english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Polo Shirt Dress

It’s my birthday today, and while Phil cooks me dinner I have just enough time for a quick post about this self-drafted polo shirt dress I made this summer.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

I’ve always loved polo shirts and polo shirt dresses, and have had one or two in my wardrobe since I was a teenager. However, my wardrobe has been without one for the last couple of years as I have pretty much stopped buying RTW and have never seen the right fabric (cotton pique) on sale before. So, when I spotted this fabric for sale on Goldhawk Road earlier this year I knew I needed to make myself a polo shirt dress.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

The dress is self drafted and is based on a RTW polo shirt dress, which I may have taken a few measurements from in the shop… As with all of the RTW polo shirt dresses I’ve owned it doesn’t feature any darts or shaping. I rushed the construction a little bit, so would like to get some more fabric and make a neater version at some point. I’d also like to create a short polo shirt (as opposed to dress) version.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

As you can see the construction is pretty simple, it’s a single piece at the front and back, with short set-in sleeves. I folded a strip of the fabric to create the cuffs. The RTW polo shirt examples I looked at had the collar as one piece, cut on a single layer of fabric. I kept a one piece collar but stitched two layers of fabric together to give it a bit more body. When I make another I’ll add a layer of interfacing too as it’s still a little floppy.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

I added a partial button placket. It was a pretty easy feature to figure out, but See Kate Sew has since posted a tutorial for one.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

These photos were taken in Paris during our holiday there in September, and were taken in the Saint-Pierre area very close to the fabric shops.

Self Drafted Polo Shirt Dress

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Freehand Fashion Blog Tour: Pencil Skirt & Giveaway

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

I’m very happy to be the first stop on the blog tour for Chinelo Bally’s new book Freehand Fashion. The fun thing about the blog tour is that each participant is making a different garment from the book; I’m kicking things off today with the Pencil Skirt.

Freehand Fashion Book

The book is divided into two main sections: a section covering how to create blocks (bodice, dress, skirt, flare, sleeve), and a project section which shows you how to use the blocks to create 15 garments (plus a couple of variations). The book also includes a small illustrated techniques section which covers key techniques used within the projects (inserting different types of zip, seam finishes, rolled hem, etc.).

Freehand Fashion Book

The blocks section has detailed information on taking a large range of measurements which I really liked and which is usefully generally, not just for the projects in the book. It includes space to jot down your measurements, but as an ex-librarian that’s beyond the pale for me;)

Freehand Fashion Book

It isn’t necessary to create the blocks before starting the garment projects, instead the relevant block steps are referenced in the project instructions (so you’ll need to flick between the two sections when cutting out). However, the blocks could be created in isolation as a starting point for your own designs – allowing you to move beyond the projects included in the book. One key difference from most pattern blocks is that the blocks in the book include seam allowances.

Freehand Fashion Book

It isn’t mentioned in the tools section at the start of the book, but I found having a french curve (or similar) helpful. When drafting the blocks or projects you’ll mark your measurements at key points (e.g. hips, waist) and then draw between the points. Obviously it is possible without, but having a french curve and long ruler helps to achieve neater lines.

Freehand Fashion Book

I’m not including pictures of the other patterns in the book as you’ll see quite a few of them during the blog tour this week! Project instructions are detailed with clear illustrations.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The projects section encourages you to draft the pattern directly on your fabric, which is one of the interesting elements of Chinelo’s drafting style. However, if you are wary you can of course instead follow the instructions with a large sheet of paper and end up with a paper pattern.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The fabric requirement information for the projects is given as a calculation based on your measurements (e.g. hip measurement plus a specified amount for the fabric width) which means you could choose to buy exactly the fabric you require for a project and not have leftover fabric sitting in your stash. It does also mean it is not as quick to check the fabric requirements as you are dashing out of the house, as I am prone to do;)

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

I made the Pencil Skirt project from the book as per instructions, with the exception of leaving off the belt loops. The fabric I used was wool from my stash which I previously used to make an Oslo Cardigan, and I couldn’t resist teaming them up for a few photos (below).

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The fabric wasn’t ideal for this pattern since the pencil skirt doesn’t include a waist band, and the loose weave of this wool could really do with being held in place with a well interfaced band. It would be simple to add a waist band if using a similar fabric, or i’d advise choosing a more structured woven fabric. Near the end of the construction process the book asks you to mark your measurements on the partially constructed skirt to confirm your sewing line; due to the loose weave of my wool I ended up trimming quite a bit off the sides to achieve a nice close fit.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

In keeping with the focus on drafting, the books asks you to decide how high you want the back slit. I should have measured another pencil skirt but just guesstimated (at 5 inches) and it has ended up a little short. I can walk fine but I wouldn’t fancy trying to run.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

The construction method for the skirt is different from any I’ve seen; it has you attach the lining to the main fabric at the top and bottom, but sew the main fabric and lining separately at the side seams. It resulted in a really neat inside finish.

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

Now for the giveaway!

Pavilion and Chinelo have kindly provided an extra copy of the book to give away (UK only)! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on this post. Let me know your favourite thing about the Great British Sewing Bee (or your thoughts about sewing on TV, if you’re not a viewer). Please make sure to include your email address in your comment if it is not easily available in your profile. The giveaway is open until midnight (UK) on Monday 16th November, after which I’ll randomly pick a winner and announce it on social media. Giveaway now closed!

Freehand Fashion Pencil Skirt

Make sure to look out for seven other garments from the book over the next week, including the Maxi Skirt and Box Top tomorrow on the Pavilion Craft blog.

Friday 13th November
Frida and Amy at Pavilion Craft

Saturday 14th November
Marie at A Stitching Odyssey

Sunday 15th November
Rachel at The Foldline 

Monday 16th November
Lauren at Lady Sewalot

Tuesday 17th November
Amy at Almond Rock

Wednesday 18th November
Rachel at House of Pinheiro

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


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SewBrum Goodie Bags

SewBrum Goodie Bags

Today is the day of the SewBrum meet-up! I thought it would be fun to do a little reveal of the goodie bags waiting for attendees at Guthrie & Ghani this afternoon.

SewBrum Goodie Bags

Lauren at Guthrie & Ghani is providing fabric bags courtesy of Liberty, goodies from Prym and a discount code for the store. The sweets were added by me;)

SewBrum Goodie Bags

Inside the goodie bags attendees will also find:

A discount code for Pavilion Books whose recent sewing publications include the five lovely books pictured below which Pavilion have contributed to the raffle.

Pavilion Books for the SewBrum Raffle

Postcards of projects from PomPom Quarterly who have also contributed a back-issue to the raffle.

PomPom Magazine Postcards

A 15% discount voucher for Girl Charlee who have also contributed a big fabric bundle to the raffle.

Girl Charlee SewBrum Raffle Prize

A very cute mini discount voucher for 10% off DK yarn from Brityarn who have also contributed a canvas bag to the raffle.

Brit Yarn Canvas Bags

Rachel and Kate at The Foldline have contributed amazing goodie bags containing sweets, buttons and vintage 1950s zips! (Have you seen that it’s now possible to create pattern wishlists and libraries on The Foldline? So good!)

The Foldline Goodie Bags for SewBrum

The Foldline Goodie Bags for SewBrum

And finally, Nominette have provided a discount code to create your own custom sew-in labels. They also allowed me to order SewBrum labels to include in the goodie bags. The labels contain the wording ‘A SewBrum Meet-Up Make’ as I thought it would be fun for attendees to sew these onto projects they make using fabric or patterns purchased or swapped at SewBrum. I’ve kept a few to sew into my own SewBrum makes.

nominette Labels for SewBrum

You may have seen Nominette labels reviewed elsewhere. I had seen Katie, Winnie, and Melissa’s reviews previously, but whereas they reviewed the logo labels these are the ‘Clothing Label 25mm’ option. The logo label option requires you to upload an image (and as such does allow more customisation) but if you don’t have an image you’d like to use this option is more straightforward as well as cheaper (£37 for 100, with discounts applied for larger orders).

nominette Labels for SewBrum

To create the labels you simply type the text you would like included into a box on the website and select a font (from 5 available). Washing icons can also be added – I left them off since I don’t know what attendees will choose to attach these to! The website is interactive, displaying your choices on an example label as you select text and colours. There are two options for label type, either centre fold (like these) or end fold, and a wide range of colour choices (15 background colours, 17 text colours). I selected a dark blue background with white text and the contract means that the text is nice and clear. I hope attendees will enjoy sewing them into a SewBrum project.

nominette Labels for SewBrum

P.S just a caveat for attendees that as a free event it’s very difficult to predict actual attendee numbers and goodie bags are limited – sorry if you don’t get one or if some of the items have run out!

