english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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The Little Book of Sewing

Sewing Supplies

Karen Ball’s book, The Little Book of Sewing, is released on 04 April. I was lucky enough to receive a pre-release PDF copy via a call-out in her newsletter.

It might be a little book but it feels substantial. I read Karen’s book over a few very enjoyable sittings, and I know I’ll be returning to my hardcopy, once it arrives, when my motivation to sew needs a boost.

Sewing Supplies

If you read Karen’s blog then you don’t need me to tell you that the writing is great. Conversational, and regularly funny (it’s dedicated to Tmos), the book shares a love of sewing with its readers. It successfully strikes a balance between advice and conversation (I wasn’t tempted to skim read as I often am with sewing tutorials or instructions), and between providing a little insight into Karen’s personal sewing and reflecting the wider sewing community.

Sewing Supplies

Wide ranging in the information it covers – from basics such as understanding a sewing pattern, threading a needle, or sewing tools, through to careers in sewing, sewing in film and literature and sewing and mental health. The book touches lightly on the areas it covers, never going into so much detail as to risk becoming boring before bouncing on to the next topic.

Sewing Supplies

As a regular / intermediate sewer, I was reminded of lots of things I should know but tend to forget. Practical tips like cutting thread at an angle to obtain a finer point, and a reminder that sewing failures are an opportunity to learn and improve.

Sewing Supplies

Karen’s book will inspire you to pick up a hand sewing needle or take a seat behind a sewing machine. Reading it inspired me to sew for the enjoyment of sewing, as opposed to the promise of a finished garment. The book celebrates both the act of sewing and the hobby of sewing (from the items we collect to the community we become a part of). It contains a reminder of the reasons sewing is enjoyable, good for you, and very doable.

Pre-order here

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In Conclusion, My 2018

With 2018 drawing to a close, I wanted to write a round-up of what I’ve been up to in the last year.

National Exhibition 2018 of the Association of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

I’ve continued volunteering for the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, managing their social media channels and monthly newsletter. It’s an organisation I love being part of, despite personally doing minimal weaving, spinning or dyeing. In the same way that being part of the sewing community introduces me to a wider community of women, being part of the Association allows me to be part of a different community of fascinating, talented women, I otherwise wouldn’t interact with. This year I attended the Association’s biannual National Exhibition for the first time, next year I will be attending the summer school (my first-choice is a week-long course in weaving tweed and tartan), and in 2020 I plan to submit a small (un-juried) piece to the next National Exhibition.

The Sewing Weekender 2018

I (jointly) organised the third Sewing Weekender (with Kate & Rachel from The Fold Line), and the fifth SewBrum (with Lauren Guthrie) in 2018. Both events were the biggest yet, and it’s really positive that people continue to want to attend, that this community continues to grow and that it continues to be supportive despite that growth. For the first time ever I even managed to make a new dress to wear to each of the events! I was adamant that I wasn’t going to let being busy stop me from attending other events in the sewing community this year, and I made it along to (and thoroughly enjoyed myself at) Sew Up North, the Sewcialist Soiree, and Birmingham-based meet-ups including Brummie Yarn Social.

Bar Suit for The Refashioners 2018

I participated in the Refashioners for the second time (the first time was in 2015), and won the runner-up prize for an outfit inspired by Dior’s Bar Suit, which was my most involved sewing project to date. Phil and I visited Paris to get photos based on my inspiration image (we also holidayed in Vietnam, Majorca, Lulworth Cove and Skegness this year). My entry for Tilly & the Button’s Sew a Xmas Sweater Competition was also based on an inspiration image, Vera Ellen’s dress at the end of White Christmas. Back in April, I celebrated Fashion Revolution Week by making a screen-printed tee, which was one of my favourite garments this summer. Finally, in December I participated in two Christmas swaps (Bombazine Mitt Swap & Sewing Secret Santa).

Megan Nielsen Karri Dress Skirt

In December 2017 I started using the Cora App to catalogue my fabric and I’ve kept it up all year (with a few gaps where some retrospective cataloguing was required). Cataloguing my fabric inspired me to take part in MakeNine for the first time in 2018, and to finally sew with patterns and fabric I’ve had in mind for ages. I’ve only made a smallish dent in my MakeNine plans so far (simply because I don’t sew as fast as I plan), but the intention to not forget patterns released (and fabric purchased) in previous years remains, and I did sew with my stash of Mahlia Kent remnants, built up over a couple of previous trips to Paris.

Knitbot Linen Point of View Vest

I’ve had limited success with my knitting this year (I’ve done less knitting, and the projects I have finished have had fitting issues), but in the last couple of months Christmas has inspired me to pick up my (circular) needles more regularly, and I’ve finished knitted baubles for our Christmas tree, and a scarf for my mom’s Christmas present. I’m hoping to stay inspired and to successfully complete a larger project for myself in the new year.

Wharf Street Pullover by Hannah Fettig

Without me really noticing it was occurring, I’ve become more confident in my sewing ability in the last year or so. My ability to complete my Refashioners’ project was a sure sign to myself that I’m no longer reliant on instructions, or thrown when something doesn’t immediately work as expected. I’ve become more confident altering garments which I’m not happy with, and this year that included significantly altering a knitted garment for the first time, taking the scissors to my Wharf Street Pullover to remove length from the hem and sleeves.

Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit

My blog photography has also improved (credit to Phil for this one), and I took the opportunity this year to get better photos of my Bombshell swimsuit, on a beach as opposed to in my garden. I enjoy celebrating garments which have been successes by re-blogging them, like last year when I took the opportunity to do so for my Victoria Blazer, which is still undoubtedly my most-worn handmade garment.

Vlog November Sewing Zine

I kept up my vlog in 2018, including a monthly ‘zine’ which I started in September as a way of sharing sewing and knitting related things which interest me, plus a little on my own creative plans. I’ve also kept up a more regular schedule on my blog recently, and I think the blog and vlog complement each other well, with the blog for finished garment and longer posts (such as this), and the vlog for shorter chit chat and recommendations.

Capital Chic Patterns Sangria Dress

I tend to think that I don’t sew patterns multiple times, but my love for the Sangria, Linden, and Grace patterns continued unabated this year. More unusually, I am sewing a garment for Phil for only the second time ever, making him a coat while I’m off work over Christmas using the Free Sewing Carlton Coat pattern.

I also bought myself a sewing machine for the first time this year (the previous have all been gifts). There’s a story behind the purchase which I’ll save for a second wrap-up post about my personal/work life, as this post is long enough already.

Thank you for reading the blog and Happy Christmas and New Year!


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The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny Book Review

The Fox, the Bear & the Bunny Sewing book by Olive & Vince

The latest vlog is up with a review of a lovely new children’s clothing sewing book, The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny, from Olive & Vince.

The Fox, the Bear & the Bunny Sewing book by Olive & Vince

The patterns in the book make up a full wardrobe of children’s clothing (for ages 1-5), with a good number of gender-neutral patterns.

The Fox, the Bear & the Bunny Sewing book by Olive & Vince

Full details on the vlog. Watch it here:

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of The Fox, the Bear and the Bunny in exchange for blogging about it, all opinions expressed are my own.


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A Peek Inside “Make It, Own It, Love It” & a Giveaway!

Matt Chapple's Make It, Own It, Love It

The first book by sewing blogger and Great British Sewing Bee 2015 winner Matt Chapple, Make It, Own It, Love It, was released last week.

My latest vlog contains a look inside the book. Check it out here:

I have two copies of the book to giveaway! If you would like to win a copy, leave a comment below the video on Youtube (here) by Sat 29th October at midnight BST. I’ll randomly select two winners on Sunday 30th. And, if you enjoy the videos on my channel, do subscribe!

Matt Chapple's Make It, Own It, Love It

Matt Chapple's Make It, Own It, Love It

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Make It, Own It, Love It by publisher Jacqui Small in exchange for blogging about it, all opinions expressed are my own.


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GBSB Culottes & From Stitch to Style Review

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Woo hoo, The Great British Sewing Bee is back for series four! I won’t ask if you’re excited; I was on Twitter yesterday and my feed was full of GBSB chat:) I hope international friends get to watch it too (p.s. when I used to travel for work, I watched on iplayer live using a UK VPN).

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

Alongside the new series, there’s also a new GBSB book by Wendy Gardiner. If you’re familiar with the previous series’ books, you’ll already be familiar with the format. The book starts with a ‘Know Before You Sew’ section, which contains a brief overview of sewing supplies, machines, fabric types, and the techniques used in the book. The introductory chapter also includes a short overview of common fitting techniques (including bust adjustments and trouser fitting), although you’d need to seek out additional advice in order to really get the hang of the techniques.

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

The majority of the book contains garment projects; there are 27 in total which are split as follows: 20 women’s; 2 men’s; 3 children’s; 1 baby; 1 unisex (kimono). I don’t have any insight into what the contestants will be making in future episodes of the series, but I think we can make some good guesses based on the book! The patterns include a range of basics including the bias-cut top made in episode one, a breton top, palazzo pants, peplum dress, wiggle skirt and camisole top and shorts. There are also some more unusual patterns such as a soft-cup bra (I’m looking forward to that episode!), asymmetric top and skirt, man’s cycling top, and a sequin cocktail dress.

