english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


18 Comments

Roberts Collection Dungaree Dress

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

Just a quick post, as I’m currently busy enjoying myself on holiday in New York. Me and Phil stopped off in Reykjavik for three nights on the way here, and are going home via a brief stop in Boston. It’s my first time visiting both Iceland and the US, and I’m having great fun exploring.

I’m in my hotel presently, having reached the point where I needed to rest my weary feet for the night, so thought it would be an opportune time to post a recent project.

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

I love Marilla Walker’s aesthetic, and am always excited by her pattern releases (and also her amazing personal knitting projects) as I think she has a really unique style amongst indie pattern designers. I’ve previously sewn her Maya and Ilsley patterns,will get around to Alice and Freemantle at some point, and bought the Roberts Collection on release.

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

This is View C, the dungaree dress option. I fall between sizes 1 and 2 in the sizing chart, but was able to size down as there’s a fair bit of ease built into the pattern. As a result of the ease, and the fact that the denim I used had a bit of stretch, I was also able to remove all fastenings (the pattern includes a side fastening & strap fastenings) to save some time during construction. As much as I enjoy sewing, I still can’t help racing to the finish line!

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

The fabric is a medium weight denim which I purchased from SewBox at the Stitching, Sewing & Hobbycrafts show in Birmingham last November. I forgot to take a close-up photo of the fabric, which features a small daisy print.

In this medium-weight fabric, I find that the dress does hang quite stiffly and sits away from the body; personally I like it, but if you’d prefer a closer fit, a fabric with more drape might suit better.

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

At the risk of sounding like I spend all of my time on holiday, these photos were taken in Cornwall, during a recent weekend away in Cawsand and Kingsand. I work at a University so do receive a decent number of holiday days, but have pretty much used up my holiday allowance for the current academic year now!

Marilla Walker Roberts Collection View C

P.S. the knitted hat in the photos is my Luca Pom Hat.

Advertisements


5 Comments

Cacti Clémence Skirt in Copenhagen

Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt, in Copenhagen, Denmark

A few weeks ago, me and Phil visited Copenhagen for a few nights. While there, I took the opportunity to get a few photos of this Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt. These photos were taken in the Christianshavn neighbourhood, close to Noma (regularly selected as one of the best restaurants in the world); not that we were eating there, we ate smørrebrød at a nearby (much cheaper) cafe.

Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt, in Copenhagen, Denmark

The fabric is chambray from my stash, originally purchased from Barry’s. I doodled a cacti design on the front of my skirt using fabric pens from Ikea. I was going to lino print the design but went with fabric pens as a lazy / way faster option. Next time, I might lino print the outline and then fill-in the coloured sections with fabric pens; I always find printing multi-coloured images with lino blocks a bit frustrating as I never manage to line-up the separate colours perfectly.

Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt, in Copenhagen, Denmark

I actually made the skirt months ago, but it’s been cold so it’s stayed in the wardrobe until recently. The Clémence Skirt is one of the patterns in Tilly’s book, Love at First Stitch. It’s a simple gathered skirt so the book includes instructions to construct the skirt based on your measurements, rather than a paper pattern. It’s dead easy.

Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt, in Copenhagen, Denmark

This skirt goes with most tops in my wardrobe, so I’ll start putting it to use now that the weather is (sort of) warming up. Using solid coloured fabrics is so practical, it’s just not as exciting at the fabric shopping stage. In fact, even when I did make a solid-coloured skirt I ended up doodling on it. Whoops…

Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt, in Copenhagen, Denmark

Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt, in Copenhagen, Denmark

Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt, in Copenhagen, Denmark

Tilly and the Buttons Clémence Skirt, in Copenhagen, Denmark


4 Comments

#SewSolidarity – Sashiko Style Stitches on a Denim Skirt

“Cleaning, caring and mending seem like nothing more than good manners when you think about the endeavour that has gone into constructing even the most simple of pieces” – Lucy Siegle, ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?’

For #SewSolidarity, and in advance of Fashion Revolution Day tomorrow, I customised this RTW Gap skirt.

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

I bought the skirt in a local charity shop while browsing on my lunch break. The skirt was still in good condition and a pretty good fit with the addition of a belt, so I decided not to drastically alter it.

