english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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My First Weavers, Spinners, & Dyers Summer School & First Woven Scarf

Handwoven tartan scarf

In the last few years, I’ve become fairly involved with the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers. I sit on the General Purpose Committee (since 2016), produce the Association’s monthly newsletter and manage the social media accounts (including the Instagram account). The Association has a very traditional structure where membership is to a local guild (I’m a member of Birmingham Guild), with local guilds affiliated to the Association (not the easiest when you are newsletter editor but only have one contact per guild). Within Birmingham Guild, I’ve recently jointly taken on the role of programme secretary with a fellow guild member, and am helping (in a very small way) with preparations for the region hosting a biennial conference in 2020.

Handwoven tartan scarf

Given that I am so involved with the Association, it dawned on me the other day when someone asked me, that I can’t really remember why or how I joined! I think I must have found out about Birmingham Guild online when looking for craft groups meeting locally & decided to give it a try. I know that I kept going because I felt welcomed and part of the group right from the start. The women (predominantly, there are only a couple of men) at my guild are a really fun and inspiring bunch, who I wouldn’t have gotten to know otherwise. I do think one of the best parts of getting older is becoming a member of an increasing number of groups or communities.

Handwoven tartan scarf

I’m sure most members of the Association would think of themselves as either a weaver, spinner or dyer (or a combination of the three). I like to try all three crafts during workshops, but I’ve never really taken up any as a hobby. I’ve never felt that I needed to, I’m happy to be involved and to just be a dabbler, but it was exciting to attend a week long weaving course last week and to find it completely accessible and enjoyable – and a potential new hobby. Obviously, I am always open to a new hobby!

Handwoven tartan scarf

The Association coordinates a summer school, organised entirely by volunteer guild members, every other year. As a member of the GPC I receive lots of updates during the planning stages, and this time around it proved too tempting to resist applying when booking opened. I was one of 194 students, with 40% of us attending for the first time (in contrast, Sally, a fellow student on my course, had been a student at nine summer schools!). The course I picked was Weaving Tweeds and Tartan with tutor Jan Beadle which was taught over five full days, with talks, exhibitions and other evening events making up the remainder of the seven day summer school.

Handwoven tartan scarf
Handwoven tartan scarf

I’ll blog separately about the course, but one of the pieces I came away with was this finished woven tartan scarf. We started by selecting the colours for our tartans early in the week, from the selection of wool yarns Jan supplied, made a decision on the pattern repeat, prepared the warp threads, wove the fabric, and finally finished by creating plaited tassels. The width of my scarf on the loom was 12.25″ but once off the loom, relaxed and washed , it is around 10.5″, and over two metres in length. The weaving of the scarf was completed within a day, with approximately half a day before to prepare the loom, and a few hours the following day finishing off (trimming and plaiting the tassels).

Handwoven tartan scarf
Handwoven tartan scarf

Once home, I washed the scarf by hand, air dryed it, and gave it a good firm press with a hot iron and lots of steam. The wool used isn’t super soft, but it’s soft enough (for me) to wear against the skin. Obviously it’s not quite the same when you haven’t got a teacher in the room to ask for help, but the whole process of weaving, and preparing to weave (definitely the more complicated part), this scarf felt completely accessible and repeatable. I’m currently considering buying a loom similar to the one I used on the course, but in the meantime I have two woven samples, also created during the course, which I am planning to cut and sew with. I have over two metres in total (narrow width) so plenty of fabric to play with if I can decide on a pattern or two.

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Woven Kielo

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

I’ve had more time to sew recently as a result of both having a more relaxed job, and Phil starting an online undergraduate degree (in computer science) which is keeping him busy most evenings. Once Phil is settled down to study I’m turning to my sewing projects in the evenings much more often than I have previously, as opposed to watching Father Ted/Red Dwarf/Blackadder on repeat, which is what usually happens when we both have a free evening.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

With my additional sewing time, I’ve made some of those new release patterns which take the sewing community by storm and have to be started immediately, and I’ve also made some of those patterns which have been on my to-sew list for years, including the Kielo wrap dress which has been on my list since it was first released back in 2014.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

The particular motivation to get on with finally trying out the Kielo pattern was the offer of this cream and black Stretch Cotton Sateen Fabric from Minerva Crafts as part of their Maker Team. I remember the launch of their Blogger Network well so it was fun to contribute my first post, which is now live here. I actually managed to write about the construction of the dress, rather than my normal blog waffling (as evidenced here), so check out the MC blog for actual construction details.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

The fabric is a medium weight woven which emphasises the silhouette of the Kielo in a way I really like, although it needs a short jacket in cooler weather as paired with a longer one the silhouette looks a bit frumpy. After waiting 5 years to try the Kielo (and given that it took all of two evenings to sew) I think that another version at least is called for, and I’m keen to try the pattern in a lightweight knit for a different silhouette. I cut a straight size 10, reduced the length (by 9 inches) and consequently increased the height of the vent.

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts

These photos were taken during a recent trip to London after Phil won two free tickets to see The Who at Wembly Stadium! I’m well aware of the many ways I am lucky, but lately I’ve been lucky in the competition-winning sense. Long may it continue!

Named Kielo Wrap Dress in Cotton Sateen from Minerva Crafts


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Sudley – Two Ways

Megan Nielsen Sudley

I recently had the opportunity to pattern test the Sudley blouse/dress pattern for Megan Nielsen (test version blogged here). As soon as I finished my test version (in a cotton lawn), I decided I wanted to make the pattern again in a drapier fabric.

