english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Sewing Projects are Never Really Finished

Simple Sew Grace Dress

As mentioned in my last blog post, I recently repaired this little Simple Sew Grace Dress, and then realised that it no longer fitted me. I decided the dress was worth an attempt to make it bigger, and if that didn’t work I’d admit defeat and it would move into my fabric scraps basket.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

I couldn’t gain any ease from the existing seam allowances as I had trimmed and overlocked them very close to the seam line. This is how I’ve always overlocked my projects, and it does give a lovely neat finish, but in future I’m planning to leave larger seam allowances on areas I might want to let out in future. P.S. Gillian has some great tips on sewing for gaining weight on the Sewcialists blog this week.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Luckily, the remnant of fabric left over from making the dress was large enough for me to re-cut the waistband and the back bodice pieces (but not the front bodice). Since the skirt is gathered, it was easy to gain some length there, and I was even able to reuse my existing gathering stitches!

When I made the dress back in 2017, I cut a size 8 at the bust, grading to a 10 at the waist. Referring back to the pattern I found that my measurements now put me into a size 12. I had cut (as opposed to traced) the pattern when I first made the dress, so I worked out approximately how much width to add to the pattern pieces to cut a size 12 back bodice and waistband. Adding all of the additional ease to the back of the bodice meant that the armholes hung slightly low, so I added two short darts at the front armholes to mitigate this.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

I wasn’t sure my fix would work, but I now have a dress which fits me well, if differently than previously. The pattern was designed to have a close fitting bodice and waist, whereas I have some ease (and could probably pop a t-shirt underneath), but if anything it has made it more wearable – especially at the moment, to wear at home or on a walk locally, as in these pictures which we took on our new regular walking route yesterday evening.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

All in all, I’ve now spent quite a bit of time on this simple dress, but it has been fun to successfully rescue a project from my repairs basket, and to problem solve a solution. It’s proof that a sewing project is never really finished.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

There’s still A LOT to work through in my repairs and UFOs baskets. I’m thinking I might tackle my too-small jeans next, but maybe next week!

Simple Sew Grace Dress


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A Dress with Nine Lives

Simple Sew Grace Dress

We’ve been working our way through the house since social distancing began, cleaning and sorting through the contents of all of the drawers and cupboards. Inevitably, I finally reached the baskets containing my UFOs and repairs.

I’m aiming to work my way through the baskets over the next few weeks. I’ve set myself the same goal before, with largely the same contents of the baskets, but with more time at home perhaps I’ll be more successful this attempt? There’s always going to need to be a UFOs basket, but it would be good to empty it and start fresh.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

This dress was the first project I pulled out of the basket. It’s a Simple Sew Grace Dress, which I originally blogged in 2017. I made this dress in a hurry to wear to an event, the fabric frays easily and I was planning to revisit it to stabilise the seams before washing or wearing it again. Unfortunately it accidentally got thrown in the washing machine and emerged with holes along the centre seam.

I carried out a panicky repair job, overlocking everything in sight. In my rush to repair it I did a terrible job of gathering the skirt (which is a bit heavy to gather well), and the waistband was still quite damaged. I wore it a few times (including in those previous blog photos), but then it went it to the repairs basket.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Yesterday I found out a remnant of the fabric I used to sew the dress (which was a gift from Madalynne through a giveaway on her blog), and recut a new waistband. I also regathered and attached the skirt.

It looks so much better now. The only downside is that the dress is now too tight to be comfortable. Partly as a result of me gaining weight since I originally made it, and partly because I was careful to stabilise the waistband this time around, via a combination of underlining and lining.

So, I’ll be revisiting this dress again later today, to see if I can eek out enough ease by reducing the seam allowance at the zip to add this back into my wardrobe this summer.

Simple Sew Grace Dress


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Two Knitted Skating Hats

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

A few months ago, a vintage fashion Instagrammer I follow posted a picture of herself in a ear warmer she had made and I decided I had to have one.

I made a search on Ravelry (ear warmer? head warmer? headband?) and managed to stumble on a free pattern by Julie Bierlein for the Portsmouth knitted skating hat.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in Alafosslopi

This is a simple and well designed pattern, with the option to knit in chunky/bulky or super chunky/bulky yarn. I knit two versions and each one took me two evenings, at a relaxed pace.

