Steely Seamstress

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#SummerOfBasics – Progress Update

It’s now the middle of August and I’ve made some good progress on my outfit for the Summer of Basics. The only spanner in the works (albeit a lovely spanner) is that I’m going on holiday tomorrow for ten days and this will mean that I have under a week to complete my makes on my return. I’m hoping I can pull this off!

The Cable Hat

I ordered some beautiful yarn from Jamieson and Smith in the silver grey colour. The yarn is 100% Shetland wool and is apparently “perfect for cables”. I’m hoping I’ve made a good choice for my hat, I’m no expert on choosing wool.

The hat I have decided to make for this make is from the Craftsy “Fall” (Autumn for us here in the UK) Knit-Along from last year. Although I have only listened so far to the “preparation” parts of the tutorial, I have been really enjoying the course. Kate Atherley explains everything so well.

The reason I chose this project is that I am desperate to make a hat that fits. I have an extremely small head and I have a hard time finding hats that fit in the shops. As a general rule only children’s hats fit well, but can be a bit prone to pinkness and bows. Kate’s guide to swatching is great and I’m confident that after knitting two swatches I have a needle size that suits the wool and is right for the pattern. This should bring the size of the hat to the size suggested by the pattern. However, I’m still tempted to take out one of the cable repeats to achieve the suggested fit of 5cm less than head size, for a snug fit.

I suspect I’m not going to start my hat until I come back from holiday, but I have all my tools ready – circular knitting needles and a cable needle. I’ve never used either so this will be fun.

The Black Jeans

I think a whole post needs to be devoted to my jeans, but I thought a little update might be useful here. I’m using this Burda pattern to make a pair of skinny black jeans.

Front of jaens (unfinished)

I’ve made the front including the fly and the back. These have now been sewn together at the inner and outer leg seams. This just leaves the waistband, the belt loops and hem. Sadly, I’m not going to get to take these on holiday, although I suspect that a pair of black jeans was never in contention for a holiday in 30 – 40 degree heat!

Back of jeans


Technophobia – Uploading images to Instagram




  1. (Sociology) someone who fears the effects of technological development on society and the environment
  2. someone who is afraid of using technological devices, such as computers

I’m a technophobe, I’ve said it! I definitely have an aversion to new technology. I still have a video recorder, a tape deck and a Nokia brick.

I joined the Summer Of Basics challenge and when I started reading the rules and guidelines I realised I needed an Instagram account to properly take part. Instagram – really? Is Instadross not the social medium of choice for the selfie-obsessed teenager? Don’t tell me I need to learn something new? I so hate that!

I registered and much to my dismay I found that Instagram only uploads photos from phones. I don’t have a Smart Phone; I bemoaned technology and ranted about the idiocy of social media, forgetting that I’m a blogger and work in IT! But once I’d calmed down I started to think that there may be a way around this, a way that I could get my DSLR camera shots, which are properly edited, from my computer onto Instagram.

I hope these links will be useful for anyone else who likes to resist Smart Phones, instant publishing and generally anything new, like me:

  • Exporting images to your phone using DropBox

This solution isn’t much use for me since I don’t have a phone, but this can be used to get edited images off your desktop and onto your phone ready for uploading to Instagram.

Advantages: It’s free.

Disadvantages: Requires a phone. Can be a bit time-consuming and cumbersome.

  • Using User Agent Spoofing

This is the method that I’m most interested in using. Essentially you use a web browser and configure it to “look” like a mobile device, thereby fooling Instagram into thinking you are using a phone to upload your images.

Advantages: It’s free. Can be accomplished in most web browsers. No third-party software needed.

Disadvantages: Not every feature of the Instagram app is available through the Instagram mobile website.

  • Using Third Party Apps

There are many third part apps available. After reading around this subject it is probably worth bearing in mind that there are some problems with using third-party apps to access Instagram.

Firstly, Instagram very strongly encourages users to upload images from their mobile devices. Accounts can be flagged or even closed when uploading from other sources. (Spoil sports!)

Secondly, to interact with Instagram and post on your account, some of these apps and services require your login details. It is worth being cautious before handing over login details to third-party services.