Megan Nielsen Sudley

Megan Nielsen Sudley

I picked up this gold knit fabric at Birmingham Rag Market on a recent trip with a few local sewists (organised by Rachel), and thought it might be a good candidate for a Sudley Dress. The fabric was £2 per metre and is a relatively heavy knit with a lot of drape, and a slightly metallic texture and shine. I actually used the reverse of the fabric, as I thought it had a more unusual colour and pattern than the right side.

Megan Nielsen Sudley

Megan Nielsen Sudley

The Sudley pattern is designed for wovens, but it’s a good candidate for substituting for knits due to the loose fit and absence of darts or fastenings. I made Version 3 in size XS, with the sleeves from Version 1. I only made one change to the pattern/construction as a result of using a knit fabric; the pattern instructs you prepare skirts pieces in both main and lining fabrics and attach these to the main and lining bodices respectively. Due to the weight of my fabric, I felt that the weight of the skirt piece was likely to stretch out the bodice, so I only cut a skirt in the main fabric (not the lining) and attached this to both main and lining bodices for extra support. As suggested by the pattern, I cinched in the waist of the dress by attaching elastic around the waistband.

I think the resulting dress actually has a similar silhouette to Colette’s Moneta pattern. I forgot to get any photos of the dress worn in reverse (it is reversible, so the keyhole can be worn at the front).

Megan Nielsen Sudley

Megan Nielsen Sudley

Having completed this dress version, I couldn’t resist also making the blouse Version 1 (minus the collar) so that I could enter the Monthly Stitch’s current Indie Pattern Month, One Pattern, Two Ways contest! I really love the contrast between these two versions.

Megan Nielsen Sudley

Megan Nielsen Sudley

This version is made in stash fabric, purchased as a coupon in Paris a few years ago. The fabric is a border print and I only had scraps left so couldn’t continue the pattern across both sides, but I like the contrast of the finished result. The fabric is beautifully soft and I’ve been hording these last scraps for ages – I only have tiny pieces left but haven’t been able to bring myself to throw them away yet, maybe I’ll be able to use them as a pocket lining!

Megan Nielsen Sudley

Megan Nielsen Sudley

I hand-stitched the blouse and sleeve hems by hand. I thought I’d ignore the instructions for finishing the neckline and keyhole opening and instead turn twice and hand stitch. The finished result looked puckered so I had to rip-out that hand stitching and instead created a facing – which was much more successful. I reduced the depth of the keyhole opening slightly on this version as I find it slightly low for the office on the dress version (although I wore it that way ’round regardless today!).

Megan Nielsen Sudley

I’m looking forward to wearing both of these to work this week – I can never resist wearing new garments the instant that they are finished!


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Floral Woven Linden & Snowdrops

It’s time for this week’s Linden! I will be posting makes from some different patterns soon, but still have a few Linden’s from a recent binge to show you. It’s probably a first for me, as I very rarely use patterns multiple times, but this pattern is so quick and easy (and so good) that I couldn’t resist. I normally struggle with OWOP, but I’m ready for this year’s now!

Floral Linden Sweatshirt

Last Sunday I visited a ‘snowdrop weekend’ at a (relatively) local church, St Leonard’s in Beoley, with my family. We walked around the grounds, which are currently scattered with snowdrops, and had tea and cake inside the church.

I wore my latest Linden, made in fabric from Barry’s. I have completely forgotten what the label on the bolt said about the composition of this fabric. It’s a heavy weight woven, with a slight one-way stretch. The right side of the fabric has a slight pile.

Floral Linden Sweatshirt

Construction wise, I actually made Version A with a few tweaks. I left of the bottom band, instead turning and hemming. I originally cut the full-length sleeves, but realised they were very tight and so cut a length off the bottom and hemmed them. I think they’ve ended up slightly longer than the sleeves from Version B. I also had to significantly lengthen the neck band (which is made from the main fabric); I originally cut the neckband one size larger than the body of my Linden (which I have done for all of my versions to prevent pulling at the neckline). However, in this fabric, with limited stretch, I couldn’t actually get the sweatshirt over my head… So I re-cut the neckband, estimating the extra length, and reattached. It now fits fine.

St Leonard’s Church Beoley

The one issue with making the Linen in a very stiff, non or limited stretch, fabric, is that you may have excess fabric sticking up at the back neckline. However, once I’d attached the neck band, I found that it pulled in the fabric effectively and that the neckline lies flat.

St Leonard’s Church Beoley

The fabric used has a large scale floral print. I centred the print on the front, but cut it at an angle on the back. I didn’t attempt print matching (as you can see), partly because I never do, and partly because I didn’t have enough fabric to attempt it with such a large-scale print. I would definitely get told off on Sewing Bee… (I’m loving this series by the way, although it seems to get harder every time).

Floral Linden Sweatshirt

The Linden is worn here with a beloved RTW skirt and shirt from Oasis, both of which I have had for many years (incidentally, both were gifts from my Nan). I take good care of my clothes so they tend to last a looong time.

Floral Linden Sweatshirt

My brother and his fiance’s miniature dachshund, Rupert, was with us at the church for a run around the grounds. Phil snapped him, as well as me, in his new threads.

Rupert the miniature Dachshund

Rupert the miniature Dachshund