Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Sewing The Seventies – The Deep Purple Shirt

Although I finished this shirt a while back, there has been the usual lack of daylight for taking decent photos in the last two weeks. Or at least a lack of decent weather combined with moments away from work. The winter gloom seems to be a common moan for us UK bloggers in the darker months, but we’re moving away from the winter season and I hope there’ll be more opportunities to get outside, take photos and indeed not fear hypothermia in the process.

Anyway, on with the topic of this post, which is my second make for Sewing The Seventies. I made the shirt from Simplicity 5196. I’ve already made a sweater using this pattern, so why not go for the shirt too?

Simplicity 5196

There are some great details on this shirt – the big collar, the epaulettes and the little patch pocket. I chose a purple rayon fabric for my version, which was a very cheap fabric (if I recall about £4.50 from Fabric Land), but it has a very nice drape, even if it is a bit prone to looking crumpled. I blame it on needing to wearing a jumper and coat to get me to my photo location, because that shirt wasn’t so crumpled when I put it on in the morning!

Simplicity 5196 Shirt

I made very little in terms of alterations to the pattern, merely widening the back body a little, to accommodate my wider shoulders, which is a typical pattern alteration for me. I did change a couple of things during the construction though. I added interfacing to the front button and button-hole bands. Most patterns seem to include this, so I’m not sure why Simplicity 5196 does not. I just felt more comfortable including the interfacing; it makes be feel more confident with adding the buttonholes. The only other detail I changed was accidental. I fixed my patch pocket to the right side of the shirt, whereas the instructions add it to the left-side. I did realise my mistake, but a little belatedly and thought that it could be more disastrous to change it than leave the pocket where it was.

Simplicity 5196 Shirt

All in all, I really enjoyed this make. I also feel more on solid ground with wovens and particularly items like shirts. I’ve been making a few knit items recently and I still feel anxious when I make those.

I’ve worn the shirt a few times now to work teamed with skirts and also at the weekends with jeans. It works for the casual and the more dressed up look too. My favourite thing about this shirt are the lilac buttons, which I think are rather a statement.

Simplicity 5196 Shirt

I observed something as I was looking around some clothes shops the other day. I periodically take a look now for inspiration, since I no longer buy anything in them. I noticed that big collars are simply non-existent, the little collar or mandarin collar is everywhere, but sadly dramatic collars are completely absent. No fear, I can roll with this alternative look! I hope, unlike in my youth there are no fashion police and I won’t be arrested!

Simplicity 5196 Shirt





Sewing the Seventies – Inspiration Part 1 Fabrics

Welcome to the first of my inspiration posts for Sewing The Seventies. I’ve had a long look at fabrics that can be bought on line (window shopping is great!) and here’s a selection of available fabrics that I think reflect the seventies aesthetic.

I’ve tried to show a wide selection including both wovens and knits, a range of prices and fabrics that would work for dresses, trousers, skirts and tops. I even tried to include fabrics from shops other than in the UK, but I’m not an expert on these, so forgive me if there aren’t too many in the suggestions below. My main aim was just to show that it is possible to find some seventies-looking fabrics out there and if you find some good alternatives out there, leave a comment below!

First of all here are the floral offerings. I think it really is the combinations of colours that mark these fabrics out for me; combinations of browns, mustards and purple that you don’t tend to see too often these days.


1. Cotton Poplin from Minerva Crafts

2. Cotton Jersey from Mood Fabrics

3. Lightweight cotton with Lycra from Mood Fabrics

4. Viscose crepe from Truro Fabrics

5. Cotton poplin from Tessuti Fabrics

6. Viscose Stretch Crepe from Stone Fabrics

I’m not sure all those geometric patterns are necessarily just applicable to the seventies. Number 6 below is definitely more a mod design and number 1 I’ve seen made up into a 1940s style dress, but make a jumpsuit out of it and it is pure seventies!


1. Linen and viscose from Fabric Godmother

2. Rayon from CentrePoint Fabrics

3. Cotton Jersey from Minerva Crafts

4. Silk Organza from Tessuti Fabrics

5. Silk Charmeuse from Britex Fabrics

6. Cotton poly blend jersey from Girl Charlee

Chevrons and Stripes

Chevrons and stripes were very popular in the 1970s. Really wish the photo above was in colour! There are lots of striped fabrics about and a whole selection of chevron knits at Girl Charlee. I particular like the Missoni fabrics (see number 3 below) – I just wish they weren’t so expensive.


1. Viscose Elastane Jersey from Stone Fabrics

2. Cotton Jersey from Fabric Godmother

3. Missoni Knit from Minerva Crafts

4. Cotton Elastane Rib from Stoff and Stil

Paisley fabrics are great for tunics and creating the boho looks of the early 1970s. My favourite is the Stof and Stil paisley (number 2) which is a border style print.

paisley1. Polyester Jersey from White Tree Fabrics

2. Woven cotton from Stoff and Stil

3. Silk cotton from Shaukat

4. Cotton Lawn from Truro Fabrics

70s Tartan

The following group show bottom-weight fabrics. Corduroy is a great choice for flares or dungaree dresses. Tartan was also popular in the seventies, why not go punk with Royal Stewart tartan (number 2).


