Steely Seamstress

Sewing for life

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Me Made May – Week 3

I wasn’t really feeling that it was right to post a frivolous missive about clothes given the shocking events in Manchester today. My thoughts go out to those affected in Manchester at this terrible time.  The news this evening though, reminded me that that’s what the perpetrators want – to disrupt our lives and make us fearful. Carrying on is our best medicine in the face of terrorism and so that is what I’m doing.

I was reminded this week why Me Made May can be such a difficult challenge. It has rained a lot this week and there were three days where the solid rain curtailed my efforts to take decent outside photographs. I know from experience that inside photos just don’t look particularly good, therefore I’ve taken several photos immediately outside my front door in order to avoid the rain, hence the inclusion of cars, litter and puddles. Sadly, I missed Day 16 as I couldn’t be bothered to get wet again, please excuse me!

On the plus side, I’ve now finished my Madalynne bra (yet to be blogged) and I’m back wearing totally me-made underwear –yay!

When the weather permitted though I have finally moved into short sleeved territory and I’m really enjoying wearing some of my creations, that haven’t been worn yet this year. This includes my navy blue cherry t-shirt (Days 22 and 23) and my white Dobby blouse (Day 18 – even if I think this a bit too short in the body).

Another make I haven’t blogged quite yet has also featured, my new Drape drape 2 top (see Days 20 and 21)

Only 8 days to go, which I’m glad about as my enthusiasm for taking photos is really starting to wane. How are you getting on with Me Made May?


Exploring drape in Drape Drape 2

I have been intrigued for a while by the concepts behind the designs in the Drape Drape series of books. Now armed with some fabric with ample drape I thought I’d try out a pattern from the Drape Drape 2 book. Before I delve into details on my make though, I thought I’d give a little background on the author and the books themselves.

The Drape Drape series of books are written by Hisako Sato, who is a graduate of Bunka Fashion College, Japan. She then worked as Head of Garment Design for Muji until 1993 when she left to develop her own independent label. In 2008, she launched a new brand focusing on dress design, and she is still active as a designer today. Drape Drape 2 was released in 2012 in English and there were a flurry of makes on the internet at the time. The One-piece side Drape Top was also featured in the Great British Sewing Bee 2015 followed by an accompanying boost when a new audience found the book.

Drape Drape 2 includes 14 designs for tops, dresses, skirts and trousers. The models sporting the designs look dead miserable and way too skinny, but I have seen the designs on lots of different body shapes on various blogs, so I think they translate well for all. However, it has been noted that the designs are available in only small sizes. If I bought clothes I would buy UK size 10 /12, but looking at the size guide, I’m definitely a size L / XL in the Drape Drape books. I think this is a great shame, as not everyone has the skills to pattern grade to a larger size. In fact, with the unique look of these patterns, it isn’t always obvious how to grade them anyway.

The full-size patterns can be traced from the pattern sheets at the back of the book. Although the pattern lines for several designs overlap on the pattern sheets, this isn’t Burda and they were easy to trace!

As most of the patterns are for knits/stretch materials, there is a section on the basic know-how for sewing knits. The presentation of the sewing instructions is excellent and the easy step-by step diagrams are really helpful, particularly as I felt like I was navigating new territory with these patterns.


The designs

Although Amazon do, kindly enough, have a “Look Inside” feature, it would sometimes be great to be able to view the complete list of designs in the book (after all, it isn’t as if you could easily make the designs without the pattern sheets). So here are the designs:

No 1 Two-piece gather drape cape

This particular design is a little odd. It features some gathers and I’m not entirely sure where I would wear such an item. Oddly, I couldn’t find a single blogger who’d made this particular one so let’s move on.

No 2 One-piece side drape top

This is a simple design in principle. A top (or is it a dress?) with a drape on one side. I think it looks great modelled as a summer dress, or as a tunic over leggings. Clearly this is a popular design as there are quite a number of these on the internet. I particular like the striped examples, this one from Sew Busy Lizzy, as it shows the way that the top / dress is cut on the bias.

No 3 Three-piece drape vest with oversized pockets

This design isn’t particularly popular as I only spotted one, by Tracy at Duck Bucket Sewing, made up on the web. I think it could look good as a winter layer simply because it has those great deep pockets. I’m just not sure about the lack of fabric at the back. I think I would like a proper back on this, perhaps a pattern hack is possible? The photo in the book is a little weird too – what’s so interesting that the floor needs a good look?

No 4 One-piece scoop neck asymmetrical top

This is the classic design that also appeared on the Great British Sewing Bee. There are numerous examples on the internet and I’m really looking forward to finishing mine. So, this is going to be the final garment using the viscose-lycra fabric.

