english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Paper Bag Waist Trousers

Simplicity 8605 Trousers

Just a quick blog post today to share a pair of trousers which I made (and photographed) almost exactly one year ago, but never did share on the blog.

Simplicity 8605 Trousers

These are Simplicity 8605, which were part of Simplicity’s 2018 Spring collection, made in a super soft chambray fabric from Guthrie & Ghani. They’re paired here with a Paprika Patterns Onyx woven tee.

Simplicity 8605 Trousers

I do love a paper bag waist and I also love a quick and easy sewing pattern so I clearly need to make more of these trousers. I wore these non-stop last summer, and now that the weather has warmed up here in the UK I’ve been wearing them lots again. I might have a browse through the stash and see what fabric I have that is suitable for a second pair.

Simplicity 8605 Trousers

The pattern is as simple as it looks; five pattern pieces for the trousers, and four for the skirt also included in the pattern. The paper bag waist is created by attaching a casing, containing two rows of elastic, to the waist of the trousers. They are extra easy to fit. The legs are loose, and you can control the width of the waist by the length of the elastic you add. I appear to have made these in size Small, which according to the pattern envelope is smaller than my measurements, and they fit great.

Simplicity 8605 Trousers
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Starry Sirocco Jumpsuit

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I’ve been getting lots of time for sewing recently, which means I have been trying patterns quite soon after their release rather than a year or so later, as is my usual habit.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

That includes having sewn two Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuits since the release of the pattern in April. The jumpsuit pictured is my second Sirocco. I made both my Siroccos in fabric purchased during the Paris Sewcial meet-up from Bennytex fabric warehouse on the outskirts of Paris.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I made the first Sirocco in a lightweight grey knit fabric grading between sizes 38/40. After a couple of wears I decided that the crotch was too low for me to be comfortable wearing the jumpsuit, so for my second version I still cut a size 38/40 except for the seams at the top of the trousers and bottom of the bodice, where I graded down to size 34 (the smallest size in the pattern). This worked perfectly to raise the crotch without impacting the construction of the pattern (including attaching the pockets to the trousers at the waist seam which I was worried would be affected by a more major alteration). I want to go back and make the same alteration to my original Sirocco in time to get lots of wear out of it this summer.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

This second version was made in a medium weight knit fabric with a gold stars print. This is a sweat-shirting-type fabric, with a soft wrong-side. I really like this jumpsuit in a slightly weightier fabric, and I’m loving white clothes this summer. I suspect this fabric might get marked or start pilling relatively quickly, but I’m going to make the most of wearing it for as long as I can.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

These pictures are a mixture of photos taken in our local park, and pictures taken during a family holiday to Derbyshire, including to visit a nearby well dressing in Cressbrook, inspired by a visit by Karen a few days before.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I always associate holidays with taking lots of nice blog photos. I filled my suitcase with summery clothes I wanted to photograph – and then it was wet and cold all week. We still managed some nice pictures between showers, and the summery outfits worked out fine for exploring Derbyshire paired with some boots, a jacket and an umbrella. We even managed a brief dip in the outside pool in Hathersage while we were there.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit

I’ll leave you with the obligatory jumping in a jumpsuit picture as I return to binge watching series 17 of Project Runway with a final cup of tea before bed.

Deer and Doe Sirocco Jumpsuit


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Maven Patterns Rochester Dress at the Confetti Fields

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

Recently, my mom told me about the Confetti Fields in Pershore, part of a farm which grows and sells dried flower petal confetti. For 10 days each year some of the fields are open to the public, and they have pop-up stalls selling cake and tea, and bouquets of the flowers. Clearly this was an irresistible blog photo opportunity, so when my mom and dad visited last weekend, me and Phil tagged along.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

In my enthusiasm to visit the fields I didn’t actually stop to think that Phil – who has severe hay fever – might not be so keen to walk through fields full of flowers, until he reminded me. He did get severe hay fever and it was not his favourite place, but he still took some rather nice photos of my new dress in between sneezes.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

This is the Rochester Dress from Maven Patterns. I bought the pattern direct from Maven Patterns at the Sewing for Pleasure show at Birmingham NEC in March, and picked this fabric to make it with, also at the show, from Higgs & Higgs. The fabric was in the bargain bin and was a total steal, I assume it’s a cotton but it has a linen-like ability to wrinkle seemingly two seconds after emerging from under the iron.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The Rochester is a deceptively simple pattern, as it actually has a number of carefully designed details. I was assuming I would whip this dress up, but following the instructions and taking my time to sew neatly (I’m getting really good at actually taking care with my sewing now!), it took a couple of longish sittings.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The first of the interesting features of the dress is the long curved hem, with side split and modest high-low hem. In addition to hem facing pieces, the pattern includes a template for top-stitching the hem, which I used and which resulted in very neat top stitching if I do say so myself. The pattern also intends for the sleeves to be finished with top stitching, and it looks great on the pattern but I couldn’t see any way to top stitch after the sleeves had been constructed with my fabric / machine, as I couldn’t easily have reached that far up the sleeve with the machine. I slip stitched my sleeve facing by hand, but the effect isn’t as interesting as the intended top stitching.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

The other main feature of the dress is the neckline. There are two neckline options included in the pattern, and I had intended to use the alternative (which is a simpler single row of elastic directly at the neckline) due to loving the effect on the pattern cover. I decided, however, that I ought to try the more unusual option and I’m really pleased with the result, which was very easy to achieve with a couple of rows of stitching and a small off-cut of elastic. There’s also a pleat at the back of the dress although it’s not very well shown off in these photos, or in this crease-loving fabric.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

I’d definitely like to make another Rochester dress in a crepe or viscose at some point, and I do think the details of this dress would be shown off to great effect in a solid colour.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress

I’m really glad that I finally got around to sewing one of the Maven Patterns. I’ve seen some beautiful versions of the French Dart Pattern (including Susan Young’s) so that might be the next pattern I try, and I also fancy making myself an apron I’m happy to wear out to workshops (i.e. one which isn’t covered in stains from years of wear in the kitchen) using their Maria Apron pattern.

Maven Patterns Rochester Dress


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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.