I really wanted a pink hat, but I thought I’d test the pattern with some stash yarn first, and used Ístex Álafoss Lopi in Golden Heather for my yellow version. I bought this yarn on a whim during a trip to Sweden back in 2015, and I previously used some of the ball in this hat. I still have loads left so no doubt it will show up on the blog again at some point.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in Alafosslopi

Having tested out the pattern, I ordered some pink yarn for version two. Always keen to support British yarn companies, I chose West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat yarn in the Escape colourway.

Both the yarns I used were chunky weight yarns, but the Alafoss is much firmer, which I think works really well for this pattern. Despite being my test version, my yellow version keeps its shape better and has a crisper silhouette. The soft pink yarn is much softer and has more stretch. I should have compensated for the stretch by knitting the pink hat slightly shorter but I didn’t realise until it was already finished and washed.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

I wasn’t sure how often I would wear these ‘hats’, but I wore them daily during a recent trip to New York. From the perspective of someone with long hair, they do a good job of keeping your head warm, and wearing them doesn’t result in a ‘hat hair’ effect.

For a fairly frivolous looking accessory they are actually quite practical, and easy to roll-up and pop in a pocket or bag when not being worn.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat

I’m currently making a hat which definitely can’t be described as practical, a small pillbox hat to wear to the Dressmakers’ Ball next week, using some leftover fabric from my dress.

This was definitely one time when I was glad to have purchased slightly more fabric than I needed for the dress as I’m also planning to make a matching belt, and maybe a bag. There’s only four days left before the Ball now – wish me luck.

Portsmouth Skating Hat by Julie Bierlein in West Yorkshire Spinners Re:treat


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Drapey Mustard Linden

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

Another week, another Linden!

This Linden features a very simple ‘hack’, and is my entry for the “Stitched with a Twist” Instagram challenge. I’ve been planning to make this Linden since last March when I spotted the sweatshirt below in an email from Uniqlo. I thought it would be easy to recreate using the Linden pattern with the simple addition of some gathering at the neckline (I also fancy recreating the dress on the right with Named’s Inari Dress).

The fabric is from Guthrie & Ghani, and was purchased during their Fifth Birthday Party back in April. I picked an especially drapey knit so that the neckline gathers wouldn’t be too stiff. The fabric feels lovely and has a great sheen to it.

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

I added 5 inches at the neckline of the pattern front to accommodate the gathering. To more closely imitate the inspiration image, I should have reduced the length at the hem and widened the neckband, but I didn’t think about that until after it was constructed.

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

We’ve been to a comic con today, and managed to capture some pictures outside, just in time, as it was getting dark. Birmingham was hectic, so I’m now recovering in my pyjamas, with a mulled drink, and a trashy Christmas film on Netflix. I might even get back to bauble knitting shortly for full Christmassy atmosphere.

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt

Mustard Grainline Studio Linden Sweatshirt


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Resurrected Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

This is the Simple Sew Patterns Grace Dress, which was a freebie with a previous issue of Love Sewing Magazine.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

I’m currently very fond of this dress for a few reasons. Firstly, I made it using a yellow and white cotton/polyester brocade which I won in a little giveaway on Madalynne’s blog. The piece I won was leftover from an adorable two piece set Madalynne made, and which she recently revised in a blog post.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Secondly, I made it especially for a fun little overnight trip to London some months back, and wore it out to party. In typical fashion, I decided to make it for the trip at the last minute, and – from memory – sewed it mostly in one evening. Which leads me on to…

Cannon Hill Park

Thirdly, this dress was brought back from the brink, and given a second chance to live a fulfilling garmenty life. I didn’t realise until I had almost finished making this dress, that the fabric is quite delicate and frays significantly. My overlocker happened to be playing up at the time, and I was attempting to finish it quick to wear out, so I make the decision to wear it out and that afterwards I would hand wash it and overlock the seams.

That plan would have been fine, however I didn’t let Phil in on it, and he threw the dress in the washing machine. My poor dress emerged from the machine ripped in a number of places along both sides of the waistband.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

I allowed sufficient time to sulk, then went back, unpicked the zip and bodice lining, and overlocked the bodice and skirt to the waistband. During the surgery I was attempting to lose as little fabric as possible, which has left the waistband somewhat wonky, and messed up the skirt gathers, but it’s meant this dress has made it past it’s first wear!

