english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Seamwork Loretta

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

Ahh, how satisfying to find time to write an actual blog post. A lot of bloggers will post after some time away to say that they haven’t found time to blog, but have been doing lots of sewing. Well, I haven’t been doing either!

Over the last few months, my evenings and weekends have been spent catching up with work, preparing for the Sewing Weekender (and I didn’t take on as much in the run up as Kate or Rachel did), or with friends. Work has been especially busy, as I took on a new role at the University where I work at the same time as supporting Clearing (where students find a place with a University post A-level results). Clearing is all consuming while it’s underway, so that it not only sucks up all of your time, but also makes you into a total bore for a few months, as it is basically all you want to talk about! Sorry to everyone I bored to death talking about phone lines and call volumes…

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

I’ve missed the acts of sewing and blogging, and I also missed being able to add to my wardrobe on a whim when I fancied something new to wear (I did order three new dresses from People Tree one evening in a sulk). Anyway, I’ve found a little time for blogging now, with sewing to follow soon.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

Phil is somewhat holiday obsessed and was really keen to go away for his birthday in July, but we compromised on a post-Sewing Weekender and post-Clearing long weekend in Porto in late August. Before we traveled I managed to finish this Seamwork Loretta blouse which I had started before work got crazy.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

This is View 1, tunic length, in the smallest size. I’m actually going to go back and cut this to top length (View 2), as I think it will be more versatile and suit me better; being small, I feel a bit drowned in the volume of fabric at this length. This top can be worn on or off the shoulders, but until the length is reduced I prefer it off the shoulders, otherwise it looks a bit proportionally unbalanced on me. One thing to note, the armholes are quite large and, when the blouse is worn on the shoulders, potentially a bit revealing.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

I purchased this fabric while in Tokyo earlier this year from the large Tomato store in Nippori Fabric District. It’s a lightweight cotton with a traditional-style Japanese print. I restricted my shopping to three fabrics while in Nippori, and am looking forward to sewing with the other two soon.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

Right, I’m off to catch up with another hobby I have neglected – social media and the newsletter for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, which I support as a volunteer.

Seamwork Loretta in Japanese Cotton

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Mini Dress with Raglan Sleeves from Stylish Party Dresses

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

These photos were taken alongside the Seine during my recent trip to Paris. The park where we took the photos is just outside the caravan park where we stay in Maisons-Laffitte and is a very peaceful spot, great for taking undisturbed blog photos.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

The dress is pattern V, Mini Dress with Raglan Sleeves from Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori (pictured in the book below left). Tsukiori is the author of the Japanese sewing books which are probably best known in the UK, the Stylish Dress Books and the Happy Homemade series.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

This is a really sweet little dress and a quick sew, with no darts. The pattern instructions recommend a button in the back neckline but I skipped it as the dress easily fit over my head without. The raglan sleeves are relatively hidden in the Liberty silk I used, which was purchased from Goldhawk Road for £12 per metre, but could look great colour blocked.

It was a little chilly that day, so this is how I wore the dress for most of the day, accompanied by my Unicorn Parallelograms scarf.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

I love the Liberty silk, but it does fray quite a bit so seams need to be finished. It also sticks to tights so I’ve been wearing it with an underskirt, but it would be worth lining.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

I suspect Stylish Party Dresses will be an equally popular addition to Tsukiori’s books published in English. It’s a lovely book which, in addition to 16 dresses, also includes boleros, tops, skirts, a slip and a jumpsuit. As with similar books (and sewing magazines, such as Burda) a number of the patterns use the same basic pattern with slight alterations. This approach means that once you have tried one version of a pattern you will have a good idea of any alterations you need to make to the alternative versions.

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Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

In typical Japanese pattern book style, the garments generally have simple loose silhouettes, which not everyone will love, but I’m a big fan of (exhibit A, my own pattern the LouLou Dress). I think this book is particularly well presented and lovely to look at, with the garments made up in beautiful fabrics, including Liberty prints. The lighting is bright and details of the photographed dresses are fairly clear, and clarified further by illustrations on the instruction pages.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

The book includes double-sided paper pattern sheets, which are stored in an envelope at the back of the book. Each pattern sheet includes a clear list of which pattern pieces it contains which I always really appreciate. Pattern pieces are overlapped so need to be traced and seam allowances added. The instructions for each pattern include a diagram showing where to add seam allowances.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

Written instructions are minimal, but diagrams are included for each step, and most of the patterns appear relatively simple.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

One thing to note is that the size range of the patterns in the book is quite limited. I fall between sizes 6 (bust) and 8 (waist and hips) but sized down due to the loose style of the pattern, and found the sizing accurate. The book doesn’t provide any information on the finished size of garments so you’ll need to measure the pattern pieces if you want to check the ease allowed prior to cutting out your fabric.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

I’m planning to make the Gathered Neckline Dress (E) and Drape Top (I) next, which both have lovely neckline details.

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Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Stylish Party Dresses in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own.


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Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

It’s the weekend and it’s actually sunny here, so I finally got chance to wear something summery and spent the afternoon eating ice cream in Henley-in-Arden, a historic market town local to me.

This is the Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants by Yuko Takada (originally published in Japan with the amazing title She has a Mannish Style). The book has been popping up quite a bit on sewing blogs, but I haven’t spotted anyone posting this blouse yet.

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

The Pompom Blouse is a loose fitting tee designed to be made in a knit fabric (the book refers to this as T-cloth on the pattern page, although there is more information in the techniques section). The interesting features of the top are the inclusion of a strip of pompoms at the neckline, and the method used to bind the neckline and sleeve cuffs. In the book, the bias used at the neckline is in a contrast colour, but I made some matching bias binding as I thought my fabric was already pretty busy. I lengthened my blouse by a couple of inches as the blouse shown in the book looks quite cropped, and I added a separate hem band (approx 1 1/2″ long), rather than turning back the hem and securing with a row of double stitching as suggested in the book.

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

This fabric is a jersey I purchased from Stitch at the Sewing for Pleasure show at the NEC back in March. The pompoms were from my stash; I bought them years ago to make a pompom-edged cushion, but never got around it! This was a quick and easy make – I recently went on a family holiday with Phil’s family and made this using my ‘travel’ sewing machine (one of the John Lewis minis) while away.

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

Like other Japanese sewing books, the book includes double-sided paper pattern sheets. Pattern pieces need to be traced and seam allowances added. The instructions for each pattern include a diagram showing where to add seam allowances.

Typically, written instructions are minimal, but diagrams are included for each step. This top was very straightforward, but some of the more complicated patterns in the book (jackets, coat) would be more suited to intermediate sewists who are comfortable with less detailed instructions.

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

I love the ‘mannish’ style of the She Wears the Pants designs, and the grungy styling of the book. The only issue I have with the book is that the lighting in the photos is dark, and quite a few of the items are made in black fabric – making it difficult to see the details of the clothing. Detailed line drawings are included for each pattern so that you can confirm the details before choosing what to sew.

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

The patterns included in the book cover a wide range of garments for woven and knit fabrics, including trousers, dresses, tops, jackets, a skirt, and culottes. There’s even one knitting pattern included, for a rather unusual belt sole.

Pompom Blouse from She Wears the Pants

One thing to note is that the size range of the patterns in the book is quite limited. I made a size small and found the sizing accurate, although this top is quite loose fitting due to the boxy style. Other patterns in the book include less positive ease and match the sizing chart more closely. The book doesn’t provide any information on the finished size of garments so you’ll need to measure the pattern pieces if you want to check the ease allowed prior to cutting out your fabric.

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

I’ve sewn another couple of garments from the book which I’ll post soon. In the meantime enjoy some of that mean and moody photography!

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

She Wears the Pants Japanese Sewing Pattern Book

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


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Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Have you seen the Japan Sew Along (#jsa2015), taking place on Tanoshii? I learned about it on Instagram, courtesy of Sew Busy Lizzy.

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

This is my contribution to the sew-along, based on the short variation of the Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts: 23 Simple Designs to Flatter Every Figure by Sato Watanabe.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The premise of Stylish Skirts is that the book provides you with instructions to draft each of the projects included. No paper patterns are included. Given that the premise of the book is to support you to draft skirts yourself, I didn’t worry too much about strictly following the instructions in the book when making this skirt.

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The Balloon Skirt in the book has both a zip and a waist tie. I couldn’t really see the point of including both, and as my fabric had a slight stretch I actually did away with any fastening (yay!), as it’s possible to slip the skirt on and off.