No 5 One-piece petal miniskirt

I can’t imagine that I would wear this design. It’s just a me-thing. I don’t really like designs in general that add bulk to my waist area. I do like Nicola at Home’s version here though, particular the sparkly waistband. It looks so cool.

No 6 Three-piece deep cowl neck dress

This design could be another layering piece. I particular like Catherine’s version of this dress, which has long-sleeves. It just looks like it would be a really warm winter dress option.

No 7 Two-piece open batwing dress

I like the concept of this dress too. I could see this as being a fantastic beach / summer item. I can’t see myself making it though as the weather in this country doesn’t really lend itself to a wardrobe full of cool summer / beach wear or rather it would get worn a couple of times a year, when I go on holiday and that would be it.

No 8 Two-piece gather drape blouse

This design is one of the few in the book which uses a woven fabric, Olu at Needle and Ted mentions that it doesn’t drape or site well on the shoulders unless you stand completely still and never move. That could get really irritating. I have to admit I prefer my clothes to be “run-up-and-down-the-stairs” proof – I can’t bear having to rearrange them all the time. But this blouse does look good, particularly the back view (see the photo above). Actually I prefer the back view to the front. What would happen if it was worn back to front – would that actually be possible?

No 9 Three-piece shirred-leg tuck drape pants and No 10 Two-piece knee-length tuck drape pants

There are two similar drape pants designs in the book. I think they could be very comfortable for practicing yoga in, but I completely failed to find any examples of these on the internet. I did find the similar design from Drape Drape 3 here, by Winnie at Scruffy Badger Time.

No 11 Four-piece tuck drape belted blouse

This pattern is a serious fabric hog, using a whopping 4 m length of fabric. I’m put-off by the photos in the book too. I just don’t like the fabric and it looks a crumpled mess. I suspect it would look quite different in a jersey. I haven’t seen a version of this on the web either – perhaps this one is a miss for everyone.

No 12 One-piece open sleeved cowl neck dress

I’m not sure about this particular design. Firstly it looks like it would be a monster to make as the design lines are so unusual. I could see myself getting quite muddled about whether I’d make it right. I’ve also read the reviews by Nicky and Catherine and there was some debate about the placing of the elastic. I do like the sequin cuffs on the one in the book though.

No 13 Two-piece twist drape miniskirt

This is a very short miniskirt and for me is definitely in the “just-for-the-beach” category…..I really wish I lived somewhere warmer!

No 14 Four-piece fitted skirt with side gather drape

For me, this particular skirt is one of the best designs in the book. Weirdly I only found one blogger, Karin at Ancien-Nouveau, who’d given this pattern a go. I think it is quite an avant-garde piece and I’d probably only make one of these, but with the number of skirts with ruffles I’ve seen in the shops lately, I think it’s quite on trend.

I’ll be writing about my own No 4 top next, but I already have some fabric in my stash for a No 2 One-piece side drape top.


Me Made May 2017 – Week 2

This week the weather has been a bit warmer and I’ve moved into wearing my only cardigan, my Jenna cardigan all the time! Unfortunately, the “petrol” colour is hard to pair with many of my clothes – I’m looking at you day 8 colour disaster here! But I’m particularly pleased with the Day 9 outfit, which teams the cardigan with my cowl-collared t-shirt and beige trousers. It’s a satisfying colour combination and the cardigan, when buttoned up, has the great advantage of keeping that revealing cowl in check!

I also gave in this week on me-made bra wearing. It got a bit too hot for my only piece of me-made underwear, but as I’m making a bra at the moment I hope that the me-made underwear gap won’t be too long-lived. I’m still going strong on the knicker rotation!


Me Made May 2017 – Week 1

This week has seen the start of my rapid underwear rotations. If I’m going to wear all me-made undies I’m going to be spending a lot of time making sure I get my laundry right in the next four weeks. For starters I have only 6 pairs of knickers that are me-made, two recent additions and some older pants made from old t-shirts, most of these are unblogged. I guess I could rotate these fairly easily, but with the weather being still cold and cloudy it’s taking a while for clothes to dry. Next, I only have this one bralette to wear and as activewear isn’t in my Me Made challenge, I just washed the bralette while I was doing yoga on Friday! I’m not sure how I’m going to keep that up!

The other major limitation has been with items that I use to layer up. It’s been relatively cold this week so the stripy wool jumper had a lot of wear. Sadly, I don’t have anything else of similar weight or warmth to rotate it with.

Here are my outfits for the last week. I think there is a real mix here of old favourites and new makes. The combination on days 2 and 4 is my Moss skirt from 2014 and my black surplice top from last year. A more recent outfit that I like is the purple 70s shirt made this year with my blue jeans from last year, that I’m wearing on Day 6.

Day 7 is a more interesting photo. You might just make out the steam engine in the background. With the weather starting to perk up we went for a walk along the Bristol to Bath cycle path. This part of the route follows the Avon Valley Railway line, a heritage steam railway line.

