english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Best Beret

Best Beret by James N Watts

Despite the fact that I rarely wear hats, including the RTW beret I have owned for years, at the end of last year I suddenly got the urge to knit a beret. I originally purchased a different knitting pattern, but then James N Watts’ Best Beret pattern was released and was exactly what I was looking for. I made the Classic Silhouette version, in adult small size and with a single stalk.

Best Beret by James N Watts

I think a brighter yarn colour would have made for a more interesting finished accessory. This yarn was a spur of the moment purchase before leaving for a holiday in New York, where I first cast on the beret.

It is the same yarn, West Yorkshire Spinners’ Croft yarn (although in a slightly different colourway), that I used to make the cardigan below – Knitbot’s Trail Jacket. This is my first time wearing them together and, unsurprisingly, they pair well.

Best Beret by James N Watts

I usually pester Phil to take photos of my sewing & knitting projects for the blog, but I took these myself in the local park and am planning to do so more often. A key incentive to taking my own photos (other than being able to take as long as I like over it) has been purchasing a much improved tripod.

A few weeks ago Phil asked if we could visit a new photography shop that had opened in Birmingham. I wasn’t particularly interested but was happy to accompany him. Phil didn’t buy a thing. I left with a tripod and a ring light!

Best Beret by James N Watts

As a glasses wearer I find light sources for photo and video tricky, but I’ve used the ring light to help with a few photos taken in the house so far. It also came in useful as a general light source when I was attempting to set up a warp on my loom into the evening last weekend. It’s much brighter than most lamps and the warping process is liable to give anyone eye strain.

Best Beret by James N Watts

I posted about my first attempt at preparing a warp and putting it onto the loom on Instagram over the weekend. It wasn’t a success – I didn’t get to any weaving and will be starting again from scratch – but I’m feeling more prepared for next time, and looking forward to trying again when I can set aside a weekend for it. Expect to see some weaving on the blog (relatively) soon.

Best Beret by James N Watts


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Two Jarrah Sweaters

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

Pattern: Jarrah Sweater by Megan Nielsen

Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 3 hours each

Fabric: (pink & grey) double-sided sweat-shirting from Bennytex, bought during #ParisSewcial / (blue) Atelier Brunette sweat-shirting from Guthrie & Ghani

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

Sweatshirts are one of my favourite sewing projects. They are really quick and easy to make, don’t use a lot of fabric, and I get loads of wear out of them. Last year I decided I needed to branch out from Grainline’s Linden pattern, and Megan Nielsen’s Jarrah was one of the alternative patterns I tried.

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

One of the benefits of the Jarrah pattern is that it’s very versatile, with neckline, hem and sleeve variations. I’ve made two versions, both using the tie-front option, and two different sleeves. My first version (in blue below) used the standard cuffed sleeve, and my second version (in pink and grey) used the split sleeve hem. I reduced the length of the split sleeve by a couple of inches, as originally my hands were completely hidden (which looked weirder than it sounds when worn & wasn’t very practical).

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

I especially love this pink and grey version. The fabric was a bargain, purchased from Bennytex during the #ParisSewcial meet-up. It’s a double-sided fabric which is such an easy way to add some extra interest to the pattern. Having made a lot of sweatshirts I do think that getting the right weight of fabric makes a big difference. The Atelier Brunette fabric used for the blue version below, although high quality, is actually a little too light weight in my opinion. Resulting in it not hanging as well, and creasing quickly. I find that the Liberty sweat-shirting (as used in this DPL belted) can be a little too heavy weight, ending up in a very bulky sweatshirt. This pink and grey fabric is about right, although veering slightly towards too lightweight. In Goldilocks terms, of the sweatshirts I have made this Linden is the closest to the fabric weight being just right (I think it’s this Fabrics Galore fabric). It has enough structure to hang well, barely creases, and is suitably cosy.

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

Due to the grown-on sleeve, Jarrah has a slightly slouchier look than the Linden (which has a raglan sleeve), and you can see some bunching of fabric around the armpits in these pictures which I think is totally acceptable in a sweatshirt.