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

My favourite patterns from the book are the YSL-inspired Colour-Blocked Dress, and the Asymmetric Skirt. The children’s dungarees are adorable, and, although there are only two men’s patterns, they are both interesting choices – a cycle top, and a pin-tuck shirt.

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

Full-size pattern pieces are provided on paper pattern sheets in a separate sleeve. Each sheet is labelled with which patterns it contains. Pattern pieces are overlapped, and can be a little fiddly to identify (Burda-style). Make sure to take note of the pattern piece name font colour on the sheet, as the pattern piece outline will be in the same colour – making it easier to identify. Although pattern pieces are full size, some are split in two parts on the sheet due to available space, requiring piecing-together when tracing. I noticed that a few patterns pieces were missing some information, but nothing too misleading (i.e for the Culottes pattern, the waistband piece was missing notches referred to in the instructions, and the pocket piece didn’t state how many pieces to cut).

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

GBSB From Stitch To Style Book

A number of patterns within the book are labelled as ‘hacks’ (e.g the Culottes are a hack of the Palazzo Pants pattern), but helpfully the pattern pieces include cutting lines for the hack variations, so there’s no need for sewers to manually hack the patterns themselves.

In order to try the book for myself, I made up the Culottes pattern (to my mind actually a short-trouser as opposed to culottes, but that’s a matter of opinion).

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

I found the sizing information in the book a little vague. The size chart at the start of the book (sizes 8-20; 32 1/2 – 45 1/2 bust) is labelled as ‘standard ready-to-wear women’s measurement chart’; I couldn’t see an explicit statement that the patterns in the book are based on that chart, although they appear to be. Each pattern has an individual ‘Finished Measurement’ sizing chart, but the amount of ease listed appears to be inaccurate in some instances (e.g. the jumpsuit pattern, which appears relatively fitted in the photo, states that it includes just under 10 inch ease at the bust, as does the Breton Top).

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

For the Culottes Pattern, for example, the overall sizing chart gives the Size 8 waist measurement as 65cm, while the finished measurement chart states the culottes have an 82cm waist (so 17cm ease). I measured the actual pattern pieces and found that the waistband measured 67cm (so a more standard 2cm ease). As such, I’d highly recommend checking the sizing charts, but then measuring the actual pattern pieces before cutting into your fabric.

Other than the sizing information, the Culottes went together easily following the illustrated step-by-step instructions. The only changes I made were to leave off the pocket (the pattern only includes a pocket at one side due to a side zip, which I thought would feel strange), and I gathered the trousers slightly in order to attach them to the waistband as there is quite a significant difference in the width of the trouser front/back pieces and the waistband.

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

I wore these to work today and I think they’ll be a really useful addition to my wardrobe. The fabric is a navy peachskin polyester from new online fabric shop Adam Ross Fabrics, who are based local to me in Birmingham. The fabric has a lovely drape and is super soft; I want to get some more to make a dress.

I’m wearing the culottes in these photos with a Paprika Pattern Onyx Shirt, and a woven scarf from Sancho’s Dress, handwoven in Ethiopia on a wooden loom.

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Culottes from GBSB From Stitch To Style

Don’t forget to read the rest of the posts on the Blog Tour:

MONDAY 16TH MAY
Made Peachy
Cut Out & Keep

TUESDAY 17TH MAY
English Girl at Home
The Sewing Directory

WEDNESDAY 18TH MAY
Sew Over It

THURSDAY 19TH MAY
The Fold Line
Sew What’s New

FRIDAY 20TH MAY
By Hand London

SATURDAY 21ST MAY
A Stitching Odyssey

SUNDAY 22ND MAY
Crafty Sew & So
Guthrie & Ghani

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of From Stitch to Style in exchange for a review, by Quadrille Publishing; I was provided with fabric from Adam Ross Fabrics for use in a project of my choice; all opinions expressed are my own.


