english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Sangria Dress in Bamboo & Cotton Jersey

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

It’s taken me ages to get around to sharing this dress, which is a Capital Chic Patterns Sangria. As someone who rarely sews a pattern multiple times, you know I love this pattern when I tell you I have made three (version 1 here), and will definitely make more. (I still need to blog my second Sangria, which was sewn in a metallic, pink, snakeskin-print jersey and consequently doesn’t get worn much, but was still totally worth it!).

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

The pattern recommends using scuba jersey, but I especially like it in softer jerseys; it’s comfy, and has the added benefit that you can skip the centre back zip, making it a very quick sew. This version is sewn in a Combstooth Bamboo Organic Cotton Jersey from Offset Warehouse, purchased in-person at the Sewing Bee Live. It’s a lovely soft french terry, smooth on the right-side, with a soft texture on the reverse. It has enough body and recovery to work for a bodycon dress, whilst also being very comfortable.

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

The only danger of sewing such a fitted dress in a very stretchy fabric is that I’ve twice popped the hem stitches being over zealous. The dress is currently waiting for me to resew the hem (must do it, and not delay a five minute task for six months!).

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

I think this is a great all-year dress, it works with tights and a cardigan in the winter, and with ballet pumps in the summer. I want to return to my other favourite from the same Capital Chic Patterns collection, the Cuba Libre shirt, again this year.

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

These photos were taken during a recent-ish holiday to Majorca. I suspect it was whilst exploring the castle ramparts that I forgot how fitted my dress was and popped the hem stitches for the second time.

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

I’ve had a sewing-focused day today, which has included catching up on sewing blogs, vlogs and podcasts, sewing a top (Simplicity 8593), and writing this blog post. I’m going to see if I can squeeze in cutting out my next sewing project before heading to bed feeling very smug.

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

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Pink Velvet, Zigzag & Ruffle Freya Dress

Tilly & the Buttons Freya Dress

I do try to avoid buying fabric if I can’t immediately think of a project I want to make with it. This fabric, however, was one of the occasions when that logic went out of the window. On a whim (partly because it was cheap), I bought a large off-cut of this fabric from Birmingham Rag Market – a pink velvet knit with a large scale zigzag. The fabric has sat in my stash every since as I had no idea what on earth to do with it.

Tilly & the Buttons Freya Dress

I only have a relatively small amount of knit fabrics, and this was one of my few dress length options, so I decided to give it a try in order to sew a Freya Dress (From Tilly & the Button’s Stretch) from stash fabric. I actually think it turned out pretty well, even though it looks somewhat circus themed, an impression the ruffle definitely adds to.

Tilly & the Buttons Freya Dress

I graded between sizes 2 and 3, but will size up to a 3 throughout next time as I have limited ease at the bust and upper arms despite sewing a narrow seam allowance. I’m definitely going to sew the Freya Dress again (including that adorable ruffle) in an office appropriate fabric. For reference, I cut the fabric strip for my ruffle 74cm long (Tilly explains how to measure your preferred length rather than specifying a measurement).

Tilly & the Buttons Freya Dress

These photos are the first blog photos I’ve ever taken myself (using my phone as a remote) as opposed to asking Phil to take them. They turned out ok, but I found it really hard not to frown with concentration, and it took so much longer. I’ll suspect I’ll go back to bothering Phil next time.

Tilly & the Buttons Freya Dress


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Bibi Pinafore

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

Before Tilly’s new book Stretch was released I decided that I wasn’t going to buy it, because:

  1. I have an addiction to buying sewing books, and I’m trying to reduce my purchasing frequency, since I rarely sew from them;
  2. I’m trying to mainly sew from stash since listing my existing fabric on the Cora app and realising that I do in fact normally have a suitable fabric for my next project. However, that stash is only 17% knit fabrics (thanks Cora app stats!).

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

Inevitably, however, once I saw the patterns from Stretch being shared online by Tilly (namely the Bibi Pinafore & Freya Dress with ruffle) I quickly put in an order. I’m glad I did as it’s an excellent book and the projects are so satisfyingly quick to sew. This is absolutely the book I would recommend to an total  beginner, as there’s very little barrier to entry and the success rate of projects sewn from it is likely to be high.

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

This is my first project from the book, the Bibi Pinafore in a stash fabric, a cable knit jersey from Higgs & Higgs. This jersey has a bit of body which is great for Bibi, although it has just enough stretch, i.e. it’s a slight squeeze to get on and off.

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

There photos were taken yesterday in Digbeth, Birmingham. At the same time that a racist march was taking place elsewhere in the city (kudos to those who protested against it), the Independent Birmingham festival – a celebration of Birmingham’s independent and creative scene – was taking place in Digbeth.

Phil and I ate two main courses each from the street food vendors participating, and took fancy doughnuts home for afters.

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

I love the diversity and – increasing – vibrancy of this city, and it was good to be at an event which celebrated that, and which was generally a fun place to be, at a time when a few idiots who feel threatened by it were promoting hate.

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress

Tilly & the Buttons Bibi Pinafore Dress


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Seamwork Neenah Dress

Seamwork Neenah Dress

This is the Seamwork Neenah Dress one of my #makenine projects, made with a stash fabric of forgotten origin (thanks to the Cora App I won’t be forgetting where I bought fabric in future). Although I can’t remember where I bought this fabric, I do know I bought it with the intention of making Neenah – and a year or so later, here she is!

Seamwork Neenah Dress

Based on my measurements I graded between an XS and S. I cut the sleeves in size XS and initially found them too tight, so unpicked and sewed again with a very narrow seam allowance. I cut two inches off the length of the sleeves, but left the dress length as per the pattern.

Seamwork Neenah Dress

I really like the fit of this dress. It skims the body nicely without being clingy. There’s a little bit of pooling at the back, but in a casual style like this I don’t think it’s worth worrying about. It’s worth noting that the turtleneck pattern piece is quite long (it’s folded double in these photos). I’m a big fan of a high neckline, but if you want a smaller turtleneck I’d recommend using a more lightweight fabric, or reducing the height of the pattern piece by up to half.

Seamwork Neenah Dress

I whipped this dress up on Friday evening (having previously send the pattern for A0 printing), ready to wear to a sewing meet-up in Birmingham yesterday in celebration of the lovely Bianca returning to us for the weekend. It was a really fun day, lots of nattering and fabric shopping with sewing friends, followed by a Cecille Grey gig in Nottingham. I was absolutely knackered when I fell into bed that night, but it was definitely worth it, and I love making new clothes for special days.

Seamwork Neenah Dress

I’m pleased to say that I’ve been sticking to my New Year’s Resolution to keep my evenings for my hobbies, instead of allowing work to stretch out into them, and to attend more meet-ups. I’ve been attending the monthly Brummie Yarn Social organised by Sue and Ben in Moseley, and it’s been lovely to see the Birmingham sewists more regularly, as well as to catch-up with a bigger group yesterday.

Seamwork Neenah Dress


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A Malachi Vest & an Early New Year’s Resolution

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Hoorah, I finally made it back to my blog. A little more on that below, but first a finished knitted garment; the Malachi Vest from Purl Alpaca Designs.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

I bought the yarn and pattern for this vest as a kit from Purl Alpaca Designs at Yarnporium over a year ago. This make was a case of falling in love with the product photo. I still want to recreate the whole look, as the model looks sooo good. I used the recommended yarn, Purl Alpaca’s 100% pure alpaca medium yarn in colours Alpaca Earth and Champagne.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

In typical fashion I started knitting this last January, but didn’t finish it until April when it was too warm to wear. I was very happy to pack this vest for a recent trip to Rome and Paris, where I finally got chance to wear it, and where these photos were taken. I’m still figuring out what to wear it with, and (thanks to the product photo) I think I need a white shirt – something my wardrobe is currently missing, ever since I threw out the last RTW one I owned.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Knitting, along with sewing, blogging, and all of my other hobbies, had fallen by the wayside this year.

A little over six months ago I was asked to ‘act up’ at work and take on a raft of new responsibilities. Although ostensibly a change of role, in reality these responsibilities were on top of my existing job, since the existing work still needed to be delivered. In fact, over that six-month period the workload only continued to expand, and, as that happened, I made the decision to keep on top of the workload by increasingly extending my working days and retaining less and less time for my hobbies.

As an indication, I’ve published 1-2 blog posts per week for the last five years (an average of 64 –  86 per year), with 2017 the first year I didn’t manage that frequency of posts (or anything like it) since 2011.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Reducing time for my hobbies seemed a sensible decision; the best way to avoid them feeling like an additional task to tick off a to-do list. However, it also meant that I didn’t participate in things I’ve previously enjoyed (like pattern testing or community challenges) this year, and when the lure of a community challenge (like the Refashioners) or pattern test proved too great to resist, I invariably failed to complete by the deadline.

Those hobby-related activities which did have deadlines, like the Sewing Weekender or SewBrum, were less fun this year than previously. As organiser, half the fun of an event is in the preparation (as the event itself always whizzes by so fast), and if you have very little time for that preparation, and not enough to do as good a job as you would like, it takes away some of the enjoyment – and leads you to rely heavily on others (apologies to Kate, Rachel & Lauren!).

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Even trips like the holiday where these photos were taken became less appealing in advance, because when you’re working pretty much every evening you don’t have time to prepare yourself to go away, and are really keen to spend as much time as possible at home.

I was willing to commit time to work over my hobbies for one reason only – I have the best colleagues, who are some of my absolute favourite people, and I assumed by working hard I could make some positive changes which would benefit all of us.

In the last couple of weeks, my role at work changed in a way which meant that the workload (at least in the short-term) would continue, and likely increase, but my ability to actually make improvements to support my friends was further decreased. At the same time my body decided enough hours was enough and required a few days at home, resting and stocking up on vitamins.

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

As is often the case, a little distance helped me to see sense. If the one reason I was willing to take on a difficult role was removed, why was I continuing? I’ve returned to my previous role at work and I’ve committed to a New Year’s Resolution starting right away, in advance of the New Year. I’ll no longer be working excessive hours; I’m going to do as good a job as possible during my working hours, and then I’m going to head home and spend my time on my hobbies.

Expect to see a lot more of me in 2018.

Charlotte x

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest

Purl Alpaca Designs Malachi Vest


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Jackie Dress

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

It’s taken a while for this dress to make it to the blog, since I made it to wear to The Dressmakers Ball, organised by the team at Crafty Sew & So, back in May.

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

In time honoured fashion, I bought tickets to the ball as soon as they went on sale but left making my outfit until the last minute. I have a lousy memory, so details from May are lost to the mists of time, but I’m pretty sure I whipped this up the night before the ball.

As luck would have it, this dress is perfect for dancing in, the multi-paneled skirt adding lots of volume for twirling. Plus, due to being sewn in a knit fabric, it’s comfier than your average party dress.

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

I think this fabric was a Guthrie & Ghani purchase, and was definitely bought with a Colette Wren in mind, but instead it became a Victory Patterns Jackie dress. It has a really nice weight and a subtle sparkle.

Despite the multiple panels, this dress is actually a fairly quick sew, and would make an excellent Christmas party dress.

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

These pictures were taken in the grounds of a local Jacobean house museum, Aston Hall, during a food festival event Phil and I attended. The event was sold out and the grounds full of people, so I’m impressed at just how peaceful we’ve made it seem in these photos.

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress

Victory Patterns Jackie Dress


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Blacker Yarns Brushwork (and a cat!)

Blacker Yarns Brushwork Swatch

As during previous years, Blacker Yarns are releasing a lovely special edition birthday yarn! Brushwork launches on the Blacker Yarns website & in selected yarn shops this Thursday 28 September (£8.40 per 50g ball) and is guaranteed to sell out quickly.

Experts at showcasing the versatility and quality of British yarns, Blacker always take the special edition yarns as an opportunity to include unusual British fibres with limited availability. This year’s yarn, Brushwork, is no exception; a blend of Scottish Bowmont (70%), Castlemilk Moorit (10%), and British Alpaca (20%). The majority of Scottish Bowmont wool goes into luxury garment manufacturing, so it’s particularly rare in commercial yarn, and Castlemilk Moorit is a breed listed as ‘at risk’ by the RBST Watchlist with only around 1,000 of these sheep left in the UK.

Blacker Yarns Brushwork Yarn

I was given the opportunity to swatch with a sample of Brushwork (in the Impasto colourway) and I love it for garment knitting. It would be especially lovely for a knitted top or jumper as it’s drapey but with great stitch definition. I like that Blacker selected to release Brushwork in a Sport weight – which is a less commonly available weight in British yarns.

The colours of the yarn are also very thoughtful and have loads of character. Inspired by watercolours and ink, the colours were achieved by dyeing the fibres in the wool before spinning, and blending as little as possible to preserve flecks of individual colour. The attention to detail stretches to the ball bands, which reflect the watercolour theme, and are very cute.

Blacker Yarns Brushwork Swatch

I was attempting to photograph my swatch (the pattern is a detail from Jean by Nadia Crétin-Léchenne in PomPom Quarterly Issue 14) on Saturday and discovered that it is apparently exactly the right size for a (neighbour) cat to rest on.

Blacker Yarns Brushwork Swatch

Cat

Cat

Cat