english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Adventure Tanks & Ilsley Skirt in France

Back in September, Phil and I spent a short week visiting Paris. We visit once a year (we stay in a caravan park in Maisons-Lafitte, so it’s quite a cheap break), and we always try to do a day trip outside Paris. This year we visited Chantilly – in particular, the Château de Chantilly.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

I can never resist sewing new garments for a holiday, but had limited time before this trip, so went with a couple of quick projects – a Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, and a Fancy Tiger Crafts Adventure Tank, both in a floral scuba fabric from Birmingham Rag Market.

Château de Chantilly

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

From the train station, Château de Chantilly is walking distance through a wood and park. The Chateau is stunning, and also enormous, so try and arrive early.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

This Adventure Tank is the Muscle Tank version graded between an XS and S. The Ilsley Skirt is Size 2. I was super lazy and didn’t hem the skirt or top since the scuba fabric won’t fray, however I may go back and hem them as I think they will last better hemmed.

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Phil bought me a Creativebug subscription for my birthday last year, so I got access to the Adventure Tank pattern as part of my subscription. The Fancy Tiger Crafts Creativebug lessons are some of my favourites, they’ve just released a class for a cute new clutch pattern which I’m planning to make soon.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

Château de Chantilly

I also whipped up another Adventure Tank, using a small remnant of knit fabric from the stash table at The Sewing Weekender. This is pictured below, also with my Ilsley Skirt, at a different chateau – The Château de Maisons, in Maisons-Laffitte.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

Despite having stayed in Maisons-Laffitte annually for the last four or so years, we’ve never yet visited the Chateau. It closes daily for lunch, and we’re normally too slow getting up in the morning to visit before lunch, then off visiting Paris in the afternoon. This year we made an effort to get up and dressed and visit the chateau one morning, before it closed for lunch.

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

We were the only visitors to the Chateau on the morning we visited – they had to unlock the door to let us in when we arrived! It was very nice to have the whole Chateau to ourselves, and gave us chance to get these photos of my simple outfit in a grand setting.

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

Fancy Tiger Craft Adventure Tank & Marilla Walker Ilsley Skirt, at the Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte

The Château de Maisons, Maisons-Laffitte


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A Tour of Birmingham City Centre

Birmingham, England

With SewBrum coming up next week, I thought I’d share a personal guide to Birmingham city centre, taking in my favourite places to eat/shop/meander.

I’m deeply biased; not only have I lived in the suburbs of Birmingham for my whole life, I have also visited the city centre every week or so since I was a kid. I love to travel, but arriving back in Birmingham always feels like being home.

Birmingham, England

Birmingham’s weakness for many years was that it lacked independent businesses in the city centre, but in the last few years Birmingham has developed a really exciting community of independents. Currently, it feels like there are always new businesses opening, and events taking place.

If you’re interested in keeping up to date with the latest news I’d highly recommend the mailing lists/social media accounts of the following:
Independent Birmingham / I Choose Birmingham / Flatpack

Birmingham, England

If you visit Birmingham and stick to the shopping centres you’ll miss what makes it special. Below is my personal tour around the city.

Hurst Street

The area around Hurst Street contains Birmingham’s Chinese and gay quarters, and a lot of good restaurants. I love to eat at MinMin (Hong Kong noodle cafe), Toppoki (Korean), Jacky’s Kitchen (Northern Chinese), and Cafe Soya (there are two branches but stick to the little one inside the Arcadian). There are three Chinese bakeries in this area, two inside the Arcadian (Wah Kee & Cafe Chino), and one inside the entrance to China Court restaurant; I highly recommend the walnut cookies and sponge at Wah Kee. I struggle to walk past without getting an ice tea at Happy Lemon.

Birmingham, England

Birmingham has a thriving street food scene (focused in Digbeth) and now has a permanent Hawker Yarn, located next to the Arcadian centre.

Birmingham, England

The (National Trust owned) Back-to-Backs are located on Hurst Street (the last surviving court of back-to-back houses in Birmingham) – if you don’t fancy taking the tour you can always visit the sweet shop situated in one of the houses. The UK’s oldest working cinema, The Electric is nearby.

Birmingham, England

The shop where I have spent more money than any other (by a looong way), Nostalgia and Comics, is located close by. I have a comic standing order there – although my comics are often to be found in the debtors box, because I haven’t been in to collect them for a few weeks…

Birmingham, England

Fabric Shops

From Hurst Street, it’s approximately a five minute walk to Birmingham Indoor and Rag markets which are the best place to shop for cheaper fabrics, trims and haberdashery supplies. In the markets, fabric typically costs between £1-£8 per metre. On your way there you might spot Annatomix’s Bowie graffiti.

Birmingham, England

Directly opposite the market is Fancy Silk Store, which is spread over four floors. Barry’s Fabric Superstore, which is my personal favourite, is a 5-10 minute walk away (and just around the corner from Barry’s is EU Fabrics, but I haven’t had chance to visit yet to see what it’s like). House of Fraser and John Lewis also have haberdashery sections.

Birmingham, England

Digbeth

From the market it’s a short walk to Digbeth, which hosts the ever excellent Digbeth Dining Club on Friday nights. Seasonal Markets, which take place quarterly at The Bond, are also always worth attending. The Custard Factory is most fun when there is an event on (antique fair, etc.) as the shop occupants change quite regularly (so clearly struggle), but Clink bottle shop is worth visiting and Cow Vintage is located nearby. One of the most fun things in Digbeth is the frequently excellent graffiti (particular following the City of Colours festival).

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

The Centre

Tilt bar serves a great range of indie beers and loose leaf teas, and has a large and regularly changing selection of pinball machines (I love the Adams Family & Medieval Madness). They have good cake too, and lovely signage by local sign painter Seven 9 Signs (I’m looking for an excuse to commission something from him).

Birmingham, England

Right by New Street Station, 4023 serves super cheap and delicious Mediterranean food and is next door to All Greek delicatessen, and a few steps down from York’s Bakery Cafe. Opposite, the Piccadilly Arcade contains a number of indie businesses and is rather lovely to look at.

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is close by in Victorian Square and always worth a visit, including their Birmingham History Gallery and Edwardian Tea Room. While in Victorian Square, also check out Pure Bar for food and drinks.

Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

Canal

From Victoria Square, you’ll pass the Library of Birmingham and Birmingham Rep (who are very affordable & put on some great productions) on your way to the canal. It’s worth seeing what is on at the (free to visit) Ikon Gallery, and popping into their shop and/or restaurant. The walk along the canal path between Brindley Place and the Mailbox is lovely on a sunny day, and Gas Street Social in the Mailbox does a popular all-day brunch. The Craven Arms must be one of Birmingham’s most attractive pubs (The Pig and Tail in the Jewellery Quarter is another) and has a good beer selection.

Birmingham, England

Snow Hill

St Philip’s Cathedral (set in a park known locally as Pigeon Park) contains stained glass by Edward Burne-Jones, is one of the smallest cathedrals in the UK, and occasionally hosts movie screenings as part of Flatpack Festival. Neighbouring Great Western Arcade is beautiful and home to a number of indie businesses. The Coffin Works (factory museum who produced accessories for coffins) is nearby.

Birmingham, England

Moor Street

Probably the best burger in Birmingham is available from Original Patty Men’s restaurant located in an arch under Moor Street Station. Nearby you’ll find veggie restaurant The Warehouse Cafe and Polish restaurant The Karczma. Eastside City Park, the first park built in the city in 130 years is close by.

Birmingham, England

Jewellery Quarter

I was really excited by the extension of the tram line into the city centre as it’s now extremely easy to pop to the Jewellery Quarter (catch the tram from outside New Street Station, a ticket to the JQ is £1 one-way). The Jewellery Quarter is a lovely place to walk around as it’s peaceful and the architecture is really interesting. It also contains two well regarded museums, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter and the Pen Museum. More places to eat and drink are popping up in the Jewellery Quarter, the Pig and Tail and 1000 Trades are my favourites, and The Button Factory – as the name suggests – is located in a former button factory building.

If you’re interested in Birmingham’s textile-related history see my post here.

Birmingham, England


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Knitting all of the Time & Elsewhere

Unicorn Parallelograms Scarf in progress

When I started knitting over Christmas 2013, It was to have a more portable hobby to take away with me when travelling, and I did only knit on planes and trains. Lately, however, partly due to subscribing to multiple knitting podcasts, I’ve really become passionate about knitting and am now knitting every day. As a result, I’ve completed nearly as many knitting projects in the last couple as months (yet to be blogged), as I had in the previous year and a bit since I first learned to knit.

I get my knitting fix while commuting to and from work everyday (plus a little in the evening while watching tv). I catch four trains a day (two to work, two home), all of which are busy. I’ve found that the secret to successful knitting while commuting is circulars. They’re super portable, they’re nice and short so you’re less likely to elbow the person sat next to you, and they’re highly unlikely to be confiscated at customs when flying (in my experience straights don’t get confiscated either, but are more likely to trigger a bag check). I’m knitting everything on circulars lately – socks (DPNs were recommended by the pattern), a hat, gloves, and currently a scarf (all of these patterns recommended straights). Next up in my knitting queue is a cardigan, and I expect to be knitting that on circulars too.

Elsewhere

♥ I adore Home and Away, the new pattern book from Knitbot, Hannah Fettig. I’ve added Hancock, Lesley & the Rosemont Cardigan to my Ravelry queue.

♥ Have you seen BritYarn? It’s a new online wool shop selling British wool, patterns and knitting accessories. I’m largely sticking to British wool currently, as a result of taking part in Nicki’s #1year1outfit project, so it’s ideal for me.

♥ Thanks to Marcy, Bloglovin’ now has a sewing category!

♥ As part of Shetland Wool Week, Donna Smith has designed an amazing Baa-ble Hat knitting pattern. It’s free to download on the Wool Week website.

♥ I can’t wait to try the new Lyonesse Linen Blend yarn from Blacker Yarns, perfect for summer knitting (assuming we ever get some warm weather).

The True Cost movie has now been released and is available for online download. The scenes of contaminated water pouring out of factories made the biggest impact on me.


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A Week in Paris

Me and Phil recently spent a week in Paris. I’ve been travelling quite a bit for work lately so it was lovely to travel for pleasure instead:) While there we visited some sites we hadn’t explored on our  previous trips.

Unsurprisingly Paris has a number of fashion museums, and we managed to visit two of these while there.

I was particularly impressed by the Palais Galliera Museum of Fashion. The Museum holds extensive collections of clothing (18th century to contemporary), accessories, drawing and photography, but, due to the delicacy of these collections, the museum doesn’t have a permanent collection on display. The current temporary exhibition that we managed to catch was photography from Conde Nast magazines (e.g. Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour). The photographs included dated from 1918 to the present day, although I particularly liked the vintage images. Most excitingly, alongside the photography, the Museum displayed haute couture pieces from its collections – which included pieces by Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent.
Paris, April 2014
I didn’t pack too many me-made clothes for the trip to Paris, knowing that Me Made May was just around the corner, but I had to take my Coco dress to Paris! Here it is within sight of the Eiffel Tour, in the grounds of the Palais Galliera.
Paris, April 2014

We also visited the Museum of Decorative Arts which is housed in the same building as the Louvre, although a separate museum. The Museum has a varied mixture of collections (furniture, toys, etc.), including textile collections. Like the Palais Galliera, the Museum does not have a permanent textile collection on display, instead running regular temporary exhibitions. We caught an exhibition of work by the Belgian designer Dries Van Noten. As well an an extensive selection of pieces by Dries Van Noten, the exhibition included beautiful vintage pieces from the Museum’s own collection by designers including Schiaparelli and Dior. Gorgeous!
Paris, April 2014

Among the other museums we visited was the Musee des Arts et Metiers, where I admired some beautiful vintage sewing machines and looms.
Paris, April 2014Paris, April 2014

Of course, while in Paris I had to visit the fabric district in Place Saint-Pierre (right by the Sacré Cœur). I treated myself to two 3-meter off-cuts or ‘coupons’.
Paris, April 2014
I didn’t buy anything from Reine but popped in to admire the Liberty fabric, and the awful mini mannequins they have throughout the store. You have to wonder who makes the clothes for these (the mannequins aren’t full size so do they use children’s clothing sizes)?
Fabric Shop, Paris

Another spot we hadn’t visited previously that was AMAZING was the Puces de St-Ouen market area. The area contains around a dozen separate markets. I’d particularly recommend the Marche Serpette, which includes a number of vintage clothing, record and book shops, and one shop selling vintage sewing patterns, buttons, etc.
Paris, April 2014Paris, April 2014
Paris, April 2014Paris, April 2014
I wore my Victoria Blazer to the Puces de St-Ouen, as well as my gorgeous new bag. A very exciting Easter gift from my Nan.
Paris, April 2014

As movie lovers, me and Phil also visited two historic cinemas.

The Rex is a 1930s cinema, with art-deco style facade. It was designed to be ostentatious – the stage includes water jets, and when it was opened huge numbers of dancers used to perform before films started. It’s a working cinema and still regularly hosts movie premiers. They also run a backstage tour which I was very excited about, although admittedly hilarious, the cinema took a Disney-style approach to the tour so unfortunately you don’t get to hear much about the cinema’s history or see much of the real cinema behind the scenes (it’s all a bit phony).
Paris, April 2014
The Cinéma du Panthéon, originally opened in 1907, offers a total contrast to the Rex. It specialises in independent films, and has a stunning salon on the first floor, with an interior designed by Catherine Deneuve, as well as a very cool book shop.
Paris, April 2014
I could have spent all day in the beautiful Salon, but the prices meant we stuck to a cup of tea!
Paris, April 2014

Such a lovely week:) The weather meant we were also able to spend a lot of time sat in Paris’ parks eating cake!
Paris, April 2014

And… just to prove that I didn’t make Phil spend all his holiday visiting fabric shops and fashion museums (admittedly not his first choice of things to do), we also visited the Parc des Princes to see Paris Saint-Germain play.
Paris, April 2014

See also my post about the craft shops we visited during last year’s trip to Paris.


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Travel Knitting

Knitting by the Seine, Maisons Laffitte
I recently started knitting – partly inspired by all of the amazing projects that have been appearing online of late & partly due to the fact that I’ve been travelling quite a bit lately (mainly for work) so needed a more portable craft. I’m glad I did as I’ve been able to fit in quite a bit of travel knitting whilst working on an Owls jumper as part of Kat and Sabs‘ knit-along.

In the last couple of weeks I have been knitting on the plane…
Knitting in the plane

On the train…
Knitting on the train

and by the Seine (in Maisons Laffitte).
Knitting by the Seine, Maisons Laffitte


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Travel Sewing

Travel Sewing
I’ve been in Istanbul for work recently. I made sure to do some sightseeing over the weekend but I also packed lots of supplies so that I had things to do if I felt more like staying in.
Travel Sewing
Phil treated me to a smallish sewing machine for Christmas which would fit in my case. It’s also bright pink:) I cut all the pieces for an Anna dress before I left and made a start on making it up. I would have gotten it finished but it was a very busy trip! I also packed my current (and first!) knitting project (a fox shaped draft excluder).
Istanbul
Istanbul is a great city but I was very glad to get home. Without me here the plants were looking dried out, the housework needed doing, there was lots of tv to catch up with on the Sky+ & catching up with Phil to do.
Istanbul, Turkey
P.S. Does anyone know of any sewing bloggers based in Istanbul? I’m going to be visiting fairly regularly so It would be great to get some advice on the best places to shop.