english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


In Conclusion, My 2018 (Part 2)

Sewing Machine

Having blogged a round-up of my sewing activity, I also wanted to write a little about my experience at work over the last year.

I wrote briefly before about being asked to ‘act up’ to a more senior role at work during 2017. During that time, my workload was obscene, and I was expected to make decisions on the direction of my team within the context of the whole organisation, whilst being wholly excluded from my department’s management team and their plans, and with no support (and a lot of hindrance) from the same management team to implement improvements or reduce my workload. The final straw for me was receiving an email from an external consultant who had been employed without my knowledge to ‘mentor’ me in the role, and had started in post while I was on a training course. This person had been given authority for all decisions on the direction of my team which had previously sat with me, and in my first meeting with them I was assigned a long list of menial tasks. This was when I decided to stop ‘acting up’. This person was a man, and he was included in the department’s management team and decision making process from the start.

I wasn’t yet ready to leave the organisation; I loved my colleagues, and I thought that if I went back to my old job I would be happy working there. A couple of months later my department made a job offer for the same role as mine at a significantly higher salary (approximately 20% difference). It was then I realised that, despite being the longest serving member of the team, taking on some of the most difficult work, and having recently been personally asked to ‘act up’ and manage my peers, I was actually one of the lowest paid staff in my peer group (the vast majority of whom were men). The salary different was significant, and it was highly unlikely (based on the internal scheme for pay increase) that I would ever be able to achieve a comparable salary. The issue was exacerbated by the fact that my department was in the throes of an obsession with external consultants, all male, who were paid almost double my salary for the same work.

Sewing Machine

Obviously, I challenged this. Initially internally within the department, and then via the formal organisational route. Unfortunately my grievance didn’t have a hope. I was assigned a Chair to review my case whose impartiality I highly doubted and challenged in advance of my hearing, requesting an alternative. I was informed that an alternative wasn’t possible, and told that my fears were unfounded. I walked into a hearing (accompanied by a good friend) intending to highlight an issue of fairness, and was made to feel like I was on trial.

My action of raising the grievance was described to me as being ‘unethical’, and the focus was never on fair pay, but on discrediting me and distributing blame. It was a very sad and demotivating experience. There was one small positive to come out of the meeting, which was that I was granted three years of back pay, but on a technicality as opposed to being associated with an admission of unfairness. I bought myself a new sewing machine (a Pfaff Quilt Ambition 2.0) with some of the money, as a way of creating a positive out of something negative, and to celebrate my willingness to challenge, however unsuccessfully.

Sewing Machine

I retreated a bit further from the management team, and projects which would require working closely with them, after the grievance, but it was seeing friends treated equally unfairly during a restructure over the summer which confirmed to me that I needed to leave. On the day that the restructure was announced I stated my intention to leave, and three months later I handed my notice in to join a new employer.

Now that I have some distance from my previous employer I wanted to write about my experience, since when I briefly mentioned it on Instagram I had many people tell me they have been through, or are currently going through, similar experiences. I know not everyone is in a position where they feel they are able to challenge unfairness. Gender pay gaps (and other issues of unfairness) persist because of organisations which belittle and vilify anyone who challenges the status quo, and people will put up with an awful lot to continue working alongside people they care about (I did, for a long time). I hope you live and work in environments where you feel safe enough and respected enough to challenge, and if not, I hope you are able to move on in the new year, to somewhere where you can be respected for being yourself.


2014: A Wrap-Up

Happy New Year everyone!

National Day fireworks in Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong
National Day fireworks in Hong Kong


I started this blog over Christmas, back in 2011. That was mine and Phil’s first Christmas in our house, so 2014 marks our fourth Christmas living together. I often start new hobbies and projects over the Christmas break; last year I took up knitting and since then I’ve completed the projects pictured below. I’ve just made a start on my next knitting project – a vintage inspired sweater – which I’m knitting as part of the instagram #sundaysweaterkal hosted by Jen (@grainlinestudio), Jess (@shoplamercerie), & Amy (@seamstressandtheband).