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater

Another of my other favourite things about making sweatshirts is that, once they are looking a bit too tired or bobbly for wearing out to work or at the weekend, they are perfect for wearing around the house. I’m going to throw one on now (as I’m currently still in pyjamas) to tidy the house and hopefully get to some sewing this Sunday afternoon.

Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater Megan Nielsen Jarrah Sweater


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FreeSewing Carlton Coat

FreeSewing Carlton Coat

Back in 2015, I made a coat for Phil using Thread Theory’s Goldstream Peacoat pattern. That coat has been fantastic (and I would highly recommend the pattern), but after five years of continual wear it had started to look a little tired lately. Phil began asking for a replacement around a year ago, and I decided that it would be an ideal opportunity to finally try out a pattern from FreeSewing. I love the ethos (and the coding genius) of FreeSewing and support the site as a patron, but was yet to try out a FreeSewing pattern.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress

If you aren’t familiar with the site, it is community-based, entirely free to use and patterns are generated based on your specific measurements. The FreeSewing pattern I used, the Calton Coat, was released on the site in 2018 and is based on the coat worn by Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock series. It has some really nice details, including a large turned-back cuff, 6 pockets (2 exterior patch, 2 internal patch, 2 welt), and a pleated coat tail.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress

Due to the nature of FreeSewing (i.e. free and community-based), there aren’t currently any instructions for the Carlton Coat (although there are some for the women’s version, Carlita). Some of the more unusual pattern pieces did bamboozle me slightly, but the pattern’s designers Joost and Anneke kindly helped out when I got stuck! I was planning to write up a detailed tutorial for the construction process, but due to having a one year break in the middle I’m afraid that I don’t remember it well enough.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress FreeSewing Carlton Coat

FreeSewing can generate PDF pattern files in A0 format (yippee), so I sent the pattern pieces off for printing and began making this coat roughly a year ago. The main fabric is a wool blend from Barry’s Fabrics here in Birmingham, and the lining is a Liberty cotton purchased from the “Liberty Man” (The Little World of Fabric) in Birmingham Rag Market. I interfaced pretty much every piece of this coat using a coat weight interfacing from the English Couture Company. It’s a great quality interfacing – I’ve seen similar inside RTW outerwear that I’ve refashioned. I used a hair canvas to stablise key areas of the coat (as shown in some of the construction photos above and below), and referred to an old tailoring blog series from Gertie when pad stitching the lapel and under collar. While on the subject of tutorials, I referred to this Thread Theory tutorial when constructing the welt pockets.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat FreeSewing Carlton Coat

I didn’t make a toile for this coat, and I spent ages on alterations as a result. When sewing for myself, I can almost always get away without sewing a toile, tweaking the fit of a garment until I’m happy with it. I shouldn’t assume that I can get away with the same when sewing for others. I also think that it’s a good idea to always toile a pattern, such as this one, which is generated based on the size information you input. The fit of the version you sew isn’t going to be the same as anyone else’s, and it’s always possible that you could have made an error in the sizing information input.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress FreeSewing Carlton Coat in progress

I originally set myself an arbitrary deadline to get this coat ready for Phil to wear during a trip to New York in March 2019. I had long enough to finish it if, and only if, there were no fit issues. Of course, there were fit issues, so Phil carried on wearing his Goldstream Peacoat. With the weather warming up, I then put aside the in-progress Carlton Coat until the start of this year.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat FreeSewing Carlton Coat

As first sewn, the coat was generally too large, particularly around the armholes and sleeves. I reduced the length of the sleeves (I didn’t want to mess with the cuffs so took height off at the sleeve caps), narrowed the width of the shoulders, narrowed the sleeves, and raised the armholes (adding in underarm gussetts). I also reduced the length of the coat, and took in the coat at the side seams (which meant needing to detach and reattach the exterior patch pockets). My approach to the alterations was to trust my assumptions on what needed to change and to cut into the coat. It could have backfired, and at one point I did think I had made the coat too small, but the extra effort to get the fit right for Phil (admittedly retrospectively rather than via a toile…) has paid off in a successful coat which I’m sure he’ll get loads of wear out of.