1. Needlecord from Croft Mill

2. Wool polyester blend from Minerva Crafts

3. Wool tartan from Stone Fabrics

4. Jumbo corduroy from Plush Addict


My Seventies Pattern Stash

Today, I’m going to take you on a tour of my pattern stash (or at least the 1970s patterns in it). Over the last few years I have collected, mostly from charity shops, patterns that interest me. I sometimes pick a pattern from Ebay or Etsy if I am particularly keen on it and it is hard to get elsewhere.

Maudella 5825 (no date)

I love the artwork on the front of this pattern. The lady in the sun glasses looks so cool. I also like the fabric combination that she is wearing – very bold and very seventies!


Simplicity 6576 (1974)

I particularly like View 4 on this pattern, where there is a different fabric for the inset at the waist and the collar. Although, I would like to make this blouse, I’ve not yet spotted the ideal fabric combination yet, so it’s a make that may sit on the back-burner for a while.

Simplicity 6576

Simplicity 5196 (1972)

This is one of my favourites. The pattern contains a shirt, bias-cut skirts and a turtleneck jumper. I do like it when I see a good-value pattern that contains a ready-made outfit. I have already made up a version of the sweater here, but this won’t be the only time I make something from this pattern, you can be sure!

Simplicity 5196

Style 2680 (1979)

This pattern is one of the few patterns that I have actually tried. It wasn’t a particularly successful make, because the fabric wasn’t good quality. I would like to make another top from this pattern as I liked the casual style and it was a comfortable top to wear, even though I didn’t wear it much.

Style 2680

Butterick 3065 (no date)

This is a pattern I got from Etsy. There don’t seem to be many jeans patterns from the seventies out there to pick up, so I grabbed this one when I saw it. I suppose it is because those of us who sew jeans are clearly mad and gluttons for punishment. Making a pair of jeans is a serious amount of sewing; they certainly aren’t a “whip-it-up-in-an hour” make.

I like that there are two views on this pattern and the button-fly in view A is an interesting design detail.

Butterick 3065

Butterick 5024 (no date)

These shirts are from the late seventies and I can see how much the styles have changed. The collars are less eccentric for starters. But this pattern is a good classic shirt pattern and comes with mandarin collar and pocket variations.

Butterick 5024

Style 1522 (1976)

This was a charity buy for a few pence. There are some patterns from the seventies that on initial look don’t look too inspiring. I suppose this is one of them. It’s surprising how the choice of fabrics can influence how I feel about a pattern. I just can’t see myself wearing the striped green or gingham version at all. But hey, a tunic in an indigo chambray, teamed with a belt, as in View 3 I think would look good. Could a version be made in a knit fabric, with a bit of tweaking to make it more body hugging around the hips and waist? I can see some possibilities in this pattern after all.

Style 1522

Simplicity 6451 (1974)

This pattern falls into the same category as the one above. Initial look and I’m not sure about this at all. I like green and brown, but these shades are really putting me off and this pattern is giving off polyester vibes for me. Plus, seventies ideas about layering are creeping in here. I had a teacher at primary school who used to wear turtle necks with unbuttoned shirts over the top, and the brown outfit is reminding me of her!

But I do like the dress in the middle. I think it could make a good summer dress. I can see it in a linen or linen/cotton, perhaps in a vibrant shade.

The trousers are a little odd though. Whoever puts a back zip in trousers, surely that must be inconvenient?

Simplicity 6451

Simplicity 5561 (1973)

This pattern could be either an elegant evening dress or a thrown-on summer outfit. Trouble is, although I like both designs I think these are patterns are for the lifestyle I don’t have. I can imagine wearing the maxi version to a evening event or ball during the winner. The jacket would work so well as an extra layer. I’m sure I would wear the shorter-length version all through the hot months of July and August in Italy, but sadly I don’t live there. I can dream though……

Simplicity 5561

Simplicity 7863 (1977)

A seventies classic here, this pattern is a wrap skirt. I’m sure this would be a super easy make considering it is a “How To Sew” pattern. I’m actually quite drawn to the View 3 variation with the extra ruffle, not sure why!


I’m come to the end of my seventies hoard, although I felt sure I had some more – they must be on long-term loan to my Mum.

Do you have any seventies patterns in your collection? Do they just languish there, or do you have a favourite that you have sewn several times? What draws you to rescue an unloved seventies pattern from the box in the charity shop?

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Sewing The Seventies


In a well-timed coincidence the Monthly Stitch‘s challenge for February is to sew something from the decade you are born in. If you are a seventies child and like me, a monthly stitcher, you might be interested in the “Sewing the Seventies” challenge I’m running here. There’s even the opportunity to win a prize!

Sewing The Seventies – The Launch

Well that vote certainly did not go as we expected! Which is great 🙂 Looking at those results however…don’t think you’ve gotten off from those other two options 😉 Se get hunting because in February we’ll be sewing patterns from the decade you were born in. To the thrift shop! (Or Mum’s stash…) #TMSthroughtheDecades #TheMonthlyStitch

via Announcing the February Challenge! — The Monthly Stitch


Sewing The Seventies – The Launch

Maxi evening dresses

The time has come! Sewing the Seventies has arrived! Without further ado, here’s the important information:

What is Sewing the Seventies?