P.P.S There have been some late additions to the raffle, including an Adjustoform Supafit Standard Dress Form courtesy of Sew Essential. The full prize list is here.


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A Week in Paris

I spent a week in Paris back in September but it’s taken me until now to get around to going through the photos. I recently wrote a blog post for The Foldline about shopping in Paris so won’t talk too much about shops, but I did want to share a couple of favourite purchases and some photos of the trip.

On this holiday I visited Malhia Kent for the first time. It’s located on the Viaduc des Arts near embroidery specialist Bonheur des Dames. Malhia Kent weave fabric for pret-a-porter and couture, but also sell their unique fabrics direct. Cut from the bolt fabrics are approximately €30 per metre, but coupons are a much more reasonable €10 per metre and they have a lot of coupons in the shop (if I hadn’t been on my way to catch a train I would have been in the shop for ages).

Malhia Kent, Paris

Malhia Kent, Paris

I came away with the two larger coupons (I think about half a metre each) below, as well as two smaller pieces I am hoping to piece into garments.

Malhia Kent Fabric from Paris

Malhia Kent Fabric from Paris

I had good company for fabric shopping on the Saturday, when I met up with Lisa, Carmen, Sabine and Olivier. We shopped in the Saint-Pierre area, and had particular luck in Sacrés Coupons.

Sewing Meet-Up, Paris

By chance, I was in Paris for Journées du Patrimoine, an annual event where historical monuments (including some that are normally inaccessible)  are open to the public and museums organise special events. I wouldn’t even have realised it was taking place if Carmen and Sabine hadn’t given me the heads up. Based on their recommendations me and Phil took the opportunity to visit La Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent for free.

The foundation can be visited on a guided tour which takes in a reception room, meeting room, Pierre Bergé’s office and one studio room. The studio space was unsurprisingly my favourite since it contains a rail of toiles and some examples of YSL originals. We attended a tour in French, I started off ok when Yves Saint Laurent’s life and career were being described since I’m already familiar with the details, but then totally failed to understand some of the later sections of the tour. If your French is as poor as mine, they run the tour in English once per month.

La Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent

We also saw Wool War One by artist Delit Maille, which Sabine had participated in the knitting of. The exhibition contains 780 soldiers knitted by hand by over 500 participants internationally, to commemorate soldiers killed in northern France during WWI.

Wool War One, Paris

Wool War One, Paris

Wool War One, Paris

Wool War One, Paris

Wool War One, Paris

Wool War One, Paris

Me and Phil spent quite a bit of the week in various museums and galleries, many of which contained textiles for me to admire. A few photos of these are below.

Palais de la Porte Dorée, which contains Paris’ History of Immigration Museum and a beautiful old aquarium, was exhibiting amazing hats inspired by Paris landmarks (the red one at the front below is inspired by Notre-Dame) and inventors, with hats inspired by their inventions (see below traffic light, saxophone, football boot).

Palais de la Porte Dorée, Paris

Palais de la Porte Dorée, Paris

Palais de la Porte Dorée, Paris

We took a train to visit Château de Fontainebleau, which contains a selection of historical textiles linked to royalty and to Napoleon and his family.

Château de Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

Château de Fontainebleau

Centre Pompidou had an exhibition of Palestinian embroidery on display. The pieces, which showcase traditional techniques, are created by Inaash, an NGO.

Centre Pompidou, Paris

Centre Pompidou, Paris

Centre Pompidou, Paris

Also on display at Pompidou, a Mona Hatoum piece woven with hair.

Centre Pompidou, Paris

The permanent collection of the Musée du Quai Branly, one of my favorite galleries in Paris, contains a huge range of textiles from around the world.

Musée du Quai Branly

Musée du Quai Branly

Musée du Quai Branly

And finally, Les Invalides has a huge permanent collection of uniforms and other textiles related to WWI and WWII. I have to admit to being a total sucker for an epaulet, they make me think of toy soldiers and those little plastic epaulets that came with every Lego soldier.

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris


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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.


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Mustard Crepe Joan Dress, Plus Giveaway

Sew Over It Joan Dress in Mustard Crepe

I was really thrilled to be asked by Sew Over It to help pattern test their new pattern the Joan Dress. The version shown here was made using the test version of the pattern. I graded between an 8 at the bust, and 10 at the waist and hips.

Sew Over It Joan Dress in Mustard Crepe

The design is a vintage-inspired wiggle dress, named after Mad Men bad ass, Joan. I don’t regularly sew vintage or vintage inspired patterns, but I love them! The very first garment I made, outside of school, was a vintage dress. I do however sew lots of indie patterns, so a vintage-inspired indie pattern is perfect for me:)

I have a bad habit to rush through sewing projects, so I really enjoyed that this dress encourages slow sewing. Not only because it is lined, but also because it includes lots of lovely details, including that adorable collar and six darts. There is also some hand sewing involved, which I know not everyone enjoys, but I do as it allows me to sew while sat on the sofa with Phil of an evening. Much more social than sewing alone at my machine.

Sew Over It Joan Dress in Mustard Crepe

This was my very first time sewing a kick pleat, and I actually made a dumb mistake when I first ‘finished’ making the dress – I sewed the kick pleat on the outside. Alex at Sew Over It pointed me to their kick pleat tutorial which I found really helpful and would recommend as a general guide to sewing a kick pleat for any pattern. It looks much neater sewn on the inside;p

The lovely big kick pleat means that this dress is actually pretty practical despite being fitted, although I do need help with the top of the zip as I can’t quite reach up with the dress on.

Sew Over It Joan Dress in Mustard Crepe

I made the dress in a Mustard Crepe supplied by Sew Over It. The fabric has a beautiful colour, weight and drape.The colour is most accurately represented in the photo below. I couldn’t bear waiting until the weekend to get some photos and blog about the dress, but sadly it’s already dull by the time I get home from work now, so the other photos are slightly washed out. The dress is lined with a nude rayon, which worked really well as it doesn’t show through at all (a darker lining would). I fancy trying the dress is a wool next. I love that the Sew Over It website allows you to search suitable fabric for each of their patterns, and they have some lovely wool fabrics suggested for the Joan Dress.

Sew Over It Joan Dress in Mustard Crepe

Lovely as this crepe is, it was a trickier sew than making the dress in a wool as it shows every crease, and easing the sleeves in was fiddly. I redid the sleeve heads and I still have some puckers!

Sew Over It Joan Dress in Mustard Crepe

Now for the giveaway!

Giveaway now closed

Sew Over It have provided an extra copy of the paper pattern to give away! All you need to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post. Let me know your all time favourite TV show for beautiful clothing – is it Mad Men, or do you have another favourite? Twin Peaks is a favourite of mine, Audrey always looks superb. The giveaway is open internationally and please make sure to include your email address in your comment if it is not easily available in your profile. The giveaway is open until midnight on Monday 05th October, after which I’ll randomly pick a winner and announce it on the blog.

Giveaway now closed


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Refashioners Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Just in time, prior to the deadline, here’s my refashioners 2015 make. It’s photographed here at Les Invalides in Paris

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Les Invalides Paris

Les Invalides Paris

The top half of the dress is refashioned from a man’s shirt found in the Coventry British Heart Foundation shop, which is my favourite Coventry charity shop and a favourite place to visit during my lunch break.

Shirt Refashion - Before

To create the top of the dress, I retained a central panel including the collar and button placket, and then attached side panels and cuffs using fabric cut from the sleeves. You can see the three pieces I cut for each of the side panels below.

Shirt Refashion - Before

There wasn’t enough fabric left to make a skirt, so I used some stash fabric gifted to me ages ago by Ingrid. Given that Ingrid was one of this year’s featured refashioners I thought it was pretty appropriate;) To make the skirt I just cut a large rectangle of fabric and gathered it to fit the top part of the dress. I attached a row of elastic at the waist band to create a bit of definition.

Since it was pretty windy and bright at Les Invalides, I took a few extra photos in my garden at home.

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

When I cut the central panel of the dress I retained half the pocket! Not necessarily that functional (although who actually uses their breast pocket?), but I think it’s pretty cute. I replaced the original shirt buttons with ceramic buttons made by a member of my Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers Guild.

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

Refashioners 2015 Shirt Dress

I have another couple of shirts waiting for a refashion; I just need to decide what to try next!