FreeSewing Carlton Coat FreeSewing Carlton Coat

Phil has worn the coat daily since I completed it, and has reported back that the (Prym) covered buttons (used in two sizes, on the front and back of the coat) are not very sturdy. Two covered buttons have already been lost, partially (I think) because Phil is hard on his clothing, and partially because the metal loops used to attach the buttons to the coat are thin. I’m planning to swap the covered buttons for standard buttons, ideally before any more are jettisoned. Phil has also requested an additional button lower down on the coat, claiming that the current button positions left him with a cold belly button while we were walking around cold New York!


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My Favourite Sewing Pattern Releases in 2019

Favourite Sewing Patterns Banner Image

I’ve published my first vlog of 2020, which is a look back at my favourite sewing patterns released in 2019.

You can watch the vlog below or via my YouTube channel.

If you fancy revisiting some great previous pattern releases, see also my favourite patterns in 2018 and 2017.

Patterns mentioned:

Charm Patterns – Princess Coat

Helen’s Closet – Yanta Overalls

Nina Lee – Mayfair Dress

Carmen Bouchard – La Jupe en Jean

Deer & Doe – Sirocco Jumpsuit

Sew Over It / Lisa Comfort Magazine – Amelia Jacket

Friday Pattern Company – Wilder Gown

Closet Case Patterns – Pietra Pants & Shorts

Closet Case Patterns – Sienna Maker Jacket

Pauline Alice – Ayora Jacket

Tabitha Sewer – Lena Horne Dress

Opian – Pilatus Swimsuit

Vogue – V1648

Vogue – V1650

Noodlehead – Crescent Tote

Noodlehead – Redwood Tote

Sugardale – Len Coveralls


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Alice & Co Patterns Georgie Dress

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

Pattern:  Georgie Dress (free) by Alice & Co Patterns

Time taken (excluding cutting out): 20 hours (including lots of alterations)

Fabric: Masson Mills cotton

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

When Alice & Co Patterns announced they would be releasing a free pattern based on Mary Quant’s Georgie Dress, to coincide with the recent Mary Quant exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, I got excited. I got even more excited to make my own version of the Georgie Dress when I realised that I had a fabric in my stash which was a reasonable approximation for the fabric used in the original dress held in the V&A’s collection.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

My fabric is a cotton woven at Masson Mill in Matlock Bath. Mason Mill was a working cotton mill from 1783 until 1991 and now houses a museum (amongst other things) which produces a small quantity of fabric for demonstration and sale purposes. The fabric is sold very cheaply (a few pounds per metre) as offcuts or cut from the bolt. It’s narrow width due to being woven on traditional mechanised looms, but I managed to make this dress from three offcuts of the striped fabric (all 1 metre+) and a small amount of a purple cotton, also from Masson Mill, for the ruffles. The bodice is as per the pattern but I had to reduce the volume of fabric used in the skirt.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

Although I rarely sew vintage, it was vintage patterns which first got me interested in garment sewing before I discovered indie designers. I still find vintage (and vintage inspired) designs visually really appealing, but often find them less appealing to actually sew. The construction of this dress took 20 hours (due to me making various alterations to fit and style), which is by far the longest I’ve spent on a sewing project since I started timing myself a couple of months ago, and by the end I just wanted it finished.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

I started by cutting a size 12, but after basting together and trying on the bodice in my lining fabric (as helpfully recommended in the pattern instructions) I decided it was too big and trimmed my bodice pieces down to a size 10, grading to a 12 at the waist. I think I could have gone down a size again in the bodice, so suspect the pattern contains a reasonable amount of ease but it’s probably also the result of using a loosely woven cotton fabric.