It is a new sewing challenge to make clothing inspired by the fashions of the seventies.

The challenge starts today and you have until 26th March to sew your garment or outfit.


How do I join in with Sewing the Seventies?

You are all invited, no matter where you live.

  1. Leave a comment on this post if you are interested.
  2. Write a post about your seventies make in the next two months including at least three pictures of each make.
  3. The post must have “Sewing The Seventies” in the title
  4. Add a link back here to the Steely Seamstress site so that others can see what Sewing the Seventies is all about.
  5. Grab the Sewing the Seventies button. The code on my side bar can be copied and pasted into a Text Widget on WordPress, or you can download the image and use it on your site.
  6. I will share all your posts on this site towards the end of March.

I’m a slow at sewing, or I have lots of other sewing to do?

I know the feeling! Life just keeps getting in the way of my sewing plans too. That’s why the challenge is open for two months for more sewing time. I’m not in Team Super-Productive either – entering just one garment is fine too!

I don’t have any vintage seventies patterns?

No problem! This challenge is all about the seventies vibe, so using a modern pattern with a seventies look or a seventies-inspired fabric is great too.

In fact, I’m planning to write a few “inspiration” posts in the next month, with lots of suggestions, watch out for those!

Tell me now! What’s the prize?

I think I’m going to keep you all in suspense for a little longer! It will include fabric though – yay! And I am so sad I’m going to be giving it away, because I just want to use it myself!

Camouflaged at Kew


Sewing the Seventies – A Stripy Sweater

It seems I haven’t written about a make for a while. I have been busy sewing, but just haven’t blogged anything yet. This is because I always find this time of year difficult for taking photos and I’ve chickened out and gone for the inside shots. Unfortunately, the dehumidifier is lurking in some of the pictures and I’m not sure I like the bright yellow walls as a backdrop for my makes!


This is my first make for “Sewing the Seventies”. It is quite a simple project, and there will be more to follow. I chose to make the top from Simplicity 5196 in a sweater knit. The pattern is from 1972. There are actually three patterns in this envelope and it seems to be one of those great whole wardrobe packages – a jumper, a shirt, a skirt (in different lengths) and they are all wearable designs.


The fabric came from Barry’s in Birmingham and is 100% wool. It was quite expensive (about £20 a metre I seem to remember), but it has a really luxurious feel to it.

Although it came with that dreaded “dry clean only” tag, I did gently hand-wash it prior to cutting out the pattern and it seemed to cope well with that. I expect it will cope with repeated hand-washing. I never get anything dry-cleaned and generally so long as the water isn’t too hot and the wool isn’t agitated too much, a hand-wash is fine for wool.

I suppose that the jersey knits of the 1970s were quite different from modern knits in terms of their capacity to stretch. The pattern has a back seam and a zip inserted in the collar so that it can be easily pulled over the head. My sweater knit is very stretchy and I felt confident that I could do away with this back seam and attach the collar as a whole to the body. This new approach did make it harder to fit the pattern pieces onto the fabric, as I now needed to place the back piece on a fold rather than create two back pieces, but I managed somehow to squeeze everything on.

Initially, I cut out a standard size 12, but I soon realised that this was actually far too big! Again, probably a reflection on the lack of stretchiness of 1970s knits. I wish I’d realised that before, as I wouldn’t have spent so much time trying to get my pattern pieces to fit on to the fabric, it would have been much easier! So after a little trimming at the shoulders, on the side seams and arm seams, I finally got a fit I was happy with. It is still somewhat larger than the pattern envelope shows, my version isn’t tight fitting, but I wish to wear long-sleeved t-shirts underneath this sweater and a more relaxed fit is required for that.

My next problem was with how to finish the sleeve, body and neck hems. I decided to read the very helpful information in this guide from Seamwork on sweater knits. One of the suggestions was to use interface with a strip of stretch fabric and catch-stitch the hem by hand. I used some of the remaining tissue knit to do this and sewed this into the hem with catch-stitching and then finished with the hand catch-stitching. This made quite a satisfactory finish.


I also used a trick that I saw on a RTW sweater knit for the collar. The lower portion of the the collar, where it joins the body has the seam directed to the inside, but higher up the seam shows on the outside. I sewed it like this to make sure that the seam doesn’t show when the collar is folded when it is worn.



Altogether this was rather a quick make and has made a much-needed new winter jumper for me. I’ve also expanded my frontiers on knit fabrics. I really enjoyed sewing the sweater knit. It was a very amenable fabric – there was no curling and it was easy to cut out too. It’s difficult to find 100% wool sweater knit fabrics in the shops. I suppose it is because of the price, which some might consider a little steep, but compared to a ready-to-wear jumper the expense doesn’t really compare. I shall keep an eye out for more fabrics like this.


What do you think? A good adaptation of a seventies pattern?


Don’t forget, you still have until Sunday lunchtime (Midday GMT) to enter the Seventies Giveaway. Please take a look.