Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


The Good, The Mad and The Ugly – Review 2019

This year I made a total of 12 items. I’m not surprised that my productivity has been way down this year. Master Steely has reached an age where those long evenings when he was asleep in bed have completely disappeared and it is really tricky to find any time to sew when I’m either not interrupted or there isn’t the potential to be interrupted.

So here is my review for the year; I’m sticking with own format here of The Good, The Mad and The Ugly.


The Good The Mad And The Ugly 2019

The Good

There has been one stand-out make from this year and that was my denim jumpsuit. This is the first jumpsuit that I have made. I think I have resisted making jumpsuits as I wasn’t sure whether going to the loo in them would annoy me too much; all that trying to hold it up so it doesn’t drape too much on the floor, plus the feeling of being cold because you have to virtually strip off. But I can truly say that I really enjoy wearing this jumpsuit, despite all that!

I used a Burda pattern for my make, but I modified it by adding lots of pockets, both at the front and back and also changing the sleeves to be shorter.

Original Post – Denim Jumpsuit

Bond villain pose?!

Bond villain pose?!

The Mad

The “mad” item from the last year, has got to be my faux fur jacket. I love the fabric, it is incredibly soft and is not polyester, but viscose. However, I haven’t had such a lot of wear out of this make so far. It’s a fun make and I do enjoy wearing it, but I think I will need to take this apart. I followed the pattern to the letter, but he jacket does really needs some more structure. I worry how well the lining is going to last since there are no facings and the weight of the hood drags on the poppers.

I have to admit I don’t have a great desire to take it apart as that will create excessive fluff in the house ……..

Original Post – Faux fur jacket

Faux Fur Jacket

Faux fur jacket worn without the hood

The Bad

In the Bad category I will place my Wrap and Go pantskirt. This was a project I made quickly before I went on holiday. It was a rushed job, but then it was a simple garment. My real problem though is that the elasticated waist and ties are really uncomfortable to wear. I don’t have much of a waist and in order to get the pantskirt to stay up, I end up tying the waist ties as tightly and that doesn’t feel great. Even the elastic on its own feels tight and uncomfortable. I’ve had a few thoughts on how I can change this garment – I could make the elastic band wider and add elastic to the ties so that they have a little give.

The other problem I have with this make is that I couldn’t find anything that actually looked good with it. These trousers seem to look best when I create a silhouette so that the top half of my body is streamlined . This is a departure from my normal silhouette, since I like to “hide” my waist. All my attempts to co-ordinate an outfit with my pantskirt looked awful, apart from the makeshift bandeau that I wore in the photoshoot. I’ve looked around for a pattern that would work with this and have had a few ideas. I hope to make something appropriate in the coming year.

Wrap and Go PantSkirt

With a make-shirt bandeau top

Original Post – 70s Wrap and Go “PantSkirt”


Sustainability – 2019 in Review

This type of post for me is new, but I hope it will prove useful. Over the year I’ve read some interesting articles on fashion and sustainability. I’ve added some article links during the year according to what I was writing about, but others I’ve just read. I thought it would be useful to find a home for them, so I could keep referring to them as needed. Like a few people I’ve seen, I would also like to introduce a couple of sustainability goals into my plans, so this is a first step in coalescing my thoughts for the coming year.

A few years ago, I wrote a post about this superb book, Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline. I had started an RTW fast and started sewing in earnest, but this book really crystallised some of the thoughts I’d been having and made me determined to turn my back on the fashion industry and chart my own waters to my dream wardrobe. It’s taken a few years, but rather than just a niche opinion, I think there is far more public awareness on this topic, with visible protests at the London Fashion Show and figures inside the fashion industry speaking out about its environmental impact.

Extinction Rebellion at London Fashion Show

Extinction Rebellion at London Fashion Show

I particularly found this article about photo-shoots informative. I hadn’t realised just so overblown, and resource-intensive a fashion shoot had become. It may be a “small but concrete gesture”,  as Emanuele Farneti explains in his editorial to replace the photo-shoot in the January issue of Vogue in Italy, but it’s good to acknowledge every single move that is in the right direction.

Vogue Italy January issue

Vogue Italy January issue

This year there have been a slew of articles on the environmental impact of the fashion industry. Along with the usual alarming statistics there do seem to be many articles that suggest solutions on a local level, such as Swishing events (Clothes Swaps) and on an international basis such as ECAP (European Clothing Action Plan).