Taking a break at Bitton Station

Taking a break at Bitton Station!

View across Avon Valley, near Bitton

View across Avon Valley, near Bitton


Me Made May 2017 Thoughts

Here’s my pledge for Me Made May:

“I, Steely of sign up as a participant of Me Made May 2017. I will endeavour to only wear Me Made items for all of May. This is very exciting for me as in previous years I have signed up to wear at least one Me Made item each day only, but now I have enough stuff to do this!”

Wow, this is going to be interesting trying to wear only Me Made items this month! Just to clarify, I don’t have any Me Made socks, tights, active wear or much night wear so I’m going to exclude these from the challenge, but everything else is going to be included. Although I have lots of me-made clothes May I expect there are going to be some gaps in my wardrobe. I don’t really have to do the whole month to know that I have only one cardigan and only one bra. We’ll see how this goes, with The Monthly Stitch Indie Pattern Month coming up there will be more wardrobe additions. I’m just hoping I can steer myself towards my wardrobe needs, rather than embark on whatever tempting project I fancy!

I do have more underpants now. I’ve been trying to turn over a new leaf and have sewn up some knickers from left-over fabric that was previously used for t-shirts. Here are the two pairs of knickers I’ve sewn up so far. I’m now wearing one of these pairs and they are extremely comfortable – they are based on a favourite pair of RTW knickers that long ago met their demise.

May is a transition month here and I’m fully expecting the first week or so to feel quite cold and I’ll be able to wear some of the clothes I wear throughout the winter and spring months. That said, the later half of May is usually far warmer and I will be spending a few days of the month in Italy; I’m envisaging some more summery items for these days.

Finally, I’m doing my usual recording methods – a daily photo and a record of what I wore in my Me Made May spreadsheet. I suppose this process is akin to a wardrobe audit and has proved useful in the past. I think I’m going to record the year in which a particular me-made item was made too. Perhaps, this will be a good way of recording whether my older items get as much use as the newer items.

Are you joining in with Me-Made-May this year?


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Just a basic t-shirt but in lime green!

This is my second make with the viscose-lycra blend jersey.  I actually sewed this before the infamous cowl-collared horror, but didn’t get around to taking photos until this last weekend.

I think the colour is fantastic and a bit of a departure for me. It is loud! I think I was attracted to it mainly because it was just a bright sunny day when I bought the fabric and seemed like a great colour to celebrate the changing season. I think it goes well with my new jeans, although I’m really wishing I had a pair of black skinny jeans / jeggings to wear with it.

The t-shirt is just a basic loose-fitting t-shirt made with the Laurie Striped Tee pattern from Named Clothing. I have made this particular t-shirt before, and like my previous version, I again omitted the stripes.

I suppose it isn’t really possible to get very excited by basics like this, but I’m very glad that I put this t-shirt together as I am rather short on t-shirts and short-sleeved tops in general.

I had been really very worried about the pilling that I experienced with the cowl-necked t-shirt, but weirdly this particular t-shirt hasn’t suffered as badly. Could it be that being looser and being worn under a cardigan it doesn’t experience the same friction as my previous make, or could it be that my eyes are deceiving me and it is harder to spot the pilling on the lime green without going cross-eyed. Either way, I am feeling happier, because I still have another length of this fabric, and it’s possible it may not pill.

I’m not sure that my learning process with knit fabrics is going as planned though. I’m still having difficulties with wavy hems. I’m tried my Swiss zig-zagger and really it can’t cope with the extra thickness. I’ve tried making the seam more stable with knit interfacing. The only thing that really helps is giving the garment a wash. The waviness is nearly eliminated (hence no photo to share here – I’ve already washed the t-shirt). I’ve watched a few youtube videos where people manage make non-wavy hems without the aid anything, but a standard foot. So sadly, my conclusion, is that perhaps my old Singer is just not up to doing this job any better. Can any of you shed any light on this? Is there something else I could try?


Excitement followed by disappointment – KwikSew K4028

For a long time I’ve realised that knits are my nemesis and I have wanted to change this. I thought that perhaps a extended practice with these fabrics might cure me. But buying knits via the internet can be a hit and miss affair. Often it is difficult to tell the weight and the drape without handling the fabric. Anyway, imagine my delight when I entered Fashion Fabrics a few weeks ago and found that they had a fantastic selection of fine viscose-lycra knits which draped deliciously. I immediately bought a few metres in different colours – a lime green, a beige and a burgundy. I pondered possible makes and I’ve now sewn the first two of my t-shirts.

The first garment I made was a fairly straight-forward t-shirt. I’ll model that one another day; it’s a bit chilly today. For the second make, I chose a pattern that would show off the drape of the fabric. The blurb describes K4028 as pullover tops with extended shoulder seams. Version A has a cowl collar and short sleeves. Version B has a draped collar and long sleeves.

