english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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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.

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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.

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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.


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Boudoir Blushes PJs

Boudoir Blushes Camisole and French Knickers from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie Book

Boudoir Blushes Camisole and French Knickers from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie Book

Encouraged by Lingerie Sewing Month, I finally sewed a project from The Secrets of Sewing Lingerie by Katherine Sheers and Laura Stanford. This is the Boudoir Blushes camisole and french knickers set, made as pjs in a cotton blend fabric purchased in Berlin’s Turkish Market.

My review of the book and more about the making of this set is featured on the Sewcialists blog today.

Boudoir Blushes Camisole and French Knickers from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie Book

Boudoir Blushes Camisole and French Knickers from the Secrets of Sewing Lingerie Book


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Fashion Designer Autobiographies

As a sewist, I’m fascinated by fashion designers. I’m fascinated by their designs, their design and production processes, and – simply because I’m nosy and love an autobiography – their lives.

I’ve read quite a few autobiographies by designers lately. Phil is in Liverpool for a football match so I thought I’d curl up with a cup of tea (or two, this is a long post) this Saturday and write a review post in case anyone else is looking for a new book and fancies some fashion related inspiration.

Dior by Dior book

Dior by Dior: The Autobiography of Christian Dior

If you’re interested in the personal life of Christian Dior then this isn’t the book for you. This is probably the least personal autobiography I’ve ever read; Dior gives nothing away. In fact he states at the very beginning of the book that this is an autobiography of Dior the couturier, not the private individual. What Dior does cover, in great detail, is the fashion industry of the 1940s and 50s. As a result the book can be a slightly dry read, although Dior has a nice turn of phrase. The book does give a real insight into the life of a couturier at that time, and is great on the terminology and intimate details of haute couture. The sections on the design process at the studio (which included a huge staff), on the role of the mannequins or models, the showing of the collection (including restrictions on the press, who were not allowed to make any drawings) and the fitting of wealthy clients, are all fascinating from a historical perspective.

It is also interesting in terms of understanding the system of fashion houses, where a designer has the financial backing to experiment and develop, and to focus on being a designer. This is in striking contrast to a couple of the books below, where self financed designers write about constantly struggling, and devoting huge amounts of time, to financing their next collections.

Overall, read this book if you’re interested in how, in the 40s and 50s, a dress went from a drawing by Dior to being fitted on a client. However, I would recommend reading it alongside a more prying biography of Dior, to give a sense of his personal life, and of how other people viewed him.

DVF The Woman I Wanted To Be book

The Woman I Wanted to be, Diane Von Furstenberg

This book is the exact opposite of the Dior book above, this is an especially personal autobiography. By that I mean that DVF doesn’t just tell you what happened, she also tells you how she felt, and devotes quite large sections of the book to talking about her emotions, relationships and mental state.

DVF has had a fascinating life, and in this book she comes across as an inspiring, talented, powerful woman. You get the sense from this book that you would love DVF if you knew her in person.

The book covers both DVF’s career and her personal life. In my opinion it chops and changes between the two a little too much. For example, DVF will write about a period in her life, focusing on her relationships at that time and her personal state of mind, and then, in a later chapter, she’ll write about the same time period, focusing on what was happening professionally. I would have preferred the book to have told a more liner story, with the personal and professional stories told at the same time, for a better balance. My only other criticism is that the book can be a little ‘luvvie’ (in the theatrical sense); It isn’t that the book is insincere, but DVF spends large sections of the book talking about how great life is / love is / how we should be thankful for what we have. Not that I’m disagreeing, but somewhere within these sections there will often be a mention of a private plane,weekly facials/massages at home, celebrity friends, multiple homes, boats, etc.

Don’t let that put you off though. DVF is an interesting and inspiring woman and, as well as being a good read, this book will motivate you.

DVF The Wrap Book

Diane Von Furstenberg: The Wrap, Andre Leon Talley

This is a tiny book. It contains a very short biography of DVF, followed by 27 photos. The biography is magazine article length, and isn’t especially revealing. The photos are a mixture of photos of Diane, and DVF catwalk or advertising photos (a number of which are also included in The Woman I Wanted To Be). Due to the tiny amount of content included I wouldn’t advise buying this book; I borrowed it from the library:)

Helen Storey Fighting Fashion book

Helen Storey Fighting Fashion book

Fighting Fashion, Helen Storey

Helen Storey is a British fashion designer who had her own label in the 1980s-90s. Helen now co-directs the Helen Storey Foundation, a London based not for profit arts organisation, which organises multi-disciplinary projects or exhibitions which bring together fashion, art and science. She also supports the development of young fashion designers as a Professor at University of the Arts, London.

Helen’s autobiography tells her story as a designer, first working for other fashion houses and then establishing and running her own label, until it eventually went into receivership. Helen’s illustrations and photographs which are included allow you to get a good sense of each of the collections Helen writes about designing. The title of Helen’s book is appropriate – this book is about the battle, and constant struggle to run your own label. Not just the struggle as a designer to innovate, develop and appeal to your audience. But the struggle to administer a multi-million pound business, while also being creative, and having a personal life. When every collection has to pay for the next, it places a huge pressure on the company and its staff, not only for the collection to be profitable, but also to receive the income as soon as possible as you are constantly short on funds to invest in the next collection.

Fighting Fashion is also a very honest account of supporting a partner through a long battle with an invasive cancer.

It’s a book about what training and support designers need, and how the British fashion industry needs to change in order for young designers to succeed.

It’s one woman’s account of all of the above, and well worth a read.

The Biba Experience book

From A to Biba: The Autobiography of Barbara Hulanicki

(Photo from ‘The Biba Experience’, as I forgot to get a photo of ‘From A to Biba’)

Ok, I saved my favourite until last; I love this book. In the UK, Biba is a part of our consciousness. It’s the brand your mom tells you was on her wish list as a teenager, it’s the brand mentioned in any article or documentary about British fashion or London in the 1960s and 70s, and it’s one of the labels included on permanent display in the fashion gallery at the V&A.

Like Helen Storey, Hulanicki writes about the difficulty of financing a small business. Hulanicki tells great stories, such as desperately trying to locate pink gingham fabric, because Biba sold a huge volume of dresses via mail order before obtaining the fabric or anyone to produce the dress (because the potential number of orders was a total unknown and those mail order payments were needed to fund the fabric, and the production). Hulanicki conveys the atmosphere of being the ‘it’ store of the 1960s, patronised by celebrities and a favourite hang-out of teens. She tells the story of what it means to be a successful brand, and to keep identifying opportunities to expand – from the original mail-order company to Big Biba, a huge department store that was one of London’s most popular tourist attractions with up to a million visitors a week. And of the increased pressure this expansion places on a business, and the necessity of seeking outside funding, which eventually led to Hulanicki loosing control of Biba.

Reading From A to Biba will make you love Biba, it will make you wish you could shop at Big Biba, and it will send you to ebay to calculate the cost of purchasing a vintage Biba dress (p.s. not cheap).

Phew that was a long post, hopefully you’ve been inspired to visit the library or browse Amazon. When I’ve read a few more biographies I’ll let you know.

Disclaimer: Post contains affiliate links; all views expressed are my own.