english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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British Fabrics Haul Vlog

British Fabrics

For the latest vlog, I’ve filmed a guide to sources of British-made fabrics. It was a perfect excuse to order lots of swatches!

You can view the vlog here:

For more info on British-made fabrics, see my list of British fibres, fabrics & haberdashery supplies.

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

British Fabrics

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Indigo & Logwood Dyed Silk Dress & One Year One Outfit Thoughts

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

I realised that I hadn’t written a wrap-up post about my experience of participating in #1year1outfit during 2015. It’s partly because using British fibres has seeped into my making (particularly my knitting) to such an extent that it doesn’t feel like there is an end point. However, I thought I should acknowledge the impact that Nicki’s project has had on my making and also highlight that One Year One Outfit is taking place again in 2016 if you’d like to participate.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

At the start of 2015 I was just beginning to explore British wools in my knitting and the use of natural dyes (as part of my own #naturallydyedwardrobe project), so One Year One Outfit tied in perfectly with my own growing interest in local fibres and materials. However, without One Year One Outfit I never would have fallen quite so fast and far down the rabbit hole.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

The project led me to really question and explore exactly what fabrics and fibres are produced in Britain; the results of that search – so far – are compiled here, and I’m continuing to add more resources as I discover them. Exploring currently available British textiles also led me to give greater consideration to the historic textile industry, both to celebrate the beautiful things produced and the skill required to produce them, but also to be aware of the conditions many of these textiles were produced under. In Britain that included child labour, serious health risks for workers, long hours for low pay, and exploitation of the Empire.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

As a result of participating in the project I’ve produced a number of knitted and sewn garments and accessories (you can see them all here), and it also inspired two articles I wrote for Seamwork magazine profiling British companies: TOFT and Cluny Lace. Most recently I visited the wonderful Ernest Wright & Son in Sheffield (I’m holding their pink 8″ scissors in some of these photos), who I’ll be blogging about soon.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

Not all of the garments I made as part of the project were 100% British (for example I used commercial thread), but the important thing to me is that it made me consciously think through what I was using and where it was produced; something I want to be increasingly true of all of my making.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

The dress is these photos is my latest One Year One Outfit make. It is made with British organic silk from Majestic Textiles. I dyed the top portion of the dress with logwood chips, which were gifted to me by a member of my Weavers, Spinners and Dyers’ Guild. The bottom portion of the dress is dyed with indigo from Fabric Treasury. The pattern is my own Lou Lou Dress, view C. I was rather lax cutting this slippery silk so the lines of the dress are a little wibbly, but I love it all the same.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

For anyone interested in exploring British fibres in their own making there is a huge variety of wool (and sheep, mills, dyers, farmers & designers) to explore. Regardless of your chosen craft (knitter, sewer, embroiderer, weaver, etc.) there are British wool products to try. But British fibres don’t stop with wool, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with British silk, lace, linen, and haberdashery supplies, including scissors, needles, pincushions, and buttons. I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can find in 2016.

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit

My list of British fibre, fabric & haberdashery suppliers is available here.

All of my #1year1outfit posts are available here.

In these photos I’m wearing the following items which meet my #1year1outfit pledge:

Dress: Lou Lou Dress in Organic British Silk naturally dyed with indigo and logwood
CardiganHancock in Blacker Yarns Lyonesse, in Rose Quartz
Socks: TOFT Bed Socks in TOFT DK, in Oatmeal (naturally dyed with turmeric)
ScarfPianissimo in John Arbon Textiles’ Viola Yarn, in Fern
Scissors: Ernest Wright & Son 8″ Scissors in pink
Brooch: Frilly Industries Spool of Thread Brooch

Naturally Dyed Silk Dress for #1year1outfit


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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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British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

My second article for Seamwork magazine was published in their December issue.

The article is a profile of Cluny Lace, the only remaining company in the UK making leaver’s lace using traditional leavers and jacquard machinery, which was also designed and built in Nottingham.

Cluny Lace is a family-run business, and has been in the family for 9 generations. Cluny are based in Ilkeston, near Nottingham where lace-making was historically the dominant industry, employing a third of the city’s working population.

Lace produced by Cluny Lace is frequently used by couture and pret-a-porter design houses, and the company regularly post examples to their Facebook page.

You can read my full Seamwork article here, or download the magazine from the Seamwork website.

I was very lucky to be provided with some pieces of lace by Cluny following my visit.

British Made Lace by Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

British Made Lace by Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

I finally bit the bullet and cut into the lace, plus some organic British silk from Majestic Textiles, to make the Savannah Camisole from Seamwork.

Madder Dyeing

Prior to constructing the camisole I dyed both the (cotton) lace and silk using madder. Before dyeing, both textiles had been pre-mordanted using the methods previously described in this post, although mordanting isn’t strictly necessary with madder. I used a madder extract purchased from Wild Colours, and also followed their instructions for using the extract (one of a number of natural dye recipes on their website). Madder extract is very easy to use; following the Wild Colours guide I simply made a paste with 10g of powdered madder and added this to a pan of water on the hob. After adding my pre-wetted textiles I raised the temperature to 60° C and kept it there for 60 minutes. I left the textiles in the pan overnight, before rinsing and then washing them in the washing machine on a low heat.

Madder Dyeing

I decided to make the Savannah camisole mainly based on Sarai’s gorgeous version and because the pattern features lace.

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

I made up a test version in cotton before cutting into my silk and got a good fit by grading between a 0 at the bust and 2 at the waist and hips. However, I think I stretched out the neckline through handling this silk version as it ended up too wide; I addressed the issue by gathering the neckline to achieve the required width.

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

I sewed the sides of the cami on my machine using french-seams, but sewed everything else by hand. The only changes I made to the pattern were cutting the shoulder straps to the required length (as opposed to creating adjustable straps using bra rings and sliders) and slightly altering the application of the lace due to the width of the lace I used.
British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

The cami is one of my #1year1outfit projects. It’s not strictly 100% British, but I’d say it is close enough;) The lace is made with Egyptian cotton and is finished (washed / dyed) in France, but is woven in the UK. I also used standard Gutterman thread to make it – I do have some Irish linen thread, but I didn’t have any in an appropriate colour. The silk is from Majestic Textiles, a silk farm in Hertfordshire. I ordered the silk direct but they mainly sell by the bolt so a shorter length incurs a cutting charge, as well as a standard UP postage charge of £11. With those costs added on the silk worked out at £17.50 per metre. Botanical Inks stock a couple of styles of silk produced by Majestic Textiles and allow online ordering.

The silk handles well during sewing and doesn’t mind being washed in the machine, but you can see it seriously holds a crease.

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

British Cluny Lace & Silk Savannah Camisole

Cluny Lace mainly sell direct to design houses, but you can purchase small quantities of their lace via a number of UK stockists, who mainly stock lace trims. Magic Round About Vintage clearly state which of their lace trims and fabrics are produced by Cluny in the UK. Little Trimmings and The Ribbon Girl are also stockists, but their website are less clear which laces are made in the UK. You can also buy direct from Blue Riband in Kent or Kleins in London.

A few photos of the Cluny Lace factory which weren’t included in the Seamwork article are below.

P.S. let me know if you have some suggestions for great patterns for the rest of my Cluny Lace. I’m thinking the wider lace would look great on the Papercut Clover dress bust panel.

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston

Cluny Lace, Ilkeston


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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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Indigo Dyeing

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I recently got the chance to spend a Saturday in my garden dyeing with indigo. A mixture of fibres went into my indigo dye vat, including:

A lingerie kit purchased from Merckwaerdigh. I purchased it with the intention of dyeing it, so selected a nude and copper kit, which was the lightest coloured kit in the shop at the time.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Three pieces of fabric. A small square of Ikea unbleached cotton (back), Paul Smith cotton shirting purchased during the Sewing for Pleasure show at the NEC back in March (right), and organic silk from Majestic Textiles (left).

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I also added a small amount of yarn to the pot, including my first attempt at hand spun yarn (left), 100% wool aran (centre), and cotton yarn (right). Indigo is a substantive dye, meaning that fibres don’t need to be mordanted in advance of dyeing (woo hoo!) so all I did to prepare these fabics and yarns was wash them as I normally would (i.e. cottons in the washing machine, silk and yarn by hand), and then leave them soaking in clean water before adding them to the dye pot.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I purchased the natural indigo I used from Fabric Treasury. I bought it in ‘cake’ form, so it arrived as a solid block inside the tub. In order to dye with indigo (create an indigo vat), oxygen needs to be removed from the vat before fibres are added using a reducing agent. There are multiple alternative methods of preparing an indigo vat, but I chose to use the method described by Linda Rudkin in Natural Dyes which uses washing soda and a reducing agent such as colour run remover. I purchased both the washing soda and colour run removed from Wilko.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Here is the indigo I chipped off the cake for the dye pot. Only 10g (two teaspoons) is required for up to 400g of fibres, so it goes a long way. I am actually being good and wearing (blue) rubber gloves in the photo below, although I have a bad habit of taking them off. I did end up with blue fingers by the end of the day.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural indigo has a strong smell, so I’d recommend dyeing outside if possible. I purchased a cheap one-plate hob to allow me to do this. I was careful to keep an eye on it the whole time it was turned on, in case any curious neighbourhood cats got too close.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

To dye 400 grams of fibre the process is:

♥ Thoroughly dissolve 50g washing soda in 250ml of boiling water (this should be in a separate bowl, not your main pan).

♥ Mix 10g (two teaspoons) of indigo with 30ml of warm water to create a paste, and then add to the washing soda solution, stirring until dissolved.

♥ Fill your dye pan with 4 litres of water and heat to 50ºC (it is important the temperature does not exceed 60ºC), then gently add the indigo solution and carefully stir in.

♥ I removed my pan from the heat at this point, wrapping it in a towel. Then I sprinkled 25g (or one packet) of colour run remover over the surface of the pan, covered it and left it to stand for 60 minutes.

♥ After 60 minutes, I added my pre-wetted fibres to the pan. To avoid introducing oxygen into the pan, I first squeezed the fibres to remove excess water and lowered them in slowly. Fibres should be fully immersed below the surface, so I weighted those that refused to stay down!

♥ After a few minutes I removed my fibres from the pan with a slotted spoon. When removing fibres you want to avoid drips as much as possible to avoid adding oxygen.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

While in the pan the fibres appear green, and turn blue as they are removed and exposed to oxygen. Fibres can be returned to the pan if you aren’t happy with the initial colour achieved.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Once removed from the pan, I rinsed the fibres and hung them on the line to dry, before giving them a full wash (in the machine for the cottons, and by hand for the silk and yarn).

As you can see in the pictures below, I achieved a mottled effect on my fabrics as a result of adding them to the pan scrunched up, and placing large amounts of fibre in the pan. I like the mottled effect, but a more consistent colour could be achieved by ensuring that all areas of the fabric are exposed to the dye, or returning the fabrics to the pan multiple times.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I really love the finished colour of the lace, the nude sections dyed beautifully. The copper sections didn’t take the colour at all, but I think they look great with the blue.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Unbleached cotton, before and after.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Organic silk, before and after.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

If you’re thinking about trying natural dyeing I’d recommend a substantive dye such as indigo, since removing the need to mordant fibres makes the dyeing process much quicker. Also, the additional ingredients required (washing soda and colour run remover) are easy and cheap to obtain.Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo