english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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My First Weavers, Spinners, & Dyers Summer School & First Woven Scarf

Handwoven tartan scarf

In the last few years, I’ve become fairly involved with the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers. I sit on the General Purpose Committee (since 2016), produce the Association’s monthly newsletter and manage the social media accounts (including the Instagram account). The Association has a very traditional structure where membership is to a local guild (I’m a member of Birmingham Guild), with local guilds affiliated to the Association (not the easiest when you are newsletter editor but only have one contact per guild). Within Birmingham Guild, I’ve recently jointly taken on the role of programme secretary with a fellow guild member, and am helping (in a very small way) with preparations for the region hosting a biennial conference in 2020.

Handwoven tartan scarf

Given that I am so involved with the Association, it dawned on me the other day when someone asked me, that I can’t really remember why or how I joined! I think I must have found out about Birmingham Guild online when looking for craft groups meeting locally & decided to give it a try. I know that I kept going because I felt welcomed and part of the group right from the start. The women (predominantly, there are only a couple of men) at my guild are a really fun and inspiring bunch, who I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. I do think one of the best parts of getting older is becoming a member of an increasing number of groups or communities.

Handwoven tartan scarf

I’m sure most members of the Association would think of themselves as either a weaver, spinner or dyer (or a combination of the three). I like to try all three crafts during workshops, but I’ve never really taken up any as a hobby. I’ve never felt that I needed to, I’m happy to be involved and to just be a dabbler, but it was exciting to attend a week long weaving course last week and to find it completely accessible and enjoyable – and a potential new hobby. Obviously, I am always open to a new hobby!

Handwoven tartan scarf

The Association coordinates a summer school, organised entirely by volunteer guild members, every other year. As a member of the GPC I receive lots of updates during the planning stages, and this time around it proved too tempting to resist applying when booking opened. I was one of 194 students, with 40% of us attending for the first time (in contrast, Sally, a fellow student on my course, had been a student at nine summer schools!). The course I picked was Weaving Tweeds and Tartan with tutor Jan Beadle which was taught over five full days, with talks, exhibitions and other evening events making up the remainder of the seven day summer school.

Handwoven tartan scarf
Handwoven tartan scarf

I’ll blog separately about the course, but one of the pieces I came away with was this finished woven tartan scarf. We started by selecting the colours for our tartans early in the week, from the selection of wool yarns Jan supplied, made a decision on the pattern repeat, prepared the warp threads, wove the fabric, and finally finished by creating plaited tassels. The width of my scarf on the loom was 12.25″ but once off the loom, relaxed and washed , it is around 10.5″, and over two metres in length. The weaving of the scarf was completed within a day, with approximately half a day before to prepare the loom, and a few hours the following day finishing off (trimming and plaiting the tassels).

Handwoven tartan scarf
Handwoven tartan scarf

Once home, I washed the scarf by hand, air dryed it, and gave it a good firm press with a hot iron and lots of steam. The wool used isn’t super soft, but it’s soft enough (for me) to wear against the skin. Obviously it’s not quite the same when you haven’t got a teacher in the room to ask for help, but the whole process of weaving, and preparing to weave (definitely the more complicated part), this scarf felt completely accessible and repeatable. I’m currently considering buying a loom similar to the one I used on the course, but in the meantime I have two woven samples, also created during the course, which I am planning to cut and sew with. I have over two metres in total (narrow width) so plenty of fabric to play with if I can decide on a pattern or two.