Here is a summary of the ones I’ve found. There do seem to be other apps mentioned on line, but many seem to no longer be available. There are also a variety of apps that provide interaction with Instagram, but don’t seem to actually upload photos. This article provides a summary of those that can be used by Macs.


BlueStacks emulates Android apps on your desktop. This is tutorial for using BlueStacks.

Advantages: Can run the Instagram app and any other app of your choosing on your desktop.

Disadvantages: It costs. Seen reports that BlueStacks doesn’t work well on the Mac.


Uplet is written exclusively for Macs. There’s a good tutorial on how to use it here.

Advantages: Straightforward to use. For Macs only.

Disadvantages: It costs.


There are PC and Mac versions for Gramblr.

Advantages: It’s free! Can be used by PCs and Macs.

Disadvantages: Some reports of bugs (see here)


Deskgram is an app that has PC and Mac versions.

Advantages: Can be used by PCs and Macs.

Disadvantages: It costs to upload photos.


For more information on this topic, this article is a good starting point. There are screenshots and some information about many of the methods and apps I’ve mentioned above.

I managed to set up my Safari (Mac browser) “as an iPhone” and uploaded my first photo to Instagram. Here’s a screenshot the result. It doesn’t look amazing, but I relied on Instagram to resize the photo for me. To get a better shot I really need to resize my photo into a square with PhotoShop – I’ll try that later.

Instagram Screengrab

Am I delighted that I’m now using Instadross? Not really, I’m not ever going to be someone who snaps pictures and publishes them insta(gram)ntly on line. Has it changed my reluctance to try new technology? Absolutely not; I’m a deeply entrenched technophobe still! Time to turn the wireless on for some music……

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#SummerOfBasics – Shades of Grey blouse (#105 – Burda 11/2016)

August is upon us and suddenly time is catching up on me. This year I’ve given myself extra sewing deadlines because I’m entering the #SummerOfBasics challenge in addition to the Independent Pattern Month over at The Monthly Stitch.

In my last post I detailed my proposed plans for my outfit. I finished my first make, the Burda top back in June. (Just a little late with my posting). This top is featured in the November 2016 edition of Burda Style magazine. It is a simple top with long sleeves finishing in an elastic cuff, a round neckline with pleats and a front slit. There are raglan sleeves and a waist tie.

Burda Top

I bought the fabric for this top from Sewn Bristol. It is a beautiful double-gauze fabric in two shades of grey – rather plain, but then this is a basics challenge!

Neckline of Grey Top

My first step when I started this top was to see if I could find any other bloggers who had used this pattern. I’m glad I did this research, because they highlighted a couple of points that I incorporated into my top. First of all, there are slits between the body of the top and the raglan sleeves at the front. Allison C left these out of her version as she thought the slits would reveal bra straps. I omitted the slits too for the same reason. The second modification I made was to the ties at the waist. In the pattern these are made from one layer of fabric. I can understand why this is the case, as using a jersey the ties could be very heavy. However, I decided to cut four of the tie pattern pieces and made a double-layer tie. Apart from the tidier finish this afforded, this meant that I could also take advantage of the double-faced nature of the double-gauze fabric. I kept the outside of the tie in the darker grey and the inside uses the lighter grey side of the fabric. When I knot the ties this gives an interesting tow-tone effect.

The pattern suggests using jersey, but as I had a woven fabric I used woven braid to finish the neckline. Other than this I made no changes to accommodate using a woven fabric, since the pattern is a loose style.

Needless to say the pattern had the usual excrement-level instructions which seem to be the norm for Burda. A fair amount of interpretation was required. I think I’m finding the whole Burda experience less daunting these days, but I put this down to my own perseverance rather than any improvement in the quality of the instructions.

Shades of Grey Top

I’m nearly halfway through my skinny jeans. It seems at the beginning of August that I still have plenty of time, but with about two weeks of holiday lined up this month I know I’m going to be pressed for time. I was up in Scotland at the weekend and thought that I would grab a few minutes in Glasgow to bag myself some Shetland yarn for my hat. Disappointingly, there were long flight delays and the time I set aside for shopping didn’t happen, so I’ve ordered online.

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#SummerOfBasics – The Plan

It’s getting to the end of July and I thought I’d review how far I’ve got with my summer sewing. I have managed to make my Hack It outfit for The Monthly Stitch. Here are the more detailed posts for the Moss skirt and the Tonic T-shirt.

