Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Excitement followed by disappointment – KwikSew K4028

For a long time I’ve realised that knits are my nemesis and I have wanted to change this. I thought that perhaps a extended practice with these fabrics might cure me. But buying knits via the internet can be a hit and miss affair. Often it is difficult to tell the weight and the drape without handling the fabric. Anyway, imagine my delight when I entered Fashion Fabrics a few weeks ago and found that they had a fantastic selection of fine viscose-lycra knits which draped deliciously. I immediately bought a few metres in different colours – a lime green, a beige and a burgundy. I pondered possible makes and I’ve now sewn the first two of my t-shirts.

The first garment I made was a fairly straight-forward t-shirt. I’ll model that one another day; it’s a bit chilly today. For the second make, I chose a pattern that would show off the drape of the fabric. The blurb describes K4028 as pullover tops with extended shoulder seams. Version A has a cowl collar and short sleeves. Version B has a draped collar and long sleeves.

Although it doesn’t say this is possible on the pattern, the two front pieces of the top are interchangeable (i.e. the circumference of the short sleeves are the same – I measured this), therefore it is possible to make the two designs either with short or long sleeves. I decided to make View A, the cowl collar version, but with long sleeves.

I don’t as a general rule tend to buy paper patterns, unless it is picked up at a charity shop. I’ve never sewn a Kwik Sew pattern before. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps I just never found a pattern that inspired me before. So, I was quite surprised by the quality of the paper in the pattern; it definitely didn’t feel as flimsy as the usual paper in modern patterns. Actually it felt more like my vintage patterns in this respect, consequently it was a pleasure to trace it according to my size (which is what I usually do).I did make one adjustment up-front on the pattern. Based on my experiences with RTW clothes, I find that low cut tops tend to be waaaaay too low cut, so I did a quick measurement on the top front and decided to raise the cleavage by about two inches. It seems I wasn’t the only person to do this, the Mahogany stylist found this too. I then whizzed the top up on my overlocker. It was very easy to put together. Apparently, Kwik Sew pattern are renowned for their instructions and I will agree that they were easy to follow, with very decent drawings. As suggested, I used strips of stretch interfacing on the shoulder seams. After standing in front of the mirror, I concluded that the arms were a little floppy. I skimmed an extra couple of centimetres off their width. Next, figured out the ideal length for the sleeves and body. I kept these quite long intentionally. They are certainly longer than on the pattern envelope, where the top finishes at hip level, but I like the idea of a cosy tunic length top.




At first, I must admit I was quite proud of my make. It certainly looks like one of my more successful knit garments, but when I stopped just wearing it in front of the mirror and actually wore it for a full day, I started to get worried about that cowl collar. It still seems a bit too low cut and revealing for my liking. I think I can see why I made the error with this. When the top sits as it is supposed to, it looks fine. But in everyday life we move (well of course we do!) and that neck aperture is wide and the cowl just slips further forward than I had originally thought would be acceptable. This all made me ponder. I looked at the model on the envelope. I think the cowl looks in a similar place on her as it does on me. But, is my neck unduly thin? Thinner than the model’s neck? Or is it that the model simply doesn’t move, unlike real people?


If the neck hole was smaller, I reckon the cowl would stay in place better. The seam at the back of the cowl, where it attaches to the body of the top does seem to sit a bit low too. Perhaps if the back of the cowl was closer to the neck the cowl wouldn’t shift forward when I lean over. You can see how deep it is at the back in the photo below. Actually the back view looks super cool. Is there any otehr way I could stop the collar flopping forward? Deep sigh, perhaps I should have anticipated all the problems with the cowl.

The other thing I am worried about is the sheer weight of the cowl. Will this induce stretching in the neck hole? I really hope not! Is this likely? I can’t say in my experience I have come across t-shirts stretching from the shoulder, even if they don’t have any extra support there, so perhaps it will be fine. Do other patterns recommend perhaps some clear elastic here, for support?

The next problem that I can see with the top, and it is pretty obvious on the photos, is the thinness of the fabric. Sorry, about this folks, but I’m suffering from that thin fabric, cold day problem. Yep, there are two prominent points of interest showing…you know what I mean! If I’m going to wear this I seriously need to think about layering, to make it more respectable. I’m not sure what would look best – perhaps a camisole underneath (similar to how the other version of the pattern is modelled, see below), or a long floppy cardigan on top. Neither of which I have…..

The final disappointment, came today, after I’ve been wearing my top for a second day. Pilling, that bobbling effect that you can sometimes get on fabric. The pilling appears to be at the hip, perhaps where the fabric rubs against my coat. I’m gutted, I hope that the pilling is just localised and doesn’t get worse. After all, I have bought three lots of this fabric and I haven’t made the third top.


As I’m typing this up, I’m feeling sad about the whole experience and I still feel thwarted in my efforts to get to grip with sewing knits. It does seem that every time I sew with a knit fabric, I’m confronted with more variables that throw me off course. However, the top itself is actually comfortable to wear (bar the frequent adjustments to stop flashing too much flesh). I think I would definitely nail the fit of this top next time I make it, so that is probably the only plus from this fiasco. But, what fabric should I use? I don’t want to use more of this fabric if it is just going to pill. Is it possible to figure out what fabric is likely to pill and avoid it? I have a couple of viscose-lycra knits that are thicker and they don’t suffer from this. Likewise a bamboo viscose t-shirt doesn’t suffer from this problem. Perhaps I could purchase some more of that.  I just have to put this all down to experience, persevere with the third knit garment I’m going to sew and then choose a woven fabric for my next garment to get over the disappointment!



Sewing The Seventies – Hippy Jeans

I’m finally writing this post even though I finished my jeans a while back and worn them loads. I had a horrendous week of flu / cold. The weather has been really warm and it feels so odd feeling ill and indeed sunbathing whilst blowing my nose every thirty seconds!

Anyway, on with the jeans. I did a lot of measuring and fitting and re-fitting. I found this post here a very good explanation when it comes to understanding crotch seam shape.

I didn’t just alter the shape and shorten crotch, because that would have distorted the alignment of the front pattern piece and caused the front pieces to be longer than the back pieces. Fortunately, there was so much fabric in this area, that I was able to completely remodel the crotch seam – make it flatter or less curved and also shorter, which seems to suit my body shape. I think it is possible to see the original seam allowance line in the photo below (in pencil) compared to the new seam allowance line (in red)

Making buttonholes has always been one of my least favourite things. I think it is because you need to cut into the fabric and there is no going back if you make a mistake. (So, I check and double-check that I’m putting those buttonholes on the correct side of my jeans!). However, I think hammering the buttons into the jeans has now surpassed my fear of buttonhole-making. I dread to think how difficult it would be to get them out if a mistake was made and whether it would be possible to save the jeans from a very radical remodeling (or massive tantrum, for that matter!) if a mistake had been made. Anyway, I did manage to hammer the jeans buttons in and I think they look fantastic. They really do make my jeans look professional.

Seventies Jeans

The waistband was a bit of a pain. This was simply because I hadn’t managed to translate my waistline adjustment on my front and back trouser pieces properly to the front and back facings and I spent a good deal of head-scratching trying to work out where I had gone wrong. It didn’t help that the instructions were rather confusing too at this point. I did make one small change which I like to my facings. Rather than just finish the facings by making a standard hem, I finished mine with some bias binding. Even the inside of my jeans looks cool now! Thought about taking another photo of this, but it’s getting late now and the light has gone…..perhaps another day.

Bad pose, but I was in a silly mood!

Final comments on my jeans – wow these are comfy! I am been wearing them non-stop for a week. Yes, seriously, I think they may have to be prised off me to go in the wash. I would definitely like to make another pair, although these did take several weeks to make.


Sewing The Seventies – The results are in!

Camouflaged at Kew

We have a winner! Congratulations to Katie from Katie Writes Stuff who wins my seventies themed fabric. A thoroughly deserved win!

Thanks also to Meg from Pigeon Wishes who took part too. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.

For all of you who thought about entering or read these posts, I think you’ve persuaded me that “Sewing The Seventies” is a good idea and it will be back next year! I have lots more ideas (yes, already!) to make it into a bigger and more involving challenge.



Sewing The Seventies – What have we made? Get voting!

The last few days have been a bit manic for me I must admit. My brain is a little mashed, but I’ve got that euphoria that you only get when you’ve managed to get through a particular mind-scrambling exam. You’re probably wondering why on earth I made Sewing The Seventies coincide with an exam date – the reason is simple Sewing The Seventies was a definite in my diary before the wretched exam! What do they say about all the best plans……

Anyway, with no more ado, here are the participants:

Katie from Katie Writes Stuff

A very seventies bias-cut tartan skirt (Simplicity Pattern 6573) and a beautiful jumper with cables (Seventies pattern). You look cool even in 28 degrees heat!

By the way, melt downs are necessary when deadlines loom and does everyone I know who sews have a helpful cat? Watch the video here (That’s just a screengrab below from the video, just so that you get an idea of the outfit).

Meg from Pigeon Wishes

Meg has sewn a qipao or chongsam dress (Simplicity Pattern 5010). And if like me, you didn’t know, that’s the name given to Chinese-style dresses with a mandarin collar and slit skirt.

The dress is such a timeless classic design and the fabric certainly gives it a seventies vibe. There are more photos on Meg’s blog here.

You know what, Simplicity did such great wearable patterns in the Seventies, I don’t find it a coincidence at all that we’ve all picked one for Sewing The Seventies.

Vote below for your favourite. The voting lasts a week – I’ll announce the winner then! Good luck!


Sewing The Seventies – Link your makes up with this post!

