Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life


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.


A New First – Madalynne x Simplicity 8229 Bra

These days with sewing I don’t often get the opportunity to venture into completely new sewing territory. But lingerie is still a large unknown for me. My Mum bought me a Bra Making Kits from The New Craft House for my birthday last year and I finally got around to sewing it up.

I thought that it would be easier to start with a kit. My reasoning was that it’s difficult enough trying to order fabric on the internet, but trying to order bra-making stuff, when you don’t know what it’s called or what exactly it looks like, would be impossible! Also I liked the idea of having all the individual items tracked down for me, as in the UK bra-making accessories are not that easy to come by.

The kit I have is in white and it includes the following:

  • Madalynne x Simplicity 8229 bra pattern – includes sizes 32A – 42DD
  • French stretch lace
  • White mesh lining
  • Plush backed picot elastic
  • Channelling
  • Narrow elastic
  • White strap elastic
  • Gold rings and sliders
  • Hook and eye

The only thing I had to order and wasn’t included in the kit were the underwires. I ordered these from Elise Patterns. There is a handy guide on the website here for selecting your size.

When it comes to sizing, I measured myself according to the Simplicity pattern instructions. This made me one size bigger (in cup and band size) than I would have bought in the shops. I must admit I queried this and was tempted to disbelieve my measurements. But after looking at a few reviews online, others mentioned that the sizing ran a little small and I went with the suggested size.

The pattern suggests using a spray adhesive to glue the lace to the mesh lining and cutting these two layers together. I went for a cheaper option of a glue pen. I also thought that the pen would be useful for temporarily gluing knicker elastic or lace to fabric, and so get more use. The glue is a neon green when you first apply it, which is pretty alarming, but once it has dried it becomes colourless and doesn’t show at all. It apparently washes out as well.  The glue option probably made the cutting slightly more fiddly, but I succeeded nonetheless.

Glue pen for fabric

The construction wasn’t too difficult, although I wish I’d found this video online before I started, which shows Madalynne making the bra. There were some good tips in the video and it would have made the construction easier. I particularly regret not using the cup construction method which gives a much better finish than the inside of my cups. I have quite a visible seem inside my bra – I followed the instructions in the pattern. Still, this is only my first bra and I need to assure myself that perfection is not necessary!

Cup construction

I am pleased with the fit; in fact, I have been wondering if I have been wearing the wrong size of bra for years. Although, there are two things that bother me. Firstly, I cut the strap elastic as directed and once I’d tightened the elastic the rings were positioned awkwardly on the bony part of my shoulders. I think I will remedy this. On my bought bras, the slider and rings are positioned after adjustment about half-way up my back which is far more comfortable. Secondly, I think I would like the band a little tighter. At present I am using the tightest setting on the hook and eye. Given that it is summer, I suspect this may feel too loose once the colder weather arrives. All in all though, I believe that the fit is pretty much spot – a surprise for my any first make of a completely different garment.

Simplicity Bra 8229

I do have a little problem with the sides of the bra; they seem to wrinkle up when I wear it. I’m not sure if this is a fit problem or whether adding something in the channeling to stiffen this area might help. It doesn’t bother me when I wear it, but I have noticed that all of my shop-bought bras finish just below the cups, but this style is quite a bit longer. I wonder if anyone else has seen this too?

I was surprised how much I enjoyed making the bra as when I try to break new ground with sewing there are usually some tense moments. The rest of the Steely clan are accustomed to tip-toeing around me (and the growing, and potentially spiky mountain of fabric in the middle of the living room). I think it helped that the make was a small project both in terms of the fabric required and the time involved.

Simplicity Bra 8229

Simplicity Bra 8229

There are plans for more bras. I’d like to make some different colours – I’m a great believer in making underwear in just as many colours as outer clothing. I also would like to investigate making a t-shirt bra or a bra that uses foam lining (Need I remind my readers of how a thin t-shirt can look without adequate underwear?) Do you have any suggestions for a good bra that fits this description? Has anyone tried any of the Booby Traps patterns – there are a wide variety of styles and this one looks promising? Or the Boylston pattern from Orange Lingerie?


