Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

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Summer of Basics 2018 Plan

Last year I entered the Summer of Basics challenge. I entered it a bit late and I hadn’t really been planning to enter it at all. In the end I didn’t finish on time as I just couldn’t knit my last item, a hat, before the deadline.

I’ve noticed that this contest is running again this year (hurrah!) and this time I’ve properly planned to take part. More importantly I’m going to make my knitted item for the outfit before the sewn items as I know that I’m more able to sew in a hurry than knit.

After a little deliberation, I’ve decided that the “basics” I need in my wardrobe are activewear, specifically a go-to outfit for yoga. I have been wearing the same hoodie, t-shirt and yoga bottoms for ages (probably over a decade). I managed to update the t-shirt at the beginning of the year, but I require the other two items, plus I’d really like some yoga socks for the colder months.

Yoga bottoms:

First of all I considered making a pair of yoga bottoms similar to those I currently wear. They are wide-legged at the bottom, but figure hugging around the hips and thigh. Here were the patterns I considered: Becky Yoga pant from Style Arc, Yoga pants and shorts from Jalie and Assorted active wear from Jalie

Ruri Sweatpants drawing

However, I hit upon the Ruri Sweatpant pattern from Named Clothing. I was particular drawn to the snap fastening on the hem and the mock fly. I think this pattern will be quite versatile and I’ll be able to make some casual trousers from it too. In fact, I noticed that on the internet there are versions of this pattern in velvet and woven fabric (I think it’s cotton denim, but the blog’s in French!) I like the flexibility of this pattern, because, judging by my past behaviour, I will probably stick to just one yoga outfit and I like to get a bit more out of any pattern I buy.

Ruri Sweatpants Inspiration

Hooded jacket:

For this garment, I was looking for a hooded jacket that has kangaroo pockets, can be zipped up at the front and is loose fitting.  I liked the Augusta Hoodie from Named and I’ve seen a number which use sweatshirting in different colours. However, I decided that a zip closure would be better. The Brooklyn Hoodie from SBCC patterns looks like a good basic design, but didn’t scream “make me”.

Finally, I decided that I’d rather make my hooded jacket from one of the patterns I already have. I think this one in the January issue of Burda has all those elements that I wanted in the design, plus the design has more “interest” with a curved hem and interesting sided seams that wrap to the front of the hoodie. Sadly, I couldn’t find any examples on the web that anyone had sewn, which is a shame.

Burda 01/2018 119


Burda 01/2018 119 hoodie

Yoga socks:

As mentioned earlier, my first make is going to be the yoga socks. I found a free pattern by Patons on Ravelry that suited my requirements. There is  a textured pattern on the body of the socks and some ribbing too. It even looks like I might be able to manage following this pattern. I’ve just cast on my first sock, let’s see how things go…..

Yoga Socks


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Me-made-May: Week 4 – Review

This last week and a half of Me-Made-May is where it gets tough. As usual, I’m getting tired of coercing someone to take photos and indeed forgot to take photos on some days, but these were repeats of previously garments so it is no great loss.

I also was on holiday for part of the last week, which means that the choice of clothes is limited by my suitcase size (and that was very small to avoid all of Ryanair’s extra charges). I probably didn’t “mindfully” choose my clothes so much this week, but there are still some good combinations.

Day 21: Balloon top *forgot to take picture

Day 22: Red Sorbetto top, Dark blue Wolfie jeans

Day 23: Navy cherries topHelicopter Jacket

Day 24: Balloon top, Helicopter Jacket *forgot to take picture

Day 25: Brown boho top

Day 26: Navy cherries top, Beige Wolfie trousers

Day 27: White Capri trousers, Petrol Jenna Cardigan

Day 28: White Capri trousers, Petrol Jenna Cardigan

Day 29: Hidden kitten top (not blogged yet)

Day 30: Hidden kitten top (not blogged yet), Petrol Jenna Cardigan

Day 31: Green wrap skirt, White beach cover-up

MMM-18 Week4

Favourite Outfit:

I was surprised how much I liked the navy cherries top. It hasn’t been an instant favourite, but teamed with the red skirt or the beige trousers I’ve been pleased how well it works.

Navy cherry tee and Wolfie trousers

Navy cherry tee and Wolfie trousers

Final takeaways:

  • There are some me-made items tucked away in drawers that I need to alter. It would be good to get these back into rotation. A few times I wanted to wear my white dobby top, only to remember that it is too short at the front and I need to make some sort of alteration to it.
  • I managed to make a hole in a pair of 3/4 length RTW trousers whilst clambering on rocks at the beach! They are now unwearable and unmendable as they are so thin on the backside. I will need to make another pair of Capri trousers / culottes very soon.
  • Cardigans…….I will make these, I promise!

Throughout this month, I had also been filling in a spreadsheet detailing the day’s outfit and calculating some statistics. This year, unlike last year, I didn’t try just to wear me-mades. I wanted to find out what percentage of my clothes are me-made, if I just picked outfits from my wardrobe as I normally do, without any me-made bias. I found that 67.7% of the tops are me-made, 58.1% of the trousers / skirts and 64.5% of the outer layers were me-made. Overall, 63.4% of the garments were me-made. Not bad! I don’t know it that reflects the entirety of my wardrobe as I didn’t wear all my me-mades, for example, the winter clothing. Will I get to 100% me-made? Probably not for a while as I still have many serviceable RTW items. I’m in no hurry to reach that goal.

I noticed that 15.5% of the garments were made from Burda patterns. I have noticed a shift in my choice of patterns. I find that buying magazines is quite a cheap way of buying new patterns as you get several in a magazine. I also don’t feel guilty if I sew just one or two from a magazine – that still works out cheaper that a “pattern envelope” buy. More importantly I think this change in my sewing habits reflects more confidence in my abilities. So what if Burda can’t write instructions for toffee! I’ll figure out how to make the garment anyway.

This year May was far warmer than last year. I wore short sleeves 48.4% of the time compared to 32.3% of the time last year. I think I went on holiday to Italy for a similar amount of time too last year, so the difference has got to be the weather in the UK….. can’t complain about that!

I did wear significantly less skirts (12.9%) than last year (31.0%). It may be that last year I was consciously trying to wear as many of my me-mades as possible. This year my use of skirts compared to trousers probably better reflects how I dress on a day-by-day basis.

That’s it for another year. I can’t believe I’ve taken part in five Me-Made-Mays! My thanks as always to Zoe at Sozowhatdoyouknow, who came up with Me-made-May and makes it happen every year!



K4028 strikes again

The regular readers of this blog may remember my K4028 disaster from last year. This was a top made from a tan-coloured viscose jersey. I chose a long-sleeved version of View A, which sported a big floppy cowl neck. Sadly, using viscose jersey the cowl proved rather too heavy and the neckline, although I’m not convinced it has grown since I’ve been wearing it, did end up in the sewing process rather on the large size. The top therefore is a smidge too revealing for my liking. The other problem was the fabric, which noticeably pilled at the hip and waist from the moment I first wore it. The whole top is just a big disappointment and I hardly wear it.


A whole year has passed and well, you know how it goes, you just get over these disappointments and I thought it was time to tackle this pattern again. I spotted a striped viscose jersey in my local Fabric Land. It was cheap (£3.99 a metre) and I thought it would be a good choice for having another bash at my nemesis, K4028. I didn’t yet trust my abilities with anything expensive with this pattern. I must say that although Fabric Land do stock very reasonably priced fabric, the quality is good too. I believe that they stock the fabrics at such low cost because they are wholesale prices.

I decided as I was using viscose again that I would just eliminate the cowl. I know, I know, it’s not really in the spirit of the pattern, removing the most distinctive feature from the design. However, I was keen to have a relaxed top which had those Dolman sleeves and I thought that it might indeed be more successful by taking out the most troubling design aspect. After all, if I could get this top right, perhaps I could reintroduce that cowl?

I was still worried about that neckline and made it smaller again than the pattern demanded. I cut out a good 10 centimetres in circumference from the neckline!

The fabric is very floppy and is ribbed so it was quite challenging not to stretch it out when I sewed. Whilst this didn’t seem to be problematic for the main seams and the hems, that neckline still gave me problems. It seemed really tricky preventing it stretching out, but I hoped because I’d reduced the neckline size on the pattern, it would still be a reasonable size.

When I started wearing the top though, the neckline still seemed to be much bigger than I had expected. How could this be happening? At least it was in the limits of decency! Perhaps this problem is less about stretching out the neckline during the sewing process and more due to the Dolman sleeves? With set-in sleeves or even raglan sleeves perhaps the structure around the shoulders keeps the neckline in place more? Does that make sense? Here, it seemed like the weight of the fabric on the sleeves was literally dragging the neckline out. I’ve just noticed in the envelope photo that the woman in the red top is holding her right shoulder up quite high; perhaps this is to stop the neckline sliding down the arm!

K4028 Front View

K4028 Front View

K4028 Front View


I’m not going to say this top has been a resounding success, but it is “moving in the right direction”. It certainly looks a lot more wearable than the last one, and certainly doesn’t suffer from pilling, despite using a low-price option from Fabric Land.

K4028 Front View

K4028 Side View


K4028 Back View

I think I should have been more wary of using a floppy viscose jersey though. Perhaps I could try either some cotton or bamboo jersey, both of which tend to be less heavy, next time?

The verdict is:

K4028 pattern – 2

Me – 0

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Me Made May 2018: Week 3 – Silhouettes

I’ve been concentrating on using various different silhouettes this week. The recommendation is to pair a voluminous top with skinny jeans or a fitted top with wide-leg trousers. Certainly, compared to the last two weeks, choosing different lengths and patterns, this particular focus has been much easier for me to apply to my wardrobe. I suspect that I already team my tops and bottoms with this in mind. So, here are my combinations:

Day 14: Purple-patterned Sorbetto top, Grey Vogue trousers

Day 15: Drape drape top, Dark blue Wolfie jeans, Petrol Jenna Cardigan

Day 16: Drape drape top, Dark blue Wolfie jeans, Petrol Jenna Cardigan

Day 17: Brown boho top, Beige Wolfie trousers

Day 18: Dark blue Wolfie jeans, Helicopter Jacket

Day 19: Gothic skirt, Helicopter Jacket

Day 20: Balloon top, Helicopter Jacket

On Day 19 I finally plucked up courage and managed to wear a striped top with a floral skirt. It felt like an odd combination for me, but actually in the photo it doesn’t look completely wacky – it even looks intentional!

Me Made May 18 Week3

Favourite Outfit:

My favourite is a combination I found last year. I love the Drape drape top teamed with the dark blue jeans! I even think the dark red is cool with the petrol Jenna cardigan. Here’s a better photo of that outfit (minus the cardigan), taken last year:

Drape Drape 2 No 4 Top

Early Takeaways:

  • I don’t want to speak too soon, but this year we’ve been having fantastic weather. Of course, I’ve been struck by how little summery clothing I have. I’m usually quite cautious about adding summer clothes to my wardrobe; some years in the UK I don’t get to wear these clothes and only wear then when I’m abroad on holiday. Plus, unusually I have had to think about packing for my holiday at the end of the month and making sure that all those summery clothes are not in the laundry.

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Me Made May 2018: Week 2 – Checks, stripes and florals

Just like last week the weather has kept me on my toes. I have worn quite summery outfits only to then need to delve back into my wardrobe for a woolen jumper.

Sadly, the air-conditioning at work is still broken and so I have found myself wearing my older items (mostly ready-to-wear garments) to work often. My tops have needed to go in the wash at the end of every day. (I’m “over-sharing” again, sorry!), but I suppose that means you get to see plenty of different combinations.

Day 12 - Country File Presenter

Day 12 – Country File Presenter

This week I decided to explore patterns, making each of my outfits contain at least one pattern; stripes, floral or checks. I managed to find stripes, abstract designs, checks and floral patterns, as you can see below, but I didn’t quite make the leap with teaming one patterned garment with another patterned garment. I found this task so difficult and I wasn’t satisfied with combinations that I pulled out of the wardrobe.

Is mixing patterns too adventurous for me? I’m not sure. I do think that each patterned garment would have to also compliment the other in colour. This led me to think that when I choose a patterned fabric, I usually imagine it being paired with a plain item and hence I couldn’t easily find a combination that satisfied me in my existing wardrobe.


Top row:

Day 8 Me mades: Capri trousers

Day 9 Me-mades: Long-sleeved striped t-shirt

Day 10 Me-mades: Tissue knit top, Petrol Jenna cardigan

Bottom row:

Day 11 Me-mades: 3/4 sleeved t-shirt (underneath jumper), Striped Jumper, Helicopter jacket

Day 12 Me-mades: Checked classic shirt, Hemp jacket

Day 13 Me-mades: Gothic skirt, Helicopter jacket

Favourite Outfit:

Day 12 – Later on I changed my shoes to wearing boots, it was quite cold outside. My friend commented that I looked like a “Country File Presenter” and she was envious of my jacket.

Early takeaways:

  • There’s an amazing mix of my older me-mades and some newer garments, like the Capri trousers thrown in. I think it goes to show that my older me-mades are holding their value in my wardrobe.
  • I do keep on wearing those RTW khaki trousers. Surprisingly they don’t fit particularly well, but I don’t have any me-made trousers in that colour.

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Me Made May 2018: Week 1- Experimenting with layered looks

This week has been a week of surprises weather-wise, so my chosen outfits have changed from cold weather garments to full-on summer attire.

I have had one major challenge this week and that is that the air-conditioning at work has broken and that has meant a very hot and stuffy office. For this reason, I have kept to wearing my older RTW tops on work days, since I don’t want to sweat in my newer ones (sorry, probably too much detail!)

Following on from last week’s post about layering I have been trying to choose my outfits carefully to accomplish a more “put-together” look.

The Inside Out Style blog contains a great guide for how to wear different lengths of top with jacket / cardigan and this is what I’ve been focussing on this week.

Layering Tops

Top row:

Day 1 Me mades: Over-sized sweatshirt, Black skinny jeans

Day 2 Me-mades: Linen pinafore

Day 3 Me-mades: Petrol Jenna cardigan, Black skinny jeans

Bottom row:

Day 4 Me-mades: Long-sleeved striped t-shirt

Day 5 Me-mades: 3/4 sleeved t-shirt, Helicopter jacket

Day 6&7 Me-mades: Purple short-sleeved t-shirtCapri trousers, black and white lace cardigan


MMM-18 Week1

Looking through my photos of the last week, I can see that I have mostly chosen this option “Hip-bone length jacket, layer can peek out, but not too much”. On Friday last week, I went for an option that I don’t normally go for, combining a much longer top with a cardigan. I think both these options have worked well. I tend to find that when the top peeps out more than a little, but isn’t a much longer top, the look somehow doesn’t look right. This is something that I’m sure I do far too much.

I’m not sure that I can find much more variation with top and cardigan lengths though since I don’t think I have any cropped tops, but it was good to experiment with this. I’ll have a look again in my wardrobe and see if there is anything else that could be styled like this.

K4028 Stripy

Early takeaways:

  • I’ve worn that old black cardigan twice this week. (I think it has appeared in Me-made-May every year and it was scruffy back then). Last year, and probably the year before that,  I identified that I needed some more cardigans, but I only made one extra all year. Why, oh why didn’t I make more? I have been trying to use stash fabrics and there isn’t much in there that would make a cardigan, perhaps this explains the problem.
  • The Capri trousers are perfect; comfortable and practical in hot weather, but I really haven’t a clue what to wear them with. I think I need to have a good look in my wardrobe and find better combinations to go with them. (Or alternatively I could just use that as an excuse to buy more fabric and make more t-shirts!)


April Burda Challenge Make – Over-sized Sweatshirt Burda #128 11/2012

The Burda pattern (Burda #128 11/2012 ) that I’ve used for this month’s contribution to the Burda challenge, actually came as a free pattern in a Burda website “Advent Calendar” (Thanks Burda!) I was drawn to the oversized style of this sweatshirt and the split hem adds just a little interest to its casual simplicity.

Burda 128 11/2012

The fabric I bought at Sew Brum last year. It was the most expensive fabric I bought during the day, but I had wanted to buy some good quality cotton-only sweat-shirting for a while. The fabric was from Guthrie and Ghani and has a multi-coloured fleck effect. At the moment I can see different colours of this fabric in stock on their website including Tangerine, Mint Green and Sky Blue.

I hit a snag in the making process, which was due entirely to the fabric I chose. Like most Burda patterns there isn’t much guidance on the fabric types which you can use with the pattern. It just says “knit fabrics”. So helpful! But I was convinced that the top the cool lady on the bicycle is wearing is made from sweat-shirting and so that was the look I tried to emulate. The pattern requires a little easing in the fabric of the sleeves at the cuffs and the fabric that I chose is reasonably bulky and not particularly stretchy. This meant I had to reduce the width of the sleeves in order to gather in the fabric to the cuffs. I just couldn’t get all the bulk of the original sleeve width to fit the cuff otherwise. I’m sure with a thinner fabric this sleeve width would have been fine though. I do like the puffiness of the sleeves at the cuff, so I tried to keep as much of this as possible.

Burda 128 11/2012

Is this sweatshirting?

There was another feature in the pattern which caused me some deliberations. In the instructions the neckline is finished with bias binding or stay-tape. I chose some cotton lawn bias binding that I found in Ely in Cambridgeshire over the Easter break. For some reason I get quite carried away making the insides of my garments look pretty. No-one is really going to see these details, but they make me feel happy! Anyway I think this fabric complements my sweat-shirting well. I did worry, unjustifiably about whether this finished had worked well. I was anxious about whether the neckline had stretched out in the process, but once it was finished I felt pleased with the result. If you take a look at the examples on the Burda website, I can see that some of the necklines are finished more successfully than others, so perhaps my anxiety wasn’t entirely misplaced.

Burda 128 11/2012 Neckline

I found though that as a design it is probably a little too over-sized for my liking and I took quite a bit of width off (about 2cm at each side seam) and about 5cm of length. It’s still what I would call over-sized, but I’m not drowning in it!

Burda 128 11/2012

Burda 128 11/2012

Finally, I do wonder whether there is an optimal method for attaching a split band at the bottom of a sweatshirt or jersey top. I ended up with a bit of a gap between the front and back bands, but resolved this by adding a few machine stitches at the side seam to pull the two hem bands together. Perhaps, when I finally get around to sewing up the Driftless Cardigan (I have this pattern, but have yet to sew it), I might find some advice on this.

Burda 128 11/2012

All in all, I am super pleased with my sweatshirt. My worries when creating this garment were quite unfounded. It has proved to be extremely comfortable and just the sort of sweater that I needed in my wardrobe. I’m thinking about all those comments I made about layering in my last post, so I think I will be seeing how this garment could be layered. At this point in a post I always like to consider whether I would use this pattern again. Sometimes you don’t feel that a garment is particularly successful or a garment is so unique in design that you don’t feel you need a repeat, but this top with its simple over-sized feel, is definitely something I’d make again. I would love to choose some more of the same fabric too, perhaps is a less vibrant shade.