english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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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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Onyx Dress Hack

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

This post is a prime example of sewing blogger problems. The dress was a quick and easy sewing project, getting photos for a blog post, ridiculous difficult!

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

I originally took the camera out when me and Phil visited Resorts World shopping centre in Birmingham. We got some photos by the lake there, but every picture Phil took – with the exception of a couple included in this post – was blurry!

Phil and I rarely argue – the only things we ever argue about are whose turn it is to do a chore in the house (obviously, we each think we do more than the other), and blog photos! He hates taking them, and I think it requires very little effort given the amount of effort it takes me to sew a garment.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

We tried taking further photos in the garden, but again almost every photo was blurry. I’m sure fellow bloggers will know the horror of realising that a photo which looks perfect – great photo of the garment, and no strange faces being pulled – is just out of focus. I can’t face a third attempt, so you’ll have to take my work that this dress is cuter in real life than in these photos!

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

Having made Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt twice before (previous versions 1 and 2), I thought it would be a good candidate for a dress hack. I also used the full length sleeve from the sleeve add-on pack.

To create a dress variation, I just extended the front and back pieces from the bottom of the pattern pieces down to the edge of my fabric, making sure to allow enough ease at the hips.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

The fabric I used is lacy and not very strong, so to reinforce it (and for the purposes of decency) I also cut the front and back pieces in lining fabric. I constructed the lining separately and then attached it to the main fabric at the neckline. I left the sleeves unlined to make the lace effect more visible. As the lace fabric doesn’t fray, I left the sleeve and hem edges unfinished.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

Suitably, I purchased this fabric (and the matching lining) as a coupon in Paris while shopping with Lisa of Paprika Patterns, Sabine, Carmen and Olivier. Olivier spotted it originally, but kindly let me buy it, and found me the matching lining in the same coupon bin!

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack

Making this has tempted me to make a couple more summery Onyx Shirts – perhaps in a crepe this time.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Dress Hack


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Not So Successful Marigold Dyeing

Natural Dyeing with Marigolds

As mentioned back in March, marigold was one of the plants I decided to grow from seed last year to use for natural dyeing. However, I bought quite a few of my dye plant seeds from the local garden centre, as opposed to a shop specialising in seeds for dye plants such as Wild Colours. As a result the marigold seeds I brought were a French variety (pictured above in the garden), although I didn’t realise that was a problem at the time (or, to be honest, even notice until I went back to check recently)…

Natural Dyeing with Marigolds

In order to build up a sufficient stock of flower heads, I cut them as they flowered and stored them in the freezer. My mom also donated some flower heads from her garden to help increase my supply.

Natural Dyeing with Marigolds

I used an approximately 1:1 ratio (equal weight) of flower heads to fabric. I heated the flower heads in a pan of water, raising the temperature to 70-80ºC, and then adding pre-wetted fabrics and retaining the temperature for one hour. I left the fabric to soak in the pan for an hour before rinsing; finally I gave the fabric a proper wash. Before dyeing, my fabric had been pre-mordanted using the methods previously described in this post.

Natural Dyeing with Marigolds

So, I was expecting shades of yellow and brown. I achieved no colour whatsoever on a selection of cotton fabrics, but the marigold dyed the silk swatches below a range of pale purples! Not what I was expecting at all. (All of the silk swatches are from Minerva Crafts and I have some more successful results to show with their natural fibre fabrics soon).

Silk Naturally Dyed with Marigold Flowers

I do like the resulting colours, even though they were unexpected and I wouldn’t try to repeat them.

Silk Naturally Dyed with Marigold Flowers

This year I’ve bought seeds specifically for dye plants from Wild Colours – I’ve purchased Dyers Coreopsis, Woad, Weld, and Dyers Chamomile. Although natural dyeing always has an element of unpredictability I’m unlikely to get such unexpected results with those seeds.

Silk Naturally Dyed with Marigold Flowers

Silk Naturally Dyed with Marigold Flowers


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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning Francoise Dress

Francoise Dress, Tilly & the Buttons in Purple Wool

Having decided that I wasn’t going to make Tilly and the Buttons’ Francoise in time for the #SewingFrancoise contest, I cracked at the last minute and whipped this up over Saturday night and Sunday morning; just in time to wear to my brother’s engagement party on Sunday afternoon. I snuck out of the party for a few minutes to take these photos in my mom and dad’s garden.

Francoise Dress, Tilly & the Buttons in Purple Wool

The dress is made in a purple-pink wool I bought while in Paris.The gold leather I used for the collar and tab was also from Paris – a pressie from Ma Petite Mercerie that was provided in our goodie bags. I thought the gold would be suitably festive:) The buttons are vintage, from a charity shop. The only downside of this wool is how much it creases – the dress was nicely pressed before I left home, but you can see it was creased by the time I reached my parent’s house!