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Slow Stitch: A Book Review

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

I recently received a copy of Claire Wellesley-Smith’s beautiful new book Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art. It’s an absolutely gorgeous book from outside in, with a suitably tactile cover. Given the synergy of the book with Slotober, I thought it’d post a short review and some pictures before the month is up.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Claire is a textile artist based in Bradford and the book contains images of her own textile work, the community projects she has been involved in, and her thoughts and reflections on the slow movement and it’s relevance to her work.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Alongside her own projects, Claire celebrates textile arts and hand stitching by profiling a number of contemporary textile artists whose work is in keeping with the slow textiles movement. Each artist profile includes photos and a description of one work by the artist. A section entitled cross-cultural activity profiles a number of textile traditions, such as boro, kantha and mending, illustrated by beautiful examples of each tradition.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

The book is not structured in the format of many craft books, where a large section of the book is dedicated to projects. Instead a more thematic structure is adopted, but with project ideas jotted throughout. There are a number of relatively detailed tutorials included in the book, including solar dyeing threads, log cabin piecing, and creating and maintaining a stitch diary. Alongside the detailed tutorials, the book contains lots of suggestions for techniques readers may wish to explore such as allowing textiles to weather outside, reusing textiles from past projects, sun bleaching, and collecting and reusing locally sourced materials to create a record of a time and place.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Anyone who is interested in slow textiles, natural dyeing and hand sewing will enjoy this book. The book doesn’t contain a large number of tutorials, so don’t buy this book expecting to be taught how to employ all of the techniques it covers, such as mending, boro, hand-stitching, etc. Instead the book aims to inspire readers to engage with the slow textile movement and explore some of the techniques covered for themselves.

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Slow Stitch by Claire Wellesley-Smith

Although I’ve been closely following Slotober, I haven’t actively been participating. I have however been plotting and, inspired by Slow Stitch, I am planning to naturally dye some linen thread which was made in Ireland (pictured above). Once I have a few different colours of thread i’m hoping to attempt some hand stitching, which I plan to incorporate in a #1year1outfit garment. That project will take me well beyond October, but in the short term I’m also planning some mending. I have a lovely British wool jumper, purchased from a vintage kilo sale recently, which is full of holes that I can’t wait to darn!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Slow Stitch in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own.


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Mini Dress with Raglan Sleeves from Stylish Party Dresses

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

These photos were taken alongside the Seine during my recent trip to Paris. The park where we took the photos is just outside the caravan park where we stay in Maisons-Laffitte and is a very peaceful spot, great for taking undisturbed blog photos.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

The dress is pattern V, Mini Dress with Raglan Sleeves from Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori (pictured in the book below left). Tsukiori is the author of the Japanese sewing books which are probably best known in the UK, the Stylish Dress Books and the Happy Homemade series.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

This is a really sweet little dress and a quick sew, with no darts. The pattern instructions recommend a button in the back neckline but I skipped it as the dress easily fit over my head without. The raglan sleeves are relatively hidden in the Liberty silk I used, which was purchased from Goldhawk Road for £12 per metre, but could look great colour blocked.

It was a little chilly that day, so this is how I wore the dress for most of the day, accompanied by my Unicorn Parallelograms scarf.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

I love the Liberty silk, but it does fray quite a bit so seams need to be finished. It also sticks to tights so I’ve been wearing it with an underskirt, but it would be worth lining.

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

Stylish Party Dresses V Mini Dress in Liberty Silk

I suspect Stylish Party Dresses will be an equally popular addition to Tsukiori’s books published in English. It’s a lovely book which, in addition to 16 dresses, also includes boleros, tops, skirts, a slip and a jumpsuit. As with similar books (and sewing magazines, such as Burda) a number of the patterns use the same basic pattern with slight alterations. This approach means that once you have tried one version of a pattern you will have a good idea of any alterations you need to make to the alternative versions.

#SewBrum Raffle Prizes

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

In typical Japanese pattern book style, the garments generally have simple loose silhouettes, which not everyone will love, but I’m a big fan of (exhibit A, my own pattern the LouLou Dress). I think this book is particularly well presented and lovely to look at, with the garments made up in beautiful fabrics, including Liberty prints. The lighting is bright and details of the photographed dresses are fairly clear, and clarified further by illustrations on the instruction pages.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

The book includes double-sided paper pattern sheets, which are stored in an envelope at the back of the book. Each pattern sheet includes a clear list of which pattern pieces it contains which I always really appreciate. Pattern pieces are overlapped so need to be traced and seam allowances added. The instructions for each pattern include a diagram showing where to add seam allowances.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

Written instructions are minimal, but diagrams are included for each step, and most of the patterns appear relatively simple.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

One thing to note is that the size range of the patterns in the book is quite limited. I fall between sizes 6 (bust) and 8 (waist and hips) but sized down due to the loose style of the pattern, and found the sizing accurate. The book doesn’t provide any information on the finished size of garments so you’ll need to measure the pattern pieces if you want to check the ease allowed prior to cutting out your fabric.

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

I’m planning to make the Gathered Neckline Dress (E) and Drape Top (I) next, which both have lovely neckline details.

#SewBrum Raffle Prizes

Stylish Party Dresses by Yoshiko Tsukiori

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Stylish Party Dresses in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own.