Me Made May 2017 – Week 4

I’ve finally limped over the line with Me-Made-May 2017. Apologies for the lateness of my final Me Made May post. I’ve been on holiday and then went straight back into a busy week at work, which didn’t give me much opportunity to sort out my photos and do some me-made analysis.

Sadly, I roamed into ready-to-wear territory on the last day with a pair of shorter length trousers (not photographed) – it was hot, I couldn’t face another day in jeans and I’d brought no skirts on holiday! I find that if I pack skirts, they hardly ever get worn, so I didn’t take one and really regretted it. All in all though, the pair of shorts and the bra earlier in the month were my only deviations from me-madeness. I’ll give myself a pat on the back for that!

So here are my photos for the last days of May:

I was surprised by how much wear I got out of my green wrap skirt. I don’t think it even got worn last year. I found that my new lime green t-shirt was the perfect combination with it too!

My other favourite outfit this month has got to be the combination of my blue Wolfie jeans and my burgundy Drape drape 2 top. I wore this combination for 4 days!

Like previous years I made a spreadsheet for a bit of analysis. Here are the headline statistics from the month:

I think this year the weather was much better than last year. Evidence of this can be seen with the number of times I wore short-sleeved tops 45% of the time and even discarded an extra layer (in the form of a cardigan or jumper) on some days. I was quite surprised that I managed to wear a skirt 26% of the time, which may also be weather related. I tend to reach for a pair of jeans in preference if not checked, and wishing to wear a variety of outfits, I’ve probably worn more skirts this month than I would otherwise.

The restriction on the number of layering items – I had only one me-made jumper and one me-made cardigan, meant that some of my favourite outfits from last year didn’t get worn. I just didn’t feel I could team a teal cardigan with a brown paisley top without embarassment (should I worry much about matching garments?) But with my brown cardigan back in use in June, this favourite combination will get worn.

I also decided to keep track this year of when the clothes I most wear were made. I wanted to see whether I was still making use of my older clothes or discarding them in favour of newer items. The oldest items I wore (all from 2014) were my grey wide-legged trousers. These were the first pair of trousers I made and are still very much in use. My Be My Goth shirt and skirt also got worn.

However, I didn’t wear many of my older items, in particular my 2013 items which were my first Butterick B5357 top and my wrap dress. At the time I’d chosen patterns based on their ease of construction and not whether they fit in with my style. For this reason, I’d made a dress and I scarcely ever wear dresses! My Sorbetto tops didn’t get an airing either. However, I think I will wear them before the summer is out. I have given them an harshly critical eye lately and I’ve realized the fit isn’t great. I have adjusted my favourite Sorbetto top, giving a little more ease through the armscye, so I really should start wearing it again. In summary, I did wear a good mixture of old and new – 19% of my clothes were made in 2017, the rest from previous years including a few from 2014.

Me-made-May over for another year, I think it gives me a great record of my wardrobe (even if I’m only grudgingly taking photos by the end of the challenge). I think my me-made gaps are very obvious – cardigans, jumpers and bras, perhaps next year I will finally have a total me-made wardrobe!


Drape Drape 2 No 4 top

Drape drape 2 No 4Following on from my post about the Drape Drape series of books, here’s a post about my first make from the Drape Drape 2 book. I decided to make the No4 One-piece scoop neck asymmetrical top. These tops have such snappy names! I wasn’t sure which size I would be, but taking heed of the advice I’d seen on various blogs I used the size guide in the book and discovered I was an L/XL size, which seems to roughly translate as a size 10 /12 women’s size in the UK. It’s a real pity the sizes don’t go any bigger in these books, clearly they were written with Japanese women in mind.

Usually when I take on a new pattern, I’ll select a size which is roughly right and then use that to make some of my usual adjustments. The Drape drape patterns are bewildering though – I have to look carefully at the pattern to even work out where my right arm-hole should be! Given the unconventional drafting I decided that it was best to put my brain on the back-seat and just run with the size I’d chosen.

The construction of the top is very simple once you get past the idiosyncratic nature of the garment. In fact, it is quite a bit quicker to sew than a conventional t-shirt, requiring only two seams – one side seam and one shoulder seam – how crazy is that! Then there is the neckline to finish, the bottom hem and arm hems and that is it!

I’ve worn the top a few times now and can say I’m please with it. I was initially concerned that the asymmetry would be annoying. I thought I might keep noticing the two different arm hole shapes, but actually that hasn’t been the case, and it feels just like any other t-shirt. I’m particularly contented with how the drapes high my bulging mid-riff too – there’s a bonus I wasn’t expecting!


My only worry is with the fabric. I bought three lengths of this viscose-lycra blend reasonably cheaply.I was really pleased with this purchase at first, because I recognised that the drape was perfect for these drape drape garments. However, the first t-shirt I made has already starting pilling. I’m sure given more wear the same will happen to this one.

I received quite a bit of very useful feedback about that t-shirt (thanks everyone who contributed), and there seem to be ways of avoiding this. Firstly, more expensive fabric is less likely to pill, although that hasn’t always been the case. Secondly, synthetics are more inclined to pill too. I have made a t-shirt with an expensive bamboo viscose and that shows less signs of pilling – perhaps I should invest in more of that. I have bought some more viscose-lycra (but this time something more expensive) that I would like to use for the No 2 One-piece side Drape Top. I’m hoping that spending a bit more money on the fabric will pay off.

Just to finish off, I compiled a list of Drape Drape 2 projects that I could find on the internet. (Let me know if I’ve missed anything off!) There are some wonderful takes on these designs here and they’ve really inspired me, so I thought I share them all in one place:

No 1 Two-piece gather drape cape

No projects found.

No 2 One-piece side Drape Top

Jorth in coral pink

Meggi Peg in stripes

Montana Designs in blue

Nicole at Home in an ditsy print

Sew Busy Lizzy in stripes, in tie-dye print, and another in stripes.

Sew Indigo in a Missoni chevron print

Sew Smitten in animal print

Sew Well in two-tones, with sleeves

Tessuti Blog in a tie-dye print and with stripes.

No 3 Three-piece drape vest with oversized pockets

Duck Bucket in light-weight purple-and-black-striped knit

No 4 One-piece scoop neck asymmetrical top

Dreaming Dashie in neutral stripes, in grey stripes, and in red stripes

Fashion Incubator in violet

Fehr Trade blog in mustard yellow

Lula Louise in navy

Meggi Peg in black and white stripes

Nicole at Home in black and white stripes

Sew Busy Lizzy in grey stripes, in red and white stripes, and in blue and black stripes.

Sew Brunswick in black and white stripes

Sew Smitten in black and white stripes

Tanit Isis in navy and white stripes

The Surly Seamstress in navy and white stripes

This is Moonlight in red wool jersey

No 5 One-piece petal miniskirt

Nicole at Home in black bamboo-lycra

No 6 Three-piece deep cowl neck dress
Ancien Nouveau in stripes

Cyberdaze with sleeves

Sew Busy Lizzy with stripes

No 7 Two-piece open batwing dress

Ancien Nouveau sleeveless version

Cyberdaze in red and grey

Dreaming Dashie in metallic jersey

Only the Small in grey

The Perfect Nose in black and white stripes

Sew Busy Lizzy in blue

Tessuti blog sleeveless version

No 8 Two-piece gather drape blouse

Carat85 on Burda website in white

Needle and Ted in blue and white stripes

No 9 Three-piece shirred-leg tuck drape pants

No projects

No 10 Two-piece knee-length tuck drape pants

No projects

No 11 Four-piece tuck drape belted blouse

No projects

No 12 One-piece open sleeved cowl neck dress

Cyberdaze in green stripes

This is Moonlight in wool, and in blue and white stripes

No 13 Two-piece twist drape miniskirt

No projects

No 14 Four-piece fitted skirt with side gather drape

Ancien Nouveau in plain black