Instead, I decided to embellish the skirt with some sashiko-style stitches. I used white and blue embroidery thread, as opposed to sashiko thread, as I already had some in my stash. I adopted a circular pattern on the hem of the skirt and the tops of the back pockets, and a small cross pattern on one of the front pockets.

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

As in the Lucy Siegle quote above, we have a tendency – because RTW clothes are so cheap – to treat them as highly disposable. But, despite being cheap, a huge amount of effort goes into producing any garment. I’m trying to adopt more of a make do and mend approach to my own clothing to put that effort to best use.

I also like being able to apply a slow sewing technique (hand stitching) to a garment that would have originally have been produced very quickly. In this instance by garment workers in Turkey.

How are you guys planning to participate in Fashion Revolution Day? Ever tried sashiko?

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches

Customised Denim Skirt with Sashiko Style Stitches


10 Comments

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt – Made By Me, Cambodian Garment Workers, & Others Unknown

Less than three weeks from the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster (and with the compensation fund still short of money needed for medical bills), this is my first refashion for TRAID’s #SewSolidarity Challenge. I’ve got a skirt to show, and I’ve also got quite a bit to say. I’d recommend you grab a tea, and perhaps a biscuit, before you begin…

This fabric started off as a dress, which I purchased second-hand in a charity shop. The original dress was too small for me, but that was fine as I wanted to use it for fabric.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

All I learnt about how the dress was made from the tag, was that it was a H&M product (H&M were one of the companies who sourced from Rana Plaza), and was ‘made’ in Cambodia. Our clothes (and our textiles) aren’t made by machines, they’re made by people. That ‘made in’ label told me that the ‘cut, make, and trim’ stage of this dresses’ lifecycle (from cutting the fabric to finishing the dress) took place in Cambodia, probably in a garment factory. Given that garment factories typically employ a production line approach for speed, the dress was probably made by a number of people; each focused on sewing a small section of the dress. The majority of garment workers are women, so I can assume the original dress was made by a number of Cambodian women.

Dress for refashioning
The original dress

I took the dress apart, unpicking the original stitches made by garment workers in Cambodia, and used the fabric to make a Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt. I used almost all of the dress to construct this skirt, with just a few small pieces going into my scraps bin. I spent a lot longer on the Ilsley Skirt than the original garment workers would have had to construct the dress – I hand-stitched the hem while sat watching a movie.

What the tag in the dress didn’t tell me, was what other countries, and people, were involved in the creation of the original dress. The ‘cut, make, and trim’ stage only represents a tiny proportion of the overall process involved in creating a textile – from cotton boll, or sheep’s fleece, or oil – and transforming that textile into an item of clothing. That wider process involves huge amounts of resources (water, chemicals, electricity, etc.), huge numbers of people (approximately 40 million people worldwide in garment construction), and huge numbers of animals (for silk, wool, leather, fur, skins).

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

As sewists and crafters, I think we are more aware of the time and labour involved in the production of a garment. As sewists, we’ll feel particular pain at the ‘virtual factory standard’ that companies have used to define the target times for garment workers to produce clothing. You think the time allowed on GBSB is bad, try 15 minutes to produce a pair of five-pocket jeans.

I also think as crafters we become more aware of the processes that underpin our hobbies, because once you become involved with a craft you start thinking about how you can get involved at earlier stages of the production process. So knitters often become spinners, and knitters and sewists become dyers and fabric designers. I think this thought process – this interest in how something is made, from beginning to end – is vital. We need to be more conscious about what it is we are buying – where it was made, who by and how.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

That’s because, currently, the processes used to produce garments – and textiles – have a hugely detrimental impact on people and the environment. This isn’t anything new – cotton production traditionally was underpinned by slavery – but globalisation, fast fashion, and the pressure for ever cheaper prices have increased the scale of production – and the associated risks. Those risks are numerous, including the effect of particles during cotton / fibre production and preparation on the respiratory system, if inadequate protection is provided, or the impact of chemicals used in textile production and dyeing on workers within factories that don’t provide adequate protection, and on the surrounding environment and population if those chemicals are not adequately disposed of and are instead allowed to pollute waterways and the air. There is also the impact on the health of garment workers of working long hours without earning a living wage, possibly in unsafe conditions. Rana Plaza wasn’t an isolated incident, many garment workers have been killed or injured at work; fires are particularly common.

Managing the textile/garment production process, and its associated risks, ethically requires investment and commitment from clothing – and textile – companies. However, the drive to produce huge volumes of textiles and garments quickly and cheaply has led to production systems where companies outsource to middlemen huge portions of the production process. In this way, companies have outsourced a lot of production risks, and costs. They’ve also outsourced a lot of the control, and visibility, of these processes. And they’ve done so in countries where workers, animals, and the environment are subject to much less protection.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Like many sewists, I buy limited RTW clothes, but I don’t think that makes these issues any less relevant to me, given the huge global impact of these processes. Also, I do buy a lot of fabric – and many of the same issues apply to fabric production.

Each year, the Uzbekistan government transports approximately a million of it’s own citizens, including children, from their homes to serve as forced labour, picking cotton for two months during harvest time (read more here). These people are given mandatory quotas to meet and are punished or fined if they fail to meet them. As a shopper, it isn’t easy to tell if the bolls used to create a bolt of cotton originally came from Uzbekistan, but, if so, forced child labours probably picked those bolls.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Poorly regulated factories processing and dyeing fabrics are also hugely problematic. Not only for staff provided with inadequate protection from fibres and chemicals, but also for surrounding populations. Treating the water used in dyeing to remove chemicals has a cost associated with it, so factories regularly pump untreated water into waterways. This is a huge issue in India and in China, with 1 in 4 of China’s population drinking contaminated water daily. There have been multiple incidents of rivers taking on the colour of a dye from a nearby factory, including the Caledon river being dyed indigo.

We’ve all become spoilt by cheap prices, and accustomed to spending less but buying more, but the prices are false. It isn’t possible to produce a t-shirt for £3, or a pair of jeans for £6, or probably a metre of fabric for £1, if all aspects of the production process have been managed sustainably and responsibly. Obviously a high price isn’t a guarantee that something has been produced ethically, but I’m adjusting what I expect to pay so that I don’t see £5 for a ball of wool or £10-20 for a metre of fabric as ‘expensive’.

#SewSolidarity Ilsley Skirt

Obviously it isn’t easy when you pick up an item of clothing, or a bolt of fabric, to know how it was produced, but from now on I’m going to at least consider those questions, and think about the resources, people and animals involved.

Otherwise we’re validating those clothing companies who have excused their own practices by stating that consumers don’t care how their products are manufactured.

All facts referred to are courtesy of ‘To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?’ by Lucy Siegle, which I’d hugely recommend.


9 Comments

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Have you seen the Japan Sew Along (#jsa2015), taking place on Tanoshii? I learned about it on Instagram, courtesy of Sew Busy Lizzy.

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

This is my contribution to the sew-along, based on the short variation of the Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts: 23 Simple Designs to Flatter Every Figure by Sato Watanabe.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The premise of Stylish Skirts is that the book provides you with instructions to draft each of the projects included. No paper patterns are included. Given that the premise of the book is to support you to draft skirts yourself, I didn’t worry too much about strictly following the instructions in the book when making this skirt.

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The Balloon Skirt in the book has both a zip and a waist tie. I couldn’t really see the point of including both, and as my fabric had a slight stretch I actually did away with any fastening (yay!), as it’s possible to slip the skirt on and off.

The Balloon Skirt in the book is constructed from three panels, brought in using pleats, to create lots of volume. I cut my skirt as one single panel along the full length of my fabric. As a result, my pleats needed to be much narrower so the ‘balloon’ effect isn’t as dramatic. I would like to make another version with greater volume for the full effect – perhaps in the longer length, which I love the look of in the book (although the tops that both versions are styled with don’t do much for me).

Balloon Skirt from Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Construction wise my skirt is two loops of fabric – the outside loop is attached to a shorter loop at the hem to create the balloon effect. The two loops are attached at the top by a waistband. Super simple.

