardigan.

As with my first version, the only tweaks I made were leaving off the cuffs, and making a matching fabric belt.

Black & White Wool Oslo Cardigan

I’ve had a bit of a wool-buying binge lately. I’ve pre-treated all of the wool fabrics, including this one, by shrinking them in the tumble-dryer. I placed the wool in the dryer on a high heat with two old towels that had been dampened with boiling water. I’ve used this method on both wool-blends and pure wools, such as this, and it’s worked perfectly every time.

Black & White Wool Oslo Cardigan

I took these photos on Christmas Eve, before wrapping the Oslo and giving it to my mom on Christmas day. Is it wrong that I’ve started to think about Christmas 2015 gifts? I seriously LOVE Christmas.

Maybe I’ll actually try making the Oslo in a knit next! And I really want to try the Manila leggings pattern from Seamwork issue 2.

Black & White Wool Oslo Cardigan

Black & White Wool Oslo Cardigan

Black & White Wool Oslo Cardigan

Black & White Wool Oslo Cardigan