Although it doesn’t say this is possible on the pattern, the two front pieces of the top are interchangeable (i.e. the circumference of the short sleeves are the same – I measured this), therefore it is possible to make the two designs either with short or long sleeves. I decided to make View A, the cowl collar version, but with long sleeves.

I don’t as a general rule tend to buy paper patterns, unless it is picked up at a charity shop. I’ve never sewn a Kwik Sew pattern before. I’m not sure why that is, perhaps I just never found a pattern that inspired me before. So, I was quite surprised by the quality of the paper in the pattern; it definitely didn’t feel as flimsy as the usual paper in modern patterns. Actually it felt more like my vintage patterns in this respect, consequently it was a pleasure to trace it according to my size (which is what I usually do).I did make one adjustment up-front on the pattern. Based on my experiences with RTW clothes, I find that low cut tops tend to be waaaaay too low cut, so I did a quick measurement on the top front and decided to raise the cleavage by about two inches. It seems I wasn’t the only person to do this, the Mahogany stylist found this too. I then whizzed the top up on my overlocker. It was very easy to put together. Apparently, Kwik Sew pattern are renowned for their instructions and I will agree that they were easy to follow, with very decent drawings. As suggested, I used strips of stretch interfacing on the shoulder seams. After standing in front of the mirror, I concluded that the arms were a little floppy. I skimmed an extra couple of centimetres off their width. Next, figured out the ideal length for the sleeves and body. I kept these quite long intentionally. They are certainly longer than on the pattern envelope, where the top finishes at hip level, but I like the idea of a cosy tunic length top.




At first, I must admit I was quite proud of my make. It certainly looks like one of my more successful knit garments, but when I stopped just wearing it in front of the mirror and actually wore it for a full day, I started to get worried about that cowl collar. It still seems a bit too low cut and revealing for my liking. I think I can see why I made the error with this. When the top sits as it is supposed to, it looks fine. But in everyday life we move (well of course we do!) and that neck aperture is wide and the cowl just slips further forward than I had originally thought would be acceptable. This all made me ponder. I looked at the model on the envelope. I think the cowl looks in a similar place on her as it does on me. But, is my neck unduly thin? Thinner than the model’s neck? Or is it that the model simply doesn’t move, unlike real people?


If the neck hole was smaller, I reckon the cowl would stay in place better. The seam at the back of the cowl, where it attaches to the body of the top does seem to sit a bit low too. Perhaps if the back of the cowl was closer to the neck the cowl wouldn’t shift forward when I lean over. You can see how deep it is at the back in the photo below. Actually the back view looks super cool. Is there any otehr way I could stop the collar flopping forward? Deep sigh, perhaps I should have anticipated all the problems with the cowl.

The other thing I am worried about is the sheer weight of the cowl. Will this induce stretching in the neck hole? I really hope not! Is this likely? I can’t say in my experience I have come across t-shirts stretching from the shoulder, even if they don’t have any extra support there, so perhaps it will be fine. Do other patterns recommend perhaps some clear elastic here, for support?

The next problem that I can see with the top, and it is pretty obvious on the photos, is the thinness of the fabric. Sorry, about this folks, but I’m suffering from that thin fabric, cold day problem. Yep, there are two prominent points of interest showing…you know what I mean! If I’m going to wear this I seriously need to think about layering, to make it more respectable. I’m not sure what would look best – perhaps a camisole underneath (similar to how the other version of the pattern is modelled, see below), or a long floppy cardigan on top. Neither of which I have…..

The final disappointment, came today, after I’ve been wearing my top for a second day. Pilling, that bobbling effect that you can sometimes get on fabric. The pilling appears to be at the hip, perhaps where the fabric rubs against my coat. I’m gutted, I hope that the pilling is just localised and doesn’t get worse. After all, I have bought three lots of this fabric and I haven’t made the third top.


As I’m typing this up, I’m feeling sad about the whole experience and I still feel thwarted in my efforts to get to grip with sewing knits. It does seem that every time I sew with a knit fabric, I’m confronted with more variables that throw me off course. However, the top itself is actually comfortable to wear (bar the frequent adjustments to stop flashing too much flesh). I think I would definitely nail the fit of this top next time I make it, so that is probably the only plus from this fiasco. But, what fabric should I use? I don’t want to use more of this fabric if it is just going to pill. Is it possible to figure out what fabric is likely to pill and avoid it? I have a couple of viscose-lycra knits that are thicker and they don’t suffer from this. Likewise a bamboo viscose t-shirt doesn’t suffer from this problem. Perhaps I could purchase some more of that.  I just have to put this all down to experience, persevere with the third knit garment I’m going to sew and then choose a woven fabric for my next garment to get over the disappointment!