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Modified Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

I originally made, and blogged, this dress (The Maker’s Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress) a year ago, but I was never happy with the fit on me. Apart from a couple of trial outings, this dress hung on my wardrobe door for a year waiting to be altered.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

After that long wait, it took me a single evening to alter the dress and add it into rotation in my wardrobe. The alterations I made were to remove 7 inches from the hem, reduce the width of the shoulders (I temporarily removed the sleeves and cut a crescent shaped section from each shoulder), remove the elastic from the sleeve hems, increase the waistline gathering, and generally improve the tidiness of my sewing.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

The dress is sewn in a crepe fabric from John Lewis and paired here with a matching lipstick and another pill box hat. The construction of the hat is as per my previous post, and the fabric is a pale pink pvc with a snakeskin print and texture, from Fancy Silk Store. I spotted this fabric the first time I visited Fancy Silk Store for hat making supplies; once I had a first pill box under my belt I went back to buy this fabric. These hats only use a tiny amount of fabric so I have plenty left and may use it to make a matching bag.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

Over the recent bank holiday weekend, Phil and I made the most of the sunshine and visited a couple of Birmingham Museums’ venues. It’s easy to forget to be curious about historic sites which are close to home, and we’re slowly working our way around some local sites, including Soho House (home of the industrialist Matthew Boulton) where these photos were taken.

The Maker's Atelier Asymmetric Gather Dress

#memademay2019 is fast approaching. My pledge is to use the challenge to help me reach a point where I enjoy wearing everything in my wardrobe (me-made, second-hand, and ready-to-wear). That means getting rid of clothes which no longer fit or which I no longer enjoy wearing, altering me-made garments which I’m not completely happy with, and finishing my UFOs. This dress is one example of working towards that pledge, and I’m hoping to continue throughout May and beyond.


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Two Knitted Skating Hats

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

A few months ago, a vintage fashion Instagrammer I follow posted a picture of herself in a ear warmer she had made and I decided I had to have one.

I made a search on Ravelry (ear warmer? head warmer? headband?) and managed to stumble on a free pattern by Julie Bierlein for the Portsmouth knitted skating hat.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in Alafosslopi

This is a simple and well designed pattern, with the option to knit in chunky/bulky or super chunky/bulky yarn. I knit two versions and each one took me two evenings, at a relaxed pace.

I really wanted a pink hat, but I thought I’d test the pattern with some stash yarn first, and used Ístex Álafoss Lopi in Golden Heather for my yellow version. I bought this yarn on a whim during a trip to Sweden back in 2015, and I previously used some of the ball in this hat. I still have loads left so no doubt it will show up on the blog again at some point.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in Alafosslopi

Having tested out the pattern, I ordered some pink yarn for version two. Always keen to support British yarn companies, I chose West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat yarn in the Escape colourway.

Both the yarns I used were chunky weight yarns, but the Alafoss is much firmer, which I think works really well for this pattern. Despite being my test version, my yellow version keeps its shape better and has a crisper silhouette. The soft pink yarn is much softer and has more stretch. I should have compensated for the stretch by knitting the pink hat slightly shorter but I didn’t realise until it was already finished and washed.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

I wasn’t sure how often I would wear these ‘hats’, but I wore them daily during a recent trip to New York. From the perspective of someone with long hair, they do a good job of keeping your head warm, and wearing them doesn’t result in a ‘hat hair’ effect.

For a fairly frivolous looking accessory they are actually quite practical, and easy to roll-up and pop in a pocket or bag when not being worn.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

I’m currently making a hat which definitely can’t be described as practical, a small pillbox hat to wear to the Dressmakers’ Ball next week, using some leftover fabric from my dress.

This was definitely one time when I was glad to have purchased slightly more fabric than I needed for the dress as I’m also planning to make a matching belt, and maybe a bag. There’s only four days left before the Ball now – wish me luck.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat


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Zigzag Linden at the Ikon Gallery

Linden Sweatshirt at the Ikon Gallery

Autumn is here and with it new Grainline Studio Lindens are entering my wardrobe.

Linden Sweatshirt at the Ikon Gallery

I cut out and prepared (pinned all initial seams) two Linden sweatshirts during evenings this week, and then sewed both sweatshirts today. I managed to sew the first – pictured here – in a couple of hours this morning, meaning that I was able to wear it during a trip into Birmingham city centre this afternoon.

Linden Sweatshirt at the Ikon Gallery

It’s pictured here at Ikon Gallery where we caught the final day of an exhibition of recent work by Polly Apfelbaum. I must admit that half of the incentive for visiting was seeing the exhibition before it closed, and the other half was getting blog photos in such a great space!