My fabric choice wasn’t the easiest to work with. The striped fabric is loosely woven, slightly shiny (meaning it really shows any fit issues), and very lightweight. The purple fabric I used for the ruffles is slightly heavier weight which caused them to droop and pull on the bodice, which I mitigated by sewing them in place along the neckline seam. I was aiming for a retro look, but when I first tried this dress on the pattern and fabric combination looked very frumpy. Reducing the length of the skirt made a huge difference to making it look more 60s and less Victorian.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

A sign to myself that I had moved beyond being a beginner sewer was when I became confident making alterations to sewing projects I wasn’t completely happy with. Before that point I would finish construction as per the pattern instructions, hang the offending garment in my wardrobe and then rarely wear it. I’m still going back to those previous sewing projects and fixing the aspects which annoy me, now that I’m better able to guess what it is I don’t like and how to fix it. I’ve actually been making small alterations this evening to two garments which I do wear but which annoy me a little bit every time. I started tap dancing classes recently, I’m really bad at tap and it makes me appreciate all the more having a hobby (sewing) where I do feel like I know what I’m doing and never feel completely at a loss – even if some projects do take more effort than anticipated.

Alice & Co Patterns Mary Quant Georgie Dress

I’m glad I got this dress to a point where I am happy wearing it, and if I make the pattern again I’ll try it in a more modern fabric for a completely different look.


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Gift Sewing Pattern Suggestions

Vlog Title Screen

Now that it’s November I’m sharing my recommendations for present making. You can see the full list of pattern suggestions on my vlog, and the full list with links is also copied below.

I’ve included lots of free patterns, plus some paid-for patterns which make ideal gifts. I’ve focused on sewing patterns, but have also recommended a few favourite sources of free knitting patterns.

Now I just need to start making some of these rather than leaving it until the last minute…

Sewing Patterns

Bombazine (oven) Mitt: https://www.bombazine.com.au/bombazine-mitt/

Noodlehead, Forage Bag: https://noodle-head.com/2018/10/forage-bag-free-pattern.html

Noodlehead, Tiny Treasures Basket & Tray: https://noodle-head.com/2016/07/tiny-treasures-basket-tray-free-pattern.html

Victory Patterns, Tailor’s Ham & Sausage: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2012/08/how-to-make-tailors-hams-and-sausages.html

Very Purple Person, Reversible Bag: http://verypurpleperson.com/2010/04/making-reversible-bag/

Thread Theory, Wallet Set: https://threadtheory.ca/collections/pdf-sewing-patterns/products/the-wallet-gift-giving-set-pdf

Milan AV-JC, Zero Waste Origami Bag: https://www.milanavjc.com/opensource-en-uamep-origami-bag

Very Sharron, Reversible Box Tote: https://www.veryshannon.com/patterns/reversibleboxtote

Wendy Ward / MIY Collection, various patterns: https://www.miycollection.com/collections/sewing-patterns-digital

Digital Pattern Library, House Tape Measure: https://digitalpatternlibrary.com/blog/2019/4/16/scrap-buster-zero-waste-house?rq=free%20pattern

Sew Over It, Tie: https://sewoverit.co.uk/product/tie-pdf-sewing-pattern/

Purl Soho, Tie: https://www.purlsoho.com/storage/fathersdaytie_FINAL.pdf

FreeSewing.org, Trayvon Tie: https://freesewing.org/patterns/trayvon

Grainline Studio, Stowe Bag: https://grainlinestudio.com/collections/accessories/products/stowe-bag?variant=22533587599442

Grainline Studio, Portside Travel Set: https://grainlinestudio.com/collections/accessories/products/portside-travel-set?variant=22533587501138

Grainline Studio, Hemlock Tee

Tilly & the Buttons, Eye Mask: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2015/07/how-to-make-eye-mask-free-pattern.html

Tilly & the Buttons, Slipper Boots: https://www.tillyandthebuttons.com/2017/11/free-pattern-make-your-own-snuggly.htmlnne,

FreeSewing.org, Bruce Boxer Shorts: https://freesewing.org/patterns/bruce

Thread Theory, Comox Trucks Boxer Shorts: https://threadtheory.ca/collections/sewing-patterns/products/comox-trunks-pdf

