Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


Burda #107A 03/2013 – Lace Cardigan

I seem to be going a bit mad for Burda patterns at the moment. This will be my fourth Burda make this year. This is quite a turnaround from being a pattern company whose patterns used to fill me with fear, to now having enough confidence to tackle them without a second thought. The pattern I chose this time is a simple cardigan with a V-neck opening. The front is gently gathered, which provides a little more shape to the garment.

Burda #107A 03/2013

I have a small length of lace fabric in my stash, which was a bolt-end. It has been lurking in my stash for a few years, but I was reluctant to use it as I knew it would be a tessellation nightmare trying to figure out how to cut out the required pieces from the fabric I have. But finally I plucked up courage and gave this a go. After I’d traced my pattern I spent quite a while positioning my pattern pieces on the fabric to get the best placement. Ultimately, I decided that I didn’t quite have enough. However, going ahead with 3/4  length sleeves, I would just about be able to make a cardigan. I’m quite happy with the reduced sleeve length given that the cardigan is made from a lace fabric and will purely be used as a light layer in summer or perhaps an evening event (should I be invited to one!)

Burda lace cardigan

The construction was relatively simple at the start. It didn’t take long for the body and sleeves to be stitched together. The trickier part was the front. First of all, the front sections have to be gathered. A good while ago I remember using the overlocker to gather, so I got the instruction manual out and tried this out. It essentially requires changing the differential feed and once stitched pulling on the two needle threads to gather the fabric. It worked a treat in getting an even gather.

Burda Cardigan Gathering

When I was trying to tame the front band, I got the iron out and starting on a low temperature ironed the fabric. Much to my surprise, the fabric seem quite happy with the heat, so much so that I took a small piece of left-over fabric (there were only small pieces remaining) and wacked the iron up high. The fabric didn’t melt. I had thought this fabric was just a bit of polyester, but I couldn’t believe anything completely synthetic could survive the full heat from the iron. I was now quite intrigued to find out the fibre content of my fabric. I decided to conduct a burn test. Coming from a scientific background, I just love doing experiments and got quite excited about the idea of lighting pieces of fabric! Anyway, I lit a small remnant in the sink and it continued to burn in the sink once the flame was removed. I used this web page as a guide.

I noticed that the smell wasn’t particularly plastic-like, and indeed it smelled quite natural. I put my burned fabric on a plate and got Mister and Master Steely to smell it too. They declared it a non-plastic smell too. Master Steely said it smelled like rice. I suspect the fabric is viscose. Here’s what the guide said about rayon / viscose:

“Rayon keeps burning after the flame is removed, and although it has an odor similar to cotton or paper, it does not have an afterglow.”

Burda Lace Cardigan

Burda lace cardigan

There are quite a few of these cardigans posted on the Burda website, take a look here and here for versions in lace. I notice that it also looks great made with jersey as well, like in this version and I expect I will try this out too at some point.




Designing December Part 1: Decisions, decisions….

I’ve watched this challenge from the sidelines for a couple of years, and always wanted to join in. Trouble is December is a really manic month for me and there isn’t much sewing time, but I thought with careful planning, and starting the process early I might just squeeze in a make.

Earlier this year, I bought one of the Drape Drape books and was immediately delighted by all the slightly avant-garde, asymmetrical designs. This got me interested in Japanese designers and I started looking at catwalk videos and photos. I’d never been particularly interested in fashion shows before, since I’d always regarded them as somewhat irrelevant to my wardrobe. However, I found that there are wearable styles and interesting ideas if you look beyond the flamboyance. I have been particularly drawn to the Issey Miyake collections. Now here’s a designer who uses interesting lines and doesn’t find trousers boring!

I started collecting a few ideas on Pinterest and planning which of the garments I would make. Here are a few of the garments that I particular like with my notes.

Asymmetrical Ideas

Clockwise from left: Spring / Summer 2016 Resort, Spring/ Summer 2016 Resort, Spring/ Summer 2017 Resort, Spring 2017 Ready To Wear, Spring / Summer 2017 Ready to Wear

After much deliberation, I finally settled on this outfit. It’s from Autumn / Winter 2017 Pre Fall collection. I love the asymmetrical vest. I can see myself wearing that either as a top or perhaps over a long-sleeved jersey top. The culottes are a far more summery item, although I think they could be part of a glamorous party outfit. I’m not entirely sure if I’ll make these yet. Let’s just say that I’ll see how much time I have.

