english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Adventure Tanks & Ilsley Skirt in France

Back in September, Phil and I spent a short week visiting Paris. We visit once a year (we stay in a caravan park in Maisons-Lafitte, so it’s quite a cheap break), and we always try to do a day trip outside Paris. This year we visited Chantilly – in particular, the Château de Chantilly.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

I can never resist sewing new garments for a holiday, but had limited time before this trip, so went with a couple of quick projects – a Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, and a Fancy Tiger Crafts Adventure Tank, both in a floral scuba fabric from Birmingham Rag Market.

Château de Chantilly

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

From the train station, Château de Chantilly is walking distance through a wood and park. The Chateau is stunning, and also enormous, so try and arrive early.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

This Adventure Tank is the Muscle Tank version graded between an XS and S. The Ilsley Skirt is Size 2. I was super lazy and didn’t hem the skirt or top since the scuba fabric won’t fray, however I may go back and hem them as I think they will last better hemmed.

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Phil bought me a Creativebug subscription for my birthday last year, so I got access to the Adventure Tank pattern as part of my subscription. The Fancy Tiger Crafts Creativebug lessons are some of my favourites, they’ve just released a class for a cute new clutch pattern which I’m planning to make soon.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

I also whipped up another Adventure Tank, using a small remnant of knit fabric from the stash table at The Sewing Weekender. This is pictured below, also with my Ilsley Skirt, at a different chateau – The Château de Maisons, in Maisons-Laffitte.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

Despite having stayed in Maisons-Laffitte annually for the last four or so years, we’ve never yet visited the Chateau. It closes daily for lunch, and we’re normally too slow getting up in the morning to visit before lunch, then off visiting Paris in the afternoon. This year we made an effort to get up and dressed and visit the chateau one morning, before it closed for lunch.

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

We were the only visitors to the Chateau on the morning we visited – they had to unlock the door to let us in when we arrived! It was very nice to have the whole Chateau to ourselves, and gave us chance to get these photos of my simple outfit in a grand setting.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte


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Roberts Collection Dungaree Dress

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

Just a quick post, as I’m currently busy enjoying myself on holiday in New York. Me and Phil stopped off in Reykjavik for three nights on the way here, and are going home via a brief stop in Boston. It’s my first time visiting both Iceland and the US, and I’m having great fun exploring.

I’m in my hotel presently, having reached the point where I needed to rest my weary feet for the night, so thought it would be an opportune time to post a recent project.

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

I love Marilla Walker’s aesthetic, and am always excited by her pattern releases (and also her amazing personal knitting projects) as I think she has a really unique style amongst indie pattern designers. I’ve previously sewn her Maya and Ilsley patterns,will get around to Alice and Freemantle at some point, and bought the Roberts Collection on release.

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

This is View C, the dungaree dress option. I fall between sizes 1 and 2 in the sizing chart, but was able to size down as there’s a fair bit of ease built into the pattern. As a result of the ease, and the fact that the denim I used had a bit of stretch, I was also able to remove all fastenings (the pattern includes a side fastening & strap fastenings) to save some time during construction. As much as I enjoy sewing, I still can’t help racing to the finish line!

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

The fabric is a medium weight denim which I purchased from SewBox at the Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts show in Birmingham last November. I forgot to take a close-up photo of the fabric, which features a small daisy print.

In this medium-weight fabric, I find that the dress does hang quite stiffly and sits away from the body; personally I like it, but if you’d prefer a closer fit, a fabric with more drape might suit better.

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

At the risk of sounding like I spend all of my time on holiday, these photos were taken in Cornwall, during a recent weekend away in Cawsand and Kingsand. I work at a University so do receive a decent number of holiday days, but have pretty much used up my holiday allowance for the current academic year now!

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

P.S. the knitted hat in the photos is my Luca Pom Hat.


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#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt – Made By Me, Cambodian Garment Workers, & Others Unknown

Less than three weeks from the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster (and with the compensation fund still short of money needed for medical bills), this is my first refashion for TRAID’s #SewSolidarity Challenge. I’ve got a skirt to show, and I’ve also got quite a bit to say. I’d recommend you grab a tea, and perhaps a biscuit, before you begin…

This fabric started off as a dress, which I purchased second-hand in a charity shop. The original dress was too small for me, but that was fine as I wanted to use it for fabric.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

All I learnt about how the dress was made from the tag, was that it was a H&M product (H&M were one of the companies who sourced from Rana Plaza), and was ‘made’ in Cambodia. Our clothes (and our textiles) aren’t made by machines, they’re made by people. That ‘made in’ label told me that the ‘cut, make, and trim’ stage of this dresses’ lifecycle (from cutting the fabric to finishing the dress) took place in Cambodia, probably in a garment factory. Given that garment factories typically employ a production line approach for speed, the dress was probably made by a number of people; each focused on sewing a small section of the dress. The majority of garment workers are women, so I can assume the original dress was made by a number of Cambodian women.

Dress for refashioning
The original dress

I took the dress apart, unpicking the original stitches made by garment workers in Cambodia, and used the fabric to make a Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt. I used almost all of the dress to construct this skirt, with just a few small pieces going into my scraps bin. I spent a lot longer on the Ilsley Skirt than the original garment workers would have had to construct the dress – I hand-stitched the hem while sat watching a movie.

What the tag in the dress didn’t tell me, was what other countries, and people, were involved in the creation of the original dress. The ‘cut, make, and trim’ stage only represents a tiny proportion of the overall process involved in creating a textile – from cotton boll, or sheep’s fleece, or oil – and transforming that textile into an item of clothing. That wider process involves huge amounts of resources (water, chemicals, electricity, etc.), huge numbers of people (approximately 40 million people worldwide in garment construction), and huge numbers of animals (for silk, wool, leather, fur, skins).

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

As sewists and crafters, I think we are more aware of the time and labour involved in the production of a garment. As sewists, we’ll feel particular pain at the ‘virtual factory standard’ that companies have used to define the target times for garment workers to produce clothing. You think the time allowed on GBSB is bad, try 15 minutes to produce a pair of five-pocket jeans.

I also think as crafters we become more aware of the processes that underpin our hobbies, because once you become involved with a craft you start thinking about how you can get involved at earlier stages of the production process. So knitters often become spinners, and knitters and sewists become dyers and fabric designers. I think this thought process – this interest in how something is made, from beginning to end – is vital. We need to be more conscious about what it is we are buying – where it was made, who by and how.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

That’s because, currently, the processes used to produce garments – and textiles – have a hugely detrimental impact on people and the environment. This isn’t anything new – cotton production traditionally was underpinned by slavery – but globalisation, fast fashion, and the pressure for ever cheaper prices have increased the scale of production – and the associated risks. Those risks are numerous, including the effect of particles during cotton / fibre production and preparation on the respiratory system, if inadequate protection is provided, or the impact of chemicals used in textile production and dyeing on workers within factories that don’t provide adequate protection, and on the surrounding environment and population if those chemicals are not adequately disposed of and are instead allowed to pollute waterways and the air. There is also the impact on the health of garment workers of working long hours without earning a living wage, possibly in unsafe conditions. Rana Plaza wasn’t an isolated incident, many garment workers have been killed or injured at work; fires are particularly common.

Managing the textile/garment production process, and its associated risks, ethically requires investment and commitment from clothing – and textile – companies. However, the drive to produce huge volumes of textiles and garments quickly and cheaply has led to production systems where companies outsource to middlemen huge portions of the production process. In this way, companies have outsourced a lot of production risks, and costs. They’ve also outsourced a lot of the control, and visibility, of these processes. And they’ve done so in countries where workers, animals, and the environment are subject to much less protection.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Like many sewists, I buy limited RTW clothes, but I don’t think that makes these issues any less relevant to me, given the huge global impact of these processes. Also, I do buy a lot of fabric – and many of the same issues apply to fabric production.