The Balloon Skirt in the book is constructed from three panels, brought in using pleats, to create lots of volume. I cut my skirt as one single panel along the full length of my fabric. As a result, my pleats needed to be much narrower so the ‘balloon’ effect isn’t as dramatic. I would like to make another version with greater volume for the full effect – perhaps in the longer length, which I love the look of in the book (although the tops that both versions are styled with don’t do much for me).

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Construction wise my skirt is two loops of fabric – the outside loop is attached to a shorter loop at the hem to create the balloon effect. The two loops are attached at the top by a waistband. Super simple.

The fabric used is a jacquard from Barry’s. It’s a daisy print in two shades of gold, and has a slight one-way stretch. I bought way too much (as per usual, which is why my stash is full of small, useless lengths of fabric) and have quite a bit left over that I think would make a great pair of shorts.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Like other Japanese pattern books, minimal written instructions are provided in Stylish Skirts, but each project is accompanied by a number of illustrations. Personally I think this approach (and the premise of the book) suits intermediate sewers more than beginners, as it helps to have an existing knowledge of skirt construction. The book makes some assumptions regarding the reader’s understanding of how to draft the skirts, which a beginner might find confusing; for example, it doesn’t explicitly state in writing how to calculate the skirt measurements (as least for the skirt I made), how to take measurements, etc.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The skirts included cover a wide variety of styles. Although the projects are all women’s skirts, it would be fairly easy to create children’s versions by altering the measurements.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The skirts are styled on dress forms which doesn’t appeal to me as much as being styled on models; although it does potentially make the book look distinct from other Japanese pattern books, which do admittedly often look quite similar (although It’s a look I love).

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Sew Busy Lizzy has also reviewed Stylish Skirts and sewn two skirts from the book. Make sure you check out her review also.

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


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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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Casper & Wendy Full Circle Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics

I’m a big fan of staring at Japanese pattern books – the colours and layouts are just so satisfying. This bag is from a new English-language release from Tuttle Publishing, Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics: Over 25 Easy-to-Make Purses, Totes and More by Emiko Takahashi.

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

This is the Full Circle Bag project from the book. This bag is reversible although there is no way I’m ever going to reverse it and hide that Casper & Wendy print! Peter recently asked on his blog whether sewists ever reverse their reversible makes – I know I don’t, I pick a favourite side from the start!

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

The bag is a large circle which is pulled in via 16 loops which the strap is threaded through.

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

One of the distinguishing features of the book is that each project includes some element of hand sewing (and it is intended that the bags can be sewn wholly by hand if so chosen). For the project I made, the book suggested hand stitching a circular design on the bottom of the bag. I placed a circle of interfacing between the two layers of the bag and then machine stitched a circle design to help create a more sturdy base.

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

I know this looks like a slightly overdue Halloween project but I actually bought this fabric from Abakhan in Manchester ages ago with no project in mind. When I was shopping my stash for a suitable fabric for the bag I decided to go with Casper and Wendy. I have loads of this fabric left so it will be making another appearance at some point.

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

There’s a real mixture of bag projects in the book. There are 25 projects with customisations for 60 bags. The smallest are actually purses, the largest are totes.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

I’m intrigued by the Checkout Basket Bag. I’m not sure how useful it would really be but it’s certainly different and I love the styling used in the book.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

The Eco Bag is a nice simple design for a reusable bag and they would be quick to whip up as extra Xmas gifts.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

As a lover of a large handbag (I tend to carry around a lot of stuff…) a Large Tote or a Picnic Tote has been added to my list of future makes.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

At the back of the book there’s a nice ‘before you start’ section which includes advice on which type of interfacing and which bag accessories to use for each of the projects.

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

The projects all appear relatively simple and each project has clear instructions with lots of diagrams. A pull out pattern sheet is provided at the back of the book although the larger pattern pieces are only provided in part (e.g. for the project I made, 1/4 of the pattern piece was provided, meaning it needed to be traced 4 times to create a full pattern piece). Seam allowances also need to be added to some of the pattern pieces (although it is clearly stated where these are required).

Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi

Do you ever sew bags? Planning to make any for gifts this Christmas?

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