So Zo What Do You Know, Pants & Vest: http://sozowhatdoyouknow.blogspot.com/p/free-patterns.html

Madalynne, Lingerie Patterns: https://madalynne.com/product-category/lingerie-sewing-pattern/

Ohhh Lulu, Lingerie Patterns: https://www.ohhhlululingerie.com/product-category/free/

Purl Soho, Free Sewing Patterns: https://www.purlsoho.com/create/tag/free-sewing-pattern/

In the Folds / Peppermint Magazine, Free Patterns: https://peppermintmag.com/sewing-school/

Sarah Kirsten, Fennel Fanny Pack: https://sarkirsten.com/patterns/fennel-fanny-pack

Kylie & the Machine, Ida Clutch: https://kylieandthemachine.com/introducing-the-ida-clutch/

Pattern Scout, Luna Crossbody Bag: https://www.patternscoutstudio.com/shop/luna-crossbody-pdf-sewing-pattern

Aneela Hoey, Accessory Patterns: https://comfortstitching.bigcartel.com/ / https://shopbeyondmeasure.co.uk/collections/patterns

Knitting Patterns

Purl Soho, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.purlsoho.com/create/tag/free-knitting-pattern/

Fringe Association, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/fringe-association-on-ravelry/patterns

Loop London, Free Knitting Patterns: https://www.loopknitlounge.com/category/free-knitting-crochet-patterns/

Arne & Carlos: https://arnecarlos.com/

Tin Can Knits, Free Knitting Patterns: http://tincanknits.com/patterns-free.html

Brooklyn Tweed, Lavender Sachets: https://brooklyntweed.com/blogs/blog/lavender-sachets


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Constellation Double Gauze Myosotis

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

I’m finally blogging my Deer and Doe Myosotis Dress which I made back in April, ready to wear for the Paris Sewcial / Paris Coud meet-up.

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

I loved the Myosotis pattern when it was released, but it was when I saw the fabric that the idea of this dress got lodged in my brain and wouldn’t leave me in peace until it was realised. The fabric is a double gauze by the Japanese brand Kokka, and is embroidered with astrological designs. I originally saw the fabric on Guthrie & Ghani’s instagram feed in an alternative colourway, but by the time I had bitten the bullet and made the decision to order it they were out of stock. It was relatively difficult to track down, but I found this white colourway available from Miss Matatabi and put in an order quick before they ran out too. With the dress already fully formed in my mind, I picked out matching pearlescent buttons during Male Pattern Boldness Day in New York in March.

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

I made View A, with all possible ruffles, in size 34/36 (grading between sizes at the waist). As per my last blog post, I was clearly inspired by / copied the product image for version A, which is also made in a white cotton fabric. During construction I should have taken more care to stabilise my fabric on the long curved front bodice pieces, because when I initially got to the point of sewing the bodice together I found that the delicate double gauze fabric had stretched and the bodice wouldn’t lie flat. Luckily I had enough fabric left to recut the bodice, and second time around I underlined the bodice pieces in a plain white cotton, making the bodice much more stable, easier to sew and opaque.

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

A white cotton Myosotis might seem destined for spring and summer, but I think it looks suitably autumnal in these pictures, paired with some wintery tights, boots and a hat. As it happens, these photos were actually taken during the summer, in June, while on a family holiday to the Peak District. I packed a suitcase full of new summery me-made garments having not checked the weather forecast, and spent the whole week pairing them with boots and a coat.

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

With the three sewing events I’ve been involved in organising this year (Paris Sewcial, The Sewing Weekender, and SewBrum) over for another year (at least) I’m hoping to catch-up with posting a few other sewing and knitting projects from this year which are yet to make it to the blog. I’ve also set myself the goal of knitting a Halloween-themed jumper before the end of the month (wish me luck, I knit multiple gauge swatches, none of which were right, and in the end just went with the recommended needle size). After that it will be time to think about Christmas present making – and finishing the coat for Phil which I started last winter and abandoned in March!

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze

Deer & Doe Myosotis Dress in Kokka Double Gauze