Issey Miyake Outfit

My next step was to establish whether I could use or adapt a pattern from my collection, or even buy one. I found this vest pattern by Burda and downloaded the PDF. The pattern is a cross-over vest, similar in style to the Issey Miyake original. It seems to have been made by a few sewing enthusiasts in denim or linen. I particularly like Ellen’s denim version with its embroidery.

Despite the similarities with the catwalk vest, I will still need to adapt the pattern. I think the cross-over on the catwalk garment is more pronounced with the left and right front pieces overlapping beyond the waist, right across the front of the body. I think also, judging by the photo that the Issy Miyake top has some sort of waist tie that holds the garment in place at the waist. The Burda top has some jacket-style pockets. The photo of the Issey Miyake garment doesn’t show clearly enough whether there are any pockets, but perhaps some sort of welt pocket might look cool?

I’ve now printed out the pattern and I’m just about to trace it onto tracing pattern whilst making some initial changes. These include modifying the lower half of the pattern to make the front left and front right cross over more. I’ve also marked in the waist and waist tie placement. I’m still undecided about pockets.

Next, I’m going to make a toile. I know that I don’t make toiles much; I’m too familiar with the changes I need to make now for fitting reasons to feel it is time worth spent. But I feel it is necessary for this project as I am making some considerable changes to the pattern and I want it to fit well across the shoulders and bust. I’m just going to use an old sheet, and although this is going to be much floppier than my intended fabric I hope that I’ll still be able to make the fit and pattern adjustments with reasonable accuracy.

Next post, I’m sure I’ll be a bit further along with my project and I’ll be able to show you my toile and the fabric I’m going to use for the project.





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Sew Brum 2017

Saturday saw this year’s Sew Brum event. I attended this last year and thoroughly enjoyed the day.

Sew Brum is organised by Charlotte from English Girl at Home and open to bloggers and non-bloggers alike. In short, it is a day of manic fabric shopping and a chance to meet like-minded sewing addicts.

We started the day in John Lewis this time, which was extra convenient for those of us who came by train. Perhaps it’s the mixture of prints, familiar from online browsing, or just that sewists are a well dressed bunch of people; either way,  I could instantly recognise the Sew Brum contingent when I entered the cafe.

Sew Brum John Lewis

Gathering at the John Lewis Cafe

First, we headed to the Rag Market. There are fabric stalls outside and also in the covered market. There was a fantastic selection of sequined fabrics and velvets this time, perfect for party outfits, which seemed to be firm favourites with the group. I totally indulged myself at one of the stalls that was selling Liberty fabrics. I bought a beautiful cotton lawn for only £8 a metre and a jersey for £6 a metre. I can well see myself visiting this stall again in the future.

Liberty Fabrics

The next stop was the Fancy Silk Store. The first floor, in particular, is well worth a visit. There are fantastic lace and silk fabrics there.

I noted some great brushed cotton fabric on the ground floor, but decided I wasn’t too sure about it. I’m regretting it now as I knew they would be great for some winter PJs, but I was on strict orders not to buy too much!

Fancy Silk Store

Fancy Silk Store

Our final stop in the centre of Birmingham was Barry’s fabric store. This store is very overwhelming and I really wasn’t sure where to start. I spent most of my time just migrating between the rows of fabric bolts, fondling anything fluffy in a daze. My rumbling stomach was an added distraction and I really couldn’t make a decision. I was very taken though by the beautiful wool fabrics. There was a wide selection here for jackets and coats.

Barry's Fabric Store

Barry’s Fabric Store

Arriving in Moseley on the bus, our first priority was some lunch. This year we ate in The Village pub. The food was great and we started to feel better equipped to make more fabric purchasing decisions in Guthrie and Ghani’s.

Guthrie & Ghani

Guthrie & Ghani

I had brought a wish-list with me, but I’d so far managed to buy nothing that could be used for any of my proposed makes. With this in mind, I bought some sweatshirting in a dark turquoise. At least one item, a sweatshirt, will be made from that list!

Guthrie & Ghani

Guthrie & Ghani

As usual there was a raffle. This year I was thrilled to get a prize, the Marshmallow dress pattern from Cocawawa Crafts. It’s rather a departure from my normal style, but I’m wondering if I can wear it more as a tunic or perhaps adapt it to make a top – just some plans whizzing around my head!


From the left – Liberty Jersey with “secret cat” pattern, Liberty tana lawn, Marshallow dress pattern, Sweatshirt fabric

Thanks to Emily, Vicky and Charlotte for joining me around Birmingham. I really do see the attraction of shopping with an “old lady” trolley, however, my fabric stash is already taking over it’s allotted space. I forced myself to be quite restrained buying only three fabrics.

I managed to get back home just after seven, thoroughly worn out, but with a reinvigorated desire to get back to the sewing machine.

Many thanks to Charlotte for organising this fantastic event – it was a very enjoyable day. I’m looking forward to next year already!

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Modes 4U giveaway

I’m not much for advertising, but I spotted this fantastic giveaway on The Japanese Sewing Books blog.

The Japanese Sewing Books blog is a great resource if you are interested Japanese sewing books and magazines. The Japanese have quite a unique take on sewing and if you appreciate simplicity and minimalism in your style or admire designers such as Issey Miyake or Yohji Yamamoto, there is plenty to enjoy. I especially appreciate the posts that Yifarn writes where she just “flicks through” a new sewing book. How better to know if you like a book than just being able to view the contents? This one covers Stylish Wraps by Yoshiko Tsukiori.

The giveaway is for four beautiful Cosmo fabrics of 1m from The fabrics include double gauze, canvas with gold metallic embellishment and cotton fabrics.

Modes4U stocks Japanese brands Kokka and Cosmo, but also many American brands such as Michael Miller, Andover, Robert Kaufman and others. Here are a few selected fabrics from the site, showing the range that is available.

Top Row:

  1. Origami Crames Broadcloth (Trans-Pacific Textiles)
  2. Foxes Flannel (Michael  Millar)
  3. Gemoetrics Canvas (Echino)

Bottom Row:

  1. Polar Bears Cotton Interlock (Kiyohara)
  2. Pacman 100% cotton (Timeless Treasures)
  3. Paris 100% cotton (Robert Kaufman)


They also stock a variety of stationary and other goods with a distinctly Japanese flavor. Do check out the Bento boxes and accessories. I love this Little Red Riding Hood box, or how about these colour pencil chopsticks. It’s definitely a website that I could browse all day!

I bought some Kokka fabric a while back and made my Helicopter Jacket from it. I really enjoyed making this and the jacket has become a firm favourite in the summer months. I’m on the lookout to make another jacket from another quirky print.

The giveaway is available until 19th October. There are instructions in this blog post on how to enter.

Good luck!


Capri Trousers from Modellina Magazine

When I’m truly enthused about making something, I just want to fall under the sewing spell.  I can’t wait to get back to my machine or, when I don’t have much time just read through the next steps in the pattern instructions or imagine my finished garment.

This month however, I was not feeling enthusiastic or excited about what I was sewing. It all started so well. I’m sewing a pair of Capri trousers. I picked up this edition of “Modellina” (more information about this magazine here) in Italy and I snapped up the fabric on my return to England back in June. I couldn’t wait to start this make and immediately cut them out. But then The Monthly Stitch’s Independent Pattern Month and the Summer of Basics followed. This pair of trousers didn’t fit with my ideas (or the rules for Independent Pattern Month) so they languished unloved, under my ironing pile.

I picked them up again in September, but I was feeling half-hearted about this pair of trousers. I know that it is Autumn now and they won’t be worn till next year. I also got puzzled by the pattern too. I think there may be a pattern piece missing as I couldn’t work out how else the pockets would work. Whilst I was quite happy to draft this piece, I was still left wondering whether I had interpreted the instructions correctly. Of course, this sort of set-back, increases my level of trepidation and I proceeded more cautiously and then lost the pace needed to maintain my interest.

It’s cold and I only removed my socks for the photo – I can the marks on my ankles!

Anyway, enough about my “exsewstential” crisis, I have now completed the garment! Here are a few details – the fabric came, very cheaply from my local Fabric Land and is moderately stretchy cotton sateen. The pattern from Modellina is a trousers pattern that comes in three variations featuring different lengths and pocket combinations. I chose to add two pockets to the front of the trousers and only one patch pocket on the back (as per the instructions). I chose the middle of the choice of three trouser lengths that were included in the pattern, which is more or less calf length.

As noted above, my only real problem was with the front pockets. I thought these needed to be constructed from three pattern pieces – the facing, and each side of the pocket bag.

The pattern layout shows one side of the pocket bag (called “sacchetto tasca con sprone fianco” in the pattern) and the facing (called “paramontura apertura tasca davanti”), but nothing else. I was confused and ended up making my own pattern piece. Even the instructions weren’t much help here as the main instructions just referred me to an illustrated section at the back of the magazine. That would have been good, but the pockets were really more like in-line pockets in these more detailed instructions so I was left none the wiser.


I can see the pocket facing in this photo and also see the line of the pocket on this photo. So, I think I did get the construction more or less right.

The rest of the pattern came together easily enough. I was very happy that a graded waistband was included, instead of a straight one. I think they work better for me for fitting reasons. I did use the Ginger Jeans tutorial for the zip fly construction.

Essentially I’ve made a pair of jeans with a few inches missing from the bottom! I suppose then it isn’t surprising that this make took me a while. The fit was almost spot on using size 42 and I only trimmed a little excess width off at the hip.

I’m not going to get to wear these for another seven or eight months, and I’m rather sad about that. Should I avoid making “out of season” projects? I’m sure knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to wear these trousers, made me less enthusiastic about finishing them. Or should I book a holiday to wear them before next May? (Now that’s an expensive option!)


Italian Sewing Magazines – Part 1

I often holiday in Italy and frequently peruse the sewing and pattern magazines in the newspaper kiosks there. I’ve grown more partial to magazines recently. When you have a magazine that has twenty or so patterns in it for roughly 5 Euros, it certainly makes sense to buy them rather than spending £10 alone on one regular Big 4 pattern or an independent pattern, which can be even more expensive.

I’ve bought a handful of publications in Italy in the last few years and have even used some of the patterns, so I thought I’d write a little about them.

Where can I buy magazines?

There are lots of newspaper / magazine kiosks dotted around in most towns or cities in Italy. They have a bewildering array of magazines, but usually only one or two copies of each magazine, which means unless you are lucky that your holiday coincides with the publication date you might not be lucky.

There are plenty of magazines in the “tabaccherie” as well. However, again they may only stock one or two copies. I have asked for magazines to be held for me for my next visit, and the owner very generously agreed. Obviously, this only works if you visit the same area frequently.


I’ve also found that larger supermarkets, like Emisfero, have a good selection of magazines and frequently enough copies that they do not run out quickly after publication.

What publications are available in Italy?


The Marfy designs are Italian, high-end / couture and very stylish. They include dresses, coordinating suits, coats and a limited selection of separates. There are no instructions for these patterns and Marfy really do assume that you are a competent sewer to tackle their designs.

I’ve not bought this magazine myself, simply because the designs don’t fit into my rather casual lifestyle, although I could perhaps justify a smart jacket or coat.


Modellina is a magazine produced by Simplicity. There are sister publications too, including Modellina Facile (Modellina Easy) and Modellina Extra.

Modellian Cover

The magazine is full of simple, easy-to-make designs. In the edition that I have there many patterns with two or three variations, which means you can mix and match the features to get the design you’re after. For example, this jumpsuit has two different sleeve lengths, three different leg lengths and different collars.

Modellina Jumpsuits

I’m currently making a pair of Capri trousers with a pattern from this magazine.

Modellian Capri Trousers

La Mia Boutique

This magazine contains patterns from Italian designers and has more adventurous designs in it in my opinion.

I nearly bought the August edition of this magazine when on holiday, but I wasn’t particularly interested in more than a couple of the patterns in it. In contrast, having looked at the website, the preceding month has some excellent designs. I’ll look again at this magazine on my next visit, perhaps La Mia Boutique will have moved on from the weirdly asymmetrical garments (see below) in this last issue. Not that I dislike asymmetry, just these particular designs.

La Mia Boutique Menu

The Sewing Princess reviews all the editions of La Mia Boutique and I’d recommend looking at her blog for in-depth reviews of each edition of the magazine.

La Mia Moda

La Mia Moda and additional publication La Mia Moda Speciale – Solo Abiti (Only Dresses) is also known as Fashion Trends in Germany.

I went out late one evening to purchase this magazine from the store near our hotel and found that the experience left me with a huge crop of fresh mosquito bites. For my pains though I did get this rather super magazine. The patterns are based on ready-to wear designs and this means that they are mostly made with knits or stretch fabrics. For this reason I haven’t made many of the designs – I consider myself still rather more keen on sewing wovens. However, I have used one of the t-shirt patterns for both this and this t-shirt.

La Mia Moda Cover

This particular outfit has been on my to-do list for a while. I’m sure I’ll make it one day….

La Mia Moda Top and Skirt

Fashion Style

Fashion Style seems to be the Italian version of Knip magazine from The Netherlands. It is also known as Fashion Style in Germany and Patrones in Spain. I did ponder when I bought this magazine where it originated, since there are German words on the patterns. I think the Italian version is actually translated from the German. There is also an article with two Dutch ladies in it, giving it truly international feel!

Fashion Style Cover

I’ve yet to make anything from this issue, but I am drawn to this jacket.

Fashion Style Jacket

Burda Style

Burda magazine is published in a large number of countries including United Kingdom, France, Spain, Gemany, Russia and The Netherlands as well as Italy. They also occasionally publish collections of patterns following a theme. I bought the magazine below in Italy, long before it appear in the UK. It is a collection of the “Sewing School” patterns, which are quite simple to make. Of course, if you are ever stuck with the instructions, they are free to download them from the Burda website in English, but don’t expect much, Burda are renowned for the incomprehensibility of their instructions!

Burda Style Scuola Cover

Burda Scuola Trousers and Blouse

I made this shirred top from this magazine.

How are the patterns printed in the publication?

The patterns are printed on large fold-out sheets and you’ll need to trace off the patterns. As is usual with magazines there are no seam allowances included in the patterns for those magazines that I have tried – Modellina, La Mia Moda, Burda Style and Fashion Style.

What sizes are the patterns? / Are there plus sizes?

Pattern Sizes

This chart is only a rough guide. I have found that the sizing does vary between the different companies and it is wise to select your size based on the company’s own body measurement charts.

Where can I buy these magazines if I’m not going to Italy?

After looking online I’ve found a couple of websites where it is possible to order Italian magazines; Edicola Amica and Prima Edicola

I haven’t tried these out yet, but I think I would like to order an edition of La Mia Boutique. I’ll let you know how I get on with that.

Is it worth picking up a sewing pattern in a language I don’t understand?

If you’ve been sewing for a while you’ll realise that even when the instructions are confusing, there are always ways to resolve your problems. It is possible to sew something just by finding alternative instructions either online or from your own trusted repertoire of sewing patterns. Having said that, sometimes it’s wise to have some knowledge sewing terms, especially those that crop up on the pattern pieces. I’m lucky I lived in Italian and have some knowledge of the language, so I’ve put together a sewing glossary in Italian that might help here. This glossary is more a work in process than a comprehensive guide at the moment. I’ll keep on adding words to it as I go along.


#SummerOfBasics – The Full Outfit

Summer of Basics Outfit

This is the full outfit for the Summer of Basics, a sewing and knitting challenge where participants sew or knit three items over the summer months to create an outfit that fits the theme of “Basics”. For more information on the challenge, hop over to Fringe Association.

Summer of Basics Outfit

I’m a bit late with my final post (roughly three weeks in actual fact, yikes), but even though the deadline has passed, I’m not unhappy. I have a fantastic new outfit that fulfilled my need for wardrobe basics! I made the knot blouse from a spotted grey double gauze using Burda pattern 11/2016 #105, a pair of black skinny jeans with Burda pattern 03/2014 #115, and a cable hat using a knitting pattern from the Fall 2016 Knit Along from Craftsy from some beautiful Shetland wool.

Summer of Basics Oufit

I’ve described how each of the garments is made, here for the top, here for the jeans and here for the hat. In hindsight, I feel it was quite a challenging outfit to put together – two Burda patterns and a cabled knit hat, when I’d never made a hat before nor knitted cables. There were lots of new skills to be learned and the usual struggles with Burda instructions, but all three were very satisfying makes.

Summer of Basics Outfit