The exhibition was very accessible and interactive, with visitors invited to walk over the woven rugs included in the exhibition on the condition you removed your shoes.

Linden Sweatshirt at the Ikon Gallery

This particular Linden is made with fabric purchased as an offcut from Birmingham Rag Market, and was the remaining metre of fabric I had left after making a Freya Dress.

Linden Sweatshirt at the Ikon Gallery

I had a go at making Named’s Talvikki sweater earlier this week, and am not convinced by how it looks on. I’m having a break before returning to try altering it, but it was very satisfying to return to a pattern I know well.

Linden Sweatshirt at the Ikon Gallery

As a reminder (if only for myself), I make the Linden in size 2 in thicker fabrics, but in a size 0 in thinner fabrics – including this one. I also always cut the neckband one size larger, to avoid pulling, and have found it to make all the difference.

Linden Sweatshirt at the Ikon Gallery

My Linden is pictured here paired with a Seamwork Oslo Cardigan which I made for myself in 2014 when it was released with the very first issue of Seamwork. The weather has been very mild here in the UK for the last few weeks, and this kind of casual jacket is currently perfect outerwear. By the time it gets cold I might have all the supplies ready and be prepared to sew coats.

Linden Sweatshirt at the Ikon Gallery


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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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Pink Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier The Asymmetric Gather Dress

I’ve had a lovely quiet weekend at home, which included making this dress. This is the Asymmetric Gather Dress from the Maker’s Atelier, which was one of my favourite pattern releases of 2017.

The Maker's Atelier The Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier The Asymmetric Gather Dress

Phil was out for dinner with friends on Saturday, so I had an afternoon to myself to sew. Despite inevitably getting distracted by podcasts/vlogs/Netflix, I had this dress completed before bed, and couldn’t resist getting some photos in the last of the snow today in our local park.

The Maker's Atelier The Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier The Asymmetric Gather Dress

I graded between sizes 8 and 10. I think the fit is ok, but I’m going to increase the size of the gather at the front to make the dress slightly more fitted near the waist and the design more pronounced (an easy alteration). I’m also not happy with the sleeves currently, they’re a lot less gathered than in the pattern photos, so they end up just looking a bit lumpy. This is the length of the dress on me unaltered, it’s longer than in the pattern pictures but I quite like it so will try wearing the dress at this length before making any decision to shorten.

The Maker's Atelier The Asymmetric Gather Dress

The Maker's Atelier The Asymmetric Gather Dress

This fabric is a crepe purchased in the John Lewis sale. I thought it would be perfect for this pattern, but I actually think a lighter weight fabric would work better – the gathers end up very pronounced in this mid weight fabric. I think this dress would be lovely in a lightweight drapey wool, but first I’m going to make my planned alterations to the front gather and sleeves and wear this version a while.


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Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

I’ve been knitting less frequently since I started catching the train to work, with colleagues, because I’m now too busy nattering. However, recently I finally picked up and finished this project which I abandoned last summer.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

This is the Point of View Vest by Hannah Fettig from Knitbot Linen. I started this vest to use up leftover Blacker Yarns Lyonesse yarn from my Hancock cardigan (another Hannah Fettig pattern). I didn’t have quite enough Lyonesse to finish this vest, and by the time I realised, the colourway (Rose Quartz) had been discontinued. Luckily, the replacement colourway (Tourmaline) is close enough that the change in shade at the shoulders doesn’t look out of place.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

The Point of View pattern is designed for linen yarn; because I used a wool/linen blend, the edges of the vest inevitably curl up. I like how this looks at the front, but felt the bottom edge of the vest looked sloppy, so hand sewed ribbon along the edges to weigh them down and keep them flat.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

This is a fairly impractical garment since it doesn’t add much warmth or cover, but it does look quite cute paired here with a Megan Nielsen Maker Tee and favourite People Tree skirt, and with an Inari Tee Dress. These photos were taken on holiday at Studio Ghibli Museum in Tokyo, and the Museum of The Little Prince in Hakone.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest