Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Colour-blocking experiment: Papercut Palisade Shorts:

I’ve been getting overwhelmed lately with lef-over fabric from previous projects. Of course, there is never enough left-over for a complete new make, but always too much to be wasted. I had two small amounts of medium-weight cotton-linen blend, which were both blue. I thought they made a good combination for a pair of shorts. I bought the Palisade pants from the Papercut Geo collection, when it first came out. I think there are some great designs in this collection, but until now this is the first one that I have tried. The design  has an elasticaed waist and interesting pockets; they cross-over on the side panel to form two deep pockets.

Papercut Palisade Pants

Papercut Palisade Pants


I did worry about the thickness of the my fabric choice for these pockets so, I decided to convert the unseen bits of the pocket to use cotton lawn instead. This makes everything on the side-seams less bulky.

The insides of my pockets

The insides of my pockets

It was quite odd sewing these shorts as I seemed to spend a huge amount of time on the pockets and then the rest of the make, after that, came together very quickly. The waistband was a breeze to sew. The instructions suggest sewing the elastic into one side of the waistband and then you can try on the shorts, and adjust if necessary before sewing the other side of the waistband. The next step is to stitch in the ditch to encase the elastic. The waistband patern piece is also generous in width, making these steps quite easy. Finally, I added some top-stitching on the waistband, to stop the elastic twisting. I also think that this finish looks better too. I rememeber the almighty hassle I had sewing the Ruri sweatpants last year – sewing the waistband was a horror I don’t want to repeat. When I make another pair of those I will certainly make sure to use the method I used here with that pattern.

Waistband and pockets on Palisade shorts

Waistband and pockets on Palisade shorts

I very much enjoyed making these shorts – it was jsut satisfying how it all came together so easily. The pattern has plenty of notches in it, so lining up all the pieces to form those iconic pockets worked a treat.

I’m not so sure about the faux fly. I added it, but I think I may omit it in a future make and then there is my colour-blocking. I think I would have preferred to make the waistband entirely in the nay blue, but I didn’t have enough of this. To me, it looks like I’ve overdone the colour-blocking, I would have preferred a simpler look.

Finally, I will have to get used to wearing shorts. I haven’t worn a pair o shorts since I was a teenager as they aren’t an item of clothing I gravitate towards, but these are comfortable and will be good for the beach. Even if they don’t get used much I will still have tried out this pattern and will feel confident to go ahead with a full-length version. Plus I’ve ued up some odd pieces of fabric.

Palsiade Shorts - back view

Palsiade Shorts – back view


The fit could do with a little adjustment. I would like to take a couple of centimetres off the rise, but other than that they seem good. I would thoroughly recommend this pattern – well-drafted with good instructions, and a cool design. What more could I ask for? Even the elastic measurements in the pattern instructions were spot on.

Palisade SHorts - Front view with untucked t-shirt

Palisade Shorts – Front view with untucked t-shirt – hiding the waistband, which I’m not sure about!

Shorts – t-shirt ttucked in



#MakeNine: A serendipitous find

I was just debating with myself (as you do) about what to make next from the #MakeNine list of makes. I feel a bit stuck. The makes I’ve got left have one difficulty or another:

Swimsuit – never made one before

Knitted jumper – still too hot for knitting

Lander trousers – should be sticking to the stash and haven’t got any fabric for this

Drafting a bodice block for a sleeveless top – haven’t got a book or instructions to follow

Pattern Magic make – will use the bodice block I make

Quite by chance I was looking at the books in Oxfam and I came across an old copy of Winifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting. I immediately snapped it up for £3.99. Not bad!

Metric Pattern Cutting - an old classic

Metric Pattern Cutting – an old classic

Metric Pattern Cutting is an old classic that appears as a recommended textbook for degree courses. Mine is the 1985 edition and it’s a bit dated. The section on drafting with a computer runs to all of two pages! However for creating a well-fitted bodice for a sleeveless top, it will be just fine. The instructions and diagrams look very clear and easy-to-follow.

When I make a new top I always seem to make lots of ad-hoc changes to every pattern, but this will provide me with a new route to getting a decent fit. I’ll have a reference bodice that I can use for comparison and also something I can use as a starting point to which I can add my own design lines.

Lots of detailed instructions on how to alter your blocks for a good fit.

Now I have a proper pattern cutting book. No excuses for not pressing ahead with that bodice block.