Francoise Dress, Tilly & the Buttons in Purple Wool

I cut a straight size two and took it in slightly at the upper back. I actually fall between sizes, but I find Tilly’s patterns tend to have a bit of ease so I went with the smaller size and it’s a good fit. I cut the leather sections on a single layer as I didn’t think they would turn and press well if I doubled them up.

Francoise Dress, Tilly & the Buttons in Purple Wool

It was nice to enjoy a spot of selfish sewing this weekend; now to get back to making Christmas presents before I run out of time.


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Ruching Covers a Multitude of Sins

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit

I’m very happy to finally be sharing a Bombshell Swimsuit on the blog! I’ve wanted to make a Bombshell since the pattern was released and I’ve even had the pattern pieces cut out for a couple of months – I was going to make it in time for Karen’s Sporty Summer Sewalong but missed the deadline, then I thought I’d make it for the Sewcialist’s Oonapalooza but  missed that deadline too… Anyway here it is at last, I finally got around to making it last week due to taking a few days off work.

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit

It took me a little while to find a fabric I liked as I knew I wanted something patterned. I found this in Barry’s Fabric. The fabric had a few large (perfectly cut) holes in it (they threw those bits in free) but there was just enough left on the roll for my purposes. I’ve actually used the wrong-side of the fabric for the body of my swimsuit as I loved the deep purple colour. I used the right-side of the fabric for the straps and the bodice tab.

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit

My bombshell came together really well and it was looking like I’d have it made up in one day before Phil got home from work – then I got to the point of finishing the bodice and came unstuck. I attached my elastic at the bodice but found that the suit was rippling. Assuming that it needed to be tighter I attached a shorter piece of elastic to bring the suit in but just got more extreme rippling. At that point I decided to cheat; I went back to the original elastic length and then just pinched the excess fabric at each side of the bodice and sewed it down when attaching the straps. That is the joy of a ruched swimsuit – it hides a multitude of sins:)

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit

The weather here in the UK has gotten pretty cool but I  braved a slightly cool garden to get these photos yesterday. Me and Phil were just back from a weekend in Cambridgeshire. We were there for a family (joint 30th) party and also managed to squeeze in a trip to Cambridge and to Burwash Manor, home of Backstitch. Backstitch has a great selection of patterns if you’re in the vicinity, and I did pretty well in the British Red Cross shop in Cambridge as they currently have loads of vintage notions. I came away with some lovely buttons, but they also had a great selection of belt buckles and needles.

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit

Now I just need to take my Bombshell for a dip to see how it fares. Unfortunately I don’t have any exotic holidays planned so I’m thinking a local pool will need to suffice for this year.

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit


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Before Breakfast (Afternoon) Blouse

Handmade Afternoon Blouse
I sacrificed a lie-in this morning to get up nice and early and start sewing. I call that dedication after a long week at work! I wanted to get started on an Afternoon Blouse, the new (and first) pattern by Jennifer Lauren. I love Jennifer’s style (I’ve been planning to copy these trousers since she posted about them…) & was very excited when I saw the news of the pattern release. I bought the pattern last weekend but only got as far as cutting out the fabric so was adamant that the cut-out pieces weren’t going to spend any more time lay on the living room floor.
Handmade Afternoon Blouse
I decided that this blouse had to be made from stash fabric since I had a big shop at Barry’s Fabric a couple of weeks ago & am planning to buy fabric during an upcoming trip to Paris over Easter & at the London meet-up in May. This fabric was actually purchased (from Barry’s of course) for an in-progress project which will be blogged soon, but I had just enough left to squeeze an Afternoon Blouse out of what I had left over. It’s a John Kaldor polyester in navy with purple dots. The fabric is actually see-through so I underlined the whole blouse using some navy lining fabric. I also used french seams throughout due to the delicacy of the fabric. I picked the decorative button with this fabric in mind from a local haberdashery in Kings Heath (if you live local pop in, it’s on York Road & the owner is lovely).
Handmade Afternoon Blouse
It’s a lovely pattern and it does come together nice and quick (in my case in a morning rather than an afternoon!). I had this finished in time to head out for lunch with Phil at Le Truc in Birmingham. I must admit I did rather balls up the front facing join and had to unpick and redo it, I probably should have taken a little more care as suggested in the instructions! I’m looking forward to seeing lots more Afternoon Blouses appearing online and to seeing Jennifer Lauren’s next pattern!