A big thank you to everyone who has joined in and for all your comments and encouragement. I have really enjoyed the last couple of months sewing with a seventies vibe. It’s been great knowing that I have finally made some garments from my stack of vintage seventies pattern. I’ve also loved creating garments with designs that I just don’t see too much on the High Street – big collars and far-out flares! I hope you’ve felt the same too.

Is this a dress or a manhole cover?

To enter the competition to win the seventies-themed fabric (see this post), please enter a link to your post detailing your makes in the comments. For your post, please refer to the rules post here for further information.

I’m hoping that tomorrow I’ll be able to compile a post showcasing all your makes. I thought I’d carefully planned a good window of opportunity to devote the time I need for writing my posts, but somehow things never turn out quite as you expect. Anyway, if not tomorrow in the next couple of days I will write that post!


Sewing The Seventies – Nearly There! (and I reveal the prize!)

The deadline for Sewing The Seventies is almost on us. I’m really excited and I just can’t wait to see all your makes!

What I am planning to do is write another post on 26th March and ask you to link your finished post in the comments. Please refer to this post when writing your post. After this, I will then compile a post about the competition entries.

Today, though, I’m going to share the details of the prize – yay! The prize is two different fabrics that I picked which both have some connection with the seventies.

The first is actually a vintage fabric from the 1970s. It is a beautiful cotton lawn with a floral design in pinks and blues.

Prize 1

The second is a contemporary fabric. It is a Missoni-inspired chevron design. This is a viscose- elastane blend jersey and for those you might be interested in buying this, it came from Minerva Crafts.

In other news…..

I’m nearly there with my jeans, I just need to add the jeans buttons. To be honest I’m wary of making holes in the fabric and need to “work up to it” (That’s just procrastination by another name, if you hadn’t guessed!)

I also thought this article from the BBC about how politics affects the journey our clothes take was interesting – Enjoy!


Sewing the Seventies – Bell-bottom Jeans Part 1

As promised I’m finally writing a post about my third seventies make. I think I have been very ambitious for this project and it has been taking me a long while to sew. In fact, I’m roughly at the half-way stage and so this is a part 1 post.

My third make is going to be a pair of supremely seventies bell-bottom flared jeans. I’m using this Butterick pattern for my jeans:

Butterick 3065

This particular pattern was an Etsy buy. I’m not sure that home-sewers have really embraced sewing jeans so jeans patterns seem to be a little harder to get hold of. The thing I like about this pattern is that there are two quite different versions. Version A has patch pockets on the front, belt loops and a button fly. Version 2 has more traditional trouser pockets, a zip fly and a wider flare.

I’m not sure the world is ready for the dramatic flared trouser legs in Version B, so I’ve decided to go with version A. I did think about doing a mash-up of the two styles, but I decided to go with the button-fly option in the end. I’ve bought some jeans buttons specially for this make.

I bought my fabric at Sewn in Bristol. It is a medium-weight 100% cotton denim in a fairly dark indigo. I think this shade was reasonably popular in the seventies. I’ve also decided to use classic orange top-stitching. I think I have gone for more subtle top-stitching in the past, for example on these Peter and the Wolf trousers, but I wanted to embrace the classic jeans style this time. My confidence with top-stitching has grown and I feel sure I can produce some stand-out stitching that doesn’t wobble!

I’ve also decided to add some embroidery on the back pockets. I’ve seen some wonderful seventies jeans that have embroidery and I think it was quite a trend during this decade.

I don’t have an embroidery machine. My embroidery is going to be more limited in scope, particularly as I’m drawn to satin stitch embroidery. I settled on the idea of creating some Californian poppies for my pockets. I found a picture online that I liked and traced an outline drawing of the poppies on the computer.

I know there are many users of Adobe Illustrator in the blogging world, but I really can’t justify the expense of this software just for my blogging hobby. I have been using a freeware program called Inkscape for a while now. There’s a version for Windows here and for OSX here. I found it quite easy to use once I’d put in a bit of learning time. I have created various templates in the past using Inkscape, including this eye mask and this embroidery for a small camera bag. Perhaps I’ll do a post sometime to show the software’s capabilities. Being free it is certainly worth a look. I do think I need the latest version of it though, as I am missing some useful functionality.

Anyway, on with my process…..after creating my outline drawing, I produced a few different copies of the flower motif, changing the orientation, size etc, until I got the two flowers you can see below. These provided my templates for the embroidery.

I chose four different shades of DMC thread ranging from warm yellow to an orangey-red for the petals. I used a dark brown for the flower centres. The embroidery is just straight-forward long and short stitches, radiating from the centre of each flower, which I hope you can see in the photo below.

It was enjoyable to do, but rather time-consuming. Believe it or not, it took two weeks to produce my four flowers!

I’m now working on the waistband and figuring out how to approach the button-fly; the instructions for which are hurting my brain at the moment!