The fabric used is a jacquard from Barry’s. It’s a daisy print in two shades of gold, and has a slight one-way stretch. I bought way too much (as per usual, which is why my stash is full of small, useless lengths of fabric) and have quite a bit left over that I think would make a great pair of shorts.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Like other Japanese pattern books, minimal written instructions are provided in Stylish Skirts, but each project is accompanied by a number of illustrations. Personally I think this approach (and the premise of the book) suits intermediate sewers more than beginners, as it helps to have an existing knowledge of skirt construction. The book makes some assumptions regarding the reader’s understanding of how to draft the skirts, which a beginner might find confusing; for example, it doesn’t explicitly state in writing how to calculate the skirt measurements (as least for the skirt I made), how to take measurements, etc.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The skirts included cover a wide variety of styles. Although the projects are all women’s skirts, it would be fairly easy to create children’s versions by altering the measurements.

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

The skirts are styled on dress forms which doesn’t appeal to me as much as being styled on models; although it does potentially make the book look distinct from other Japanese pattern books, which do admittedly often look quite similar (although It’s a look I love).

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Stylish Skirts, Sato Watanabe

Sew Busy Lizzy has also reviewed Stylish Skirts and sewn two skirts from the book. Make sure you check out her review also.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free copy of Stylish Skirts in exchange for a review; all opinions expressed are my own. Post contains an affiliate link


14 Comments

Charm of Magpies Dolores Pocket Skirt

Dolores Pocket Skirt in vintage fabric
I was one of the pattern testers for what will be the first sewing pattern by Ready Ruthie, the Dolores Pocket Skirt. It’s a really cute design, and I’m looking forward to seeing it on sale soon. The skirt fit me without alteration, but I made one due to preference – I cut a big chunk off the bottom for an above-the-knee length as I prefer my skirts short.
Dolores Pocket Skirt in vintage fabric
I really like the piping detail on this pattern and the pockets are nice and roomy. My only pattern testing suggestions were to make some changes to the pattern & instruction PDFs to bring them more inline with the detail provided in other indie patterns. I’m excited to the see the finished pattern once Beth has had time to make any final tweaks.
Dolores Pocket Skirt in vintage fabric
The fabric I used is pretty special. This is the fabric I received from Joy at A Charm of Magpies (hence the name of the skirt) as part of the spring sewing swap. It’s a vintage fabric from Joy’s stash and has a lovely drape and weight.
Dolores Pocket Skirt in vintage fabric
I’m counting this as the sewing portion of my entry for the Outfit-Along hosted by Lladybird and Andi Satterlund. I am hoping to finish my Myrna cardigan as the knitting portion by the end of July deadline, but my Myrna only has one sleeve at the moment so time is looking a bit tight! Oh well you can’t sew/knit along every time!
Dolores Pocket Skirt in vintage fabric


11 Comments

Spotty Zinnia

Handmade Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt
I was inspired to make a Zinnia skirt by the sew-along being run The Stitchery in Glasgow. I knew right away that I wanted to make version 3 – the lined version that can be made in a lighter, see-through fabric. I love a good patterned polyester me:)

Having perused  Barry’s Fabrics I settled on this John Kaldor polyester. It’s navy blue with an irregular pink spot pattern. As you can see the fabric is quite see through so I lined it using a dark blue lining fabric.
Handmade Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt
Once I’d cut out the fabric for my Zinnia I used what was left over to make an Afternoon Blouse (which I was determined to make from stash fabric). So I could actually dress head to toe in this fabric, but that would look wrong…
Handmade Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt
I have to admit to a couple of errors during the making of this skirt. I had attached my skirt pieces together and sewn the pleats in place when I luckily decided to test the fit of the skirt and found that it was definitely going to be too small. It only just fit around me with no seam allowance left over and I still had the zipper to attach. So…I unpicked two pleats from the back of the skirt, one from each side. That put me back on track but when I came to attach the waistband I found that was also too small. I’d used up all my fabric (between the Zinnia and my Afternoon Blouse) but just managed to cut a new waistband from the largest scrap in my fabric bin! I’m not entirely sure If I cut this out one size too small or if my pleats were too large or what. I know other bloggers have had issues with the waistband being too small, but not sure anyone else has found the whole skirt too small!
Handmade Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt
Other than sizing issues this came together well and I’ve been wearing it tons since finishing so it’s definitely a successful addition to my wardrobe.
Handmade Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt