Steely Seamstress

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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.


Me Made May 2018 – Some thoughts about layering

March at The Monthly Stitch was all about layering. Unfortunately missed out on that month’s challenge, I was rather caught up in all things from the seventies. But the notion of layering is something that I have been giving more thought to lately. Layering is important in the UK because most of the year, heading outdoors without layers is just not possible. Even when it is relatively warm, we can always expect a downpour or a cool breeze (actually more likely a gusty wind blowing off the coast here).  But I can truthfully say that I do layering badly; I struggle to find cardigans and jumpers that “look right” with my chosen outfit and too frequently resort to the same old, tired combinations.

To start with I looked on the internet to see what advice there is available about layering and to find some inspiration. Would this elevate my layering skills and create “a look” above my usual thrown-together outfits?

Sadly, I found a fair number of the articles very irritating to read. They seem to follow the usual Sunday supplement template with a tone that appears to be closer to coercion than inspiration. Garments are labelled as “essential” and “should own” and the “advice” is clearly designed to encourage the reader to shop rather than galvanize them to open the wardrobe door and confidently select an outfit.

That said, I’ve tried to distill the ideas I’ve found into an easy to follow list. These aren’t rules, that’s far to “Sunday supplement”, I’m thinking of these as concepts to experiment with.

1. Under-layers

It’s recommended to keep under-layers as more fitted and the thinnest garment. In fact the general advice is to layer from thinnest garment nearest to your body and the thickest garment as the outermost layer.

Layering thin layers close the body

Layering thin layers close the body

“The key to not looking bulky is to make sure your bottom layer is made from a lightweight fabric and is a snug fit.”

This seems like sound advice to me, plus if it is particularly cold outside it makes it possible to easily discard layers when you go inside.

I do see some outfits where the inner layer is definitely thicker, like in the image below, but it is close fitting and the outer layer is looser and sheer.

Layering a thicker layer close to the body

Layering a thicker layer close to the body

Most of the websites seem to stop at three layers, for example, shirt, jumper and coat. I find that I often struggle with just three layers when it is cold. Adding more layers can make me look bulky, perhaps I need to evaluate the warmth of those layers and perhaps lean towards buying more wool fabric / knit more, to stick with three layers.

Another thought is to top off the look with a belt to allay concerns about looking bulky and give more definition to the waistline.

2. Silhouettes

When you have to layer up, it’s difficult not to look swamped in too much fabric. The recommendation here is to pair a more voluminous blouse or a slouchy cardigan, with something fitted below like skinny jeans or a pencil skirt. Likewise, if you’re wearing a flared skirt or wide-legged trousers, pair it with a more tailored top.

Voluminous tops with skinny trousers

Voluminous tops with skinny trousers

Voluminous skirts and wide-legged trousers with fitted tops

Voluminous skirts and wide-legged trousers with fitted tops

I don’t normally have this problem. I’ve had a particular dislike of being drowned in fabric since childhood. As a child, I was on the small side, and therefore frequently dressed in things that I’d “grow into”. If anything, I have a tendency to wear too many fitted things.

3. Length

Similar to the above consideration on silhouettes, the articles advocated longer-length jacket, coat, tunic, with shorter hemmed skirts and shorter tops with floor-grazing maxis as a more flattering combination. I’ve also been intrigued by the way that longer lengths in the under layers can work with shorter garments worn on top. For example, a shirt peeping out from under the hem of a sweater or a jacket with ¾ length sleeves worn deliberately with a t-shirt with sleeves to the wrist.

Handmade by Carolyn

Handmade by Carolyn

I see this style worn time and time again, but when I try this it always looks like something that “isn’t supposed to happen” on me. Am I getting this wrong somehow or is it that my scepticism about this look colouring my opinion here? Carolyn from Handmade by Carolyn is the queen of layering. She always seem to pull together beautiful outfits. Just thought I’d point out that in the photo above Carolyn is wearing a jacket which has shorter length sleeves that the t-shirt underneath and it looks right!

4. Colour

I was intrigued to see what advice there is about layering with garments of different colours. Obviously the more layers you wear, the risk of colour clashing is greater. Therefore wearing colours that match or complement each other is important. Perhaps the most interesting tip I picked up here is the idea of wearing colours of different hues or tones to create depth. For example, wearing a blue scheme, you could mix and match light blues and navy blues and wear the lightest blue close to the body and the darkest as outerwear.

Another colour scheme that seemed to be mentioned in these articles was Donna Karan’s classic palette of black and camel.

Donna Karan - Black and Camel Look

Donna Karan – Black and Camel Look

5. Texture

The advice with texture is all about using a mix of materials. The idea is to create interest and avoid the use of the same fabrics, which can look heavy and dowdy.

Layering Textures

Layering Textures

6. Patterns

Creating outfits which include patterns has got to be one of the trickiest things to pull off, particularly if you’re going to include more than one pattern. Wearing too many patterns or clothes with clashing patterns can look overwhelming.

The articles recommend placing the most complex pattern on the top layer. This article that covers menswear advises that it you’re wearing a shirt with strips, then not to wear a tie with stripes; perhaps team a striped shirt with a checked pattern instead.

The simplest way to avoid these pattern dilemmas though is just to wear clothes in simple block colours. I admire the clean minimalist style as worn by Jen of Grainline Studio or Karen of Fringe Association.

Jen at Grainline Studio

Jen at Grainline Studio


Karen at Fringe Association

Karen at Fringe Association

I do have a reasonable collection of plain simple garments, but for me personally I would miss the excitement of wearing something patterned. And it is possible to be quite adventurous and combine patterns in an outfit. Just take a look at the outfits in the images below, where there are garments sporting floral designs paired quite successfully with stripes or checks.

Layering Patterns

Layering Patterns


Next month, I’ll be joining in Me Made May as usual and I thought instead of wearing as many of my me-mades as possible, as in previous years, I thought this year I would experiment with layering. So here’s my pledge:

“I, Steely, of, sign up as a participant of Me-Made ’18. I pledge to wear thoughtfully selected outfits each day of May and challenge myself to wear stylish layered looks that use my wardrobe to the max, especially my me-mades.

[1] Idle Man – Advice on layering for men

[2] Guardian website – How to do layering

[3] Gurl website – Winter layering style tips

[4] Glamour magazine – Winter layering fashion essentials

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Sewing the Seventies 2018 – The votes are in

I was so pleased to see the lovely seventies makes entered this year! I thank you all for planning your makes, sewing and joining in, and also everyone for following the blog over the last couple of months.

Most importantly we have a winner! Congratulations to Admin Boss from Sewliloquy who wins my seventies themed fabric and a selection of patterns from Katie. Well done – your outfit is amazing!

Thanks also to Liza from Liza Made who took part too. I’ve really enjoyed looking at your posts on Instagram.

Until the next time…..


Sewing The Seventies: Make 3 – More on Burda “Dusty” Dress

I was just looking through all the posts from my Sewing The Seventies makes and remembered that I hadn’t written a proper post about my third make the Burda “Dusty” dress. And because this is my first garment for the Burda Challenge I thought I’d better write a proper post.

The “Dusty” dress was published in the Burda 70s vintage edition last year. Does anyone know what this dress could be called? I’ve thought it might be a pinafore dress, because of the lack of a back, but that doesn’t really provide a good description of it.

Seventies Dress (Burda)

I was glad that I made a toile of this dress. I don’t usually make toiles, because I have found that I tend to make the same adjustments on all my makes and therefore a quick check that certain measurements, for example, the width across the back are adequate, I’m usually happy with the fit. However, I was scared of this pattern! It looks so different from anything else I’ve sewn, and I wanted to get the fit right. The toile gave me more confidence over the fit and also made it possible to mark some button and button-hole markings on the pattern, which didn’t exist for my size on the pattern traced from the magazine.

The construction was relatively easy, but the instructions needed re-reading a few times. I’m still a little confused about the step to tidy up the side seams; how should I secure the front facing where it joins the side seam at the waist? I actually haven’t completed this step as I keep on considering the fit of the skirt and wondering whether I need to take the skirt side-seams a little. So much for doing the toile! I suspect the fact that there weren’t button and button-hole markings for my size didn’t help here. I’ll probably give the dress another wear and come to some conclusions on this.

The fabric I had chosen sadly, frayed rather badly. I wish I’d finished the edges as soon as I’d cut out the pieces, because just manipulating the fabric just resulted in more fraying. This made the hand-sewing of the facings at the shoulder seams quite tricky and I’m still not convinced this is as neat as I would like.

Shoulder Facing Finish

Shoulder Facing Finish

With this in mind, I decided to use bias-binding to finish the skirt hem. This way any unfinished edges would be fully enclosed and wouldn’t present any fraying problems.

Hem Detail

Hem Detail

Burda Dusty Dress

Side View Dusty Dress

Here’s the unusual back view. Personally I think it looks best from the front and actually I’ve mostly been wearing it with a cardigan over the top anyway.

Dusty Dress Back View

I’ve worn the dress in combination with my deep purple shirt quite a few times now and it’s a combination I like for a day in the office. I do wish I had a non-bulky turtle-neck top that I could wear it with. I think this would be a good outfit for cold days and we’ve had a few of those lately.

Dusty Dress


Sewing The Seventies: 2018 Contest Entries

Welcome everybody! Today is the day that I can reveal the contestants and their makes for this year’s Sewing The Seventies! It’s been great running this contest again and I’ve very much enjoyed seeing everyone’s comments, even when it all got a bit mad during the ten days when I wrote one post per day!

But first, I have an admission to make …. I have a technical problem that has been bugging me over the last week. I don’t have a smart phone and I’m finding Instagram incredibly difficult to use without a smart phone. I’ve managed to post things by getting my internet browser to behave as if it were an iPhone, but somehow it doesn’t seem to tag the posts properly. The Edit option also seems to be missing. Anyway, the upshot is that I don’t think all my posts have been tagged with the Sewing The Seventies 2018 hashtag. Do you have any great ideas on how I can bend Instagram to my will? I’d be extremely grateful!

Anyway, I don’t want my moans about Instagram to invade this post too much, because we’re all here to see the participant makes are:

Admin Boss from Sewliloquy

Admin Boss has made a paisley blouse using the intriguing Lutterloh system. Take a look at her post to get an idea how this pattern drafting system works. Admin Boss has picked a modern Burda modern to complete the outfit. These are a really cool pair of trousers with a mock lace fly detail at the front.

Liza from Liza Made

Liza has created a top made from lightweight wool. This looks so fabulously warm with its high collar. It is so interesting to see how this has worked with the blouse underneath. It’s really interesting to see the difference between how this design works in the wool and the drawing on the pattern envelope.

being very aware now of my Instagram problems; I do hope I haven’t missed anyone. I know that a couple of others started their makes, but didn’t manage to finish within the deadline. Of course, we would still like to see them, when you do get to complete them!

Vote below for your favourite. The voting lasts a week – I’ll announce the winner then! Good luck!