Simple Sew Grace Dress

I get a bit of gaping at the front of the armholes which I’ll need to address if making it again, but this is a cute simple party dress, and works really well in a stiffer fabric like this brocade.

It’s pictured in a couple of these photos with a new favourite lace cardigan from People Tree, in 100% cotton, hand knitted in Nepal.

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress

Simple Sew Grace Dress


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Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

I haven’t had much time to sew or to blog lately. What I have been doing is plenty of knitting and podcast-listening, since I can do those on my daily commute. I’ve also had a lovely movie-watching evening today, and have managed to squeeze in four films – I’m considering film number five, but should probably go to bed instead…

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

This is my Lou Lou Dress pattern (View B) made in a mustard luxury crepe from Sew Over It, it’s actually the left-over fabric from when I pattern tested the Joan Dress. The contrast hem is in Atelier Brunette’s ‘twist’ print cotton – another left-over, this time from a Paprika Pattern Onyx Shirt.

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

These photos were taken last Saturday. It was Phil’s birthday and we spent the day mooching around Birmingham city centre, eventually ending up in Digbeth to try a new tap room / bottle shop which has opened in the Custard Factory (Clink Beer).

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

Digbeth has some great graffiti – I was hoping to feature some of my favourites, but taking blog photos is just about Phil’s least favourite thing so I was nice and didn’t pester him to take more photos than these on his birthday!

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

My shoes are Nina Z, purchased from Brooklyn Flea while I was visiting New York. I haven’t worn them in enough yet, as after several hours walking around town I had multiple blisters by the time I got home.

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

Elsewhere

♥ Great podcast interview with Nick Wright about running Ernest Wright & Son, and his relationship with his father; really sensitively done, and also very funny. Plus, their Kickstarter campaign is now over 300% funded – hooray!

♥ A really sweet free wrap knitting pattern from a Verb for Keeping Warm, and free tray and basket pattern from Noodlehead.

♥ Women’s Hour has featured some great interviews with favourites from the knitting and fashion worlds: Kate DaviesFelix Ford, Lara Clements, Livia Firth, & fashion historian Amber Butchart.

♥ While on the subject of audio, I’m OBSESSED with Malcolm Gladwell’s brilliant podcast Revisionist History. I feel like I’m getting an education every episode.

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

Mustard Crepe Lou Lou Dress

 


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Biden

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Last weekend I got the chance to try dyeing with one of the dye plants I grew from seed in  my garden. Of the plants I chose to grow, my biden and marigold plants have done really well. The teasel plants are looking very healthy (the leaves are huge), but don’t yet have any seed heads, which are the section required for dyeing. I’ve had no luck at all with my bee balm and woad plants (only one tiny woad plant survived) so I’ll try again next year and see if I get better results.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

The biden flower heads are the section used for dyeing, so I harvested all the current flower heads, leaving the flower buds for future dyeing / pollinators. I followed the biden dyeing recipe from Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess. The recipe recommends a weight ration of 1:1, e.g. the same weight in flower heads as in fibre. I didn’t have enough flower heads to match the weight of the fibre I wanted to dye, so used approximately 25 grams of biden flowers for just over 100 grams of fibre. As a result, I didn’t achieve as deep an orange as I have seen other dyers achieve, but I was still pretty impressed by the results.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

To create the dye, I placed the biden flowers in a large stainless steel pan with enough water to cover my fibre, and slowly brought the water to approximately 70-80ºC over a one hour period. While the pan was heating up, I placed the fibre I planned to dye in a bucket of cold water, so that it was suitably wet through before being added to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Because natural dyeing can be smelly and messy, I’ve been doing my dyeing outside using a small portable stove.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

After an hour, the water in my pan had taken on a orange colour. At this point the plant matter can be strained out, but I left it in the pan, as I wasn’t too concerned about plant matter getting tangled in my fibre.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I then reduced the heat to 50-70ºC and added my pre-wetted fibre, maintaining the temperature for approximately an hour. After an hour my fibre had clearly taken on the dye so I removed it from the pan and hung it on the line for around thirty minutes before rinsing the yarn and washing the fabric.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

You can see that the water in the pan was a much lighter shade once the fibre had been dyed and removed.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

In addition to a selection of yarns, I used the biden to dye my Paprika Patterns’ Onyx Shirt; made in a cotton double gauze purchased online from Etsy shop Fabric Treasury. I previously dyed the Shirt with paprika, but hadn’t mordanted the fabric in advance of dyeing it, and after a few washes the colour had completely faded.

This time I mordanted the shirt in advance of dyeing using an alum and washing soda recipe from The Craft of Natural Dyeing by Jenny Dean. I dyed some cotton yarn at the same time (the two palest yarns shown on the right in the photos below). To mordant the cotton (which weighed approximately 100g) I dissolved 25g of alum into a large pan of hot water, and then slowly added 6g of washing soda dissolved in water. I added my (pre-wetted) cotton and slowly heated the pan to 82-88ºC over approximately one hour. I then removed the pan from the heat and left the cotton to soak overnight. I gave the cotton a good rinse in cold water before adding it to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I also dyed three wool yarns, shown from left to right:

♥ 100% wool DK (TOFT Alpaca, in Oatmeal)
♥ 100% merino wool chunky (Rowan Big Wool)
♥ 75% merino / 20% silk / 5% cashmere DK (Sublime)

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I mordanted the wool yarns using a recipe shared by my guild. I prepared small skeins, tied with figure-of-eight ties in several places, and soaked these overnight. I dissolved 8g of alum and 7g cream of tartar (available in the baking section of supermarkets) for every 100g of fibre in a pan with a small amount of warm water. I topped up the pan with enough water to cover my fibre and added the yarn. I put the pan on a low heat so that it reached simmering (approximately 82-88ºC) over an hour, and then maintained this heat for a further hour. I then removed the pan from the heat and left the yarn to soak overnight. I rinsed the yarn in cold water before adding it to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Turmeric

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

I recently dyed a range of yarns, some cotton, and my recently completed knitted socks, with turmeric.

In preparation, I tied the loops of yarns in a number of places, and then soaked the yarn, fabric and socks in cold water so that they would take the dye better.

I made a paste with a full jar of ground turmeric from the supermarket (approx 45g), and placed this and my yarn and cotton in a large stainless steel pot with enough water to cover everything.

Turmeric dyeing in progress

I heated the pan on the hob on a low temperature for one hour. As I was more cautious about my socks I added these for the last 30 minutes only.

I did stir the pan occasionally to try and ensure the colour would be even, but didn’t stir excessively as I was wary about the wool items felting.

After an hour I turned off the heat, but left the items in the pan for another couple of hours, after which I rinsed the items with a mild wool wash, and left them to dry.

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

The yarns I started with were all white or off-white. The yarns used (shown from left to right below) were:

♥ 40% Polyester, 33% Acrylic, 27% Cotton, containing glitter and sequins (Sirdar Soukie DK, in Gold Dust)

♥ 100% cotton (Rowan handknit cotton)

♥ 75% merino / 20% silk / 5% cashmere DK (Sublime)

♥ 100% wool DK (TOFT Alpaca, in Oatmeal)

♥ 100% merino wool chunky (Rowan Big Wool)

Yarn prepared for dyeing

You can see the range of yellows I achieved below. The cotton fabric and yarn (on the left) are the lightest, the synthetic yarn (top) and merino/silk/cashmere blend (centre) are a medium shade, and the 100% wool yarns and socks achieved the darkest shades.

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

Turmeric is a substantive dye, so I dyed these without mordanting my yarn / fabric. However, turmeric is reported to fade easily, so if you’re dyeing something that you plan to wash, it would be best to mordant. I wasn’t concerned because I’m planning to use the yarn in a weaving, and if the colour of the socks fades I’ll redye them.

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

Turmeric Dyes Wool Socks

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

Turmeric Dyed Yarns


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Anyone for Tennis?

The day after the Birmingham sewing blogger meet-up I bought yet more fabric! I had no excuse but when I spotted this tennis-themed retro fabric I couldn’t resist. I found it in the Sue Ryder charity shop in Kings Heath. Anyone living locally may want to check it out as they had a selection of old patterns, as well as some cool vintage tea towels and other interesting bits and bobs.

Retro Tennis Yellow & Green Fabric

I have around one metre of the fabric. I really ought to make something tennis themed – does anyone have any ideas? I’m thinking perhaps a short skirt or a tank / polo shirt.