Party outfits and Christmas clothes have come in for attack too in the media. It seems that people are increasingly buying garments for one-off uses such as Christmas jumper days at work and for seasonal parties. I found there are some excellent tutorials on line for customising an existing sweater:

Tilly and the Buttons – Fairy lights Christmas sweater

Tilly and the Buttons – Christmas Confetti sweater

The Makery – Pompom Christmas Tree sweater

Amanda Claus – DIY Christmas sweaters

Christmas Jumpers

Christmas Jumpers

One of aspects that I find most irritating about my hobby is the number of scraps that I seem to generate. I am literally tripping over them; I’ve been on the look-out all year for creative ways to reduce and use these scraps. As far as small fabric scraps are concerned there seems to be only one way forward and that is the Closet Case Files Pouf.

I’ve also been following Liz Haywood on Instagram for a while and she has been making and modelling zero-waste garments. They look amazing, of course, but they particularly appeal to me as they don’t look like they have been made from just a square of fabric, they have real shape. Liz has a book coming out this coming year called Zero Waste Sewing: 16 projects to make, wear and enjoy.

I have thought this year about one of the forms of waste that I personally make. I’ve used sanitary towels for a long time and I’ve got fed up with packaging up my waste and putting it in the bin for land-fill. However, I’ve not been that happy with the other re-usable products on the market, such as menstrual cups or washable towels. That was, until I tried, these period pants, or as I call them “nappy knickers”.

They are incredibly comfortable and thankfully not like nappies to wear. I suppose that I have broken my RTW fast to buy these, but I think it was absolutely necessary. I had pondered making my own, but I just wasn’t able to see the pants and figure out how they were made, without buying a pair. I found later that there is a kit available for making this type of underwear.

Anne McClain, astronaut

Anne McClain, astronaut

Apparently, according to this article, these period pants has been only been on the market a few years. It makes me so sad that such an obvious and useful product wasn’t around for me when I was a teenager. Actually, to be honest the general lack of innovation and openness around this topic makes me angry, although it fits in with how women’s needs tend to be side-lined in general. Without getting too side-tracked I found this article referring to the difficulties of astronauts, Anne McClain and Christina Koch with their space-walk suits all too typical. Apparently, NASA has only one correctly-sized space suit, all the rest are too large!

I’ll be putting together a post shortly about how I can incorporate some of these ideas into personal goals.


Overdressed (Elizabeth L. Cline) – Amazon

Extinction rebellion die-in at the London Fashion Show – The Guardian Newspaper

Model, Edie Campbell speak out about fashion’s environmental problem  – Guardian Newspaper

Vogue (Italy) January fashion shoot – The Guardian Newspaper

Editorial about fashion shoots – Vogue Italy

The alarming statistics associated with fast fashion – Independent Newspaper

How to organise a swishing event – Love Your Clothes Initiative

ECAP (European Clothing Action Plan) – Wrap Organisation

Christmas clothes barely get worn – The Guardian Newspaper

Christmas Jumpers add to plastic pollution – The Guardian Newspaper

Floor Pouf – Closet Case Files

Zero Waste Sewing (Elizabeth M. Haywood) – Amazon

Period Pants Sewing Kit – Sophie Hines

Period pants – The Guardian Newspaper

Space-walk cancelled – The Guardian Newspaper


#MakeNine2019 – Review

As 2019 draws to a close, I thought I’d review how far I got with my chosen nine.

Swimming costume

I made my swimming costume in the green starfish fabric that I pictured in my #makenine. I’m exceptionally pleased with this make. The only downside was that I finished this make going into the autumn and haven’t had a lot of chance to use it.

Starfish swimsuit - front view

Starfish swimsuit – front view

Linen shirt

This shirt is another completed make. I did make one change and made a long-sleeved version – why waste fabric! I’m very pleased with this make, but I haven’t worn it much. The number reason for this is that I’m very frightened of white shirts. I’m such a messy person, I’m certain I will destroy it in one wear with an errant food stain. I’m hoping that I will make some jumper or sweatshirt that will look good over this, to protect it from accidental spillage.

White linen shirt

Lander trousers

I didn’t make these, however, I think this is a must for next year’s list. I think I stalled with trying to find fabric for this make. I was dead-set on khaki or moss green. However, green doesn’t seem to be a very popular colour, and I failed to find anything in the shops.

Faux fur coat

I made this jacket. I’ve had many admiring comments about this jacket, but I’m not 100% satisfied with it. The pattern didn’t include any facings and I don’t like how my fastenings are attached directly to the lining. I think this will make the jacket wear badly. I will take it apart at some point and sort this out, but I’m just not ready at the moment to deal with the fluff that this will generate.

Faux Fur Jacket

Faux fur jacket worn without the hood

70s make – wrap trousers

These wrap trousers, sadly, failed to live up to expectations. I really struggled to find a top that looked right with these trousers. To pull of wearing this pair of trousers in style I will need to wear a close-fitting top, and I don’t have many of those. I’ve found the ideal pattern now, so perhaps that will fix how I feel about these trousers.

The other problem with this make was I didn’t like the waist fastenings – the tie cords dug in. I think I will make the tie-cord elasticated to solve this problem.

Wrap and Go PantSkirt

With a make-shirt bandeau top

70s make – denim jumpsuit

I absolutely love my jumpsuit. I have absolutely no idea why I’ve never made jumpsuits before, I’ve become a convert. I made it quite by accident because a pattern I had ordered from Etsy took ages to arrive and I got impatient. I have worn this jumpsuit loads and it is very comfortable.

Cher Catsuit (V2-70)

Knitted jumper

This is an almost make. I have done most of the knitting (much further on than the Instagram post below) and just need to do the ribbing at the armholes and neckline. It doesn’t look at all like the picture I first drew, it is v-necked and has no sleeves! But it has got stripes! I decided to make a v-neck jumper to go with my white linen shirt.

Pattern Magic make

I didn’t start at all on this. The pre-requisite for this make was a bodice block, which I have only just completed (not yet blogged). Actually, I still haven’t decided which make out of this book to make; one to ponder in the New Year.

Bodice block

I have completed my bodice block and I’ll post about the second step of this in the new year. In the meantime, here is the first post about the process. I’m so pleased I did this, although only at the tail end of the year. I can see a stream of perfectly-drafted tops coming my way soon; sleeveless tops that don’t gape around the armholes and wrap tops that fit to perfection.

Nearly 7 (counting the unfinished jumper) out of 9, not too bad for my first go at #makenine!

Happy New Year to you all!


I can sew a rainbow, sew a rainbow: Loose-fitting Top with Tassels Part 2

This top comes with a health warning – please get your sunglasses now! Great! Got them, you’re ready to begin!

I bought the fabric for this top at Fabric Land last year. The fabric is rainbow-coloured and has mandala-style designs on it. I thought it would make an excellent loose-fitting tunic for the summer months. I did regret buying the fabric immediately after I bought it – I kept thinking it was too bright! Then, to make matters worse Fabric Land put the fabric in the window on their shop, draped on the manikin in the style of a belly-dancer’s costume. This was not the look to which I was aspiring – was this fabric just a bit too much, more for a costume than everyday wear?

Tamsyn top

Finally this month I put my prejudices aside and set about making the hippie-style top I was intending to make. The pattern I used for this top is one from the Simply Sewing magazine, but actually came to me via the swap table at Sew Brum. It’s quite a simple design, loose-fitting, long-sleeved and with a collar and cuffs. The front also has a slit and the pattern recommends jazzing it up with some tassels.

Tamsyn top

Tamsyn top

The cutting out procedure was difficult, I wanted to centre the mandalas on the front and the back and make sure the hems of the body and the sleeves used the border design. It was a tough one, but I think I got the desired effect.

The front slit proved almost a disaster. Somehow even though I was very, very careful, I still ended up with a hole at the bottom of the slit. I think that the fabric came away from the stitching (or that’s the story I’m telling myself), I don’t believe I cut the stitching. A bit of hand-stitching saved the day, but I was cross about this. I hope that this mend will stay intact when the top is washed.

Tamsyn Top

I inserted my bright pink tassels which I made previously. Come to think of it I never thought the words “bright pink” would ever, ever get written on this blog! It’s a colour I never wear! Calm down, all is not lost – it’s just a couple of tassels. It won’t happen again!

So what do you think of my bold, rainbow top? I certainly think I got a better fit that the top the model is wearing on the envelope cover. It doesn’t pull across the front at all. I’ve worn the top to work this week, and nobody batted an eyelid (or shielded their eyes when they attempted to talk to me), so it can’t be too eye-searing!

Tamsyn Top

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A sneek peek at my latest make: Loose-fitting Top with Tassels Part 1

I haven’t quite finished my latest make, but there is quite a bit to talk about with this one so I thought I’d divide it across two posts.

In the dim distant past, when I shopped for clothes I used to buy quite a few loose-fitting tops often with long sleeves that I could just easily throw on. They often had embroidery or ties around the neckline and had a boho/ hippie vibe. Over the years these have worked their way out of my wardrobe, but I do miss them. They go well with jeans and being loose-fitting I often wore them to work to survive the ridiculously high temperatures in the office.

I have a few tunic top patterns in my collection, but because I have quite a busy fabric in mind (more about that in the next post), I picked the most simple in my collection. This pattern was picked up from the swap table at Sew Brumthe Tamsyn top. The pattern originally came from the Simply Sewing magazine.

Tamsyn top

Tamsyn top

I must admit, I have my doubts about this pattern. I don’t like the fit on the model. It looks suspiciously like the top is pulling across the chest. Look how that neckline has opened out above the split and there are some drag lines too coming down from the shoulder. Looking at the back it looks really voluminous, overly so compared to the front, which I think makes it look odd.

Tamsyn top - back view

Tamsyn top – back view

Anyway, there is no reason why the top should look odd on me. The fabric I’m going to use has more drape and I shall make any necessary fit adjustments. I just need to ignore that photo, even though it bothers me!

The pattern also calls for two tassels to decorate the neck opening. I hadn’t ever made tassels before. I found a couple of tutorials on line on Seamwork. and on The foldline They are broadly similar. I actually used the Seamwork one. The tassels were made using cotton embroidery floss and chose a couple of bright colours I had lurking in my stash.


Tassels from embroidery thread

The tassels were surprisingly easy to make and I could make one in under ten minutes. I think I can see myself adorning more tops with these! Or finding some other uses for tassels, there are plenty of ideas in Pinterest.

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#OWOP19 – Capsule wardrobe with Grainline Driftless Cardigans

This week was like a Me-Made-May rerun….except it was November and all the problems with taking photos are just multiplied in the cold, wet and dark. So, I was very glad that a week is only seven days!

I wore my Driftless cardigans all week and pulled together seven different outfits from my capsule wardrobe.

OWOP Composite

The Obvious

Just like in Me-Made-May, this week was good for finding out where my wardrobe is lacking key items. Obviously, I enjoyed wearing my cardigans and definitely feel that another Driftless cardigan would be useful. I think that either a plain black cardigan or a forest green one would work well with my wardrobe. I’m not sure what fabric I would use though; a light-weight cotton/elastane jersey like the light blue cardigan, or perhaps something more heavy-weight, would a sherpa or a fleece work? Has anyone made a Driftless cardigan in these fabrics?

I immediately noticed that I don’t have many me-made plain long-sleeved t-shirts. Looks like I’ve made too many striped t-shirts. The cream and grey t-shirts in this capsule wardrobe are very old, possibly over ten years old and the cream one has a hole in it and looks nasty in the underarm area. Plain t-shirts aren’t that interesting to make, but I really do need to look into that.

OWOP Outfits Composite

The Surprises

I was pleasantly surprised with this combination. I was expecting that the khaki trousers wouldn’t work with the blue cardigan, but actually they’re good together

Less pleasant was how I felt about my capsule wardrobe. What can I say, by the end of the week it felt dull, dull, dull. Sure, it was great to wake up and not have to think at all about what to wear, but after a few days I was suffering from boredom. Was it that I wanted to add some more colour to my outfits? Or am I just not enthused by capsule wardrobes? But then I’ve seen some great ones from other bloggers I admire. Alex of Sewrendipity has done quite a few 10x 10 capsule wardrobes like this green one and so has Carolyn of Handmade by Carolyn. Here’s one of her winter 10 x 10 capsule wardrobes. I think I should try this experiment again, as part of Me-Made-May, I’m sure I could feel differently about this when the weather is better.


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#OWOP19 – Grainline Driftless Cardigans all week


This is the first time I’ve entered #OWOP, the photo challenge where sewing bloggers wear garments made from ONE pattern for ONE week. I’ve not entered before because I don’t make many repeats. I just like trying new things, I can’t help myself! In fact, looking through my wardrobe I can only find three patterns that I’ve made more than once (discounting another where only one of the garments is still in my wardrobe). I deliberated over which pattern I should choose, nonetheless:

I’ve made three attempts at Kwik Sew K4028, but one of those is short-sleeved – sorry not for November!

I’ve made two Grainline Moss skirts, but that forces me to wear skirts all week – not my thing really.

That left the Grainline Driftless cardigan as my chosen pattern for the week. I only have two of them, but I think I can combine them with lots of different items to make a capsule wardrobe.

Below is my wardrobe for the week with a link back to its original post:

Top row: Light blue Grainline Driftless cardigan, Burda top with shirred sleeves, Grey Grainline Moss skirt

Middle row: Cream and black Grainline Driftless cardigan, Black Burda surplice top, Slim-fitting Khaki trousers (RTW)

Bottom row: Cream long-sleeved t-shirt (RTW), Constellations Merchant and Mills Fielder top, Grey long-sleeved t-shirt (RTW)

OWOP Composite

I think that the nine garments are a fair representation of where my wardrobe is at the moment; there are three old RTW items in the selection. I suppose it has made me realise that most of my new t-shirts have stripes – I could have used two other striped t-shirts in the wardrobe. As this week is dedicated to the Grainline Driftless pattern, I’m going to have a think about my next Driftless cardigan; what colour will it be, what fabric should I use? I’ll post each day on Instagram with the day’s combination.