Each year, the Uzbekistan government transports approximately a million of it’s own citizens, including children, from their homes to serve as forced labour, picking cotton for two months during harvest time (read more here). These people are given mandatory quotas to meet and are punished or fined if they fail to meet them. As a shopper, it isn’t easy to tell if the bolls used to create a bolt of cotton originally came from Uzbekistan, but, if so, forced child labours probably picked those bolls.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Poorly regulated factories processing and dyeing fabrics are also hugely problematic. Not only for staff provided with inadequate protection from fibres and chemicals, but also for surrounding populations. Treating the water used in dyeing to remove chemicals has a cost associated with it, so factories regularly pump untreated water into waterways. This is a huge issue in India and in China, with 1 in 4 of China’s population drinking contaminated water daily. There have been multiple incidents of rivers taking on the colour of a dye from a nearby factory, including the Caledon river being dyed indigo.

We’ve all become spoilt by cheap prices, and accustomed to spending less but buying more, but the prices are false. It isn’t possible to produce a t-shirt for £3, or a pair of jeans for £6, or probably a metre of fabric for £1, if all aspects of the production process have been managed sustainably and responsibly. Obviously a high price isn’t a guarantee that something has been produced ethically, but I’m adjusting what I expect to pay so that I don’t see £5 for a ball of wool or £10-20 for a metre of fabric as ‘expensive’.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Obviously it isn’t easy when you pick up an item of clothing, or a bolt of fabric, to know how it was produced, but from now on I’m going to at least consider those questions, and think about the resources, people and animals involved.

Otherwise we’re validating those clothing companies who have excused their own practices by stating that consumers don’t care how their products are manufactured.

All facts referred to are courtesy of ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?’ by Lucy Siegle, which I’d hugely recommend.


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Waxprint Maya Dress

Waxprint Maya Dress

I love this time of year, but Autumn/Winter is very inconvenient for bloggers. It’s dark when I leave and when I return home in the week so I had a few completed items I needed to photograph this weekend while I had the chance.

This is the Maya Dress, the first pattern release by Marilla Walker. This pattern includes lots of different options (top, tunic, dress, button-up front) so you get plenty of pattern for the purchase price. Prior to the SewBrum meet-up I had decided that I wasn’t going to try and make anything new to wear for the meet-up as I was really busy & didn’t need the stress of trying to rush a new outfit. Then the night before I changed my mind and decided to make a Maya dress! Given that my time was limited I went with the simple, plain front , dress variation despite being a massive fan of Marilla’s button-front versions. I cut a size 8, the smallest size.

Waxprint Maya Dress

Due to the limited time I had to make this dress, and (more so) wanting to finish it sat on the sofa in front of the tv, I skipped the facings and instead slip-stitched the neckline, sleeves and hem by hand. The pattern includes a sash belt but I instead paired it with this skinny belt which was my Nan’s, which she gifted to me. The Maya is designed for a loose fit but I might take a little out of the side seams next time to slightly reduce the excess fabric.

Waxprint Maya Dress

This fabric is a President Holland brand waxprint purchased from the Goldhawk Road. I bought this fabric as a pre-cut length and have already made an Anna dress out of it. I still have quite a bit left so It might be showing up for a third time!

This dress has already been getting quite a bit of wear. So much so that it was still drying on the airer on Saturday morning when I was about to take these photos – so I wore it slightly damp for the photos, urgh! I needed to get the pictures in the morning as me and Phil were then heading out to see the new TMNT movie – as a massive fan age 7-8, who used to wear a plastic shell & bandanna it had to be done.

So, I would totally recommend the Maya pattern as a lovely quick make, with loads of opportunity for customisation.  I would not recommend the new TMNT movie…

Waxprint Maya Dress

Waxprint Maya Dress