My next task is to get to grips with my Summer of Basics outfit. Summer of Basics is a make-along where participants make three basics items for their wardrobes over the three summer months (June, July and August). The garments can be knitted, crocheted, sewn or a combination. They don’t have to be summer clothes as such and the definition of what “basic” means has really been left up to participants. More details can be found on the Fringe Association site.

I know that many participants are already posting their updates on their blogs and Instagram. I have made some good progress, but I’ve yet to post anything yet! First of all though, I thought I’d write a little about the selection of my three intended garments. As the challenge is all about basics, my thoughts turned to the types of clothes that I think fit this description. When I think basics, I think of clothes that I will turn to again and again and that complement my existing wardrobe. For this reason I gravitated to patterns that that were casual and relaxed in style, in fact clothes that could be worn every day.

The pattern for my first make comes from the November edition of Burda Style. The top has long sleeves fitted with elastic cuffs. A round neckline with a slit at the front and a long tie that can be fastened at the front, side or at the back, whatever you prefer.

I have found a few versions of this top on line. Allison C has made a beautiful metallic version. There is a stunning red version by Ellen and this lovely version is made from a very stretchy rayon in maroon by Lisette at La Cubanista Cose.

I noticed that a couple of the versions above have missed out the slits where the raglan sleeves join the top at the front, but as Allison C points out in her blog, these just show bra straps and I am inclined to leave these out too.

Burda Top

There is also a sleeveless version of the blouse, which I really like as well. Perhaps I’ll sew that up some day.

Sleeveless Burda blouse

In the magazine the top appears to be made in a jersey, but being a relaxed fit, woven fabrics with drape are also suggested. I bought a beautiful double-gauze for the top at Sewn Bristol. I’ve never sewn double gauze before, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it. It is beautifully soft and I’m really looking forward to wearing the top.


My second make will be a pair of skinny black jeans. Again, I’ve chosen a Burda pattern. No real reason for this other than it is a PDF I bought ages ago and had been knocking around on my account unmade. There isn’t much I can say about this pattern other than it is a classic 5-pocket pair of jeans.

Classic Burda Jeans

I’ve have spent a long time deliberating over fabric for the jeans, because finding denim with a good stretch is not a small task. I found this Super Black stretch denim at Fabric Godmothers. Handily, they detail the percentage stretch which makes it easier to pick out a fabric suitable for skinny jeans. This particular fabric has 40% stretch which is quite high, but should make super skinny jeans.

My last make will be a hat. As the Summer of Basics encourages mixing sewn, knitted or crocheted items for your outfit, I thought I would knit a hat. I’m a very shaky knitter still, and I hope I have chosen an easy make. At the end of last year, Craftsy brought out a free Fall knit-along which included three small knits – a hat, a cowl and a pair of fingerless mittens. I signed up for it in the Autumn, but never started it.

Craftsy Class

Given that the knit will be my first hat, it seemed a safer bet to go with a pattern that has a make-along video with it. The hat pattern is available in two slightly different designs – a beanie hat and a slouchy version. To stretch my knitting skills it has a cable design. To fit in with my other two makes, I’m intending to knit in a dark grey or black. I’ve yet to buy the wool.

Craftsy class

I wouldn’t say my garments are particularly summery, but they are definitely “basics”. All are going to be made in grey or black, which for me are ideal neutrals in my wardrobe. They are also typical of the types of clothes I wear frequently either at home or work; comfortable and practical. They’ll also be ideal for mixing and matching with other items in my wardrobe.


IPM2017 Hack It contest – Tonic Tee

After finishing my zip-tastic hack for the Grainline Moss, I moved onto my  second garment for the Hack It contest at The Monthly Stitch.

My top is based on the Tonic Tee from SBCC patterns. I’ve never tried a pattern from this company before. I find it really helpful when a designer has a free pattern that I can try before I buy another pattern. The Tonic Tee is free as a PDF when you sign up for their email newsletter.

The pattern itself is a classic t-shirt with a scoop neck. The Tonic Tee pattern comes in lots of sizes, which is fantastic – ranging from XXS to 3XL. They are specifically designed for petites, so the patterns are for those that are short in stature. I’ve never really thought that I’m “petite”. I’m at the taller end of the range that SBCC state for their designs, but I do have a short body. After consulting the sizing chart and comparing this to my body measurements, I didn’t alter the pattern at all; must be a first for me.

The fabric is a purple cotton-spandex Art Gallery jersey. I do love the Art Gallery jerseys, but they are a bit pricey, so I immediately snapped up some when I saw that Fabric HQ had a sale.

I made two modifications to the design to fit in with the Hack It contest. First, I changed the neckline to a V-neck. Second, I altered the hemline of the t-shirt so that it is curved rather than straight.

I’ve been avoiding v-necks for years; when I bought clothes I always found them too revealing. Now that I make clothes all the time, I can decide how low-cut I want that V. I basically followed this tutorial on the Colette Seamwork website for the Aberdeen t-shirt, to draft the new neckline and also to sew it.

I did have some problems in the construction stages though. It took me a couple of hours to get to the point where I was happy with the way the v-neck looked. I also don’t think I have been less chilled during a sewing session for years – there was lots of swearing involved too! The problem was that I just couldn’t get that v-neck as tidy as I would have liked. I pinned, tacked, sewed and then unpicked numerous times. I just wasn’t happy with the way the neckline sat. I’m still not sure whether I nailed it or not, I defer to you, my readers, for that verdict. Rest assured I’m not making another v-neck anytime soon; I just couldn’t handle the stress!

I do like the construction method, even if not entirely happy with my execution of it. I had a good look at my lone RTW t-shirt which is a v-neck and noted that the manufacturer had literally sewn a standard neckline and just sewn the neck band at the V across to made a triangle – this construction technique looks rubbish to me. I’m such a critic of RTW clothes these days!

I finished the hems with a zig-zag. I sometimes wish that I could brave a twin needle, but with a sewing machine of the vintage mine is, I’m not sure that I can. Although, I think a good zig-zag does still look good, even if it isn’t the finish we are used to seeing in shop-bought t-shirts.

Overall, apart from my problems with the v-neck construction, I like my t-shirt. It is close-fitting, but that is definitely the intention with this design. Looking at the photos with the skirt,  I think that the t-shirt does accentuate my sticky-out belly (not good). However, I’m much more likely to wear t-shirts untucked with jeans. I took some more photos with the t-shirt paired with jeans.  I think that the gentle curve that I made on the hem looks good when the t-shirt is untucked.



IPM2017 Hack It contest – Moss Skirt

The last few weeks I have been busy sewing rather than blogging in a vain hope that I would manage two sewing deadlines in two months. I’m not overly fond of combining deadlines and hobbies, but there is one advantage, it makes sure that I stick to a plan and make an outfit.

My first deadline is for The Monthly Stitch. I decided to scale back my contributions to the Independent Pattern Month because of time pressures. July and August are not good months for me to be sewing for deadlines since I get less me-time and more family time. It just isn’t possible to sew much when Master Steely wants to go for a cycle ride or build lego with me. The Hack It challenge is the third contest, previously Monthly Stitch weeks featured a Dress contest and a New To Me contest. For the Hack It contest, the garment must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Modify a single pattern to create a new style
  • Combine two or more patterns into one garment

I made two items for the challenge. The first is a skirt using the Grainline Moss pattern.

Moss Drawing

I bought the Grainline Moss skirt pattern years ago. In fact, looking at my blog, I posted my original grey Moss skirt in 2014. This skirt has been in constant rotation since. Without analysing it too much, I think the design sits within the “casual, but not jeans” bracket. Living in the South West of the UK we’re a pretty relaxed bunch down here and I rarely see anyone (men or women) at work in a suit. In fact, a local friend of mine regularly tells me that in her normal casual attire, she feels too smart when she heads further west to see her family in Cornwall, although they can’t all be flip-flops and shorts down there, surely? Anyway, the Moss skirt is good for elevating myself above jeans at work.

I picked up the fabric for my skirt at Birmingham Market at the Sew Brum event. It is a cotton corduroy and I think it may be a second as occasionally the print is a little off and I see some white areas in the pattern. I think I managed to steer round these during the cutting steps.

The Moss pattern has two views, but the only difference between the two is the optional hem band. I wanted to give the skirt a new look and enter it in the Hack It contest. I thought that welt zip pockets would look great on this type of skirt. It turns out that this isn’t a particularly simple modification. I needed to remodel the front of the skirt and the various pocket pattern pieces.

Using a video by Gertie on zipped welt pockets, I followed the steps to create my pockets. The video shows how organza can be used to minimise the bulk on the welt and I used this technique for my pockets. There was one disappointment with the video and that was that Gertie used some special pocket zips by Coats. I tried to find some online, but couldn’t find anything in the UK. Perhaps I’m looking in the wrong places though – I assume these zips would be useful for making bags. Any bag-makers out there know where these precious zips can be ordered from? I felt down-hearted about the zips as I could see that the zips made the finish on the pockets exceptional on the video. I bought some standard closed one end zips and because I knew that it would be more likely that there would be a small hole at the open end of the zip I positioned a strip of my corduroy fabric behind the zip to make this look tidier. I didn’t want to make the whole pocket from the corduroy as I thought that might be a bit bulky.

I’m rather pleased with how the pockets turned out. Here are a few photos of my pockets during construction.

Construction Gallery

1. Creating the welt pocket from the front 2. Creating the welt pocket from the back 3. Finished pocket

The rest of the skirt was sewn pretty much as per the Moss instructions. The only addition being some belt loops. I tried to pattern match, but it isn’t matched very well. I found that the back of the pattern is slightly curved at the centre back an trying to match across a seam that includes a zip closure is hard too, but I think I’ve made a reasonable, but compromised effort with that.

In summary, I’ve very pleased with the Moss skirt. The instructions are easy to follow (at least the steps I followed for this make). I’d sewn one previously, so I didn’t have to make any pattern adjustments. One of the features I like so much about this skirt is the graded waistband. Do you know what, that pattern pieces has so many pin holes in it now I may have to re-trace it. I’m adding this waistband to virtually all my makes now. This type of waistband seems to fit me so much better. But of course, most of all I love my new pockets!


I have a plan and Papercut’s new pattern collection

When I’m at home I very anti-planning and anti-lists. That’s because I don’t want my home life to feel like I’m at work! However, I have a little dilemma in the coming couple of months. There’s The Monthly Stitch IPM challenge plus I’m really interested in taking part in the Summer of Basics challenge being held by Fringe Association.

I  need to think seriously about how I’m going to find the time for all this sewing; I’m a notoriously slow seamstress. Not only that, but I need to time my makes to the challenge schedules. This means not one but two deadlines!

After a long hard think I decided that I would pare back my involvement at the Monthly Stitch and just create two garments. One of these garments I’ve made previously too. Hopefully this will take away the time-consuming element of modifying the fit since I’ve already made those adjustments to the pattern.

The Summer of Basics challenge just requires three garments to be made over 3 months. This is definitely my sort of challenge – no rush involved here! However, timed to overlap with IPM2017 makes it harder. All in all, my plan is to make 5 garments over the three months of summer. It doesn’t sound difficult, but I know I will be pushed to find time, especially once Master Steely has finished school at the end of July. I’ll keep you posted on my levels of panic! Just remind me that I’m doing this as a hobby!

Papercut Pattern’s Sakura collection

Otsu Jeans

Imagine my surprise at seeing a very familiar pattern in Papercut’s new collection. They are called Otsu Jeans. But do you not think they hold more than a fleeting resemblance to this pair of jeans I made last year?

I made a pair of trousers back in 2015 using the original Peter and the Wolf pattern from their Constellation collection, that is now no longer available on the Papercut website. Although I do wear these trousers frequently – they are great at airports because I wear them without a belt, I’ve never been wholly convinced about side-zip trousers. I find I need to hitch they up every now and then and I’m convinced they are as good a fit as they can be ( I made them a little tighter after I took the photos).

This led to me making a pair of trousers (I could probably call them jeans as they are in denim), but with a conventional zip fly at the front and belt loops. Seems like Papercut thought this was a good idea too!


Anyway, if you are considering buying the new Otsu Jeans pattern and you can’t see any made up by anyone online yet, have a look at my Wolfie jeans. Plus, unlike when I made my pair, you’ll get Papercut’s excellent instructions to follow.