Different sleeves

Different sleeves



#MakeNine: Morphing as I go along – The white linen shirt

This blouse has been an interesting make. I identified back in December, as part of my #MakeNine that a basic garment like a white blouse would be an excellent addition to my evolving wardrobe. Plus, I had a beautiful linen crepe that had long been lying idle in my stash, that would be perfect for the job.

I have loads of shirt patterns, but I turned to an edition of the Italian magazine Modellina for my make. I particularly liked the pockets and the relaxed fit which I thought would combine with the linen well. Sure, it wouldn’t look as crisp as the cotton shirt in the photo, because linen drapes in a different way, but I felt that the pattern would still work well with my chosen fabric.

Short-sleeved shirt pattern from Modellina magazine

My original idea was for the short sleeved version above, but as I was cutting out I realised I had enough for long sleeves, so I cut out the sleeves from the long-sleeved version in the magazine. After all, I do not need any more silly bits of fabric that I don’t know how to use in my stash. There’s pretty much nothing left of the fabric at all now.

Long-sleeved shirt from Modellina magazine

I think the body pieces from the short and long-sleeved patterns are also different. The long-sleeved version seems to have some side slits, so my version ended up as a mix of the two designs.

Shirts take a long time to make, it must be said, and this was no exception, particularly as I have struggled with doing things like sewing on buttons in the recent heat. I also sewed the collar more than once, as I wasn’t satisfied with the first one. Overall it wasn’t a particularly difficult make, although obviously being a magazine make the instructions are minimal. One thing that did confuse me were the buttons. There were loads of button and buttonhole markings on the centre front of the pattern and I sewed all fourteen of them! The buttonholes appeared to come in pairs. But the model in the magazine doesn’t have these. Did I sew too many? Were these markings for the two different shirt designs and I incorporated both lots? Who knows – I’m not disappointed with the result so I don’t suppose it matters. It just took me a long time!

White is hard to photograph – not sure I can see the details in this photo!

My major concern with this shirt is that it is WHITE. I have an amazing record when it to spilling food on things (see the silk top made for the Work Christmas party) and I’m not sure how well this one with last in its white incarnation. I made sure I sewed it with white cotton thread, so that when the time comes (and it will) I can dye the shirt and the stitching will dye as well. Always best to be cautious!

Long-sleeved skirt with big pockets and rather a lot of buttons!

Do you ever feel that sometimes you’re wearing someone else’s clothes? Well, that is how I feel when I wear this shirt. Is it the effect of wearing such an expanse of white? Still, I am pleased generally with the way it looks and I need to experiment with styling. Would wide-legged trousers look good with this? What kind of skirt? With such a versatile colour, I expect it will go with most of my wardrobe.

Back view of the long-sleeved white shirt


Smart or casual – which is it?


All the stars and constellations: Merchant and Mills Fielder Top

This top was a really quick straightforward make. This is the first Merchant and Mills pattern that I have tried – the Fielder. It comes as a top and dress version.

I have been slow to get on board with the Merchant and Mills patterns. I suppose I’m not sure that I like the presentation on their photo shoots. The photos seem very dark to me and somehow remind me too much that I live in dark dingy England.

Merchant and Mills Fielder

Take a look at the photo on the pattern envelope – looks like some run-down back alley, turn the corner and you bump into the wheely bins.

Or this one for the Strand – looks like it’s taken in a grimy school sports hall.

Merchant and Mills Strand

Yes, I suspect that some of my blog photos look like this, but hey I’m not trying to sell anything. It’s only been since I’ve seen other people’s makes on line that I have truly come to see the potential and style of these patterns. Yes, the designs seem deceptively simple, but these are the garments that will make my everyday wardrobe.

For my fabric, I decided to use some beautiful cotton gauze that I bought last year at Guthrie and Ghani when I was at Sew Brum. It has gold stars and white constellations on a grey background. Cotton gauze isn’t one of the fabric recommendations on the Fielder pattern envelope and I’m not sure why as it is a fabric that perfectly suits this type of make. I really had some trouble figuring out what rib knit to use for the cuffs, neck and waist. I bought some plain grey rib knit, but somehow that didn’t work well with the grey background in my fabric (you know how you can get a colour match to be close, but it somehow looks wore than if you hadn’t tried to match it). So I bought some, rather expensive ready-cut cuffs (Albstoffe) which are cream in colour and have bands of gold. I think these look better, but I must look out for more reasonably-priced rib knits when I make this pattern again.

Fielder top (Constellations)

The instructions are laid out well, and it felt unusual for me to have instructions that were this detailed and easy to follow. I guess I’m too used to those dreadful Burda instructions these days. It was a pleasure not to be challenged and I felt it all went well without any unpicking (for a change).

Fielder top (Constellations)

I make a size xx, but I did widen at the back (which is a usual adjustment for my wide shoulders). One thing that I would say is that I wasn’t exactly sure how long the sleeves were supposed to be. I actually lengthened mine a little and will probably make them even longer, when I make this again. I also noticed that the website also offers a crew-neck hack. I like the idea of making this version too – as this could make a good winter choice. I’m undecided about whether I like the short-sleeved version.

I haven’t worn this make much so far as it has been a bit too warm for it, but I’m sure it will get plenty of use come the autumn.


#MakeNine2019 – Progress at the half-way stage

It’s now the half-way stage in the #MakeNine2019 challenge. I thought it was time to review my progress and since this is the first time I’ve tried a year-long plan, I need to figure out whether I like working to a plan.

Here’s my progress, make by make.

Faux fur jacket

Fur Jacket

I started off with the 70s makes. The first item I made was this jacket. I used some beautiful soft viscose faux fur and used a vintage 70s McCalls pattern. I have completed the jacket, however, I am not 100% happy with it. The pattern is described as “easy” and because of this, there are no facings and therefore my fastenings are attached straight onto the jacket lining. I think these will pull with wear even though I have been very gentle using this jacket. Plus, the hood, being made of viscose is very heavy and I think will drag on the lining too.

My conclusion is that I need to take the jacket apart, add some facings, put it back together again and reattach the fastenings. I do have enough faux fur for the facings left, but this won’t be a particular quick job. As it is summer, and I’m not using the jacket, I haven’t had a great deal of incentive to do this job.

So, what shall I say for this make? Three-quarters made?

Faux Fur Jacket

Faux fur jacket worn without the hood

Denim Jumpsuit

This was my second seventies make and I love it! It took quite a long time to make and I deviated a fair bit from the Burda pattern, adding different sleeves and making a belt for it.

This one can be ticked off my #makenine – Done



Wrap and Go Trousers

Another seventies pattern. This was a quick make and is definitively for the hot weather. I’m ambivalent about these trousers at the moment, but I think that I just haven’t got a top that will look good with these, hence I’m wearing a scrap of fabric as a bandeau here, but I wouldn’t go out dressed like this.

Wrap and Go PantSkirt

With a make-shirt bandeau top

Works in Progress

I’ve also made a start on two more makes. First of all a white linen shirt, which is coming along nicely.

Finally I have a started on a jumper. I’ve just make the back, but the weather has warmed up nicely, so the rest of this will have to wait – I can’t really knit with sweaty fingers.


I’ve made three garments from my nine, although one of these needs some alterations. I have also started on two more. I’m calling my count about 4.5 makes, which is exactly half! I suspect that I am more than half way through, because I have made or made progress on some of the more lengthy projects such as the shirt and the jumpsuit.

So far, I have been quite happy with working to a plan. There may be a couple of reasons for this; firstly I haven’t been entering any on-line challenges which usually throw me off-plan and secondly, I thought very carefully about my sewing plans and have chosen items that I really wanted to make (and in many cases needed to make).


I have a dilemma! Vintage 70s Wrap and Go “PantSkirt”

This make was taken to California a couple of months ago, but I still hadn’t got round to blogging about it. I suppose, it was a bit of a rushed make that only just got included in my suitcase, but I haven’t got many hot weather clothes and I wanted to pack another pair of “trousers”.

I found this pattern, Butterick 6720 on Etsy. There are quite a series of these; they’re called “Wrap and Go” by Butterick, although the other pattern companies have done similar designs. I really wanted to try one of these seventies wrap patterns and was inspired by this version by Kelly at Seam Racer. This Wrap and Go pattern comes either as shorts or maxi length.

The weirdest thing about the pattern envelope is that includes instructions on how to wear the item! I did my own version of this, as I actually prefer wearing them back to front so that the elasticated waist joins at the front. I think this makes more sense, as this way, both closures are at the front and easier to manage.

I found a light-weight viscose for this pattern with a border print from Fabric Land. Obviously, the pattern is a complete fabric hog, so I decided to go for something relatively cheap. That said, I do like the colour combination on this fabric. Cutting out was a pain as you need a lot of space too.

The sewing is simple and not very exciting; mostly just a load of hems and a casing for the elastic. However, being a seventies pattern, the hem is hand-sewn, which takes a long time. In fact I gave up on the last bit of the hemming as I was running out of time and took my trousers as they were on holiday. It wasn’t exactly a problem, but I think they were a little too long, so I’ve had to adjust the hem since I’ve got back.

Do I like these trousers? I think I’m still unsure. They are quite voluminous and most of my clothes are not. It may take time to get used to this. But this isn’t my main problem with my make. I haven’t found the ideal top to go with them at all. A tight top would look best to balance out the volume in the silhouette. As Naomi of Spare Room Style pointed out, when she saw this photo on Instagram, this top would look much better tucked in.

So here it is tucked in, and you can see my dilemma. My lack of waist! This combination of top and trousers is just not flattering.

Anyway, I decided to try out my Wrap and Go trousers with a variety of different tops, to see if I could improve the look.

…..actually pretty awful… can see every bulge…, no!

Wrap and Go Pant Skirt with light blue t-shirt

Wrap and Go Pant Skirt with light blue t-shirt – not a flattering t-shirt

….this one is black so not an ideal colour with the trousers, but does the silhouette work better now?

Any better with this style of top?

…and here’s a woven top (again try to ignore strange combination of colours), does this work? I chose to include a belt too. Does this help me achieve waist definition?

Wrap and Go Pant Skirt

With a woven top and belt

…and here’s a make-shift bandeau top. So, I’m now bravely modelling as per the pattern envelope. Too much belly on display and it would only be possible for the beach. But does it work? There’s enough left-over fabric to make this up properly.

Wrap and Go PantSkirt

With a make-shirt bandeau top

In short, I don’t think I have nailed wearing this garment at all and any suggestions would be appreciated. Does anyone know of a top pattern that would work well with this pair of trousers? Bearing in mind that I need it to flatter in the waist department.

And what colour should this top be? Any ideas here? Would a t-shirt be best or could a woven top work too? There are so many different colours in this fabric, that any of these colours may work – moss green, dark blue, terracotta?

Of course, now that I’ve actually make something for the summer, the summer has stubbornly refused to arrive! I’ve only worn this once here in the UK, but apparently, this week is going to be hot……

Leave a comment

May 2019 Travels to Copenhagen

My second trip of the year was with my friend to Copenhagen in Denmark. Neither of us had been to Denmark before, but we are both fans of the Scandi Noir dramas and crime series that work their way over to the UK. There was a certain familiarity to many of the locations on the city and we were both humming The Bridge theme music as we descended in Copenhagen on the plane.


Radhus Plads

I took quite a few photos of what I ate. The smørrebrød (Danish open sandwiches) always looked so appetizing.

Smørrebrød! (Or Danish Open sandwiches)

The Little Mermaid

Tivoli Gardens is a lovely place to spend the evening and the food hall adjacent is great as an eating venue.

The Christianborg Palace isn’t the highest up on the many tourist agendas, but I really enjoyed walking around it. It isn’t just a museum, but is also still a working venue as it is the official seat of the Danish Parliament and provides the setting for the Queen to carry out her official duties. The Great Hall is lined with tapestries depicting the history of Denmark. They were designed by Bjørn Nørgaard. The one below shows the Vikings.

Tapestries in Christianborg Palace

Stables at the Christianborg Palace

The Rosenborg Palace was used mainly as a summer residence by the Danish Royals until it was opened to the public in the 19th century.

It contains many treasures that had been gifted to the Royal Family. To be honest I found it a little overwhelming – room after room stuffed full of all their wealth.

Room in the Rosenborg Palace

These pictures were taken in The Cisterns. This is an art installation in the old water reservoir under Søndermarken Park.

The Cisterns

The Cisterns

We braved the weather, which wasn’t too kind at the beginning of May to visit the beach outside Copenhagen

Amager Strand

Amager Strand

Øresund Bridge (aka “The Bridge”) between Denmark and Malmo, in Sweden

View across to Sweden, taken from The Round Tower

Cannily, my friend, who chose the hotel, managed to choose one a stone’s throw from Stoff and Stil in Vesterbro and she didn’t even realise this! I kept on sneaking out to make purchases!

Stoff and Stil Fabric Shop

I came away with some navy stretch cotton velvet and army green cotton jersey (the exact colour isn’t available on the UK website, but this is the fabric in a different shade) and lots of pre-cut ribbing which is available quite reasonably there.

Skipper Stoffer is another fabric shop in Copenhagen, and it seems to specialise in designer fabrics. I did make one small purchase (it is rather a pricey store) and bought some light-weight seersucker by Armani.

Skipper Stoffe

If you want to know more about fabric shopping in Copenhagen, I would recommend looking at these guides by Sewrendipity and The Last Stitch.