Hand Knitted Baubles      Myrna Cardigan Andi Satterlund      Handmade Knitted Rug      Knitted Lavender Bags      Handmade Kate Davies Owls Jumper      Hand Knitted Fox Draft Excluder

This Christmas, my main project has been making a coat for Phil, I just have a few finishing touches left before it’s complete. Although I’ve had this blog since 2011, it started off as a general craft blog, and it was only during 2013 that I really began to focus – in both my crafting and blogging – on sewing clothes. During 2014 I managed to complete all the projects below, which are also listed on my My Makes page, plus a couple of projects I am yet to blog. My sewing has come on massively in the last year and I can see huge improvements just since the start of the year. I set myself the loose goal of sewing three new-to-me items of clothing during 2014, trousers, a swimsuit, and a coat, and I met my goal.

Madrid Tote Bag      Blue Wool Blend Oslo Cardigan      Francoise Dress, Tilly & the Buttons in Purple Wool      The Dolores Batwing Dress, So Zo, in Ghent, Belgium      Casper & Wendy Bag from Handmade Bags in Natural Fabrics by Emiko Takahashi      IMG_6516

Waxprint Maya Dress      Hand Printed Fabric Swap Lou Lou Dress      Sew Over It Silk Cami      Kimono      Closet Case Files Bombshell Swimsuit      Lou Lou Dress Version B

Lou Lou Dress Version A      Dolores Pocket Skirt in vintage fabric      Colette Sorbetto Top with Turkish Cotton      Vintage Simplicity 3688 19040s Trousers      Handmade Colette Patterns Zinnia Skirt      Handmade Tilly & the Buttons Mimi Blouse

Handmade Vintage Dress      Handmade Afternoon Blouse      Homemade Star Trek Mini Skirt      Homemade Star Trek Reversible Bag      Handmade Leather Bag      Pink Victoria Blazer By Hand London

Handmade Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress      By Hand London Anna Dress in Horse Print      Homemade Detachable Collar      Handmade Burda Waterfall Top      Grainline Studio Archer Shirt


My Etsy shop had it’s best year so far, with 53 orders received. Quite a few of those orders were received in the run up to Christmas keeping me busy making and posting pandas. This year I received my first orders from Saudi Arabia and Columbia, in addition to orders from the UK, US, Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and Ireland.


As we all know, one of the best things about the online sewing community is when we get the chance to meet in person.

Back in October, I organised the #SewBrum meet-up. Around 56 sewists attended to visit the fabric shops and market in Birmingham, and Guthrie & Ghani in Moseley. In addition to having a good shop and natter we raised £320 for Parkinson’s UK.

SewBrum Meet-Up

I attended a number of meet-ups: #NYlon2014 in May organised by Rachel, #CCBloggers meet-up in Derby organised by Sam and Kat, and the Paris meet-up in November organised by Carmen. I took part in a few sew-alongs, including the Francoise Dress and Archer Shirt, and finished my first knitted jumper as part of Kat and Sabs’ knit-along. I also pattern tested for indie designers this year for the first time.

Pattern Design

During 2014, I also designed my first sewing pattern, the Lou Lou dress, as part of the Monthly Stitch’s Project Indie competition. I rushed to get the pattern ready for the competition so made quite a few changes afterwards, before it was submitted to my lovely pattern testers in October. The pattern will eventually be released once I finish working through the tester feedback received.

Home & Work

During 2014, me and Phil visited Paris twice, Brussels, Istanbul, and the Lake District.

Paris, April 2014Brussels, BelgiumSpice Bazaar IstanbulVintage Simplicity 3688 19040s Trousers

Back in August 2013, I started a new job at a different university (I’m a project manager within higher education). The job involved fairly extensive travel (much more than was advertised) and between August 2013 and November 2014 I traveled to Istanbul approximately 18-19 times for work. It learned a lot from the job and it was good to have a taste of an international role, but it wasn’t for me long term. I’ve always been someone who books lots of tickets in advance for the theatre, movie screenings, etc. and it made it impossible as I never knew when I’d need to travel at short notice. I also lost quite a few weekends travelling, which meant losing precious crafting time. At the end of November 2014, I started a new job with the same employer but in a different team and it’s been a great move – the job and team seem great, and I no longer need to travel regularly. I’ve already booked tickets for three plays and a Video Games Live concert (which is amazing by the way; I saw it in Manchester a few months back) for early 2015:)

Massive thanks to everyone who reads the blog, and for all comments received. I’m not very good at replying or at commenting on other people’s blogs but I hugely appreciated all comments received & I love reading what everyone else is up to (I follow A LOT of blogs). I’m looking forward to the next 12 months of sewing, blogging, and chatting – online and in person.

Now to finish that coat, while watching the end of Bugsy Malone.